Thursday, October 8, 2015
Abducted by TC Archer
She came for the fashion show. He came to catch a killer.
The El Paso fashion gala was slated to be the hottest event of the year and a must do if Liz Monahan, the creative brains behind Nina Bruno Designs, was to vault the company to the big time. Circumstances put Liz at the party in one of her own creations, escorted by a young, handsome model hired to show her off to the well-known and well-established. But Liz didn’t count on her date being an undercover Texas Ranger who is investigating a human trafficking ring. She also didn’t count on being kidnapped and trafficked herself.
When Texas Ranger Ben Hunter slips away from Liz Monahan at the gala and begins his investigation, he couldn’t be more surprised to arrive in Juarez, Mexico to find her held captive by infamous human trafficker Carlos Sanchez. In order to save her, Ben must commit murder. Hers.
“Ms. Monahan has a date for the evening.”
Liz turned at the sound of Adam’s voice, and Reid released her hand as Adam slipped an arm around her waist.
Reid gave Adam an assessing look and a corner of his mouth lifted. He returned his attention to her, reached inside his front jacket pocket, and handed her a card. “Give me a call when you drop off the help this evening. I’m a night owl.”
She took the card. “I’ll put you in my contacts for future reference.”
His smile suggested a personal contact instead of a professional one.
He left and Adam’s hand shifted to her spine as he urged her in the opposite direction. “Is sex really how you sell designs?” he asked.
Liz shifted her gaze to his face. “Why do you think women wear designer clothes?”
“Because the fashion industry convinces women they have to pimp themselves out.”
“You’re very naive, Mr. Billings. Women have been pimping themselves out since the first male showed interest in a female.”
Something undefined flickered in his eyes and was replaced by grudging respect. “That dress’ll get the job done,” he said. “But do you really need that guy?”
She laughed. “He’s just another model trying to get a leg up.”
“Trying to get your leg up,” Adam said. “I suppose that’s a requirement for getting the job?”
Liz’s amusement died. “That’s not how I hired you, if you recall.”
“True. But maybe you didn’t like me.”
“I like your looks just fine.”
He grinned. “Ms. Monahan, I do believe I’ve made you angry.”
It was her turn to be surprised. He had pushed her buttons—twice in fact—a feat not easily accomplished. Which meant she was the one who hadn’t separated business from pleasure.
Liz spotted a dress she was sure had been copied from another designer’s previous winter collection. That eliminated them from the competition.
“How did you manage to escape—” she started to say ‘Ms. Antonio,’ realized he’d know she’d been watching them dance, and managed, instead, “—Larissa?”
“I told her I had to save you from the wolves.”
Liz riveted her gaze onto him. “Wolves?” Her outburst earned her a curious look from a man
to her left. She urged Adam two paces away, then whispered, “That’s not your job description. You’re supposed to make me look good.”
“Then I’d better get to it.”
He grasped her hand and she startled at the gentle pressure or his fingers on hers as he worked his way through the crowd. They neared the orchestra and she registered the waltz they played—and Adam’s intentions.
“Mr. Billings,” she began, but he turned and slipped a hand around her waist.
Adam drew her into a tight turn and her pulse quickened as her breasts flattened against his chest. She glanced down and couldn’t halt a small gasp at seeing her breasts straining against her bodice. Liz looked up to find him staring down at her, one brow raised.
She narrowed her eyes. “You’re going to get us arrested.”
He gave a low chuckle that carried with it something indefinable. “There’s a first time for everything.”
The firm pressure of his fingers on her back tightened as he deftly steered her away from a couple dancing too close. “You’re enjoying this,” she said under her breath.
What was up with this man? She had seen a lot of shameless flirting and blunt propositioning in her years in the fashion industry—not to mention, the three years as Creative Director for Nina Bruno Designs—but she had never been… What? Accosted?
Worse, she had to admit, was the fact that it had been some time since a man held her so intimately. Adam sidestepped another couple, executing an expert turn. Liz’s grip on his back tightened and her fingers brushed the soft hair at his neck. A shiver raced down her spine. She grimaced inwardly. It really had been too long since she’d done anything except access men for their ability to make a model look good.
The song ended and relief kicked in. A slower song began and Liz hurried to pull away, but his hold tightened.
