Never start a fire you can't control...
Connor Bannon is supposed to be dead. Dishonorably discharged from the Navy SEALs, he's spent the last two years working as a street enforcer in Brooklyn for his cousin's crime ring. Through a twist of fate, he's now in Chicago, working undercover to bust criminals. But when a cute little arsonist joins the team-all combat boots, tiny jean shorts, and hot-pink hair-Connor's notorious iron control slips.
Erin "she's getting away" O'Dea knows two things. She hates authority. And... Nope, that's it. When she's forced to operate on the "right" side of the law, her fear of being confined and controlled blazes to the surface. The last thing she expects is a control freak like Connor to soothe her when she needs it most. Worse, something behind the sexy ex-soldier's eyes ignites a dangerous inferno of desire. One that invites Erin to play with fire. And one that could get them both killed...
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. Visit her at www.tessabailey.com.
Read an Excerpt
Up in Smoke
A Crossing the Line Novel
By Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Tessa Bailey
All rights reserved.
You can take the man out of the SEALs ...
Connor Bannon stared across the empty conference room at the clock, watching the second hand tick past 3:00 p.m. Impatience prickled the back of his neck. He hated being late. Hated other people being late. If the navy had taught him one thing, it was how to show up on time. Even now, when his military career wasn't even visible in the rearview mirror and the consequences weren't nearly as severe, his ass showed up when it was supposed to. He couldn't be late if he tried.
Apparently he'd been banished into the midst of an undercover squad that didn't share the same quality.
Connor tapped his fist against his knee, breathing through the need to look at the clock again. The blank whiteboard and the room's six empty chairs mocked him. He didn't like going into meetings blind. It went against his nature to be unprepared, but he'd been given no choice. All he knew was Bowen Driscol and Seraphina Newsom were on the squad, sent from New York City to Chicago in exchange for favors, same as him. For the first time since his short-lived stint with the SEALs, he was going to be on the right side of the law.
Or the wrong side, depending on who was doing the asking.
He'd be working with cons, criminals who wanted to stay out of prison. That was where his knowledge started and ended, truly pissing him off. If they'd been given the same options as him, they'd decided helping the Chicago Police Department catch criminals such as themselves was the lesser of two evils.
Another valuable lesson he'd learned from the SEALs? If it doesn't look like a bomb, it's probably a bomb.
The door of the conference room flew open, crashing against the opposite wall. Connor's hand flew toward the small of his back, searching futilely for his gun — a gun the uniforms had taken away from him upon arrival, dammit. He shot to his feet instead, focusing on the ... threat?
"Relax, trigger. I like to make an entrance."
A girl sauntered into the conference room, her combat boots jingling with each step, as if there were bells attached. She wore a shirt that said Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe over a pair of ripped jean shorts that ended just below her ass. An ass that he'd noticed even before he registered her bright pink hair. Who the fuck?
She tossed a frayed canvas bag onto the table and sprawled into the seat across from his currently empty one, head tilting slightly as she regarded him. Amusement transformed her features from merely beautiful to interesting and beautiful. From distracting to the distraction he didn't need. Like she fucking needed the extra push.
Since when did he get mad at girls for being good-looking?
Very slowly, she looked him over. Connor felt her gaze slide over his crotch and bit back the urge to adjust himself, to hide the wood he'd sprung in honor of a girl who'd been in his presence for thirty seconds. He didn't like this. Didn't like feeling out of control of the situation. He let people see only what he allowed, but somehow this girl had walked into the room, said eight words, and thrown him off his game.
"Well." She sat back in her chair and winked at him. "I guess the nickname 'trigger' is appropriate in more ways than one."
Connor sat back down and dug his fingers into his knee, forcing himself to show no outward reaction. He hated the nickname she'd just christened him with, but he'd be damned before he let her know. "Your name, please."
Her lips twitched. "So formal, aren't you, baby?" A flicker of calculation entered her eyes before disappearing, but it told him to expect her next move. She dragged her full lower lip between her teeth and propped both feet up on the table, giving him a view of her thighs that clogged the breath in his throat. She crossed her feet at the ankles, but not before he glimpsed where those legs led. The tiny patch of denim covering her pussy. "Call me whatever you want. Just don't expect me to answer."
