Box Set #66: The Pinnacles of Power Complete Collection (All 5 books for $4.99)
In Dangerous Ally, Reporter Lilah Benson wants to write the story of a lifetime. She goes undercover working for diamond smuggling kingpin Lucas Ramone, but doesn’t expect the man to be so charming…or seductive. Lucas Ramone is not about to let Project Gemstone be stolen out from under him. He will do whatever it takes to protect his fortune, his legacy, and his empire. However, he doesn’t account for the new, green-eyed assistant his father has hired, and Lilah Benson may be his undoing.
In Dangerous Proposal, Alec Westwood is running from his past. After abandoning an assignment he couldn’t bring himself to complete—he may be a lot of things but he wasn’t a murderer—he tries to start over. Lena Benson is also on the run, but she’s running from her psychotic fiancé. The two cross paths—her bearing the insignia of the organization that had recruited Alec, him being suspected of working for her fiancé—but against all odds—and reason—the two can’t stay away from each other.
In Dangerous Proposition, Julia Dyson’s father has been abducted, mostly likely due to his secret and illicit profession. Julia discovers a familiar name in her father’s phone history and decides to confront the man—never mind that he’s a diamond smuggling kingpin and her teenage crush. Colin Westwood discovers that one of his best recruits has been abducted. Even more shocking, the man has been keeping a secret for years—he has a daughter. The two strike a deal to find Julia’s father, but neither expect the passion that sparks between them.
In Dangerous Secret, Abigail MacKenzie is trying to get over her father’s tragic death. But a handsome stranger provides a clue that might lead Abigail to her father’s killer. Determined to get justice for her father, Abigail will face any danger—even if the danger comes from the man whose eyes cut straight to her heart. Ryan Newberry gets a new position at the Washington Valley Hotel. But as he starts to get close to Abigail, the new front desk associate, he fears they are headed down a path of danger that he can’t protect them from.
In Dangerous Magic, Corinne Johnson is separated from her children after a strange discovery in her husband’s briefcase. Years later, Corinne is trying to rebuild her family, but when she has a steamy dream about a previous coworker—Wiccan Jack Madera—her plans become derailed. Jack Madera is on a quest to find his biological father. But he didn’t plan on running into Corinne Johnson. Inexplicably drawn to Corinne, Jack casts a spell that takes the two down a path they never saw coming.
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
Click on each cover for detailed blurbs, awards, ratings, excerpts, and reviews for each book in The Pinnacles of Power Complete Collection.
Her instinct was to smack his hand. But the tingling sensation racing from mouth to spine kept her in place. Lucas’s touch was so soft. It made her crazy. She was consumed by the strongest desire for his lips to be where his finger was now.
He took her wine glass and held it out to her. “Here,” he said. “This’ll calm your nerves.”
Senses returning with a bang, Lilah held up two hands in protest. “Are you trying to get me drunk?” she snapped, not entirely sure whether it was him she was angrier at or herself.
“Am I that obvious?” He laughed as if the whole thing was funny, setting the glass back down.
She enjoyed being in the company of a monster—there was nothing lighthearted about it!
“I’m guessing you’ve probably been down this road too many times, hmm?” Lucas replaced his hand on her shoulder.
“What road would that be, exactly?”
His gray eyes looked deeply into hers. “I’m sure I’m not the first man who’s tried to get you into a relaxed state, Lilah.”
“Actually—” She hesitated, not wanting to get so personal yet feeling she could probably tell him anything and he’d somehow understand. “It’s been a long time, longer than you’d imagine. After I finished college, I had every intention of becoming a journalist. Meaning I’d be out most of the time chasing a story despite whatever danger came with it. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, for as long as I can remember.”
He nodded, coming closer. “You must have been very persistent. It takes a good deal of perseverance and sacrifice to become a success at such a young age.”
Lilah sure knew that. While her friends had been enjoying their last semester of college, she’d been frantically gathering writing samples, sending them out to every newspaper who would give her the time of day. But had her father noticed? Even when she became one of the youngest reporters at the New York Times, he’d barely raised a brow.
Deep down, she knew this was why she’d accepted Raphael’s offer, even in spite of the danger that came with it. A story about Raphael Ramone’s family laundry wasn’t going to impress Blake Benson. But exposing Lucas’s diamond smuggling operation would be a print-worthy unearthing that would win her father’s admiration as well as her first Pulitzer.
