Sofia Capri survived life as a mob wife, but living with drop-dead gorgeous FBI agent Logan Stone has its own challenges. Step one? Host his family for Christmas dinner.
Rescuing Sofia from her former mob life and saving her kidnapped son was enough to earn Logan a place in her life, but a mysterious phone call before dinner threatens the security he'd give anything to provide.
When Sofia's son and Logan's nieces disappear from the festivities, the illusion of a normal Christmas shatters, hurling Sofia back into her nightmares.
The Untouchable series is best enjoyed in order:
Book #1 Untouchable
Book #2 An Untouchable Christmas, novella
Book #3 Unforgettable
Book #4 Unstoppable
About the Author
Cindy Skaggs grew up on stories of mob bosses, horse thieves, cold-blooded killers, and the last honest man. Those mostly true stories gave her a lifelong love of storytelling and heroes. Her search for story took her around the world with the Air Force before returning to Colorado.
As a single mom, she’s turning her lifelong love of storytelling into the one thing she can’t live without: writing. She has an MA in Creative Writing, three jobs, two kids, and more pets than she can possibly handle. Find her on Facebook as Cindy Skaggs, Writer, @CLSkaggs on Twitter, or www.CSkaggs.com to sign up for her newsletter.
Read an Excerpt
An Untouchable Christmas
An Untouchables Novella
By Cindy Skaggs, Suzanne Evans
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Cindy Skaggs
All rights reserved.
Sofia slipped down the stairs with twinkles from the Christmas tree lighting the way. A Colorado blue spruce filled the front window, its spicy pine scent reminding her of mountain running trails. Freedom. Best smell in the world. The tree reached nearly to the top of the cathedral ceiling, far taller than she'd wanted, but Logan had insisted, and once he'd gotten Eli on board, there had been no denying them.
The memory of those two begging with their exaggerated puppy-dog pouts warmed her to her toes. They got along like Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, because once Logan took off his suit and tie, he donned a child's sense of wonder. The comic book posters in his town house should have warned her, but his playful side still surprised her. The FBI agent was all laser-sharp focus at work, but that's not the way Logan lived. He was a blue jeans and T-shirt, crawling on the floor with Eli kind of man. The sight of them playing together still had the power to steal her breath.
The miracle of a second-chance love continually amazed her. She and Logan were still learning each other, little and big, and every aspect of him drew her deeper. Highly intelligent, he had a protective streak as wide as the Grand Canyon, but he never tried to control. Such a calm, reasonable man was a gift — the only one she needed this Christmas.
But she wouldn't turn down a call from her best friend. Vicki had faded away after the failed kidnapping earlier in the year, but it was time to put the drama behind them. Sofia unplugged her cell phone and dialed. The call went straight to voicemail, so she left a one-line message: "Come for Christmas dinner or call." The or else was implied.
Sofia padded to the kitchen in silence. The need for stealth might have diminished with her crazy ex-husband out of the picture, but the silence had stayed like a scar that itched, so she flipped the sound system on low so she wouldn't wake Eli. The muted holiday songs gave her comfort as she prepared the turkey and slid it in the oven.
Hosting Christmas dinner tied her stomach in knots. Servants and caterers had handled her ex-husband's holiday bash every year. Before that, Sofia's grandmother had done the honors. Never in her life had Sofia cooked a turkey, let alone everything that went with it. She must have been out of her mind to agree, to send out invitations, but it had been time to move past a life of isolation, and so she'd invited a few new friends from a book group she'd joined, Vicki — who had sent her regrets — and Logan's family.
God, what was wrong with her? No part of her life had prepared her for a traditional Christmas dinner with a real family.
She braced her arms on the sink and leaned over, afraid she might puke. She'd only met his family once, and now she was suddenly inviting them to Christmas dinner. That meant his parents, his sister and her family, plus two of Logan's friends, and two from the book group. Thirteen with Eli, Logan, and Sofia.
