Avril Ashton



Six months after a brutal attack, Dahlia Pierce still jumps at her own shadow, but the green-eyed stranger holding her at gun-point has her yearning to feel him. His touch, his kiss. He robs her bank and leaves, only to reappear in her bedroom later.

Cruz Doriaye has always been more interested in business than pleasure. The bank job should be no different, but the need radiating off Dahlia gets to him. Calls to his own hungers. He answers, but his line of work stands between them. As does her secrets.

Copyright © 2011 by Avril Ashton

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Author Warning: Contains material offensive to some. Y’know, the usual: anal
sex/play, violence, and some dirty talk ;0)

Avril Ashton





Avril Ashton


Avril Ashton



Chapter One

“You.” The towering man in charge gestured to Dahlia. “Come with me.” His words weren’t yelled, voice wasn’t even raised, but she flinched as she kept her eyes on the barrel of the gun he pointed at her. There went her hope the three bank robbers would take the money and leave. She raised her head and looked at the one who spoke. Forest green eyes locked on her through the cut out in his ski mask, freezing the breath in her lungs and pinning her to the cold floor of her office. Why did I choose to come back to work today of all days? Her boss told her to take all the time she needed after the attack, but hiding had never been her thing. Now she cursed herself. For once she should have listened, should have stayed in bed with the covers over her head. Her heart leapt to her throat at any movement she caught in her peripheral. Loud noises had her steady jumping out of her skin, but it was the nearness, touching people that made her stomach cramp and her skin crawl. Made her want to hurl. “Move it, now!” The leader hauled her to her feet. Dahlia stumbled and fell into him. Strong arms wrapped around her shoulders, kept her upright, held her in place when she would’ve scooted back. At least her mind wanted her to move, but her body refused to budge. She melted into his hardness. On the floor behind her, Brenda, her assistant whimpered. The new security guard—Dahlia couldn’t remember his name—shushed Brenda. “Wh—what do you want? Where are you taking me?” Dahlia’s voice trembled as she glanced sideways at the hulking figure. He’d removed his hands from around her, but remained close. Solid and cloaked in black, he smelled like the air after a spring rain. Turned out she liked that smell. Tears clouded her vision as his sharp gaze held hers. Frustration at being a victim once again, helpless against whatever lay ahead, over rode her fear. She lifted her chin. “Unless you tell me where you’re taking me,

some calculations hadn’t balanced. Pierce. His eyes flashed. She’d been on edge and jittery all day. Long. Her heart thudded in her chest and tension rode her spine. Her worked suffered.” he ordered his men.Avril Ashton TOUCH 4 I’m not moving. And the best way to do that was to give Green Eyes what he came for. “Come on. “Boss. and glanced back at Brenda and the security guard. You’re going to get it for me. Not again.” Green eyes’ mocking chuckle echoed behind Dahlia. she ignored his outstretched hand and walked around him to the door. In her absence. hiding his reaction before she named it. Dahlia held her breath. Green Eyes needed her fingerprints and her voice to scan at the entrance to the vault. She had to help them get out of this safely. In the end she’d had to redo everything. but the men with guns seemed to know that. Ms. Was that a glimmer of respect in their emerald-green depths? Couldn’t be. “Unharmed. Silent alarms were placed all over the building for this very reason. the sooner you guys get to leave. The three of them stayed late once the bank closed for the evening.” That deep voice resonated with a finality that kicked Dahlia’s speeding pulse into overdrive. The leader nodded and turned to Dahlia. the higher-ups brought someone to oversee. The sooner we do this. only she had access to the vault. It was Dahlia’s fault they were in this mess. They kept Dahlia and the rest out of reach of any of them. “Keep an eye on those two. but now she was back. As manager of Rivers’ Bank and Trust.” He held out a hand to her. and Brenda insisted on helping. dark lashes swept downward. she couldn’t not fight back. The guard wouldn’t leave until they did. “There’s something very important in the vault. “Let’s get this over with. With a sigh. They nodded and took up position on either .” It might be a mistake. indicating time.” Dahlia worried her bottom lip with her teeth.” One of Green Eyes’ cohorts stood in the doorway and tapped his wrist.

“You’re in.” he ordered. number thirteen. she steeled herself from leaning into that dangerous touch. Dahlia led him down the stairs and into the vault. the quicker he’d be gone. then the heavy steel door swung open. “Take this.” He motioned for her to take the lead and she hurried past him. “Don’t—tell your men not to hurt them. Give me what I want and we leave as quiet as we came.” A gloved hand touched her cheek in a fleeting caress. At the vault’s entrance she pressed her palm to the pad then spoke her full name into the invisible microphone.” She stood to the side and waited for him to step inside. “Go on. I’m not here to hurt anyone. He’d see through her bold act to the truth— where everyone else left her chilled to the core. The sound of her clicking heels echoed in the stillness. Dahlia.” . and knives strapped to his ankles didn’t scare her as much as his eyes. his tiny caress heated her. the pain a reminder of where she was. Dahlia plucked it from him with trembling fingers. made her feel again. Her mouth dropped open. Pierce. staring at her.Avril Ashton TOUCH 5 side of the doorway. “Believe me. A key to a safe deposit box. A spark of flame heated her tummy and moistened her La Perla’s. Where she’d been. “Get the contents out the box. Stifling a gasp. The quicker she gave him what he wanted. “Wha-what?” She looked away.” Dahlia’s voice wobbled as she pleaded with the man in charge.” She turned back as he held a key out to her. He paused and looked down at her with surprisingly soft eyes. She bit the inside of her cheek. to wanting the man holding her at gunpoint. The menacing gun in his hand. Ms. but her companion didn’t make a sound. but he remained where he was. In the blink of an eye she went from hating to be near anyone. “Now. A series of loud clicks. guns trained on Brenda and the guard.

“We don’t have time. Her pussy wept in need. A rough beard scraped her skin. but he held her still with a hand at her nape. “Don’t move. sending a shudder through her.” he murmured. teeth nipped her ear. voice husky. Could’ve been a moan. “If we did. Not what he looked like without the mask or how their skin would look next to each other.Avril Ashton TOUCH 6 Her name on his lips sent a jolt through her body.” Warm breath tickled her ear. Trapped between . I’d give you what you want. Escape should be the only thing on her mind. Thirteen. A low sound left her throat.” He rocked into her. but when he took a step in her direction. Hard muscle against her softness. Her lips parted. She used the key to open it. He brushed her hair aside and nuzzled her where neck met shoulder. taking up more of the time she didn’t have. Dahlia picked it up and placed the box on the table beside her. Dahlia turned and ran into the vault. The mask wasn’t on! She tried turning around to get a glimpse of his face. “Thank you. she didn’t want to pass up the chance to feel something other than fear. But her awakened body felt too good after all she’d been through. skin prickling with gooseflesh. metal box out of the wall and lifted the lid. “What do I want?” Dahlia pushed back on to him. Would his touch be as hot as she imagined? And how sick am I to be thinking that at a time like this? Dahlia swallowed as she searched the many boxes until she got to—ah. Finally she got the damn thing open. His chest brushed her back and she stilled. her nipples pebbled. so wrong to feel this with someone like him. Dahlia panted. naked. sweaty palms making the job harder. eyes mirroring what she felt.” He reached a gloved hand over her shoulder and plucked the pouch from her hands. and Dahlia groaned. “I’ll take that. It was wrong. The only thing inside was a little black pouch. there it was.” Firm lips pressed to her skin. She pulled the long. Dahlia.

this need she had for someone she didn’t know. Dahlia remained in place. Dead on her feet. and cried. tired. Dahlia used another to dry her hair and made her way to her bedroom. “You want to touch. . she heard his husky voice. Three hours later.Avril Ashton TOUCH 7 their bodies. but by the time she got to twenty she felt his absence. “Yes. She remained on the shower floor until the water turned cold. knees to her chest. Wrapping a towel around her body. It didn’t matter he was the one who’d awakened her. hungry. “Another time. The cops were all very understanding and went pretty easy on her since they remembered her from three months ago when her ex almost beat her to death. tears running down her cheeks until Brenda called her name. She did not look forward to going to bed. Dahlia stepped into her apartment. She needed to wash it away. Another place. Dahlia stripped off her clothes as she made her way to the bathroom. Finally she sank the floor. “Stay like that and count to one hundred. needing. The quiet seemed suddenly heavy and oppressive. she did as he instructed. Couldn’t know. Her knees no longer worked.” Pulled from her dry throat. but her body remembered. Dahlia. Yes?” Not like she could deny it when she was practically throwing herself at him. the bad dreams always found her. One thing no one knew was what had been in the safe deposit box. She whimpered and grabbed the edge of the table. “and be touched. Dahlia squeezed her eyes to shut out the memory of his intense gaze. the one word came out as a breathy sob. and all talked out. Still. the thick length of his cock nudged her ass crack.” he said softly.” He kissed her neck then moved away abruptly.” Voice shaking. counting. In the shower she scrubbed until her arms tired. She was allowed to leave the interrogation only after she agreed to return first thing in the morning to tie up some loose ends. Her feet dragged.

Didn’t care. turn him in. he can be anyone. Green Eyes sat in her chair next to the window overlooking the street. “Yes.Avril Ashton TOUCH 8 She froze with one hand stretched out to turn on the bedside lamp. Make him pay for what he did. but it’s also what you need. A lock of thick black hair fell over his right eye. Her whole body trembling. It’s not—” “Not wise?” Cruz nipped her shoulder and cupped her breast with one hand. This was insane. “Call me Cruz. The room was still shrouded in darkness. so unlike the urgent thumping of her heart. “Another place. The towel in her hand dropped to the floor. “Not safe?” He pinched the nub and Dahlia trembled. nerves taking over. The logical thing to do would be to call the police. yanking it above her head. His presence.” “Another time?” A grin revealed even white teeth. Dahlia. He nipped her lobe then sucked it into his mouth. Silent. in a tight black shirt and dark jeans. she flicked the light on. Dahlia licked her dry lips. but she felt it. she tried talking herself out of it. arms folded. flicking a thumb over her nipple through the towel. Rough hands shackled her wrist. She didn’t want to know how he found her. mixed with the need that refused to go way. He can do anything to me and no one will ever know. Their gazes held as he got to his feet and approached. .” His breath whispered on the sensitive skin behind her ear. I don’t know this man. “Dahlia. “You think too much.” He brushed his thumb across her lip.” She sank her teeth into her bottom lip. promised he wouldn’t give her what she didn’t want. Fear crawled up her spine. Her eyes widened as Cruz pushed her into the wall. Still. Her nipples grew rigid.” He tore away the towel. It’s all those things. the sensation of the scratchy material against them drawing a moan from her. “I-I can’t do this. Those gorgeous eyes smiled reassurance.

” He slid his hand down her throat. He brushed his lips on her forehead with a chuckle. She wanted that—the pleasure.” His words fired her blood. Her thighs widened in reflex.” She arched. Dahlia. God!” She dropped a hand to cover her pussy. “Dahlia. thrusting harder. Liquid heat slid down her thighs and her chest heaved. tonight I’m all about your pleasure. slow and torturous. “Someone hurt you. between the valley of her breasts. but the memories of pain and hurt clouded everything. Squeezing her eyes shut. A line of dark curls trailed from his navel to dip under the waist of his low-slung jeans. He lifted his head. An impressive bulge pressed against his zipper. She lifted a leg. Wide shoulders tapered to slim hips. She opened her mouth. Her eyes slid shut. “I can see the pain.” He traced her outer lips then slid a finger into her. Her mouth watered. Gloriously smooth. sinking deeper. Dahlia.” Dahlia groaned. colored detail. but breath seized when he stepped closer and cupped her cheek. He’d shucked his t-shirt. “Forget the pain. staring into her soul. A Celtic knot was tattooed over his heart in vibrant. He added another finger. “Your body needs this even if your head refuses to allow it. tanned skin and hard muscles filled her eyes.” Her gaze flew to his and she squirmed under the intense stare.” She moaned his name. “You can take what you need from me.Avril Ashton TOUCH 9 “Oh. blood rushing in her ears. her clit throbbed. head banging on the wall. “Argh. His sharply defined abs looked rock-hard and her fingers flexed to touch and confirm. and past her stomach to cup her pussy aching so sweetly. “Cruz. His fucking eyes saw way too much. speeding up her hips as she rode his fingers. look at me. hooking . sinking her nails into his forearms. It shadows your eyes. Dahlia shook her head.” His demand brokered no argument and her eyelids flew open as commanded.

“But do you want my hands on you? If not.Avril Ashton TOUCH 10 it around his waist as his fingers worked her closer and closer to the point of no return. She contracted around him and he groaned into her mouth. Dahlia deepened the kiss. “Watch me watch you. Mind made up. His fingers at her core sank back in. A cry gurgled in her throat. sending them spilling down her thighs. swirling. Your hands are on my body.” He paused his movements. tell me what you want and I’ll give it to you. Dahlia. His eyes spoke of frayed control and fierce need. “If yes. “Do you want this?” He pressed a thumb to her clit. she grabbed Cruz and pulled him to her. he tasted coffee and the promise of carnal delights. He broke the kiss.” Her call? Not really. not when her head and body were on two different wave lengths.” Lips curved. “You’re in my house.” God. Dahlia. Your call. three at once. searching out her juices. She raised her eyelids caustically and shuddered when their gazes met. locked her weak knees and explored him as he did her. breath kissing her cheek. Need. His scent—warm sandalwood and arousal—teased her nose. . He parted his lips and she slid her tongue inside. pulling him into her lungs. dysfunctional bubble? Or break away from the fear with a hot man offering mindless pleasure? Pleasure I want. Her body bowed as fire zinged through her. “Open those eyes. dipped his head and caught a nipple between his teeth. She twisted her fingers in his hair. tell me now and I’ll go. Dahlia inhaled slowly. Tongues thrusting.” He flicked her clit. he leaned forward and dragged his tongue down her throat. What did she want? Send him away and go back to her safe. “Answer me. mashing their lips together.” “What else do you want?” She tilted her quivering chin in a weak attempt at defiance.

“No turning back now. More. “I want more.Avril Ashton “Ah.” He looked up with questioning eyes. Cruz grinned. spilling from her lips. pushing his face into her. Breath left Dahlia’s lungs in harsh gasps. she hoped her eyes relayed her acceptance. “More. Cruz hummed around her flesh in his mouth.” A dark eyebrow lifted. afraid to voice them out loud. So wrong.” Head tipped to the heavens. Removing his digits from her body. each pull making her pussy ache. Words came back with a vengeance. “God. he held it up. she slid her fingers into his thick hair and canted her hips to meet his insistent mouth. A sound of pleasure. it seems. She moaned. “Cruz.” Heart thundering in her chest. “Ahh!” A sweet burning began in her pussy. he said. Dahlia stared back. “Argh!” Her body burned. pulling on his hair. Slick moisture glistened off the three thick fingers. licking off her cream with a groan. the pain dulled by the pleasure he administered so well. he brought them to his mouth.” she whispered his name. Eyes gleaming. weakening her knees and . eyelids fluttering. “Cruz.” Her voice broke. yes. “Like this?” Two fingers plunged into her. because his lips curved and he leaned forward. Dahlia swallowed and widened her stance. God!” TOUCH 11 The pinch of pain didn’t last but a second. More. More. warm mouth closing over her clit. He got the message. please. Cruz soothed her with his tongue then sucked. Cruz dipped his tongue into her and she rocked. He sat back on his haunches and looked up at her from below dark lashes. stiff tongue flicking over her hardened clit. A silent come on. Blunt fingers dug into the flesh of her hips. She chanted the words in her mind. but still so fucking good—the things he made her feel. Way past words. hard and insistent. He moved from one nipple to the other expertly then licked his way down her stomach. Gaze on her.

lips pressed kisses to her . She reached for the orgasm with a choked sob. pulling. slowly. She rose on unsteady legs and moved until her body hovered above his head. toes curling. gaze on Cruz. did you?” God. but she could only look on helplessly as he crooked a finger. she rocked her hips. feet planted on either side. he rolled until his back was pressed to the mattress and she lay atop him. but still Dahlia managed to lower herself onto his stiffened tongue. “Now lower yourself. “You didn’t think I finished tasting your sugar. “Good girl. His grunts and groans vibrated on her clit and through her body.” Those eyes twinkled. Dahlia rode them. Yes. shaking her body and tearing hoarse screams from her throat.” he praised in a rasp. A hard arm pulled her close. but Cruz pulled his fingers out. urging him on. “Up-up where?” “Come sit on my face. setting her insides aflame. dragging her deeper into the heated vortex. More.” “Your wish.” Two more fingers joined in. “Yes. eyes sliding close under the sudden lethargy. I want those juices all over my face. God. Dahlia’s nipples grazed his chest. Knuckles white against the headboard. Dahlia. “God. How could he— Cruz lifted her off her feet and dumped her on the bed. stretching her impossibly wider. bowing her body. She let go of the headboard and grabbed Cruz’s hair. Heat tingled at her nape then flowed down her spine. “No! No!” The bastard. “Come up here. Hands on her shoulder. She cried out as he speared her.” She frowned. fucking her. painting his face with her moisture. “Cruz!” She collapsed onto his chest. Dahlia stared as he crawled up her body.” Her breath hitched and she almost fell over. the sensation making her body contract. The orgasm denied her earlier reared back up violently. orgasm in the periphery.” she chanted. his face a study in dark lust.Avril Ashton TOUCH 12 graying her vision.

but when Dahlia opened her eyes some time later. Only the scent of sex and Cruz remained.Avril Ashton TOUCH 13 forehead. she found herself alone. .

“Sir. staring blankly at the tiny black pouch on the table before him. Sammy. Cruz made sure others were present. And he’d slipped away while she still rode that orgasmic high. the one person who’d take the fall. No way would he be setting her up for whatever the pompous prick had up his sleeve. kissed. but Cruz would and had crossed him. we’re ready to move. The man who hired him to retrieve the thing was filthy fucking rich and not someone to be played with. the bastard wanted his scapegoat to know who’d set all the events in motion. Not someone to double cross. Reckless. Cruz rejected the idea as soon as he looked into Dahlia’s eyes.” His captain shuffled away. His client wanted only one specific witness to the heist. but it sure as hell was expensive. Fuck. He didn’t know what was inside. “Then let’s go. and tasted her. Amazing.” He sighed and rubbed a hand over weary eyes. sir. In more ways than one. And last. But amazing. He’d gone in on a Tuesday evening. No clue as to why his client wanted her hurt so badly. A knock came on his cabin door. Suicide.” “Yes.Avril Ashton TOUCH 14 Chapter Two Cruz Doriaye sat in his stateroom aboard his yacht. Of the feelings she pulled from him. perfect for his . Deception. He’d been instructed to wait until Friday to conduct the bank break-in. He’d touched. of the emotions that overwhelmed him when he touched her. No idea too. Again. And yet he had no idea of the relationship between those two. when he couldn’t look into her eyes and lose himself. The weatherman forecasted clear skies and calm seas.

he smiled.” Paper shuffled in the background.” Cruz’s fingers tightened around the phone. “Sorry. Women he’d always had. “Issue one—he routed his calls through half a dozen countries and computers. relieving the sounds Dahlia made and the triumph he felt when she opened to him. Gruesome. Issue two—Dahlia Pierce was born and raised in Miami.Avril Ashton TOUCH 15 sail down to the Bahamas from Florida.” The click-clacking of computer keys reached Cruz’s ears. Time for some information and maybe take back the upper hand from his new client. I can tell that.” His caller sniffed delicately. I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. sex and lust he never tired of. but has travelled to New York three times in the past two years. Replaying the day in his mind. His cell phone rang and he pulled it from the front pocket of his jeans. he laid his head on his arms and stared at the ceiling. He couldn’t allow himself to get taken by wide brown eyes.” “Are they—were they dating?” And why did the thought of that anger him so? . I’ve been on edge waiting for your call. “What’s the connection between those two?” “I have only one surveillance picture I got from airport cam at La Guardia airport. “Uh-uh. “New York?” “New York. On his back. figure out the reason for this sudden turn at self-implosion. and Freesia-scented skin.” A chuckle echoed in his ear. She was recently brought into the ER badly beaten.” “Huh. It shows Ms. This need to wrap Dahlia Pierce in his arms. but I finally found your client. “Talk to me. Glancing at the caller ID. Fucking gruesome stuff.” Cruz squeezed his eyes shut. He moved away from his seat at the round table and climbed onto his bed. babe. Maybe he’d have time to clear his head. protect her—he didn’t understand it. “All right.” “Hello to you. I’m sending you the pictures. too. He’s in New York City. wipe the pain and hurt from her eyes. Pierce getting into his limo.

