Authors: Tawny Weber
Subject: Navy SEAL Lieutenant Dominic Castillo
Mission: Protect—not seduce!—his sexy target
Dominic Castillo loves his SEAL team like brothers—except one, who made sure Castillo was left behind during the latest mission. But when his rival is kidnapped by a vicious drug lord, Castillo receives a black ops mission of his own: protect his rival’s sister. And any mistakes will either result in her death…or his.
Lara Banks clearly has no interest in being protected by a military man, especially an acquaintance of her estranged brother. So why is she doing her best to drive him crazy with pure temptation? Lara insists on having her naughty way with him—over and over—but is fulfilling their fantasies worth the price?
Castillo, on the floor naked. Oh, my…
It was pure, passion-driven, desire-sparking lust. And this time, Lara wasn’t in it for testing a little sample.
Her tongue slipped between his lips, swirling along his before backing out to dance over his mouth.
Letting her body run the show, she slid closer, her knees angling down his thighs and her bare breasts pressed to his chest. Her mouth brushed his in a series of teasing kisses. Each one grew wetter, hotter, more intense.
A response echoed in her body.
But she wanted more. More kisses, more heat.
Her fingers scraped across the velvet hardness of Castillo’s shoulders, down the rock-hard curve of his biceps.
Isn’t he a big one?
With a little growl of anticipation, Lara decided to do some exploring. She nibbled her way over that irresistible dimple, dipping her tongue in before sliding kisses along the hard plane of his jaw.
Oh, he was tasty.
Angling her body over the promising bulge beneath the blanket, Lara bit the chain around his neck, tugging the dog tags aside with a jingle of metal.
was worth waking up for….
There is something so compelling about a military hero. A focus, an intensity that always draws me in. And, of course, military men tend to be in awesome shape. I’ve got to tell you, writing about guys with hard bodies is a lot of fun!
When Dominic Castillo first made his appearance in
A SEAL’s Kiss,
I knew he needed a special story and a very strong heroine. One who could challenge his well-fed ego and keep him on his toes. Who better than the sister of his least-favorite person in the world? Lara is strong, confident and edgy, and she’s more than ready to handle anything Dominic can offer up. Because this story is part of the Unrated! miniseries, it means a lot of what he offered up was pretty sexy!
I hope you enjoy reading
A SEAL’s Fantasy
—and that you’ll check out the earlier sexy SEALs:
A SEAL’s Seduction, A SEAL’s Surrender, A SEAL’s Salvation
A SEAL’s Kiss.
I’d love to hear what you think. Drop by my website at
or find me on Facebook at
A SEAL’s Fantasy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times
bestselling author of over twenty-five hot books, Tawny Weber has been writing sassy, sexy romances since her first Harlequin Blaze book was published in 2007. A fan of Johnny Depp, cupcakes and color coordination, she spends a lot of her time shopping for cute shoes, scrapbooking and hanging out on Facebook.
Readers can check out Tawny’s books at her website,
, or join her Red Hot Readers Club for goodies like free reads, complete first chapter excerpts, recipes, insider story info and much more. Look for her on Facebook at
Books by Tawny Weber
462—COMING ON STRONG
468—GOING DOWN HARD
492—FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME
513—BLAZING BEDTIME STORIES, VOLUME III
“You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs…”
564—RIDING THE WAVES
579—IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE MISTLETOE…
“A Babe in Toyland”
592—BREAKING THE RULES
612—JUST FOR THE NIGHT
656—SEX, LIES AND MISTLETOE
660—SEX, LIES AND MIDNIGHT
688—BLAZING BEDTIME STORIES, VOLUME VII
726—NICE & NAUGHTY
738—A SEAL’S SEDUCTION
739—A SEAL’S SURRENDER
778—NAUGHTY CHRISTMAS NIGHTS
783—A SEAL’S SALVATION
791—A SEAL’S KISS
COSMO RED-HOT READS FROM HARLEQUIN
To browse a current listing of all Tawny’s titles, please visit
To the Sassy Sweethearts—the most amazing group of awesome ladies!
