In Walked Trouble

Book 2 | Under Covers series

Released July 31, 2017


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First rule of surveillance -- don't kiss the mark. 

DEA agent Luke Calder needs a distraction. With a deadly target on his back, his plan is to drink away his impending demise. Except instead of getting blessedly drunk, in walks a woman who he knows has a much deeper story than she’s leading on. And he definitely wants to know more. Especially after learning she might have something to do with that bullseye on his back. He’s not cool with lying to her, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And what starts out as simple surveillance turns into so much more.

Cassandra Stone is having a bad night. Her boyfriend’s been cheating because she’s not “adventurous enough” in bed. So, she does the next logical thing—she goes in search of a dark, dangerous one-night stand. Instead, she finds smoldering eyes, deep dimples, and the killer smile of a guy who won’t leave her alone. Damn him. He says and does all the right things, making Cass believe that good men still exist. Until she learns why he took an interest in her in the first place.

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Reviews for In Walked Trouble:

"What a ride! Elle brought her A-game with this great read that incorporates a balanced mix of suspense, romance, a bit of humor and some sexy heat! Definitely a must-read!"
-Katrina @ Goodreads

"This book was fantastic. Cassandra is so compassionate about her students. She goes way beyond what is expected, and truly tries to reach the troubled teens. She was definitely my favorite character." -Kim @ Goodreads

"Hang onto your seat reading this one. It's everything it promises and more. Lies, betrayal, suspense, revenge and a good amount of steam thrown in." -Ayekah @ Goodreads


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Chapter One:

“I’m not adventurous in bed?” Cassandra Stone said as she gripped the heavy brass handle on the front door of Max’s bar and yanked the bastard open. “Well, I’ll show him how adventurous I can be.”

Cass stepped into the entryway and glanced around. She must have given the door more of a shove than she thought because it slammed against the interior wall, rattling a few picture frames of celebrities. Each famous figure hugged the same bald-headed, wide-smiling man. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and…was that Dolly Parton before her third boob job? Hmm, this place wasn’t exactly what Cassandra had hoped for. 

She was searching for dark and dangerous. Instead, Max’s was more glittering lights, sparkles, and Wayne Newton. But whatever, she was on a mission. Plus, it was too damn frigid outside to go looking for another place. This would have to do.

Smoothing stray brown hairs that had pulled loose from her ponytail due to the high winds on Broadway, she hoisted her handbag higher on her shoulder. There had to be someone here who fit what she needed. Dangerous men lurked everywhere, didn’t they? More so at bars. But hopefully for her sake, they hung out at places with an illuminated guitar hanging from the ceiling.

Find a man. Go home with him. Do it. And move on.

Simple.

Right?

Right.

The place wasn’t crowded or loud. Only a handful of bodies sat along the bar, probably those who snuck in for a drink after a long day of work. A few people sat alone at round tables in the middle of the room. As she scanned the area, inquisitive eyes connected with hers, their expression a mixture of curiosity and a little pity. Or maybe she just perceived it as pity since she felt completely out of her element.

A middle-aged man smirked at her from a table in the far corner. He slouched in his seat, arm draped across the empty chair next to him. He was decent looking. Navy suit, navy tie loosened from his neck, top button of his shirt undone. His hair was more gray than brown and he had deep laugh lines in the corners of his eyes. Just like…

Not going there. Moving on.

A frosty chill crept up from the floor, seeping through her ballet flats and up under the hem of her jeans. It twisted around her legs like a vine growing northward by the second. She instinctively wrapped her arms around herself and rubbed them, trying to create any spark of warmth. 

This was ridiculous. If she wanted to find someone, she couldn’t stand here all day. She had to find a seat and settle in. Not that Cass had a clue what she was doing, since she’d never picked up anything except produce at the grocery store. But it had to be done.

Put on your big girl panties and lay the sexy down.

Glancing to the back of the room, she spotted two empty seats at the bar. Perfect. One for her and one for her adventurously wild one-night stand.

Cassandra hustled in that direction and hoisted herself onto a barstool. She slapped a hand down on the bar. “Excuse me, guy back there,” she said to the twentysomething bartender. “I need a drink. Whatever’s strong and burns like hell on the way down. In fact, make it a double.” She was going to need a shit ton more courage for this.

She huffed out a breath and smoothed more errant hairs.

“Rough day, huh?” a deep voice said from her right.

Cass tensed, then spun toward the sound, meeting a set of perfectly white, perfectly straight teeth of a man grinning two seats down. She took in his black dress pants and pressed shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbows.

Damn, he was good looking. Too clean cut for what she needed though. She sighed. “You have no idea.”

It wasn’t every day your almost-fiancé decided you weren’t exciting enough in bed and told you that he found someone else to fulfill his needs.

