Privileged, wealthy, and wild: they are the Perfect Gentlemen of Creighton Academy. But the threat of a scandal has one of them employing his most deceptive—and seductive—talents…
Recruited into the CIA at a young age, Connor Sparks knows how dirty the world can be. Only when he’s with his friends can he find some peace. So when an anonymous journalist threatens one of the Perfect Gentlemen, Connor vows to take down the person behind the computer, by whatever means necessary—even if it means posing as his target’s bodyguard.
Publishing a tabloid revealing Washington’s most subversive scandals has earned Lara Armstrong the ire of the political scene—and a slew of death threats. To keep herself from ending up a headline, Lara hires a bodyguard, a man as handsome as he is lethal.
When the bullets start to fly, Lara is surprised to find herself in Connor’s arms. But as they begin to unravel a mystery that just might bring down the White House, Lara is devastated when she discovers Connor’s true identity—and finds herself at the mercy of forces who will stop at nothing to advance their deadly agenda.
About the Author
Lexi Blake is the New York Times bestselling author of the Masters and Mercenaries series (You Only, Cherished, A View to a Thrill). She lives in North Texas with her family.
Read an Excerpt
Twenty-one years earlier
From the foot of the old pier, Connor Sparks watched his friends’ revelry farther down the beach. After tonight, would he ever feel like one of them again? In a few days, everything was going to change, and it killed him. Since his first year at Creighton Academy, way back in the seventh grade, he’d known his friends would be a part of every single day—usually a big part. Since they’d formed a friendship in prep school, the “Perfect Gentlemen,” so named by a sarcastic counselor, had been tight. That first Christmas, Dax had asked him what he was doing for the holidays. The conversation had ended with him accepting an invitation to spend two weeks with the Spencer family. In fact, he’d managed to worm his way into spending every summer break or holiday with one of their families for years. He wouldn’t be lucky enough to continue that tight-knit shit during college.
What the hell was he going to do now?
Connor looked out over the beach where his buddy Gabe Bond had started a massive bonfire. It crackled and the embers promised warmth. The moon hung low, and Connor could hear their laughter, practically smell the hot dogs they were roasting. That wouldn’t be the only thing smoking out there, but he rarely touched anything harder than a beer. He couldn’t. He was a scholarship kid, which meant he had to prove his worth every second of every day or he would be right back in the trailer park.
Now that they had graduated and prep school was in their rearview mirror, Connor refused to go back to that sad-sack single-wide with the cracked linoleum and broken stairs. But he also wouldn’t be joining his buddies at Yale. Of course, they had no idea. All they knew was that he’d gotten his acceptance letter at the same time as the rest of them.
He alone had been forced to wait for more information to see if he could actually attend. Unfortunately, his financial aid letter had not been quite as cheerful. In fact, that letter had slapped him with the reminder that no matter who his friends were, he lived in a different world. He’d merely had a four-year reprieve from having to deal with that truth.
“Hey.” Dax Spencer clapped a hand on his shoulder. He dangled a six-pack from his other hand. “Why are you hanging alone up here? The party is on the beach, man. Well, unless you’re Roman, and then the party is in Gabe’s parents’ bedroom. I am not cleaning that up. What the hell is he thinking, taking twins in there?”
“Double the pleasure?” Connor quipped.
Roman had actually offered him one. A beautiful blonde from their sister prep school who would likely be headed straight to Yale and pledging a sorority closely tied to Skull and Bones. Hell. That wasn’t exactly accurate, was it? She would serve the men of Skull and Bones because they would run the world one day.
No one ran the world from community college, and they didn’t run it from where he was going, either.
There would never have been an invite to Skull and Bones in Connor’s future, even if he could have afforded the Yale tuition. Bonesmen came from the elite. No matter how closely he was associated to these men, Connor could never forget where he came from. Neither would anyone else.
Dax winced. “I’m a realist, man. I think it’s just double the trouble—even for a night. I’m with Scooter. I kind of wish Gabe hadn’t sent out that invite. It’s our first night of freedom. It would have been cool to spend it together. But hey, we’ve got all summer for that, I guess. One last blowout before the real fun starts.”
Like the rest of the group, Dax was headed to Yale, though after his four years, he intended to join the Navy as his father had, and his grandfather before him, and so on, dating back to when the U.S. Navy had first been formed. Gabe and his ancestors were the first family of aeronautics. The rest of the Perfect Gentlemen came from equally pedigreed backgrounds. Maddox Crawford’s family practically owned the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Roman Calder came from a long line of powerful D.C. lawyers. Zack, aka Scooter . . . well, he was being groomed to become president of the United States.
