Rough, tough and by the book, he's most criminals' worst nightmare. Until the girl of his dreams is caught on the other side. . .
Emma Ruiz knows her father is innocent. But that doesn't help her convince the law--not even smoking hot U.S. Marshal Landon McCabe. When McCabe bangs on her door demanding information about how her cancer-stricken father escaped from federal prison, she'll have to distract him somehow--it may as well be with a stolen kiss.
Landon gets why Emma isn't saying all she knows. What he doesn't understand is why he's putting his reputation, his case, and his badge on the line for a gorgeous person of interest. Much as he'd love to, he can't let Emma play him. The stakes are higher than either of them can guess. The only way to survive is to trust their instincts. But their instincts want more than one kiss. . .
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One Kiss More
By Mandy Baxter
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Amanda Bonilla
All rights reserved.
Landon McCabe could think of a thousand things he'd rather be doing right now. Skydiving, BASE jumping, climbing to the top of Mount Hood would be nice. When did the running of the bulls begin, anyway? Law enforcement was supposed to be an exciting, adrenaline-infused career. Maybe he should have applied for the Marshals' elite Special Operations Group when he had the chance. Of course, knowing his luck, he'd get an assignment like his friend Galen Kelly had snagged: babysitter to some foreign dignitary for a year. Prestigious? Maybe. But Landon wasn't interested in recognition or prestige. He was in it for the action. Which was why, as he pulled up to the swanky Aspira building in downtown Seattle, he wished he were jumping out of a plane, thousands of feet from the ground. He hadn't felt an exhilarating rush of any kind for a long goddamned time. And like any addict, he was itching for a fix.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed. After a few rings, Galen answered and the fucker had the nerve to sound upbeat. "Hey, man. Did you see me on Anderson Cooper last night?"
Galen had recently come off a case that had landed him not only in the media spotlight, but in bed with the woman he'd been assigned to protect. Lucky bastard. "Yeah. And you know what? It's true what they say about the camera adding ten pounds. You might want to think about hitting the gym."
"Please," Landon scoffed. "I've got nothing to be jealous about. You go ahead and be the poster boy for the Marshals Service while the rest of us go out and get shit done."
Galen's laughter rumbled through the receiver. Playful hostility was what Landon appreciated most about their friendship. Galen deserved his accolades, though. He was damn good at his job. "Have you questioned Ruiz's daughter yet?"
The consummate professional, Galen would forgo the banter for work talk any day of the week, and as always, Landon was on the same page. "On my way up to her condo now," he said as he flashed his badge to the parking attendant at the underground garage. The Aspira had top-of-the-line security, which might make it tough to sneak a fugitive in. On the other hand ... it might also be the perfect place to hide someone from prying eyes. Landon pulled the phone away from his ear long enough to get directions to the public parking and pulled through the levered gate. "I doubt she's going to be cooperative, though."
"Who's your contact there?"
Technically, the Ruiz case was in the Oregon district's jurisdiction, but since Ruiz's daughter lived in Seattle, the investigation had become an interregional effort. "Ethan Morgan," Landon replied as he hit the key fob with his thumb and locked his black Chevy Tahoe. He pivoted on a heel as he searched out the elevators and found a bank of silver doors on the far left wall. "I'm meeting him at the office later, but I thought I'd get a jump on Emma first."
Galen was silent for a moment, and Landon could almost picture the shit-eating grin on his face. "Get a jump on her, huh?"
"Unlike you, I'm a professional," Landon remarked, as he stepped inside the elevator and hit the button for the twenty-first floor.
"Touché," Galen replied.
"Dude, the French," Landon said with a snort. "So not manly. Later."
Galen's answering laughter was the last thing Landon heard as he ended the call. For the past few days, he'd been staking out Emma Ruiz's building and tracking her every move in the hopes that she'd lead them to her father. But the only thing he'd learned so far in his time on this assignment was that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Emma was still a hard-core party girl. She still hung out with pro athletes and rich playboys and lived her life as publicly as she dared, as though she invited the media attention and gossipmongers while simultaneously not giving a shit about any of it.
