Jennie Snow, aka former mafia princess Maria Castone, lives a secret life. In exchange for her testimony, the Witness Protection Program gave her a new identity — and a new job. She's part of the crack computer crime team The HotWires. Kinda like hiding in plain sight?
Cop Nathan Reilly is young, brash and hot for his gorgeous coworker Jennie. But his sexual pursuit is sharply derailed when Internal Affairs orders him to secretly investigate her. How can his loving sexy Jennie be an informer? But doubts surface when Jennie — or is it really Maria? abruptly leaves town. And Nathan must find her first to uncover the truth.
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JENNIE SNOW GRIMACED over the top of her laptop screen, trying to focus on the work in front of her but failing miserably. Nathan Reilly was to blame. He stood outside the windows of the climate-controlled HotWires offices, deep in conversation with a detective. She couldn't take her eyes off of him.
Though it was uncomfortably cool in the office — the computer crime labs were kept at low temps to protect the machinery that populated the room — she became uncomfortably warm every time she glanced in Nathan's direction. He was hard to ignore.
Nathan wasn't overly tall or burly like so many of the men she'd grown up with — he had a nice, solid build and was just the right height to meet her eyes when they shared a level glance. If she were held against him, all of their important parts would mesh perfectly. And meshing with Nathan was becoming more of a possibility, though she'd been struggling hard to deny it.
He'd been seducing her for the past three months with his sexy glances and clever conversation. Not to mention the flowers he kept sending her. They were never the same type of flower. Nathan always managed to surprise her. However, the accompanying card always asked the same question: "When?"
She'd put him off for as many good reasons as she could think of. First off, he was five years younger than she was: twenty-eight to her thirty-three. Plus, he was relatively new to the job, having only been with HotWires for under a year, and he was busy building his career.
Lastly, Jennie never formed close romantic ties with any of the men she'd known, and there'd been a few over the years. She wasn't a nun. Still, she couldn't allow herself to become involved in anything more serious than a casual relationship. For a multitude of reasons. Though Nathan was getting more and more difficult to resist.
She pulled absently at the soft cashmere neckline of her sweater and heard a distinctly female chuckle come from the desk to the left of hers. The chuckle was sarcastic as hell, and Jennie knew she'd been caught in the act of lusting openly.
Sarah Jessup-Sullivan, one of the original members chosen to join the prestigious computer crime unit, followed Jennie's gaze with a mischievous, knowing look, and laughed again.
"You've got it soooo bad for that man. He's hot stuff. Admit it."
"I'll admit no such thing.You just go for Irish guys." Sarah sat back, crossing arms over her stomach, which was back to being washboard flat even though she'd just given birth not quite two months before.
"Only one, thank you very much. Actually, before Logan, I was much more attracted to the macho Latin type, Italians, Hispanics. I'd never dated an Irish guy, though there are plenty of them in the city. Logan was my first."
"And the last. The only."
Jennie smiled at the soft look that warmed Sarah's face as she spoke of her husband and baby. Sarah wasn't an overly sentimental woman by nature, but marriage, and then motherhood, had smoothed her rough edges without making her any less formidable. Sarah was one of the toughest cops Jennie had ever met, yet she somehow managed to preserve her hard-ass image in the department even when she showed up wheeling a stroller and carrying a diaper bag.
They were the only two female members of the unit. The HotWires — a nickname reflecting the group's high-tech specialties — had been around for almost seven years. It had been started by Ian Chandler, who was still the head honcho of the group. He'd hired them all. Not only was the unit expanding locally, there was also growing demand for similar units across the country. Ian had his hands full, but stayed in the thick of it even as his job involved more and more administrative duties.
And while Jennie enjoyed close friendships with her male colleagues, it was nice to have a female friend around, even if Sarah was frequently gone on assignment. Jennie didn't work out in the field very much; she'd had the training, but her expertise in mapping crime was more useful in the background of the action. If Sarah was Batgirl, Jennie was more like Alfred.
Having Sarah back was great. Jennie knew that while Sarah loved her baby, Caleb, she was thrilled to be back in the saddle again, too.
"It's great that Logan has the time to spend with Caleb so you could come back to work so soon."
"I know — his shop is doing well, and he loves being Mr. Mom."
"He's so devoted to you both, you're lucky. Don't you miss being home, though, just a little?"
Sarah appeared thoughtful for a moment, and shook her head resolutely. "I went crazy for the two months I was home. I love them both to bits, but I felt like I would crawl out of my skin if I couldn't get out of the house. Logan is much more of a homebody."
"It works then. And he's not upset about the risks you have to take in this job?"
"Sure, it still comes up now and then. But he knows I wouldn't be happy doing anything else."
"Quite the man you found."
"You said it. I love him, and I love that he can understand how much I love my work, too. Not all women are so fortunate."
Jennie nodded, not entirely sure she completely understood, but pleased for Sarah anyway. Jennie loved her work, too, but that was because it was all she had. Marriage and family were out of the question for her. If she had what Sarah had, she might quit and contentedly stay home, baking cookies and taking walks in the park...enjoying her children and making a home for her family.
She sighed, and pushed that fantasy aside. Right now, she should be concentrating on bringing Sarah up to speed on current cases.
Sarah, whose sharp observation skills missed little, caught her ogling Nathan again.
"That poor guy has been after you nonstop for months. When are you going to give him a break?"
Jennie grinned, knowing her answer was going to set Sarah back a few feet.
Yup, she thought with satisfaction, as Sarah leaned in, her hand grasping Jennie's forearm.
"Are you kidding me? You two are finally going out on a date?"
