When Caleb Smith saved Francesca Hamilton from a nasty situation with her father, she was beyond grateful. Sure, it landed her in Caleb's bed wearing his engagement ring, but neither of them took that seriously. It was a means to an end, and he was so sexy and exciting, she was enjoying the ride. It wasn’t Caleb's fault her feelings were changing, leaving her wishing things between them were real rather than pretend.
Caleb took the FBI’s assignment because he wanted to end the tyranny of a man who’d hurt the people he loved. Odds of success were slim and the danger high, but he knew the risks. Francesca didn't and was completely in the dark about her family’s "business." And the more time he spends with her, the harder he falls for the gorgeous blonde. But to finally get retribution, he'll have to destroy her world...
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.63(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Seduced by Sin
An Unlikely Hero
By Kris Rafferty, Vanessa Mitchell
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Kris Rafferty
All rights reserved.
The party was a loud, glittery event worthy of international billionaire tycoon Jonathan Hamilton, and it took place in his hundred-year-old brick and granite mansion's ballroom, smack dab in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood. The ballroom's floor was polished black marble, its coffered ceiling was painted plaster, recessed panels surrounded by dropped beams that created a grid pattern in the Greek and Roman fashion. Crystal chandeliers hung at every fourth beam, creating a soft lighting that was kind to grand dames and socialites alike. The waitstaff went about their business with ramrod straight backs, wearing black formalwear, bow ties, and white gloves. There were no paper plates, no red plastic cups so popular in dorm rooms, and backyard birthday parties. No, the china and flatware were the real deal ... expensive, worthy of their surroundings, and more than just beautiful, they were heirloom quality. The party was a success, stunning and exciting, and if someone had lit fireworks in the huge ballroom, it would have been of the tasteful sort, and Caleb Smith wouldn't have been surprised — but it wouldn't have impressed him, either. None of this impressed him.
She did, though. Across the crowded room of milling guests, Caleb couldn't keep his eyes off her ... the hostess, Francesca Hamilton. That she'd noticed and liked it tapped into a thrilling, primal possessiveness he couldn't remember having felt before, and it unsettled him. Someone that kind and smart shouldn't be allowed to be so sexy — it gave her an unfair advantage. Her tiny waist begged to be spanned by his hands, and damn ... the strapless dress was supposed to cover her breasts, not threaten to expose them with every laugh or gesture.
That thigh-high dress would haunt his dreams.
Caleb leaned back against the mahogany bar's counter, nursing his drink, hating how his tuxedo jacket restricted his movements. He hated wearing it ... the suit, everything involved with the full regalia. His bow tie strangled, and his damn patent-leather shoes pinched though they'd been worn enough to be considered broken in.
Bigger than most, Caleb was six feet three inches, two hundred pounds, and felt more comfortable in jeans, T-shirts, and biker boots, but he did what he must to achieve what he wanted. Today's agenda required his tux, a shave, slicking back his shoulder-length hair, and downplaying that he was a dangerous fuck. With a jagged throat scar, ear to ear, it wasn't as easy as it sounded.
Francesca seemed to like the tux, if her lingering gaze was any indication. When her hot perusal settled somewhere in the vicinity of his cummerbund, it had the effect of a caress, stabbing his gut with a jolt of desire. Then she locked gazes with him, and the crowd seemed to fade away, and the distance between them became a challenge, rather than the foregone conclusion it should be ... if she had an ounce of self-preservation.
Tonight was the conclusion of a week of contract negotiations with her father. Caleb wanted Jonathan Hamilton's cybersecurity contract, and he wanted Francesca pliable, willing to say yes when and if he found it necessary to ask a favor. Favors were Caleb's specialty, and how he'd gotten far in his business. They required him to balance what he wanted with what someone else might want in return.
Holding Francesca's gaze, Caleb suppressed a smile as he sipped his bourbon. She was being remarkably up-front about what she wanted, and he felt like a heel for being so eager to comply.
The man at her side touched Francesca's arm to draw her attention away from Caleb. It startled her, making her breasts jiggle. Yes — he took a deep, calming breath — they jiggled, and her companion was eating up the sight. Damn, Caleb needed to focus, remember why he was here, and not walk over there to punch the dude in the face. So he surveyed the party, the guests, wondering how so many women could find unique dresses to wear, yet all the men wore the same tuxedo suits. Denoted a lack of imagination, he supposed, but considering he was wearing the same damn suit, he decided not to dwell.
