Sunday Snippet: Crazy COOL by Tara Janzen

One of my all time favorite series is Tara Janzen’s Steele Street. It’s full of yummy black-ops guys, hot muscle cars and steamy sex scenes. Crazy COOL is the second book in the series and probably one of my favorites. Christian “Superman” Hawkins is one delicious hero and this scene is a perfect example of this series, lots of humor, sex and interesting situations. 

“Youth-ink I didn’t really love you.”

Okay.  Time to bail out on this particular conversation.  He opened the door and was out of the car, before she could even think up another bomb to drop, let alone actually drop it.

Swinging around to the passenger side, he reached for the door handle, then stopped.  He couldn’t leave her in the car.  He knew that.  But he needed a moment to remind himself – again – that she was just a job.

Of course, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d ever kissed anybody on the job.

On the other hand, just because it had happened once, didn’t mean it had to happen twice.

Famous last words, he thought, when he opened the door and saw her doing God knew what in the seat.  Stretching, yeah, that’s what it was called when a woman in a too short dress arched her back and lifted her hands over her head, yawned, and pressed one of her four inch heels into the floorboards.

He called it stunning.  Damn near paralyzing.  She was nothing but silken, golden tan all the way up to her thong.

Dammit.  He’d been wrong.  He couldn’t handle her underwear, not while it was still on her body, and he didn‘t even want to think about it coming off.  He didn‘t dare.

Steeling himself, he leaned down to retrieve a set of lock picks out of Roxanne’s glove box and unbuckle the seatbelt, knowing he had to work fast or risk getting arrested – on both counts.  It seemed damn near impossible, but he wore a forty-two long suit jacket, and somehow there wasn’t enough of it to cover up a five feet, two inch woman.  She should have been swaddled in the damn thing, damn near swallowed up by the material.  It should have fit her like a friggin’ sack.  Instead, the only part of her he couldn’t see was her arms.

He slipped the set of picks into his pants pocket and reached for her.

“Come on, sweetheart.  Let’s go,” he said, but actually getting her out of the car proved to be another of the night’s long list of challenges.  The mezcal had turned her body into a wet noodle, and the harder he tried to hold onto her, the slipperier she got.  Standing her up wasn’t any easier.

“Hell,” he muttered, finally just bending his knees and lifting her over his shoulder.  He clamped his arm across her thighs, locked Roxanne, and headed for the gallery door – just in time to see a squad car turn the corner at Wynkoop and slow down as it headed for the curb in front of Toussi’s.

It was uncanny, really, how badly the night was going down.  He didn’t blame the cops.  If he’d been a cop and seen a man hauling a woman around over his shoulder on a Friday night in LoDo, he’d have pulled over, too.

No, he blamed his ancient Chinese curse, Drunken Bad Luck – all five feet, two inches of it.

The cops stopped, and he waited while one of the officers hauled himself out of the squad car.  He’d hoped it would be someone he knew – but no, of course it wasn’t.

“Good evening,” the cop said, approaching with the calm, measured tread of a seasoned veteran.

“Good evening, Officer.”  It didn’t hurt to be polite to a man with a gun and the law on his side.  Hawkins had both those things, too, but a concealed weapons permit and his Department of Defense ID weren’t going to explain his current situation, and the last thing he wanted to do was explain his current situation.

“Is there a problem?” the cop asked.  He looked to be about fifty or so, keeping himself in shape, with a nice and easy expression on his face that said very clearly “don’t give me any bullshit, boy.”

Hawkins wasn’t planning on it.

“No sir.  My date had a little too much to drink, but -”

“We didn’t have a date,” a muffled voice came from behind his back.  He’d planted his hand firmly on her butt, holding the tail end of his jacket in place, protecting her modesty as best he could, but the policeman was still getting an eyeful of her legs.  He couldn’t tell if that was working for him or against him.

He smiled at the cop.  “But I’m the – “

“And I only had one drink.”  The voice came again, sounding a little petulant, but not at all distressed, which was perfect.  He could almost see the cop relaxing.   “I’m the designated driver,” Hawkins finished, “and I’m fine.”

“Are not,” she mumbled.

He ignored her.

The cop tilted his head a little to one side.  “Are you okay, ma‘am?”

Hawkins waited for her to say something, and waited, and waited.  But, of course, given a chance to redeem him, she’d decided to button up tighter than a clam.  Some things never changed.  Then it came, a sniffle, then another, and a hiccup.

