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Originally released October 2006; re-released with new publisher/cover July 2015.

**Print version includes bonus story Snow Angel**

It’s a night for adventure, for pushing the limits. Well, breaking them actually. Stacie can’t believe she’s stolen her escort’s Porsche to go back road joyriding. But damn, it feels good to cut loose from her life for one precious night. It’s just her lousy luck she catches the eye of an off duty cop.

Just her luck, indeed. Being reprimanded by Lieutenant Jake Chance, the sexiest man she’s ever seen, makes her want to break a few more laws. She’s going to throw caution to the wind and see if she can seduce her cop to go over the limits with her. Way over.

If Jake Chance is willing to hold her in his arms, Stacie knows she’ll have a memory to last her a lifetime. She just wishes dawn would never come, because when it does, she’ll have to let him go...


© Copyright 2006 - All Rights Reserved

“Stacie, that was inappropriate behavior. I expect more of you than that.”

Inappropriate behavior.

She’d laughed at a joke. The wife of one of John’s co-workers had made the observation, not unkindly, that John’s boss looked like a giraffe. The likeness had been so obvious she couldn’t help the snort of laughter.

Maybe it had been too loud. Maybe a couple heads had turned. But all she’d done was laugh, for heaven’s sake.

On Monday, her father had freaked out on his new meds and thrown her into a china cabinet. On Wednesday, her mother had needed her diaper changed. When she'd cried through the indignity of it, Stacie cried, too. She’d made multiple calls to insurance contacts about a ten-thousand dollar charge her brother insisted was incorrect and therefore refused to pay. Finally, to top off this terrific week, she’d been roped into being John’s arm candy for this business party, the annual “Summer Fling” for which he had to have a date.

God, she was so sick of worrying about what she said, how she did things. Maybe she’d overreacted. But seeing John’s face when she’d told him to “fuck off” had been worth it. She’d even taken his car, a car that certainly shouldn’t belong to a stuffy corporate ass kisser who color-organized his sock drawer.

“Aarggh!” She pushed her foot down on the accelerator. The Porsche leaped forward. God…it felt so good. On these quiet rural roads in the middle of the night, nothing around for miles and miles but corn and a rosy sky getting ready for sunset, it felt incredible, like riding a horse. Or riding a man. She knew either one was a form of running, but she didn’t care.

She was the nurse in the family. It had made sense for her to leave her hospital job to serve as a home health care nurse when her parents began to decline from the diseases Fate had imposed on them simultaneously. As they worsened, she recommended a good assisted care facility which could be supplemented by family care. Meaning her care, since her brothers moved north and joined a New York firm several months after she moved in with their parents.

Both successful CPA’s, her two brothers saw no reason she couldn’t provide their parents everything they needed at home. At first, she’d tried to believe their reasoning was emotional, based on love. The “we’re not putting Mom and Dad in a home” mentality, lingering from when the only choices were brick box structures on the side of the highway with a few rocking chairs out front. But as time progressed, her opinion on that had changed bitterly. They insisted they would take care of the finances insurance didn’t cover and her living expenses, but everything was a fight and grudgingly given.

Her dating life in the past several years had been John. On one of their more vitriolic conversations, she asked her brother to pay for a relief nurse to give her a night away from the house. He’d hung up on her after calling her a selfish bitch trying to drain his children’s college fund. An hour later, she’d been called by John. A former colleague of her brother’s, he needed an attractive armpiece for his business dinners and didn't have much time to devote to developing a relationship. Tom said he’d pay for an overnight relief nurse whenever she chose to go out with John, as long as it didn’t exceed once a month.

At first, she’d been insulted by his assumption she'd need an overnight nurse. After giving it some thought, she’d intended to have an early night with John and spend the rest of her evening elsewhere, perhaps taking a few dollars she’d put aside to check into a cheap motel and read or sleep for the night, enjoy some solitude.

But for reasons she was ashamed to examine, she’d let John coax her into going home with him and succumbed to some perfunctory sex she’d actually been grateful to him for initiating. A weak moment where she’d just needed some comfort, someone’s sheltering arms. The idea of John’s arms around her now was smothering.

It had become a monthly habit. Go to some idiotic business function, go home with John. At least he fell asleep quickly. She could then slide out of bed and sit by the window, listening to rain patter on the glass or watching the moon while she read whatever paperback novel she’d picked up for escapism, knowing the dream it spun would be uninterrupted for a little while.

Perhaps she’d spend the night just doing this. In college, she’d had a Mustang. This car had a lot more power, but it was easy to get used to the difference. Like a dog trying to get out by wriggling under a fence, stuck in the hole he’d dug, she understood why he'd strangle to death trying to escape.

