Peeking inside Story 2--Bounty--of the Daydreams collection
It's a fun, fun ride
It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.—Denis Waitley
Instinct warned him to proceed with caution. Despite the mess of scattered clothes and discarded take-out boxes, Jake knew without a doubt that someone had been snooping in his hotel room. Obviously, it hadn't been the maid, thanks to the 'do not disturb' sign he'd purposely kept in place for two days.
He shut the door and immediately flattened his back against it. He pulled the gun from where he'd concealed it in the back of his jeans beneath his t-shirt. All senses were full-on high alert mode.
Although he'd never been face-to-face with his bail jumping thief, he somehow knew the faint scent of perfume in the air belonged to her.
A black cat stood on the railing of the balcony and peered inside with overly large green eyes, its fluffy tail twitching as if waiting to pounce.
"I wish you could talk," he whispered when he noticed that the sliding glass door had been left open a few inches.
Hot on the trail of a bail jumper, the notorious Michelle Whitaker, he couldn't risk mistakes like leaving a door open. She'd slipped away one too many times, almost as if toying with him.
He walked onto the balcony and looked over the edge of the railing. Four stories down a few kids swamp in the pool surrounded by palm trees and empty lounge chairs.
The cat jumped to the neighboring balcony, then down a level, and so on. Jake watched it, captivated by its grace yet thinking it was odd that a cat roamed the hotel. Something about it made him uneasy.
Michelle reminded him of a cat. Stealth. Elusive. Arrogant.
He counted on that cockiness being her downfall.
How many nights had he twisted and turned in his sheets tormented by visions of her? He'd wake up certain she'd been in his room—he'd smell perfume and intuition would whisper that he hadn't been alone. After turning on the lights, he'd see an empty room.
But this was different. Broad daylight. He was not only awake, but also alert and edgy.
His cellphone vibrated in his back pocket. Reluctantly, he grabbed it with one hand while keeping a firm grip on the gun with his other. One look at the caller ID and he knew he was screwed. He'd been chasing Michelle for two months since she'd missed her court date—why they'd given a thief bail, he couldn't understand, probably a bribe—and his partners wanted him to give up and go home.
"Yes, Bernie?" He sighed against the phone, already bored with the same argument they had every day around this time.
"The trail is cold, Jake. Time to chalk this one up as a defeat. We have other bonds to chase and my mortgage doesn't pay itself."
"It isn't cold." He kicked open the closet doors. Empty.
"Jake...I know you hate admitting failure...but..."
He pushed open the bathroom door and leaped inside, ready to tackle the evil little witch. Nothing except wet towels and his toothbrush.
Sighing, he set the gun down on the nightstand and walked onto the balcony. He looked out over the Los Angeles skyline from his perch high in the Hollywood hills.
"I know she's here, Bernie. I can feel it. This is her prime hunting ground."
"Do you hear yourself? Hunting ground? Get your ass back to Dallas. Pronto."
"She's here." He turned his back on the view and squinted at the chaos in his room.
You're playing a dangerous game, Michelle. He chewed his lower lip.
"Jake..." Bernie sighed. "That's what you said in Seattle....and Denver...and Scottsdale...and San Francisco..."
"I'd bet my life that she's here. I can feel it. I swear she was in my room this afternoon."
Then an exaggerated sigh followed by a muttered curse.
"Jake, I'm just gonna come out and say it—you're obsessed with this woman."
"Obsessed is a strong word. I prefer dedicated to the—"
"I don't give a shit what you prefer, you're acting like an idiot. We have other jobs and we're running a business here. Get your butt back home and leave Miss Whitaker to the cops."
A sparkle distracted Jake from the conversation—a glint of something shiny and out of place in the mayhem. He walked inside and stopped short at the sight of the diamond resting dead center on the top of the laptop.
"That bitch!" He growled into the phone. "She left me a fucking present, Bernie. Still want to tell me that the trail is cold? She's fucking with my head."
"Are you sure? Do you have any proof that it was her?"
Jake picked up the diamond—at least ten karats—and rolled it between his thumb and forefinger. "Yeah, I have proof."
He disconnected the call, tossed his phone onto the unmade bed, and stared at the diamond.
The pursuit of Michelle Whitaker—if that was her real name, which he doubted—had consumed him from the moment he'd taken her case. The fact that the FBI also hunted the elusive thief upped the ante. Of all the people who chased her, she singled him out to torment.
Or was she doing this to others who were too embarrassed to admit it?
Somehow he knew she only played with him.
Other bounty hunters sniffed at her trail—she was worth millions if caught, but yet here was with a diamond. He doubted she sprinkled these sorts of gifts to everyone.
Slipping the diamond into the front pocket of his jeans, he looked around wondering what other mischief she'd done. The unease increased until he started shoving his clothes into his bag, shaking out each item looking for any other gifts. She could have bugged the place or put up some type of camera.