You all rock. Thank you for all the book love and fun.
HERE WAS NOTHING
like a little bare skin to turn twenty adult men into drooling adolescents. Throw in a long, hard pole and a pair of glittery high heels, and they were a sad bunch of throbbing glands.
“Take it off, baby. Show us what you got.”
As if she’d been waiting for those lovely and enticing instructions, the stripper offered a sharp smile and, quick as a whip, yanked her dress in half and threw it across the room.
Dominic Castillo listened to his brothers and cousins whoop and holler, half of them waving dollar bills as if they were winning lottery tickets and the stripper their prize. Once he’d have been right there with them, front and center. Not that he’d have to call out lame suggestions and wave money to get her attention. Nope, all Dominic needed was his charming smile to beat out all of his relatives for the sexy woman’s attention.
But tonight his dollars were safe in his pocket and here he was, on the quiet side of the bar, sucking down a soda and wondering what the hell had happened to his life.
A year—damn, six months—ago everything had been golden. He’d been a kick-ass SEAL rocking his way up the ranks, carrying out death-defying missions and loving every second of it. Women flocked to him; he had a great family and a brotherhood of SEALs who had his back and kept life fun.
Hell, he used to wake up most mornings expecting to see a big ole
on his chest.
He carefully shifted his head from one side to the other, glad his brain stayed put.
He’d gone on dozens of missions in his five years as a SEAL. His solid muscles and the scars were a tribute to his dedication to his career. He’d been hurt plenty of times. He’d dodged bullets, pulled shrapnel out of his boot and, on one memorable occasion, plummeted through the sky when the team’s plane took on heavy fire.
Now he was sitting on his butt while his teammates carried out a mission he’d spent the past few months training for. All because of an equipment malfunction while he’d been fast-roping from a helicopter. When the cable snapped, he’d only dropped ten feet, but the impact had left him bruised, aching and sporting a severe concussion.
And feeling like a loser.
He blamed Banks. Lieutenant Phillip Banks, the biggest pain in the ass to ever earn the SEAL trident.
“I didn’t think you were going to be able to make it until the wedding,” Lucas said, watching the show with a bored look.
“Miss my little cousin’s bachelor party? Bite your tongue.” Dominic forced a smile for his big brother’s sake. And, of course, to keep Lucas off his back. If his brother knew he’d been released from a doctor’s supervision less than a dozen hours ago, he’d nag like crazy.
“You mean you didn’t want to miss Lotta Oomph shaking her stuff,” Lucas said, snickering.
“I’ve seen plenty of shaking in my time,” Dominic replied dismissively, even while acknowledging that Lotta had an impressive shake. “Thirty states and eight countries, big brother. Can you top that?”
Lucas considered his beer bottle for a second, then tilted it and his head to one side. “Saw triplets pole dancing with their trained dogs in Reno once.”
“Right down to their spots.”
Dominic pursed his lips, imagining what that might have looked like, then gave his brother a nod.
“That’s worth at least ten states, China and Mexico,” he decided.
“I was in Mexico on a case two years ago. Gotta say, my job doesn’t take me to many strip joints. Guess we know which one of us works harder.”
Lucas ran Castillo Security. Providing private and corporate security for the past twenty years, Castillo was a family business, and it and their parents’ ranch employed, well, the entire family. Four generations of Castillos lived in Seaside, the tiny town in Sonoma founded by Dominic’s great-grandfather. From his grandfather Ramon to his little sister, Celia, they bred show horses, built security systems and provided bodyguards.
Dominic was a Navy SEAL.
The first, and so far the only, Castillo not pulling in an income from the family corporation. Which he’d worked damned hard for. When a guy grew up in a family as big as the Castillos’, standing out wasn’t easy. He’d never be as smart as Lucas or as sneaky as Marco. At six-four, he wasn’t even as tall as Jose.
What he was was his own man.
The one everyone came to for help. Advice. Directions, even. He was hell on wheels when it came to directions. Handy, since he generally served as the point man and navigator for his SEAL team. Something he was proud of.
