It’s not very common for me to read two works by the same author back to back, but from the moment I discovered the addictive lusciousness that is a J.T. Geissinger novel, I have been delighting in her every word. From the first moment I met these characters in Wicked Beautiful, I could not get them out of my head, the mere suggestion of all that could happen between them, given their history, setting my mind spinning and my heart aflutter, and I was so impatient to read this book, I think I devoured it in one breath. A spicy, highly amusing game of cat and mouse between a former Marine, now self-employed commando and cyber-security expert, and a quirky, Hello-Kitty-obsessed computer genius who outsmarts him every chance she gets, this was one of the sexiest books I’ve read this year, and one I can recommend unreservedly.
Over her right arm is slung a white purse with a giant logo of a cartoon cat on the flap. Because nothing shouts I’m an adult with serious emotional baggage better than Hello motherf*cking Kitty.
Tabitha “Tabby” West and Connor Hughes had crossed paths many a time over the course of the years—frequently finding themselves on opposite sides of high-level acts of cyber-warfare—before finally meeting in person. Known as ‘Polaroid’ and revered in hacker circles not only for the utter genius of the jobs she has pulled off, but also for never getting caught for any of them, Tabby has left her hacking days behind, now freelancing on jobs that are completely above board. But her unique skillset is suddenly called upon when a notorious cyber criminal threatens mayhem if his demands are not met. And the target happens to be one of Connor’s most prominent clients.
“I hate you. With a heat like a thousand suns, I hate you. With the force of a million tons of TNT, I hate you. With every fiber of my being, I—”
“Hate me, I get the picture. But you also think I’m kinda cute, right?”
Helping a man she generally dislikes—a cocky, “self-involved bulldozer of a man” she wants absolutely nothing to do with—might not be something Tabby ever planned on agreeing to, but when a ghost from her past suddenly reappears, she commits to the job based on no information other’s than their nemesis’ identity, planning on finally settling a score that has been long overdue. Working alongside someone like Connor, however, proves to be the ultimate challenge for a self-reliant loner like Tabby, sparks flying whenever they set eyes on each other, literally and figuratively, and their every exchange loaded with enough sexual tension to set the pages on fire. The hilarious banter between them never stops, whether they are just about to tear one another’s clothes off or rip each other’s heads off, thus constantly blurring that wickedly irresistible line between wishful murder and outright foreplay.
“You love me. Just admit it, sweetheart. The only time you feel alive is when you’re screaming insults in my face.”
As their enemy gets closer and closer and the threats only get bigger, Tabby and Connor find themselves not only fighting a common adversary, but also the icy tentacles of Tabby’s past that wordlessly try to pull them apart even when being in each other’s arms is the only happiness either of them have known for so long.
“Love? There are things much stronger than love, Connor.”
“I thought nothing was stronger than love.”
“Fear. Hate. Self-loathing. The way your own mind can betray you if it’s left alone in the dark for too long.”
Sexy, suspenseful, packed with humour from beginning to end, I was thrilled to find at the core of this book a touching and truly compelling story of opposites attracting, of a lonely young woman seeking absolution for her past mistakes by denying her heart the only thing it wants, and an over-protective alpha hero who can see past all her sharp edges, all her contradictions, all the walls she’s built around herself, seeing the softness she hides from the world, and being willing to risk his life to save her from herself.
My sweet, vicious, passionate, distant, marvelous, maddening riddle. If she’d let me, I’d spend a lifetime trying to figure her out.
I cannot express in enough words how much I enjoyed reading this book without resorting to all-caps or loads of exclamation points, but Ms Geissinger’s confident and engaging writing style—not to mention her knack for creating fascinating, multifaceted characters that captivate us immediately, and intriguing storylines that keep us on our toes—blew me away and kept me turning those pages like I was gasping for my next breath. An instant favourite and a genuine must-read.
“I just wanted to belong to someone.”
“And now you do... You belong to me. You belong with me. You’re mine, and I’m never letting you go.”
We take the stairs two at a time, Connor ahead of me, still gripping my hand. The stairwell echoes with the sound of our footsteps pounding against metal, the blare of the alarm. We burst through the door on the first floor and out into the night. We’re on the side of the hotel, on a lit pathway that leads to the parking lot.
Before I can get my bearings, Connor pulls me off the path into the shadows of the building, presses me back against the wall, and takes my face in his hands.
“One night,” he says roughly, staring at me like he’s starving. “Say yes.”
We’re both out of breath. I know it’s not from the sprint down the stairs.
“Connor, the building could be about to burn down—”
“Let it burn. Say yes.”
I laugh. A wild, dangerous feeling is growing inside of me, a chafing at the seams, like an animal that has grown too large for its cage. “You said you wouldn’t kiss me again.”
“Only because you were about to cut off my balls. Say yes.”
The way he’s staring at me, the heat in his eyes, the hardness of his jaw, the raw, unmistakable need—I’ve never been looked at like this by a man. I feel as if I’m standing in the sun for the first time. I feel like I’ve been living under ground my entire life, and I’ve just crawled out of a hole into glorious, burning sunlight.
Burning being the operative word.
Things destroyed by fire: the earth in 2 Peter 3:10 in the Bible; Rome in 64 A.D.; London in 1666; Chicago in 1871; Boston in 1872; San Francisco in 1906; the Hindenburg in 1937; much of Europe in WWII.
Tabitha West in 2016?
When I freeze, Connor says, “Stop thinking.”
“That’s like asking me to stop breathing.”
One of his hands drifts down and very lightly grips my throat. His thumb rests over the pulse throbbing hard in my neck, betraying me more than any words ever could.