Gripping a beer, he twisted to face her. “Wanna talk about it?”

At the full-on glance, an excited thrill skated up her spine. Cropped blond hair, blue eyes, killer smile, dimples.

Everything she wasn’t looking for.

Very much like Daniel, this man pulled off cocky and confident at the same time. He knew he was God’s gift, but also seemed to know he had the goods to back it up. Not that every other man didn’t assume he was well equipped to handle women. But this one, with smile broadening, told her he knew exactly what to do with his lips, tongue, teeth…and other parts. A shiver ran through her, and then she squashed it, reminding herself what she’d come for.

Dark and dangerous.

Signaling to the chair between them, he asked, “May I?”

She hesitated. “I’m saving it for someone.” Technically she was, she just didn’t know who yet.

His smile didn’t falter. “Really?” His voice was sarcastic, condescending.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” she said. “Why did you say it like that?”

Still smiling. “Like what?”

She wished he would take those damn dimples elsewhere. They were starting to make her forget her mission. He was 100 percent her type and then some. Or at least he was before she started despising hot, sharply dressed men. “Like you just said it.”

“How did I just say it?” Deeper dimples, damn him.

“Like you don’t believe me.” She lifted her chin and glanced away. Out of sight, out of mind. “I am. I’m waiting for someone.”

The bartender appeared with a shot glass and a large brown bottle. She reached into her purse and pulled out the fifty she’d taken from Daniel’s wallet before she walked out. If she was going to get drunk, she was doing it with his money. The bastard.

Cass placed the crisp bill on the bar as the bartender poured the liquor into a short glass, filling it all the way to the top. Perfect. Double, indeed.

“Hmm,” the man next to her mused.

She whipped her attention to him. “What was that for?”

“What?”

“That noise you just made.”

“What noise?” he asked.

“Stop being coy. That hmm noise.”

He shifted on the stool and rested an elbow on the bar, seeming to bite back a laugh. “I didn’t make a noise.”

“Yes, you—” She stopped and cleared her throat. The point was to take the edge off with a drink or two, then go home with a rugged stranger. Not get into a verbal dispute with someone who had the angelic face of a GQ model.

“Forget it. I’m waiting for someone, so please finish your beer and move along.”

The man propped an elbow on the edge of the bar.

“What’s his name?”

“Huh?”

He lifted one eyebrow.

“Oh. Uh.” Her cheeks ignited. Not because he’d caught her in a lie. More because it was embarrassing. How could she explain she was looking for a man to have a one-night stand with because her ex-almost-fiancé was an ass? Even worse, because she couldn’t satisfy him in the bedroom?

No way.

“It’s none of your business,” she said and reached for the glass.

“What if I’d like to make it my business?”

Ugh, even his voice was smooth. Like cognac on a cold, winter night, warming her up from the inside out.

Rolling her eyes at her traitorous, needy female body, she said, “You can’t. Now please go away.”

“Just answer me one question.”

She dropped the glass onto the bar top with a thud, spewing large droplets of liquor on the smooth surface, and let out a sigh. Why did he have to be so trying? Yes, she came looking for a one-night stand. Yes, this man was extremely good looking. Yes, he could probably screw her brains thirty ways to Sunday and keep the reverberations going all the way through next Monday. But she wanted dark and dangerous. She’d done the tall, charming, tax accountant. She wanted a wild, rough, tough, hairy, biker dude.

Someone the complete opposite of Daniel.

“Fine,” she said. “One question. Then will you leave me alone?”

His smile grew wider. “Sure.”

Yikes. Something that powerful should come with a warning label. Her lady parts gleefully started humming.

Down girls.

After a fortifying breath, Cassandra turned to give the man her undivided attention, and crossed one leg over the opposite knee.

“What’s a woman like you doing here?” he asked.

Excuse me? A woman like her?

“What’s that supposed to mean? You think I’m not cut out for a bar? Like I’m too conservative?” Daniel had said that, too. That she needed to loosen up. Well, look at her now—at a bar, trying to get laid.

He clasped his hands together, still resting one elbow on the bar. “Not saying that at all. Just seems odd that you’re here drinking alone.” He gave her a once-over, giving nothing away in his expression. “You’re not meeting a man, despite what you said. That’s evident from your attire.”

Glancing down at her mint green cardigan and jeans, she frowned. She hadn’t really thought about changing when she’d stormed out. She’d had an event at school, then came home, found Daniel in bed with her, and couldn’t process anything except coming here.

Not that she had “bar” attire anyway. She’d been with Daniel for seven years and seriously almost-engaged for the last two. Those bar days were behind her. What did she need a tight top and miniskirt for?

Maybe if you had worn that stuff more regularly, Daniel wouldn’t have gone looking elsewhere.