Her father, Hamilton, was somewhere in that crowd of two hundred loud, tittering guests. He was the host of this meet and greet. Francesca believed it to be a graduation party, in honor of her advanced degree in psychology. It wasn't. It was the culmination of a weeklong "interview" of sorts her father was conducting. Normally, if a client suggested an interview, Caleb would tell them to pound sand, but this opportunity was Hamilton's vast international empire, the CEO/president slot. It was no secret that the position would allow Caleb to branch out from his East Coast holdings and go global ... so he'd be a fool not to consider it. However, the opportunity was too good to be true. There was a caveat. Francesca's hand in marriage was tied to the position.
A waitress stepped up to Francesca's side and whispered something in her ear. Caleb watched as Francesca nodded, said something quickly and then rested her hand on the waitress's arm, as if attempting to soothe her. The waitress's smile seemed filled with gratitude, and then the woman hurried off.
Caleb caught Francesca sneaking a look at him before she turned back to her companion, but not before she was forced to suppress a smile. She was such a flirt, and oh so very temping, he thought.
It was a family business, so he understood the marriage angle. When Jonathan Hamilton discovered he was dying and needed a successor, it made sense for him to plan for his daughter's future ... his legacy. Being that powerful, that rich, that influential made you a target. It made Francesca a target. She'd already been kidnapped once as a child, and her subsequent rescue almost didn't happen; it had been messy and infamous, and resulted in a remarkably high body count. She'd need protection for the rest of her life. To Hamilton, that translated to she needed a husband.
Caleb spied her two regular bodyguards no less than twenty feet from her. Dressed in ill-fitting tuxedos, he supposed they were no more comfortable than he, but at least Caleb had the foresight to have his custom made. His tuxedo fit his large frame. They looked like hangers for reams of shiny black cloth. Eyes constantly scanning the room, countenances fierce and forbidding, they weren't hired for their charm. Caleb knew them by reputation. They were without equal, and loyal, but when Hamilton died, the focus of every corporate player on the global scene would see Francesca as the opportunity she was. Her bodyguards wouldn't be enough. Hamilton was right to worry, and right to preemptively dole out that "opportunity" to a successor of his choosing, tying the CEO/president position to the survival of his legacy.
Caleb knew all this before he agreed to these "interviews." But what did Francesca know? As far as Caleb could deduce, only that her father was dying. She'd chosen Harvard University in Cambridge to earn her PhD in psychology and work there as an adjunct professor, so she could be near her father in his final days. That alone told Caleb she was clueless to how his death would affect her. No way she was going to Harvard when Hamilton's business empire hung in the balance. She was her father's one vulnerability; Francesca Hamilton was in play until she married.
So Hamilton's plan to marry her off was practical. It would allow her to continue living her academic life, the life she'd chosen long ago, despite her father's attempts to lure her into his company's ranks. Marriage would solve all of Hamilton's problems, too ... the foreseeable ones, anyway. It was a good plan ... if they were living in the 1800s.
But it was the twenty-first century, for fuck's sake. No matter the benevolent paternal intention, this was an arranged marriage. Women hated shit like that, which was probably why, as of yet, no one had broken the news to Francesca.
Caleb sighed, leaning an elbow on the crowded bar. The guests closest to him scooted farther away, giving him startled glances, as if they expected him to shout "boo" or something. It wasn't an unusual occurrence, but with the rich set, he found they didn't try to hide their unease, as if it were his fault they were so nervous. So he ignored them, and tried to shrug off his own worries. She was so damn gorgeous, odds were he'd trip over his dick, and he felt bad for her, but he had a job to do even if she was poised to be married, and it couldn't just be anyone. It had to be someone capable of managing an empire — and boom, double whammy — this future husband was here at the party and her father got to choose the lucky guy.
Her future "betrothed" was milling among the guests in Hamilton's ballroom, one of Boston's movers and shakers, eating one of the delicate canapés, or drinking a trendy cocktail the waiters offered on silver platters. Or maybe the guy was calculating the value of an ostentatiously installed objet d'art Caleb kept hitting with his elbows, or tripping over with his size fourteen shoes.
He didn't know who Hamilton would choose to marry her off to, but it sure as shit wouldn't be him, though her father was licking his chops at the idea of someone with Caleb's business résumé, aka connections and bank account, topping his list of Francesca's potential husbands.
Officially, Caleb was here only to land a contract, filling Hamilton's cybersecurity needs. It's what he'd devoted the last week to, negotiating, and he hoped to seal the deal tonight. So ... the role of Francesca's husband would not be awarded to Caleb.
And a good thing, too, because Jonathan Hamilton was a sociopath.