“Can’t wait.” Connor simply wasn’t ready to admit that he wouldn’t be staying here for the summer.
“Mad bought a brownstone off campus.”
“I thought we were supposed to move into fraternity houses.” It was tradition among this set. Each of their fathers had pledged influential frats.
“And live through all that hazing? Fuck that,” Dax said with a shake of his head. “I’m with Mad on this one. We’re our own frat, brother, and we take care of each other. Senior year at Yale, Skull and Bones will come for Zack. You know they will. And Roman’s dad is legacy. Mad just wants them to have a place where they’re not expected to be the next freaking saviors of the free world. He thinks it’s up to us to keep those two grounded. Everyone else in the world is going to want a piece of Zack, and because Roman is never going to leave his side, they’ll want a piece of him, too. So Mad wants to remind them who their real friends are.”
Connor looked out over the dark water shimmering under the moonlight, then at the beach. Mad danced around the bonfire with total abandon.
Puck. Ever since Connor had read Shakespeare, he’d thought of Mad as Puck—impish and chaotic, yet truthful when a person least expected it. That brownstone was Mad’s attempt to keep their little family together. They had four years before the world would separate and test them, each in their own way. Four last years to live together and influence one another. It was a good plan. Mad simply didn’t know all the facts, and Connor intended to keep it that way because his pride wouldn’t allow anything else.
“Your dad was in,” Connor pointed out. “You’re a legacy as much as Roman. You should be a Bonesman, too. It would help your Naval career. You want to make admiral, right?”
Dax shrugged. “Yeah, but who knows?”
“They’re fuckers if they don’t let you in,” Connor insisted.
Dax was the best guy he’d ever met. Shit, he would miss Dax most of all. Like freaking Dorothy and the Scarecrow.
Connor frowned. Maybe he would get a little wasted tonight. He was sounding awfully maudlin.
“I’ll be honest. I don’t want in. I don’t want to rule the world. I just want my own command someday. And one really hot woman to settle down with. Roman’s insane. See you down there?” Dax was halfway down the steps, already moving away from Connor.
“Sure. I’ll be there in a bit.”
Unmoving, Connor watched Dax join the others.
Creighton Academy had been the best years of his fucking life. Likely, they always would be. But after tonight, it would be time to make his own way. He would claw out of poverty while he watched the rest of them soar into their wealth and power.
“You’re looking lonely there, son,” a deep voice to his left said.
Connor turned and spotted the man standing in shadow almost immediately. He was tall, his hair just starting to thin out on top while graying at his temples. He was lean, without the usual middle-aged paunch. He wore a three-piece suit and expensive loafers, which struck Connor as odd since they were at the beach. Even the businessmen who came out here changed before they left the city.
“What can I do for you, Officer? Or should I say Special Agent? The Bonds aren’t here. If you’re looking for them, you’ll have to go back to Manhattan. Only the son and his friends are here now.”
He quickly assessed his chances of walking into the house and finding Roman in any kind of position that wouldn’t make Connor want to go blind. The odds were ridiculously bad. He’d had a good twenty minutes, so his freak flag was probably flying high, but he was also known as the teenaged law god in their circle. He’d ruthlessly used school code against their administrators on more than one occasion. If the feds were here for some reason, Roman would be the one to handle it.
The man chuckled and stepped into the light from the porch. “I’m not with the FBI, but I find it interesting that your mind went there. Any second guesses?”
If the man was carrying a gun, his tailor was impeccable because Connor couldn’t detect the line of the man’s holster under his clothes.
“FTC?” With really rich people, it was always a risk. The Federal Trade Commission watched over stock transactions, and he wouldn’t put it past them to come after any of his friends’ parents. “I would say IRS, but the shoes are too nice.”
He recognized the Ferragamos. They were the same style Dax wore when meeting his parents for brunch. Most IRS officials couldn’t afford thousand-dollar shoes. Mrs. Spencer had bought Connor a pair and some proper clothes when she realized all Connor had was his school uniform, some worn jeans, and a few T-shirts. After that first year, the woman had always invited him to shop for clothes with Dax. He’d felt bad about the expense until he realized how genuinely happy she was seeing to his well-being. He was going to miss her, too.
“Interesting observation for a boy whose mom was a trailer park whore.”
A chill went up Connor’s spine. “Or maybe you’re nothing but a sleazy reporter. I think I’ll call the cops and let them sort it out.”