“We both have a lot to lose and there’s the huge elephant in the room. “I robbed her bank under explicit instructions to set her up as the culprit. This is…unexpected. I’ll go straight to New York to surprise our client. And he’s using you to do it. but I can’t keep doing that.” His best friend chuckled. running a hand through his hair.” Jeezus. Most likely from the man who beat the crap out of her. I shouldn’t even be thinking about this woman.” “Yup.Avril Ashton TOUCH 16 “That would be my guess. “Ah. anything else shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. but you’re kinda biased.” An image of Dahlia in that exact position flashed in his mind’s eye.” “But you didn’t. babe.” She laughed. but I’m still creaming in my Vickies.” “She knows you rob banks. Cruz sat up. Shit. That should count for something. Have the plane meet me in two days. remember? She’s not my type. “I’ve seen the pictures of her.” And what a surprise that would be.” Ricki insisted. Ricki. What’s next?” “Next I lay low at the hotel. “Something happened between them that has him looking to destroy her. He couldn’t help but smile. Cruz scoffed at Ricki’s naïveté. but she refused to name anyone. The cops questioned her extensively when she got hurt.” Christ. I’ve been ignoring his calls. but Ricki continued. hardening him. Ricki.” “It’s not that simple. huh?” Cruz opened his mouth to deliver a scathing denial.” “But you are?” He shook his head.” “He can think again. I love you. “What will you do?” “I don’t know. He . I’m not going to be the one who brings her to her knees. “You’ve got a jones for her. Ricki. “I am.

you’ve made sure of that. TOUCH 17 “You know. When I drop my bomb I want him totally unprepared and completely decimated by the blow. His back to the headboard. Ricki hung up. This is for Ciske. smaller than his pinky. Why else would Cruz’s client have it in a bank and not with him under heavy guard? Still the vault was pretty secure. Cruz stared off into space. working out the details of a plan forming. not files. He’d hoped for maybe diamonds. I’ll let you know what I need from you and when. his money. He retrieved his laptop from the bedside table and powered it up. yet he’s the one calling the shots?” “But he doesn’t know that. legs stretched out in front of him. he grabbed the thing and climbed back on. “Dahlia is an unexpected bonus. Whatever was on the drive couldn’t be that important. just a few ideas. Nope. of course. “No one knows who I really am. What he never expected was the gold flash drive. he needed to know what the little black pouch held.” “Still…” “He needs to think I need him.” He smiled. I still don’t get why you do all this.” “What’s the plan?” “I don’t have anything concrete yet. Foreboding tingled at his nape as Cruz plugged in the drive and clicked view files. “All this for Dahlia Pierce?” “No. he pulled the tiny draw string free and emptied the contents onto his lap. or a piece of jewelry.” Ricki said.” Voice hard. something extremely rare.” After a soft command for Cruz to be safe. No question whether or not he’d be looking at the contents. the only one who had access was. but a video. “You’ve got almost more money than him.Avril Ashton salivated just thinking about it. he said. Before he did anything else though.” Ricki sighed in his ear. his influence. The picture wasn’t steady and had no . Ricki. Dahlia. Hopping off the bed.

gun pointed at her. Knees buckling. Cruz’s eyes blurred. In the heart. In that instant all his military training went out the window. . Cruz cried out. She didn’t twitch. The picture jumped as if the gunshot startled the person filming. There were two. The Medical Examiner determined she’d died from that first shot. Austin Harrington. Cruz clenched his fists at his sides. chest heaving. but he clearly made out the dark haired woman kneeling with her hands and mouth bound. zooming in to bring the red dot on Ciske’s forehead into focus. It didn’t matter he was out of the country. Harrington spoke. The video shook violently. This was family. out of contact with everyone but his handler. as the large man walked over his sister’s body and shot her again. When they’d finally fished her out of the landfill Harrington had his people dump her in. Blood. emptying the contents of his stomach into the toilet. completely helpless as his sister toppled onto her back. “Ciske!” Cruz watched with tears rolling down his face. Cruz slid to the floor. A large man hovered over the woman. He failed his sister. He scrambled off the bed and raced to the bathroom. pale cheeks wet with tears. He dragged his knuckles over his eyes and took a deep breath. She bowed her head.Avril Ashton TOUCH 18 volume. Knowing his sister had been murdered and watching it play out live in front of his own eyes were two entirely different things. The thug nodded and then pulled the trigger. multi-millionaire. shoulders shaking. Next to the thug with the gun was Cruz’s client. Ciske needed him and he wasn’t there.

Not like I have anything better to do. She remained in bed. And really. Probably gone underground somewhere to hide. until all the violence and murder she shouldn’t have witnessed. TOUCH 19 **** The weekend. Needing the touch of a man she knew less than nothing about. refusing to allow his thugs the pleasure. Shaking her head. The beating he gave her personally. Flattered he noticed her. then give herself permission to indulge. Twisted. it’s not like he’s hanging around. A shower was in order then she’d order in—again—and go back to feeling sorry for herself. Men cannot be trusted. He’s a bank robber for fuck’s sake. But so fucking good. Twenty minutes later. haven’t I learned my lesson with Austin? She’d been painfully naïve with that one. but Dahlia had no plans to do either. Missing a stranger more than she ever missed Austin. Time for relaxation. but she couldn’t get those green eyes out of her head. Licking drops of . still smelled his scent in the air. because he knew she’d be too scared to talk. Ordered by her bosses to ‘take more time off indefinitely’ she had time to think. It’s not like she’d ever see the damn man again. she flung off the covers and padded on bare feet to the bathroom. Yet she lusted after a bank robber. you’ve got it bad. Big time. Shit. maybe hanging with friends and family. she turned off the shower.Avril Ashton Harrington would pay. Time to hate. Lesson learned. Who’d believe me? She handed over the video and he discarded her as quickly as he’d picked her up. One time. covers pulled up to her chin even as the weather sweltered in eighty degree heat. He didn’t want her dead though. Two weeks since that night and she still felt his touch.

silencing her. biting. heart in her throat. He grunted. no. stay calm. then he grasped her wrists and secured them with something cold and hard. Renewed self preservation reared up and she kicked out again. Austin finally decided she wasn’t worth the trouble. Thug two pulled a . “Ma’am. Dahlia whimpered.” No.” She cried when she should’ve fought. stop that or I’ll tie you up. She screamed into the gag. Terror shook her words. No!” They moved toward her as one unit. “No!” She backed away from the two masked men standing in her bathroom. eyes wide. “Please. Please. but the second man tied a piece of cloth over her mouth. The man holding her lowered both of them until she lay on the floor. Arms flailing. Circling both of her ankles with one giant palm. “All right. why does he want me dead? Why?” Harsh sobs rushed from her heaving chest. Her heel caught the second man across his temple.” She stopped. “Ma’am. nothing to throw at them except bath salts and shampoo bottles.Avril Ashton TOUCH 20 water off her upper lip—wishing it was Cruz’s tongue on her—she pulled aside the shower curtain. Like the beatings. A large gloved hand closed over her wrist.” No one spoke. “Why are you doing this to me? Please. no. hung limp in a pair of strong arms when she should be kicking. thick arms crossed. tie you up it is. Thug two saw it coming and ducked. don’t hurt me. She shook her head violently. But why weren’t they killing her right then? He probably wanted to do it by his own hands. She screamed.” She ignored the words spoken by the man who held her and finally kicked out. Naked. Dahlia looked around. “I haven’t done anything. I promised. tears blinded her. he snarled. “I didn’t say a word. We’re not going to hurt you. her feet gave out and she crumbled to her knees on the bathroom floor.

They car ried clothes. and she was carried through her apartment and out the front door as she heard it click behind them. Mmm. tugging a tight t-shirt over her head and down her shoulders. He lifted her hips with no help and pulled the sweats up over her ass and hips. buckling way too tight. but how? Why wasn’t anyone helping? “Mmm. someone would help her.” the man at her head whispered. Dahlia lay on the cold floor trying to wiggle away while biting at the cloth in her mouth. It wasn’t the middle of the day. One positioned himself above her. Pierce. A trunk? They put her in a trunk? . they disappeared out the room.” She twisted her head away. Wrists and feet taken care of. but was placed into a tight place. Help me. but the hold on her body just tightened. Darkness descended over her eyes. brown leather belt from his waist and wound it around her ankles. “Mmm. Her eyes flew open. In the end he got his way. Ms.Avril Ashton TOUCH 21 thick. He lifted her shoulders off the floor. The man kneeling before her released the belt long enough to slip on a pair of pink sweats. but it wasn’t night either. oil and dust filled her nose. No. “This is for your own good. Humid air kissed the exposed skin of her stomach. Their footsteps quickened though. They were outside. Mmm. Surprisingly he took care not to touch her tits as he smoothed the piece of clothing to cover her chest and stomach. Somebody help! “Mmm. Car exhaust. he rebound her ankles. fresh tears pouring from her.” She tried screaming again. wiggling. When he was satisfied. Mmm. effectively covering half her face—from forehead to nose. quickly tying whatever it was.” A low pop sounded then she felt herself descending. She hadn’t made any real progress when she heard their footsteps approaching. Eyes squeezed shut. The thug over her angled her head. Someone would see them. She twisted her body. No. the man at her feet picked it up.

Where am I? She got off the bed and walked to the beige blinds covering the small window over in the corner. but in the meantime…” Fingers shifted through the hair at her nape. she gasped. Two things burned brightest in her subconscious. One. eyes weren’t covered. Intercom. pressed at something behind her left ear. and two. Pulling aside the material. eyes struggling to adjust to the dim light in the room. She jerked to a sitting position. miles and miles of ocean as far as the eye could see. “Dahlia. Jesus.. You won’t be in there for long.Get some rest. damn it. pretty lady. “. its appearance was nothing like your typical bedroom. the ceiling rather low. her gaze darted back and forth. She flung aside the covers. Placing a trembling hand at her throat. For one. scanning the room for the person who spoke. the caramel-colored interior was almost circular.” Blackness claimed her. the mattress she lay on was the softest. Pierce. Her arms and legs weren’t bound. Dahlia came awake slowly. They were surrounded by it. Strange looking room too. and let’s not forget the fucking swaying. Gently. Fear shuddered in her lungs.” A very unladylike squeak fell from her lips. but the silvery-blue full moon illuminated the dark water. said mattress was freaking rocking back and forth. Night had fallen. but still rocking. She whimpered.Avril Ashton TOUCH 22 “You’ll be fine. but she bit her lip and examined the room.” Static then a click. so she could only assume Austin meant to kill her this time. “Who-who’s there?” “I’ll be with you shortly. most luxurious thing she’d ever felt. Ms. Finish the job he’d started. Shit. The low sound carried in the heavy quiet and she .

Crap. “We’ll be in Nassau in a few hours though. “Nassau? Like in the Bahamas.” He stroked her cheek with a finger.” She blinked. “We have unfinished business. “I want a lot of things from you. teeth clamping down on her knuckles. She stared up at him. and cruised lower still. fists clenched tightly at her side. “Welcome aboard the Deception. A . Dahlia. what do you really want?” Can’t be for the sex. we’re too far out. Dahlia moved on weak knees and sank down on the edge of the mattress. The severe realization of her dilemma settled over her. “I didn’t think you’d come along if I asked nicely. “I don’t think so. “Oomph. I’ve really been kidnapped! Dahlia whirled around and smacked into a warm brick wall. those green eyes mocking.” Strong arms circled her waist.Avril Ashton TOUCH 23 shoved her fist into her mouth. I want off this time boat. “Why am I here.” His gaze slid from her eyes to her chest. babe. “Sorry. pulled her in closer and she got her first whiff of sandalwood. Oh.” His smile was unrepentant. but she backed away from the welcome hold. Now!” He gasped and clutched his heart. “Cruz? What the hell is this?” She pushed her hair out of her eyes and glared at him. He knelt between her thighs.” She stepped closer. scare the shit out of me. Nassau?” What the fuck? He nodded. my God. and you’re acting like it’s nothing?” He shrugged and her body clenched at the sensuous move of those wide shoulders. The arrogant bastard crossed his arms across his chest and met her eyes with a twitch to his lips. Dahlia. “Boat? I’ll have you know—” “I’ll have you know I will have your fucking head if you don’t stop this boat now. they hadn’t even done that. She shook her head. Heat singed her skin at the blatant lust in his eyes. Her heart leaped in her chest.” “Are you out of your fucking mind? Your people snatch me from my home.

guiding him to her clenching core. striking deep. His cock pulsed at her center. Spicy anticipation quivered through her body. babe. He took her lips. Finally he filled her in a single thrust. Twice. the round head bumping her clit once.” “Right here. hooking it around his waist as he covered her body. He took control of the kiss. Dahlia tugged at his t-shirt. Cruz’s breath hitched. Dahlia licked her lips and widened her legs.” He kissed her. Shit. lifting her hips and moistening her pussy even more. but right now they’ll have to wait. feet hanging off the mattress. helping him as he bared her lower half. She hooked her ankles over his . Her lower half rose off the bed. “Cruz. legs widened to take him impossibly deeper. feel your skin against mine. He palmed his cock. and he didn’t wait to remove her pants completely before dipping an index into her pussy. soft. Cruz released her and got to his feet. Dahlia met his gaze under heavy eyelids. stroking the thick length once before covering himself with a condom. I just want to taste you again. They both groaned. He latched on to her. Lowering herself onto her back.” She broke the kiss. fingers digging into his scalp. asking permission without words.” He grabbed her right leg. so good. waiting impatiently. quickly turning it from soft to hard and demanding. finally removed his t-shirt and dropped it on the floor. tongue slipping inside. She wore no underwear. struggling to pull it off as he dragged her sweats off her hips. She clutched his head. she dipped two fingers between her legs. She hesitated for only a split second before opening for him. sinking balls deep into her cunt. tongue sliding over her teeth and flicking the roof of her mouth. She lifted up slightly. offering her consent.Avril Ashton TOUCH 24 lot. He inserted a hand between them. “Unngh.” Dahlia gasped into their kiss. hands fumbling at the waist of his jeans as he stared her down. “Yes. Stoking the fire. stroking.

” . hips canting forward as she rode him. “Oh. Dahlia listened to the hurried clip of his heart. God. firing her blood even more. Oh. God!” The orgasm slammed into her. clamping her pussy walls around his pulsing cock. almost levitating her body off the bed. legs trembling violently. riding out the sensual storm with hungry. Hoarse grunts echoed from him. They held on to each other. cock throbbing as he came. sinking her teeth into Cruz’s sweaty shoulder.Avril Ashton TOUCH 25 ass crack and moved. Shit. He jerked. she released his hair and dragged her nails down his back. “Tell me about you and Austin Harrington. Dahlia cried out and lurched forward. shit. he gathered her in his arms. each parry making electric contact with her spot. She kept pace with him. “Cruz. open mouthed kisses. “Fuck!” His thrusts sped up. “Ah. And when their bodies gave out and they collapsed onto the mattress. Feeling the orgasm creeping up on her. fingers drawing circles on his chest as the sweat cooled on her skin. He sank the fingers of both hands into her ass cheeks as he pounded into her. pulling her to lie across his chest. pulling with each thrust. Cruz kissed her forehead. eyes sliding closed.” He shuddered in her arms. God!” She twisted her fingers in his hair.

” Mother fucker. but his voice remained devoid of any emotion.” “I do. legs folded in. “What the hell do you know about Austin?” She pulled the covers over her with cold.Avril Ashton TOUCH 26 Chapter Three Dahlia jerked away from his hold. Now isn’t the time to scold me for giving you what you wanted so desperately.” She sank to the floor. “Tell me about you and Austin Harrington. “Look at me. not your fucking interference in my private life. She clenched her fists at the urge to smack him upside the head. Tell me about it. “You were involved with Harrington at one time or another. “You needed my touch. She straightened with her back to him and pulled on her clothes. arms crossed over her chest.” She ignored him and he tipped up her chin with a finger. Dahlia. “I understand more than you think and if you allow me the chance I can help.” Those insanely soft lips curved. but first you have to tell me. his face a blank slate. “I’m kinda pooped from the way your lackeys manhandled me. “I learned a lesson . “You’re all up in my business. Who was this man? Cruz met her gaze with an unblinking stare. He lay on his stomach across the bed. You have some nerve. she grinned. Fear once again coiled in her gut. “I wanted your cock. Dahlia.” The mattress dipped as he shifted. shaky fingers. You rob my bank then show up in my bedroom—” “Because you wanted me to. head inches from her. Yeah.” Watching him from below her eyelashes.” She scoffed silently.” She faced him fully clothed. Back ache and such. “But I know nothing about yours. Under his scrutiny she rolled off the bed.” Funny how he made her blood rush in her ears. Shit.” Those eyes cut through her like green glass. falling on her knees. like that’s going to happen. “You understand. but you won’t get away with stalling.

but the fucking and the talking aren’t mutually exclusive. at least that was the excuse he gave for why they didn’t venture outside of his Penthouse at Trump Towers. “You can trust me. “You’re…harder than the last time I saw you.” Scrambling away from his touch. The couple subsequent orgasms hadn’t erased those memories.” She met his gaze coolly. “I have no qualms with you playing between my legs. Dahlia. jaw clenching. eyes burning holes through her. She refused to feel bad for someone who’d made her freaking life hell from the time he entered her bank.” “I know the reason you were off work was because Austin beat you up.” Dahlia laughed. .Avril Ashton TOUCH 27 with Austin: men are not to be trusted.” He remained silent. but they were hardly public. his green gaze searched hers. she stood up. right? What else is there to say?” He swung his feet off the bed and sat on the edge. naked and glorious. “You’re different. Tell me what happened. You robbed me on my first day back at work. How did he know about Austin? She and the Austin hadn’t been a secret. ole boy.” Fine lines appeared on his brow. Especially the pretty. different how?” Shaking his head.” A storm brewed behind his darkened eyes. rubbing her forearms to warm the sudden chill.” She lifted an eyebrow at Cruz’s words. a time when I was vulnerable. and Dahlia knew she’d hit home with her words. “Yeah. he whispered. “You’ll spread your legs for me. “It’s the stuff that comes after I won’t be doing. so forget whatever plan you’ve got in mind to make me tell you my life story. That’s the only reason you were able to get under my skin. Austin’s high profile status didn’t lend itself to many public outings. Cruz. you’re good at it. “That’s because the last time you saw me I wasn’t myself. rich ones. but you won’t talk to me?” “I don’t know if you realize this. “You know everything.” Cupping her cheek.

hmm? The pouch he wanted me to get. Why would he—” “Yes. unforgiving tone. “He tried to set you up. she shook her head. “You should know. “Yeah? Well.” “Wha-what?” She couldn’t breathe. hands flat on his thighs. “Did you know what was in the pouch I stole.” She backed away with a hand at her throat.” Eyes burning.” “No. No.’ “Fine.Avril Ashton TOUCH 28 She looked away quickly.” Cruz continued in that hard. I was hired to rob your bank by Harrington. “My guess is someone spooked him.” he snapped. burying his crime and leaving a woman’s family with no idea as to what happened to her. Words failed her. Damn man shouldn’t look so lickable when she wanted to punch his lights out. “Yes. Scalding tears rushed down her cheeks. why would he when he’s had your silence for all this time? Why jinx it?” He leaned toward her. under his control. that way it could be pinned on you.” Her knees gave out and she crumbled in a whimpering heap at his feet. why? You turned right around and handed him the tape.” “Wha-what was on the video?” Dread was an icy fist in her throat. you’re shit out of luck ‘cause I have nothing to say to you or anyone else.” he said. “I don’t believe you. you shot it. Why was he insisting on bringing up memories she tried her best to forget? “I want to hear it from you. “Then let me tell you what I know.” He squatted beside her . and he wanted it in his hands. The video of Austin and his men killing that woman. “It was a thumb drive with a video on it. “Why didn’t you go to the police. Why he had it there in the first place escapes me and I’ll have to remember to ask him that.” He got to his feet. get you sent away for robbing the place. you shot it. but she closed her eyes and waited. He told me to wait until you were on duty. Dahlia.

how insane was it that the fear lacing through her was way more intense than anything she’d felt around Austin? With Austin she knew his capabilities. “I hated him then.” “He lied!” Cruz roared. Do you still love him that much. “She was my fraternal twin.” he ordered. “Look. Threatened people I love. His sister. “I want out of here. “What do you want from me?” And how did she get away. squeezing her eyes in an attempt to stall the tears but they kept on coming. and he said she—that woman—was a crackhead with no family. they searched and searched when she went missing. but he threatened me. They cared. He fumbled in his pants pocket with one hand. The hand in her hair trembled. She jumped to her feet and ran to the door. I hate him now. Bitter.” His voice broke. Acidic. dark look in his eyes sought revenge. “Open your eyes. look at me. and after he found Austin he’d be turning his sights on her.” He pulled out a photograph and shoved it in her face. witnessed it up close. “Did you love him that much to cover up murder for him?” She sobbed brokenly. And you. Or forgot. “Open your eyes. “Oh God. Her name was Ciske. pulling out his wallet. I know nothing about Cruz. She’d been right to be afraid of him from the .” “What?” She snapped her head up.” his voice dipped to low and deadly.” Bile rose in her mouth. gaping at him through wet lashes. I had to protect them. Oh God. The wild. “She had a family that loved her. met his murderous glare.” you’re going to help me avenge her death. She was my sister.Avril Ashton TOUCH 29 and grabbed a fistful of hair. Let me out.” Jesus. Look. for God’s sake? She’d done nothing to help his sister and she didn’t think for a minute he forgave her. yanking her head back. Maybe he wouldn’t wait that long. No one would miss her. Dahlia?” “I hate him!” She opened her eyes.