He wanted to groan.

“Can I see your identification?” the cop asked.

Hawkins went for his wallet, even though the guy’s gaze had been drawn back to her thighs.  He understood.  They were irresistible, but for the most part, even a set of world-class legs like Katya’s would not have their own ID.  The guy had to be talking to him.

One-handed, he flipped his wallet open, showing his Colorado Driver’s License and his DOD ID.  Two months ago, he’d been on special assignment to the FBI and carrying Bureau identification, which would have been perfect for this situation.

“You live up on Steele Street, huh?” the cop said, taking the wallet and shining a small flashlight light on his driver’s license.

“Yes, sir.”  She was crying all over him in back, softly sobbing her heart out, getting his shirt all wet, which was a perfect match for the wet patch she’d left on the front from her previous bout of drunken remorse.  Hell.

“Used to be a rough part of town up there and down here,“ the cop said.

“Yes, sir.“  He knew what the guy was doing – checking him out, getting a bead on him.  There wasn’t a law against carrying a crying woman around on your shoulder.  It was just an odd enough situation to deserve a closer look – and the longer the cop looked, the more he wished he was out of the country.

“You sh-shouldn’t k-kiss me,” she mumbled, then hiccuped.  “Please, oh, pul-lease, don’t kiss me again…you just don’t know.”

What in the hell, he wondered, was she talking about now?

The cop’s eyebrows had risen half an inch, and he was eye-balling her like he wished he knew, too.

“I can’t bear it.  I sw-swear I can’t.  Not when you kiss me like that.  No one else has ever, ever, ever – not the way you… and I can‘t…I just can‘t.  Oh, Christian.

Geezus.  Hawkins didn’t embarrass easily, but she was coming damn close to doing it.

“Christian…uh…Hawkins?  Right?” the cop said, fighting a grin as he turned the wallet sideways to read the DOD identification.

“Yes.”  Now he really wished he was out of the country.

“Well, thank you, Mr. Hawkins,” the cop said a moment later, handing back his wallet and not even attempting to hide the big grin spread all over his face.  “You have a good night, now.”

“You, too, Officer.”  He gave a short wave as the man walked away, then swore under his breath and walked the last few steps to Toussi‘s.  The gallery’s front door was big and old, and he figured it would take him about fifteen seconds to jimmy the lock.

“Bad…so bad…bad, bad, bad,” she said, going back into broken record mode.

He felt a tug on his shirt, felt the tail sliding up out of his pants as he tested the knob.

“Bad, bad, bad, bad – “

He gave her a little jiggle to get her back on track, then pulled out his first lock pick.

“Bad l-luck,” she moaned on a hiccup, pulling the last of the shirt’s tail up and out of his pants.

The material instantly went tight across the buttons.  He could feel her wadding it up in her hands, feel her head turning from side to side as she dabbed away at her eyes and cheeks, and probably her lipstick, and from all the sniffling, her nose.

Well, hell.  He’d had worse on him, a lot worse, but geez, couldn’t a guy get a break here tonight?

“Is that really…really, really what you’ve been calling me all these years?” she asked.  “B-bad luck?”

“Sometimes,” he admitted, sliding a second pick in on top of the first.  The lock gave, and he twisted the knob open.

No lights were on inside the gallery, and Hawkins wasn’t inclined to turn any on.  Enough light shone through the windows from the street to keep him from running into anything.  He closed and locked the door behind them and waited for his eyes to adjust.  The gallery was packed with paintings and sculpture.  The room was open to the second floor with a balcony circling the room and a catwalk crossing it.  A series of particularly large paintings hung from the ceiling, some of them swathed in sheeting.  Others of a similar size – paintings of men, he thought, or maybe angels — were hung on the walls.  There were a lot of them, powerful paintings, full of movement, dynamic even in the low light and obviously all done by the same artist – most of them seeming to be of the same man. He was guessing Nikki McKinney and Travis the Wonder Stud, as Kid had called the guy.

Kid had fallen for the girl, fallen hard.  Hawkins remembered her from years ago, when she must have been about six-years-old and all the wild boys from Steele Street had gotten busted into her grandfather’s jobs training program digging dinosaur bones.  According to Kid, she’d turned into an amazing woman.  From the looks of her paintings, Hawkins had to agree.

Behind him, Kat let out a big sigh, one filled with resignation and sorely pained resolve.

“Th-thank you,” she said, her voice carefully solemn.  “Thank you for bringing me home…thank you…thank.  I thank-think I can take it from here.”