Jesus Christ. If she made him any harder, he'd have to excuse himself. "I wouldn't say your name unless I had a good reason."
She swayed her feet back and forth. "Give me your best one."
The urge to shift in his seat was strong. "You've already looked right at it."
Her feet stilled. He caught a flash of surprise and uncertainty, confusing the hell out of him. Had he read her signals wrong? One minute she was challenging him, and the next, she looked frozen in the headlights. Or maybe he'd just called her bluff? His ability to read people had been his saving grace more than once since being dishonorably discharged from the SEALs two years ago. Working as a street enforcer in Brooklyn for his cousin's underground crime ring, the skills he'd honed in the navy had been utilized on a daily basis. Often in ways he didn't like to recall, but forced himself to, anyway. To remember what he'd been reduced to.
But reading this girl was difficult, even for him. She'd flashed her thighs at him as if wanting a reaction, but when he'd given it to her, she'd clammed up. Whatever the reason, he refused to show another ounce of interest. He wasn't interested. This girl couldn't scream trouble any louder. He was through with trouble. Done.
"So." She finally recovered her entertained expression. "What kind of piece were you reaching for when I walked in?"
He simply narrowed his eyes at her.
"Hey, you're preaching to the choir. They took my favorite Ruger." She pouted. "Has my initials painted in Wite-Out on the side and everything."
Oh, I get it now. She's crazy. "Why are you here?"
His abrupt question didn't faze her. "Three o'clock meeting, same as you. Some people just don't value punctuality."
The way she smirked when she said it made him think she'd read his mind upon walking into the room. But that was impossible. Who the fuck was this girl? A tempting weapons enthusiast who also happened to be perceptive? He needed to know more. Just enough to solve the formula she presented, so he could pack up his curiosity and store it away. "I wasn't asking why you're in this room. What landed you on this squad?"
She inspected her fingernails. "Ah. The old what are you in for conversation. I don't want to play." Her boots abruptly hit the ground. "Just kidding, I'm in. But you have to go first."
"Impasse," she whispered, walking her fingers across the table. "I could guess why you're here, but you'd dislike that more than simply telling me."
Connor said nothing. He would dislike that. Guesswork had always been a source of irritation for him. He dealt only in facts. Again, he got the feeling this girl saw more than most people. The air of mayhem she wore like a second skin probably made people underestimate her. He wouldn't be one of them.
"You have a military background. But you're not there now, are you?" She leaned across the table and he caught a whiff of smoke. Not cigarette smoke. Like the strike of a match, or the lingering scent of incense. "It isn't difficult math, soldier."
"Don't call me that."
"You don't like trigger, baby, or soldier." Her tongue lingered against her top lip. "If you don't like any of my nicknames, better tell me your real one."
Connor almost laughed. Almost. The nicknames had been her roundabout way of getting him to spill his name first. He'd nearly walked right into it. Why were they waging a battle over something so minor? When this meeting started, they would find out each other's names anyway.
It was time to let this girl know he didn't play games. At least not the kind that took place while fully clothed. As he leaned across the table, he watched her blue eyes widen and knew she had to be a blonde underneath that pink hair. Her eyelashes and eyebrows were light, her coloring fair. She'd look goddamn perfect against my black sheets ... arms stretched over her head, unable to free herself. Not really wanting to get free at all.
"I never said I didn't like you calling me baby."
Dammit. Had he said that out loud? He'd decided not to show her any more interest. Once he made a decision, he stuck to it. Every time. He resented her for being the one to make him deviate. If she weren't leaning so close, her small tits pressing against the front of her shirt, maybe he'd have kept his resolve. He'd always liked women with bouncy little tits, and he'd lay ten to one odds she wasn't wearing a bra. "Maybe I just want to hear you call me that under different circumstances."
When her confidence visibly wavered, Connor wanted to curse. These contradicting sides to her were only increasing his need to know more, and he did not want to get involved. Couldn't afford to. Her chin went up a notch, and that show of fire amidst the uncertainty turned him on. "What circumstances would those be?"