The man put up a hand. “I’m sorry. That was harsh. And you won’t call the cops. That’s not incense I smell. I’m afraid I’ve spent so much time in the field, I’ve lost all conversational finesse. I’m not a reporter. But I’ll get to who I represent in a minute.”
“You’re here for me.” He quickly reassessed the situation. College recruiter? For lacrosse? Any university that wanted him for their team would have contacted him long ago. He’d attended Creighton on a lacrosse scholarship, but he hadn’t been good enough for the Yale team. “For the record, she wasn’t a whore. My mother never accepted money for spreading her legs. Get it right. She was our trailer park’s resident skank and full-time waitress at a greasy truck stop. What college do you work for?”
“I’m not with Yale and I suspect that would be a problem for you.”
He shrugged. “I’m keeping my options open.”
The man in the suit chuckled and leaned against the railing. “You’re going to play it that way, huh? I know about your issues. I know the scholarship Yale offered you isn’t enough. How much would you have to borrow?”
“Eighty grand.” More if he went to grad school. And the truth was he didn’t even know what he wanted to do.
“Ask Crawford out there for it. He won’t miss the money. He came into his trust this year, right? Five hundred million, if I recall. He would write you a check and never miss a penny.” The man was starting to sound a little like Mephistopheles, whispering his devil’s bargains.
Connor had already discarded the idea. He knew what he was going to do, what he had to do. “Why are you so interested? Because I suspect you’re not from a university. So what do you want?”
“Universities aren’t the only institutions who recruit young people such as yourself. I represent a group with a singular interest in finding the smartest young men and women, people who possess both brilliant minds and a certain flexibility in their moral character. I need a young man like you who loves his country enough to sacrifice for it.”
Since when did the military send out recruiters? “You’re too late. I’m scheduled to see a Navy recruiter on Monday. I’ll be at RTC in Great Lakes the week after that.”
He’d picked the Navy because Dax would be there in a couple of years. Yes, he would be enlisted and Dax would be on the officer track, but he felt better knowing they would be in it together in some small way.
The man sighed. “I’m well aware of your meeting. Might I say that would be a waste of your talents, Connor? And I also believe you’ll end up in the same place, just years later.”
“And what place would that be?”
“Oh, I would rather you used that brain of yours to tell me.”
What could he be talking about? Almost none of the big law enforcement agencies recruited directly out of high school. College was another matter.
He hadn’t had any run-ins with the law, hadn’t gotten caught doing anything he shouldn’t. The only thing he’d ever done that might attract the attention of law enforcement was to send in his assessment that the terrorist groups Jamaat al-Fuqra, Gama’a al-Islamiya, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the National Islamic Front had put aside their differences and were working together to find a soft target in the U.S. He’d gotten involved in a group that tracked conspiracy theories. When he’d joined, they’d been all about the Kennedy assassination and alien cover-ups, but he’d whipped them into shape. They were smart and had simply needed a proper outlet. They’d combed papers and talked to people and come up with a conspiracy of their own.
He’d sent his predictions to the CIA but never heard back. Three weeks later, the World Trade Center had been attacked, killing six and injuring a thousand after a truck bomb had been detonated under the North Tower.
“So Langley finally read my report and figured out I was right?”
A smile split the man’s face. “Oh, I read your report—after the attack, of course. You were right. What kind of high school kid follows terrorist groups?”
A perverse one. He knew a bunch of kids who were fascinated by serial killers. He’d always wanted to know what made a man do something crazy like strap on a bomb and walk into a crowded plaza. “It’s a hobby.”
“I’m afraid when we received your report, someone tossed it aside in the ‘kook’ pile. After we pulled it out and dissected it, your conclusions were so spot-on that a faction within my group assumed you were involved in the attack, even though we’d already prosecuted four of the perpetrators and were pursuing two others. They wanted to question you, but I got one of my tingles.”
“Sounds like you need a shot of penicillin, buddy.” Connor didn’t like the feeling he was getting. Why would the CIA come out here? Why not give him a call? Why wait over a year to question him?
The man chuckled again. “I’m talking about instincts not STDs, but I enjoy your sarcasm. The Navy won’t. I’ve been studying you and I’ve decided you have exactly what it takes to be an operative.”
“So you’re not here to accuse me of working with terrorist groups? Because I’m not. I follow them. I believe they’re beginning to get sophisticated. There’s this new thing. The Internet. I know DARPA has had it for years.”