“Seriously,” Lucas said, interrupting his mental back patting. “I thought Joe said you weren’t gonna make it home for the party. What changed?”
Buying time, Dominic took a drink, the cola doing nothing to relax his aching muscles. A beer would go down sweet right now. A half dozen of them would go a long way to ease the pain racking his body. But the doctor had warned that severe concussions and alcohol were a bad mix for the next few days.
“The team is on a mission, I’m not. That means I could snag an extra week’s leave and come home.”
Lotta started her countdown, tossing her spangled bra into the rowdy crowd, then taking a few swings around her pole. Dominic made a show of watching, hoping Lucas would let the conversation die if he seemed fascinated by silicone so tight it didn’t even sway as the stripper spun.
“Your team is on a mission and you’re not?” Lucas asked, an intense frown creasing his brows. “What happened? Turning yellow?”
“I can still kick your ass.” Dominic matched his brother’s glower. Then he shrugged. “They didn’t need me for this one. Plenty of them speak the language and I needed some downtime.”
And a little distance.
There was no way in hell he could sit around the barracks,
while the team kicked mission ass.
The SEAL team was like a brotherhood. Every man had the other’s back. Every man knew he was a part of the team, each one vital to the success of their missions. They lived together, they trained together, they fought together.
Sometimes it was the best deal in the world. Sometimes it sucked.
Dominic had grown up with five siblings. He knew that life wasn’t always smooth, that all relationships had plenty of ups and downs.
What he didn’t know was how to deal with a guy who wasn’t a part of the brotherhood. Who didn’t fit, didn’t even try to fit.
Especially when that guy was, thanks to his irritatingly stellar record, now the ranking officer on the team.
Who was so by-the-book uptight that he made Dominic sit out on a hot mission because the helicopter launched at 0700 and Dominic’s medical profile said he was grounded until 0830. Hell, they wouldn’t even have reached their destination by then. He could have gone if it wasn’t for Banks’s uptight ass.
Instead, the jerk had taken the team one man short and left Dominic feeling like a let down loser.
He freaking hated that guy.
“I’m thinking about transferring,” he muttered.
His eyes wide enough to pop out of his head, Lucas dropped his chair flat, the front legs hitting the floor with a bang.
“Out of the SEALs?”
Dominic had taken a bullet, broken multiple bones and was currently sporting bruises down to the bone over three-quarters of his body, not to mention a concussion hangover and a weak ankle.
But none of them hurt like the idea of leaving the SEALs.
“Hell, no. Just, you know, transfer. Virginia, Hawaii. SEALs are based other places besides Coronado. I might like to see a few, you know.”
“Because thirty states and eight countries aren’t enough?”
“I saw this act in Oahu once. Erotic fire dancer.” Dominic blew out a breath, then fanned his hand in the air as if cooling off the memory. “Let me tell ya, a woman who dances naked with a flaming baton knows her way around big, hot sticks.”
Lucas winced and shook his head.
“Sad, little brother. If that lame story is the best distraction you can offer up, you’ve obviously got something bugging you.” He waited a beat, as if giving Dominic an opening to confess. But Dom did the advising—he didn’t go looking for it. Finally, Lucas shrugged and lifted his beer again.
“You wanna talk, you know where I am,” he offered.
Dominic nodded, even though they both knew he wouldn’t take him up on it.
Not because he was such a snob that he couldn’t reach out from time to time for a little guidance. But there was a reason he was the advice guy. In the family, on the team, with his friends. He knew stuff. Military stuff, girl stuff, sex stuff. Thanks to his nana, he even knew cooking stuff.
He stared at his drink, muscles aching and head throbbing.
It was a damned shame he didn’t know what to do for his own stuff.
Two hours and three Motrin later he poured three cousins and one of his brothers into a limo. Patting the hood, he signaled the driver to hit the road.
Hands in the front pockets of his jeans, Dominic laughed as Marco popped his head out of the sunroof to serenade him with “Happy Birthday.”
“It your birthday, big boy?”
He turned, grin in place, to watch the woman saunter over. Even fully clothed, Lotta still exuded sex the way some women wore perfume. Strong, heady and inviting.