Too soon. Too insane. He'd just met this girl. They'd be working together. He couldn't sit here in the light of day and detail the many activities he'd like to perform with her. Even if he wanted to, just to see her reaction. To see if she wanted him, too. But what would he do if she did? Drag her onto the conference room table, tug her shirt up to her neck, and get a look at those tits? He'd have to get her back to his apartment if he did that, damn the meeting.
Change the subject. "Why do you smell like smoke?"
Her eyelashes shielded her eyes a second before they flashed wide, hitting him square in the chest with the force of their impact. "I set things on fire."
Any other time, the expression on the hot, bearded ex-soldier's face would have made Erin O'Dea dissolve into a fit of laughter. It wasn't the usual response men gave her when she played the crazy card. Not at all. Maybe that was why she wasn't laughing. This guy wasn't typical. Didn't fit her profile of what men should be like. They all wanted to get inside her until she performed her fun little reveal. Surprise, sweetheart. I'm a convicted arsonist. You might be next.
Cue haunted house cackle.
They never asked why she'd done it or questioned the circumstances, simply vanishing into a puff of smoke. Exactly as planned. This guy wasn't vanishing, however. He hadn't flinched, not once, and the trickle of relief in her chest pissed her off. The words "proceed with caution" flashed across her consciousness, sparking and flaming around the edges. This man would ask why and question the circumstances. Having only met him mere minutes ago, she shouldn't be so certain of that fact, but it would be reckless to put him in the same category as other men who scared easily. His steady green eyes were so intent on her, she worried her mask might slip underneath the weight of them. She didn't want him to be the first person to ask her why. She didn't want anyone to ask her why. Her secrets were all she had. After you'd lived behind bars among hundreds of women with your privacy stripped clean away, you held on to what you could. You didn't let it go for a pair of muscular biceps.
This one just needed a few more nudges and he'd lose interest. It was possible he already had and could hide his emotions better than most. She knew all about that. Although some people, her stepfather mainly, wanted her to be certifiably crazy, it was probably only half true. Yeah, she was a little off. For good reason. The man sitting across from her would recognize it soon enough and stop looking at her like he wanted to devour her, bite by bite.
His gaze became too much to bear and Erin focused on the window. Only one pane of glass between her and the outside. She could survive anything, face anything, as long as that was the case. Which was why she was here. You could only dodge so many bullets before one caught you in the back. This place, this job, was her bullet between the shoulder blades. Woman down.
Working for cops. Hell must have been having a fucking snowstorm. She hadn't spit on the sidewalk on the way in for no reason. Cops were the enemy. The men and women who took away her freedom. Laughed as they stripped away her dignity. They thought handcuffs and a gun made them smart, but it only made them complacent. At age twenty-five, she'd already proven that. Twice.
The ex-soldier's raised eyebrow told her she was smiling. After what she'd just said to him, he probably thought that smile meant she was a lunatic. Mission accomplished. For the first time since she'd sworn off men, she regretted sending one running. But it was entirely necessary. This man — this big, rough-hewn male — was an enforcer. More than that, he had a brain working behind all that stoicism. Even if she were inclined to call him baby in certain circumstances, it would be disastrous. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out he would be dominant in bed. The way he was clenching his fists as if fighting for control, even with her a full two feet away, told her that. He'd be the type to hold a woman down while he pounded out his lust.
That image might have turned her on at one time. Now it terrified her.
Still. She allowed her gaze to drop to his lips. Who knew she could find a beard so appealing? It wasn't rugged, but close-cut. Well-maintained. He looked like a man who could survive on his own in the wilderness with nothing but string and a Windbreaker. Capable. Made of steel. What would that beard feel like against her cheeks, her chin? If she leaned a little closer across the table, he might let her find out. If he hadn't already decided she belonged in a straitjacket. Take a number, pal.
"You'd better decide now if this meeting is important to you," he growled. "Because if you keep looking at me like you want to kiss me, neither one of us is going to be here for it."
Hooo boy. Something she'd thought long gone shimmied in her belly. "That's pretty confident."
Erin drummed her fingers on the table before reaching one hand out, intending to tug his beard. "I'm just curious about what this feels like. In places."