She pushed the gas pedal down even further. It was just her out here, a silver ribbon of road with hills to give her stomach the thrill of a roller coaster, like the feel of first love, the first bite of lust. For once she was going faster than the way her life was passing her by. Two days ago she’d turned thirty, with no one noting it but her mother, who’d hugged her and looked at her with tears in her eyes. She vowed her parents would never see anything but her love. They would not pass out of this world thinking they were a burden to her. Never. They’d cared for her eighteen years and then some; three years was nothing. But she was afraid something in her was going to crack wide open, like Humpty-Dumpty on his wall.

She let out a short yip of alarm as a sharp blast of noise blared behind her. Glancing up in the mirror, she saw flashing blue lights about fifty feet back and gaining on her.

“You have got to be fuc…KIDDING!” She rolled her eyes. “Stop it. You’re alone, Stace. You can swear. Say it. Fuck. You’ve got to be FUCKING kidding!” She glared at the rearview mirror in triumph. She’d cussed. Not one of those weak everybody-used-them words like damn or hell. She wished John had been here to hear it, just for a moment. His mouth would hang open like he’d just been hit in the head by a flounder. Inappropriate behavior. Bite me.

What in hell was a cop doing out here, in a county area so remote the radio stations had static? She’d no idea how fast she was going, but she was sure it was twenty miles over the speed limit. It wasn’t fair. Had she been like her self-absorbed brothers in a previous life, and this was karma?

Fine. Taking a deep breath, she pulled over. She could handle one cop. And if she couldn’t, jail would be like getting a trip to a weekend spa session.

She glanced in the side view mirror as his door opened. If she hadn’t been used to seeing refitted drug dealer cars used in the city all the time by the police, she’d have had a momentary concern about a blue light bandit posing as a police officer, because the car was a black Trans-Am. It didn't answer what a city cop was doing way out here, though. Then he unfolded and straightened from the car and she lost the desire to wonder about anything.

Holy God.

As if she’d been going so fast the world had spun on its axis and now was going way, blissfully slow, his first few steps toward her were like the movies where the hero's first walk-on scene was in slow motion.

He wasn’t wearing a uniform. With her fleeting thought of a blue light bandit, that should have alarmed her. But when dormant hormones surged to life as they did now, like a pack of wild dogs she’d just been told were hers, thrilling in their wildness but out of control, it sort of cancelled out brain cells.

His well-creased jeans moved with his hips just right, the badge flashing at her from where it was clipped to his belt. He wore a shoulder holster and his snug dark T-shirt was tucked in, capturing the sharp, authentic look of a cop, despite the casual wear. It also emphasized a broad chest, wide shoulders and flat abdomen that drew the eye back past his waist down to other things the jeans held well. He had a black PD baseball cap pulled down low on his brow and wore concealing sunglasses against the setting sun. The jaw line was hard and clean as creek rock, with that five o’clock shadow that went with the dark close-cropped hair she could see beneath the cap. His arms. My God, she’d just dwell on those arms for days, the sleek lines of muscle.

If she could program this moment like her DVR, she’d just pause, rewind, pause, rewind so he could walk toward her forever. She’d worship the cable company like gods.

The baseball field. She remembered now. As she was headed out of town, there’d been a mixture of cop cars and vehicles with police and fire association bumper stickers. The police and firemen ran a series of six games every year, a benefit for the children’s home. This guy was likely off duty, heading home.

From the way he approached the car, she knew he was doing that quick assessment police people did to ensure she wasn’t going to pose a threat. Pull a gun from her micro-sized evening bag.

Oh, God. She had no license with her. She’d left it and her wallet at home because she was with John. She had a clutch purse with a few toiletries in it and that was it. The thought came to her a moment before he made that final step to the window. Tapped on the glass.

Reluctantly, she turned the key, let the window roll down.

“Ma’am, were you aware you were going a hundred and thirty miles an hour?”

Holy shit. She couldn’t help it. A giggle burst from her. She clapped her hand over her mouth. Well, no wonder he’d stopped her, even if he was off duty. She might as well have sauntered past his window and waved a bag of cocaine.

When he frowned, she had a sudden, explosive urge to nibble on his firm lips. What was the matter with her? She bit back more of that inappropriate laughter. Seems all the men in her life, including this newest addition, didn’t approve of her laughing. Well…f-fuck them. In fact… Her gaze coursed over him. That would be a really good idea. Those jeans looked like they held something quite capable of inappropriate behavior.

“Ma’am, is something funny? Have you been drinking?”

“No. No.” She shook her head, smothered another nearly hysterical hiccup of laughter. “I should, though. I should drink a lot.

