Taking over her father’s practice was always in the cards for Athena Rhodes. What she didn’t expect was having to deal with the mob. Being an honest, law-abiding citizen, Athena does what anyone would do in the situation—she reported the threats to the local authorities. The FBI was quick to take up the case, and keep an eye on her. But things are about to rise to a whole new level.
Martin Carver’s life is a carefully constructed cover story of saving the world, one whale at a time. The reality is a whole lot more dangerous. As a covert operative for the FBI he never once thought he’d be seeing the woman who holds his heart under such dangerous circumstances. But when he gets handed a folder with Athena’s name on it, there’s no one that will keep him from protecting her, and finally saying the words “forever mine”.
Be Warned: anal sex
He didn’t know how long he’d been sitting there staring at the sign announcing, “Welcome to Massey, TX Population 5,609 and growing!” but the hood under his ass was cooling, and the sun had reached its highest point. Hell, it was starting the slow slide toward the horizon.
It had been a long, long time since he’d been home. The last time he’d been there he’d flown in for his pop’s funeral, stuck around for the meal, and then got the hell out of Dodge. Since then, he hadn’t been home once. He called, though, every single weekend right after his mother had finished breakfast on Sundays. They would chat for exactly one hour and fifteen minutes. No more, no less. The woman always had enough gossip to fill that time, so he rarely had to say much of anything.
Yet, here he was. Staring into the abyss of the quintessential small town. Ranches and farms spread out as far as the eye could see and beyond. Nestled in the middle was Massey. His hometown, and the place he’d burned rubber to get away from the moment he’d turned eighteen. Unlike his brothers, Martin had always hated coming back. To him, it had felt claustrophobic. Whether from his family’s expectations, or from his own uncertainty about the future, he didn’t know.
This time was no different. So, there he was, sitting on the hood of his ‘66 Mustang. While she maintained her shape, he’d given her a few tweaks over the years. A new paint job when he was eighteen, and a new hemi engine when he was twenty-two. There were a few other not exactly legal additional elements to Eris, named after the goddess of chaos, strife, and discord. His brothers had actually named his car, but he’d let it stick. Hell, he’d even gotten a little name plate that was attached to the dashboard right over the speedometer.
Martin shook his head, leaning back on his hands as he continued to stare in the direction of the town. He remembered back in high school a rumor Frank had told him about. His older brother had apparently also started it, but he denied it with a smirk every single time Martin confronted him.
According to the “rumor,” if a girl managed to talk Martin into taking her out a date, she prayed he’d be driving Eris. If he showed up in his pop’s old pickup truck, then she knew she would be getting walked to the front door, given a peck on the cheek, and he’d promptly leave to never call her for another date. But if he showed up in Eris, the girl would be getting a tour of the backseat, on her back, and things would be a rocking.
Not once had Martin ever taken a girl out in Eris. There’d been one he’d thought about, right before leaving town for good, but she’d been too young, and he definitely hadn’t needed that sort of thing to follow him or her around for the rest of their days.
Athena Rhodes. Named for the virgin goddess of reason, intelligent activity, arts, and literature. A more perfect name for the woman in question there never would be. She’d always had an ethereal quality about her, always thinking before leaping, and was the one woman who still had him jolting up out of bed in the middle of the night from the dreams she starred front and center in.
Not the teenage version of Athena Rhodes either. Nope, he knew exactly what she looked like as of four weeks ago. Hell, he even had her photo in the folder sitting on the passenger seat of his car. The rest of what was in the folder was why he was there, despite digging in his heels with the director of the FBI. Fucking bastard found it funny that Martin didn’t want to go home for a visit and deal with the trouble Athena found herself in. In the director’s mind, it was two birds, one stone. In Martin’s, it was a colossal fuck up in the making. Especially if Athena was anywhere near it.
Athena, bane of his existence. She’d been just starting to come into the woman she would one day be when he’d left Massey. Now she was more than he could ever have imagined. Five-foot-seven, long, rich red hair the color of a wine with hints of copper and strawberries. Green eyes that could lighten with amusement or darken like a coming storm. Athena had the stereotypical redhead temper, though he knew from his mother’s gossip she rarely showed it any more. So she’d gotten it under control. Should be interesting to test that theory.
Pale golden skin, just a hint of a tan, with a smattering of freckles over her nose and upper curve of her cheeks. A slightly rounded face with amazing bone structure, straight nose, slightly pointed chin, gave her face a heart-shaped look. A long ,elegant neck he’d imagined nibbling on in his quest to discover if there were freckles anywhere else on her body. His dreams said yes, but Martin didn’t think he’d really ever find out.
To top off his perfect woman’s image, Athena had some meat on her bones. She was built like a woman, sturdy, and not like one of those twigs from Hollywood that would blow over if you sneezed in their direction. She was, quite literally, his dream woman given form. Or maybe, he should say, she was the woman of his dreams, if only he had the nerve to tell her.
His other problem with the woman. She got him all twisted up inside, and turned him into a babbling fool. Or she had. Martin really hoped she still didn’t have that particular effect on him. ‘Cause that would just be the fucking icing on the cake for this whole damned trip.
The sound of an engine pulled his attention back, and he let out a sigh when the truck got close enough for him to recognize it. All the time in the world seemed to have passed, and the damn pickup truck that was used around the Carver Ranch was still exactly the same. Squinting slightly at the reflection off the windshield, he waited for his brother to swing it around and park it behind the Mustang.
The crunch of boots to gravel told him where his big brother was, yet still, he waited. Only when the other man slid onto the hood next to him did he give a nod. “Frank,” he said quietly.
“Martin.” That was it, nothing else.
Course they didn’t really need to say much of anything else. Despite rumors to the contrary, ones sort of started by him, he and Frank had worked together more than once. They even talked on a fairly regular basis. While Frank had worked for a different branch, and under different mandates for the US government, Martin had always been his brother’s contact inside the bureau.
“Eris is looking good,” Frank said after another ten minutes of silence.
“She held up well on the drive. Only got a bit cranky with me outside of Dallas. But a quart of oil and she was purring like an overgrown kitten again.”
Frank snorted out a laugh at that. “I can’t believe you still have her.”
“Dude, she’s family. Quit trash talking my car.”
Hands up, Frank cracked a grin. A real grin. As in teeth and everything. While Martin was staring in shock, he missed what his brother was saying. “What? Sorry.”
“I asked you how long you plan on sitting out here. According to Willard, you’ve been here since eight this morning. It’s now nearly two in the afternoon.”
Heaving a sigh, Martin shoved his hands through his pale blond hair. Out of all the Carvers, his was the lightest in color, but his eyes were the darkest. The oddities of the familial gene pool. “Working up the nerve to drive across the county line is all.”
“Uh-huh. You do know that Mama’s already heard you’re here. And the fact you are sitting here, and not at her kitchen table where she can smother you with all that built up motherly love, means you are in seriously deep shit, little brother.”
Martin winced at that. Yeah, his mama would hug him, weep all over him, and then likely bean him with her rolling pin. Theresa Carver was in no way a pushover. She might play the part occasionally to lure the unaware in close, but then she struck. She could make a grown man in a full rage cry like a little girl in under two minutes. Without even batting a lash. She was that good.
“So, what has you here?” Frank asked.
Normally, he wouldn’t discuss it, but Frank still held his beyond top secret clearance level, and likely would as long as he was still breathing. “Athena Rhodes, or rather her dirty, lowdown scoundrel of a father.”
Frank’s head whipped around to look his way. “Shit. You got handed that one?”
“Well fuck me.”
Yup. Pretty much Martin’s exact thoughts on the matter.