He caught her wrist in midair before it made contact. "You touch me, you'll find out."
Ice formed beneath her skin, so freezing cold that it burned like blue fire. Her muscles tightened to the point of pain. She focused on her breathing. In and out. In and out. Just a little tug and her hand would be free. Nothing could contain her. She'd made sure of that. He might harness a lot of power in that muscular frame, but she didn't sense that he would use it on her. Unless she asked. Which she sure as hell would not.
Her brain commanded her to pull out of his grip, but her body wouldn't obey. She focused back on the window, zeroed in on the patch of gray sky visible through the glass. "Please let go," she whispered, furious when her voice shook.
He dropped her hand like it was on fire. She didn't like the way he was looking at her. Eyes seeing too much. Discarding theories, thinking of new ones. Like he knew a damn thing about what was wrong with her. Half the time, she didn't know.
"My name is Connor."
Erin went still. Inside and out. She felt warm all of a sudden, like someone had draped a fleece blanket over her shoulders. If she thought she'd had him at least partially pegged, she'd been wrong. He didn't have to give in to their silly name war. He'd done it because she'd shown a chink in her armor and he wanted to give her a victory.
"What about a tiny little kiss?" Shit. Where had that come from? "No tongue."
"This isn't summer camp." Those hands clenched. Unclenched. "If you want to kiss me, you'll get everything. I'm not going to hold back."
His gruff tone made her shiver. That voice held promises she couldn't begin to interpret. It had been so long since she'd let a man touch her, but she knew instinctively that Connor would be a whole new experience. One she definitely wasn't ready for and never would be. Still. She felt ... gravitated to him. She'd originally leaned across this conference table to unnerve him. It worked with most people. Invade their personal space until they back off for good. Now that she was this close to him, though, she found herself wanting to stay there. It didn't hurt that he'd released her hand without hesitation. Maybe it was premature or bad judgment on her part, but his action had made her feel safe. She didn't feel safe very often, if ever.
Excerpted from Up in Smoke by Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2015 Tessa Bailey. 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
## Fan-freaking-tastic! Once again Tessa has written an intriguing yet super sexy story. This one is so unique. Completely different from anything she's written before. However, the characters are just as amazing as always. Connor was so hot, I need a minute to pick my tongue up off the floor. And don't even get me started on his dirty talk...whew, that was SOMETHING. Yikes, Tessa's sex life must be off the charts. I loved that we get a peak at Derek and Ginger whose story I simply LOVED. This will definitely go into my "read again" pile (that's where all of Tessa Bailey's books live).
Love her books. This one didn't let me down
Hot... love these off character personalities and how they all come together to form a family. How alpha bay boy and crazy girl help each other and fall in love.
This is definitely not your normal romance story. I was intrigued the moment I read the blurb and I am really glad that I managed to get my hands on an ARC. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters. They are simply intriguing, complicated and entertaining. You will definitely find danger and action, together with notes of humor and hotness, and definitely a feel of romance and tenderness that will make you swoon. Connor is a really interesting character. With his dark looks, amazing physique and mesmerizing green eyes, he will definitely melt your panties. But when you add to that the demons chasing him every moment of his life and the darkness lurking inside of him, he becomes simply delicious. But he is even better than that. He has an alpha side that will make you beg him to dominate you and a tender and romantic side that will for sure make you fall for him. But this tender and romantic side belongs to one single woman and that's Erin. She is simply his other half. Erin is an intriguing character all on her own. Suffering through a nightmare as a child and teenager, she has scars that she doesn't believe could be healed. She erected walls around herself for protection and for keeping everyone at arms length. And that all worked until she met Conner. Somehow, he manages to break through and manages to help her heal little by little. Even though Erin's nightmares are still chasing her, Conner is the one who protects her and at the same time manages to set her free, to help her find her inner strength. The strength she needs to finally confront her demons and beat them. In a few words, this was a really good book and also quite different from the normal romance story. I definitely enjoyed it and I loved the characters. I will be for sure diving into the rest of the books connected to this one. I am definitely interested to learn the other characters' stories. And I can't wait until the next book in the series to come out. I am definitely intrigued to read Austin and Polly's story :) I am pretty sure it will be a page turner. This review was originally posted at Living In Our Own Story Book Blog. I received an ARC of the book in exchange of an honest review.