Dahlia stared into his eyes. I watched you jump out of your skin at every blared horn and slammed door. speaking though his lips barely moved. Dahlia.” He held her gaze. He’d been sent to set her up. “Why didn’t you set me up?” He blinked. She caught the movement from the corner of her eye and turned just as he reached her side.” Dahlia looked away. “But that was before you learned of my involvement in your sister’s death. Before you understood the full extent of my cowardice regarding Austin Harrington.Avril Ashton TOUCH 30 start. biting her lip. He twisted his wrist. wrinkling her brow as she watched him watch her. “I watched you for two days before I came into that bank. A softer language. Dahlia dropped her gaze to stare at the . “You were in pain and I’m not talking physical.” She removed his hand and brought it to his side. trapped her fingers with his large palm then linked them with his thick digits. “For all that. Arms crossed over his naked chest. and did your job without a word of complaint. and jeans zipped but unbuttoned he looked so…fierce.” He shifted. Cruz cupped her cheek. She jumped. You put on a brave face. Hard and unforgiving.” he whispered. “I admired your strength and the courage it took to do that. Damn man moved like a ghost. Get her locked up. reduced to a shell. you went to work. filled with whispers and a knowledge of her body she wasn’t privy to. smiled. but she knew better than to feel smug that she’d surprised him. the rough pad of his thumb brushing her chin and bottom lip. legs apart. at the black circle ringing the piercing green and covered his hand with hers. I admired you. She’d been a mess. Yet those hands of his spoke a different language. But he hadn’t? She whirled.

” “But the video—” “Is not enough. but somehow she knew whatever Cruz had in his arsenal was way more potent. of the true part she played in his sister’s death. allowing her the chance at breathing.” His voice grew tight. but honest. Dahlia didn’t resist. Dahlia. He has enough money to make everyone believe his thug did it without direct orders from him. He didn’t know the full story. and inhaled warm sandalwood. He needs to suffer.” The word rumbled in her ear. over his heart beat. “but you already knew that. Whatever his plan was for Austin. clipped. money and prestige. “Say you’ll help me bring Austin down. bringing her flush onto his chest. His eyes were clear.” His lips firmed. TOUCH 31 “I don’t blame you for Ciske’s death. “I’m angry you didn’t feel you had any other choice.” she said softly. he’d turn them all on her. Austin had power. why not take it to the cops?” Why was it so important that he go after Austin? “No.” The weight in her chest eased a bit. “I’m angry you didn’t go to the police. She laid her head on his chest. You have the video. Way more dangerous. Did she want to be near him when he found out? “Austin’s not someone to be played with. it’s better she be on Cruz’s side. “Harrington has to experience the fear and humiliation Ciske . but I don’t blame you. And if he caught one whiff of the real story.” That brought her gaze back to his. No hope at having it all disappear.Avril Ashton area where they joined. So while he didn’t blame her for his sister’s death—now—she still blamed herself. “He’d get off since he didn’t actually pull the trigger. Because I am to blame. serious. she couldn’t. He’d kill her for sure if he did.” He wrapped an arm around her waist.

vacillating between a smile and kicking him the . Austin had a certain charming façade he hid behind in public. and even then that only happened behind closed doors. she had to help Cruz find Austin before he found them. I didn’t need the excuse of alcohol to slide up inside that tight pussy. She had to safe-guard herself. To make that happen. It was only when he hooked his prey he allowed the mask to drop. The only way to keep a secret safe is if one of the two people with knowledge of it died. “What do you want to know?” Dahlia lounged against the pillows. only two people knew. “Sorry about that. He questioned her relentlessly for almost an hour. As it stood. holding nothing back until a phone call interrupted the interrogation. Time to protect me. He has to feel it all. wanting to know everything from what the inside of Austin’s bedroom looked like to how many people he had around him at any given time. that was a certainty.Avril Ashton suffered. “And last I recall. Dahlia raised an eyebrow. Lifting her head off his chest. Who was he really? What was his sister doing hanging around a man like Austin? I know my reasons for wasting time with the pompous prick. eyeing the door Cruz abruptly disappeared through.” He winked. With Austin gone. She gave him all the answers. He’d kill Austin. “Come to ply the hostage with liquor and have your way with her?” “Are you still referring to yourself as a hostage?” He looked down at her with those mocking eyes.” TOUCH 32 A tremor ran through her at the level of hate in those words. It’s about time she found out about Cruz. She rolled her eyes. no one would know her secret. She was one. she took a step back and met the inquiry in Cruz’s gaze. Austin is the other.” Cruz shouldered his way into the room carrying a bottle of wine in one hand and two glasses in the other.

She sniffed then sipped. She licked her lips and watched him through her lashes.” Inching along the mattress. A sound escaped Cruz’s throat—harsh. staring at her exposed chest.” Cruz complied with a chuckle. “Why don’t you tell me about you? I know absolutely nothing. sipping his.Avril Ashton TOUCH 33 nuts.” His darkened eyes turned predatory. because the corners of his mouth lifted in the tiniest smile. He ignored her words.” He climbed fully onto the bed. he tore away the shirt she wore. But I may have more questions as they come to me. Dahlia obeyed his command without thought. “Lay back. scenting the air with her needy musk. “For now. it’s good shit. talking should be much safer.” “Do have what you need regarding Austin?” He eyed her steadily. “How shall we pass the time?” Goosebumps blanketed her skin at his deliberately low-pitched tone.” She shrugged. Clad only in his boxers. “I.” he whispered.” Judging by the way her voice shook. searching hers. “Not bad. uh-I vote for talking. nipples already pebbled from his hot scrutiny. Dahlia inhaled sharply. Cruz took the wine glass from her unsteady fingers and brushed his lips to hers. “We’ll be in Nassau in about an hour. He must’ve found what he sought. Her body trembled. “Just pour the freaking wine. Cruz lifted his gaze. Blasted man. Liquid heat pooled in Dahlia’s pussy. His shirt.” “Hmm. handing her the glass of red. breasts rising and falling with the movement. the hairs on his naked legs scratched her skin in the most tantalizing way. he drew closer to her and dragged a finger along the inside of her thigh.” He sat at the edge of the bed. “or I can do all the things I’ve wanted to do to you since we met.” “We can do that.” Leaning over her. She gasped as buttons popped. baby. needy—sending shivers down her spine. “Yeah. lying back on . “You know where to find me.

She stared up at the man above her as he straddled her thighs. pooling there. His wet mouth closed over a hard peak. He bucked in her hand.” He released her nipple. staring her down with wild eyes and flared nostrils. Dahlia swallowed at the sight of his hard cock flushed rose red. “Arch your back. She moaned. “Ah. brushing her thumb over the wet slit. “Fuck!” **** . She circled his length. he sat up and kicked off his boxers. “Watch me. He grabbed her nape. “Rise up on your elbows. following the same path and stopping only to suck at the wine in her navel. She watched as a thin red trail ran from the hollow at her throat down to her navel. tilted her head back and licked his way down her throat before pulling away.” She opened her eyes as Cruz tipped the wine glass. Damn. Way later. his tongue licking at the skin.” Placing the wine glass on the floor beside the bed. focusing on her nipples. “Spread your legs. He still held her wine glass and the liquid red swirled with every move he made. and the mushroomed crown tipped with glistening pre-cum. baby. nails digging into his shoulders.” His chest heaved.” Dahlia sank her fingers in his hair. he rose up on his elbows. Cruz bent. talking would come later. Dahlia’s eyelids fluttered under the sensual heat. Cruz tormented her with hard sucks and soft bites. “Cruz. Cruz was right—this was a much better way to pass the time. head on the pillows.” She did. All registering in her burning core. he dripped more wine on her chest and repeated the unique tasting. When he finally lifted his head. shuddering under his nips and licks. The first splash of the wine against her skin practically sizzled. legs spread in wanton invite. holding him still. “Hmm.Avril Ashton TOUCH 34 the bed. shit!” She arced into his mouth. Without looking up from his task.

His arms trembled. Cruz bucked into the mattress. Dropping to his stomach between her spread legs. please. licking up her tart cream.” Wrapped around his shoulders. grinding his leaking cock into the sheets. He slid his arms under her ass. babe. “Let me in. Dipping an index finger into her pussy. Please. Let me in. wishing he was already inside Dahlia’s tight pussy. Feathering the pad of his finger over her back passage. mouth watered. He looked up into the wide wildness of her eyes. She jerked. He surged one last time into Dahlia’s hold then shifted away. Eyes glued to his. Dahlia gasped.Avril Ashton TOUCH 35 Cruz bit his lip in an attempt to stifle the moans crowding his throat. the darker folds of her sex glistening with slick juices. Stiffening his tongue. wiggling his finger until he was in past the first knuckle. her entire body stiffening. trapping him as he brushed his nose over her clit. sucking until she begged with hoarse cries. he teased it—circling. he whispered. Trembling fingers sifted through his hair and tugged. keeping him caged as she undulated on his mouth. His cock throbbed. Dahlia’s soft cries echoed in the room as she writhed. Flicking his tongue over her hard clit. he speared her center. sank his fingers into the flesh of her buttocks. Dahlia curled her legs around his shoulders. and pulled her onto his face.” Her hole relaxed enough for him to breach the tight ring of muscle and he worked his way inside. painting his face with her juices. Dahlia’s nose flared and her moist lips parted as . he made sure it was well lubricated with her cream before trailing it down to the tight rosebud of her ass. She lifted her hips closer to his face. Cruz growled. screaming for release. Already his heavy balls ached. “Cruz. her thighs shook uncontrollably. he took in a deep breath of heat and aroused musk. but she didn’t let up.

He jerked himself off. “Shit. Trouble. She’d burrowed under his skin. Her lashed fluttered. his breath shallowed.Avril Ashton TOUCH 36 he sank the rest of the way in. . fucking her ass with now two digits. “Fuck. Hot seed poured through his fingers and he leaned forward. The muscles in her ass clamped down on his finger in a painful squeeze. His chest constricted. “Shit. Her ass contracted around his fingers. Harboring feelings for Dahlia meant trouble for him. “Rub your clit.” he commanded. Tight heat scorched him. chest heaving. Over the thundering of his heart. “Burning me up.” He scrambled to his knees. “You’re so hot in here. he’d have grinned at the need her voice. Oh. The impending orgasm dried his throat and roughened his voice.” Cruz watched the sensual writhing of her body. her fingers on her wet pussy. Burning me. Tingles heated the base of his spine and nape. Oh. sweat glistening on her furrowed brow and upper lip. body trembling as her orgasm tore through her. his in her ass. She was a sight—his cum trickling down her thighs.” She complied with a lick of her lips.” “Cruz. then met her gaze as he thrust his finger in and out of her ass. She arched off the bed with a muffled scream.” She thrashed her head back and forth on the pillow. palmed his throbbing cock and tugged. babe.” He dropped an openmouthed kiss on her clit. but all he could do right then was shout out his release. “Damn.” Any other time.” He was two seconds away from coming. “Let me see you come. still milking his cock. the ache in his heavy ball unbearable. dripping his cum on the insides of Dahlia’s legs.” he rasped. “Cruz. Cruz realized he’d had no chance from the moment he looked into her wounded eyes at the bank. eyes glued to her fingers as they worked her pussy. God. legs parting even wider. darkening his vision. Dahlia’s hips and fingers sped up and her cries reached his ears as if from a distance. nipped. almost breaking it. God.

Avril Ashton And her. TOUCH 37 .

” Cruz jerked away. Her body arched and Cruz tore open the condom. She lifted a leg.Avril Ashton TOUCH 38 Chapter Four “You gonna stare down at me all night or finish this?” Dahlia looked at him with heavy-lidded eyes. toes sliding across his hip before she moved to the front. he pulled . A repeat of that command wasn’t necessary. Stretching a hand over to the stash of condoms on his bedside table. “You’re staring at me like you don’t know me. Damn. Cruz blinked out of his haze.” Her foot continued its journey down his body.” Fuck. “Shit. brought her foot to his chest. Green Eyes. lightly touching her toe to the wet tip of his cock. a time when she wasn’t giving him that come fuck me look and self-satisfied smile. are you trying to kill me?” She chuckled. He caught the black plastic square with one hand. he almost swallowed his tongue when she plunged three into her core then brought them to her mouth and licked off the glistening juices. spitting out the piece in his mouth and tugging on the lubricated rubber with impatient grunts. and dragged her toes down his chest. His cock—semi hard—pulsed. “I just might kill you if you don’t suit up and give me what I want. Mouth watering. woman. she grabbed one and threw it at him. Now. He’d examine his feelings for Dahlia at another time. her voice hoarse. nose filled with the musky scent of sex. Dahlia’s lips curved as though she heard his inner curse. not when she brought her knees up and trailed a finger down to the slick folds of her pussy. Gaze on Dahlia’s naughty fingers. “Fuck. gritting his teeth. mentally shaking his head.

he removed them and pushed into her ass. Dahlia whimpered. the sensation like a million tiny massagers wrapped tightly around his dick.Avril Ashton TOUCH 39 apart her knees with less than gentle hands and drove into her waiting pussy. baby. scissoring into her tight channel until her hips sped up then he replaced his fingers with his cock. Cruz took a steadying breath. The grip of her heated ass brought his balls up as fire and pain zinged through him. “Don’t wor ry. . “M’good.” Dipping two fingers into her dripping pussy. fingers grabbed the sheets. He bit the inside of his cheek. her empty pussy fucked the air. “Yes. “Cruz!” He grinned. She plucked at the sheets as her throat worked. stretching the muscles. drowning him.” She did a tentative roll of her hips. Green Eyes. opening. Under him. teasing the nipples. “Love the feel of you. squeezing. “Okay?” Her eyes drooped close. trapping him. His cock flexed with the urge to move.” Her muscles clamped own around him. heard Dahlia’s sharp intake of breath. fuck me harder. Her knees shook. “Burns.” Dahlia palmed her breasts. So hot. Move. Dahlia’s inner walls spasmed.” Her eyes were pools of liquid need. “Never felt anything like it. sweat dripping from his hair into his eyes as he pulled all the way out of her. So tight. tearing at it as he reared back and thrust in. I won’t break. so good. He groaned at her heated clasp. He canted his hips forward. Her hips rolled and he sank his fingers into the flesh of her thighs to hold her still less he explode like a twelve year old at his first glimpse of tits. “No!” Wide gaze promising death. So fucking good.” He smoothed a palm over her quivering stomach.” Cruz fucked her. muscles fluttering. Cruz stilled. Dahlia stiffened. I’m not done with you yet. “Harder. Balls deep.

“Cruz. I’m—I’m…” The proof of her impending climax was present in the trembling of her body. until they came up for air. licking. breath raspy as the orgasm overtook her. teeth clinking.” His vision dimmed.” he rasped. bathe those fingers in your cream. “I’m here. powerless.Avril Ashton “Move. Dahlia wrapped her arms around him. Sammy?” “We’re minutes away from our destination. Their lips met. “Let me see those fingers work your pussy. When he could no longer hold himself upright. as the orgasm ripped through him. “Fuck yourself as I fuck you. Cruz!” Her shoulders rose off the bed. resenting the thin barrier. She undulated. babe! So sexy like that. “Hold me. pounding out his release in the condom. Tongues twirled around each other. “Oh. “Yes. The sight of that brought him to the edge. the heaving of her chest.” The low voice spoke . pounding into her. buried her face in his neck. She cried out. tasting.” She did.” Now or ever? **** A hard knock on the cabin door roused Dahlia from a contented sleep.” “Cruz. Shit!” The contractions in her ass held him captive. The tightening of her inner muscles. biting. “Fuck. His spent cock slid out of her clenching ass as she lay atop his sweaty chest. “Yes. Her thumping heart vibrated against him.” She groaned. rolling them. God!” She stiffened. God!” He held her quivering body still. She lifted her head off Cruz’s naked chest as he stretched and called out. TOUCH 40 He reared back slowly and slammed in. “Ugh. sir. The telltale tingles started at his nape and the base of his spine. Don’t let go. Her throaty moans mingled with his animalistic grunts as those three fingers went to work plunging in and out as she rode him. he collapsed onto her.

” He pulled on the jeans then grabbed the T-shirt. “Like hell.” He .” She knelt on the mattress.” “I don’t know everything about you.” “You’re deflecting. A man out for revenge.” He winked. and retrieved a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt. TOUCH 41 Cruz sat up. “Yet. not yet. “Tell me about you. His gaze immediately zeroed in on her breasts. but I will. not a third world country. I’m the man hired to frame you. we’ll be ready.” He met her gaze. Dahlia. “Who was that?” His head shot up.” A moment of silence then muted footsteps moved away from the door. hot gaze sliding over her skin.Avril Ashton from the other side of the door. She rolled her eyes. walked to a good-sized closet she hadn’t noticed before. “I will. and she clutched the sheets to her chest. “I’m not staying with you in some foreign country when I don’t know who you are. “He’s the captain…amongst other things. “That’s Sammy. Not happening. “You’ve had me brought here against my will. I know nothing about you except your name—if it’s even your name—and you know everything about me.” She ticked the list of his wrong doings off on her fingers.” She hopped off the bed and stood in front of him. “That’s all you need for now. Dahlia licked her lips. or what you really want from me. Dahlia watched as Cruz got off the bed.” He pulled the Tshirt over his head. “We’re in the Caribbean.” A muscle in his jaw ticked. chest. allowing the flimsy sheet to fall from her fingers.” His lips curved. “Thanks. Freaking man had another think coming if he thought he could just snap his fingers and she’d remain at his side obedient and high off his cock. You’re taking me God knows where. “I’m the brother of the woman Austin Harington murdered.” She looked around for her clothes. Orgasms kept her malleable for only so fucking long. nose to…well.

