Three days earlier . . .
RACING THROUGH TRAFFIC AT A high rate of speed, dodging cars as his siren blared, Bo Strawn tried to rein in his temper as he headed for Tybee Island in pursuit of Gayla Brown, a psychopath who’d kidnapped his friend’s woman. What hold he had on his temper, after three nights with little to no sleep, was slipping. His lack of control was due in part to two infuriating Wallflowers. Or, more to the point, the one behind the wheel who wouldn’t pull the fuck over.
He was five minutes behind Devin Hawthorne when he should have been in the lead because he couldn’t get Calla’s friends to pull over. Since he was losing valuable time arguing with the two irrational women, he’d asked for Poppy’s phone number and called them back from his cell as he headed for his truck. But no matter what he said, the stubborn woman behind the wheel wouldn’t listen.
“Swear to Christ, Sienna. I will lock you up and throw away the key if you don’t stand down. NOW!” Bo roared into the phone.
Law and order were paramount to Bo, so when Poppy Gentry scoffed in his ear, then relayed his message to Sienna Miller, whose only reply was a sexy chuckle in response, he gritted his teeth and slammed his hand against the steering wheel.
Don’t lose control.
Drawing a deep breath in through his nose, he counted to ten before trying again to talk some sense into two of the most infuriating women he’d ever encountered. No. Scratch that. Two of the three most infuriating women he’d ever encountered. Their cohort and ringleader, Calla Armstrong, who was currently in the hands of a madwoman, was equally infuriating. None of them listened to reason. None of them followed the rules he held sacred.
“Poppy!” he barked into the phone. “You’ll only get yourselves killed. Leave this to Devin and me, and pull over.”
“Is he still yappin’ his jaw?” Sienna shouted. “Tell him to save his breath. Wallflowers do not leave a woman behind.”
His eye twitched, and his hand followed suit. He didn’t know if he wanted to strangle Sienna or put her over his knee until she listened to reason.
“I’m done playin’ this game,” Bo growled low. “Pull over now or face the consequences.”
“We aren’t pullin’ over, so you can save your breath. Besides, Gayla stopped,” Poppy whispered. “They pulled in front of a cottage facing the ocean. We’ll get out and see what she’s up to when they go inside.”
“For fuck’s sake, stay in your—” The report of a gun being fired stopped Bo mid-sentence, and his heart dropped. “Talk to me. What’s happening?” he shouted.
“Poppy, did you hear me? Stay where you are. Devin will be there any minute.”
He was still met with dead air.
Bo’s blood ran cold, and he jammed the pedal to the floor.
Now all three Wallflowers were at the mercy of a madwoman. A woman who had stalked Devin with the intent to kill him for ruining her life. The same woman who had killed a man to keep her identity a secret.
Eight minutes later he came to a screeching halt next to a police cruiser and Devin’s hog. Barreling out of his truck, Bo took off toward the beach with his heart in his throat. As he stepped off a berm into the soft white sand, his heart stopped then started again. Fifty feet in front of him Sienna stood next to a prone Gayla Brown, whose arms were cuffed behind her back, and Sienna’s hands were waving wildly as she spoke to an officer.
Scanning the beach for Devin and Calla, he saw Poppy standing at the water’s edge shouting at the horizon. He searched the waves until he saw Devin swimming toward a leg of the pier. He squinted and made out the figure of a person hanging on.
Jesus, it’s Calla.
He began to breathe again.
Safe. All three were safe.
Bo heard a commotion over his shoulder and looked back. The press had shown up along with the paramedics. He’d need to deal with the press before things got out of hand, but the adrenaline pounding through his veins had turned from fear to anger at how close these women came to being corpses in his morgue, and he needed a target for his anger to calm down before he dealt with them.
His eyes shot to Sienna, and they narrowed.
Two seconds later he was zeroed in on her location, moving quickly toward her.
Sienna looked up as he approached and actually smiled at him. Her blatant disregard for his anger caused his left eye to twitch again, and his hands shook with the need to strangle her.