His brow raised, that disapproving expression deepening, and oh, my Lord. She felt her panties dampen, a shocking reaction. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d even really thought about sex. When she and John had sex, she didn’t think about it. That would make her realize exactly how horrible it was.

Was this cop really masterful like this? Or was it just a trained persona, something he took off like his badge and gun at the end of the day, becoming a man as lackluster as John, an unimaginative couch potato?

“Ma’am, I need you to get out of the car.”

So that was it. The laughter died out of her, leaving a sense of hopeless desolation. It was over. Reality had intruded and the gorgeous cop was going to give her a ticket. Another thing to deal with, another thing she’d have to resolve with her brothers because she’d wanted one frigging moment to breathe. Something surged up in her so fast and hard it was like a bad reaction to the evening’s hors d’oeuvres and just as alarming. Much worse than vomit.

A muscle flexed in her jaw. “Officer, I…” She swallowed. “Can you go back to your car just a moment, please?”

He lifted a brow.

“I’m going to cry now. I don’t want to cry. It actually…d-doesn’t…help anything. And…and…I’m not a crier!” She blurted it out as she felt the first tears start to well from her eyes. “I don’t…try to get out of tickets and…I d-don’t w-want…please. I’ll take the t-ticket. Just…oh hell. Go away.”

She hit the window control. She needed a “Come back in five minutes” sign like they had at the bank. Why couldn’t she have had this one thing? Why did it have to be this way, always? What had she done wrong?

* * * * *

Jake Chance blinked as glass whirred back up, shutting him out. She turned away from him, burying her face in her hands.

Well, that was a first.

When he’d told her how fast she was going, he’d wanted to add that she’d been handling the car damn well at that speed, He’d expected a face shellacked with wealth and was surprised that the pale face staring back at him was lightly touched with makeup, though not enough to cover shadows and worry lines she was too young to have. Her shoulder-length hair was pushed back in a simple style. The dress she wore, what there was of it, was an elegant black short thing with spaghetti straps, the kind cut to show off a delicate nape, the fine line of the shoulders, teasing a man with a lot of leg and the slope of her bare back.

Her change in expression had alerted him, made him draw his attention away from enjoyment of her body. Her face was too thin, and suddenly it was thinner, drawn in on itself. He knew the signs of stress. He’d had women do all sorts of things to dodge a ticket, but his gut told him that wasn’t what was happening here. The circumstances were wrong. A pretty woman all by herself in the middle of nowhere, eating the pavement like she was outrunning the fires of hell and going nowhere as fast as she could. She wasn’t trying to play him.

In fact, the look in her eyes roused a protectiveness in him, a second sense he had when he knew someone needed him. But even with that, it had been a long time since a woman had made him want to do the asinine thing he did now.

She hadn’t locked her door. Opening it, he unbuckled her seat belt, his fingers brushing her silky hip. She smelled like one of those light floral body sprays with a hint of talcum powder. Gently he took her elbow, went to one knee, and turned her into his arms.

She hardly reacted. No jump, no stiffening. She was having a full out flood, and it was the easiest thing in the world to wrap his arms around her.

“It’s okay,” he murmured.

Stacie knew she should have been shocked at herself, but she no longer had the energy to do what was right or proper. The arms around her felt good. Strong. Able to hold her together so she wouldn’t break. Until he’d put them around her, she hadn’t realized how fragile she felt. He smelled of sweat from the baseball game, a faint soap and aftershave smell.

“No…it’s…not. But it doesn’t matter. I still have to keep on going, and I’m s-so af-fraid I c-can’t. That I’ll l-let them d-down.”

“Sshh…sshh… Just let it out.” She had her arms folded between them, protecting herself. Pushing her head onto his shoulder, Jake tightened his hold on her and let her sob. Her words struck him oddly. Here she was, pretty as a picture and driving a Porsche, and yet her words reminded him starkly of his own job. It wasn’t okay, but you still had to keep doing it. Battered wives, homicides over old grudges, kidnappings, robberies, kids gunning each other down in the street…

She had a lot built up and he found he didn’t mind holding her through it. So often he couldn’t reach out, couldn’t help. She might be crying over something utterly shallow, like she’d run up too much credit card debt, but somehow he didn’t think so. The shoulders quivering under his hands were even now trying to snap back to regain control, to reel it back in. He watched for the signs, ready to ease up. When she lifted her head at last to look at him, or rather to hastily wipe her eyes before he could see her face, he caught her wrist. He didn’t have a kerchief, but he supposed the hem of his T-shirt would do. He pulled it loose, brought the edge up to her face, dabbed at her eyes. As he did, her hand fluttered down, landed soft as a summer butterfly on his bare stomach, just above the belt holding his jeans.