Dahlia kept herself stiff and locked her knees. It can’t be just to get information on Austin.” He cupped her cheek. “You strike me as a guy with very deep pockets. “Your choice. she had to lean in to catch it. It can be once we get to the hotel. tell me what you really want from me.” His lips twitched. “I mean it. “That was pleasure.” She glanced around the suite. “You think I’ll wait around for breakfast?” “I’m hoping you will. Cruz. or we can wait for breakfast. written all over his gaze. “Get me one of your shirts and I’ll think about it. I want to know why. “You took me away from my life.” The sneak spoke the last part so soft. I can promise you that.” His husky voice dropped lower.” . “I’ll make you a deal: share a meal with me at my hotel and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know…within reason. Dahlia shook her head at herself even as she said. I want you to.” He pulled her to him.” “You worry too much. He lifted his head slowly and stared into her eyes.Avril Ashton TOUCH 42 crossed his arms and stared her down. you didn’t have to fuck me to get the information you needed. babe.” She picked up her pink sweats off the floor and tugged it on. Besides the obvious. Shit. strictly pleasure. “No. taking her mouth in a soft kiss. It shouldn’t be so easy for him to have her wanting to drop to her knees before him. “When would we share this meal?” What time was it anyway? He shrugged.” She wrinkled her brow and moved away from his touch. “Like I give a flying fuck!” She met his blank stare with all the fury she could muster. “Whatever. Just know this. Those green eyes darkened. “I’ve had a man mess up with my life once.” She shivered then swore at herself. you have one last chance to come clean.” The truth of his words stared back at her. “I’m wishing you will. it won’t happen again.

She could’ve fought him on that. She wiggled in Cruz’s arms and he tightened his hold with a low growl. not her. mouth opening to tell him off. This was someone different. One look. driver silhouetted by shadows. and Dahlia couldn’t unlock her gritted teeth long enough to bitch about it. and she swallowed her words. The man transformed into something else before her eyes. sharp and cold. but he cut her off with a look. Harsher. It was still dark out. Ultimately more dangerous. No one spoke over the loud roar of the engines. Not good at all. Dahlia held on to the sides of the vessel with a death grip as they speed to the small strip of land barely visible through a mass of tall trees. Or in her bedroom back at home. A strange bird-like call split the still air. she’d gleaned enough to know the person now seated beside her in the vehicle wasn’t the same as the man on the yacht.Avril Ashton TOUCH 43 When the captain of Cruz’s yacht dropped anchor while still miles out at sea. but the moon lit their way over the inky black waters. and once again Dahlia questioned the wisdom of being in the company of a man she didn’t know. She held her peace when they came to shore and Cruz helped her out the boat. He didn’t address them at all. but she figured there’d be way more important stuff to lash out at him for. Colder. and Cruz walked through a thick curtain of trees with steady strides. they climbed into a small engine-boat designated to carry them to shore. Their escort to the island’s shore opened the SUV door and Cruz plopped her down in the back seat. pale sand then he swung her up into his arms. the low hum of a vehicle’s motor reached her ears. or the tall stranger who’d appeared as if from the depths of the sea just in time for them to disembark the Deception. A black SUV waited for them. Cruz. Her feet sank into the soft. headlights turned off. . and while Dahlia would agree she didn’t know Cruz. She scrambled to a seating position. Maybe her tongue as well.

A thick island accent was clearly evident in his deep voice. my man. lashes drifting closed. washes everything away. Being here was a mistake. “Will it rain?” Cruz kept his voice low. She sat back with a sigh. This was a mistake. I have to.Avril Ashton TOUCH 44 She rubbed away the goosebumps forming on her upper arms and shivered. the SUV’s headlights spearing the cloying blackness and providing the only light for their journey. Dahlia’s pulse leaped. She opened her eyes in time to catch the slight nod from their mysterious driver. Of that she had no doubt. I need a strategy. Their driver pulled off down the barely-there path hidden by overgrown weeds and rocks. she’d find a way out. Weird combination right there. not like she had any other choice. and shadowed. Exhaustion washed over her suddenly. The man smelled faintly of cigarettes and chocolate. “You never know. Had she spoken her thoughts out loud? “Everything ready?” Cruz’s low voice broke the stillness. “Right as rain. chauffeur. The quiet gentleman who’d piloted the boat stayed behind.” What the—? . From him. Throwing her lot in with Cruz against Austin was a huge mistake she’d live to regret. A way to get away from here. twisting around her fingers in a tight grip. and she wanted nothing more than a hot bath and a cool bed. but once refreshed and her mind alert. Cruz shouldn’t be in that bed. Rough fingers slid over her upturned palm.” the man replied. leaving Dahlia and Cruz in the company of an equally silent. his face forward and blank as his thumb drew circles over her skin. She’d stay the night at the hotel like he asked. You have to be careful with the rain.

She held her tongue until they were in the elevator. exposing blinding white teeth. Orange-glow Harold stood off to the corner. sir. Doriaye. “Uh-huh.” The driver brought the SUV to a stop and Dahlia sat up. “Filthy fucking. I’m Har—” “Save it. but they had to be in some kind of building. Cruz Doriaye. “Just how rich are you?” Harold sniffed.” Well. No wonder he hadn’t told her his last name. Better yet. power. ah. Always. The SUV doors opened from the outside. Cruz chuckled. “You own this place?” Speaking in a stage whisper. eyes straining to catch a glimpse of where they were.” He looked down at her with twinkling eyes and she wanted to stomp on his toe. catering only to the best of the best with money to burn. I’m always careful.” . She saw nothing.” Harold gaped and blinked rapidly. “Oh. The name Doriaye was itself synonymous with wealth. Brother of Ciske Doriaye. fuck. She could’ve sworn they’d entered a tunnel and never exited. she nudged Cruz with her elbow. “Oh. that hideous tan getting darker as she could only assume the man flushed. hands clasped behind his back. pretending not to stare. “Welcome to the Hotel Doriaye. and prestige. knee him in the freaking nuts. I didn’t see you there. a huge glass structure big enough to fit her bathroom. The Doriaye Hotels rivaled the Hilton in popularity and distinction. the woman she’d— Dahlia swallowed around the lump of terror in her throat. Harold. A blond man with an orangey tan smiled at them. Wel-welcome home. That would hurt more. Dahlia tensed.Avril Ashton TOUCH 45 Cruz apparently understood whatever the hell the driver meant because he chuckled. Mr.

TOUCH 46 The elevator doors opened and they stepped out into a living room. sir. “Point me to your bathroom. I’m so dead. The place looked immaculate. “Do you need anything? Food? Drink?” Who could eat at a time like this? She shook her head. and clothes. burning her skin at contact. Dahlia rolled her eyes. “I just want a bath and sleep. Goodnight. And a half?” He raised an eyebrow. and the same gold and purple color scheme. gold shower heads. just a raised platform with about ten wide. Jeezus H! The view alone had her moaning.Avril Ashton God. She uncapped the . “Oh. Harold.” Harold held the elevator open with one hand. er. no enclosure. “Second door on your left. “Yeah. A gold sunken tub sat at the opposite end of the room. “I’ll have a new wardrobe sent up once it’s ready. Dahlia met Cruz’s gaze. shoes size seven. kicking them off to the side as she stood naked.” Cruz looked her up and down. She followed his direction. Doriaye. sir.” The doors closed on his grimace. “Welcome home again. The shower stood in the middle of the room. morning. He turned to her. “Anything I can get you?” Cruz pulled off his leather jacket and dropped it on a chair.” “You heard the lady. she ignored the heated flare in her womb and did an about face. next to the windows overlooking the twinkling dark waters of the beach below.” Those green eyes blazed fire.” And room to think of an escape from the noose tightening around her neck.” She removed the shirt and sweat pants she wore.” “Very good. Mr.” Harold pressed a button inside the elevator. They just stared at each other until she cleared her throat and broke eye contact. entering the humungous bathroom outfitted with mirrored tiles. beautifully decorated in gold and purple. Steeling herself. “Clothes size eight. ma’am. Dahlia bit her lip and went about readying her bath.

“Son of a…bitch!” She kicked at the naked body next to her. you bastard. spooning a hard and hot body. “Why?” Panic swirled red-hot in her tummy. She upended the bottle. “Wake up. Once satisfied. “Why did you do this?” Her voice trembled and Dahlia couldn’t make it stop. Dahlia found herself on a bed. she closed her eyes. warm palm.” Stretching out a hand. Dahlia moaned. she turned off the water and climbed in. opening sleep-heavy eyes.” “Forget me. handcuffed to the bed. Until then. Cruz propped himself up on his elbows. yeah. Hell. “Wake up!” Cruz stirred. teeth barred. Lights. She pushed the button for music and soft jazz filled the room. Milk and honey. He looked on as she tugged on her caught wrist. Music. She’d figure a way out of the mess she was in once her bath was over. Front desk.” she screamed. she planned to relax and enjoy. but her left wrist was restricted. jiggling but refusing to budge. Intercom. sinking into the warm water with a sigh. “You’ll hurt yourself. you sneaky fuck. sweat itched her hairline. Kitchen. She jerked upright. This was the shit. The cold metal bit into her skin. Oh. When next she opened her eyes.” Dahlia swallowed and softened .Avril Ashton TOUCH 47 bottle of bubble bath next to the tub and inhaled. watching as the bubbles rose in the tub. I’ll hurt you. Tiny buttons at the side of the tub caught her eye and she leaned in closer. Leaning her head back. fuck! Dahlia pulled and pulled. “Calm down. he covered her suspended wrist with a large.

“Last night when you found out my name. sitting up with his legs folded under him.” She wrinkled her brow. I-I don’t…I can’t. “What do you plan to do?” “Austin will be in the hotel’s casino tonight. trying to hold back tears threatening to fall. “Suspect all you want. let me go. Austin will be here tonight.” He looked her up and down coolly.” The finality of his words weren’t lost on Dahlia. If Cruz caught up with Austin he’d know. “I don’t get it. toe-curling kinda way either.” “But…” She squeezed her eyes shut. I’m not letting you go. “Are you in there?” She blinked away her fear and nodded. She licked her dry lips. She was fucked. “Hey. “And…I suspect there’s more. what do you want?” “Didn’t we already go over this?” He shifted positions.” Heart beating out of her chest...” Gaze hard and chilling. “You must understand something. something more you’re not telling me. she forced herself to hold his gaze when she wanted to turn away and hide. “But why. And he’ll kill me. “That’s a promise I can definitely keep. Why do you need me?” “You’re my bargaining chip. No fucking way.” She lifted her chin in a small act of defiance.” “You think I didn’t see the look in your eyes?” Cruz raised an eyebrow. “Yes. “Please. he said. Fucked. “You’ll tell me what I need to know. Dahlia. To get him I have to have you.” Fingers snapped in front of her face. “I want Austin and I want you.Avril Ashton TOUCH 48 her gaze.” The word sounded rusty . He’d know the truth about his sister’s death. Dahlia. Within reach—Cruz’s and hers.” Dahlia forgot to breath. I saw the panic and your resolve to run. and not in the good.” He cupped her trembling chin with a sigh. The rush of blood through her veins drowned out Cruz’s words and she watched his mouth move as if from a distance.

Avril Ashton to her ears. And he agreed to it only on one condition. expression anticipatory. he waved a hand. When she just stared. Cruz continued. “As I was saying. “Go on. “We have a meeting set up in a private room.” He pushed a lock of hair away from her forehead and tucked it behind her ear. I’m sure you’re aware of how much he loves his baccarat.” . At her nod.” She did know.” He paused.” Dahlia rolled her eyes heavenward. Ask me what his condition was. TOUCH 49 “Good. “What was—?” “You. He wants you there. Austin will be downstairs in the casino.

no way to bluff her way out of the situation she’d somehow found herself in. she felt the walls closing in. Dahlia bit the inside of her cheek and stared up at the ceiling. He’d fucked her six ways to Sunday. Fast.Avril Ashton TOUCH 50 Chapter Five She opened her mouth then closed it. his tanned skin glowing under the soft touch of sunlight spilling through the sheer drapes at the windows. concentrating on the evenness of her breathing and the loud thumping of her heart. would he find it easy to kill her? To put the gun to her head. Cruz climbed off the bed in all his naked. Sprawled out on her back. arm shackled as Cruz stared her down. she resolved to make it very hard to either man—Austin or Cruz—to kill her. Those bulging muscles looked so good on him. delicious glory and she kept her gaze on him as he spoke into the phone. Still. she’d do it. Fuck if I’m going down without a fight. She’d continue searching for a way out until they took her life away. and squeeze the trigger? Her chest hurt. took her in more ways than one. Fighting the rising nausea. Once he learned of her betrayal of his sister. There really was nothing to say. Sweat slid down her spine. was she a fool to wish Cruz cared? To wish this wasn’t all about revenge to him. Dahlia ignored it. Hell. between her eyes maybe. He’d do it without blinking once he knew. The shrill sound of Cruz’s phone broke the stillness. Trapped with Cruz at her side and Austin soon-to-be on the other side of that door. constricting at the thought. Tight. Twice. her ass was toast. that somehow in some . betraying her nerves where no one could see.

pulling the dark denim over his taut ass in slow motion.Avril Ashton TOUCH 51 miniscule way she meant more than a convenient fuck and bargaining chip? “Yeah. see you in a bit. please.” Dragging his fingers through his hair. and pink stilettos. Shit. “Not yet. The cuffs rattled. he stepped into a pair of jeans.” Cruz ended the call and turned to her. cutting off her words and capturing his attention. “Just keep your mouth shut and you’ll be fine.” Fuck. “I don’t want to gag you but I will. a genuine belly laugh. he grinned. “We’re having company but don’t worry. Unusual blue-green eyes flicked over Dahlia and discarded her presence instantly. “Cruz. The blue-green gaze found Cruz where he stood tugging a black T-shirt . “All right. come on up. who knew him so well. “Can’t I at least get some clothes?” She tugged at her caught wrist. “That’s my business. “Be very quiet. Bright red hair framed her face and fell to her waist in shiny waves. pure and unrestricted. the bastard had her begging and that didn’t sit right with her.” He winked and pulled the covers up and over her nakedness. What now? Phone to his ear. but you’re free to butt in. A woman stepped out clad in a tight black dress stretched over stunning curves and pale skin.” He shook his head. Dahlia. I know you will.” The elevator doors opened with a smooth woosh. She envied the person who made him so at ease. Dahlia had no rhyme or reason for the white-hot jealousy streaking through her veins in that moment. I won’t let you out of my sight.” She gasped.” She jerked her chin at his words.” Turning away. he sighed and straightened. “Nope.” He paused then laughed. but soon.

“Não vamos lá agora. Dahlia gritted her teeth at the urge to tell the bitch to get her hands off Dahlia’s man. Ricki.Avril Ashton TOUCH 52 over his head and widened in pleasure. “Poor bastard. They stared at each other. The tight coil in his gut didn’t really count as losing his mind.” On the bed. Ricki’s mouth lifted at the corners. Ricki lifted her gaze and met Dahlia’s. As if she heard Dahlia’s thoughts. She’d launched into Portuguese. telling him his little lady looked jealous. You look amazing. . “Cruz. The woman spoke to Cruz without taking her gaze off Dahlia. Dahlia threatening bodily harm through her glare. Ricki chuckled. were they going all secret language on her? **** Cruz kept his back to Dahlia. Perfectly plump lips parted on a smile. “I’ve got me a hot date later. If he did. “Parece que a mocinha fica com ciúmes de mim. squeezing her way too tight for Dahlia’s peace of mind. he’d be losing his mind at the thought of allowing the bastard Harrington anywhere near her. eyes laughing out right at Dahlia. Ricki’s gaze flicked over his shoulder and her lips curved slightly. Not fucking cool. Ricki stared at him with those damn eyes all deep and shit. He didn’t want to think about what Dahlia meant to him.” Cruz pulled away and cupped her cheek before brushing a kiss to the corner of her mouth.” “Damn.” Dahlia narrowed her eyes at the unfamiliar language as Cruz’s back stiffened and he spoke. The familiar way they bantered and touched each other set her teeth on edge.” The fuck.” Cruz reached the woman’s side with a quick stride and wrapped his arms around her.

ignoring the hollow in his chest.” she said softly. “You’re dangling her under his nose. She held up a hand. Cruz heaved a weary sigh. “Are you sure about this?” she asked when he faced her. “Where does the naked woman in your bed come in?” Cruz turned away with a shrug.” And every other night as long as Harrington is out there messing with people’s lives. Cruz wrinkled his brow and met her twinkling gaze.” Cruz leaned against the closed door. Cruz frowned. she’d been right there with him since the beginning. crossing her arms over her chest as he locked the door.” Ricki pointed out. but there’s a marked difference between you and Harrington. “What’s funny?” “Even you don’t believe that shit you’re spouting. yes.” Cruz narrowed his eyes. You have to decide what matters most: Dahlia with you. She pulled away once they entered. She’s moved way past bait for you.Avril Ashton “Qual é o seu plano?” TOUCH 53 Cruz scoffed.” Pity flashed in Ricki’s clear gaze for an instant. None. “Listen to what I’m saying before you jump the hell down my throat. Was she doubting him? “And what? I’m not as ruthless?” Ricki knew better. Plan? He had no plan.” “Fuck that. Ricki absorbed his outburst with a raised eyebrow. “Why does it have to be an either or? If—and I stress if—I want Dahlia. “That’s a very dangerous game to play with someone as ruthless as Austin Harrington. I can get rid of Harrington and still have her. she’s bait. You have a conscience. I’m not sure about anything right now. “Come on. “No.” Shoving stiff fingers through his hair. or Austin dead. “we both know shit doesn’t always go as . He took Ricki’s hand and led her into the bathroom. “Your said it yourself. You can be as bad as him if you have to. conscience takes a backseat to revenge tonight.” Ricki laughed. way past a means to an end.

inhaling the familiar expensive perfume Ricki favored. body soft but firm. “I love you. Especially with someone as unpredictable as Harrington. planting a soft kiss on her forehead before she headed off to put stage one of their plan in place. eyes somber. his pulse sped up. For all the years they’d been friends and lovers. but come on. Ricki pulled away. . I think she feels the same way. Yeah. Ricki. but not today.” She pressed a finger over his mouth when he parted his lips. but hope filled his body at the thought that Dahlia may care for him. Her touch was familiar. Not since he’d had Dahlia. Ricki dropped her hand and moved toward the door. Ricki didn’t pull any punches. too. “From the death glare she pinned me with earlier. “I can see what you’re thinking. How sure are you that you’re holding all the cards?” Cruz regarded her silently. “I hope none of us have reason to regret going up against Austin Harrington. Sure this one wasn’t sanctioned by the people they usually contracted with. she was right. “I love you. Ricki couldn’t possibly know. You may even be in love with her. brushing a kiss on his lips.” She squeezed him tight.” Cruz walked Ricki out the bathroom. this was the first time Ricki blatantly questioned his actions on a mission. this was personal.Avril Ashton TOUCH 54 planned. applied subtly of course. He moved away from the door and pulled her into a hug. Cruz took a breath against her neck.” Cruz’s heart thumped. but shouldn’t she know him well enough to know he’d never jump into anything without considering all the angles? She rolled her eyes. but I’ll say it anyway. Normally being this close to her would have him hard. And you may not want to hear this. “I think you care for that woman out there way more than you’re letting on. It needs to be said and who else but me to do that?” He smiled.” He remained quiet and watchful as she cupped his cheek.

sliding down the curve of her full breasts.” Unbuttoning his jeans. then spoke. she was pissed. Cruz had to go back over the words in his head to be sure he’d heard them right. The faraway look in her eyes said her actions barely registered to her. make him pay for Ciske’s death. “Ricki and I are long over. “What was that sojourn into the bathroom about?” “Business.” Dahlia spoke so softly. Dahlia asked. “I don’t like the way you are with her. Cruz licked his lips. She had to fit. and circled her left ankle. “How am I with Ricki?” Her throat worked. Cruz lifted her foot and flicked his tongue over her toes painted deep red. He knelt at the edge of the bed. Yep.Avril Ashton TOUCH 55 Tonight they’d bring down that bastard Har rington. The covers he’d draped over her naked body shifted when she moved. He really liked the way her moist lips parted and she brushed her legs against the mattress. He dipped his tongue between her big toe and the next. He turned away from the closed elevator doors and met the censure in Dahlia’s narrowed eyes. Cruz tugged it down and kicked it off. She inhaled audibly as her body jerked. Carefree. And once he had revenge for his sister marked off his to-do list. She broke their gaze. In his life. Cruz vowed to spend some time really figuring out where Dahlia fit in his life. . “You used to fuck her. He kept his gaze on Dahlia as she followed his movements. his heart pounding in his chest. shifting her attention so somewhere over his right shoulder.” Hiding a smile. he couldn’t see himself waking up the next morning without her in his bed.” “Yeah?” Nostrils flaring. Loose. “Familiar. didn’t you?” The handcuffs clanged as she pulled on it.

