Southern Comfort

With Cavenaugh's goons closing in on her, undercover DEA agent, Fallon Hargis, relies on her wits to make her escape, but is Fallon pushing her luck when she shoves her way into the hotel room of slow-talking, small town sheriff, Wade Tanner---then at gunpoint orders him to strip?

What choice does Wade have? He strips. Suddenly the game isn't a game anymore when he discovers she's been shot and he's the only one standing between her and the men who want her dead. Wade has only one choice---take her back to Two Creeks, Texas.

Will his small town survive this sexy as sin, tough talking, undercover agent? Hell, will he?

REVIEWS

"A fun sexy read!" -- Lori Foster.
     "Once in a while a new author comes along that totally blows me away. This year that author is Karen Kelley. Southern Comfort is a book that will grab readers from the explosive first page and will carry them along until the surprising ending. Ms Kelley shows tremendous talent for creating a fantastic storyline in her first effort for Brava. Southern Comfort has it all, hot sex, loads of suspense, a feisty no nonsense heroine and a heart of gold to die for hero. Be prepared to add a new author to your auto buy list - 5 Roses!" -- Barbara, A Romance Review.

     "Comfort is hot and steamy in the South - Karen Kelley’s new book for Kensington’s Brava line, SOUTHERN COMFORT, focuses on a tough undercover DEA agent bent on revenge. But it’s not the hero, it’s the heroine, Fallon Hargis. Fallon is smart, deadly, and not into feelings. SOUTHERN COMFORT is emotionally riveting as Fallon fights her feelings for Wade, and the twist at the end will shock and thrill you. Don’t miss this erotic journey traveled through a dangerous world of murder and retribution - 5 Stars!" -- Juliet Burns, Desire Author & Steamy Romance Lover.

     "Readers will enjoy the dry, witty humor and down-home feeling of this steamy, fast-paced romantic suspense!" -- Tanya Kacik, Romantic Times - 4 stars!

     "What do you do when a gorgeous woman barges into your hotel room, points a gun at you, and tells you to strip? Why fall in love with her of course! Karen Kelley writes an edge of your seat thriller that is sure to keep you hooked all the way through. The twists and turns in this story will keep you guessing until the very end of the book, while the sensual love scenes will keep you plenty warm while you turn those pages. Grab a cool drink and keep the lights on when you read this one!" --Cathleen Cody, Romance Junkies.


CHAPTER ONE

     “Chere, what you think I was goin’ to do when I find out you be with the DEA?” John Cavenaugh asked, his Cajun accent more pronounced, warning the other three people in the penthouse suite that his explosive temper was teetering on the edge.

​      Fallon Hargis didn’t answer, instead, she glared at the man in front of her. Hatred burned inside her even while the cold chill of death ran its cold fingers up and down her spine.

     ​Sounding almost apologetic, he continued, “I have to kill you, sugar, or you be tryin’ to take old Cavenaugh down. I can’t let dat  ha​ppen.”

    ​ “Remember when you called me petit chat?” She raised her chin. “Cats have nine lives, and I’m not so easy to get rid of.”

​ Cavenaugh chuckled without mirth. “It almost be a shame to kill you, but—” he shrugged “—business is business, Chere.”

     ​“Screw you.”

     ​His eyes narrowed. Reaching out, he ran a finger down her cheek, outlining the edge of her jaw. She jerked away but it only drew another chuckle from him.

     ​“You be good to her, hear now? Don’t mess up dat pretty face,” he said to his two flunkies before he strolled out of his suite without a backward glance.

     ​It looked like her career as an undercover drug enforcement agent was about to come to an end. The last place she expected to die was a hotel room in Dallas, Texas.

     ​Fuck it, she wasn’t ready to die.

     ​She pushed back the black, full-length mink and planted her hands on her hips. The slit up the side of her red, sequined gown showed more than enough leg to make dumb and dumber drool.

     ​“Too bad we can’t party first. I bet we could have a lot of fun.” Her words were low and husky...with more than a hint of promise.

     ​“Hey, Jack,” George wiped the sweat from his upper lip. He barely paid attention where he aimed his gun. The barrel pointed more toward the floor than her. “Cavenaugh didn’t say when we had to do it.”

     ​Jack spun the silencer onto the end of his gun. “Don’t be a fool. That Cajun’s meaner than a hungry gator,” he nodded toward Fallon. “And she doesn’t party with anyone. You should know better than most,” he ground out. “We do away with her, then we get rid of the body.”