A murderer. The head of an empire of shell companies hiding a global extortion ring. And Caleb was sent here by the FBI to prove that. They had a source claiming Hamilton's secrets were listed in an encrypted ledger, a ledger once thought to be a fairy tale. The Feds wanted Caleb to steal it. To do that, he'd need Francesca's help, because she was Hamilton's one vulnerability.
Her father trusted her — not with the truth, or his secrets — but to always put him first, because she loved him. Francesca thought Hamilton was just another power-obsessed businessman. A dime a dozen in her circles. He'd ignored her for most of her life, so why would she think otherwise? It's not as if Hamilton wore a club hat or pin stating he was a top-tier criminal mastermind. He and his daughter were little more than strangers, and as far as Caleb could see, she was innocent, and ... too desirable for his comfort.
Thinking about what he could do — what he wanted to do — to convince her to help was making him stupid. He needed her to trust him on some level, enough to ask questions for him, maybe turn a blind eye when necessary. The FBI concluded she was Caleb's best option for insider information, and seduction would do it. She was an academic, they said, no boyfriend, so how hard could it be, they said ... Shit. Caleb allowed his gaze to rake her from tip to toe, and his mouth watered. She had all the markings of a woman who could bring him to his knees. And he wasn't a man given to kneeling.
One of Francesca's bodyguards glared at him, but Caleb didn't take it personally. The man was just doing his job and Caleb's reputation had preceded him. Working his way up from the bottom — the absolute bottom — meant he'd been around, seen things, met and worked with more than his fair share of good guys and bad. Caleb started as a homeless street rat, grifting, and clawed his way to being CEO/president of his own enterprise, a business built upon granting "favors" and what he liked to call "creative problem-solving." With the help of the Feds, he'd become rich, powerful, and feared. So yeah, he'd made enemies, and yeah, he had a target on his back. Much like Francesca's. Though hers was bright neon, and Caleb was in the know enough to hide his ... mostly.
One of Francesca's adoring male guests stopped in passing, touched her shoulder and whispered something in her ear. It must have been funny, because she threw her head back, and laughed, and was still chuckling when the man had wandered off with a smile. She flipped a lock of her long, tawny curls over her shoulder.
Shit. Caleb sighed, knowing he'd have to stick a pin in his bullshit angst about balancing the job and being a decent person, because he didn't see how to do that with Francesca. Not and get what the Feds wanted. And his brooding and waffling about seducing her wasn't helping anyone. It was only making it hard to enjoy himself. So he smiled, deciding to break with his better angels and enjoy the moment — good booze, a good-looking lady, a few fantasies, and rockhard anticipation.
Francesca addressed her companion, a pampered senator's son, saying something or other. She was too far away for Caleb to read her lips, but when she gestured toward something over the guy's shoulder, and the senator's son left her side, Caleb saw his chance. She was alone. All he needed was an excuse to approach, so he kept his gaze on her, waiting for a signal. Anything. A whistle, a wave ... a lick of her lips.
She threw Caleb a smoldering, come-hither smile, and he thought: that'll do.
Placing his empty glass on the bar, he headed over, ignoring curious and hostile glances alike, noting no one had the guts to stop him once it was clear what he was about. Not even Francesca's security guards, though they monitored his approach, and he was sure they were ready to pounce if he made a suspicious move. Their constant presence around Francesca was a problem he'd have to solve, but one problem at a time. The closer he drew to her, the clearer her hesitation became ... she seemed to be second-guessing her decision to invite him over, which meant he still had work to do. Even after a week of chatting her up between meetings, comings and goings, she was still ... hesitant.
Up close, she was even more beautiful. The overhead chandelier bathed her delicate features in gold. Her skin shimmered with it, as did the inlays of gold thread in her black satin dress. Four-inch lamé heels brought them nearly eye to eye ... and what eyes she had; green with flecks of gold. They were big, tilted up at the outer edge, boldly emphasized with black pencil, gold shadow and heavy mascara. She was stunning.
"Mr. Smith." Her smile was genuine, and revealed slightly crooked bottom teeth, as if she'd forgone a retainer despite parental harping. It suggested a rebelliousness she'd need to survive him.
"Call me Caleb. France-sca." His voice broke on the last two syllables, creating a growl rather than a greeting. The result of a damaged throat, and his daily reminder of what had been done to him.
The senator's son had the bad taste to reappear with two drinks. Midtwenties, thinning blond hair, he wore his disdain like his suit. With entitlement. Throwing back his shoulders, he planted his feet in front of her, confronting Caleb and forcing her to step back to avoid a collision.
"Caleb, this is —" Francesca stepped around the blond, smiling past her confusion. The rich suit puffed out his chest, like a dignitary awaiting his introduction.