“Yes, you know that because you managed to hack into the system. You’re the reason they’re developing security to protect themselves. By next year, the Internet will be fully commercialized, and we need a new wave of operatives. You understand that communications is changing. The way we listen is changing, and analysis just got interesting. So you can join up and do the Navy thing for a couple of years, or you can let me pay your way to Yale. You’ll get a degree in communications with a minor in world politics.”
“Ivory-tower professors know nothing about real world politics,” he said with a huff, but his brain was working overtime.
“No, they do not, son. But a degree from such an esteemed establishment looks good on paper and will help you rise through the ranks.” He smiled. “You’re going to be a spectacular find. What do you say? While you’re getting the degree I mentioned, you’ll also begin a physical training program that will teach you everything you need to know to survive in the field. In exchange, you’ll receive tuition and books, along with room and board. If you live up to your end of the bargain and join the Agency, you’ll receive some information your mother has withheld that might lead to a turn in your financial fortunes.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Secrets, son. Information is power. Power can be turned into money. If you say yes, I can promise you you’ll never worry about money again. And it will be so much fun helping you get your hands on it. You’ll find I never do merely one job when I can do two.”
The door opened, and Roman strode out wearing his swimsuit and a dress shirt he hadn’t bothered to button up. He had a girl on either arm and a bottle of tequila dangling from his left hand. “You seen Scooter? I have to make sure he doesn’t spend the entire night studying. We just graduated, damn it. Why does he have to go to freaking summer school?” He straightened up when he saw the man standing there. “Hello, sir. I was just taking this bottle out of the house so none of our underage guests can find it and drink it.”
“Sure you are, Calder. Just make sure no one takes pictures, and don’t talk where someone can record it. And make damn sure Zack Hayes doesn’t inhale.” He turned back to Connor. “Are you in?”
He didn’t get time to decide? What was he thinking? He didn’t need time to decide. He loved Dax, but fuck the Navy. He could be a CIA agent. He could have everything he wanted. “I’m in.”
“I’ll contact you.” The mysterious man in the suit started to walk off, then turned, shaking his head. “And don’t ever tell the story of how you boys came to call Hayes Scooter. It could really hurt the kid’s chances when the presidential elections roll around. By the way, a patrol car was on its way out here to investigate the party, but I think you’ll find the locals will leave you alone for the summer. Consider it my graduation present to you, Connor.”
The agent walked back into the shadows as though he belonged there. Connor realized that he’d never gotten the man’s name.
“Who the hell was that?” Roman asked. “That dude was creepy.”
“I’m pretty sure he was my version of a fairy godmother.”
Roman shook his head. “You’re in a fucked-up fairy tale, brother.” He grinned. “But we’re going to Yale. We’re going to take over the world, aren’t we?”
For the first time since he’d gotten his financial aid offer, Connor smiled. “Yes, we are.”
He followed Roman down to the beach and joined the party.
Twenty-one years later
“I don’t really need a bodyguard.” Lara Armstrong took a sip of her chai tea and sat back, staring out the coffeehouse window. Everywhere she looked, people bustled by, their briefcases in hand, cell phones pressed to their ears. They were lawyers and politicians, along with their aides, and anyone else who thought they were important on the political spectrum. Soon, one of the people moving along this street would be a man sworn to throwing himself in front of a bullet for her.
Connor. No last name. Or maybe that was his last name and he hadn’t given her his first name. She wasn’t sure. She only knew that enigmatic Connor had commanded she meet him here at three thirty. Did he realize how bad traffic was going to get?
“Look, someone knows what you’ve been doing, L, and that means you need a bodyguard.” Her best friend, Kiki, traded a look with the only male at the table.
Tom sat forward, his hands around his nonfat latte as though he needed the warmth. “I don’t know. I kind of agree with Lara.”
Kiki rolled her dark eyes. “You always agree with Lara. You even agreed with her when she broke off your engagement. You’re a doormat.”
“I’m helpful and practical.” He frowned. “Look, she’s only received a couple of e-mails, and it wasn’t as if the sender attached a bomb or anything. The contents simply stated that they ‘know.’ Know what? That could mean anything.”
Lara sighed and lowered her voice. Only a couple of people in the world knew what she did for a living and she meant to keep it that way. “He knows I run CS.”
Capitol Scandals, D.C.’s most fun and informative news site. Oh, most people called it a horrid tabloid rag that aimed to ruin the lives and reputations of politicians and bigwigs, but Lara liked her description better. And she never ran a piece about any deserving public servant that she couldn’t verify. Well, at least not any serious piece. She didn’t personally know the size of the current president’s penis, though several confidential informants had used the words extra-extra-large.