     ​So maybe Jack wasn’t as stupid as George. She dropped her hands to her sides and quickly glanced around the room for an alternate plan. Her gaze landed on the cart that room service had brought up before Cavenaugh pronounced his death sentence. The hot coffee hadn’t been touched. She inwardly smiled.

     ​It isn’t over yet, boys.

     ​“Say your prayers, honey.” Jack raised his gun.

     ​A surge of adrenaline charged through her. She lunged for the pot. Her fingers curled around the handle.
Jack fired.

     ​Searing pain ripped across her side.

     ​No time to think about it.

     ​She whirled around, flinging the steaming liquid at Jack. He screamed and grabbed his face as she slammed the pot across George’s head. Stunned, George dropped his gun and fell to his knees.

     ​“Goddamned bitch!” Jack cursed.

     ​Scooping up George’s gun, she ran out the door. Where now? No choice. The elevator. She stumbled inside and jabbed the button for the fourth floor. Anywhere but the lobby. She couldn’t take a chance of running into Cavenaugh.

     ​The doors closed.

     ​She drew in a deep breath—then grimaced. Jeez, her side burned like someone sticking it with a hot poker. She slipped the gun into the pocket of the mink and raised her gown.

     ​The bullet had grazed her just above her hip. Nothing she would die from, but it hurt like a son-of-a-bitch, and it was bleeding. If she didn’t do something soon she’d leave Jack and George a breadcrumb trail, or in this case, blood. Pulling a scarf from her pocket, she wadded it up and placed it against the wound, keeping pressure on it with her arm as her dress fell back in place. That had been a close call. Too damn close.

     ​And she wasn’t safe yet, but at least now she was armed.

     ​She brought the gun out and pushed a button. The clip from the nine-millimeter dropped into her palm. Empty. Damn it!
“Only George would carry an unloaded gun,” she muttered, ramming the clip back in place.

     ​The elevator stopped and the doors whirred open. She paused before stepping out. Except for a maintenance cart, the hall was empty. She had to find a place to hide. It would be just her luck if Cavenaugh’s men stepped outside the room and saw where the elevator stopped.

     ​Her two-inch heels didn’t make a sound on the carpeted floor as she swiftly made her way to the cart. At least the maintenance person wouldn’t know the gun wasn’t loaded.

     ​“I can’t believe the light doesn’t work,” a high pitched voice screeched.

     ​Fallon hugged the wall and peeked around the open door. A middle-aged woman stood just outside the bathroom holding some kind of Chihuahua that wasn’t much bigger than a piss ant. The mutt turned slightly, saw her, and began to yap. She jumped back.

     ​​For a small dog it had a very irritating bark. So much for this room—too many people, and the animal would give her away.

     ​She started to leave when her gaze fell on a roll of masking tape on the cart. Keeping watch on the open door, she laid the gun down, grabbed the tape and tore off a piece. Cursing Jack under her breath, she jerked her gown up and stuck the tape over the scarf.

     ​The elevator began to move.

     ​Her heart pounded.

     ​Five rooms down, the hall veered left. Grabbing her gun and hitching up her dress, she made a run for it, gritting her teeth against the pain in her side.

     ​Fallon heard the elevator doors open as she slipped around the corner. Leaning against the wall, she tried to stem her ragged breathing. Maybe it wasn’t Cavenaugh’s men. Maybe for once in her life something was actually going to go in her favor.

     ​Staying close to the wall, she peered around the side. Jack and George stepped off. So much for wishing. They didn’t look happy, either. Although she noted with satisfaction Jack’s face was a rather nice shade of red.

     ​“Where the hell did she go? You still got that passkey? Let’s start checkin’ rooms.”

     ​Her options were quickly draining away. She glanced down the hallway behind her. A man stood beside a door, his back to her, as he inserted his key card. She raced toward him. He’d suddenly become her lifeline. Just as he opened the door, she shoved him inside.

     ​“What the hell?” he growled, falling forward and reaching for the wall as he stumbled into the room.

     ​Without wasting a moment, she shut the door behind them.

     ​The stranger quickly regained his balance and spun around. He opened his mouth, then snapped it shut, his gaze narrowing on her face. The furrow in his brow relaxed as his eyes dropped lower, slowly trailing past her fur-draped shoulders, lingering on the deep vee of the sequined dress. His inspection of her body skidded to a halt when it landed on the gun she had pointed right at his gut.

     ​“That’s a gun,” he stated.

     ​“A man with a brain. What a unique combination,” she purred.

     ​He took a step toward her, stopping when she raised the barrel. “I don’t know what your game is, lady, but...”