The Ruiz case had been high profile six years ago when they'd conducted their investigation into the federal judge's dealings with Mendelson Corp. Once one of the country's shrewdest and most successful attorneys, later, the consummate legal hero who defended the little guy, Javier Ruiz had landed a federal judgeship in Oregon after retiring from a firm that dealt primarily in environmental safety and wrongful death suits. His judgeship had taken a nosedive when his dealings with Mendelson had been scrutinized. The U.S. Marshals had gotten involved after he'd dismissed what should have been an open-and-shut FTC trade violation case against the multinational corporation. Through an anonymous tip, the feds had been alerted that Ruiz was extorting money from Mendelson, and the CEO had admitted to paying the judge in exchange for a favorable ruling in their case.
And for the last six years, Emma had been a staunch supporter of her father, declaring his innocence on several national news programs as well as on E! News and in the pages of US Weekly. A firstclass celebutante, Emma was often categorized as famous for being famous, or whatever it was the gossip rags said about overprivileged daddy's girls like her. She had often been whispered about in the Portland office when they'd investigated Javier. At eighteen, she had already been on the road to stopyour-heart gorgeous and had a reputation for playing fast and loose with several pro athletes. She had a mouth on her, not to mention a penchant for fucking with anyone who fucked with her dad. During the course of the Marshals Service's investigation, she'd made it her life's ambition to cause any deputy involved in bringing dear old daddy down a world of hurt. Landon's team had been on the receiving end of several of her malicious pranks including the old potato-in-the-tailpipe routine. That shit wasn't urban legend, and the blowback from the exhaust had damned near asphyxiated him. Not the best experience for a rookie on his first case.
Watching her over the past couple of weeks had stirred up all sorts of memories. One of those being the euphoric rush he experienced every time he laid eyes on her. Landon couldn't explain it. He wasn't usually the sort of guy who got twisted up at the sight of a pretty girl. But Emma was different. Her presence triggered something primal in his subconscious. And that instant, gut-clenching reaction bothered the shit out of him. So, yeah, he wasn't exactly enthused about paying a visit to the nowtwenty-four-year-old Emma, and grilling her about daddy's whereabouts while he tried not to fall under her spell yet again. Landon was certain that no matter what, Emma was going to give him a run for his money. Paybacks were a bitch.
Emma Ruiz hung up the phone, her heart racing like a thoroughbred, and stared off into space as she tried to collect her thoughts. One of the benefits of living in a building with the best security money could buy was getting a heads-up from the front desk that a deputy U.S. marshal was about to pay her a visit. Not that she hadn't been expecting it, though the timing could have been better.
She cast a furtive glance toward her closed bedroom door as a riot of butterflies took flight in her stomach and fluttered toward her throat. Everything was happening so fast and she needed to play her A-game right now. The key to a good defense was a strong offense. Any sports fan worth her salt realized that. And Emma knew that if she wanted the ball to be in her court with the Marshals Service, she needed to make sure they were off their game. She looked down the length of her purple cami top, black yoga pants, and bare feet. Not exactly an outfit that screamed I'm in charge! And while she'd hoped never to go toe-to-toe with those self-righteous dogooders again, she guessed she had no choice but to suck it up and face the music. At least the next few weeks wouldn't be boring.
When the doorbell rang a few minutes later, Emma took a deep breath and held it in her lungs before expelling it all in a rush. The cops weren't as scary as they liked to come off. Emma wasn't easily intimidated, and besides, she'd done this dance with them six years ago. If she could handle their pushy bullshit then, she could certainly handle it now. She could do this.