Cruz kept his eyes on her as he flattened his tongue down the bottom of her foot and dipped his fingers into her soaked center. She did so slowly.” . “You’re more to me than a means to an end. teasing his nose and setting his taste buds on a frenzy. reluctantly.Avril Ashton TOUCH 56 “And how does that differ to how I am with you?” He continued his journey. “I’m just a means to an end for you. Once their gazes met. Dahlia gripped the sheets. His cock throbbed at the thought. “You’re more than a bargaining chip to use against Harrington. She gasped. “Hmm. flinging them to the floor and exposing her naked body to his hungry gaze. face turned away from him. he slid his free hand down her leg. Tightening his hold on her ankle. The creamy smooth of her skin deserved a thorough licking and lucky for her—and him—they had ample time to indulge.” he ordered.” Body arched. “You-you’re tense and secretive with me. “Fucking look at me!” he snarled. brushing the satiny skin of her inner thigh before tracing the dark outer lips of her pussy with two fingers. tasting her toes one by one. “Look at me.” Her eyelids fluttered and her legs widened. She looked down at him. Her spicy musk wafted to him. enjoying the wet squeeze as her vaginal walls worked over time to keep him trapped inside. Dahlia’s breath and the handcuffs holding her vied for the loudest rattle. shocked arousal brightening her dark eyes. Pre-cum dripped from his hard cock and onto the sheets as he came up on his knees between her legs.” He raised a heavy-lidded gaze to her. head thrown back.” He fucked her sure and steady. Cruz pulled away the covers. The couple fingers inside her became a threesome and he screwed them into her tight heat in measured strokes. but her eyes were closed.

Those eyes were unreadable and he couldn’t look into them anymore so he leaned forward. swelling his cock even more and making him ache. blood rushing through his ears and mingling with her cries as she came. plunging down as he stabbed into her again and again. he worked them. Tentative fingers shifted through his hair. She held him to her. She jerked.” Pressing his thumb on her clit. pressing kisses to her stomach. her chest and the fingers in his hair the only part of her body . he sucked her toes into his mouth. Dahlia. “You’re more than just a tool. slack-jawed stare. Heat blossomed in his groin. scraping his scalp. you’ve been more than just a job. “Argh!” She propped herself up on her elbows. hips snapping. Laying prone. he felt her pulse beat triple-time.Avril Ashton TOUCH 57 Under her wide eyed. Dahlia kept her shimmering gaze on him. “From the second our eyes met in that bank. pupils dilated. He dropped her ankle and crawled over her. stroking his cock and curling the fingers inside her. hand trembling. both their bodies tense and expectant. Movements uncoordinated. tugging roughly on his hard-on as creamy seed poured through his fingers and dripped on her pussy and the inside of her thighs. she regarded him with wide eyes. slurping on them as he pulled his fingers out and rammed them back in. He wrapped his hands around his erection and stroked. the need to come drawing his balls up close to his body. legs splayed. Cruz rubbed his cum into Dahlia’s skin.” Harsh breaths left her body as she rode his fingers. hips lifting to meet his thrusts. but he ignored it. walls clamping down around him. The sound of her release triggered his and he exploded. He was on a mission to prove something and he wouldn’t stop until he’d done just that. Cruz straddled her lower body. fingers twisted in the sheets. He groaned.

as well.” What the hell was she talking about? Cruz opened his mouth to voice the question. “But I think we should table that discussion until after we’ve dealt with Austin. tongue sliding inside his mouth. laying atop her. fingers dragging down the cleft of her buttocks. He pushed a finger into her ass. “You shouldn’t. She opened her eyes then. I care what you think and how you feel even when I have no right. You may not feel the same. breaching the tight ring of muscle with help from her slippery juices.” Cruz narrowed his eyes. knees on either side of his . he slid his hands down her back.” She kissed him. He sank all the way inside and she flinched. Never breaking the kiss. drawing her legs higher.” he said thickly. Her eyes were closed.” He expected joy from her. “Later.” she whispered. nipples pushing into his chest. I care. She wiggled on him. Dahlia humped him. “I care about you. TOUCH 58 He looked up. but I’m glad you do.Avril Ashton moving. one hand tracing her spine while the other dipped lower. The heat of her channel scorched his fingers.” Her voice wobbled and her eyes shimmered brighter. his semi-hard cock settling nicely between the damp heat of her parted thighs. He slid his hand under her head and lifted her off the pillow before cupping the back of her neck. open-mouthed and wet. “But I do. “I care for you more than I should. “I wish I didn’t care what you think about me. “Why shouldn’t I?” Dahlia cupped his cheek with soft hands. but she placed a finger over his lips. making his cock throb and leak where it lay trapped between their bodies. moaning into the kiss. nostrils wide. “I care more than I should. He rolled them until she lay on top of him.” Cruz crawled up her body. walls contracting. reaching deep into his soul with the raw emotion swirling behind her dark gaze. not the heavy sigh she expelled.

He grabbed her hair. Fucking hot. The hot tight clasp of her walls made him wince. came out as a growl.” She gentled the kiss. she sank down on his fingers. So tight in here. Cruz groaned.” His words. “Oh. He watched as she uncapped the bottle and squeezed the stuff into her palm. nails biting. He doubled his fingers. taking his time to work it into her. Love how your hungry ass holds me tight. God!” Her cry echoed in the room. slick palm as she coated him in lube. just like that. pulling open the drawer and grabbing the tube of slick in there.” She leaned over to the night stand.” She whimpered. but she took him greedily. “You want more. plunging down on his fingers. he snarled. thrusting into her cool. get the lube in the drawer. Go on. Shit.Avril Ashton TOUCH 59 body.” Dahlia lifted up and off him.” She threw her head back. “Ungg. fucking her. fuck!” Cruz squeezed his eyes tight. “Fuck. teeth nipping at his bottom lip. stinging. “Oh. body opening wider to accommodate. She dug her fingers into his shoulder. The sharp pain hardened him more. He added another finger. “You want more than my fingers inside that ass. meant to encourage. He rolled his hips up into her wet softness. don’t you?” He leaned forward and slid his tongue down her throat. fucking you hard. ride my fingers. Take it. Reaching behind her. He gritted his teeth at the intense need to come. “Yes.” She shivered. Yes. she circled his cock. Snapping his eyes open. Palms flat on his chest. “Umm. His balls ached and he had to concentrate on taking gulps of air into his burning lungs. “Yes. Mewls left her throat. . “Good girl. bunching the thick locks in a fist as he held her steady. take it. scissoring them to stretch her. Her breath hitched.

“Fuck me hard. pulling them apart as he fucked her. Her body shook. tendons in her neck sticking out.Avril Ashton TOUCH 60 She added some lube to her back entrance then positioned him there. taking her mouth. but she didn’t seem to notice. hips lifting under Dahlia’s fierce ride. cum shooting deep inside her channel.” she murmured against his lips. face buried in the moist valley between her breasts. Moving his hands from her waist. “Yes. Tightening his arms around.” How was a man supposed to say no to that? He sat upright. Hard. She clamped down on his cock. On our relationship. Dahlia convulsed. “Mother of—” Cruz tore at the sheets. and thrust up.” She arched her back. She palmed her breasts. nails cutting into his shoulder as she weathered the storm of her climax. “Argh! Ah. He held her close. drinking down her cries until they stopped. He did it again. Breath left his body. “Damn. A groan tore from her lips. taking him all the way inside her. she sank down onto his cock. yanking the orgasm from him. hands on her hips. “Let’s deal with Harrington then we can concentrate on us. Cruz chuckled. he spoke. Eyes on his. fuck. he palmed the smooth globes of that luscious ass.” He felt the first of her contractions as they grew tighter and tighter.” . With a shout he filled her. pulling at the nipples as she rode him fast. pounding up into her vibrating ass as she rode him.

made her feel beautiful and desirable and cherished. She’d already resigned herself to the inevitable. She allowed herself to be convinced to wear the dress and pile her hair up instead of her usual loose and free look. he’d definitely kick her out of his life. A feeling she wanted to keep as long as possible.Avril Ashton TOUCH 61 Chapter Six Our relationship. clinging to her body like it’d been made specifically for her. Cruz procured her a dress— if one could call it that. or the hint of a breeze from the opened balcony windows. Long after they’d shaken off the lethargy of their lovemaking. The sheer. All Cruz’s doing. while . coral-colored. The halter connected at her nape with a gold clasp. she was naked except for the flesh-colored stilettos. Her nipples pebbled with each move she made. backless creation was gorgeous. No matter the foolish hope blossoming in her chest. If—and that’s a big if—Cruz didn’t kill her on the spot. Dahlia pushed the last pin into her hair and stared at herself in the mirror. and the plunging neckline exposed the swell of her breasts. They had to be downstairs in an hour. She allowed it because she wanted to make him happy. “Wow. wanted to see the special light glow in his eyes when he looked at her. After Cruz learned the truth of her role in his sister’s death. I want to spread you open and fuck you right there.” She spun around. God. she knew better than to think those words would count after tonight. Under the gown. those two words bounced around in Dahlia’s head. She deserved nothing better after the shit she pulled. insides melting at the stunned look of heat and approval in Cruz’s eyes. “You like?” “Like? Shit. That look told her how he felt.

no one else’s. then closed it and swallowed.” He shrugged.” “She knows your tastes.” He was dressed in a black suit and crisp white shirt unbuttoned at his throat. I had Harold bring it up from the jewelry store in the lobby. He opened the box. “Very hot. yet elegant. Mr.Avril Ashton TOUCH 62 you wear that. Simple. She did the rest. “I take it I have Ricki to thank for this ensemble?” She raised an eyebrow and licked her bottom lip. She slid a finger along his lapel and leaned forward. Walking up to her slowly. Diamond studs glinted up at her where they lay nestled in their velvet . Dahlia pushed him away gently. Her heart skipped a beat. “I want you to have this even if—” His speech faltered “—even if nothing happens between us. Lips grazing his ear. “You don’t look half bad yourself. she whispered.” He turned his head and took her lips. he spoke. Dahlia opened her mouth. I just told her get something hot. the other cupping her ass. “Shall we go?” “Not yet. Cruz grunted.” She stared at him. She placed a palm on her stomach and tried steadying her breathing. he stared back. “Yeah. Brushed away from his face.” Too late. his dark hair shone in the low light.” How many women had he instructed Ricki to buy clothes for? The question hovered on the tip of her tongue but she bit it back. kissing her until she squirmed. “I guess she does. She broke the kiss and gazed up at him. Doriaye. “This is yours.” He reached her side and circled her waist with one hand.” He dipped his hand into the front of his pants and brought out a small jewelry box. Now wasn’t the time and she certainly had no right.

“You sound like you’re going somewhere. being with you.” She lifted a hand to touch them then dropped it.” He pulled back. “You’re stunning. “Don’t thank me yet. Dahlia repeated the word over and over as fear threatened to . leaning into his touch.” He cupped her cheek. next to a round bar.Avril Ashton bed. “I want you know I don’t regret this. “Let’s do what we can to make that happen. Breathe.” But then that would be too late.” Emotion swamped her.” “I want you to have your way.” Cruz gathered her in his arms. tears clouding her eyes. The orange-tinted Harold ushered them into a private room darkened by heavy drapes. “Fucking breathtaking. “Put them on me. Wait until all this is over and behind us. they’re gorgeous. Coming here. kissing her nose and forehead.” Dahlia’s heart plummeted to the red soles of her stilettos as Cruz took her hand. She closed her eyes briefly. A baccarat table sat in the middle. He grinned and straightened his tux. hmm?” He brushed a thumb over her bottom lip. “Thank you for this. if I have my way you won’t be going anywhere for a long time. gaze searching hers. leading her out the bathroom and into the nightmare of her own making. I don’t regret any of it. She nipped at his finger and nodded. with his hands behind his back.” She flashed a wobbly smile. “I— thank you. One of the hotel employees stood off to the side. “Time to get this show on the road. I want you to know.” He did so with shaky fingers then stepped away to regard her with a serious gaze. “Dahlia?” TOUCH 63 She’d never heard the hesitation and insecurity in his voice before. She shook her head.

Fear was a bitter taste in her mouth. Davidoff’s Cool Water teased her nostrils.” A fucking stupid plan. His serious gaze clung to hers. holding her captive. “Gin and tonic. she knew she couldn’t. burning her throat. he’d no doubt sensed her fear and tension. “I’ll be right here. Her feelings must have showed on her face because Cruz brushed his lips over hers while he squeezed her. A finger pressed under her chin as Cruz turned her to face him. “Come. he pressed a kiss to her head. She bit her lip. “He’ll be here any minute. not too much. Cruz pressed a hand to the small of her back.” Cruz waved the waiter over and requested her drink along with a whiskey sour for himself. the hairs standing on end on her arms and nape said he was nearby.” he ordered. beg for his forgiveness.” Cruz guided her to the game table outfitted with two chairs.” Her insides froze. “Don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing your fear. “Want a drink?” Fuck yes! She nodded demurely. limbs trembling as she refused to release her hold on . her time was up and she could only shuffle forward in preparation for the invisible noose settling around her neck. He took a seat then pulled her onto his lap.Avril Ashton TOUCH 64 crush her chest.” He rubbed her back as he spoke. only a hint. but a shadow fell over them and she stiffened. She opened her mouth to tell him so. Good man. holding you tight. mouth trembling. but the scent signaled Austin’s arrival. What she wouldn’t give to be able to turn and throw herself into his arms. Dahlia sank onto him with a stifled sigh. But it was too late. “Remember our plan and you’ll be fine. She didn’t see Austin or any of his men but that didn’t mean anything. his callused fingers sensual on her exposed skin. “I don’t think I can do this.” he murmured.” In fact. “You’ll be fine. Wrapping his strong arms around her.” She shook her head. “Keep them coming.

” Austin spoke the name like it tasted foul. so light they were more golden. “Let’s forego the niceties. but he didn’t speak.” Cruz’s body went taut. “I try to never make things easy for you. waiting to do their master’s biding.” “I see that. He never went anywhere without the two thugs. his brown eyes. Harrington. Refused to look up.” His lips quirked in a mockery of a smile. Dahlia glanced around discreetly. She eased her way out of Cruz’s arms and looked up into Austin’s face. but he spent well to look at that way. many more to come. Dark scruffy beard on his strong jaw line made him an unkempt appearance. hugging his wide shoulders and lean hips.” Dahlia cringed inwardly. TOUCH 65 “Well. The gripping tightness of his hold and the flighty pulse at the base of his neck gave away his surprise and anger. Fucking the man I sent to ruin you. “Come now. He was here to make her pay in the worst way. I mean. His men weren’t visible. Austin. Cruz tensed. She shrugged with faked nonchalance. “Take a seat. The tailored tux he wore fit him perfectly. is it?” Austin sneered the name. Mr—Smith. They were probably hiding behind the drapes.” He tssked. We have business to discuss. “Tell me. curling at his nape. Smith. His shaggy blond hair remained the same. One secret down. “You’ve been a bad girl. Dahlia. but she had no doubt they were waiting in the wings.” . don’t be shy. Austin’s gaze flicked between her and Cruz.” Anger flashed in his eyes. bright and hot. “I see you’ve met my wife.Avril Ashton Cruz. flashed fire at her. “How did you enjoy her? In the sack. Score one for Austin. “Hello. Heated anger and payback.” Austin bowed and sat opposite them.” Cruz waved a hand at the table. Framed by long dark lashes.

dead fish? Or does she put in work?” He lifted an eyebrow and waited. giving no hint of his thoughts as he stared up at Cruz. She didn’t look. does she lay under you like a cold. hands clasped.” Austin shrugged but Dahlia caught the wariness in his eyes. “We’re all grown men and we’ve both had her. If looks could kill she’d be a smoky pile of ash on the floor. They never think it’s their fault.” He leaned over the table. Violence crackled and popped in the air. She held his gaze until he broke the contact to speak to Cruz. “There’s a video on here I think you’d like to disappear. thumping against her chest as her stomach sank lower and lower.” Cruz pulled his phone from his jacket and placed it on the table. the audio loud in the stillness. “What do you want. Austin blanked his features.” Austin’s face turned bright red. choosing to stare off into the distance. Cold seeped into her skin despite Cruz’s body heat. Lifting her chin.Avril Ashton TOUCH 66 Mocking laughter sparkled in his eyes. she met that cold golden gaze. “Did you know her name. Cruz pressed a button and the video of Ciske’s death played.” Surprise painted Austin’s face and he didn’t bother to hide it. “What do you want?” “Revenge. that they just aren’t hitting it right. Smith?” “I have something for you. Her heartbeat refused to slow down. the woman you killed?” Cruz leaned . “Tell me. That wouldn’t do. “You know what I think is hilarious? How men always assume something’s wrong with a woman when the bedroom isn’t hopping. Dahlia dug trembling fingers into Cruz’s thigh. Austin wanted him riled up and on the defensive. “Revenge?” Confusion dripped off the word.” “Don’t know what you mean.

” Cruz felt Dahlia inhale. I mean. “Would you tell him.” Cruz nodded. She steeled herself. I just play a bit part. Austin asked her. he curled his lip and eyed the man across from him like a bug under his shoe. “Oh. I think. there were more secrets where that declaration came from. Maybe the ole’ ball and chain would like the pleasure of doing that.” . You’d do the tale better justice. vacillating between punching Harrington in the throat and pushing Dahlia away. How did they keep their marriage a secret? He curled his hands into fists. Dahlia’s breathe froze. “I don’t know. my sister. “Do you want to tell him or should I?” **** Cruz swallowed the taste of bitter ash in his mouth and glanced from the smug hatred on Austin Harrington’s face. understanding and the promise of pain in his gaze. Instead of acting on the impulse heating his blood. Dahlia was married to Harrington and from the heavy silence hanging like a dark cloak over them. on the butt of his gun.” Austin’s brow furrowed. dear? Please. it is her story. A feral smile touched her husband’s mouth. He affected a thoughtful expression as he watched Dahlia.” Tapping a finger to his chin. Austin laughed. “Her name is-was Ciske Doriaye. “Yes. Harrington clasped his hands together.Avril Ashton TOUCH 67 forward. “You got something you want to say to me?” Shrugging. Wife. “You’re a Doriaye? She was your sister?” Austin looked from Dahlia to Cruz and back. to Dahlia’s deathly pale features. Those two were communicating in a language of eye shifts and blinks. Cruz shifted and she saw his hand on his waistband. this is too rich.

“Explain. Cruz cocked the gun. “Shut your fucking mouth. “I gave my wife the task of finding me someone else to fuck since she refused to share my bed. Others counted on him. is that she was the one who got your sister…killed. His chest tightened. He couldn’t look at Dahlia. and lifted the gun.” “Cruz.” He placed his hand on the table. Cruz. “Let me help you two make up your minds. only raised an eyebrow at Dahlia. SIG in tow.Avril Ashton TOUCH 68 Under the table. squared his shoulders. Cruz couldn’t look at her without seeing the lies and secrets.” The words tumbled from her lips as she settled a death grip on his thigh. Nothing would please him more than putting a couple dozen bullet holes in the lowlife scum.” Harrington said. the icy feeling of betrayal crawling through his veins.” The wobbly plea in Dahlia’s voice threatened to unman him. Even he wanted to.” “There’s not much to say.” Cruz managed to not leap from his chair. her body shook. drive him to his knees when he was still seated. “Now!” Dahlia jerked. He’d fucked a married woman. As much as it pissed him the fuck off. dead center. “Five seconds to tell me what the fuck else you’re hiding. Gritting his teeth. Aiming the weapon between Harrington’s eyes.” Perched precariously on his lap. He ignored her as he waved the gun at a grinning Austin. otherwise bullets will be flying and I won’t be responsible for where they land. he barked. Cruz stiffened his spine. I’m so sorry. he had to stick to the plan. but he had a plan. “Cruz. “Speak. Don’t talk to me unless I tell you.” he said slowly. nozzle pointed at Harr ington. and dug deep inside himself to find the cold steel as he lashed out. The man didn’t flinch.” His jaw ticked. All the time they’d spent together and not once did she tell him she was married to his enemy. but he kept his gaze on Harrington. She . “What my wife is trying desperately to tell you. Cruz gripped the butt of his gun tighter. He ignored the tremors. “I’m sorry.