“Nope. He’s having a tequila-inspired calendar mix-up,” Dominic told her.
“Too bad. I was gonna offer you a little birthday goodie,” she said when she stopped in front of him. He wanted to tell her she’d be a lot prettier with about half as much makeup on, but didn’t figure it was his advice she was interested in.
“I watched you while I danced.”
Dominic looked down, noting that all it’d take was a cold breeze across her thin blouse to bring their bodies into contact.
Then he met her eyes, the hot interest and hard edge.
“Isn’t that a coincidence? I watched you, too,” he said, giving her his most charming smile. He wasn’t interested—yet another thing he figured he could blame Banks for—but he didn’t believe in leaving women disappointed. He might not be going to give her a wild ride, but there was no reason not to make her feel good. In a fully clothed kind of way.
“Did you like what you saw?” she asked, her tone saying she had no doubts about that at all. She moved closer, so close that her ice-pick nipples stabbed his chest. Dominic had to wonder if she’d blasted those babies full of silicone, too.
“You do know your way around a pole.”
“I do good work with long and hard.”
“I don’t doubt that.”
Dominic looked her over again. He had a special appreciation for dancers. They were so damned good with their bodies.
Rethinking his body’s aches and pains, he debated a little naked boogie with the stripper. He did a quick check to see if lust was stronger than bruises.
Nope. Not enough lust or too many bruises. Either way, he wasn’t up for dancing.
“You interested in buying me a drink? I’ll fill you in on some of my specialties.”
The only reason the Castillo clan had vacated the club was because it’d been last call. Which meant the drinking destination Lotta had in mind was hers, his or of the rent-by-the hour variety.
Dominic loved women. Strippers, dancers, teachers, nurses. He’d dated them all. His only requirement was that the woman take the relationship as light and easy as he did.
He’d heard plenty of times that his sex life was better than most guys’ fantasies.
But if he had one particular weakness when it came to the fairer sex, it was for dancers. Ballet, jazz, exotic, tap. It didn’t matter. There was something about a woman who knew how to make the most of rhythm that drove him wild.
But even if his body had screamed otherwise, he just wasn’t in the mood.
“Sorry, sweetheart,” he said sincerely. “I’m not drinking tonight. Doctor’s orders.”
She narrowed her eyes, clearly wondering if that was a euphemism. Then she gave a good-natured shrug.
“You ever get released from those orders, you come back. I’ll do a dance just for you.” She skimmed her fingers up his chest, giving him a smile that promised that it’d be a dance to remember. Then she tapped her palm against his cheek and turned to go.
Dominic leaned back on his heels, his own smile turning a little cocky. He didn’t get guys who bitched that women were a pain in the ass. Himself, he’d never met a woman who wasn’t a pleasure, in or out of bed. All it took was a little charm and a friendly smile.
He watched the stripper walked away, her hips swinging a hot rhythm beneath her short skirt. For one second he regretted saying no. Then, as he shifted his weight, his body sang out a protest.
A part of him, mostly the part cozied up behind his zipper, wanted to call her back. Not out of undeniable lust or anything crazy like that. More to prove he could still make her see stars and sing hallelujah, even if half of his body was bruised and the other half a step up from numb.
As far as Dominic’s dick—and admittedly, his ego—were concerned, he was a man with many talents, all of which made women sigh with pleasure. He was better at sex when he was half-asleep, totally drunk and/or straight off a ten-day mission from hell than most guys managed to be even in their wildest dreams. He was damned good-looking—a blessing owed more to the fine Castillo genes than any effort on his part. He was a formidable SEAL, a savvy sailor and a weapon the U.S. Navy should be giving thanks for on a daily basis. Okay, weekly. He was wise—the team always looked to him for advice, hence his call sign, Auntie. He was smart and good with money.
All but the first were characteristics his own sainted mother recited to any single woman she found worthy. And all, including the former, were reasons Dominic saw as vital to his goal of staying single. When a man was as blessed as he was, it’d be cruel to limit his gifts to just one woman.
He watched Lotta slide into her Miata and frowned.