Love this author!
4.5 Stars I was pulled right into this story. The story has laughs, suspense, twists and turns, and heartbreak. I would recommend reading the below story before reading this one: Risking it All (Crossing the Line, #1) This is Erin and Connor’s story. Erin and Connor are part of a team to investigate criminals. Erin is running from her past. She has all these rules she lives by and ends up having to stay in Connor’s apartment. Connor wants Erin but she has a weird thing with touching. She does not want to be touched. Can they get around the touching things and all her other issues to try and form a relationship? Will they be able to work together when she keeps disappearing from him during the investigation? Will her past come back to try and finish her off? Can Connor protect her from the past and also herself? Highly recommend this story.
I'm an unapologetic Tessa Bailey fangirl and I love everything she writes. There's really no other way to put it. There's something special about the Crossing the Line series. I love these reformed (and even maybe even NOT so reformed) "bad" guys with hearts of gold. Bowen slayed me in Risking it All. Connor did the same in this book. Up in Smoke wastes absolutely no time getting down to business. There's no big lead up into the story and I was all for it. Connor and Erin had undeniable chemistry from their very first meeting. I thought my iPad was going to go up in smoke, as a matter of fact. (See what I did there? Ha!) I was already a Connor fan from reading Risking it All. I never got the sketchy guy vibe from him. To me, he was just a guy who got wrapped up in the wrong things and absolutely with the wrong people. I loved seeing his redemption here. Erin was an enigma, but one that I grew to like pretty quickly. She was a great, strong heroine with a really crappy past. Together these two were golden. The bossy alpha paired up with a woman who doesn't like to be touched? Their pairing was unlikely as hell but my god did it work. And bonus points for Connor being man enough to submit to Erin and her desires to touch HIM while not allowing him to touch her. *fans self* The heat these two were throwing around was unreal. But, it was more than just steam. There were some very real feelings between them and I really enjoyed watching them work their way towards each other and admit those feelings. Side note: big, brawny alpha Connor definitely has a heart of gold. There was a beautifully heartmelty scene with them in a certain Chicago landmark that actually brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. He was *always* putting her needs first and concerned about protecting her, while giving her the freedom she needed to not feel suffocated. That's why their pairing worked so well. They were both willing to bend to the other and TRUST each other. Up in Smoke was a great addition to the Crossing the Line series. The character development was top notch. Connor and Erin fit in nicely with Bowen, Sera and Derek. (Which, by the way, OMG HAPPY BOWEN AND SERA TIMES. I cried.) And Derek? Derek is still as awesome as I always thought he was. So yes, we get a great glimpse into their lives during Connor and Erin's story. I loved it. I also enjoyed the action and suspense in this book. Another great Tessa book! The preview for Austin's book, Disguised in Danger, had me gasping aloud and wishing it was January already. Oh, how I need this book in my life. I can't wait! I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
5 seductive, exciting, explosive, hot, steamy stars! The Crossing the Line Series, by Tessa Bailey, is my absolute favorite series of hers! There is something so intoxicating and intriguing about the characters in this series. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of her characters and I am one of her biggest fans, but this series is explosive, unique and captivating! If you have not started this series, I highly recommend that you start by reading Risking It All, which is Bowen (My book husband … lol!) and Sera’s (She’s awesome! I love her!!) story. You can easily read Up in Smoke as a standalone, but trust me when I say that you don’t want to miss my BoVinci and his ladybug in action! ;) Up in Smoke picks up where Risking It All left off. Bowen, Sera and Connor travel to Chicago to work with 3 other very talented people. The talent I’m talking about is not dancing, drawing or singing … Nope! These people have a special talent that Captain Derek Tyler (Line of Duty Series, #1) needs to close the case that he’s been working on. Connor Bannon is not very happy with the idea of working with all these ex-cons. Sera and Bowen are the only two people Connor trusts, until Erin O’Dea walks into the meeting and turns his world upside down. Erin is used to playing with fire, but the fire that Connor ignites in her is too much for her to handle. As days go by, Connor