“We took her out,” Sienna cried out as he approached. “She wasn’t watchin’ her back, so we snuck up and . . . What’s wrong with your eye?”
“Reckless. Irresponsible. You could have gotten yourself killed,” he thundered.
Men had cowered in the face of his anger, but not this woman. No, she had the nerve to place her hands on her hips and narrow her eyes.
“Bite me, lawman. I told you already; a Wallflower never leaves a woman behind. So you can take your righteous indignation and shove it where the sun don’t shine.”
The officer standing next to her snorted at the insult.
Bo shot him a look, and the rookie cleared his throat then took several steps back and turned around.
“You could have been shot,” he bit out, turning his attention back to the matter at hand.
“Maybe, but Cali needed our help. What would you have done in the same situation? Sit in your car and do nothin’ while your friend took a bullet?”
Her dark brown eyes lit with fire as he glared at her. He could read the conviction in their depths, and his anger ebbed by a degree. The fierce defense of her actions left him without a solid argument. She was right, and he knew it, but the thought of Sienna in danger was unacceptable to him.
He’d, unfortunately, and to his extreme disapproval, been highly attracted to Sienna from the first time he’d laid eyes on her. An attraction he’d tried to ignore. He wanted her, that much he knew, but he also knew she was wrong for a man like him. He needed a woman who could be reasoned with, who listened to instructions and followed them. Sienna broke the rules when it suited her, never listened to reason, and had no respect for authority. It was a dangerous combination in his line of work and a trait he didn’t need in his woman. Not after living with a mother who put her own needs over those of her family.
Crowding in closer to Sienna, until her head tipped back and she met his eyes, Bo intended to use his size to intimidate her into listening to him once and for all. She may be all wrong for him, but that didn’t negate the fact he wanted her safe, and he would use any means necessary to ensure that.
“Pull that shit again, and I’ll put you over my knee,” he hissed.
The quick intake of her breath directed his attention to her mouth. And just like that, he went from angry to hard.
Her full, pink lips called out to him, begged to be taken. Taken by him so he could kiss some much-needed sense into her.
Before he knew what he was doing, Bo leaned in closer for a taste of what he knew would be heaven and hell. Heaven because he’d spent more than a few moments thinking about doing just that, and hell because he knew it could never work between them and the taste of her lips would always haunt him.
Her eyes widened as he moved in to take her mouth. Bo could see flecks of gold dancing in their depths as light reflected their color. Christ, a man could get lost in her eyes, could drown in those dark pools and never want to come up for air.
Lost to the world around him, Bo inched closer to Sienna, determined to know what heaven tasted like. But when her hands came up and clutched his shoulders, and her mouth opened slowly in preparation to be kissed, whispering, “Bo?” on a sultry broken breath, it stopped him dead in his tracks.
Jesus, what am I doing?
Diverting his descent at the last second, Bo whispered in her ear. “You’re right I would have done exactly what you did. But the difference is, I’m trained to do it, and you’re not. If you ever disobey a direct order like that again, I promise you I’ll lock you up and throw away the key.”
She swallowed hard, nodding in quick, jerking motions, but didn’t answer him.
Bo should have stepped back from temptation immediately, but Sienna’s warm body was pressed close to his, and the soft curves burned a trail of heat through his own, igniting a white-hot desire.
At that moment, he was helpless to move.
Lingering a half-second longer than he should have, Bo got a lungful of sweet almonds for his troubles. Sienna’s unique scent was like a drug to his system. He wanted to pull it further into his lungs until he was addicted, but years of disciplined control were on autopilot, and he stepped back.
When she locked confused eyes with his, eyes that were hooded with lust, he turned toward the pier without a backward glance before he claimed the woman for his own. A woman who’d undoubtedly make his head explode before he turned thirty.
“Not happenin’,” he hissed as he set his sights on Poppy, Devin, and Calla. But the fuck of it was, he had a bad feeling he was lying to himself.