After a life of pool hustling and living on the wrong side of the law, Ruby Elliott is living on the straight and narrow with sexy-as-all-hell NYPD detective, Troy Bennett. Now the only trouble Ruby has with the law is the naughty kind, pinned against the wall by Troy's strict and spectacularly hard body. Obeying his every command. Both of them losing themselves in a lust that borders on obsession...
But then her father returns with an offer she can't refuse: one last hustle in exchange for information. Information she'd die to have. As the pieces and the players of the game reveal themselves, Troy feels the fine edges of his control slipping—control he can't channel without hurting Ruby. The stakes are high, and the risk higher. Because losing this final game could cost more than Ruby's heart…it might cost her life.
Each book in the Crossing the Lines series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Prequel Novella: His Risk to Take
Book .5: Riskier Business
Book 1: Risking it All
Book 2: Up In Smoke
Book 3: Boiling Point
Book 4: Raw Redemption
About the Author
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Tessa Bailey lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and young daughter. When she isn't writing or reading romance, she enjoys a good argument and thirty-minute recipes.
Read an Excerpt
A Crossing the Line Novella
By Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Tessa Bailey
All rights reserved.
Ruby Elliott bent low over the pool table, lining up her shot on the six ball. She could feel the familiar, level gaze burning over her back, bottom, and thighs. Familiar, yes. But since the night all those months ago when she'd met her boyfriend, Troy Bennett, the power of that gaze had only strengthened, making it damn hard to concentrate on what she was doing. What game was he playing? He'd walked into Hildebrand's, her old Brooklyn neighborhood's local pool hall, twenty minutes ago, but instead of greeting her with a kiss as usual, he'd sat at the bar and ordered a beer. He'd been watching her ever since, steadily sipping from the bottle as though formulating a plan. Anticipation quivered in her belly, hot and liquid. Whatever he had planned, she needed him to hurry.
From day one, their relationship had never been anything less than exciting. Explosive. Often volatile. Could one expect anything less between a stubborn pool hustler and an NYPD detective who thrived on exercising control?
Their first week together had found them on opposite sides of the law. Troy had been investigating a local Brooklyn mobster, a man who just happened to be the father of her childhood best friend. Knowing the level of violence this man was capable of, she'd defected to Troy's side in an effort to keep him alive—and it had very nearly ended with a bullet in her reckless backside. Troy had saved her, though. In more ways than one. Not only had she stopped putting herself in danger to make money by fleecing marks out of their cash on the felt, she'd opened her own custom pool cue factory, and the business had taken off.
Finally, finally, she was exactly where she wanted to be.
After banking the eight ball, Ruby set her stick aside to rerack. Just as she finished the familiar task, she felt Troy move up behind her, brushing against her slightly as he passed. Electricity raced across her skin, every nerve ending in her body waking up and paying attention.
"Looking for a game?" he murmured near her ear.
Ruby shrugged, trying to appear unaffected, yet knowing her red cheeks likely gave her away. Her body never failed to betray her to this man. "Can you afford to play with me?"
He rested his hands on either side of her on the table, bringing his chest flush against her back. Deep in his throat he made a humming sound when his lap fitted snugly against her bottom. Ruby barely held back the urge to shift her body, tempt him closer. "I don't think I can afford not to," he said. "What's your name, little hustler?"
So this was his game. Pretend they didn't know each other? She could play along. Troy never did anything without a purpose. And his purpose was always her pleasure. "Ruby." She tilted her neck to the side, felt his gaze move lower to where her breasts strained against her tank top. "Why don't you put your money where your mouth is, then?"
His chest rumbled with a growl, alerting her to the fact that she was now playing with fire. Troy's dangerous fire. Her thighs squeezed together of their own accord. "I would worry about your own mouth if I was you. Before it gets you into trouble."
"Maybe I like trouble," she whispered.
"Well, you've definitely found it." One hand traveled to her hip, fingers digging in, just hard enough to make her gasp. "My brand of trouble is so good it hurts. You want to hurt a little tonight, baby?"
A blast of desire ricocheted through her system. She felt stripped bare, unsuited for a public place. The raucous conversations taking place in the bar had faded into background noise, Hildebrand's ceasing to exist around her. Troy frequently had this effect on her mind and body, leaving her struggling to contain her composure. "The only thing that's going to hurt is your ego when I beat you."
His laughter against her neck was filled with dark promises. "I think we know who's going to win in the end."
She swallowed hard. "You're very confident."
"Yeah. I am. Do you know why?" Troy pressed his hips close. She could feel his substantial erection, thick against her behind. "I have what makes you moan. What's going to make those thighs open wide. I've got it right here and you're fucking dying for it." He backed away and a whimper escaped Ruby before she could stop it. "Your break, hustler."
"What do I get if I win?" Ruby asked with forced nonchalance, even as her pulse kicked into high gear. Watching Troy play pool always turned her on to a stunning degree. He'd never let on until recently exactly what an accomplished player he was. That is what made her so hot. He didn't need to brag, nor did he pout like most men inevitably did when she won, which happened to be the majority of the time.