and Erin work close together and their feelings for each other are starting to grow into something more. Will the convicted arsonist and ex-navy seal be able to play with fire without getting burned? Gah!!!! Be still my beating heart!!!! Connor Bannon is one hell of an alpha male!!! Tessa Bailey creates the most amazing characters and makes them come alive by writing the most incredible stories! Connor surprised me. When he was first introduced in Risking It All, I knew that he was special. He was sweet and respectful with Sera and he helped Bowen with whatever was going on with them at that moment. What surprised me the most about him was how he took care of Erin. He was amazingly patient with her. The attraction between these two was incredibly hot and sexy! From the first moment they met, they got under each other’s skin. They worked together towards one goal and ended up getting more than what they had signed up for. They found each other. They are one hot couple! Each touch, kiss, sensual and steamy moment was intense. Make sure you have a couple of hours to read this book because you won’t be able to put it down!!! Erin and Connor will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end! Can I just take a few minutes of your time to talk about Erin O’Dea? She is one intriguing heroine. I was really fascinated by her. Tessa Bailey did a fantastic job at writing both POV’s, but Erin’s POV totally left me breathless! Erin O’Dea needs a social media page so I can follow her exciting life!!! I’m her number one fan! She’s intense and she knows exactly what she wants! She's a breath of fresh air! Every reader has a place they call home. My home is wherever Tessa Bailey’s writing takes me. I highly recommend Up in Smoke and the Crossing the Line Series. You will not be disappointed!! Disguised in Danger will be next in this series. This book will feature Polly and Austin, which were introduced in Up in Smoke. They worked well will all the other characters and I hope that in their book we will see more of the characters that I have come to love so much. Like always Tessa Bailey did a fantastic job at introducing us to her secondary characters, which are going to get their own book. She gives you just enough to make your want her next book ASAP. I give Up in Smoke, by Tessa Bailey, 5 seductive, exciting, explosive, hot, steamy stars!
Fast moving, sexy as hell, with action, sarcasm, and mystery. This was my first Tessa Baily book, and she’s definitely made a new fan. Up in Smoke is fast moving, sexy as hell, with action, sarcasm, and mystery. The plot was a lot like the TV show Breakout Kings, but I think Tessa handled it much better. IF the show had been based on this book, I’d have been addicted. Connor and Erin have both been recruited (or blackmailed…depending on how you look at it) to use their unique criminal talents while working with a Chicago Detective. These two could not be more different if they tried. Connor is fighting violent demons inside himself, used to using extreme control and planning in every facet of his life in order to keep them at bay. When he meets Erin, his carefully constructed plans are blown to smithereens. He is instantly addicted to her, he wants her, needs to protect her, and is determined to give her everything. Unfortunately, she is completely unpredictable, and can’t stand to be confined or controlled. Connor is the ultimate alpha, and from the characters in this book, it’s clear this author knows how to write her alphas. He is possessive, protective, controlling in the bedroom, but determined to give his woman her freedom, anything that will make her happy. He bends in ways I don’t think he ever thought he could in order to help her find peace, safety, and happiness. He has such a sweet side when it comes to Erin and his mother, it just makes him all the more swoon-worthy. Erin is hilarious. Her sarcasm and wit had me laughing out loud a time or two. However, most of the time, it’s to avoid facing her problems or appearing weak to others. Understandable considering she was helpless against an evil man for so much of her life. Now, she is saddled with phobias that keep her isolated and alone, always on the run. But, just as she soothes Connor’s inner demons, he gives her a sense of safety and helps her to believe that she can overcome her issues. These two absolutely explode with chemistry. There was all kinds of fire leaping off the pages when these two got together. And oh, Connor’s dirty mouth, I need some ice water just to mention it to you. It is unbelievably hot. The group dynamic is really interesting and at times, quite fun. Their banter is pretty amusing and they kept the story interesting from all angles. I’m very intrigued to read the next book, which I’m assuming is about Austin and Polly. This book hopped right onto my re-read list. And, I’ll be adding more Tessa Baily to my TBR!