"I couldn't prove it but I knew he'd . "Shut up. you say something. " I'm sorry. The man could be making it all up but Dahlia's expression spoke louder than either of them could. but Dahlia didn't seem to have a problem speaking." "No. Violence clouded his head and vision." he spat." She did as instructed. "Explain what your husband meant by you brought him my sister. She'd gotten his sister killed. At Harrington." Which meant something else entirely." She cast a hateful glance at Harrington. Ciske didn't like men. Cared for her. "C ruz. "The only person I want to hear right now is Dahlia explaining herself. staring down at him. Cruz raised an eyebrow. "Any sudden moves and trust me when I tell you my bullet has no preference.” TOUCH 69 Cruz couldn't speak." Harrington made a zipping motion across is mouth. Dahlia cleared her throat. the clacking of her expensive heels the only sound in the dim room. He had less than ten minutes before the next phase of his plan was put in motion. And I slept with her. agreed to even go near Harrington." he told Harrington. Beside him. he spoke to Dahlia. "Explain why my sister who--who was a lesbian. When she came to a stop next to Harrington. Say something. Harrington smirked and opened his mouth.Avril Ashton brought me Ciske. "Go stand next to your husband. She took the hint. He tightened his finger on the trigger of the gun pointed at Harrington." Cruz motioned with his gun. please." Keeping his gaze on the man opposite him. her cue to begin talking. Cruz schooled his features despite the voice shouting at him to lash out at her. "You speak and I shoot." Cruz kept his voice low." She got off his lap and stood next to his chair. Cruz flicked his gaze over to the digital clock above the bar. " I woke up one morning after a trip to Las Vegas married to him.

" Her wide eyes beseeched Cruz. The plan was to maybe pay someone to go along with it.Avril Ashton TOUCH 70 slipped something in my drink. but it would be the word of Austin Harrington against mine." Austin piped up. When he'd started on his quest for revenge. When I asked for a divorce he said he'd tell the bank I was stealing from them. "She--Ciske made her intentions clear from the start. "I saw that as my way out. after using me for a punching bag." "Shut it!" Austin compressed his lips." She paused." "That wasn't a lie." Her voice wobbled then. if I found someone else to take my place in his bed. Ciske--your sister--came on to me. to say the least. to get as far away from him as I could and I took it. By then we were back in New York so I went to a club in the city. "I hadn't done anything wrong. I told her my husband wanted to see me with another woman. I couldn't take those odds. " A lone tear crawled slowly down her cheek. but the minute I sat down at the bar. Dahlia's participation in his sister's death had him off kilter. "He finally agreed to let me go." Cruz swallowed a lump of emotion. not once did he consider the possibility of having a wrench this big thrown into the mix. Cruz stayed quiet. "I agreed to a date and had her meet me at Austin's place." "What did you do? " The words rumbled in his throat and she hesitated. If she wanted sympathy she was barking up the wrong tree. Seeing her in . He'd been focused on simply making Harrington pay and never thought other people beyond Harrington and his goons might be involved. I wasn't interested but I saw the opportunity to deal with Austin and I took it. "I would've paid good money to see her get eaten out by another woman. he was shit out of any kind of softness or compassion toward her. Dahlia swiped at her eyes. "What did you do? " She flinched at his shout. "What the fuck did you do to my sister?" " I tricked her.

Gut her the way she'd gutted him. "You're a heartless bitch. burning under his skin. The tears had stopped and she stood." She choked out the word. taking his abuse like a trooper. hiding behind your perfect facade.Avril Ashton TOUCH 71 obvious pain and anguish tugged at him. Couldn't make himself forget her transgressions against him and Ciske. Harrington held up both hands in surrender. white hot. You wanted to get away from the bastard so you handed over my sister to save your own ass. Dahlia shifted back. Cruz yanked his . "You set her up and left her alone with a fucking mad man? " " I-I'm sorry." "You're fucking sick!" He spat the words and she flinched under his verbal assault. She hadn't crumbled. hadn't let go of her sleek. "I wanted you. I just wanted--" "You wanted to save yourself. focused on the table between them. huh? " He cocked his head to the side. pulling at the place inside him that had softened just enough to allow her to matter. "She became extremely hurt when I confessed the truth of why she was naked Austin's bed while I got ready to board a plane back to Miami. untouched appearance and he ached to tear it away. No. "No. jumped to his face. But he couldn't dwell on it." "Yes. eyes wary. regarding her with all the contempt he could fit into his gaze. that was all it was." Dahlia whimpered then bit her lip. Expose her. Slime. At least with Harrington what you see is what you get. spine straight. Pushing back his chair. His body shook with the force of it." Anger rushed through him. Cruz jumped to his feet. "Why shouldn't I kill you." Cruz made a sound in his throat and her gaze. You're a different breed. "Did you think spreading your legs for me would save you from my wrath? My bullet? " She started shaking her head before he finished speaking.

once flashing with greed and hate.” “And my sister witnessed this?” “She was quite offended. had gotten her killed.” He blinked sharply. “Now I get what she was saying about people listening to her. Harrington’s eyes darted between Cruz’s gun and his face." Tears rushed down Dahlia’s cheeks faster. Even if at the . “Some things you have to do yourself. He had to die.” Cruz took a breath. His sister‘s caring and kind nature. Those eyes of his. grew dull. He spoke as if talking about something as mundane as shopping or taking a walk in the park. “Tell him. but her words were obviously meant for him. That they’d take her serious.” Cruz frowned. The two of you deserve each other and I'm here to make sure you go to hell together.” Harrington sounded perplexed. “What do you mean she overheard you bribing a judge? Don’t you have people who take care of those things for you?” Harrington shrugged. “Tell him what you did or I will.Avril Ashton TOUCH 72 SIG from the small of his back and pointed it at Dahlia. One minute before I make you and your husband pay. “She overheard me bribing a judge. “Something about being paid below minimum wage. “I couldn’t have her blabbing to anyone who’d listen. A few of my employees at a factory I own in New Jersey filed a class-action lawsuit. "You have one minute to tell me the real reason Ciske was killed. The fight was up. “She was all set to go to the cops and the media.” Cruz took note of the instant Harrington accepted his fate. I’m sick off keeping your secrets. discrimination.” Dahlia didn’t look at Harrington. you bastard. the one he’d envied so much. “Turns out everyone indeed has a price. Like I’d personally harmed her or her family.” He waved a dismissive hand. or contrite.” He held Cruz’s gaze. I wanted the shit to go away so I called up the judge and offered him some money. and overworking. Not once in his retelling did the bastard Harrington come across as sorry.

” Cruz tried keeping his face expressionless.” Cruz walked over to him slowly.” Dahlia’s pleading voice trembled. “Oh. “Let me guess. stifling her cries as Harrington raised his hand slowly. Please. opened his mouth. he screwed it on as Harrington watched dispassionately and Dahlia sniffled. Harrington looked up. “No one will be killing you. but inside he was salivating for blood. baring his teeth.” Harrington stared at the gun. “You won’t have the help of your thugs.” Har rington bluffed. He handed him the weapon with the silencer in place. “Just let me know if you want me to do it. but don’t have the stones to take it. You’ll do it yourself. I mean.” Cruz repositioned the gun he’d had trained on Dahlia. hundreds of millions were on the line. God. “Murder is cheaper?” “You can’t kill me. grasping the butt of the gun. now pointing it at Harrington. Justified. they’d miss me. and Cruz cut off whatever he was . “People will question it. Maybe his actions here tonight would be considered unnecessary to someone on the outside looking in. “So it was cheaper to kill her than lose a lawsuit.” Harrington reached out a trembling hand.” Cruz smiled. but to him it was fitting. pressing the muzzle of the gun to his temple. “Take it. Dahlia clasped her hands and brought them to her mouth. Put it to your temple and squeeze. focused on the man seated in front of him. You can dish it out fine. I’m thinking you’ll prefer that to the torture I have planned for you. terror evident in his face. Cruz ignored her. You should be able to pull off that task yourself.Avril Ashton TOUCH 73 time I thought she was no one important. the hint of impropriety would’ve messed things up for me. I’ll be happy to oblige. is that it?” Removing the silencer from his jacket pocket.” Cruz smirked. The blood of the two people in the room with him.

A strangled cry broke from Dahlia’s throat and she collapsed. Blood trickled from the single bullet hole at his right temple.Avril Ashton going to say. TOUCH 74 “Save the last words for your final destination. falling sideways.” Harrington’s lashes fluttered closed. he spoke calmly. this isn’t the place or the audience. Cruz pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed Ricki. A muted pfft sounded and he jerked. “Send in the cleaners. When she answered on the first ring. dropping to the floor in a heap.” .

“Please come with me. offering the apology so late in coming. That’s right.Avril Ashton TOUCH 75 Chapter Seven Dahlia couldn’t feel her limbs.” . The deafening silence inside the vehicle hurt her head and her throat felt raw. Dead. She couldn’t make out anything other than tanned skin under the black cap pulled low. Her heart ached. She sat in the backseat of a vehicle as it moved with no idea how she got there or where she was headed. She’d screamed and begged. right? Except she couldn’t thaw out the film of ice sliding through her veins long enough to really care about that. She clenched her stiff fingers in her lap. Not that she blamed him. The look in Cruz’s eyes as he eyed both her and Austin. He’d wanted blood and as she stood there she just knew without a shadow of a doubt hers would be spilled. By his hand but that was mere semantics. Cold. screaming as Austin’s body slumped over in that chair. she’d been screaming. The instant two men entered the private room after Austin pulled that trigger. The man seated next to her hopped out and held the door open. Pierce. screaming as Cruz turned those dead eyes on her and lifted his gun hand as though to shoot her. but she absently wondered if he was one of the men who’d stolen her from her bathroom a lifetime ago. Cruz thrust her towards them with muttered instructions to take care of her. The vehicle lurched to a stop and she sat up. Her mistakes and actions took away his sister and she should have confessed but instead she’s taken the coward’s way out. and disappeared. She loved him and he hated her. Ms. She should be glad he hadn’t killed her. Austin was dead.

Pierce. so needy. lay into her for all her dark deeds? She frowned. searching the shadows for a glimpse of a tall body and wide shoulders. Ms. deserted except for the small plane waiting. She stared down . He helped her to a seat at a window. wherever he was. Her heart remained with Cruz. flying smoothly. without the man she loved. she wouldn’t. He grasped her tightly with a slightly callused palm. So he knew of her sins and how close she came to losing her life by the man she loved. She turned away and the man walked off. Have a safe trip. A sob caught in her throat as she watched the night pass her by. “Where’s…” She licked her cracked lips. The pilot finally had them in the air. bending and disappearing. She sighed and offered her hand to him. a small laptop peeking out from it. She was complicit in all the events that happened since Ciske approached her in the bar. Engines whirred. “Come. “The pilot is ready to take off. her seat and body vibrating as the plane began moving. no doubt. His eyes were gray. buckling her belt when her trembling fingers made the task impossible. sharp. She was on a way back to a life she no longer wanted.” The man grabbed her elbow and led her to the plane. she recognized his voice now. no one about. “Where is he?” She sounded so pathetic.” She jerked her head up. Was she alone on the flight? She looked around. The man spoke.Avril Ashton TOUCH 76 Yep. Didn’t he think she’d go to the cops and give him up? But no. boarding with her. helping her out. He was one of her abductors. “You’ll be taken back to Miami where a driver will pick you up at the airstrip and take you home. For her. A large unopened duffel bag sat on a seat next to her. Her feet hit the ground and she lifted her head. and full of pity. Dahlia stared out the window into the darkness. Her ride. A wide open space.” What? No bullet to the head? No Cruz standing at the ready to tar and feather her.

Her heartbeat tripled. to make them pay for my . Pierce. “What-what are you doing here?” She grimaced at the heavy tremble in her voice. Dahlia shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. almost innocent. Soft and steady. Then he came into view. “I know a great many things. revenge a bright gleam in the green depths. knew his tones and that mention of her mother was a threat. “Yes. His lips curled into a smirk. “Cruz. “You have me here. “Is she still a teacher over there in Jacksonville?” Those words.” Anger pushed its way through her.” Those green eyes flicked over her. footsteps drew closer and she tensed. “Surely you didn’t think it would be this easy?” He dropped into the seat opposite her and pulled the duffel bag onto his lap. But she knew him now. “Why are here?” Turning on the laptop. It’s not fair to bring them in. he didn’t bother looking at her. Cold. His scent hit her first. Ms. ‘Tell me about your mother. a slow moving of the muscle around his lips that never made it to his eyes. A promise to cut her down the way she did him. Had he come back for her? Open disdain brought his dead eyes alive. hot tears running down her face.Avril Ashton TOUCH 77 as the island drew farther and farther away. Voices jerked her head around.” His gaze met hers then. “Please. my mother is still there. She ignored the stabbing pain in her chest and bit her bottom lip.” His fingers flew over the keyboards.” He grinned.” Her voice wobbled. She brought a hand to her throat. Destroy her family like she did his. “Do what you want with me.” She jumped to her feet. But you already know that. arms spread wide. but please. “I’m nowhere done with you. my family…they know nothing about this. do what you want. barely taking note of the pulse there fluttering a mile a minute. Hard.

“I’m so sorry. “Cruz. “You know. She dropped back into her seat. Had she spoken out loud? Was she so stupid to confess… Cruz’s face shuttered. A scream gurgled and died under his hold. I-I deserve whatever you have planned but please…” She laid a trembling hand on his arm. shame long gone.” TOUCH 78 An eyebrow shot up. isn’t it?” “You know me well. I have to say I really regret not fucking you over the way Austin hired me to. defeated. please. just shifted away from her touch. She’d get on her knees.” He didn’t say anything. “Don’t hurt my family. but then you wouldn’t have the satisfaction of watching me suffer up close and personal. He was right. like it pained him. beg until her throat turned raw if she thought she’d be able to reach past that wall of ice Cruz had erected to keep her out. “Fair? Really? You had no qualms in making my sister pay for your mistakes. .” She leaned toward him and choked out the words. but she managed to lift her chin and launch her own volley. grabbing her by the throat. He finally closed down the laptop and met her gaze. God. of course.” “I love you. but he pounced upright. She felt his retreat even though he remained seated. “Yes.Avril Ashton mistakes. the hatred and disgust still burned bright. Not really any progress. Never once did she consider the repercussions of her actions. “Is that so? You love me?” The words left him slowly. “I’m so sorry.” Oh. carefully. Horror froze her insides. “I-I…” She tried a hasty backtrack. You’d be in jail right now.” Begging was now second nature to her. She hadn’t given a thought to anyone but herself. That is what you want. Say you’ll leave my family alone.” That verbal blow nearly put her under.” Those words took the fight out of her.

“You’re a liar. scary sound grating on her spine.” Rough coughs tore from her throat. hands wrapped around her middle as tears burned her eyes and clouded her vision.” She held her body still. Cruz. “Lucky me then. Now she knew for certain he didn’t love her. batted at her face and neck.” He abruptly dropped his hand and moved back. Fear clutched her insides. took her breath away. in his eyes.” “Please. unable to control the trembling of her limbs. “Please. “No. Dahlia shook her head. Please. I wanted you. I believe nothing you say. “Open those fucking eyes and look at me. had to see it in her eyes. Holding back things you knew I needed to know. She snapped her eyes shut.” His hot breath.” He laughed. Is that was she did? Slept with him in hopes he’d come to care and eventually forgive when he learned of her transgressions? She couldn’t have. “Say it again. the harsh. The bloodlust on his face.” He squeezed her harder and she gasped. hands limp at her side. but tears ran down her cheeks. Dahlia? Before or after you lied to me about my sister’s death or your marriage to Harrington?” She pursed her lips. Nothing. He didn’t feel the same and he’d make her life miserable. “Cruz.” She grabbed the arm at her throat. Why couldn’t he see it? “Your kind of love I don’t need. flavored with whiskey.” she whimpered. “When did you decide you loved me.” He had to know how she felt. Did you think all it would take was a quick slide up inside that tight pussy to make me forgive you?” More tears fell. unlike any she felt up to that point. I love you. Dahlia?” His eyes burned into hers as he squeezed. eyelids flying open.Avril Ashton TOUCH 79 “You love me. Dahlia doubled over. I love you. If he didn’t . Dahlia. “It’s true. “You spread your legs so easily for me while keeping your secrets.

holding her wrists with one hand as she struggled for breath. a futile effort to stifle her wounded cries. Raw. a finger tapping at his chin as he eyed her.” He sounded like he was placating a pouting toddler. “It’s time to step into those big girl panties. so what did you do?” “My child died. but the man intent on destroying her had just yanked it open. “Come now. “Did Harrington ever find out you were pregnant with his child?” Dahlia must’ve blacked out from the shock.” she screamed. “Motherfucker!” She swung at him.” His words flowed smooth and deceptively warm. “Did you tell Harrington you killed his child? Is that why he hated you so much?” His impatient fingers peeled away the hand she held over her mouth. Whimpers. her loss. to think. She hadn’t thought about that part of her life.” Tears poured and she couldn’t stop them or the words . but his razor-sharp reflexes prevented her feeble blows from landing on his face and shoulders. Come clean about the child you didn’t want. Sounds echoed in her ears. Mine!” “Yeah?” He raised an eyebrow calmly.Avril Ashton just kill her outright. for so long. Anguished. “Tell me.” She snapped her eyes open. “I don’t see that child around here. Dahlia squeezed her eyes tighter and covered her mouth with a trembling hand. Dahlia. Everything around her turned black. no time for hysterics. Dahlia. “Don’t fucking tell me what I did and didn’t want. “Open your eyes. ankles crossed. Hers. It hurt to breathe. “That was my child. her chest heaving.” TOUCH 80 She shifted her gaze to where he’d sprawled back in his seat. She’d pushed the entire heart wrenching event way to the back of her mind and slammed the door shut.

because the bastard who took advantage of me when I was drunk in Vegas used me as his personal punching bag. spreading through her body. but my choices have always been shitty. I never planned on telling him. It was my blackmail.” Reluctant understanding dawned in his eyes. She sat back and stared out the window of the plane. That night. “My faith was misplaced.” Then and now. “That’s when you lost the baby. I followed and taped it with my phone. “I got there as he and his men were dragging your sister to the roof. but I’m afraid this time I’ll have to disappoint. she continued.” Cruz released her abruptly. Trying to keep as detached as possible.” “I realize you wanted to pin yet another death to my long list of sins.” “So what happened?” She shrugged. “I loved that tiny spark inside me the instant.” . memories in her head playing out before her eyes. Thinking about what she’d lost. “All he did was beat me up and steal the recording.” She twisted her lips. he didn’t know I was pregnant. “No. what Austin did to her would’ve sent her over the edge so she’d locked the painful stuff away. “I went to ask for a divorce. There was no way he could touch me now that I had him on tape committing murder.Avril Ashton TOUCH 81 from falling. To meet his eyes.” She spoke in monotone. you see.” Her voice broke. because I was keeping my child. Hide out and live with my child. swallowing before she found the courage to look at Cruz where he sat opposite her. “The plan was to go somewhere far way. “I doubt he would’ve cared. She’d never taken the time to mourn her child properly.” She turned slowly. “My child died before he had a chance to live. He wasn’t father material and I don’t even know why I thought he was boyfriend or dating material.” The burning in her chest got bigger and wider. the second. I realized he was there.