No. Troy took his victories elsewhere.
Ruby broke the rack, but divested of her concentration, sunk none of the balls. She narrowed her eyes at Troy's smirk as he approached the table.
He stopped in front of her, chalking his cue slowly. When he set the blue cube aside, his stormy blue gaze found hers, voice dropping to a whisper. "If you win, I'll stop tonight when you beg me to."
Ruby inhaled shakily, resisting the urge to press a hand to her tightened belly. "And if you win?"
Troy laughed under his breath. "I don't stop. We go another round. Harder. So much fucking harder than the first one." He leaned in and ran his lips up the side of her neck, scraped his teeth against her heated flesh on the way back down. "How does that sound?"
Ruby was forced to lean her weight onto the pool cue in her hand when her legs would no longer support her. "I need to know exactly what harder entails before I agree to the bet." The temptation to hear more proved too much. Ruby suspected the more she pushed, the longer he would make her wait for satisfaction, but then curiosity had always been her downfall. "I deal in specifics."
"I don't appreciate being questioned," Troy murmured against her ear. "But I'll make an exception since we're getting to know each other." He moved to block her view of the bar. Gripping the front waistband of her jeans, he twisted it hard in his fist. Denim, already snug against her center, squeezed tight around that incredibly sensitive part of her until she gasped. Suddenly, release loomed so close, she knew if she moved her hips in either direction, she'd come right where she stood, in a bar full of people. A sensual, knowing smile played on his lips. "You want specifics? Fine. I'm going to fuck you in the shower. The neighbors can't hear you scream quite as loudly in there. I'm going to nail you, over and over, against the wall. Until you can't think. Or stand. Or speak." He twisted the denim even tighter and Ruby moaned into his shoulder. "Then I'm going to go down on you, lick the spot I just satisfied, pick you up, and do it all over again."
Troy released her waistband and Ruby slumped against the stool beside her. He maintained eye contact with her as he bent over the table and sunk a solid in the side pocket. As she watched, pulse jackhammering in her ears, Troy cleared the table of every ball except for hers, before knocking in the eight.
"Get your jacket."
* * *
Ruby tossed her jacket onto the kitchen table, watching warily as Troy did the same. On the ride from Brooklyn back to Manhattan, he hadn't spoken to her once, communicating instead through discreet touches and hidden glances in the backseat of the cab. A hand brushing across her breasts, a soft growl beside her ear. The air between them practically vibrated, the electric hum matched by her own anxiousness. Still, the part of her brain that managed to think clearly around a sexually charged Troy had decided he wouldn't win the game quite so easily.
"Nice place you've got here," Ruby remarked casually, catching the slight twitch of his lips. She ran her fingers over the square red candles arranged in the center of the table. "I would say it needs a woman's touch, but it looks like somebody beat me to it."
Flash of amusement long gone, Troy rounded the table purposefully, crowding her against it. "Speaking of a woman's touch ..." He took her hand and pressed it against his straining fly. "I'm done waiting for yours."
As he leaned in to kiss her, Ruby drew back quickly. His low sound of frustration made her stomach muscles clench. Teasing a hungry Troy was like juggling a stick of lit dynamite. Too bad she was about to clue him in to the fact that his plan to pretend they didn't know each other had backfired. "Just a minute, big boy. I don't sleep with men I just met." She leaned back on the table, letting her shirt ride up to expose her belly. "I'm going to need a little convincing."
A muscle worked in his jaw. "Convincing."
Ruby bit her lip and nodded. "I need to know what kind of man I've allowed to bring me home."
Troy's gaze dropped to her bare midriff. "You should be careful what you wish for." He braced himself with hands on either side of her hips, then bent low to let his warm breath fan across her belly. Such a simple action, yet Ruby's lips parted on a shaky sigh, thighs tightening on top of the table. Before she could guess his intention, he bared his teeth and ripped open the button on her jeans. He hit her with blistering eye contact, maintaining it as he drew down her zipper, painstakingly slow, with his teeth. Her shuddering breaths echoed in the kitchen as Troy straightened to his full height once more. "You want to know what type of man I am, Ruby?"
"Yes," she whispered.
So fast she didn't have time to react, his big hand disappeared inside the opening of her jeans, shoving her panties aside to impale her with his middle finger. When Ruby automatically moaned and tipped her head back, legs opening in a silent plea, Troy sucked in a breath. "I'm the kind of man who makes you this goddamn wet before he's even touched you." He withdrew his hand and turned toward the bathroom, pulling his shirt over his head as he went. Seeing his broad, sinfully defined back revealed, Ruby's pulse sped up even faster. "When you're ready to stop playing games, come get in the shower."
Ruby stripped off the last of her clothes, leaving them in a pile outside the bathroom door. She could hear Troy on the other side, pulling back the shower door and stepping under the pounding spray, interrupting its flow. Eager to see hot water spill down his back, soak his body, she nudged the door open with her toe. Her breathing went shallow with anticipation, heat mingling with impatience in her belly. She'd waited long enough. Couldn't wait any longer to be taken by him.