She lowered her gaze. “I haven’t given up anything so wonderful.”
Lucas lifted her chin. “But if it came to that, do you think you’d be willing to make that sacrifice? Give up something you want—maybe something you want more than anything—to attain some ultimate level of self-victory?”
A chill came over her at his words. Lilah came back a step, unsure of what had just happened but wanting desperately to pretend it hadn’t.
Lucas cleared his throat. “Let’s get some air, shall we?”
Something she needed desperately. She followed him to the balcony, welcoming the cool night breeze as it caressed her hot skin.
“It’s beautiful here,” she said, hoping very much to steer the conversation in a new direction.
“It is.” He nodded and came beside her, bracing the rail with one hand. He slipped an arm around her back.
His body was warm—like a furnace—and he felt strong, as if he spent his days loading lumber instead of dabbling away at a computer.
Lilah shivered, goose bumps forming along her bare arms. It felt so nice being close to Lucas. Too nice. Maybe she’d just stay there with him a few minutes longer. They weren’t exactly hurting anyone by being in each other’s company.
He leaned into her, speaking in a tone she could only describe as husky. “Those men you never met,” he said, “that was their loss.”
Lena did her best to hide her watery eyes. Trista seemed completely unfazed by what had happened. It was as if a different child had cracked her head open on the playground.
“You scared me today,” she said softly. “We’re going to hold the handlebars every time we ride our bikes from now on, aren’t we?” She turned to the doctor. “My God, I don’t know how to thank—”
Lena gripped the bar surrounding the bed. She could hardly believe what she was seeing. Trista’s doctor was the man from Valley Tavern, the man from Julia’s backyard. He was none other than Alec himself!
A doctor—he was a doctor! Wearing a white coat and looking at her with eyes as wide as her own. With a professional ensemble to compliment his handsome exterior, he was the heartthrob of every woman’s fantasy for sure.
Suddenly, he began to look her over more slowly. With his deep blue eyes locked with hers, intensity transformed to pure, wicked deviltry. He wasn’t simply looking at her, as he had those other times. He was challenging her. Daring her to speak first. She swallowed, tightening her hold on the handle of the bed.
“Trista,” a soft voice called from the doorway.
Lena released the breath she’d been holding in. She’d almost forgotten about the little girl sitting beside them. Suddenly there were two other people in the room. A man, with curly blond hair, like his daughter’s. And a woman with a long brunette mane.
Well, it was better late than never. She’d begun to think maybe Trista was an orphan. After a brief reintroduction, she decided to give the family a few minutes alone. She went to the door, assuring herself that she definitely needed some air.
Clutching the doorknob, she jolted as a hand touched down on her back.
“A moment of your time, Miss Gallagher.”
Alec was right behind her, their bodies practically touching. She didn’t dare turn around out of fear that she might fall straight into his arms—exactly where he wanted her. He placed his large, warm hand over hers and turned the doorknob, urging her into the hall. Moving steadily behind hers, his body forced her to either walk forward or risk bumping right up against him.
Moments later, Lena found herself in a dimly lit corridor—a place she was certain no one else in the hospital even knew existed. Though, the darkness didn’t make it any easier to hide her trembling hands. Her heart beat wildly as Alec circled her, caressing her body with his sinful blue eyes. She moved back a step, coming against the wall.
A mischievous smile formed on Alec’s lips. Putting his hand against the tile behind her, he barricaded her exit.
“Lena Gallagher.” He shook his head, making a tsking sound with his tongue. “Imagine that. Allowing an innocent child to fall from a tricycle. What sort of a negligent caregiver does a thing like that?”
Lena’s face burned. “Negligent caregiver? I—”
“It’s certainly a good thing I was there to come to the rescue. But then that’s just the kind of man I am, you see. Lucky for you. Otherwise”—he lowered his voice—“you’d be in an awful lot of trouble right now. Wouldn’t you?”
“Are we through here, Dr. Westwood? I wouldn’t want to take up any more of your precious time.”
“Now, now, Miss Gallagher. That isn’t any way to speak to the man who just saved your little girl. Not to mention job, I’m sure. Correct me if I’m wrong. That makes the score two to zero. Does it not?”
“Is that what this is to you? Some sort of sick game? Trista could have died! No doctor with any true ethics would try to take advantage of something like that. Just how big of a jerk are you?”
He grinned. “Don’t you wish you knew?”