“Shit.” Tom’s thin lips flattened further, and she knew she was in for a lecture. Unlike Kiki, who often wrote articles for CS, Tom thought the site was a horrible idea. “I told you something bad would come of this. You can’t expose the powerful people you do and expect to get away with it. I thought someone had finally realized you spearheaded the effort to remove vending machines from public schools or something.”
“Those vending machines never sell anything but processed foods. Kids should have healthier options in school,” she began.
Tom shook his head and every strand of his light brown hair stayed perfectly in place. “People don’t like it when you take away their sodas, L. They get crabby. Still, I was fairly certain no one would actually kill you over that. But running a tabloid that ruins high-powered careers? That might be a little different.”
Kiki nodded. “Exactly. Have you told your father?”
Lara winced. Her father knew about Capitol Scandals. He’d been very supportive when it had been a little site that reported on things like environmental bills and ran essays on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. When she changed the contents to the current iteration, she knew she’d tested him. He’d called screaming when she ran a not-so-glowing story about one of his closest allies on the congressional floor. She’d detailed just how much money the congressman had spent on hookers outside his district while those actually working in his district had lamented about a drastic downturn in income.
She’d been perfectly right to publish the story since the congressman had been running on a platform to bring new jobs and opportunities to his constituency. All the while, he’d been making deals with businessmen to send jobs offshore to Korea. So it really was a true-life metaphor for all that was wrong in politics.
Shortly after she’d published the story, the late-night TV talk show circuit had picked it up. While the comedians and hosts had laughed about the hookers, their viewers had also heard the very true news about backdoor deals, too. Lara had learned early on that she needed to catch the public’s attention if she wanted to do any good in the world. And she wouldn’t do that with a protest or a well-crafted op-ed piece.
“I’m not telling my dad about this. He already blackmails me. If he found out that someone else knows and is sending me semi-threatening e-mails, he would likely strong-arm me into moving in with him or something. It would be awful.”
It wasn’t as if she didn’t love her father. Her parents were amazing people. She couldn’t think of another man in the world who would support her the way her dad did. He’d been angry when he’d learned about CS, but he hadn’t outed her. And given that he was a senator from the great state of Virginia, he probably should have. Instead, he’d forced her to accept a condo in a swanky part of town. She could never have afforded her Dupont Circle pad on her own. She’d wanted a little loft in a more real part of town, but her parents had been insistent.
Luckily, she’d never had to decide whether or not to run a story about her father. He was madly in love with her mom and he played things straight. She’d never gotten a tip about him taking bribes or selling out his constituents. When she’d started Capitol Scandals, she realized a surprising majority of politicians thought they were acting in the public’s best interests. It was just that rancid 10 percent who really screwed things up for everyone else.
She’d created Capitol Scandals to call them out.
“Maybe you should stay with your folks temporarily. Your dad has a serious security system.” Kiki set down her mocha. “Not just a doorman named Moe who sleeps on the job.”
“Moe has a serious case of narcolepsy. You shouldn’t judge.” She shook her head. “Besides, I can’t risk working at Dad’s place for two reasons: One, I don’t know who’s watching him. I’ve long thought the CIA, the NSA, or DARPA listens in on all elected officials.”
Tom coughed but the noise sounded suspiciously like he’d called her paranoid.
She ignored him because she knew paranoia could be a lifesaver. “And two, if anyone ever learns my secret and outs me, I want my parents to have plausible deniability.”
“I don’t think they’d care. They would stand by you,” Kiki said.
Bringing trouble down on them was Lara’s only real fear. Well, that and global climate change. She fought for what she believed in, but she loved her parents, too. She didn’t want to cause her dad issues.
“I have a plan,” Tom said, getting serious again. “Hear me out. You close down the site for a while and come stay with me. I have a second bedroom. I can watch out for you. I am a Krav Maga god. We’ll hang, and the heat will die down. Then you can go back to fighting the good fight.”
She loved Tom, but she wasn’t going there again. There was a reason she’d broken off their engagement. There was also the fact that Niall thought she needed someone to watch out for her.
Niall Smith. Her heart gave a little shiver as she thought about him. Since he ran a small site that called for transparency in California politics, he’d come to her as a confidential informant. Nothing he’d sent her had actually panned out, but that wasn’t so surprising. Ninety percent of her leads were dead ends. But Niall had come to mean more to her than just a source. Over the course of a few months, she’d come to view him as something of a soul mate.