"It's just dinner."
Jennie couldn't help smiling, though she remained conflicted about going out with Nathan. On one hand, she had a very good list of reasons why this shouldn't happen. However there were two very influential items that undermined all those good reasons: one, she liked him; two, she was lonely.
Jennie was used to attracting a certain amount of male attention. Sometimes she even enjoyed it. She had the normal urges that healthy women had, and she liked to work them off with a good-looking guy from time to time. And Nathan certainly fit that bill. But maybe she'd made a big mistake accepting his invitation to dinner.
She might be fooling herself that she could keep this under control. She enjoyed having a nice no-strings-attached relationship with a man occasionally. But she'd just celebrated her thirty-third birthday — alone. The years were slipping by, and what did she have to show for them except her work? Her work was challenging, and it helped her deal with her past and feel as if she was making a difference in the world. All the same it didn't keep her warm at night, that's for sure.
She considered another good reason to cancel the date — the problems a romantic entanglement could create in the office. She'd already had an affair with one of her colleagues, though that had been over for years. E. J. Beaumont was now a happily married man. Jennie was good friends with his wife, Charlotte, and was godmother to their second child, Annie. A relationship with Nathan would be hard to keep under wraps in such a small unit, and Jennie didn't want to start being known as the office good-time girl. In a police station, where women were so outnumbered, it was important to keep your professional image intact.
Nonetheless, Nathan was just too good to resist; and in truth, his pursuit of her, the flowers — and the seductive glances those amazing gray-green eyes cast in her direction when she was least expecting them — had finally crumbled the fortress she'd built around herself. There were several ways to access a system, Sarah always said. You could take a subtle and stealthy approach; you could wage an all-out attack, or you could convince the system or the people who ran it to give you what you wanted.
The last option, social engineering was Nathan's specialty.
With dual degrees in psychology and criminal science, he could have had his choice of any number of good jobs within regular law enforcement. He'd done his doctoral thesis on how computer hackers exploited the human element of technology, using human habit, weakness and error to get what they wanted. Hackers took advantage of one human trait in particular: the tendency to trust others. People were inherently trusting; they wrote down their computer passwords because they never really thought anyone would look through their desk or their e-mails. They left the systems open thinking no one would take advantage. They gave the waiter their credit card at lunch thinking the young man or woman would never steal the number when they were out of sight.
Nathan had provided a simple example at a recent seminar. A hacker comes to a reception desk, knowing the name of several people in your office, their office numbers and even things like the fact that someone just had a baby. He or she says they've come to deliver a baby gift, and asks to come by, just to drop off the present. Chances are, you agree. People want to help; they want to trust.
And that simple fact put hackers one step closer to getting what they needed. Once they were in, they could take it to the next step and find their way into company computers, networks. It happened every day.
Jennie wondered if this was what Nathan was doing to her — wearing down her resistance, charming her with his flirting, getting by her barriers because he'd somehow convinced her to let him in. He'd never pressured too much, but he'd never really stayed out of sight for long, either. Of course, she thought of him when she woke up and saw the latest flower arrangement on the dresser. He engaged her in conversation that had no romantic slant whatsoever, but his eyes sent a whole different message. He pursued her and yet waited for her to decide to come to him.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jennie Snow has been trying to resist her coworker, Nathan Reilly, for months now. Jennie loves her job as part of the HotWires team, investigating computer hackers and other computer-related crimes. It¿s an interesting and challenging job that she has a lot of fun with. However, with Nathan constantly flirting with her and throwing her hot glances, there¿s definitely something more on her mind than just the cases she is working on. Jennie is finally ready to give him a chance though. Nathan seems to be so responsible, sweet and appealing. Unfortunately, Nathan has a hidden agenda. Recently asked by Internal Affairs to start investigating Jennie because she might be a mafia mole planted in the HotWires department, Nathan is unsure of what to think. Nathan doesn¿t want to believe it, but knowing that Jennie, aka Maria Castone, comes from a mafia background and is currently living under an alias, Nathan dreads discovering the truth. He¿s wanted to get to know Jennie for a while now, but not under these circumstances. When a relationship starts to form between them, Jennie is leery but definitely excited. Nathan doesn¿t know what to think. His impression of Jennie as a kindhearted, sexy and fun-loving woman doesn¿t mix with the idea that she¿s a mole. He¿s trying to keep his investigation hidden from her, but when she inadvertently discovers his investigation, Jennie knows her past has come back to haunt her. Maria is not a mafia plant rather, she¿s on the run from her family after exposing some of their secrets. She thought she could trust Nathan but apparently he lied too. On the run, Maria is determined to go it alone this time. But Nathan isn¿t going to let her get away. He¿s worked too hard and too long to finally get Maria to go out with him, and with love blooming in his heart, he needs to discover the truth, before she¿s hurt or worse. Samantha Hunter brings back her HotWires series with a bang. Maria and Nathan share a strong passion that is intensified by the emotional turmoil they are both going through. Nathan is an investigator with a big conundrum on his hands. In his heart, he knows Maria is innocent, but he has to find the proof. But by holding back the truth from her, he complicates the situation even more. Their burgeoning relationship is hindered by secrets but luckily, there¿s enough trust between them to attempt to find a way to bridge the lies. The chase for truth adds to the intensity of their romance, creating another layer of suspense and intrigue. Nathan and Maria work hard to get to the truth and in the process, reveal to the readers the hardworking nature of their characters, the integrity they have for the system, and the natural humor they bring to the job. Sensuality explodes on the pages as Nathan and Maria engage the mind and the heart in the suspenseful HIDE AND SEEK.