Rather than jerking away, she went still. Carefully, he kept dabbing her eyes, but he could feel every ounce of pressure of her fingers there. Christ, Chance, she’s upset about something. Give her a break.

He was rock hard muscle, was Stacie’s thought. She fought the irresistible urge to spread out her fingers, enjoy the flat stomach, the silken trail of hair that she knew would arrow straight down toward his groin. Her thumb was on his belt. She should feel emotionally drained after such a cry. Embarrassed and ready for ice cream and female-only solitude. However, as her hand made that intimate contact, hard want pulsed between her thighs, telling her exactly what she was ready for.

Just like her time in the Porsche, she wanted to ride fast and hard, as fast as she could, higher and higher. She didn’t want to have sex. She’d given up on making love. She wanted to fuck, like she’d read about, dreamed about. She wanted to fuck this sexy, gorgeous cop with gentle hands and hard muscles, who’d been enough of a good guy to know when she needed a shoulder. Something John wouldn’t recognize if her parents dropped dead, her house burned down and she discovered she’d gained twenty pounds—all in the same day.

With his arms bent like this, his biceps swelled into nice hard curves. His hands were long-fingered and looked rough, strong. Well, lackluster and unimaginative he might be, but a couch potato he wasn’t. She didn’t care that a man might be a little soft, but right now she wanted a man the way a fantasy demanded him. A man who would spread her legs with relentless determination and sheathe himself, drowning her in pleasure. Take her over, allow her to think only about his cock and the climax he’d send screaming through her every nerve ending.

Okay, she was taking this fantasy way too far. He’d straightened to his feet and reached out his hand. He could be kind, but he was still going to do his job, make sure she wasn’t intoxicated.

Taking his hand, she put her heel to the pavement. Getting out of a Porsche in a short dress did not allow modesty. She hesitated as he tightened his grip on her. Insisting that she was going to get out of that car.

Well, why not? The speed of the Porsche, the way she felt with the wind blowing in the window, came surging up in her. What was she worried about?

Clasping his fingers, she let his leverage bring her to her feet. Her slender fingers and wrist looked consumed by his grip. The skirt hiked up past the lace top of her thigh highs briefly before she rose. While she couldn’t tell for sure, she thought he’d looked.

Suddenly her protective cop had the intimidating look of Clint Eastwood. Before she could step back, startled by the shift in his expression, his hands slid to her upper arms, holding her fast.

“Baby, who left those bruises on your neck?”

She blinked. The cop had just…he’d just used a possessive endearment, and heat rushed up through her at the way his jaw hardened, telling her he damn well expected an answer. It was like a sign. He wanted her, too. Or was she having a delusion?

“Oh—no. It’s not what you think. My father has dementia. His current meds weren’t working so well, and he flies into rages. He caught me unprepared.” Would have strangled her if she hadn’t been able to use an umbrella that had fallen on the floor near them to break his grip. “I take care of him.”

“Sounds like you need some help. Isn’t there a nurse?”

“I am a nurse.” She moistened her lips, wondering if she could just pretend this was a fantasy, so if she made a complete fool of herself, tomorrow she could pretend it had all been a dream. Unless she woke up in jail, of course.

When he removed his glasses and hooked them in his shirt collar, she saw he had flinty gray eyes to go with his dark hair streaked with brown.

She cleared her throat. “I think you were going to determine if I’d been drinking.”

“Have you?”

“One glass of wine at the dullest banquet that has ever been held in the history of business-related events.” She stepped backwards two steps while he watched her closely.

“Let's be sure. Just walk down the center line, ma’am. One foot in front of the other.”

A straight line, no stepping off right or left. She’d been doing that her whole life.

“Mind if I take my shoes off first?” She gestured to the shiny three-inch heels. “I wouldn’t want to catch one on a rough area of pavement and make you think I was something I wasn’t.”

He inclined his head. Holding onto the car, she took off one shoe, then switched grips to do the other. Now he was even taller. Dropping the shoes into the car, she turned, propped one foot on the bumper. Reaching up a few inches under the skirt, she unhooked the garters and rolled down the stocking deliberately, knowing she was revealing her leg almost to the hip. Let’s see how far we can take this. The sheer stocking came off like a dandelion’s seeds blowing lightly away in the air. After she did the other, she turned to find him watching. Avidly, a man’s desire in his eyes. His jaw flexed. Smiling, Stacie came back to him and draped the stockings over one of his broad shoulders, coming close enough she could feel his heat. Since something in his eyes told her she should be cautious about coming too close, she took a step closer.

“Thanks,” she said simply. “That’s the best compliment I’ve gotten in months.”

She brushed by him, making sure her hip brushed his before she moved toward the center line.

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