“No,” she said with a sigh. “I need to meet this bodyguard. I’ll talk to him and see what he thinks. He’s supposed to be a professional. He can give me advice.”
“He can give you protection,” Kiki argued. She was dressed in her normal Bohemian garb, a peasant blouse and a flowy skirt. She somehow managed to make it sexy. “You have to take this seriously. Whoever sent you that threat knew your personal e-mail.”
“But there wasn’t anything specific about the threat,” Tom argued, then turned to Kiki. “In fact, I’m not even sure it was a threat. Maybe we’re freaking out about nothing. What are the real odds that someone’s put all the pieces of the puzzle together? There are rumors everywhere about who runs CS, and not one of them mentions you, Lara.”
She wasn’t sure that was true. What might someone else know about her? She was Senator Armstrong’s vegan hippie daughter, whom everyone in the Republican party knew not to put on camera because she would use the opportunity to talk about policy as she saw it.
There really wasn’t anything else about her that would be considered even slightly gossip-worthy. Good grades in the right schools. A degree in political science that would probably lead to law school when she found the time. She’d broken her engagement an acceptable amount of time before the wedding. She hadn’t even dated in the two years since she and Tom had broken up. Capitol Scandals was the sum of her “nefarious” existence. She’d put everything she had into it, and she was finally scenting something big.
Could this new threat have anything to do with the anonymous stranger who claimed to know what really happened to Maddox Crawford? He’d hinted that if she figured out the truth, the trail would lead to something much bigger.
She merely needed to find a woman named Natalia Kuilikov. Just find one Russian immigrant, and the yellow brick road would open up and take her straight to Oz.
Lara found it interesting that her first big case and her first potential death threat had come so close together.
“I don’t know that there’s no threat, but simply figuring out who I am doesn’t mean someone intends to kill me. I might have overstated that,” she admitted.
“To your Internet guy?” Kiki wasn’t Niall’s biggest fan. She might have suggested on more than one occasion that he was likely a middle-aged creep looking for an online hookup. “He’s the one you told, even before you told me. Before you told Tom. I hate to say it, but you seem to have some stake in the guy and that’s why you’re listening to him.”
“Maybe you should listen to the people who have been with you for years. What do we know about this Niall guy? Next to nothing. You can’t just let this random dude start to dictate your life.” Tom hopped off his barstool and straightened his V-neck tee. “I’ve got to run. We have oral arguments on the McNally case tomorrow. Lara, call me if you need me. You know I’m always here for you.” He walked away.
Tom clerked for an appellate judge, so he was always talking about oral arguments and drafting opinions. She had to admit, watching Tom was one of the reasons she hadn’t given in to her parents’ pressure and gone to law school. He was endlessly writing other people’s opinions. She wanted to make up her own mind.
“Holy jeez. My mouth just watered.” Kiki’s eyes went wide as she stared beyond the door through which Tom had exited moments ago. “I finally understand what that means.”
“What?” Lara turned and caught sight of a man in jeans and a black T-shirt. He stood right outside the coffeehouse, his cell phone pressed against his ear.
His shoulders were so wide they almost spanned the window. He had to be six and a half feet tall, and his T-shirt molded to every muscle and sinew of his lean strength.
He turned slightly, his profile coming into view. Lara realized then that mouthwatering was really just an elevated term. Drooling was more accurate. The man was stunning. His jaw looked perfectly square, though the lines of his face were far too angular to be beautiful. His dark blond hair was cut in an almost military style, accentuating his features. Manly. Handsome. Sexy.
His lips suddenly curled up in the hottest smirk she’d ever seen.
Caveman. Alpha male. And probably straight off some military base. While she could appreciate him on an aesthetic level, Lara preferred her men a little more civilized. “He’s very nice looking, Kiki.”
Kiki groaned. “Nice looking? There is nothing ‘nice’ about him. He’s dirty. He’s bad. And you can’t dare call him a boy because he’s all man.”
Lara adjusted her glasses. “I like Niall more.”
Niall had perfect surfer hair and the sweetest face.
“You’ve never met Niall.”
She shrugged. “But I know Niall’s soul. He’s more my type.”
“And by that you mean a thousand miles away and safely unobtainable.” Kiki slapped the table. “Damn it, it’s time you got laid. How long has it been?”
“Not long.” She put her head down and mumbled. “Two years.”
