Reckless Deceptions

Reckless Deceptions

by Karen Rock

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781516106172
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 12/18/2018
Pages: 190
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.44(d)

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CHAPTER 1

Sometimes a little menace went a long way.

CIA Special Agent Ryan Arnell stalked to the velvet rope restraining a horde of hyped Dallas Heat patrons. He glowered at the hulking bouncer, then curtly nodded his thanks when the man hurriedly unhooked the fastener and waved him through. No questions asked.

Usually Ryan flew under the radar. Cardinal rule for an international spy: do not draw attention to yourself. But after a sixteen-hour flight from Damascus to Dallas, smashed between a cat video enthusiast with a nervous bladder and a drunk who'd mistaken his shoulder for an armrest, his self-control and patience hung by a thread. Given the infuriating mission the CIA's deputy chief had assigned him the moment he reached American soil, Ryan was in no mood for niceties.

He muscled his way to the bar, waved some cash, and snagged a beer, then strode a short distance away without waiting for his change. The cool hops washed down his burning throat, flavorless. Three more pulls and he slammed the empty bottle on a nearby tabletop. The bottle wobbled, tipped then tumbled.

He shoved shaking hands into his pockets and searched out the woman he'd been ordered to meet. Erica Keely, the tough, headstrong ex-CIA agent he'd tried — and failed — to forget after their secret affair's tumultuous end two years ago.

Why was she working at a male revue and female burlesque club? Something beyond earning a quick buck must be motivating her clever mind. And how did her phoned-in claim of a supposed terrorist threat figure into this anything-goes club?

He drummed his fingers on the table. Seeing her again couldn't have happened at a worse moment. He was off the clock for the next couple of weeks — back home after three years away on personal, family business.

Private business.

He sidestepped a group of men stampeding toward the stage and compartmentalized. Initiate contact, ascertain the validity of Erica's intel, then beat a fast retreat to his cheap efficiency room in his economy rental car.

Ahhhh — the glitz and glam of international espionage.

He had 2.5 million frequent-flier miles for traveling the globe this past decade, a precisely packed carry-on bag containing all his worldly possessions, and a thirty-caliber bullet lodged in his left hip to show for a life dedicated to hunting down Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al- Qaeda splinter group fighting the Syrian government. It was a life away from Dallas Heat's spray-tanned, glitter-dusted world. Another planet.

A universe even.

One in which kick-butt, take-no-prisoners Erica Keely somehow now belonged.

He eyed the club's crimson walls and the animated groups crowding zebra-patterned booths. Dallas Heat looked harmless. The thrum of a sultry tune accompanied a sequin-covered performer twirling on stage. A shirtless bartender juggled stemware while another poured bubbling champagne down an ice-luge sculpture. As a cocktail waitress carrying a tray of something rum and citrus-smelling passed Ryan, she eyed him.

"Can I get you anything, handsome?" she offered after handing out shots to a nearby table. Razor-edged black hair framed a round face adorned with multiple piercings.

"Erica Keely? Is she around?"

Her sunny smile transformed her goth face to girl-next-door pretty ... if the girl next door pierced her septum with a miniature arrow, of course. "Everybody wants to know about Blaze. ..."

"Blaze?"

"Blaze Star's her dance name when she's not tending bar."

A wave of possessiveness rolled through his gut as he eyed the men crowding the dance floor. "Tell me about her."

The waitress lowered her tray, revealing bare arms covered in tattoo sleeves. "Another one, huh?"

"Another what?"

"Person stuck on Blaze." She angled her head and stared at a pair of silks dangling at the back of the stage. "I mean ... who doesn't want to get in her pants, right?"

"It's not like that."

Dimples appeared in a cheeky grin. "Okay. Whatever you say."

"So," he prompted, "Blaze — ah — Star ...?" The name suited magnetic Erica. She'd been a lightning rod, attracting danger, controversy, him ... before betraying him and their mission. ...

The server waved off a shouting patron and edged close enough for her studded bracelet to scrape his arm. "She's the headliner for our new burlesque night. Started here a month ago. Kind of keeps to herself. Unfortunately," she added on a sigh.

"Unfortunately?" Sure, Erica could be standoffish, but in a place like this, that could protect her from unwanted attention. The fewer strange men groping her, the better.

"Hardly ever socializes with staff. And she doesn't give lap dances, no matter how much she's offered. Our boss, Reese, doesn't make us do them, but shit ... You'd have to be a fool or insane to turn down the big money Blaze does. Maybe she doesn't need the money ... or she's not into men?"

"I'm fairly certain the answer's no on both counts."

Hope faded from the server's face. "Then why's she working here then, huh?"