Continuing the Crossing The Line series, this smoking hot addition (easily read as a standalone) features Erin and Connor, two new recruits in the Chicago PDs undercover group of not so squeaky clean people who are making a go of it on the right side of the law. Connor comes from a military and organized crime background. Erin is an arsonist (for reasons we soon come to comprehend) and an expert at escaping confined spaces. She's also got a phobia of being touched. When Connor and Erin find that the blazing attraction between them can't be denied, Erin must decide whether trusting Connor with her body and her heart will be worth the risk. So here's a conundrum for you - how can you write hot sex scenes when one of your characters doesn't like to be touched? Well, Ms. Bailey manages to outdo herself here, combining some super special dirty talk with a hero who is willing to give the heroine exactly what she wants and can handle, and making a fabulously sexy story out of the deal. I loved Erin's character - she's been through emotional trauma that has resulted in extreme claustrophobia combined with a fear of personal touch. Though the circumstances are touched upon it doesn't overwhelm the story but gives just the right amount of insight into why Erin is the way she is. Her need to define all her situations by the ability to escape if necessary was quite fascinating. Enter Connor, the uber protective alpha male and she's finally got someone on her side who will listen to her every need and desire. I loved the two of them together and the development of their relationship was well written and contained lots of emotional honesty as they need to be able to communicate with each other if they are going to succeed as a couple. There are some secondary characters in the story that were equally intriguing. While two of the team members, Bowen and Sera, we've seen before in the first story in the series, the other two, Austin (a chameleon of disguises) and Polly (an accomplished hacker) are a bit of an enigma and will surely make for an interesting read when their story comes out later this year. There's a nice cameo of Derek, the Chicago cop hero of Ms. Bailey's story Protecting What's His as it's his team. There are two main plots running through the story in addition to the romance between Erin and Connor - Erin's past coming back to haunt her as well as the the first case for this motley crew - to bring down a corrupt politician. It made for lots of action and a fast paced story. Combine that with the steamy love scenes and it all worked for me. 4.5 stars!
3 - ”Proceed with caution.” Stars I finished this book a couple of weeks ago, and before writing my review I have made myself step back and take a little time to think about what I want to say. Firstly I want to reiterate that normally I am a huge fan of Tessa’s books, no one quite matches her when it comes to strong, dominant, dirty-talking, alpha males… But in a way that is also the main problem that I had with Up in Smoke, because although Connor is all those things, there isn’t really anything that made him stand out from any of Tessa’s other strong, dominant, dirty-talking, alpha males. The issues that Erin is dealing with are what should have given the book it’s originality, and at the beginning of the her and Connor’s story, I had high hopes of Tessa offering up an extremely emotive and thought provoking, but still sexy read, especially as this trope essentially took away one of the main strengths her male characters have in their efforts to ‘woo’ the women they are after. And in that vein it started well, but unfortunately it all fell to the wayside pretty quickly as soon as insta-everything took over and Erin decided she was horny… ”I’ll make you beg for my ......... hands on you…” ”You’re welcome to try.” I know this is a work of fiction, and I am not expecting everything to be medically or mentally correct, but I feel that glossing over a pretty serious condition rather than exploring it didn’t do the book on the whole any favors, I was looking forward to it being a deeper and more emotional story for this couple, and in the beginning it was, but it was quickly lost in amongst Connor’s almost unreasonable over-protectiveness, and Erin’s quick recovery around him, after struggling for years previously. This isn’t a bad book, and it isn’t a bad story, the writing is of Tessa’s usual high quality, and I know I will be in the minority with my feelings about Up in Smoke, and I am alright with that, I have high expectations of this author, and rightly so, she is one of my ’go-to’ authors when I am looking for a fictional guy to get my knicker elastic in a twist. For me this book is a bit of a wasted opportunity in the fact it could have been so much more, and stood out on its own if the usual route to sexual fulfillment had not been so swiftly taken on this occasion. 'They’d come a long way in such a short space of time.' Disguised in Danger is the next book due in January 2016, and I look forward to seeing where Tessa takes Austin and Polly and this series in general next. ARC generously provided by Entangled, in exchange for the above honest review.