“We haven’t gotten everyone’s attention yet.” He pulled her closer and slipped his leg between hers.
Her head swam when the steely thigh muscles pressed her leg as he swayed with the music.
Eyes locked with hers, he placed her hand against his chest. “Relax, Ms. Monahan, you’re
the gem of the ball. You’re supposed to be enjoying the party.”
“I’m supposed to be working.”
“That means playing the part of a woman who’s full of life, who knows she’s adored. Isn’t that what Tanya would be doing if she was wearing that dress?”
He had a point, damn him, but she answered, “As you pointed out, I’m no model.”
He leaned close and pressed his jaw to her cheek. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.” His voice, low and deep, sent another shiver down her back. “You’re a real woman,” he said. “Not one of those made-up paper dolls.”
His thigh brushed the juncture between her legs. Liz became aware of the warmth of his hand on her back. She held her breath, half expecting his fingers to slide down over the curve of her buttocks. But his gentle pressure remained confident and warm on the small of her back.
“Those made-up paper dolls sell dresses,” she managed in a voice that came out low and breathy.
“Trust me, you’re the best advertisement Nina Bruno could have gotten for this dress.”
“I won’t be propositioned, Mr. Billings.” She closed her eyes and gave thanks that her voice held more conviction than she felt.
“When I proposition you, Ms. Monahan, you’ll know it.”
“I’m old enough to be your mother,” she said. “And don’t say but you’re not my mother. I am your boss.”
“Two points we’ll discuss later,” he said.
She snapped her head up. He smiled and her stomach flipped. Had she lost her mind? She dealt with gorgeous men every day. Why did this one evoke such giddy flutters?
The smile. That’s what did her in. That smile will sell dresses, she admonished herself. Remember that and nothing else.
“Right now we have more pressing issues.” he said.
Liz bumped into a hard body behind her. She whirled and something hard struck her hip. Adam turned with her, not missing a sway to the musical beat. She’d bumped into Tanya’s date.
“Forgive me,” Tanya’s date’s cultured Mexican accent caught Liz’s attention. He made eye contact while still dancing with Tanya. “I hope I did not hurt you.”
Liz smiled. “Not at all.” Was that a gun she’d struck?
“My fault completely,” Adam interjected. “I was distracted.”
The man’s eyes remained fixed on Liz. “I see why.”
From the corner of her eye, she saw Tanya purse her lips.
“Nice to see you, Tanya,” Adam said.
Tanya flashed a bored smile. “I don’t recall your name.”
“Adam,” Liz cut in, “you were just about to get me some champagne. If you will excuse us.” She nodded at the couple, then pulled free of Adam and led him from the dance floor.
“What was that all about?” she demanded once they were several paces from the nearest guests.
His gaze returned to the couple. “What do you mean?”
“You intended to confront her.”
Adam looked at her, brow furrowed. “All I did was say hello.”
“You purposely bumped into them.”
“I’m an excellent dancer. He bumped into us.”
“You said you were distracted,” she hissed.
He shrugged. “I was being polite. I didn’t peg you as being so easily intimidated.”
“I’m not. But I have some sense.”
Liz caught sight of Larissa. The older woman’s eyes shifted to Adam's face. She smiled and crooked a finger in a come here motion.
“Seems your benefactor is requesting our presence,” he said.
“Your presence,” Liz corrected.
“We’ll work that to our advantage.”
He grasped her hand and started toward Larissa.
He held her hand lightly, but firmly. If she tugged free it would be obvious she wasn’t pleased. “I promised a bonus if you got me through the night,” she said under her breath. “Make a scene with Tanya, and I’ll bury you.”
His head snapped in her direction. Finally, she’d gotten his attention.
“I believe you mean it,” he said.
She couldn’t tell if he was worried or amused. “Don’t try me,” she said.
“I think it would be worth seeing you try,” he replied.
T. C. Archer is comprised of award winning authors Evan Trevane and Shawn M. Casey. They live in the Northeast. Evan has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, and Shawn is a small business owner. Their collaboration began on a lark with the post WWII film noir story The Pickle My Little Friend, and has evolved into nearly a dozen works, which includes their new series The Phenom League, and Daphne Du Maurier winner the romantic thriller For His Eyes Only.