He was the hunter.
He didn't like being the hunted.
The sudden pummeling on his door froze him in place. He backed up until his hip hit the table. His gut clenched when they shouted the word, "Police!"
"Fuck," he muttered, thinking of the diamond in his pocket.
"Police! Open up, Mr. Stiles. We know you're in there."
"I'm coming—just give me a minute."
He grabbed the diamond and tossed it as far as he could throw it, hoping it would land in the pool and be sucked down the drain.
Even though he knew he was innocent, he felt damn guilty when he opened the door to two detectives with their weapons drawn.
"Whoa! I'm one of the good guys." He stood aside to let the detectives in and hoped like hell she hadn't stashed something else.
"Are you alone?" The pushed open the bathroom door and then the closet.
"Going somewhere?" One of the detectives motioned toward the semi-packed bag. "The front desk claims you're paid up through the week."
He swallowed hard, his distress quickly turning to anger. Cold trail, huh? Something he'd found either today or yesterday must have set her off—he'd gotten too close.
"Listen, man, do you want to tell me what this is about?"
"A woman called—claimed you were holding her against her will. She was in fear of her life. Says you kidnapped her. Do you know anyone named Mary Simone?"
He blinked, unprepared for that accusation.
Playing with me...
"I'm alone. This is some kind of mistake."
"Are you Jake Stiles?"
"The call was made from this room."
He glanced toward the balcony. It was broad daylight and the room was four stories up. Even he didn't believe she'd climbed up here to plant a diamond so how could he convince the detectives of this particular story?
His mouth went dry from nerves. He felt certain there was more here, things he hadn't had the time or the inclination to look for.
One of the detectives dumped out his duffel bag. A drivers license rolled out of a pair of women's lace underwear—planted evidence.
"Mary Simone from Santa Monica," the detective read the name aloud before meeting Jake's gaze. "Care to change your story?"
"I'm a bounty hunter and I'm close to catching one of America's most wanted fugitives, Michelle Whitaker," he spoke slowly and as calmly as possible. "I must have gotten too close to her and she's setting me up."
The detective closed the space between them in two strides and shoved the driver's license into his face. "I suppose if we look up this Michelle Whitaker she'll look exactly like this?"
He blinked at the blonde in the photo and shook his head. "That's not her."
"Cut the crap, Stiles. Where's Mary?"
"I-I don't know that woman and she was never in my room." Fighting down desperation, he gestured toward the balcony door. "It was open when I got home, there was a diamond on top of my laptop—"
"Where is it now?"
"I tossed it over the railing, I thought she was setting me up for a theft or—"
"I think we need to continue this conversation downtown, Mr. Stiles." The other detective looked at him as if he were insane.
Jake stepped onto the balcony and gestured. "She's a thief. She must have climbed up here! Or maybe she got a hold of a master key."
"Where is Mary Stiles?" The more aggressive of the two detectives stepped onto the balcony and grabbed his arm. "Don't get any funny ideas."
"Funny ideas?" He was yelling now and knew it but didn't really care. It dawned at him that this idiot thought he was going to jump—four stories into a pool? He shoved his hands through his hair, but the sudden motion scared the cop who grabbed him and pushed him against the railing. He felt the cold muzzle of a gun against his lower back. "You've got this all wrong. I don't know anyone named Mary Simone."
The other detective joined them on the small balcony, twisted his arms behind his back, and slapped handcuffs on his wrists. "Do we need to add resisting arrest to your charges?"
"What charges?" A movement from the corner of his eye distracted him from the strange scene unfolding in his room. He glanced down toward the pool.
All thoughts froze. It was as if he the world suddenly moved in slow motion.
Michelle Whitaker stood there in a form fitting white dress with her black hair falling sleekly over her shoulders and eyes concealed by overly large sunglasses. She smiled up at him, waved as if greeting an old friend, turned on her stilettos, and strutted off the pool deck as if she had all the time in the world.
"That bitch!" he said for the second time in thirty minutes. "She's downstairs, she's down there."
"Mary? What did you do with her?"
"I don't give a fuck about Mary—"
"Is her body down there?" The detective grabbed the back of his hair and yanked his head back. "You can talk now or you can talk downtown."
"You're letting one of the FBI's most wanted strut away while you fall for her little game." He twisted away from their grasp and surrendered to the idea that she would win this round.
A big guy, he intimidated just about anyone, but these two detectives in suits didn't seem to care much about his stature as they led him from the room in cuffs.
He rode down in the elevator and gritted his teeth while his mind reran all of the places he'd been in the past two days. He must have scared her...but where? How close had he been?
When they finally forced him into the back of a police car, he rolled his eyes at the absurdity of this situation, confident that they wouldn't find a body or any evidence of foul play. Michelle was a thief—she lived for the thrill of the game—but she wouldn't murder anyone.