She took a single step into the bathroom and stopped, concern overriding every other emotion. Troy stood naked beneath the coursing water, hands braced high against the tile wall. His shoulders and back, so flawlessly sculpted it ached to look at them, were unusually stiff. Rigid with tension. He'd bowed his head forward slightly, but Ruby could see his eyes were closed. His jaw tight.
Immediately, he straightened. As if he hadn't expected her to enter the bathroom behind him so quickly. As if she could wait. When he turned to her, Ruby's chest went tight. Anxiety. Dread. Love. All three emotions waged a battle on his face. Then just as quickly, his expression went blank. He held out his hand to her, gaze tracking down her naked body slowly. Heating. Planning.
She slid her palm over Troy's, let him help her over the rim of the tub. Ease her against his hard body.
Using his hips, he pushed her back onto the slick wall, lips moving over her neck. "Help me take away the ache, baby. You know how bad it gets when I don't fuck you in the morning."
Ruby wanted so badly to forget the look she'd seen on his face. The trepidation she'd witnessed. But her love for this man wouldn't allow her to leave him hurting for some unnamed reason. To distract her with her one weakness. Himself. When he leaned in to kiss her, she placed a hand on his chest to hold him back. "Something's wrong." Her whisper was nearly swallowed by the pelting water. "Talk to me, first."
His eyes squeezed shut, then opened slowly, containing a predatory glint. She couldn't shake the intuition he was hiding something, but when he hit her with the full force of his magnetism, her thoughts tended to scatter. And he well knew it. "Talk to you?" His hands molded to her bottom and lifted, seating her on top of his slippery erection, levering her against the wall with the use of his hips. Ruby moaned, ankles automatically locking behind his back. "What would you like to hear? That my girlfriend has become my obsession? That I can't think past getting inside her? Every. Single. Hour." He punctuated each word with a devastating upward thrust, then kissed her hard, tongue moving over hers, claiming her. She felt his mood shift rapidly as his mouth ravished hers. From seductive to desperate. It sent warning signals to her brain. "I won't let you go. I won't let you go back to that," he rasped. The kiss deepened briefly, fiercely. "Have to keep you safe."
Somehow his words broke through the fogbank of lust, dragging Ruby back to where she could breathe. "Let me go, Troy? Go back to where?"
He buried his face against her neck, his chest rising and falling with rapid breaths. She wrapped her arms around him and held him close, trying to stifle her alarm and failing.
His tortured gaze finally met hers. "Your father is back in town."CHAPTER 2
Troy felt Ruby go completely still against him. Where seconds earlier she'd been wet and pliant, her body had grown stiff, her expression guarded. Reminiscent of how she'd looked the first time they'd met, when she'd been hustling for a living. When she'd been distrusting of everyone and everything. Especially a cop like him. That distrust had almost ripped her away from him. After his job and her criminal past bleeding together had caused her to literally bleed, he'd vowed never to let anything harmful touch her again. Here it was, though. Too soon. Right on their doorstep.
In a move that only increased his disquiet, her legs went limp, dropping from around his waist, her hips twisting to unlock their bodies. It alarmed him, this automatic shield she raised. As if he needed another reason to be fucking anxious or worried for her safety. The safety he'd worked so damn hard to achieve. After leaving the pain of losing his best friend and partner behind back in Chicago, his fear of loss had been challenged by a pool hustler who never looked before she leaped. Ruby had finally met him halfway after months of compromise, and with the utterance of a single sentence, he felt it slipping away. If he didn't think it would scare her, he'd have already put his fist through the bathroom wall.
Helplessness was a living thing inside him. Briefly this afternoon, he'd considered not telling Ruby about Jim Elliott's return. One look at his rap sheet told Troy he could easily have her father picked up for some bullshit misdemeanor. He had outstanding warrants in several states, and had violated his probation by leaving New York in the first place. Troy could have used the threat of imprisonment to send Jim packing. Out of Brooklyn. Away from his daughter, who'd finally managed to get her life together despite her father's atrocious parenting skills.
Ruby would have never been the wiser.
He'd picked up the phone several times to make the call, but ultimately couldn't do it. If she ever found out, they might not recover from the betrayal. Trust was everything between them, and Troy wouldn't violate it, no matter how much he hated seeing the strongest person he knew shrink before him when presented with her greatest weakness.
Her love for a man who'd neglected her, endangered her, then abandoned her.
"What ... what did he want?" Ruby asked numbly.
Troy hesitated for a split second and she tensed, trying to move farther away. Visibly angry at him for even considering holding back. He gripped her arms and kept her still.
"He wants to see you." The words felt like they were strangling him. "He...it sounds like he has some sort of proposition."
Tell her I've got an offer she'll want to hear, specifically.
Excerpted from Riskier Business by Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2015 Tessa Bailey. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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