     ​She hesitated briefly. An idea formed. “Take off your clothes.”

     ​“My wallet’s in my front pocket.” He flung open his suit jacket. “Take it and get out.”

     ​Fallon kept her eyes on the man in front of her. He still didn’t understand, and she didn’t have time to explain.

     ​She raised the barrel an inch higher. “Maybe you can’t hear very well. I don’t want your wallet. Now strip before I get angry.  ​​Believe me, you don’t want to see me mad.”

     ​Her hand trembled. She gripped the gun tighter. The burning in her side grew steadily worse.

     ​The stranger’s eyes narrowed and his cheeks tinged red, but he toed off one boot, then the other. As he reached down and yanked off his socks she glanced around, wishing a back door would materialize. There wasn’t much of anything in the sparsely furnished hotel room. A large bed, two nightstands, two lamps and a television. Her gaze drifted back to the stranger when he popped the buttons of his shirt undone.

​     “Is this how you get your kicks?”

​     She raised an eyebrow. Not a bad idea. Minus the gun, that is. She’d file it away for future reference. Fallon had never had a man strip for her. Just the thought was enough to send shivers of anticipation over her. This man certainly had the build of a male stripper.   ​And the way he stood, with his feet slightly apart, like he didn’t give a damn, definitely turned her on. She wet her lips when he yanked his shirt off and tossed it on the seat of the chair near the bed. Tanned skin and the ripple of muscles. The insides of her thighs quivered.

     ​If the situation were different, this could be interesting. He certainly had potential. She mentally shook herself. Thoughts like that would get her killed.

     ​He faced her, his hands moving toward his pants. A question formed in his eyes.

     ​Heat flooded her, but there was no turning back. She almost laughed. It took a lot to embarrass her, but the stranger had managed to do just that. This wouldn’t be the first time she’d brazened her way out of a bad situation. She could do it this time, too. Hell, she was doing it. If he knew the gun wasn’t loaded, she had no doubt he’d strangle her. But he didn’t know. And it wasn’t like she hadn’t seen a man naked before. It’d just been a while. A hell of a long while.

     ​“Everything off.” There wasn’t time to explain she couldn’t take a chance Cavenaugh’s men might catch a glimpse of his clothes while they were pretending to make love. She cleared her throat. “There’s no reason to be embarrassed. I’ve seen it all before.”

     ​“Do I know you?” He raised a brow.

     ​Smart-ass. He knew she hadn’t meant that she’d seen him before. Her spine straightened. She winced.

     ​“Men are all the same.” Her words came out harsh as the enormity of her situation returned. “Only the packaging is different. Now, if you don’t mind, move it. This performance isn’t for my benefit.”

     ​His eyes glittered dangerously, but he shoved his pants down past snug fitting briefs and over well-muscled thighs before kicking them off. His gaze never wavered from hers as he hooked his thumbs in the top of his white briefs and began peeling them off, his movements slow, hypnotic. It didn’t help her stability that he was fully aroused. She wanted to reach forward and caress him—feel him buried deep inside her, her breasts crushed against his chest.

     ​A door slammed.

     ​​She jumped.

     ​Damn it, she had to stay focused. They were getting closer. Soon they’d be here. The only thing she wanted Cavenaugh’s men to see was a dark haired woman supposedly making love with a man. They wouldn’t suspect it was her.
She’d overheard more than one comment about her blue eyes being so cold they’d shrivel a man’s nuts. Her gaze moved downward.

     ​​Obviously, what they said about her didn’t hold true with the sexy stranger.

     ​No doubt about it, she was losing her mind. Her grip tightened on the gun. “Turn on the bedside light, pull the covers down, and get into bed.”

     ​When Cavenaugh’s men didn’t find her, they might assume she’d taken the stairs down. As long as the stranger cooperated, that is. She’d make damn sure he did.

     ​Wade gritted his teeth, but flung the cover to the side. What choice did he have? The woman might have a history of insanity as long as his.... He glanced down. His arm.

     ​He lay on the bed, propping his hands beneath his head and crossing his legs at the ankles. He tried to appear nonchalant as he waited for her next move. Not an easy task when a woman had a gun pointed at him. One slip and he’d get the upper hand, though.

     ​Carefully, she laid the weapon on the opposite table, the grip toward her. He had no doubt she’d be able to get to it before he did.

     ​She shrugged out of the fur and kicked off her heels. Wade no longer thought about the gun.

     ​Raising her hands, she unzipped the back of her dress. The scraping of metal teeth unleashing the woman was like fingernails stroking along his bare thigh.