"Good question," Ryan muttered under his breath, relieved when he had no right to be about Erica refusing men private dances, her body grinding on them ... the way her hips used to move only for him. ... "Thanks for your time." He dropped a twenty on the waitress's empty tray.

"I don't charge men like you," she drawled, then pocketed the cash just the same. "Find me later, handsome," she called over her shoulder. "I'll introduce you to Blaze."

Alone again, he eyed a line of feather-covered women kicking in time to a re-mixed Frank Sinatra anthem. How much longer until Erica ... Blaze Star ... burst into his orbit again?

He grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered another beer, and cracked a peanut shell in one vicious snap.

"And now, ladies and gentlemen," announced a raven-haired woman clad in a strategically placed feather boa and Hello Kitty pasties. "Please welcome to the stage the incredible, the electric, Ms. Blaze Star!"

The lights winked out and thunderous applause rolled inside the club. Whistles split the thick air. Boots stomped. At last, a spotlight flashed on, revealing a smoking hot redhead in a second-skin, ankle-length black dress. One graceful arm extended overhead; the other hand rested on her tiny waist. Her curvy body bent slightly at the knees to accentuate every angle of her magnificent figure.

A peanut lodged in Ryan's throat, and he coughed violently. He swiped his streaming eyes and gaped at the stunner on stage.

Erica.

Holy shit.

He shook his head, trying to clear the attraction fogging his brain, but it was useless. Years of lust and anticipation brewed deep in his belly. He tore his gaze away and guzzled his drink. Anything to cool the inferno the sight of her stoked to life.

The opening notes to Feeling Good filled the club, and Erica rocked her small, round hips, swiveling seductively, teasingly. His breath hissed between his clenched teeth when she turned and peered over her shoulder, arched a brow, then lowered one shoulder of her dress to reveal flawless white flesh. His fingers tightened around his beer as he recalled the satin feel of her skin, the smooth creamy taste.

A groan rumbled from his throat.

She was a glory to look at. Toned, perfectly proportioned, and leanly muscled. Her thick waterfall of hair glowed beneath the light when she slowly twirled again. She extended one arm forward, as if reaching into the spellbound audience, then repeated the tantalizing beckon with her opposite limb. Perspiration broke across his brow. His mouth hung open, and he made an effort to close it.

Her hair was longer than he remembered, framing her heart-shaped face in burnished-red waves falling past her shoulders. Ryan preferred long hair. Nothing compared to the feeling of burying his hands in a woman's hair and tugging it gently the moment before she came apart beneath him. His groin swelled as he recalled the thick silk slipping through his fingers when they'd made love in Cairo's heat, sheets damp and sticking to their joined bodies, Erica's frantic panting in his ear, the squeeze of her thighs around his hips as she'd demanded more ... more ... more. ...

A synthesized saxophone wailed, yanking him from the past.

Gyrating to the floor, Erica parted the invisible fasteners closing her dress, then flung it off as she rose, bringing her gold, string- bikini-clad body into full view. The tiny triangles barely covered her nipples, and the bottom rode high on her hips, exposing long, lean legs, a taut abdomen and a nipped-in waist.

Something ripped loose in his chest. God, she was gorgeous. When she twirled, he glimpsed her firm, round ass and sucked in a harsh breath. White-hot attraction nearly blinded him.

Now her shoulders were drawn back, her beautiful breasts on display. His palms ached at the remembered swell of them, overflowing his greedy grasp. What the hell? He'd prepared himself for a tease, but this — this was fucking torture.

Ryan shot a look around the dim room — every male eye was locked on Erica. He stifled the urge to stand between her and the ogling jackasses. Not that he was one of them ... He forced himself back down on his barstool.

Oh. Who the fuck was he kidding?

His body was on fire for her. Blood pulsed through him, hot and frustrated. He hadn't been this aroused since — a vision of a gloriously naked Erica, sprawled on his bed, swam before his eyes. She alone had made him greedy. Animalistic. Their trysts pure, unadulterated passion. Fly-me-to-the-moon-and-back sex.

Dammit.

His thoughts chased themselves in hot circles.

He needed to leave. Now. Call the deputy chief and tell him to send some flunky to take her statement — what he should have done in the first damn place.

With agile, athletic grace, Erica grabbed hold of one of the silk lines streaming down to the stage, wrapped her legs around it with pointed toes, and began effortlessly climbing it, hand over fist. Halfway up, she paused, brought her knees to her chest and spun, revealing her bouncing ass.

Ryan cut off a man's whistle by elbowing the horny guy's soft gut.

"Hey," the man huffed. "Watch it —" He fell mute at Ryan's black scowl and backed away. "No offense, man." With that, he pivoted and fled into the crowd.

Yeah. A little menace went a long way.