“To love me. only an aching hollow in her chest. “I want you to give yourself permission to do what you want. she tipped her face up. face set in harsh lines. not that she expected him to.” “But I’m here. weary down to her bones. Cruz. We both had our hearts ripped out. He’s dead and I’m free of him.” His jaw tightened but she ignored it. I want to try to fix it. your understanding.” “Which is what?” He tried for aloof but she caught the spark in those deep forest greens. I’ve asked for your forgiveness. a snort or a laugh. and cupped his jaw. but I see you’re all about the revenge. “But he took away my child too. “We both lost that day. but you won’t let me. an opening. “I don’t need your permission. He tensed but she reveled in the warmth of his skin and the sting of the short hairs on his jaw line. “You want me to trust you. “No.Avril Ashton TOUCH 82 He didn’t flinch.” He made a sound. “You want me to forget all the lies and your betrayals and trust you?” He didn’t scoff but he may as well have. “Why did he then turn around and store the recording in your bank vault?” “You think I know how the bastard’s mind worked?” She flung the words at him. I don’t want you to forget. “You want your pound of flesh? Take it.” Disbelief flared in his eyes and darkened his cheeks. “Do your worst.” Dropping her head on the back of her seat. but thanks.” His lips curved in a sardonic grin.” .” Dahlia met his eyes. I’m not going to fight or beg or plead any more. is that it?” He leaned forward. “I don’t know and don’t care to.” Why couldn’t he see that? “Austin took away your sister and I own my part in that. “You’ll never be free of me.” She sighed.” She took a chance. She had no more expectations.

and he shouldn’t be anticipating it the way he did.Avril Ashton TOUCH **** 83 Cruz didn’t look at Dahlia the rest of their quick flight back to Miami. Now as then. This new plan of his put them in constant contact. Loving Dahlia meant heaping another pile of betrayal on top of the many he’d racked up by not being there for Ciske. but he looked forward to her anger. heels clicking on the ground outside.. The wheels of the plane screeched as they taxied down the deserted airstrip partially hidden by tall brush. He ducked his head and followed suit. and he wanted like he wanted then too. And how could he possibly love her? All they’d done was have sex while she walked around with her secrets. I won’t do it. in the bank. The sky was still dark. Eyes wide and vulnerable. to touch her. she called to him. She still wore the dress and heels he had Ricki get her. they’d beat the sun’s rising. He zipped up his laptop case. I won’t do it. lips plump and parted. but he couldn’t get Dahlia’s words out of his head. A lifetime and a half ago. Bet she thought he’d leave her alone now. stuck to each other like fucking glue. He knew the instant she saw the . Wipe the pain away. but even with her hair a mess and makeup smudged. Give myself permission to love her. she was a beauty.her body and her eyes. but the August air was muggy. He scoffed silently as he unbuckled his seatbelt. stretched and followed Dahlia as she hotfooted it to the exit. His memory threatened to take him back to the first time he’d seen that look on her face. She deplaned ahead of him. The plane stopped moving and she shot to her feet. He fisted his hands and stood as well. A tight smile curved his mouth.. But I won’t. His mouth shouldn’t be watering. He kept his head down chatting with Ricki via the laptop.

God. Maybe this close proximity thing wasn’t such a good idea. Hard. His heart…he didn’t know what his heart wanted. she snapped her eyes closed as her chest heaved. We’ll be living together for the foreseeable future. he whispered in her ear. He slammed Dahlia’s door closed and jogged over to the driver’s side .” He chuckled. When she opened them again. There. He much preferred the fire and anger to the quiet martyrdom and pained vulnerability she carried around like a cloak.” he instructed. He stifled the smile of satisfaction threatening to curve at the sight. “Hop in. “You son of a bitch!” Nostrils flared. The blaze of fire in her eyes. He hurried after her. Coming up behind her. “Where are you going?” He brushed a thumb over her bottom lip. I’d shoot you between your fucking eyes. His face stung. “Want me to get you one?” Her eyes narrowed and she stomped away to the SUV.” A shiver ran from her to him then she swung around to face him. “I wish I had a gun. even now his cock throbbed and pressed up against his zipper. his cock jerked. “I’m coming home with you. she froze in her tracks with a muted gasp. “It’s our ride. “What—what the hell was that for?” He blinked at her stupidly. hate filled her gaze. exposing a creamy thigh to his hungry gaze. grasping hold of the front passenger side door and yanking it open. After a moment’s hesitation. she did.Avril Ashton TOUCH 84 black SUV waiting. “I told you. How was he supposed to keep his hands off her? His head might want to stay away but his body didn’t. Her pupils dilated. “What the fuck is this?” “What do you think it is?” He winked.” She slapped him. The material of her dress slid up her leg. babe. you’re not getting rid of me.” “But…” her mouth opened and closed.

Dahlia buckled her seatbelt and turned to him.” He unbuckled his seatbelt and pushed a button under the seat. Dahlia broke their eye contact. “Wha-what?” “You fucking heard me. Something told him he always would. if he slid a finger into her. “Fuck!” She jumped at his harsh expletive. He stared at her uncovered legs. filling the space between them. Shit. Still needed her.” He held her gaze until awareness sizzled between them.Avril Ashton TOUCH 85 of the vehicle. deeper. Her lips parted and the pulse at the base of her neck sped up. Ripe and aroused. As he slid behind the wheel. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. falling. he still wanted her. “Something like that. She shifted under his scrutiny and he caught the first whiff of her musk. His fingers curled into his palm. His body quivered at the thought. “Because I want to. moving it back. Dahlia gaped at him.” He grabbed the material of her dress . he’d forgotten she wore no underwear beneath that fucking dress. He hadn’t even started the engine but he felt like he was moving. finally folding it her lap. Despite it all. “Why do you have to stay with me?” Her soft question rang loud in the quiet of the SUV. no witnesses?” He barked a laugh. Her musk grew stronger. looking away as she gathered the hem of her dress in her fists and dragged it up her legs. pulling her into his lungs.” He answered her question bluntly. “Cruz—” “Spread your legs. remembering. He imagined just how wet and slippery her pussy would be if he touched her right then. into her eyes. “What is this? No drivers. He looked up.

“Touch. Breathless cries fell from her lips. scraped against her walls and her channel clenched around him.” He needed so badly he couldn’t finesse the demand. “You need to be touched. Cruz blinked down at her writhing torso.” He traced her outer lips with his free hand and she arched. He swallowed and fought for control. Her hips lifted and he plunged two fingers inside her tight cunt. he dropped an openmouthed kiss on her pussy. and she cried out. grasping his erection with his left hand. didn’t want to. the left she positioned on the back of his seat. As familiar as the salty musk filling his nose. tearing it. She screamed. swollen and erect. Dahlia. Her right leg ended up on the dash.” He whispered the word. please. Dahlia licked her lips and obeyed. outer lips swollen and ready. A welcome embrace. “Yes. don’t you?” He flicked her clit. Her body jerked. For him. for shit’s sake. “So fucking pretty. They were exposed. Soft and hot and wet. She gasped. He twisted his wrist. Alone inside a vehicle on an abandoned airstrip. jerking himself off as her legs trembled and her fists clenched. He grunted and pulled down his zipper.” Her head thrashed back and forth. “Touch me. Her pussy gripped his digits. He pulled his fingers all the way out then slammed three back in. his fingers . He hissed. He tore her dress all the way up to her waist. ringing in his ears. parted lips. “You want this.” “Yes. exposing the pink pussy wet and glistening. her whimpers filling the tight space. head banging on the window as her legs trembled. Her moist.Avril Ashton TOUCH 86 gathered in her lap and pulled. The sexiest sight.” Leaning over her splayed body. Fuck.” He tugged on his cock. “Spread those fucking legs.

Mentally. Control. Cruz gritted his teeth. Tearing his gaze away. Don’t—don’t turn away. “Cruz. “Cruz. Remember who she is. Remember the plan.Avril Ashton digging her out. Fucking hell. please.” He rolled down his window to buy time. He wiped his damp fingers on his pant leg and started the SUV. A silver tear rolled own her cheek. gulping in air as he retreated from her physically. he stared down at his fingers glistening with her juices and steeled himself against the urge to ram them in his mouth and suck. He’d use her and discard her.” Her aroused denial was breathy as she stared at him with heavy eyes. Cruz groaned and yanked his hand away from her. To gather her . He ached to reach out and wipe those tears away. Remember the lies. To be near her. he was pretty sure he came for her. Trouble was. Everything else was an excuse. but at least it cleared his mind of the fogged lust. pulling at the last shred of sanity he had left. covering the parts of her body he’d exposed as best she could with the remaining tatters of the dress he’d decimated. walk away after he got what he came for. It didn’t cool his body down. and began riding his fingers. Spine tingling contractions vibrated on his fingers. He needed some. From the corner of his eye he watched as she righted herself. inhaling the humid early morning air. Flimsy at best. lifted her lower half off the seat.” He breathed through his mouth. TOUCH 87 Dahlia gripped the door handle. “No. fingers clenching around the steering wheel as he drove off.

Avril Ashton



in his arms and kiss their problems away, but he couldn’t and he shouldn’t want to. She stared out the window on her side as he drove through the nearempty Miami streets. When he pulled up in front of her house, she spoke. “What do you want?” He smiled. This, he could do. Live up to her worst fears, crush her soul. He could do it, because it was expected. Funny how he got no pleasure in playing monster to the one woman he was hard pressed to resist. “You’re a widow now.” He turned off the vehicle and faced her. “More importantly, you’re Austin Harrington’s widow.” Her brow wrinkled. “This matters why?” “Ahh, Dahlia. It matters because as his wife you now hold fifty-two percent of his assets. You’re majority holder in all his businesses.” Her eyes grew wider with each word he spoke. Understanding dawned with sickening devastation on her face. “You-you want Austin’s businesses?” “Good God, no.” He snorted. “What kind of man do you take me for?” He waved a hand when she opened her mouth. “Rhetorical, babe. No, you’ll assume your place as the new head of Harrington Industries and all its holdings, foreign and domestic.” Tears sparkled and fell like liquid diamonds from her eyes. He hardened his spine and cursed his heart for wanting to apologize even as he said, “You’ll be the face of the company. I’ll be the force behind you.” The hand she’d raised to wipe away the tears fell limp in her lap. “You what?” “I’ll tell you what to do with the company and you’ll do it no questions asked.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “If you don’t, well…” He let her imagine the possibilities. Stark horror colored her face a pretty pink blush. “Blackmail?” Cruz shrugged. “You say potato.”

Avril Ashton



Chapter Eight

He helped her out the vehicle and up the stairs into her house despite her colorful protests. She fell silent as they stood in her lit entryway and Cruz glanced at her. His stomach dropped. She was radiant, yes. Her lips red and swollen, her body lithe and tight, but her eyes were despondent. Cold. Dead. She’d given up. He knew it, felt it as if she’d spoken the words out loud. His feet moved toward her before he caught himself and froze. He got what he wanted, so why did he feel like shit? “Come on.” He grasped her elbow, directing her to the bedroom he’d visited once. The place smelled musky, locked up tight for the days she’d been away. In the bedroom he flicked on the light and stood beside her, staring at the unmade bed. What a difference a few days made. The last time he’d been here, he had no idea of the secrets and lies Dahlia Pierce was capable of, no idea the woman he lusted after was involved intimately with his sister’s murder. And now he was intimately involved with her. Dahlia jerked away from his grasp and stalked over to a closet. “What are you doing? You should get some rest.” She flung the closet doors open and dug inside, speaking to him over her shoulder. “I need to change the sheets on my bed.” “Here, let me do it.” He walked up behind her and she shifted away. “I’ll make the bed, you go take a shower. It’ll make you feel better.” The irony of his words weren’t lost on them both and she scoffed before hurrying to the bathroom. Cruz stared after her. Already he regretted his plans, already he wanted to drop to his knees and beg Dahlia’s forgiveness. Already he wished their circumstances were different, that he was different. Shaking his head, he quickly stripped the bed and remade it with a set

Avril Ashton



of gray sheets and pillow cases. He also replaced her brown and gold blanket with a red one and folded it neatly at the foot of the bed, the way Ciske had taught him. When he finished he made his way to the kitchen, searching the fridge and cupboards for any food still edible. As he heated up a can of tomato soup and waited for bread to finish toasting, he questioned his motives the way he knew Dahlia would. Direct from settling a virtual noose around her neck he was here, acting like he cared, going out of his way to take care of her. Cruz mentally shrugged. Maybe he just wanted to protect his investment. No one could fault him for that, right? Shit. He ran his fingers through his hair. He didn’t believe that and no one else would either. He poured the hot soup into a bowl and fished the toast out of the toaster and onto a plate. Spying a serving tray next to the dish rack, he loaded the dishes on that, along with a glass of orange juice and a spoon then hurried back to the bedroom. Dahlia stood naked in the middle of the room, a towel wrapped around her head, a lost look on her face. She barely noticed his arrival. “Hey, I brought you something to eat.” She blinked at him, owlish and sad. “Fattening up the pig, huh?” He kept his gaze on her face as he placed the tray down on the bed. “Get dressed and eat then you need to rest.” She removed the towel on her head with a heavy sigh, shook her wet hair free, and climbed up on the bed. Cruz rushed to grab the tray of food before they spilled. Once she settled beneath the blankets, he sat beside her and dipped the spoon into the soup. “Open.” She did as told without a word and he fed her until she ate everything. Looking down at her Cruz felt strangely calm and domestic, taking care of her felt good. Right. He gathered the dishes and stood. “Get some rest, Dahlia.”

His grip on the phone tightened.” “God. “I feel like I literally kicked her in the gut.” He smiled. so fucking low. “Hmm.” “Atta boy. “Did you hear me?” He frowned at the phone in his hand. She stiffened. If you recall I called you a fucking ass when you came up with this damn plan of yours. cause unless Miz Pierce is standing next to you.” “I can’t do it. “This is all you.” . Ricki didn’t speak. actually. “Ricki?” “I heard you. cajoling as hell.” “And you get to do it twice. Cruz brushed a lock of wet hair away from her cheek.” “What do you think?” She sighed.” “Because I know you and I knew you’d regret it. Ricki.” “And if this was any other job it wouldn’t be a problem. “Like shitting bricks.” Why in the hell was Ricki so gleeful about this? “Do I have to tell her? I’m much better suited to the role of bastard. “Was that so hard?” Cruz snorted.” Ricki cooed in his ear. yes. Ricki answered on the first ring.” He shook his head. pulling the covers up and over her shoulders.” He pictured Ricki grinning into the phone. Cruz. you’ll have to tell her how you feel.Avril Ashton TOUCH 91 She turned away from him. would it?” “No. “And why is that? Why is it a problem?” That damn Ricki. “Thought I’d hear from you sooner. “Because I love her. In the kitchen he deposited the dishes in the sink and pulled out his cell phone. He stared down at her for a minute in absolute silence then exited the room.” He slumped against the counter. All of it is your doing and only you have the power to stop it.” The words burst from him like air from a balloon. “You did. Holding the tray with one hand.

Dahlia didn’t need to know how he felt.Avril Ashton TOUCH 92 Ricki sighed. held hostage. you are hopeless. Dahlia hated him and she had every right. His lungs burned at the thought but this wasn’t about him. he shook off the pitying sense of loss and crossed the . she had to get them back and for that to happen Cruz had to let her go. and he was sticking to his decision. As he allowed himself to embrace that fact. Her soft snores reached him where he stood in the doorway. Cruz frowned and stared at his phone. he also accepted the realization he’d been in love with her since that day at the bank. Mind made up. “Damn it. probably wished his ass dead. He was heartless. How in the hell did Ricki slam a cell phone shut? He shook his head.” The phone slammed in his ear. “And freaking clueless and I’m very glad I’m not near you else I’d kick you in the ‘nads. Maybe he wanted to punish them both for what he saw as his betrayal to his sister’s memory. She might be angry at him but this was his choice. She hurt him with her secrets and in turn he went for the jugular. Dahlia needed her life back. Why does she need to know how he felt? “Okay. staring at her still form in the darkness. And maybe I’m just a hopeless.” Now he felt like a bastard. treating her like the enemy when she’d been a victim herself. He loved Dahlia. Maybe he thought his feelings would go away. when her wounded gaze seared his soul. “What you’re saying is you want to pussy out and not tell her at all. in the grand scheme of things does she really need to know?” What good would that do? She hated him. clueless fool who needs a swift kick in the stones. She already knew all she needed to. No sense in changing things mid-tempo. his way.” Ricki shouted. All the things Austin Harrington took from her. He ignored the tiny voice yelling Ricki’s parted words in his ear and went back to Dahlia’s bedroom.

. Warring emotions. “Why-” His voice cracked so he swallowed and tried again. he took his time washing away the past few hours. back against the pillows. “Why aren’t you asleep?” She rose up on her knees. when did her voice get so husky and needy? Cruz squeezed his eyes shut and bit the inside of his cheek.” He began shaking his head before she finished speaking. greedy cock tenting the towel. reminding him of the sleep he never had the night before.” she said softly. Dahlia sat up in the bed. Crap! He pivoted. the sheet around her waist dropping inch by inch. and walked into the bedroom.” Was she crazy? He wouldn’t be able to stop himself if he touched her. something out of the country. He needed a job. In the shower. Soon she was all bare. wrapped one of Dahlia’s too-small towels around his hips. “No. revealing her creamy skin to his gaze. Yeah. He froze in the middle of the room. that’s what he’d do. His body didn’t seem to get the ‘walking away’ memo because he was turning back around to face her. Funny. nothing barring her body from his horny gaze and Cruz looked his fill at the flat stomach and neatly trimmed pussy he’d never get to taste again.” Damn it. but emotionally he felt raw and drained. He didn’t feel tired physically.Avril Ashton TOUCH 93 room to the bathroom. He turned off the shower. as far away from Dahlia as possible. “I need you to finish what you started at the airstrip. The first rays of morning sun streaked the bathroom walls. I can’t. The offer to escort a group of businessmen through the Venezuelan jungle sounded good right about now. Dodging bullets from guerrillas and the other elements tend to put things in perspective. “I can’t sleep. “Cruz. her naked upper half exposed. Too many all at once.

his cock glistening as he slid in and out of her sweet mouth. He bucked She did it again. lips stretched to accommodate his width. Dahlia peeled away the towel. His limbs grew weaker with every swipe of her tongue over his crown. clogged his throat. “Dahlia. thrusting gently between those lips sealed tight around his cock. She trailed a finger down his chest. babe. Her lashed fluttered. palmed his erection. eyes heavy lidded. He found himself speechless. the scent of her skin and arousal wafting to his nose on a heated cloud.Avril Ashton TOUCH 94 Dahlia moved to the edge of the bed on her knees then got off and walked over to him.” She stood a hair’s breath away. She dropped to her knees. He wanted the one last chance at touching her. chasing a bead of water. Cruz bit down on his knuckles. but he didn’t know if he could do it then keep his resolve to walk away. On thinking.” He rose on his toes and canted his hips forward. fingers . She released him and buried her face lower. “Then let me. tasting her skin. “Shit. to the root. Unable to deny his own desire to have the woman before him even for one last time. a futile attempt to stifle his gasps. taking him in her mouth with a hum. nuzzling his balls. and he gave up on fighting. Slick sounds blended with the breath whistling from between his teeth. burying himself as far as he could. Dahlia cupped his balls. Her eyes bulged as they stared up at him. Cruz palmed the back of her head and moved.” All the emotions he refused to voice tightened his chest. unable to deny her anything anymore. and he watched her fascination with the movement. with every bob of her head and pull of her mouth suctioning him in. fondling him as she took him deep. Her teeth grazed his tip.

Her feminine musk. his cock wept. She cried out. pulling apart her outer lips to plunge inside her. Cruz spread her softness. His balls hurt. . The only sounds were his sloppy feasting on Dahlia’s cunt and her mewls above his head. “Ugh. hit his nose as she sat on his face. He slid his fingers through her hair. pulling her to the edge of the bed. thighs trembling. When the back of her legs bumped into the bed she crawled atop it backwards. he propped them onto his shoulder and plunged into her. ripe and sweet. Her nails clawed his shoulders and he shuddered and groaned.” One of her hands left his ass and circled his erection. pushing. in danger of losing his balance. No one spoke. petting her gently. dragging it from her clit to her ass before he lifted his head and leapt astride her.” She released the testicle in her mouth and backed away. positioned his mouth directly over her contracting pink hole. and sucked. “On the bed. opening him up. stroking. “Dahlia. God.Avril Ashton TOUCH 95 sinking into his ass cheeks. Cruz rocked back on his heels. catching the hard bud between his teeth before releasing it and returning to the tongue-fucking. He flattened his tongue. bouncing off the walls as she writhed on his face. He pushed her legs apart. Glistening. “Spread ‘em. “Aaahh!” She convulsed.” He pulled her hair. painting him with all that sticky juices. Tart and salt melted on his tongue. Soft cries fell from Dahlia. He slurped her. Her pinkie traced his pee hole then dipped inside. giving him a complete view of her pussy lips. Her eyes widened and he didn’t wait. pulling. body arching. swollen.” he growled. flicking his tongue up and over her clit. He took a step toward her and another before kneeling and grabbing her legs. Grabbing her legs. legs spread wide. He swallowed and groaned. jerked her head back. get on the fucking bed.