A round of obnoxious knocks followed on the heels of the bell and Emma rolled her eyes as she walked to the door. God forbid she keep the U.S. Marshals waiting. After all, they had a dangerous criminal to find and apprehend. She snorted. They were all a bunch of idiots if they thought that Javier Ruiz was a criminal mastermind. So ready to believe he'd orchestrated the perfect escape and itching to get one up on him. And of course, none of them knew how far off base they really were.
Emma curved her lips into what she hoped was a pleasant smile to mask the apprehension creeping up her spine and swung open the door. The smile melted right off of her face and her stomach did a twisting backflip that kicked out at her lungs on the dismount, leaving her breathless and a little stunned. Great. They would send the guy who'd arrested her dad in the first place, wouldn't they? The one guy who'd get under her skin. Emma clenched her fists at her sides as she wondered how much jail time she'd get for socking a U.S. marshal in the jaw.
"Deputy McCabe," she said, infusing her voice with innocence. "What a surprise. By all means, don't come in."
The bastard had the nerve to smirk.
"Obviously you know why I'm here," McCabe said. "So tell me where Javier is and I'll be on my way."
Emma relaxed against the doorknob, shifting her weight so that her braced arm supported her. It took a lot of effort to look so calm while her knuckles turned white as her fingers clenched the knob in a death grip. Coming face-to-face with Landon McCabe again was like stepping back in time. He was technically the enemy, but even after all this time Emma couldn't deny his appeal. His voice tumbled over her like a cascade of warm water, relaxing the tight knot that had settled in her chest. His blond hair was almost too short, but Emma was willing to bet she could still tangle her fingers in its length. And his eyes ... keen and bright blue running with veins of gold. A warm spark that, when focused on her, ignited something low in her stomach. Her brow puckered as she realized his presence had become even more commanding, his face even more handsome with the passage of years. Totally not fair.
"Why ask me?" She made sure her voice was devoid of any emotion. If she sounded even a little nervous, McCabe would pick up on it. "When Dad was remanded into the care of the U.S. government, I was sort of under the impression that you'd be keeping an eye on him. It's not my fault you guys suck at your jobs."
"Come on, Emma. I'm not in the mood to play games."
Emma saw an opportunity not only to intercept McCabe's innuendo, but to deflect his questioning with her own distraction while she ran in for the touchdown. "That's too bad, Deputy. I love to play. Maybe later? You can be shirts and I'll be skins."
McCabe's jaw tensed, and it gave Emma a perverse sense of satisfaction to have rattled the cocky deputy's chain. The quicker she could get him out of there, the better.
"Mind if I come in? Take a look around?"
What part of don't come in did he not understand? "Do you have a warrant?"
His tawny brows pulled down tight over his eyes.
"Then yes, I do mind." Emma's pulse rushed in her ears, nearly drowning out the sound of her own voice. The last thing she needed right now was to have him nosing around her apartment. She fought the urge to glance back at the closed door of her bedroom. No, she definitely didn't need to direct his attention there.
"Don't say I didn't try to make this easy on you." His voice hardened and lowered an octave, causing a pleasant chill to trickle from the top of Emma's head down the length of her body. "You'd better clear your schedule for the rest of the day, Miss Ruiz. A pair of deputies will be along in an hour or so to escort you to the federal courthouse for questioning."
Yeah, well, Emma could be hard, too. "What's the matter, McCabe? Not man enough to cuff me yourself?"
He took a step back from her doorway as though resisting the urge to do just that. He looked down the length of her body, and though she assumed it was meant to be disdainful, a thrill rushed through Emma's veins. "Just be ready to cooperate," he said. "Otherwise, I won't hesitate to issue a warrant for your arrest."
Without allowing her to respond, McCabe turned on a heel and sauntered down the hallway toward the elevator. Emma couldn't help it—she leaned out of the doorway to watch him leave, appreciative of the way his designer jeans hugged his ass. Boy was tight. His shoulders rolled as he walked, the precision and grace of every placed step a thing of beauty. Deputy U.S. Marshal Landon McCabe was still the enemy. He was the one who'd arrested her father and the man who was looking to do it again. But, damn, was he ever something to look at.