He murmurs, “Give your brain a night off. Your body wants this. And so does mine.” Slowly, he presses his pelvis to mine, his chest to mine, his thighs to mine, until our bodies are flush together and I have irrefutable evidence of how much his body wants me.
I squeeze shut my eyes so I can’t see that incredibly enticing look on his face turn into something a little less enthusiastic. “It’s called nonconcordance.”
A pause, and then, “What?”
“My body and my brain sometimes don’t work together. Especially in things like…this. I can’t help it. I get stuck in my head. I’ll start reciting lists, narrating what’s happening, anything to distance myself. It’s like being a spectator in my own body.”
He gently thumbs over my cheekbone. He doesn’t speak, but his silence has a quality of thoughtfulness to it, as if he’s working through what I’ve said.
“Once it happens, I can’t…that’s it. So.” I give Connor’s chest a gentle push, but he doesn’t budge.
After another moment, he says quietly, “Permission to engage the enemy, ma’am.”
Furrowing my brows, I open my eyes. “Um…I don’t know what that means.”
“I want to kiss you,” he breathes, staring at my mouth.
When I don’t respond because my mind is in a death match with my hormones, Connor simply lowers his head and brushes his lips along the length of my jaw.
I shudder. He nuzzles his nose beneath my ear, inhaling against my skin, which makes me shudder again. He releases my throat and slides his hand into my hair. He takes a fistful of it and gently tugs, tilting my head back to expose my throat. He murmurs, “Just feel this. I’ll stop in ten seconds. And I want you to count the time. Out loud.”
He opens his mouth over the pulse in my neck. The unexpected heat of his lips and tongue feels so amazing a low moan breaks from my chest.
I can’t remember the last time I was kissed on the throat. Before Connor, I can’t remember the last time I was kissed anywhere, by anyone.
It’s fucking amazing.
“One,” he prompts, his voice muffled against my skin.
The word is so soft it doesn’t qualify as a whisper. Connor sucks on my throat again, this time using a hint of teeth. My eyes slide shut with pleasure.
His mouth drifts closer to my collarbone, his tongue gliding like silk, raising goosebumps on the back of my neck. I inhale, arching toward him. In the distance, the whine of sirens competes with the intermittent squawk of the hotel’s alarm. I barely notice either.
He bites me softly on the long muscle above my clavicle. Heat pulses between my thighs and I restlessly squeeze them together.
I breathe, “Four.”
His fingers find the hem of my shirt and slip beneath. When his fingertips brush my bare skin, I jerk, gasping. He kisses a soft trail from my shoulder back to my throat, his lips leaving sparks in their wake. I can hardly concentrate on counting, and have to think for a moment to remember what number I’m on.
His fingers drift up my waist and over my ribcage, tracing their shape, the hollows and ridges. His gentle kiss turns more insistent. His tongue laps at the dip in the base of my throat. My nipples harden and begin to ache.
I want his mouth on them. I want his hands on them. I want to feel the pull and tug of his teeth—
“Six,” he reminds me gently. When I breathlessly repeat it, I feel his lips curve against my skin. He whispers, “Good.”
He flattens his hand over my ribcage, just under my breast. His palm feels as if it’s scorching my skin. I wonder if he can feel my heartbeat, the wild hummingbird thrum of it, rising to a crescendo beneath his hand.
The sirens grow closer. Voices murmur nearby. People. People are close.
People can go fuck themselves.
The slow, upward drifting glide of his hand. The heat of it. The strength of it. The way he’s in no hurry, the way his lips feel, fire and satin, oh God this is good this is so, so good.
He stills for a moment, waiting.
Number. What number? I mumble, “Seven.”
Connor moves to the other side of my neck, repeating the process of slow kisses, nibbles, gentle bites, but leaving his hand just below my breast, unmoving. Everything inside of me is aching, clenching, surging. All my nerve endings are firing at once. My arms tangle around his neck. My head drops back against the wall.
“Eight,” I whisper, and adjust my body so the weight of my breast rests in his hand.
Because I hate them, I’m not wearing a bra.
Connor exhales softly. From somewhere very far off I think it sounds like my name.
His mouth glides up my neck. His fingers slide together. He pinches my hard nipple between two calloused fingers, and I softly cry out. Into my ear he says gruffly, “I want this in my mouth,” and flicks his thumb over the small silver stud pierced through it.
I like how verbal he is, how explicit. I wonder if he’d be this explicit during sex, talking in that low, rough voice about how I feel, how I taste, what he’s going to do next.
Between my legs, I’m drenched. The ache has turned into an insistent throb. I can’t concentrate on anything else. There’s only his mouth, his hand, and my body, reacting to both.
Connor says, “Nine, beautiful girl.”
In response I simply moan.
His thumb circles my taut nipple, over and over, sending shockwaves through my body. His erection presses insistently against my lower belly.
“Say it and you’ll get a reward.” His voice is a husky, wicked whisper. His breath is hot at my ear.
He dips his head, slides my shirt up, exposing my bare breast, and takes my rigid nipple into his hot mouth.
The noise that comes out of me doesn’t sound human.
Then a fire engine comes to a screeching, rubber-burning stop not thirty feet away, driving right up over the parking lot curb and onto the grass. When my body goes stiff, Connor pulls away, throws a glance over his shoulder at the fire truck and the men in yellow gear and hats hopping out of it, and mutters a curse.
Flushed and trembling, I scramble to pull my shirt down. By the time Connor turns back to me, my arms are crossed over my chest and I’m shaking my head in disbelief at what I just allowed to happen.
Looking at my expression, he says flatly, “Ten.”
When I wordlessly turn and run away, Connor doesn’t follow.