The cops had lowered the back windows a few inches in the steamy Los Angeles heat while they discussed him on the sidewalk. A knock on the opposite window startled him.
"Hey, Jake," Michelle whispered. "Looks like you've gotten yourself into a bit of trouble."
Her sheer arrogance stunned him into silence. Lust rushed through his blood—the chemistry between them immediate and intense. Just like he'd anticipated. His mouth went dry. If he'd been sweating before, now it felt like a faucet had been turned on and droplets slid down his forehead.
Anger followed on the heels of desire—his soul burned with it.
He jerked against the handcuffs and he wiggled on the seat to get closer to her.
She lowered her sunglasses and peered at him with her large green eyes that had haunted his nightmares for months. A slow smile crept over her full lips as observed his predicament.
"There's a lawyer on his way to the station—"
"I'm bringing you in," he said through his teeth.
"He'll get you out of this without much fuss while buying me enough time to leave you behind once again."
"I'll find you, no matter where you go—"
"You're far too hot to be so uptight. You need to get laid, Jakey. How long's it been? Such a pity to let all that girth go to waste." Her gaze dropped to his crotch. "Tsk-tsk-tsk, such a shame, all that delicious manhood stuffed into those tight jeans. Makes a woman want to help a guy out."
"You're fucking up." He leaned over and yelled at one of the detectives who had his back to him. "Hey! One of the FBI's most wanted is over here!"
She didn't even flinch.
"They caught you once, they'll do it again." He squirmed under her scrutiny.
"I never make the same mistake twice."
"You're pushing your luck."
Her gaze locked on his and he stopped breathing. The intensity in her eyes danced with mischief, gold flecks shined in the emerald depths. No photograph had done her justice.
Okay, so maybe Bernie had been partially right about him being obsessed. Until this moment, though, he'd never been this up close and personal with her and had been unprepared for the impact.
"Why are you so relentless?" She tilted her head to the left, her calm almost remarkable considering the amount of law enforcement in hot pursuit.
Her question caught him off guard—hell, this entire situation had thrown him off balance. He scooted closer to her window, hating that his wrists were bound and that he was trapped in the back of a police car.
"I never fail. I'm going to catch you. This game of yours—"
"I was caught because someone betrayed me." Smile faded and her words were hard. "That's the only reason. I now travel alone—solo. There is no one in this world who knows anything about the real me."
"Lonely way to live, Michelle."
"You would know. You're not exactly part of a posse and haven't been playing nicely with the big boys." She pushed the glasses back up her nose with one finger.
"How do you know that?"
"Go back to Dallas, Jake. Make your partner happy. I just came by to say goodbye...as for the drama, I couldn't resist ending our relationship on a memorable note."
Before he could reply, she walked away, past the detectives, and down the street as if she had all day to do exactly as she pleased.
He didn't waste his breath telling the cops that they'd let a master thief get away because he knew they thought he was some psycho killer.
He kicked the back of the seat in front of him and cursed her back—noticing the way the tight dress cupped her swaying ass, the sleek ebony hair sweeping past her shoulders, and the sculpted calves leading to high heels. Despite his oath to look at her as nothing more than a substantial paycheck, he felt his cock twitch in response to the fantasies of all he'd like to do to her if he ever got her alone. Groaning, he shook his head, strands of his brown hair slipping into his eyes, and sticking to his cheekbones in the heat of the parked car.
His heartbeat ricocheted inside his chest. Jake Stiles didn't fail. He'd had that drummed into him since birth. A military brat, he'd grown up with strict parents who hadn't tolerated imperfection, which had served to instill a strong work ethic and a hatred of authority. Rather than becoming a fed himself, he preferred the bounty hunter route.
He still smelled her perfume from where she'd leaned close to the window—musty and elegant. Probably expensive. Exactly the same as the scent that had floated in his room all those nights. Had she been planning something like this all along?
Again, he kicked the seat in front of him.
"Hey!" A uniformed officer smacked the window before getting into the driver's side. "Knock it off."
"You're a bunch of idiots," he muttered under his breath as the police car pulled away from the curb.
But then he smiled at the situation. He'd found her—or she'd found him, he would give her that—but either way he'd been right.
His instinct wasn't so far off after all. He'd find her again, and this time, she'd be the one in handcuffs.
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From the back cover...
Daydreams, moments of what-ifs and possibility.
Imagine...a ghostly mariner haunting the shores of Ireland who reminds a lonely woman how beautiful life is...a bounty hunter who gets more than he bargained for with his bail-jumping witch of a jewel thief...and a bar owner who discovers the joy of being loved by two other-worldly visitors trapped in a desperate situation...Daydreams, a collection of paranormal erotic short stories.
Escape the madness of the world, indulge your naughty side, and lose yourself in fantasy.
**sexually explicit, paranormal, and some dark themes**
(read free if on Kindle Unlimited)