"That wasn't so hard, was it?"
Emma bristled at the sound of the voice behind her. An icy chill that was nothing like what she felt in Landon's presence chased over her skin, and she rubbed at her arms to banish the goose bumps that rose up there. "I told you, you have nothing to worry about."
"Oh, I know, chica. I only wanted to be sure you could play your part. Now that I know you can, I'll leave you alone. For now."
Emma tried to slow the racing of her heart with a few deep breaths. All of this was her fault. If she'd stayed out of trouble like her dad had asked her to, he'd be okay and getting the care he needed right now. "I know what's expected of me," Emma said, still refusing to turn and face the man speaking to her. She just wanted him to get the hell out of her condo.
"Good. That's good." His low voice snaked around her, dark and dangerous. "I'll be in touch."
Emma closed her eyes as he walked past her through the door. His body brushed against hers and she cringed as she inched away. She waited until the sounds of his footsteps disappeared down the hallway before she closed the door with shaking hands and turned the dead bolt into place. Her mind raced as adrenaline seeped into her bloodstream, making it difficult to focus. Landon McCabe's appearance in Seattle was going to be a problem. And she hoped that his interference in her life wouldn't get him killed.CHAPTER 2
Landon sat in a bland, undecorated cubicle in the Seattle field office staring at a computer screen with Emma Ruiz's face plastered all over it. The website was dedicated to local Seattle gossip, and the images depicted a ruffled-looking Emma being escorted into a nightclub under the arm of Tyson Kennedy, the starting sweeper for the Seattle Sounders. People here were crazy for soccer; it rivaled the fanaticism seen in the European leagues. Emma might as well have been hanging on the arm of a king as far as the fans were concerned. One of Tyson's hands jutted out at the camera, as if to shield her from the gawkers while his other hand was wrapped protectively around her shoulder. And why did that image make Landon want to sock Tyson in the jaw?
"I take it your visit didn't go well?"
Landon turned his chair around to face Ethan Morgan. As the liaison for the Ruiz investigation, the Seattle-based deputy had been assigned to keep an eye on Emma's comings and goings as well as monitor her landline and computer usage. Ajudge had approved the warrant within hours of Ruiz's escape, but so far, their monitoring of his daughter had failed to turn up any clues as to the former judge's whereabouts.
"About as well as a dive off a three-hundred-foot cliff without a parachute," Landon replied. "It's not like I expected her to cooperate, I just hoped that maybe the son of a bitch would be sitting in her living room or some shit."
Ethan laughed. "It'd be nice if it worked out that way. But I have a feeling Ruiz is long gone. Probably halfway to Mexico or South America by now. "
Manhunts, like missing-person investigations, focused on the critical first forty-eight hours. It rankled that they'd hit dead end after dead end those initial two days. It was like the son of a bitch had simply vanished into thin air. And while the smart move would have been to hightail it out of the country, Landon doubted that would have been Ruiz's move.
"Nah. He and Emma are tight. Plus, the man has cancer. It's a wonder he escaped at all. He's got to be in the city somewhere."
"Maybe the old man is already out of the country and Emma's waiting for the heat to die down so she can fly out and meet him," Ethan suggested.
"No." Landon couldn't explain it, but his intuition told him that fleeing the country wasn't the plan. "Emma knows where he is and he's close. We just have to get her to come clean."
Ethan gave a disbelieving chuckle. "Good luck with that. She makes stubborn look downright accommodating."
"That's one way to put it," Landon laughed.
"She's agreed to come in for an interview, though, right?"
Landon hadn't exactly asked, but she didn't have a choice. It was either come in or be arrested. The eighteen-year-old Emma probably would have opted for the arrest, but would the older, hopefully wiser Emma be more cooperative? Shit. Maybe he should have cuffed her and brought her in himself. "I wouldn't waste any time in picking her up. The sooner, the better."