This woman he had to let go. Fucking gorgeous. “You’re so beautiful. “No barriers. at his cock pistoning out of her. chest to chest with Dahlia. slick. fighting the orgasm churning at the base of his spine. feeling extra wet.” She nipped his neck. pussy contracting with her release. He returned her kisses. open mouthed. She circled his neck. He threw his head back. He looked down at their bodies joined.” She tightened her muscles around him then released. soaked with her juices.” He gritted his teeth. this woman he loved. “Always for you. sweat matting her hair and shining on her skin.” She arched under him. widened her legs and thrust onto him.” She fisted the sheets. her diamond-hard nipples grazing him. she lifted her legs and wrapped them around his hips.” Cupping his ass cheeks. massaged him. “So wet and tight for me. Come inside me. grunting as she lifted her hips to meet every stroke. I love you. slowing up his tempo as she worked herself on him. “Damn.” he gasped.Avril Ashton TOUCH 96 “Fuck. the roaring in his ears drowning out her hoarse chants. He . “Come inside me. Dahlia’s pussy contracted around him. moaning as she rolled her hips. The corkscrew effect pulled a hoarse curse from him. pulled him down and kissed him. No condom. trapping him inside her. Hungry. Scorching hot. “I’m yours. extra tight. He stared into her wild eyes.” he whispered. Her orgasm triggered his. “I’m fucking you raw. The orgasm reared up.” He pounded into her. He lowered himself on his elbows. He savored the burn as her muscles squeezed him.

Sorry for this. proving she had no ulterior motive. the hours. No outlines of a body remained on the cold sheets. legs scissoring as she stretched. Proving she was indeed his widow. granting her the lion’s share of all of . Dahlia. emptying himself against her womb. C She did her best not to count the days. Lawyers consulted and judges ruled ultimately. Dealing with Austin’s businesses took enough of her energy. Typical Cruz. threw off the covers. You won’t see me again. she picked it up with a raised eyebrow. leaving a Dear Jane letter behind. The spot next to her was rumpled. **** Dahlia came awake on a groan. and swung her foot over the side of the bed. After last night he couldn’t say he didn’t want her. but that could’ve been from her. but it couldn’t be helped. Marking her for all time. I’m sorry for the pain we caused each other. Anger bloomed in her chest. You need your life back and I’m giving it to you. It had to be this way. He fucked her and didn’t bother sleeping next to her. Cracking an eye open. She flung her arms out to touch Cruz and came up empty. Time for him to come clean and she’d make him. He can’t say he doesn’t love me. Take care of yourself. too. Paper crunched under her feet. Bending over. since Cruz disappeared. She sat up. she turned toward the pillow next to her.Avril Ashton TOUCH 97 threw his head back and slammed in.

. the realest time they’d spent together. TOUCH 98 In the span of three weeks she had more money and responsibility than she knew what to do with and as she sobbed on the floor of her bathroom. At night she’d lay awake in her wide. And as she went about her life. All types of conspiracies ran around in her head. She couldn’t escape the sensation. Finally she sold all her shares in Harrington Industries and walked away from the responsibilities she didn’t need or want. But he didn’t and she carried on. flowing silent at first then louder and she’d bawl her eyes out. fielding the obligatory scrutiny that came from being associated with Austin Harrington. because she’d learned firsthand how cruel that man had been. That time stood out more than the rest because for her. settling with all complainants who’d filed any suits against Austin and his companies. Too bad it didn’t last. Whatever those people wanted. in the bank and when he followed her home. While she inherited Austin’s money she also inherited his debts. there was the constant feeling of being watched. Neither planned on it being a repeat performance therefore all the emotion and intensity of that first night was all real as it could get. Had he moved on? Was he safe? She always went back to the beginning of them. she knew she’d give it all away in a heartbeat if Cruz walked back through her door. She’d known he was a bank robber and he knew she’d been hurt and needed comfort. she gave. Until she got sick to her stomach and her head spun. and she inked a deal. it was the most honest.Avril Ashton Austin’s dealings. sob until she made herself sick. empty bed and stare out the window at the stars. Of curious eyes staring as she went to the grocery store or visited with her family. Hand in hand with the reminiscing were the tears. wondering where Cruz was.

Too scared to have her gut feeling confirmed. There went the annoying sing-song voice in her head. Pierce?” She jerked her head up from her magazine. she got tired and winded quickly. ma’am. That did wonders for her dress size though her collar bones and cheekbones stood out whenever she passed a mir ror or reflective surface.Avril Ashton TOUCH 99 After a week of throwing up. looked over her shoulder. gaze shooting to the nurse standing in the doorway to the doctor’s office. She couldn’t eat. of lethargy and dizziness. she felt those piercing eyes on her.” Dahlia followed on wobbly knees. she made her way to a doctor whose name she picked out of the phone book. Cataloguing her every move. There was a sad irony happening here and if she could bring herself to snap out of the oddest dream she’d somehow found herself in. And with all that and the pop-up dizziness. Waiting. Taking a seat at the other side of the doctor’s wide desk. “Yes?” She got up. she clasped her hands in her lap and hunched forward. I’m going insane. and nothing she forced herself to swallow stayed down. With no substantial food intake to speak of. wiping sweaty palms on her jean-clad thighs. pretending to read a threemonth-old magazine while she waited for the results of what she already knew. she’d stalled as long as she could. “This way. sleeping nearly all her days away. whenever she chanced a glance. there’d be nobody there. Now she sat in the sterile waiting room. And yet. she swore she was losing her mind. clipboard in hand.” The nurse gestured over her shoulder. “The doctor is ready for you. As it was she’d barely made it out of bed this morning. she’d laugh. “Ms. finally arriving at the doctor’s thirty minutes later than her appointed time. . biting the inside of her cheek. because the instant she stepped out her door.

Every time Ricki brought up Dahlia.” And the tears flowed. Please read the results. lovely to see you again. looking out for her. and he slept for twenty hours straight before jumping on a plane and flying from New York to Chicago. quiet sobs shaking her shoulders. To lose and gain in the same breath. and sat down. are you okay? Do you need some water?” She waved away his concern with a trembling hand. His body hurt like hell. returning to the States with a couple bullet holes and a cut across his back from a wayward machete. yes.Avril Ashton Though not for long. “Ms. After spending another three weeks in Chicago. His friend kept frowning at him and he kept pretending not to notice. Cruz didn’t need to know anything else beyond her safety. He’d never find his way back if he did. Pierce. she prepared for the blow. He’d never know how happy he made her with this gift. **** Cruz barely survived the jungles of Venezuela. a folder in hand. the man she loved. Given to her by the man who hated her. refusing to be dragged down memory lane.” Doctor Izarry entered the office. another chance at what she’d lost. Cruz changed the subject. Another shot. and their orders were explicit. gaze on her knees. TOUCH 100 “Ms. “It is as we both suspected. An opportunity to start fresh. He kept eyes on Dahlia. “I’m fine. And how profoundly sad. He’d put some of his best men on duty. casing and finally breaking into a jewelry store for one of his largest jobs ever. His face was inscrutable as he opened the folder. glancing at it before he looked up at her. keep her safe and stay out of her way. The man she betrayed. Pierce. You’re just over eight weeks pregnant. He . he treated Ricki and himself to an impromptu vacation in Mexico. He kept himself busy with work and anything else.” Head down.

Maybe a dose of Ricki and the pain she so effortlessly doled out would help erase Dahlia from his heart once and for all. That wasn’t what held him back anymore. naked ass of a golden-skinned . Over her shoulder. He hurriedly shoved clothes in a duffel bag. for walking away. as he knew she forgave him his. Cruz pitied that couple. Ricki was in her element in bed. Did he have a chance with her anymore? That question echoed in his head for a week before he threw back the covers one night. Maybe he should change that. The ache in his chest had him downing shots one after the other. what he’d walked away from. He’d long forgiven her transgressions.Avril Ashton TOUCH 101 didn’t want to think about what he’d lost. Cruz eyed the smooth. but since Dahlia came into his life. Dahlia or bust. I have to find out. Fuck it. Funny how he could dole it out but couldn’t stomach it. She opened before he knocked. He had to know and he was going to. His body immediately rejected that idea. anything to fill that void. He’d worn many scars after a fuck session with Ricki. a tiger between the sheets. The truth was he didn’t look forward to a rejection from her. In her heart. All or nothing. he cursed himself for leaving Dahlia. At night as he lay awake in his bungalow. pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweater and ran over to Ricki’s bungalow. listening to waves lash up on the shore. He didn’t want to show up at her door to find someone else had taken his place in her bed. For not giving her those words. Ricki hadn’t factored in. arms crossed over her naked breasts. taking off with a married couple. Not that it worked. Ricki gave him that pitying look as she left him sitting at the pool. Anything to ease the pain. In a lucid moment. No sense in wondering.

slamming the door with his gaze still fixed to Dahlia’s house. He walked up the stairs. Time to find out.” “About fucking time. fidgeting.” Ricki stepped back. or what?” He nodded. ratcheting up his heartbeat. A car service picked him up from the airport and he sat in the back of the vehicle staring up at her house. “Let me know how it goes. Damn. and grinned. “You okay back there. and at the top he pressed the doorbell with numb fingers. He landed in Miami later that evening. “Nice. gut churning.” Cruz hopped out the vehicle.” Ricki rolled her eyes. as a friend. he realized. just in case. “I am. Fuck. He was in love with Dahlia and he wanted to be with her. screeching tires wrenching him from his trance. they locked his limbs and iced his skin.Avril Ashton TOUCH 102 woman splayed on the bed. closing the door in his face. It shouldn’t take long for her to see his face and call the cops on his ass. Those emotions: fear and anticipation. he felt like such a kid in that moment. “Are you going to her. He loved Ricki. taking them two at a time. “Uh. drawing closer. The driver sped off. dialing his pilot as he walked away. If she even wants me anymore. More specifically.” she yelled through the door. Cruz smirked. Footsteps echoed within.” He handed the driver his money. yeah. . all the what-ifs. buddy?” The driver eyed him warily in the rearview. her bedroom window. Maybe he should have the driver wait. “Keep the change. He scrubbed a hand over his face.

Cruz stepped inside the entryway and waited for her to close the door and walk into the house before following. He dropped to his knees before her. Boy. Please. those pink lips plump and pouty. please over and over in his head.” His name shook.” She narrowed her eyes and stepped back. let me in. hair wild around her head. her hand on the doorknob. Somehow all the shit he’d dealt with in his notso-savory line of work didn’t compare. Dahlia. pulling the hem of her t-shirt over her knees as she looked at him expectantly.” He heard her swift inhale. lips curling like she found him lacking. squeezed his heart. gaze seizing him up. “Cruz. so tentative. She sat down on the couch. He quelled the itch to shift his weight from foot to foot and simply raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to let me in?” Her brow wrinkled. Thank God. saw the shock in her eyes when she widened the door.Avril Ashton TOUCH 103 The door opened a crack.” . “I have more to say. because this was an all-in situation. Dahlia broke their eye contact. I admired your strength and your backbone then. Clad in sweats and a loose t-shirt. and Cruz chanting please. “Why?” “Because I love you. “I love you. she looked gorgeous. “Who is it?” That voice. Her skin glowed. her eyes bright and watchful. They stared at each other in terse silence. granting him silent entry. talk about pressure. “I fell in love with you in that bank. Cruz granted her a crooked smile. she’d shut her emotions down. Should I do it right here? Cause it’s all good with me.” He couldn’t read the look in her eyes. locked them off from him. He was hurtling feet-first into unknown territory. “Dahlia.” He covered her clasped hands.

He nodded. set on my plan of revenge. He righted himself as she spun around. He felt its impact in his chest.” She raised her knees and pushed against his shoulders with the flat of her feet. again?” Low blow. Cruz toppled over and she jumped up from the couch. but he didn’t miss the miniscule quiver in her chin. “By needing you even after I knew the complete story. you didn’t need me around reminding you of your mistakes. The accusation rang clear in her words and flashed bright in her eyes.” she said against his finger. for your part in my sister’s death and I felt like I’d pissed on her memory by loving you. Laughed. “That was part of it. “You snuck out of my bed in the middle of the fucking night.” She laughed. “I deserve that. “What do you think I need?” Cruz shrugged.” Dahlia turned back to him.Avril Ashton TOUCH 104 She looked away from him. “That’s why I’m here. but I also wanted to give you your life back. to find out what that is and give it to you.” He swallowed. “I was doing a job.” He forced a smile. “I wasn’t prepared for your secrets. made me feel like shit and you think you can just waltz back in here and I’ll welcome you with open freaking arms?” . but he breathed through the pain. lips parted to speak and he pressed a finger to her mouth.” he confessed. Cruz? Come to inflict more pain before you slink away in the middle of the night. I want to change that. You turned all that upside down. “I didn’t plan on that.” “I guess I should thank you for that?” She shifted away from his touch. You put me through hell. “And you deserve more than what I’ve given you so far. You’d been through enough. fury imprinted on her face. “What brings you back to my neck of the woods. but he held firm.” “So you ran. I want to give you what you need.

but she ignored him. You bum rushed your way into my life. Tears welled up in her eyes. why else would you be here?” She snorted a laugh as she shoved fingers through her hair. forcing her to meet his eyes. “I- TOUCH 105 “No!” she lashed out. By the time I figured out who you were and what you were after it was too late. “I didn’t invite you in and then you do what the hell you did and made me care. I gave specific orders for them to contact me only if you’re in danger. The wildness in her eyes tapered out slowly.” She poked her chest. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Mine. I was in Mexico and I haven’t heard from them since I gave the initial order. “Really?” She swallowed. “You don’t know?” . only to make sure you were okay.” Cruz got to his feet and faced her. “What is it?” He stepped forward and she backed up.” He grabbed her shoulder. You put me through hell and then you disappear just like that. eyes widening. what? You had men watching me?” Her voice grew softer. “Is that why you’re here?” She held out a hand to stop his approach.” He frowned when she paled. No.” He held out a hand to her. it’s okay. I had my men watching you.” “You are my goddamn life!” She shouted then stopped. just in case. “All the time?” “Yeah.” “Dahlia.Avril Ashton He blinked. “Yes. Cruz reared back. “I had my men keep an eye on you. “They told you?” What the hell is she talking about? “Told me what?” “Of course.” “Damn it. “I’m a fucking idiot.” Her opened mouth closed with a pop. “Wait. I wasn’t told anything. “You talked. now it’s my turn. “When was the right time to tell you about Austin and my role in your sister’s death? I only knew you’d kill me and that I loved you.” “I had to give you your life back.

we made a baby.Avril Ashton TOUCH 106 “Know what?” He tightened his hold on her. “Here. “You and I.” .” Removing his hand from her shoulder she brought it to her stomach and held it there. “What don’t I know?” She bit her bottom lip.

” He spoke tentatively. She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder.” She held him to her. so she waited. He didn’t know. “Come. “The night you left.” He shook his head. his eyes glowing from within. as if gauging her reaction. ‘When did you find out? Who’s your doctor?” .” He guided her back to the couch where he sat and pulled her onto his lap. “I’m sorry for leaving. “Really? You’re pregnant?” His shaky voice was a thread of sound. Her news hadn’t registered yet. “I’m not sorry about our baby. I’m not either. the heat of his open palm seeping through her clothes and warming her stomach. they were going to be fine. His gaze flicked over her face. “That’s good.” His eyes widened.. “How far along are you?” He touched her stomach.Avril Ashton TOUCH 107 Chapter Nine Dahlia watched Cruz blink in confusion.. for making you deal with this all on your own. Hadn’t known and he’d come back to declare his love without any duress. Our baby is your parting gift.” He smiled. those green eyes clearing as understanding dawned.” Dahlia took in a breath as her heart jumpstarted. “So-sorry for what?” Sorry for getting her pregnant? Didn’t he want their baby? He must’ve read the expression on her face because he cupped her cheek. a frown wrinkling his brow. “I-we. “I’m so sorry. lashes moving in slow motion. His hand curved over her belly. She granted him a watery grin. He loved her and they were having a baby. shifting closer. Cruz was back and she knew in her gut. rubbing gently through her t-shirt.” Her heart stopped. “Yes.

” She laughed. “We find out then. “So how do you feel now? You hungry. “We can do that. The peanut butter is on the counter.” She resented his tone.” she said. “What’s wrong with my house?” “Are you kidding? It’s not big enough for a growing family like ours.Avril Ashton TOUCH 108 She giggled at the rapidly fired questions then gave him all the information she had. bananas. “Good. but I’m here now and I’m not leaving. actually. “I was about to make me a sandwich.” “We need a house and toys and clothes and—” “Slow down there.” “Yeah. “You’re not exactly the nine-to-five kind of guy. not because I have to. together. “I just want us to be us. “That’s—wow.” “How’s that going to work with what you do for a living?” She lifted an eyebrow. “Is that we are? Partners?” “We can be whoever and whatever you decide. Have at it.” She shook her head. raising his voice so she could hear him where she reclined on the couch. driver. I can stop and I will. but she really liked that he referred to them as a .” He brushed his lips over hers. I want to be a hands-on dad and partner. “I do what I do because I like it. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help.” One step at a time. and pickles in the fridge.” She nodded solemnly.” She slid off him and sat on the couch. He shrugged easily. “My next appointment is in two weeks.” She chuckled. want me to make you something to eat or drink or—” “Yes.” To put that shit mildly. “There’s ham.” He squeezed her. Her cravings were weird. He listened attentively as she talked about morning sickness and sore breasts and all her body aches. “Do we know the sex yet?” Cruz got to his feet and went to the kitchen.” She waved a hand in the direction of the kitchen.” His eyes widened with each ingredient she named. When she finished speaking he hugged her to him.

“Thank you for giving me a chance. “I’m ever at your service. ma’am. END . That they were. A family.” As she drifted off to sleep she heard him whisper. “Now take your baby mama to bed. I can get used to shit like this. He came in minutes later with her sandwich and a glass of the ginger ale she kept all over the place now.” “I love you.” She yawned against his mouth. “I love you and I’ll spend my life showing you just how much. “Fine.Avril Ashton TOUCH 109 family.” He scooped her up in his arms with a chuckle.” Dahlia smiled. For our baby. I’m tired as hell.” He grinned and leaned forward. She gobbled down the food while Cruz massaged her feet. and for loving me. “Do we agree we need a new house?” She licked her lips and placed her empty plate on the floor. kissing her softly. his curved lips clinging to her. “So where do you want to live? I was thinking the Bahamas.” He met her gaze. too and I’ll hold you to that promise.

N. Visit: http://www.Avril Ashton TOUCH About Avril 110 l always wanted to have a sexy bio.avrilashton. bk#2 *Coming May. and wicked women burn up the pages of Avril’s stories. but there’ll always be a happy ending. but after drawing a blank. Avril now lives in Brooklyn. Together they raise a daughter who loves reading and school (not so much school anymore). Av remains a believer of love in all its forms. No one liked it and after massive peer-pressure and pouting.com Friend Avril on: http://www. and I write ‘em too. bk#2 In Wicked Chains.facebook.blogspot. I managed something much…suitable? A Caribbean transplant. 2012 w/Secret Cravings Publishing Blindfold Me . bk#1 One Wicked Night.webs.com http://www.Y with a tolerant Spousal Equivalent. bk#3 Paranormal Security Council series w/Total E Bound Till Abandon.avril-ashton.com/writeravrilashton http://www. Spicy love scenes. Avril’s earliest memories of reading revolve around discussing plot points of The Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys with an equally book-minded mother Always in love with the written word.com/#!/AvrilAsh Av’s Books The Wicked series w/eXtasy Books A Wicked Ride. delicious heroes. l could only come up with : I eat cake and I read books…ooh. Avril finally decided to do the writing in August of ’09 and never looked back. bk#1 Till Surrender. one to reflect who I am.twitter.

2012 Make Me Burn *Coming April. 2012 w/Ellora’s Cave Love The Sinner *Coming Soon .Avril Ashton TOUCH 111 w/Evernight Publishing Make Me Sweat Dulce: Midnight Seduction: Man Love Edition Anthology Far From the Usual *Coming April.

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