Shut up. That’s not true.

So she’d gotten comfortable in her relationship. Who hasn’t? She bit back the growing anger and frustration.

“And you sat at the bar,” he continued, “rather than a booth, which tells me you’re not meeting girlfriends after work. So what is it? Just needed a shot of”—his gaze slid to the drink in front of her and his nose wrinkled—“nuclear waste to end a long work week?”

She threw an unsure glance at the short glass with opaque brown liquid, then came back to him. “Why does it matter to you?”

He lifted one shoulder. “I’m curious.”

Cass narrowed her eyes and assessed him. “What did you say your name was?” He hadn’t given it yet and she

knew it.

He paused, watching her, too. “Luke.”

“Well, Luke, if you must know—”

“Afraid to give me yours?”

She straightened her spine and set her jaw. “Of course not. Why would I be afraid?” She wasn’t, but it caught her off guard. She hadn’t planned on giving it to anyone tonight. Names weren’t necessary for what she needed.

“How about that name then?”

“Casssssssandra.” Damn it, it was out before she could think of something else.

His lips twitched. “Interesting name. How many s’s are in that?”

Lips sealed, she stared at him. She should’ve thought of a bar name. Electra. Tina. Nicolette. Something saucy. She’d have to remember that for Mr. Dangerous.

“Now that we’re old friends, Casssssandra, how about we talk about what you’re doing here.”

The bartender circled back in their direction, saving her from responding. He opened his mouth but saw the full glass still in front of her and stopped. “Still doing okay here?”

She and Luke both nodded.

Cass reached for her glass and lifted it up to her nose, sniffing the content. Yikes. Burn her nose hairs why doesn’t it.

“Not sure I would down that if I were you,” Luke said, sounding much closer than before.

She turned as he casually maneuvered himself onto the stool directly next to her. “Whoa, buddy. I told you I was saving this seat for someone—”

“And when he shows,” he said, settling in. “I’ll move. But for now, let’s chat.”

She caught a quick whiff of something clean and musky. It took everything she had not to close her eyes and inhale all of it. She crossed her legs again, keeping everything tucked away where it should be.

Scanning the room, she wished her prince of bad-assery would arrive soon and ravage her. She didn’t have all night. The longer she sat here, the quicker her common sense came back. Maybe rushing out wasn’t the smartest move. But she’d had to do something. She couldn’t sit in that condo for a second longer staring at Daniel and her.

He gestured with his chin toward her drink. “That’s some pretty strong stuff. You should probably start with something weaker and work up to that.”

Realizing she still gripped the shot glass, she sniffed it again and bit back her gag reflex. Oak, wood, more wood, and a hint of burned tree trunk traveled up her nasal passage. This was going to hurt. But it was necessary if she was going to get through the evening. Dull the pain and all that. Before she could talk herself out of it, she squeezed her eyes shut and threw her head back, downing the shot in one gulp.

Holy hot tamales walking across hot coals in Mexico!

As her head came up, she coughed and choked. Fire raced down her throat, then rocketed back up. Her tongue went numb, her stomach clenched, and she had to catch her breath before flames propelled out and burned the entire place down. That shit was a lot more potent than her usual bahama breeze spritzers.

“Delicious, right?” Luke asked with sardonic lift of his lips.

“Yeah,” she croaked. “Love it. Think I’ll have another.”

She held up a hand for the bartender, who diligently shuffled over.

Before she could make the request—wheezing was all she was good for at the moment—Luke spoke instead. 

“She’ll have a really big glass of ice water, please. And some peanuts. You guys have those, right?”

The bartender nodded and walked off.

When she finally found the words, she said, “I wanted another drink.”

“That’s what I got you.”

“You know what I mean, a real drink. I need it so I can—”

Oookay, maybe she didn’t need another round. One more and she’d be flinging every embarrassing secret she had all over this bar.

With interest gleaming in his blue eyes, Luke inched his perfectly chiseled jaw with just the right amount of stubble

into her personal space. “So you can what?”

“Nothing. It’s none of your business. Are you finished with your beer so you can go?” She had a mission to fulfill and his hot-guy smiles were cramping her style.

Without looking away, he reached into his back pocket, pulled a bill loose from a silver money clip, and held it into the air.

Moments later, the bartender placed a large glass of water, another beer, and a small bowl of peanuts on the bar top.

Luke clicked his bottle on her glass, then nudged the water and nuts in front of her. “Cheers.”

She slumped on her stool. “You’re not going away anytime soon, are you?”

“Nope. I’m really liking the scenery.” Though when he said it, he didn’t look around, only at her.

“Don’t you have better things to do? Like go gel your impeccable hair?”

His lips lifted behind his glass. “I’ve got time to kill.”


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Check out all the books in the Under Covers series!