Returning his attention to Erica, Ryan spied her near the top of the silk. His heart triple-timed as she separated the material with her foot, pushing it away and arching backward so her generous breasts tipped skyward in a long, sinuous stretch.

He smothered a groan. Oh God. Erotic. Sensual. Her body, her beauty, her confidence spiraled around her, taunting, teasing, practically stroking him. He shuddered with the carnal promise she bestowed.

As the music blared, she executed one death-defying move after another in a synergy of grace, athleticism, and mouthwatering sensuality. Where the hell had she learned to perform aerial silks? The dangerous moves made sense. She'd always been an adrenaline junkie who acted first, considered risks later ... if at all. Her undaunted impulsiveness had once drawn him, despite their different temperaments, until those qualities bit them both in the ass.

Hard.

Ryan liked confident women. A rose to look at and a lioness in the bedroom. His mouth quirked. He wasn't a caveman. He respected women, but he also knew what he wanted. And unfortunately, the temptation in bold, audacious Erica had been too much to ignore while he'd led the terrorist task force she'd ultimately betrayed.

Tiny dots of light now crisscrossed the stage, sparkling. They set Erica aglow as she twisted in midair, then swung into an impressive handstand. After she lowered herself, her legs parted into an aerial split to raucous cheers. With a sly wink, she unhooked herself and glided down the material.

A growl built in the back of Ryan's throat at the group of jostling men thronging the stage. They practically salivated, reaching across the polished wooden surface toward Erica the moment she touched ground.

His back teeth clamped together.

Not fucking happening.

He grabbed two catcalling guys by the collar and shoved them backward. When a third grabbed for her foot, Ryan smacked it away. On the job, Erica had swathed herself in conservative garb or fatigues, but this ... this blatant sexual side that'd once been a feast for his eyes only ... played serious games with his already fucked-up mind.

He still wanted Erica.

An undisputable truth.

Leave.

He hustled to the stage exit instead, pushed aside another admirer, and leapt after her.

"No patrons backstage," announced a burly bouncer. Ahead, Erica flicked her long hair over her shoulder and accepted a stagehand's offered water.

"I'm not a customer." Ryan glowered down at the meathead. He didn't need this asshole's permission. "Erica!"

She paused and peered backward. Her eyes popped when they landed on him, and her body stiffened. "You!"

"Okay, dude." The bouncer grabbed Ryan's arm. "Outta here."

"No." Ryan flung off the man's grip without tearing his gaze from Erica. Her eyes were bright and angry now, and a hectic red flooded her cheeks. It didn't take Jason Bourne to figure out he wasn't the agent she'd expected. "I'm a — a —"

"An asshole?" All the air left his body at her familiar, taunting- feisty voice. It was the kind of voice in which every other sentence seemed to end with a silent "in your face." Every fourth sentence with a "fuck off."

The bouncer's square head swiveled between him and Erica as they locked eyes. "You know this guy?"

"Unfortunately." She grabbed a robe from the gaping stagehand, shoved it on, and belted it tight before striding close. His heart thumped, and his palms slicked as he peered into her familiar, refined features. Erica Keely was more beautiful than any woman had a right to be.

"What is he — a stalker?"

"Worse," she spat. "He's my ex."

"Now you're really outta here!" The bouncer lunged, stumbling when Ryan easily sidestepped the oaf.

"Wait!" Erica grabbed the bouncer's raised arm when he whirled. "I don't want you to get hurt."

"I won't hurt him," Ryan observed, dry. "Much."

"You think I'm afraid of him?" The huffing bouncer struggled to free himself. Since Erica strategically placed her fingers on his pressure points, though, it was a losing battle.

"You should be." Erica eyed Ryan, then sighed. "Much as I'd like to see you beat the crap out of him, you'd never land the first punch. He's killed some serious motherfuckers."

"Seriously?" The bouncer eased back, his tiny eyes darting.

Ryan's lips curved as he drank in Erica's fierce expression: full lips pursed, strong eyebrows meeting over her short nose, her eyes shooting sparks. It had always made him want to shake her and kiss her at the same time. He forced his fingers to unfurl. "Some of them were just assholes."

She rolled her eyes. "And they all had it coming. Everything by the books, right?"

He shrugged, used to the accusation. Proud of it, in fact. The world worked better when people followed the rules and didn't get emotionally involved. Something Erica never understood.

"Later, Deke," Erica said without tearing her cool gaze from Ryan.

"Oh. Sure." The man backed off, then disappeared through the stage curtain.

"Did you enjoy the show?" She put one hand on her hip, and holy hell, Ryan didn't need to see her face to feel the slow drag of her eyes down his body.

"I didn't come for the show."

She raised her pert nose. "What did you come for?"