Maybe a good time was just what Auntie ordered. A hot ride would be a nice distraction.
It only took him a second to brush it aside.
Resigned, he watched her headlights fade into the dark night and sighed. It wasn’t his bruises or irritation that made him a bad bet tonight, he realized. It was the same nagging feeling that’d been dogging him for the last couple of months.
What the hell was up with that?
Dominic was a man who made a point to be satisfied. In every way, every chance he got. Some might say he specialized in it.
So why the hell was he so damned bored?
Bored, discontent and frustrated.
All new emotions, and not one of them welcome.
Needing to move, wanting the rush of speed, Dominic straddled his Harley, tugged on his helmet and rode.
In the next three hours, he covered most of Sonoma. The wine country had a special beauty in the moonlight, but even that didn’t help clear his mind. Finally, annoyed and still clueless over what he wanted to do, Dominic headed for the Castillo Ranch and home.
He cruised through the wide gate, its bronze
woven around the image of a horse, and throttled back. The sun was just making its appearance, casting a golden glow over the fields on either side, which meant the family was probably rising. Still, his nana slept late and her cottage was just around the bend.
The ranch housed thirty family members and a handful of hands and provided homes for a few, like Dominic, who needed their own place but didn’t live there full-time. He came to a dirt road that cut through the emerald expanse of grass before curving behind a hill. His cabin was a few miles back. Remote, the way he liked it, and private. He spent most of his life sharing quarters. First with his brothers, now with his SEAL team. When he was home, he liked his space.
But he didn’t take the turn. Instead, he barreled straight on down toward the main house. Ranch-style, it was big and sprawling, surrounded by gardens and manicured lawns. Lights glinted in the windows, especially, he noted, in the kitchen. Good. That meant Rosa was up, and likely making pancakes.
Dominic swept his motorcycle back behind the house to the wide driveway. Before he could cut the engine, his brother flew out the back door.
“Where the hell you been?” Lucas snapped, looking as if he was going to reach over and grab his younger brother right off the bike.
Just to be contrary, Dominic took his time slipping off his helmet and ran his hand over the stubble of his military haircut. He hooked the helmet over the handlebar, then swung his leg off the bike, shoved both hands into the front pockets of his jeans and rocked back on his heels.
“What’s up?” he asked with a half grin. “I miss curfew?”
“Don’t you answer your phone?”
“Not when I leave it on my dresser by mistake,” Dominic said with a shrug. He didn’t carry a cell phone on duty, and he spent most of his life on duty. So unlike his brother, he didn’t hyperventilate without an electronic leash in his pocket.
“I’ve been trying to reach you for the last couple of hours.”
“Here I am,” Dominic pointed out. “You can reach me now.”
“Before me, your buddy Brody was trying to reach you.”
“Brody?” Brody couldn’t have called. Petty Officer Brody Lane was on day two of a mission in Guatemala, taking down a drug lord who was pissing off the good ole U.S. of A. Lucas had met Brody a few times when he’d visited Dominic in Coronado or when Brody had tagged along on leave to the Castillo Ranch. “Dude, you want to play games, play them when I’m awake.”
“No game. Your buddy called. He has a problem.”
“What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
“Maybe if you carried your phone, you’d know.”
“Cut the crap and tell me what’s going on,” Dominic snarled, worry tight in his gut. Brody wouldn’t call unless the issue was major.
Chest to chest, the brothers glared at each other. Then, with a look that said he was doing his little brother a favor, Lucas stepped back.
“A mission went bad. Your friend didn’t say that. He didn’t offer any information except for you to call him as soon as you got back, no matter what time it was.”
Crap. Hell, damn, crap.
Dominic paced, his boots kicking up dirt as he stomped from one end of the bike to the fence and back.
“How do you know he’s on a mission?” he asked finally. “It could be anything. Hell, Brody might be calling for bachelor party advice, seeing as he’s getting married next month.”
Yeah, that was lame. Lucas didn’t roll his eyes, but he looked as though the effort cost him. Instead, he gave a jerky one-shouldered shrug and glanced away for a second. Just one, but it was enough to make Dominic growl.