The moment he grabbed her from behind, a jolt spiked her nerves. She let out a squeal and half jumped into the sink, knocking her knees into the lower cabinet. "You scared me."
Logan's sigh ruffled her hair as he wrapped warm hands around her waist. "I can't wait for the day you don't jump every time I touch you."
"I don't." Her back stiffened. She couldn't help herself. Holiday meal planning had her nerves strung tight, and she couldn't shake the dread that something worse was coming. No matter that the men who kidnapped her son were dead and gone, evil still existed. The mob didn't go away. "You surprised me. I didn't realize you were up."
"Did you know it was me?" he asked, voice sleepy and gruff.
She did know, but for a second the past slapped her, reminding her of the ugly ghosts of Christmases past. "For a second ..." She shrugged. "You knew I had ..." What? Anxiety? Panic attacks? "Issues."
"Don't. I'm not judging you." He gripped her waist tightly. "I'm telling you what I want. I want your trust."
"I do trust you." He'd saved her and Eli last summer when a mob territory dispute turned deadly. A rival arranged Eli's kidnapping, and her ex wouldn't cede territory to save their son, but Logan had risked it all to save them, so she trusted him with her life. She'd given him her love, which for her was the ultimate act of trust.
"When you stop flinching every time something unexpected happens, when you lean into me instead of away, then you trust."
The words bruised her ego like fists to the skin. Did he think she wanted this? That she got off on high blood pressure and uncertainty? Turning on the water, Sofia leaned over and splashed the cool liquid on her face. That she could do that with him standing at her back — exposed — was progress, whether he recognized it or not. "You're not asking for much."
"As long as it takes. You know that."
Yes, she did know. He'd proven his persistence and consistency time and again. The towel twisted in her hands longer than necessary to dry. When Sofia realized it, she tossed the soft cotton on the counter before turning in his arms. Settling into his embrace felt like home. He'd pulled on jeans but nothing else, leaving his broad chest bare under her cheek. The rhythm of his heartbeat calmed hers as he rubbed a circle in the small of her back. She was safe with Logan, safer than she'd been in years. "I love you."
"I know." The side of his face moved against her head, and a quick glance showed the gentle lift of his lips. The lines around his eyes crinkled, and the dark stubble on his chin reminded her why she'd fallen for him. "I love you, too. No matter what."
Unconditional love was hard to accept, but for Logan, she'd try. "It's Christmas. Let's forget about it." It being the fear she couldn't shake and the barrier it sometimes erected between them. Her hang-ups, her flaws, and her inability to move forward.
"Are you sure you're okay with me being here when Eli wakes up?"
"Of course." They'd discussed it at length. When Logan stayed over — which was more and more these days — he always left before Eli woke, but it was Christmas, and she'd wanted — selfishly, maybe — to wake in Logan's arms. To sleep in. Well, too late for extra sleep. The sun wasn't even up yet and she'd already been awake an hour, but maybe they could remedy that. "Eli won't wake up for a while yet."
"Really?" Logan leaned in and took her under with a featherlight kiss. The softness contrasted with her life experience so much it melted her insides every time, so when his warm hands slipped between the folds of her robe, the rest of her body followed, turning her pliant in his arms. The moment his fingers caressed bare flesh, he bit back a curse. "You don't have anything on under here."
Sofia smiled wickedly. Here in the physical, they connected instantly. The chemistry flashed like lightning whenever they touched, whenever he put hands or lips on her skin. She loosened the belt so the robe fell open. Cool air and Logan's heated gaze peaked her nipples. "Just trying to save a little time."
"Good." The tips of his fingers teased the skin under her breasts and her heart lurched against his touch. "Because I'm going to need every spare minute." He lifted her without effort, his muscles shifting and bunching as he carried her up the stairs. The easy strength in his broad shoulders as he laid her on the bed left her heart racing. Flickering gold from the gas fireplace lit the bedroom, adding light and shadow to the contours of his muscles. The hills and valleys on his defined biceps dried her mouth. He turned her on and lit her up like the Christmas tree downstairs.