     ​She frowned, as if in pain. He wondered why, but his attention moved to other things when the gown eased from her shoulders, caressing her skin as it slithered to the floor, revealing high, firm breasts. He wanted to gather them in his hands and knead the soft flesh between his fingers, pull her to him so he could suck her puckered nipples.

     ​He swallowed. Or at least he tried. The dry lump that formed at the back of his throat made it kind of hard. And that wasn’t the only thing hard.

     ​Finally, he dragged his gaze away, letting it roam down her body. The makeshift bandage tinged with blood and taped just above her hip made him catch his breath.

     ​“You’re hurt.” He raised on one elbow.

     ​She grabbed the gun and motioned for him to lie back down. “It’s nothing. Only a scratch.”

     ​“Then why are you sweating?”

     ​“Maybe you turn me on, sugar.”

     ​She smiled and for a moment he forgot he was being held at gunpoint. Her face softened. He could almost pretend she was here under different circumstances. She definitely did things to his body, but that fact was obvious.

     ​Reaching up again, she tugged on her hair. Off came the blonde wig. Ebony tresses barely reached her shoulders. Her dark hair made her skin appear more pale. Again, his gaze traveled over her. Very slowly. An aching need began building deep inside him. His groan drew her attention.

     ​“Don’t get any ideas, buster. Just pretend you’re an actor and this is a one-act play.”

     ​Then why the striptease? Who was she? What did she want?

     ​Her thumbs hooked inside the band of the red thong she wore.

     ​Who cares?

     ​She shoved the panties off and kicked her clothes under the bed, out of sight.

     ​The door rattled. She flinched.

     ​Grabbing the gun, the woman jumped into bed and straddled him.

     ​He grunted, but not from pain. Her body cupped his. Sex against sex.

     ​Taking his hand, she placed it over the bandage that covered her wound, effectively hiding it. She trembled. He could smell her fear.

     ​“Pretend we’re making love,” she frantically whispered.

     ​“Kind of difficult with a gun pointed at me.”

     ​“Better than being dead.”

     ​She had a point there. He moaned.

     ​“Louder and with a little more imagination,” she hissed.

     ​“Sorry, I didn’t realize I was being scored.” He raised his hips slightly. A flash of surprise and something else, desire maybe, brightened her eyes. Okay, so maybe he’d play her game. “God, that feels good.” Wade knew he wasn’t lying. She felt wonderful rubbing against him. Hot and moist. Maybe she wasn’t as frigid as she tried to appear. She damn sure didn’t feel cold right now.

     ​The door creaked open.

     ​She jumped. The movement inched her forward. She lost her balance and reached out. Her palms landed on his shoulders, her breasts flattening against his chest. The gun made a soft thud when it landed on the carpet. Their gazes locked.

     ​Her face was close to his. He wanted to kiss her lips. See if she tasted like the cinnamon he could smell on her breath. Apparently, she sensed what was on his mind because she scooted downward as if he had the plague, but when she did, he slipped inside.

     ​His surprise matched the look on her face. Neither moved as time momentarily stopped.

    ​A noise alerted him they were no longer alone. He covertly glanced around her. Two burly men stood in the shadowy doorway. He didn’t have to be told the bulge under their jackets were guns.

     ​“Company,” he breathed. They were in danger, he just didn’t know why. And something told him if he didn’t play the game to the end, he wouldn’t see another tomorrow. If he lived through this night, he’d damn well demand an explanation from her.

     ​“Oh, baby, don’t stop,” she cried in a loud, southern drawl and moved her hips.

     ​She frowned at him.

     ​His hips rose to meet her circular movements. He grunted with pleasure when he slipped further inside. Wade was certain she hadn’t wanted to go this far, but it was a little late now as liquid heat washed over him in waves.

     ​She sat up, arching her back, hands resting behind her on his naked thighs. Her breasts beckoned to him. He cupped one, letting the weight rest in the palm of his hand as his thumb brushed across her hardened nipple. A moan escaped from her slightly parted lips.

     ​Apparently they fooled the two men who backed out of the room, closing the door behind them.

     ​In one swift movement, he reversed their positions. Her eyes widened with surprise. He hesitated.

     ​“Don’t stop.” She wiggled closer.

     ​He didn’t need any more encouragement than that and thrust deeper. Wet, moist, heat surrounded him. Grasping his buttocks, she moved to his rhythm. He rolled his hips, savoring the tight fit. Nice. No, better than nice. Great.