Kiki gasped. “You haven’t slept with anyone since Tom? Oh my god. I never imagined it was this bad. I thought you just didn’t want to talk about it.”
“I talk to you about everything and you didn’t think I would mention a couple of one-night stands?”
Her stare trailed back to Caveman Hottie. He really was amazing to gawk at. The slightest hint of a beard spread across his jaw. Though he’d probably shaved this morning, his masculinity wouldn’t be tamed or denied.
“It’s a muscle, you know. You have to use it to keep it healthy. I think your vajayjay has atrophied. That’s why you can’t think straight about this death threat stuff.”
“It’s not a muscle,” Lara argued. But it probably had atrophied . . . and maybe grown a few cobwebs because she hadn’t even played around down there herself in the longest time. She hadn’t had time. Even in her head she sounded prim, like she was already hoarding cats and newspapers in preparation for old maid–dom.
She had a sudden vision of that caveman putting his big hands on her. They wouldn’t be soft. When he touched her, she would be able to feel every callus and rough edge of his skin. He would have working hands, hands that had built things and protected people. He wouldn’t ask her what she wanted . . . but he also wouldn’t hesitate to give her exactly what she needed.
“Um, do you want to borrow my sweater?” Kiki’s question forced her out of her daydream.
“No. Why?” Lara turned, not wanting her friend to catch her staring.
“Yours is really thin and your nipples are giving everyone here a show,” she pointed out.
Lara crossed her arms over her ridiculously erect nipples. “Guess I was a little cold.”
Kiki gave her a skeptical glare. “How about we go and introduce ourselves to the hottie and see if we can buy him a coffee. Or better yet, we could take him to the bar next door, get him tipsy, and have our wicked way with him.”
“There’s a reason I’m known as Kinky Kiki, hon.” She grinned, looking back at the caveman. “I’ll go talk to him, and you can join us after you interview the bodyguard.” She glanced down at her watch. “He’s late.”
Lara checked her phone. Sure enough, she was supposed to have met the mysterious Connor five minutes ago. She’d gotten here early enough to have a cup of tea and assumed he’d join her. But now that she thought about it, he’d actually instructed her to meet him outside.
She nearly fell off her seat. There was only one person standing outside the coffeehouse.
That glorious hunk of man.
“Kiki?” she squeaked.
Her friend settled a designer bag over her shoulder. Lara had tried to convince her to buy a purse from a Nepalese women’s organization that supported indigenous children, but Kiki had replied that when Louis Vuitton supported them, she would, too. “Yes?”
"I think he may be my bodyguard.”
Kiki’s jaw dropped. “Holy shit. That man is supposed to be your close cover for the next few weeks? Why can’t someone want to kill me?”
Lara shook her head. Nope. She didn’t need a bodyguard. At least she didn’t need one as gorgeous as him. “I’ll call you later.”
“Make sure you do and it better be juicy.” Kiki’s gaze was still glued to the man outside.
Lara took a deep breath and strode toward the door to fix her problem.
Excerpted from "Seduction in Session"
Copyright © 2016 Shayla Black.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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.
What People are Saying About This
“Hot and edgy and laced with danger, the stories in the Perfect Gentlemen series are just that—perfect.”—J. Kenner, New York Times and international bestselling author of the Stark series
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm always impressed with these authors! I love to read how the characters unfold and are just right for each other's quirks and kinks! Normally I don't like a story line that isn't wrapped up in the single book, but this flows so naturally I'm really enjoying it! Totally recommend and can't wait for book 3 :)
Loved Conner's story
It is getting more intriguing . I'm disappointed to see books 3 & 4 cost $10 each though
This book had me wanting more. It left a lot of questions unanswered. I can't wait for the next one. I hope it will tie up some of the loose ends. This is a good read.