“I can’t possibly—I’m not sure you understand—”
A harsh reply came like crackling thunder. “What I understand is that if you don’t rectify this situation within twenty-four hours, there’s going to be a serious change to the status of your employment. Understand that?”
“Yeah.” The owner of the softer voice seemed to swallow. “Sure, boss.”
“Yeah, I understand you!”
“For your sake, you had better mean it,” the man, whom Julia was certain had to be Colin Westwood, growled.
The knob jangled, and the door to the room was opened.
Colin, presumably, spoke in a hushed voice. “Keep this to yourself. I want no one to know that Dyson is missing.”
Julia gasped, forgetting to put a hand over her open mouth. She’d been completely right in coming there. Colin Westwood had kidnapped her father!
She had been doing all she could to convince herself that this wasn’t happening. That Colin might be a criminal, but that he couldn’t possibly be responsible for her father’s disappearance. She was going to be sick. And then she was going straight to the cops, getting a SWAT team to raid that mansion, and dragging Colin Westwood out of there on his billion-dollar ass!
Sliding forward so she could breathe a little, Julia urged her forehead against the cool air. Colin, who seemed almost as anxious as she was, was standing in the doorframe.
She should have ducked, but a mix of fascination and fury kept her in place as he shut the door, enclosing the two of them inside the room. Watching him take off his jacket, Julia almost forgot she wasn’t invisible. He seemed deeply troubled, as though he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Taking something from the dresser, an object she couldn’t quite make out, Colin clenched his hand into a fist. Failing to flick the light switch, he sat on the sofa and rubbed his tired-looking eyes.
Colin stared at the object in his hand. He remained that way for several moments, deep-blue irises lost in the contents of his hands. Slipping whatever it was he held into his pocket, he closed his eyes again and leaned forward, massaging his temples.
He seemed so strong and confident, even in spite of how stressed out he appeared to be. Watching him, Julia found herself imagining how his arms would feel around her body. Wondering whether his large, shapely hands had murdered her father, she stared at them. That was, until Colin turned in the direction of the bed.
Heart slamming hard against her rib cage, Julia ducked beneath the covers. Footsteps thundered toward her with a quick stride.
“Who sent you here?” As though it weighed no more than a feather, Colin tore the cover from the bed. “Damn it, woman, answer my question!”
Julia was paralyzed. She wanted to move but couldn’t. She shifted sideways, nearly sliding off the bed. But before she could get one foot on the ground, Colin dove on top of her, locking her between his legs.
Arms that felt like steel pillars held her in place. She fought to move as her wrists were pinned against the mattress.
“No one sent me,” she exclaimed, fighting with all of her might to break free of his hold. “I sent myself!”
“You sent yourself,” he repeated in a mocking tone, as though it wasn’t possible.
She narrowed her gazed. “Yes.”
“You came here on your own?” he persisted. “There’s no one you’re protecting?”
Julia pried one tender wrist free. “Guess you’d better double-check your memorandum of enemies. Last time I checked, I’m on no one’s payroll.”
Abigail hung up promptly. “What makes you think this isn’t the company phone?”
“It might be.” The man in the farm-shirt shrugged. “But something tells me the company phone isn’t pink.”
There were several things inside of that room that were pink. But Abigail didn’t suppose the fact would strengthen her case any.
“Probably good instincts,” she muttered, picking up a rag from beside her. Frantically, she scrubbed the counter.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what I’d like?” the man said, offering her a second glimpse of his perfect white smile.
Abigail dropped the cloth she was holding. “I’m sorry. Yes, of course. What can I get for you, Sir?” Of course, he didn’t look anything at all like a ‘Sir’ and a lot like the most handsome guy she’d ever seen.
Unable to hold back, she pressed, “You’re not going to tell anyone, are you? About the phone, I mean. Not that you don’t have every right to be angry. But for what it’s worth, I really need to keep this job.”
A look of sympathy and something she couldn’t quite describe settled about his lightly tanned face. “Tell you what. You make me a vanilla milkshake, throw in an extra pinch of syrup, and we’ll call it even.”
Abigail paled. She was terrible at making milkshakes. What was worse was that the machine had been acting finicky all morning. Saying a silent prayer that she could change his mind, she asked, “Sure that you wouldn’t rather have a banana split instead? We just made a batch of our fresh strawberry ice cream this morning. It’s rich and creamy, made with strawberries grown right here in North Conway.”
“I really don’t think—”
“Did I mention all of our sundaes are fifty percent off today?” She crossed her fingers behind her back.