"I know who he is." Caleb arched a brow. "I do business with Junior's father." Francesca's confusion reminded him to keep his eyes on the prize and abandon his inclination to chastise an entitled pup.
"Nathan," Francesca said, "Caleb Smith is a friend of my father's."
Nathan's lips pulled back from his pearly whites into a sort of rictus. "Your father is careful to vet his guest list. Surely there's been a mistake."
Francesca recoiled prettily. "Nathan, be nice, or ... or, I'll have to ask you to leave."
She was defending him. Caleb smiled. Wasn't that sweet.
"He shouldn't be here. You don't know who he is, Francesca. I do."
"I'm the guy who earned his place at the table," Caleb said. Other than a few failed businesses that had to be bailed out by his daddy, Nathan had yet to make his mark. And Nathan's telling tales out of school meant Caleb needed to remind the senator, Nathan's father, to keep his mouth shut in front of his son.
"Fuck you, Smith." Nathan blanched, embarrassed. "Let's go, Francesca."
Nathan set the two untouched drinks on a passing waiter's tray and grabbed her wrist, tugging. Francesca tugged back, outraged, yet her defense was hampered by her four-inch heels.
Caleb stepped heavily on Nathan's lead foot, causing him to lose his balance, arms windmilling to regain it. Caleb stepped between Nathan and Francesca, protecting her from junior's clumsiness. She touched Caleb's arm, tilted her chin up, and smiled with gratitude and amusement. He thought she was about to say something nice. Then Nathan grunted in rage and came at him, leaving Caleb only enough time to slap the punch aside and escort Francesca a few yards from the commotion.
Excerpted from Seduced by Sin by Kris Rafferty, Vanessa Mitchell. Copyright © 2017 Kris Rafferty. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow! Action, suspense, romance. A must read.
Sooo Good! 4.5 Stars! I love it when some suspense is included in a hot romance and this one did not disappoint. The story starts out by ramping up the anticipation factor and heat between Caleb and Francesca and never stops through the entire book. With plenty of twists and turns in the book, it is hard to remember that Caleb is one of the good guys, or is he? A natural protector, he finds himself in several precarious positions which leaves you wondering where the story is headed. One thing you don't have to worry about is the amazing heat level between the two. Caleb is super sexy and honestly, I would love to have one like him all for myself! YUM! The author brings us a steamy story with plenty of action and suspense that makes you shut out the world and just read. Definitely a winner and an author I need to see more often! * I received a copy for review consideration.
Francesca is unaware of just what her father has been upto. But she gets a rude awakening when he tries to make her the prize in an elite version of arranged marriage! He wants her safe and in his old school mind that means married. He's picked the candidates, she just has to pick "the winner"! Caleb is rough around the edges and attempting to hide his shady past. He has managed to get within the old man's inner circle but he did not count on naive, sexy as heck, Francesca. She may be rebelling against daddy by working in the ghetto but she still resides in the lap of luxury. Caleb suddenly finds himself front and centre in the Bachelorette game and somehow manages to get himself engaged to Francesca. it's all supposed to be a sham but can he keep his heart out of the arrangement?? The plot is a real twisty one and you really ricochet from one possible theory to another. Francesca is sooo naive but she she is not dumb. She can stand up for the downtrodden, just not herself!! Caleb is haunted by his past and would do anything for his little found family of friends. Even the law enforcement type his best friend has found herself shackled too! There are skeletons all over the place, not just in the cupboard. The passion is palpable between Caleb and Francesca and I loved all the flame hot interludes!