“Think again, babe,” he said, checking the place out, looking for the elevator or the stairs up to her apartment.  Her’s and Alex Zheng’s, he corrected himself, though he hadn‘t changed his mind about the secretary not being her boyfriend, not after the way she‘d kissed him – desperately, as if she hadn‘t been kissed in a long, long time, which was just another one of those things he didn‘t want to think about too much.

He finally spotted the stairs and the elevator toward the back of the gallery and headed in that direction.

“What floor is your apartment on?”

“Five.  Yes, definitelently-lentil-ly five.“

Elevator, he thought, then felt her tugging at the T-shirt he was wearing under his dress shirt.

“Hmmm,” she murmured quizzically, as if she’d just discovered something.

Hmmm, hell.

“Katya,” he warned, reaching around with his free hand and gently extricating her fingers from the cloth.

“Do you know what this is called?“ she asked, obliging him by letting go of the t-shirt and smoothing her hand over the muscle curving over his hip and down to his groin.

“Off limits,” he replied with a grimace, catching her hand before she could go too far.

“I lived in Paris.“

“So you said.”  He let go of her and quickly shoved the tail end of his T-shirt back in his pants, only to have her pull it back out.

“And I lived in New York.”

“Come on.  Stop it, honey.”  He tried to capture her hands again, but this time failed.  His T-shirt came free again, and he swore under his breath.

“And I lived in Los Angeles, but I never saw anything like this.”  She smoothed her palm across the small of his back, across his tattoo, and all he could think was, if she stuck her hand down his pants, he was not going to be held responsible for the consequences.

“That’s because I didn’t get it in Paris, New York, or Los Angeles.”  They reached the elevator, and he hit the call button.

“You didn’t tell me where you done it, or it done…had it done.”

“No.”  He hadn’t.  It had been a hot, lazy summer in New Mexico.  The woman he’d gone down there with had been twenty-eight, ten years older than him, an artist, and he’d been her favorite canvas during their whole brief and intensely educational affair.

The old cage elevator finally groaned its way down to a stop.  Hawkins reached for the handle to slide open the door, and that’s when she did it, slipped her hand into his pants, beneath his underwear, and down over his hip.

Son of a bitch.  He knew what she was doing, tracing the lines of his tattoo, but that was only going to take her someplace she really shouldn’t go and get both of them in a whole lot of trouble.

“Kat, come on now.”  He grabbed for her hand, and she giggled, which was better than her crying.  “Okay, babe.  Party’s over.  Come on.”  And when, he wondered, was the last time he’d tried to get a woman’s hand out of his pants?  Maybe never.

Juggling her and the elevator door, and praying she wouldn’t start crying again, Hawkins managed to ease her down off his shoulder, before she either did him any damage or got him so turned on he wouldn’t care if making love with her was the smart move or not.

The thought no sooner formed in his mind than he froze.  Since when had he gone from having sex with her to making love?

Geezus.  He couldn’t be that stupid.

“Don’t kiss me, Christian,” she pleaded, falling against him again and executing a full frontal, full court, fulsomely arousing press up the length his body, the whole thing, from stem to stern.

Against his will and every ounce of his common sense, he looked down at her mouth.

And took a breath.

No, he wasn’t going to kiss her.  What he was going to do was get her up to her apartment.  Now.  With that goal in mind, he hustled her the rest of the way into the elevator and hit the button for the fifth floor.

The elevator started up with a groan and a shimmy.  It was a small elevator, unbelievably small, but he did his best to keep to his side and hold her on the other with his palm pressed firmly against her torso in that no-man‘s land between her abdomen and her breasts.

Distance is what he needed and a little cooling off time.  A man had been murdered tonight, and he needed to clear his head and start figuring out why.

The elevator hit a rough spot, and before it shook itself free, she ended up back in his arms.

He didn’t know how.  He’d literally been holding her at arm’s length.

Please don’t kiss me,” she whispered, her voice kind of raw and throaty, as if they’d already been kissing the stuffing out of each other for the last couple of hours or so.

Without makeup, her face had lost some of its dramatic contrast, but none of its beauty.  Her lashes weren’t so dark.  Her lips were a softer shade of pink.  He could see a light dusting of freckles across her nose, which made her look younger – a lot younger, closer to eighteen than she had a right to look.  Her hair was wild, absolutely wild, as if she’d been dragged across the pillows and rolled over on a mattress, the way a guy might, if he was…crazy, or lucky, or simply out of his ever-loving mind.