Connor and Lara should be completely opposite each other, in thoughts, beliefs, and how they run and organize their lives. It truly appears that way at the start, to everyone, and to themselves, but then, just below the surface, they realize how similar they are. For example, they can't keep their hands off each other when together, they gravitate to each other naturally in every situation, and they worry about the other on a constant and regular basis. Mystery surrounds them, and the road them being together is not easy, painless, or without some real problems. The commitment they always turn back to the other, keeps them together no matter what happens to try and pry them apart, even when it is them. A HEA worth fighting for again, and again, and again
I loved this story! After reading the first one which I enjoyed but found a bit overwhelming with all of the characters and plot introduced, I found this story to be a much smoother read, with a compelling romance and a great suspense plot woven throughout. I think the sex scenes in this story are some of the hottest I've read for being fairly straightforward (no BDSM, no menage etc) and they were fabulously executed (hats off to the authors for that!). Connor is an intriguing character, a man who keeps his emotions reined in for good reason. He's built his fortune on his own, having come from a poor family and getting into the exclusive school with a scholarship, where he met the friends that would become like brothers. Working for the CIA after school has shown him the dark side of humanity, and he's never been in one place long enough to have a committed relationship. In fact, his last relationship almost ended things for him permanently (those damn double agents!) and the list of people he trusts is very limited. When he becomes Lara's bodyguard, he's suddenly exposed to a woman who is the opposite of him - friendly, outgoing, soft hearted, and sweet. Not to say she isn't without a backbone, as she has no problem campaigning for truth and justice via exposes in her tabloid, but she fully believes that Connor is there to protect her and has no instincts not to trust him. Connor quickly comes to realize that he will do anything to keep Lara safe, even if it means lying to her about his motives for being there. I really loved seeing how Lara got to him and made him desperate to think of a way to convince her to stay with him once she found out the truth (because secrets always have a way of coming out). Solving Maddox's murder, the involvement of the Russian mafia, the truth behind the death of Zack's wife - all of these suspenseful plots continue through the story with (sorry!) no resolution yet. They kept the story moving at a swift pace. Connor and Lara do get their happy ending and I enjoyed their romance immensely. This is a sexy, action packed thriller and goes on my best of 2016 list. I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series which will feature a second chance romance at its core while still on the hunt for the killer of one of the Perfect Gentlemen. 5 stars.
LOVED IT. Can't wait for the next book.
This series gets better and better. Cooney is pure aloha hottness.
A definite read I loved it, great characters and plot funny and suspense. Would recommend
These ladies have done it again! Another great book that I read over night because I couldn't put it down! I love how the authors bring you in so you feel you are right there with the characters. Humor and anguish all in one.
Marie's Tempting Reads ARC Review: I LOVE CONNOR SO HARD!! He was intense, rough around the edges, tough as nails, and brutally passionate. When he first sets out to take down Lara's tabloid, he expected a cunning and devious woman. Instead he found an sweet woman who believes in doing the right thing, even if it means making a few enemies. Connor soon realizes that the biggest threat of all is with his heart. Lara is the kind of female character that I like to see find love. Sweet, kind, compassionate, she is everything good a person should be. Connor's take no crap attitude and cynicism is just what Lara needs as the enemies draw near and friends turn out not to be the people you know. Seduction In Session is thrilling, sexy, and is nail-bitingly GOOD! This is the kind of story that leaves readers on the edge of their seat, almost like a really good James Bond film! This book had intrigue, hot sex, and plenty of action to please just about about everyone. The Perfect Gentlemen Series is exhilarating and off-the-charts delicious. I can't seem to get enough of these perfect gentlemen! I am completely and irrevocably in L-O-V-E with this series. Seduction In Session by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake gets a SINFULLY SEDUCTIVE FIVE SHOOTING STARS! More intense, more bold, and featuring more delicious seduction and surprises, it is SURE to warm up readers.
This is not my normal read but I found the synopsis very intriguing, and I wasn’t wrong. SEDUCTION IN SESSION is a highly sophisticated story full of danger, suspense, subterfuge and eroticism. The writing is brilliant and the storyline was exciting and mysterious! Connor and Lara steamed up the pages when they weren’t uncovering a mystery or dodging bullets. What a great way to start off 2016. I’m curious to see where Ms. Black and Ms. Blake takes us next. ***I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
Spotlight & Review: SEDUCTION IN SESSION (The Perfect Gentlemen) by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake http://wp.me/p3d0RZ-3x8 Publication Date: January 5, 2016 Reviewed by: Reading in Pajamas/ Cori Rated: 4.5 Stars REVIEW: Seduction in Session is another sexy thrill ride in Shayla Black and Lexi Blake's Perfect Gentlemen series. Seduction in Session is book 2 in the series and I recommend reading the first book, Scandal Never Sleep, before picking up this one. Each book is about a different gentlemen in a group of powerful men that met in boarding school and I love them all! Connor and Lara's story was incredible! It had passion, mystery, and all the feels. I recommend this book for romantic suspense lovers that want a hot love story with the mystery. I can't wait to read the rest of the Gentlemen's stories. This series is a favorite and I can't wait to see what Shayla Black and Lexi Blake have in store for us next. *Review copy provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.