I LOVED THIS BOOK!! Reading this was like jumping off a cliff with no tether. The story was fast paced, ever changing, totally freaking hot and the suspense gave me palpitations. So cleverly woven, who is the man behind the curtain pulling the strings. Don't let that title fool you. Caleb, I could only visualize this over the top piece of man, who sets about to wait out his time with Francesca. It's her engagement party. Prearranged by her dying business mogul father, who is set to pick a man for her to marry to carry on his business. Francesca is no wilting flower, she's a psychologist, waiting to start a teaching job at Harvard, works with at risk inner city kids and only home because her father is dying. They have no relationship at all. At best he tolerates her. She knows that. She is absolutely opposed to this arranged marriage crap. The party carries on as she and Caleb slip away up to her room where they finish business. These two engaged in mutual seduction. Wasn't one sided. Their chemistry was off the charts. What she doesn't know it seems is that Caleb is there undercover, the FBI wants her fathers ledger to prove what a sick criminal her really is. Daughter dear is clueless. These two grow close quickly and listening to Caleb waffle in his head about her was great. So attracted to her, yet doesn't want to hurt her. During the party things take a major swing and Caleb now finds himself as the groom to be. Francesca is barely tolerating the arranged thing, but it's their relationship (read hot freaking sex) these two can't keep their hands off each other, that binds them. Caleb keeps reassuring her that it will all work out. This story has so many twists and turns with some minor characters coming into play, you honestly didn't know who was what and who was pulling the strings and also enter people from Caleb's past. Good people. When a ghost from the past enters the story, it puts a whole new spin on things. From that point on it's a guessing game. You have to read and wait, and wait and wait. Lots of breath holding. Wait, what? Why is she there? Who manipulated who and who will survive this human chess game. What a tale Kris has crafted here. Amazing and held my attention the entire book through, you do not want to miss this one. The plot is insanely good, twisted, the sex is raw and panty melting and the suspense will turn your knuckles white. This one is not to be missed. Incredible book Kris! I loved it! The cover is smoking'!! I don't say that about too many books. **arc from NetGalley and Entangled in exchange for a fair review**
The first time I've read a Kris Rafferty book and I have to say I LOVED this. It hooked me in from the very start. The mystery and suspense worked in with the deceit and a touch of romance was totally entertaining. The twists and turns had me wondering the whole time how the story would end and who was good and who was bad. The action was fast paced and the characters were a great mix too. Thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish.
When Caleb Smith saved Francesca Hamilton from a nasty situation with her father, she was beyond grateful. Sure, it landed her in Caleb's bed wearing his engagement ring, but neither of them took that seriously. It was a means to an end, and he was so sexy and exciting, she was enjoying the ride. It wasn’t Caleb's fault her feelings were changing, leaving her wishing things between them were real rather than pretend. Caleb took the FBI’s assignment because he wanted to end the tyranny of a man who’d hurt the people he loved. Odds of success were slim and the danger high, but he knew the risks. Francesca didn't and was completely in the dark about her family’s "business." And the more time he spends with her, the harder he falls for the gorgeous blond. But to finally get retribution, he'll have to destroy her world... Review: Full of suspense and twist and turns, plus a smoking romance...that is what you get when you read this book. I did feel a little bad for Francesca being used as a pawn and then kept in the dark for most of the book while everyone is jockeying to be in charge. I wanted to mad at Caleb, he really could have given the poor girl and little more clue about him and what was really going on. He did redeem himself to me because I could see that her cared for her even if the way he went about it was kind of crappy. There is a lot of chemistry between Caleb and Francesca that sometimes get in the way of their better judgment, I mean they both almost get blown up for goodness sake. The intimate scenes are written very well and are super hot. Again, as for the twist and turns, I was completely thrown off a few times as to what was the end goal. Through all the action in the book the ending is very sweet and left me on a happy high. I know this is the third book in the series and I have not read the others but I was not confused at all by reading out of order. Great story from this new-to-me Author. 4Stars *I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book provided by the publisher.*
This was a pretty good read for me although I do think I would have enjoyed it even more if I had read the prior books in the series. The writing is excellent, the characters are well done and likeable for the most part. There is a steamy romance between Caleb and Francesca with a bit of mystery and suspense thrown. The story takes lots of twists and turns which keep you on the edge of your seat. Definitely one I will be recommending.
I love taking a chance on a new author and being pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed this story. You've got a spy, a criminal, a good guy who's bad, all rolled into one as our sexy Hero. He's set on bringing down the mastermind to an extortion ring and is unprepared to find a sweet and innocent women in the middle of it all. It starts out rocky. You can't help but be angry on Francesca's behalf. She's thrown against Caleb, not by choice, but she's been intrigued by him since the beginning. She knows they have to fake it for a main goal that don't match the other and you see them both struggling to keep it real. As much as I want to be angry at Caleb, I can't be. He's good to and for Francesca despite his end goal of walking away. I loved watching this play out and I liked that it wasn't predictable. Great read and I look forward to more from this author. ARC provided by NetGalley.
LOVED!!! Wow, just, wow! This book grabbed my attention from the first page and kept it until the very last page. This began with Caleb, an undercover FBI agent, trying to make a deal with a criminal mastermind in an effort to take down his organization. As part of Caleb's undercover persona, he begins flirting with the tyrant's daughter, Francesca. Before long, their attraction sparks between them, adding another level of complexity to Caleb's undercover operation. This captivating novel has twists and turns far beyond a typical romantic suspense....I couldn't see the hidden elements until the author revealed them....keeping me guessing throughout the novel. If you are looking for a substantial book that will make you care about the characters and guessing until the very end, you have found it in this novel. This is a must read for fans of the genre. While this is part of a series, it is a stand alone book. The author is on my must read authors' list.