He said, “I appreciate you letting me know. But it just so happens that I’ve got my heart set on a vanilla milkshake.” Inclining his head in her direction, he said, “In my experience, the more desirable choice is worth paying the price for.”
Ignoring the goose bumps that had formed along her arms, Abigail took a gigantic step back. She could do this. Just because she’d never successfully made a milkshake correctly on the first shot before didn’t mean she couldn’t do it now.
She took three scoops of vanilla ice cream from the dome beneath the counter. Then, she added extract. Sugar came next and finally, milk, which she was very relieved not to spill on the counter. With all of the ingredients packed safely inside the metal cup, she walked over to the milkshake mixer.
Ignoring the feel of her customer’s sinful blue eyes against her back, she proceeded to begin her task. She slipped the cup into place beneath the metal stirring wand. Breath held, she flicked the switch.
Turning the cup in slow circles, Abigail mixed the ingredients. After about thirty seconds, her confidence began to grow. Ice cream and syrup had become a smooth, drinkable liquid she was almost proud of. Beaming, she reached across the counter for the whipped cream, which she’d add to the top when she was finished.
Turning her attention back to the machine, Abigail gave the metal cup a final spin then pushed the switch downward. But instead of turning off, the wand spun harder, causing the chunky white liquid to spill over the sides of the cup. She placed her finger firmly over the switch, but it wouldn’t move. She forced it down as hard as she could, but the metal nozzle popped upward and the stirring wand spun at lightning speed. The contents of the cup flew up and out, landing on the floor and all over the ceiling.
Lifting one leg, she placed the sole of her shoe against the wet stone beneath it. Keeping her arms out to the sides to maintain her balance, she stepped from one rock to the other, moving stealthily over the rush of the water, bending to place her hands against the final large rock for support. She stepped onto the ground, finding that she was encased in a maze of thin trees which lined the riverbank. She was on a hill, which began to level off the lower it went. Looking down toward what appeared to be the base of the mountain, Corinne was overpowered by the desire to move deeper into the forest.
Travelling on without hesitation, Corinne allowed her instincts as well as the newly reappeared moon to guide her. Never before had she done anything so reckless. But this strong inner feeling told her that she was safe, that her children were safe, and that she needed to stop hesitating and keep moving.
Corinne wandered through grass, dirt and rocks, unafraid of what sorts of wild animals might be lurking about or how deep into the woods she’d gone. The forest was one gigantic maze of trees and they were difficult to navigate through when all of them looked the same. She wasn’t entirely sure of how to go back the way she’d come. Yet her legs walked on.
Sometime later when her feet were about to give out she noticed a streak of orange light shining through the trees. There was a clearing ahead, and in its center was a fire. A person was standing several feet away from her, facing the fire. Corinne kept her eyes on the back of the person’s head, coming to realize as she moved across the small, open field that he or she was wearing a black cloak, and that a hood covered his or her head. The person appeared to be as tall as the trees surrounding them, and seemed to emanate as much heat as the fire itself. She crept closer until she and the figure were standing only a few feet apart.
Corinne’s hand lifted itself into the air, and, as if by magic, it touched down against the shoulder before her. The figure turned around, his striking green eyes locking with hers as a smile that could only be described as wicked formed on his face. He tossed back his hood, closing the distance between them, snatching her wrist.
“Jack!” Corinne’s heart pounded. She intended to throw a hand over her mouth, but one of her hands was trapped and the other one tingled uncontrollably, remaining at her side.
“Hello, Corinne,” Jack said in a deep, drawl voice. “It’s been a long time.”
Seven years to be exact. But standing beside Jack Madera, her once coworker and friend, Corinne felt as though she’d stepped back in time and into a dream. Come to think of it, all of it felt like a dream, particularly since she didn’t seem to be in control of her movements. But if she was dreaming, why did the fire’s flames feel so hot? And why was her pulse racing like the ticking of a clock?
Jack, whose face was sprinkled with dark facial hair that was only slightly thinner than the hair on his head, bore down on her. He smelled of incense and musk, a sweet and alluring mixture which, combined with the scent of the woods around them, was distinctly male. So lost in a mix of confusion and desire, Corinne didn’t even realize that this large fingers had closed over hers. Jack squeezed her hand and his smile widened as he lifted it, bringing it against his mouth. He kissed her palm, sending a powerful rush of need along her skin.