“Dammit. I told you to quit hacking military computers. That shit’s top secret.”
“I don’t. I mean, not as a rule.” Lucas grimaced. “Just, you know, once in a while, to keep in practice. Like maybe when I know you’re doing something really dangerous. Just so I know to tell Ma to light an extra candle.”
Holy crap. Dominic shoved both hands through his short hair, the thick stubble scraping his palms. For one second he envied his teammates who didn’t have families. No nagging, no nosiness, no pain-in-the-butt interference.
“You get caught, you’re going to prison,” he finally said.
“I told you, I didn’t hack anything top secret. Nothing military, even.”
“Then why are you claiming a mission went bad? Brody didn’t tell you that.”
“No, but he wouldn’t call at three in the morning to get Lotta’s number. I figured something was wrong, so I did some poking around.” When Dominic just glared, Lucas shrugged again. “You said something earlier about plenty of people speaking the language. Since the only ones you speak are English and Spanish, I pulled info on a few hot spots in Guatemala that might require specialized intervention.”
Pride and irritation surged in equal measures. It was a good thing Lucas was as honest as the day was long.
“You are a pain in my ass,” Dominic muttered. “That mission is top secret.”
Top secret. And still underway. He clenched his teeth against the stirring of the hair on the back of his neck, warning serious shit was going down. Brody was supposed to be in Guatemala right now, blowing the hell out of a drug lord’s compound, taking down his cartel and ending his reign of terror.
Not making phone calls in the middle of the night.
“When’s he calling back?”
“He didn’t say.”
Of course he didn’t.
“You okay?” Lucas stepped forward, looking concerned. He shot a glance at the big house, then back at Dominic. “Do you want me to do some more searching? See what happened?”
Lucas thought he could poke his digital fingers into a U.S. Navy SEAL operation. One that took place outside of the country, and was classified as a top-secret government mission. Dominic gave a halfhearted laugh, scrubbing his hands over his face. Likely big brother probably could. But that didn’t mean he was going to.
“No. I’ll wait.”
“Want breakfast?” Lucas jerked his head toward the house.
Appetite gone, Dominic shook his head. He’d take the call in private.
“I’ll check in later,” he said, pulling his helmet back on. Even though he was on private property, if he didn’t wear it, his mother would have a tizzy. He didn’t bother with the straps, though. Just kicked his bike to life and roared off. Three minutes later, he shoved open his cabin door, threw his leather coat over the back of a chair and strode into his bedroom.
Yep. There was his cell phone. Right where he said it was. He snagged it off the dresser, checking even though he knew there would be no message, nor a return number. He debated for two seconds.
As far as the Navy was concerned, he might be on leave, but Dominic knew he was now on duty. Whatever was going down would take his skill, his talent and his absolute attention. He’d been up all night, barely slept the one before. It wasn’t a part of his SEAL training that allowed him to sleep at will and awaken instantly, but his years in the Navy had honed that talent. He knew if the phone rang, he’d be immediately alert, even from the deepest sleep.
He didn’t even glance at the neatly made bed as he headed for the kitchen.
He grabbed a box of cereal, a quart of milk and a huge bowl.
It might not be pancakes, but it beat the hell out of field rations.
He was on his second helping when his cell lit up.
It didn’t finish the first ring before he had it to his ear.
“Trouble, Auntie,” Petty Officer Brody Lane said in a low growl. His use of Dominic’s call sign instead of his name made it clear this was military business. “You at home?”
“Yeah, took leave. No point sitting around like a pansy on light duty.”
“You up to handling a problem?”
“The Candy Man grabbed Sir.”
Son of a bitch.
Lieutenant Phillip Banks. Call sign Sir.
Dominic’s gut clenched, adrenaline rushing hard. His fist hit the wall before he even realized he’d lifted his hand. He didn’t have to like the guy to be furious. Furious and, yeah, a little scared. Part of training for the mission had been studying detailed information about the Candy Man, as Pedro Alvarez Valdero had been tagged by the team. The man was a cold-blooded sociopath, his morals as low as his ambition was high. He specialized in drugs, torture and various forms of corruption.