A small stack of presents in greens and reds lay on the nightstand. "Are those for me?" The breathlessness should have embarrassed her. She hadn't even climbed the stairs, but need tightened her lungs.
"Later." His eyes refused to free her gaze. "I'm going to open mine first."
"Selfish," she teased.
The jeans dropped to the ground. "I guess I'll have to prove you wrong." He slid the robe off her shoulders, slow and controlled, as if the unwrapping was as important as the gift. With every move, with every kiss, with every glide of skin on skin, he showed her exactly how unselfish he could be.
* * *
Logan poured Sofia a cup of coffee while she wrangled Eli into a seat. This was the first time he'd been allowed inside their morning ritual, and he wasn't sure where he fit. "You okay with my family for dinner?" "A little late for that, don't you think?" The tone of her voice stayed neutral, an annoying habit she'd retained from her fight for freedom. No anger, happiness, or general pissiness slipped through her clipped tones.
"I'm sorry." The potential for hurting her pounded against his ribs. Had he misread the signs? Sofia's actions and reactions had been forged in the war of her previous marriage to a mobster. This morning, when she'd flinched, Logan knew she'd compared him to her ex, a man known for his ability to deliver pain. She had changed her name to create the emotional separation she needed, but deep down where fear lived, she compared all men to Nick Calvetti. She and Logan didn't have a future until she realized that he was nothing like Nick. "My family. Too much, too soon?"
In a cranberry-red sweater and black slacks, Sofia Capri was the most beautiful woman Logan had ever met. Curvy hips framed a tight ass that all but begged for his hand. Chestnut hair framed a classic face with high cheekbones and smooth skin. He'd been in lust with her long before they met, and once their paths crossed, the chemistry had nearly destroyed his common sense along with his career, yet here she sat, looking prim and proper, cajoling Eli into eating breakfast. Eli scowled, as happy with cereal as spinach, but at his mother's insistence, he scooped a heaping mouthful. Sofia's attention focused on her son. "One bowl, and then you can open presents."
Eli chewed with a mutinous glare.
Sofia's lack of answer to Logan could mean anything. She was as easy to read as Sanskrit. It had only been six months since she had escaped her ex, an all-around dirty bastard. No way would Logan push if she wasn't ready. Protecting her wasn't simply about bullets and death threats. "Sofia, I need to know while there's still time to call off the horde."
She peeked through the fringe of a new haircut and grinned. "I faced down a mob boss and went hand to hand with his lieutenants. I think I can handle your family." But her hand shook as she scooped a Cheerio from the table and plopped it in her mouth.
"They're pretty scary," he warned.
She lowered her voice so Eli wouldn't hear. "Sammy C once beat a caterer for serving cold mashed potatoes. He had two bodyguards, one of whom tried to rape a server between dinner and dessert."
All of which made normal a terrifying concept. "My mom once talked my great-aunt Eileen into an early grave. Before the turkey came out of the oven. They can be ..." He rubbed the tip of his ear. "Overwhelming."
"I can handle it."
"I don't want you to just handle me."
The glint in her eyes foreshadowed the sultry walk toward him. "You liked the way I handled you this morning."
"That you can do any day of the week."
The palm of her hand climbed his chest in the barest caress. "You don't have to protect me."
"It's who I am."
She accepted the answer with a nod. "A big family dinner is as exciting as a trip to the dentist." He wrapped a hand over hers, but she shook him off before he interrupted. "But I go to the dentist every six months."
"The last thing I want is to push you." Push too far and she'd run, one of her many talents. The day they met, she'd been prepared to take Eli and run as fast and as far as she could with her fake passport and stash of cash. Only Eli's kidnapping had kept her trapped instead of running free.
"It gets better every day. Every week." Anguish nearly drowned the hope in her eyes. "Trust me. Please."
"Promise you're not doing this for me."
She twined her fingers through his and kissed his knuckles. "Of course I'm doing this for you, but that doesn't make it wrong."