"You." Despite himself, his voice grew hoarse.

Erica smelled like no other woman Ryan had ever known, a tantalizing combination of sweet and spicy. Her scent, and the view of her mouthwatering body, pushed all his sexual buttons, despite — or because of — her challenging stare.

He wanted to devour and be devoured — and with Erica, who radiated confidence and unbridled sensuality, he sensed his sexual appetite would overtake him again if he lingered. Time to get to the point and beat it.

"Can we talk somewhere private?"

"I don't give private dances." Erica lifted an eyebrow. Mocking him?

"You used to ..." Ryan narrowed his gaze, his world condensing down to her. Erica and no one else. He could no longer see the dancers hustling around them to reach the stage, although he could hear the young women's heels clattering on the wood floor.

Erica brashly held his stare, but Ryan saw past the bravado in the way she slipped her fingers through her hair, trying to tame the tousled strands ... a nervous habit he knew well. Good to see not everything had changed.

Her chest moved with each breath of air. Her breasts strained the silk of her robe. The remembered taste of her nipples, sweet like cherries, filled his watering mouth. "Come on, Erica ... or should I say Blaze?"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Reckless Deceptions"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Karen Rock.
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.

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Reckless Deceptions 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
LynnB888 9 months ago
We're heading back into the Dallas Heat nightclub for another intriguing case to solve! The mystery was higher in this book than previous ones in the series, but I missed the deeper inclusion of the club that we got with the prior books. Still satisfying, just different. Strong characters, well developed plot and lots of steam! Former CIA agent Erica Keeley is working on her own to try to track down answers from the case that lost her everything. She's always been one to go for whatever bit of information she needed no matter what the cost, but her rogue semantics cost her the job she loved and the man she was enjoying spending her time with. Now she's knee deep into the middle of an undercover delve for info when she stumbles across some info about a homegrown terrorist mastermind. She has no choice but to contact the CIA with the info, but she hopes to be able to help track down the answers! CIA special agent Ryan Arnell didn't approve of Erica's methods previously, but as he works with her again on this case, he realizes he did her a disservice by not standing by her when she had her chops busted. The info she's uncovered is volatile and he's afraid she's biting off more than she can chew this time, but no matter what, he's going to be right there by her side!
Boohimdanno 10 months ago
Karen Rock is able to create two likable characters that develop friendship over time while trying to terrorist from ending everything they have worked so hard to save. Erica is interesting character with more depth than I originally thought as I read the synopsis. She is strong willed wanting to complete the mission she created even though David by the rules refuses see her for more than a wash up CIA agent. The story moves quickly and effortlessly from beginning to end of the story keeping readers engaged. The perfect story to curl up and read during the winter rights. The romance will keep readers warm. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher Lyrical Liaison for the advance copy of Karen Rock Reckless Deceptions
blonde_betty 10 months ago
Karen Rock’s latest Dallas After Dark novel, Reckless Deceptions, starts fast and doesn’t let up the entire time. Rock weaves serious family drama into a significant terrorist plot, all while bringing the hero and heroine back together. If you look up, you will definitely miss something. Rock’s story is compelling and makes you want to keep reading. I know I couldn’t turn pages fast enough. I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this novel.
SarahBethL 10 months ago
This is the third story in the Dallas After Dark series. I loved it especially because Erica & David's personalities are so different. Erica has always been willing to bend the rules to get answers & solve cases & Dave is a by the book kind of guy. When her actions get her fired from the CIA she decides to go rogue to find a person of interest that she had been tracking. David is drawn to Erica but also wishes she would follow the rules. It was fun to see how they worked together to find the terrorist she had been hunting on her own.
Bette313 10 months ago
This is a fast paced story that has former CIA Operative Erica Keeley teaming up with her former partner and love interest Ryan Arnell. They are tracking and trying to stop members of a terrorist group operating in the Dallas area. He's a by the book kind of guy while she's a do what needs to be done kind of girl. Together they make a great team. The story is full of suspense with lots of twists that keep you turning pages and completely absorbed. This is one I highly recommend.
ytcruz 11 months ago
This is the third book of the series. That said, if like me , you have not read the previous books, rest assured that it’s a stand alone. The story centers around CIA agents Erica Keeley and David Arnell. Erica was always a rule breaker and David a by the book man. Their stands caused her to lose not only her job , but her former partner and lover, when he doesn’t back her up. Two years later , she is working undercover to find a terrorist and ends up crossing paths with David . They end up working together once more and of course, the chemistry is re-ignited. The plot is full of suspense, bad guys, lots of action, and of course , romance. Will they survive the terrorist cell and have a second chance at love? I was entrusted a copy of this book by Netgalley. The opinions expressed are solely my own.