If he’d grabbed Banks, that meant the mission had failed. The team wouldn’t leave until they got the lieutenant back. And, of course, completed the mission.
“You want me to get him out?”
Brody’s laugh was a soft gust.
“We got that covered. It ain’t gonna be fast, though. While we deal, we need someone to defuse the repercussions.”
Repercussions. Dominic stood at the window, glaring out at the soft morning sun as it bounced off the trees. The Candy Man was known for forcing cooperation by kidnapping and torturing his victims’ family members.
“I thought Sir was repercussion-free,” Dominic said quietly. Not that he was close to the guy, but he was sure someone had said the guy’s parents had died, leaving him all alone with his uptight self.
Castillo Security? If searching out Banks’s family required those kind of resources, did Dominic really need to defuse the situation? Wouldn’t the team have Banks out before it was an issue?
A heartbeat later, Dominic closed his eyes and bit back a groan.
Yeah. It was already an issue or Brody wouldn’t have dropped the order.
“I’ll take care of it.”
“Who do I report to?”
The silence was only broken by static.
Then the line went dead.
Dominic knew it wasn’t a bad connection.
It was Brody’s way of telling him they’d just crossed over into black-ops territory. This particular mission wasn’t sanctioned, hadn’t been green-lighted—or probably even heard of—by the powers that be.
If he got in trouble, he was on his own.
If he needed help, he’d have to find it himself.
And if he screwed up, he’d be tidily disciplined.
The military was funny that way.
Dominic dumped his bowl into the sink, only taking a second to rinse it. He knew Rosa would be by to clean before shutting the cabin up until his return, and dirty dishes pissed her off.
He grabbed his duffel, checked his wallet for cash and pulled his jacket back on. As he straddled the Harley, he punched a button on his phone.
“Lucas, I got a job for you.”
* * *
LEAMING JUST AS
brightly as the glittering curtains and glistening stage, Lara Banks stood tall. Shoulders back, chest out and chin high. Sequins decorated the lush curves of her breasts and her shimmering skin reflected the multicolored lights.
Turquoise feathers floating around her thighs matched the ones on her headdress, a vivid contrast with the fuchsia lamé bikini bottoms and the gloves that stretched from her fingertips to the elbows she held bent at a forty-five-degree angle to hold up the feather fan at just the right angle to contrast with the rest of the girls in the line.
The music’s tempo changed, and Lara swept the fan down to her knee. The vivid purple ostrich plumes tickled her bare flesh as she swished the fan high again and hitch kicked with the rest of the chorus line. She breathed through her nose, her cheeks stretched in a smile so wide her cheeks hurt. As hard as it was to dance in high platform heels, some nights her face ached more than her arches.
She could have taken a position farther back on the stage. She’d still have had to smile, but not as big. But stage left, smack-dab in front of the audience, meant she had to show not just her teeth, but a whole lot of enthusiasm. But the first position paid more, and the enthusiasm didn’t have to be real.
Once she’d loved dancing. It’d been her life, her everything. She’d reveled in the training and embraced the discipline it took to make the body move in ways to which it wasn’t naturally inclined. She’d donned her first tutu at three, tap shoes at eight and, dammit, a showgirl’s headdress at twenty-two.
She’d given up her childhood for dance. Dating, the mall with girlfriends, even proms had all been happily sacrificed for dance. When push came to shove, she’d chosen dancing over her family. Not that they cared. It’d been eight years since she’d had contact with any of them, and she still wasn’t sure if they’d noticed she was gone.
But life, being the big ole kick in the butt that it was, had made sure that all her passion, all her sacrifices hadn’t mattered. A car accident four years ago had resulted in a bad break of her left femur and the end of her stint on Broadway. Fate and its wicked sense of humor had followed that up by sending her Mr. Perfect. And he’d been just that...perfectly charming, perfectly seductive, perfectly reasonable when he’d convinced her to drain her savings account and run away with him to his casino in Reno, where she’d choreograph his latest headlining show. Talk about a break.