     ​Her nipples rubbed against his chest hairs. A temptation he didn’t even try to resist. Lowering his head, he swirled his tongue around the fullness of one breast, tasting the saltiness of her skin. His mouth captured the nipple and teased. She arched forward and pulled his head closer. He chuckled. Who was in command now?

     ​Her hand snaked between their bodies. When she squeezed, a stab of pleasure and pain shot into his groin. She eased off, letting his testicles fill her hand. His movements slowed as she began to knead and stroke.

     ​She might be on her back, but she’d taken command once more. Right now, he really didn’t give a damn. Not as long as she didn’t stop what she was doing.

     ​He glanced down into her half-closed lids. A slight smile tweaked the corners of her mouth. She looked alone. In a world all by herself. He wondered if she realized there was a man attached to what she fondled. It seemed almost as if she was involved in the sexual experience but not the emotional one.

     ​“Look at me.” He wanted the connection to be complete. Wade didn’t know why. He just did.

     ​She moved her hand from between their bodies and he almost regretted his words. Almost.

     ​“Look at me,” he repeated. “If all you wanted was an orgasm you could use a vibrator, and honey, I’m not battery operated.”

     ​Angry eyes glared back. She nipped his arm with her teeth. Like a wild horse that resisted being tamed. Then smiled. Seductive and sexy. Her tongue licked the tiny wound.

     ​“Why? Isn’t this enough?” Thick with passion, her words wrapped around him, drawing him closer, almost making him forget he wanted more from her.

     ​Almost.

     ​​​“I want all of you.” With a will he didn’t know he possessed, Wade rose above her as he began inching from her hot sheath.

     ​Her eyes widened with surprise. “No! For God’s sake don’t stop.”

     ​He swiftly glided back inside. She wrapped her arms around him as if she would hold him in place.

     ​“All or nothing.” He threatened. She contracted her muscles, trying to suck him back inside as he slowly inched out.
And her tactics nearly worked.

     ​“Look at me.” He poised above her. Ready to pull completely out if he had to. He wouldn’t be able to walk for a month, but it was a matter of principle now.

     ​“Damn you.” Her gaze clashed with his.

     ​He wanted her to know she wasn’t alone. She could distance herself from him later, but not now. As he stared down into her angry face, he saw her capitulation. He’d won this round.

     ​He slipped back inside, letting her fire surge around him. Her lips parted and her breath came out in little puffs, but she continued to meet his gaze. Their ragged breathing echoed through the room. He increased the pace. She met each thrust until she cried out, her fingernails biting into his flesh, her body quivering.

     ​Wade watched her come. He didn’t close his eyes until spasms shook his body.

     ​He stood on the edge of a canyon looking into space. Mentally, his hands stretched wide as he leaned forward. His body began to fall into nothingness. Hot wind rushed past. Faster and faster he fell. Stars exploded around him—lights brighter than he’d ever seen.

    ​​A pillow of softness caught him.

     ​Then, quiet. Only the sound of trying to inhale enough air to sustain life broke through the silence.

     ​It took him a few seconds to catch his breath. He closed his eyes, then opened them. Jeez! What the hell happened? He felt like a virgin who’d just experienced his first orgasm. He moved to his side and raised on one arm, looking into the face of the woman beside him.

     ​“Okay, lady. You owe me some answers.”

     ​“I don’t owe you a damn thing.” She closed her eyes as if she didn’t have a care in the world, effectively dismissing him. “As soon as I catch my breath, I’ll be out of here.”

     ​Swift anger flooded him. Who the hell did she think she was? He opened his mouth, then snapped it closed. Damp tendrils of hair clung to her forehead. Her skin was paler than it had been earlier. Skin like fine porcelain, shadowed by long, sooty lashes. Delicate features. She didn’t look like a criminal. He gently brushed her hair away from her face before realizing what he was doing. He jerked his hand away.

     ​If she wasn’t running from the law, then why the gun? Why had those men entered the room? They hadn’t been in uniform and he really didn’t think they were cops. In fact, what little he’d seen had reminded him of hit men from a bad B-movie. What was she running from?

     ​His body brushed against hers. Something wet and sticky tickled his side. He slid further away and glanced down. The bandage covering her wound was deep crimson and so was a small area of the bed. Carefully, Wade peeled the dressing away from her body.

     ​“Damn it! I thought you said this was a scratch. You’ve been shot!”

     ​Her eyelids fluttered open. She looked annoyed that he’d interrupted her short rest. “Well, the bullet scratched like hell when it ripped through me.”




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