Ethan smiled. "I'll take Courtney and go now. What are the chances of getting the rest of the case files on Ruiz by this afternoon? I'd like to take a closer look so I'm better acquainted with the history."
Excerpted from One Kiss More by Mandy Baxter. Copyright © 2015 Amanda Bonilla. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
We met Landon in the first book of U.S. Marshals series. Although I was critical of the 1st book, One Kiss More is a much better book. Love the romance and suspense. The characters were more mature with a strong heroine in Emma, willing to do what was needed to try to get her father released from the thugs that broke her father out of prison with an agenda of their own. Enter US Marshal Landon McCabe, who put Emma's father in prison 6 years before. Landon never forgot the feisty gal of 6 years ago. Landon McCabe is just the hero she needs. Landon battle wits with Emma to try and keep her safe.The thugs need Emma to give back the money she siphoned off of them so they can complete a dirty bomb buy. Emma and Landon are hot and explosive in One Kiss More. A winner!!
In ONE KISS MORE, Mandy Baxter skillfully combines sizzling chemistry and nail-biting suspense to create a story that totally captivates. Emma Ruiz and Landon McCabe first met when he arrested her father six years earlier. He’s back again because this time, her father has escaped from federal prison and he thinks Emma is the key to finding her father. Emma knows that her father is innocent and was on the verge of proving that when he disappeared from prison and the last thing she wants is to have the marshals around and in her business. Emma is a tabloid favorite, portrayed as being a party girl interested only in a good time. The real Emma actually is a nerdy computer geek – smart, loyal protective and loves to relax at home. Landon is a trust fund baby, but walked away from it all to work for the U.S. Marshal service. He’s completely dedicated to his job and Emma is a huge distraction that he cannot afford. Emma and Landon have always been attracted to each other but ignored the attraction by trading barbs and smart comments. Unfortunately, they have to work together to unravel the mystery of her father’s disappearance. Emma finds herself in over her head in the high stakes game, facing off against ruthless criminals and will need all of Landon’s expertise to win. I enjoy a well-written suspense so I was drawn in from the first page and really enjoyed reading it. ONE KISS MORE is filled with great characters, plot twists, action, really bad guys and lots of sexual tension – all elements of a perfect romantic suspense story. *I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*
Emma feels that it is difficult for her to move on... not when she have hots for a certain US Marshall who arrested her father and not when that hot US Marshall is back to hound her. She is often seen clubbing around different clubs, hanging around with different guys and friends but that was the persona she wanted to portray. No one knew the real Emma who isn't flashing around in the latest designer wear or hanging around with jocks. She is a smart computer nerd who is finding ways to free her dad whom she knew was being kidnapped by the mob. Landon McCabe arrested Emma's father 6 years ago and he believed that Emma must have known something about her father's recent escape from the prison. He finds Emma again and it doesn't help matters when he sees the woman that she has become. The story is pretty fast paced with suspense and quite a bit of action between Emma, McCabe and the Spanish mob. I definitely didn't see that coming about Emma; that she not only has beauty but brains. Despite landing herself in trouble with the mob, she did buy her father and herself time as she thinks through her plan and her alternatives. The chemistry between Landon and Emma was combustible. I enjoyed their banter and it was fun reading how she pushed Landon's buttons. I read this as a standalone since I've yet to read Book 1 of this series and I do intend to check Book 1 out. Many thanks to Netgalley and Kensington Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Loved this one!! Such a fun read filled with snarky banter and plot twists throughout. As an US Marshall Landon McCabe acting on his attraction Emma Ruiz is a bad idea. Considering he helped send her father to prison and he's currently chasing the recently escaped father makes it an even worse idea. But some things can't be contained. These two go on a wild adventure that will keep you turning page after page in this book. It is definitely one I recommend to everyone.