It’d only taken her a week and all but her last hundred to realize he’d been full of shit. Well, that and walking into the room of the hotel he’d claimed to own and finding all of her stuff—and him—gone, and the bill waiting under the door. The only things he’d owned were a great ass, a charming smile and a BMW.
She’d learned her lesson.
Don’t trust men. There was no such thing as a big break and when a pretty girl was broke, friendless and alone in Reno, almost every choice involved taking off her clothes.
She’d chosen to take hers off on stage wearing feathers and a ten-pound headdress, with twenty other women. And since she was a showgirl who only danced the early shows and not a principal, she only had to strip down to the equivalent of a sequined bikini.
It wasn’t Broadway.
But dance wasn’t her passion anymore, so she figured that evened out.
As she strutted along the edge of the stage, her gaze skimmed the audience with disinterested eyes. She couldn’t see past the front row, and most guys who ponied up the dough for up close and personal were card-carrying members of the pervert posse.
She found her mark, front stage left, shimmying in place while the principals gracefully mounted ribbon-covered swings, arching their topless bodies backward as the swings rose to sweep out over the crowd. Catcalls rang over the applause as the women shifted upward to dance on the slender bars of the swings.
One of the perverts jumped onto the stage and tried to grab a swing, coming away with just a handful of plastic flowers. The dancers didn’t miss a step as a burly man dressed in black wove through their still-kicking legs to grab the guy and haul him off the stage.
Lara barely resisted rolling her eyes as the security man dragged the idiot away. Then a movement in the front row caught her eye.
Her gaze shifted to the left.
A little breathless, and not from the dance steps, her smile dimmed a little.
He was gorgeous.
Dark, intense and emitting such a gimme vibe that she was grateful that the sequins of her bra kept her nipples from showing.
He was big. Big enough to loom over the guys in the seats around him.
He was sexy. The kind of sexy that made her knees weak and her tummy shake. The kind of sexy that made her want to promise anything, just for one taste.
But she’d learned the hard way that every bite, nibble or lick cost a girl. And there was nothing she was willing to pay anymore. The good times just weren’t that good.
she told herself.
Focus on the dance.
Next to her, Christi put in enough extra shimmy that the beaded fringe of her bra swung in circles. Lara was impressed. Used to working the late show, the statuesque blonde had a gift for swinging her pasties, but the costume top was a lot heavier than a tiny flap of fabric and a few dangling glitters.
Without thinking, Lara shifted her gaze to the sexy guy in the audience to see if he was impressed, too. But despite the blinding lights, she could tell his eyes were still locked on her. It was unnerving. Flattering. And one hell of a turn-on.
Let it go,
she told herself. Thankfully, the music changed, and Lara led the chorus line in a swirling series of steps, upstage, then right, then back.
She’d seen plenty of gorgeous men in her time. Dancers didn’t have to be pretty, but many of them were. Especially the guys. Of course, most of them were only interested in the other pretty guys, but that was beside the point. They were still plenty hot.
So hot wasn’t worth wasting her thoughts on.
And sexy was pure trouble.
Now on the opposite side of the room, she felt safe looking at him again.
But oh, what a yummy mouthful of trouble he’d be.
It was probably the long, dry spell without sex that had her getting all wet and wild over a guy whose face she couldn’t even see clearly. Maybe she should break open her piggy bank and hit the toy store. An adult toy might take the edge off.
And, more importantly, keep her from thinking about doing anything stupid.
She had plenty to think about already. She had goals, big goals. Goals she was this close to making a reality. And those goals required every single one of her thoughts.
So, sorry, gorgeous guy. None for you.
Half the women in the dressing room were nude, another quarter stripped to the waist, but nobody batted an eyelash at the lumpy grease spot of a guy standing in the doorway.
“What?” she answered, tightening the belt of her robe. Some of the other dancers smirked at modesty, but she didn’t care. For one, she figured her costume showed about as much of her body as she was willing to share with a bunch of people whose last names she didn’t even know. And two, Rudy had a habit of following up his impromptu visits with irritating attention. A lot of the women were cool with that, since his attention usually came with better dance roles.