Christian,” she breathed his name, her hands going to the buttons on his shirt and starting to undo them one by one.

He didn’t stop her.  He was too busy thinking, remembering, and wondering if she might have learned some voodoo hoodoo over the years, maybe in Paris or something, because he was not his normal, clear thinking self.  He felt a little bewitched, like he was under some kind of spell.  She’d had a margarita, but all he’d had was a beer – and a taste of her mouth, and her in his arms, and yeah, that was probably enough to fuck him up.

All because a long time ago she had stripped him bare, cut him to the quick, and left him.  Not one word had she spoken to him after his arrest.  Not one.

He’d sat there in court and listened to her testimony, watched her be so careful, watched her watching him, and he’d felt like he was seeing the whole thing from under a hundred feet of water, with no air and no light.  The weight of what had been happening to him had been crushing.

And her mother.  He’d felt the heat of that woman’s hatred searing the skin off his bones and then charring what was left.  Her fury had been a palpable presence in the courtroom, another entity he’d had to fight against to try and stay alive – and then he’d died anyway.  That first night in Canon City, when the doors on his cell had clanged shut and the catcalls had started, he’d known he’d gone straight to hell.

All because he’d made love to the prom queen.

She was pulling the rest of his T-shirt out of his pants and unbuttoning his cuffs, pushing his dress shirt off his shoulders.  She was gone, over the edge, and a part of him wanted to just go over the edge with her.  If he hadn’t gotten busted, maybe they’d still be together.  Maybe she would have still been his, and it wouldn’t have mattered if she was drunk.  He could have made love to her just because she was sweet and hungry and needed him.

Needed him inside her.

Needed him to anchor her world.

She still looked like the Katya he’d known.  She still smelled like her, and felt like her, and tasted like her, and God knew she still had the same mind-blowing effect on him.

But she wasn’t the same, and neither was he, and he’d learned his lesson the hard way, the hardest way, and he knew better than to kiss her.

     He moved his hand up to cup her cheek and smooth his fingers over her skin.

Hell, they wouldn’t have still been together.  They wouldn’t have survived her mother, not this long.  They probably wouldn’t have lasted until Labor Day.

Yeah, he knew better than to kiss her, but he did it anyway – just let go of every freaking thing he’d believed in for thirteen years, tilted her face toward his and brought his mouth down to hers, and she flowed into him, like an ocean wave breaking onto a shore, her body softening and melting into his, giving it all up.

Heat, as pure and simple as anything he’d planned, washed through him.  He groaned with the pleasure of it, gave himself over to it.  The elevator was running about ninety-eight degrees, and with her all over him, it was getting hotter by the nanosecond.  Her skin was damp, and he was breaking out in a sweat, and he suddenly knew it didn’t matter that she was drunk and he was crazy.  In vino veritas – in wine is truth.  She wanted him, and deep, deep down inside, in a dark place where he‘d locked, bolted, and chained the door and thrown away the key, he‘d never stopped wanting her.

One of her hands slid through his hair, across the nape of his neck and up toward the top of his skull, holding him for her kiss.  His brain was fogging.  Her mouth was wet.  He reached for her leg and drew it up around his waist, pushing up her dress, getting her closer, reveling in the silken softness of her thigh beneath his fingers.  Her other hand was sliding under his waistband, heading south, driving him wild, and he knew – he knew she was going to take him in her hand, stroke him, get him even harder than he already was, and he was going to let her.  Oh, man, was he going to let her.

She’s sizzling hot…He’s icy cool.

He called her Bad Luck Dekker, a gorgeous socialite who trailed trouble in her wake. Christian Hawkins should know. Thirteen years ago he saved Kat Dekker’s life—only to spend two years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Now it’s déjà vu all over again when he rescues Kat from an explosion that rips through a Denver art auction. This time Christian—now an operative with an elite U.S. task force—plans to keep her close until he figures out why somebody wants to kill her. That is, if he can keep his cool around this sizzling-hot lady.…

The daughter of a senator, Kat hasn’t forgotten the hot summer nights of passion in Christian’s arms before everything went wrong. Now, as the bullets start flying, the sexy, self-appointed bodyguard is back in her life in a major way. Especially when Christian kidnaps her and they go roaring into the night in his brute-powered muscle car. But staying out of danger is tough for two people who are this hot for each other, a little bit crazy, and a whole lot in love…

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