The clank of metal on tile had Sofia turning to see that Eli had dropped his spoon. His cereal bowl was perilously close to the edge of the table. "Eli." The mother tone widened the boy's eyes. She picked up the spoon and replaced it with one from a nearby drawer. "Finish breakfast or I'll make you wait until after company leaves tonight."
She lifted a finger, and his argument ceased. Quite a talent. With a backward glance, a warm smile, Sofia returned her attention to Eli and the breakfast battle. When she teased Eli, the fake expression dropped from her face, leaving her startlingly open. The rapport and love between the two ripped a chasm in Logan's chest.
They'd become his everything. When had that happened? Loving her had been instant, like a body heated from the sun, but a soul-deep connection had grown with time, with long mountain hikes and trips to the playground and story time and weekday dinners. The everyday Sofia was more captivating than the seductress and more enduring than the ice queen she'd once been, but the course of true love never ran smooth. The time Sofia had spent as a mob wife haunted their relationship.
Eli had no such filter through which to view the world, yet Sofia kept him under watchful eyes, even six months after the kidnapping. Sofia's former sister-in-law Vicki Calvetti had helped orchestrate the kidnapping in a misguided attempt to help free Sofia from Nick. The fact that Vicki had walked free was a testament to Sofia's soft heart and the Justice Department's games. With Nick and his second in command dead, the drug investigation went in another direction. An investigation the FBI had banned Logan from due to his relationship with Sofia and his complete lack of objectivity where she and Eli were concerned.
She was worth the hit to his career.
At the table, Eli's voice rose, pleading for release, and Sofia gently but firmly kept him seated. They were bewitching to watch. They had their own routine, born of necessity and nurtured in isolation. Sofia's life revolved around protecting her son, and times like this, an invisible wall settled between them with her and Eli on one side and Logan on the other.
He loved them, both of them, but wondered if he'd ever break through the wall when she wouldn't even acknowledge it existed. Could they be a family?
Shit. Logan rubbed a hand against the ache in his chest. He was overthinking. There was always a way through or around an obstacle.
"What do you think?" she asked. "Has he eaten enough?"
The question shocked Logan out of a dark mood. This was the first time she'd asked his opinion on anything remotely connected to Eli. It was a moment, and he nearly choked before the words could come out. "I don't know," he teased. He lifted her cup and took a sip. The coffee tasted like her, sweet cream and sugar. "What do you think, Eli? Is there something else we should be doing?"
With a squeal, Eli leaped from the table and ran for the tree. Wrapping paper flew as he shredded into the first present, a plastic dinosaur the size of a football. Holding her phone out, Sofia hunkered on the floor and snapped pictures. Dumbfounded by the wild activity, Logan perched on the floor against the sofa. Eli unwrapped several dinos before hitting the jackpot with a dinosaur sanctuary straight from the movies. The delight in his screams lit the house more than the Christmas lights. "Mom."
"That one is all Logan."
The boy's eyes grew larger. "Thanks, Logan."
"Couldn't you find something bigger?" Sofia mocked.
"No." He couldn't take his eyes off Eli's joyful face. "But I did try."
"How long did you spend in the toy store?"
This time, he did turn to her. The teasing glint in her eyes and the lightness on her face hadn't always been there. He'd done that, he thought, and it was a gold-medal moment. Making Sofia smile was his new goal in life. She deserved all the smiles she could get. "Blake and I might have spent two or three hours in the toy store," he admitted. He pointed to Eli trying, and failing, to open the sanctuary box. "It was worth it."
The past few months had transformed Eli. He had been an introverted little kid, not used to spending time with anyone but Sofia and his former bodyguard Vince, the man who had been blackmailed into kidnapping Eli. With all that behind him, Eli was now as wild and loud as any preschooler. Both Sofia and Logan welcomed the energy, because the wildness proved Eli was healing.
Excerpted from An Untouchable Christmas by Cindy Skaggs, Suzanne Evans. Copyright © 2016 Cindy Skaggs. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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