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About the author:
Sterling and his wife travel extensively and live at their mountain ranch in Colorado with their Golden Retriever, Shelby.
What inspired you to write your book?
So many things, really. But the biggest inspiration is the prospect of bringing joy and entertainment to other people’s lives. The author/reader connection is incredibly intimate, and it’s thrilling to share that with so many people. Then there’s the creative process of forming stories, inventing characters and bringing it all to life through fun writing, all of which gets me so excited that I can hardly wait to get to my study every morning. I know, in my heart, that it’s truly what I’m meant to do.
Here is a short sample from the book:
The mechanical clicks of the dead bolt and the turning door lever awakened Jack instantly, and he thanked God he was a light sleeper. He wasn’t sure what time it was, his body clock still out of kilter, but his best guess was around midnight. He clutched the Beretta as the door slowly opened, the light from the hall streaming in the opposite direction. He could see the person’s silhouette as it moved through the room, and he could tell it was either a woman or a short man wearing a jacket or blazer. He or she had also apparently left some sort of bag near the door.
Quietly disengaging the pistol’s safety, Jack stealthily emerged from the couch and followed the intruder to the bedroom. He stopped at the door and raised the gun into position, watching as the person leaned over the bed.
“Zach?” It was a woman’s voice, and she spoke softly. “Zach? C’est mois, baby.” He saw her hand touch the covers, her body rearing upward as she discovered no one was there.
Jack flipped on the lights, and he aimed the Beretta directly at her.
The girl screamed, her hands covering her mouth in terror.
“Don’t move!” Jack ordered as he noticed her clothing. It was a flight attendant’s uniform, just like the ones he had seen on his flight a few hours before, and he lowered the gun. “God, I’m sorry. Are you Michele?”
The girl shivered in fear, and it looked like she could barely find the composure to speak. “Yes. Who are you? And where is Zach?” Her French accent was strong, but her English was nonetheless excellent.
Jack was momentarily captivated by her shoulder-length brown hair, emerald eyes and trim little figure, but he snapped to and placed the gun on the dresser to demonstrate his intentions. He raised his hands as he moved toward her, conveying his desire to be calm and nonthreatening.
Still frightened, she backed away from him and struck the wall behind her, gasping for breath.
“I swear I’m not going to hurt you. I’m a good friend of Zach’s. My name is Jack Lazar.”
That seemed to calm her. “You are Jacques?”
“Yes. Something’s happened to Zach, and I’m here to find out what’s going on. I’m sorry for scaring you like that, but there was an intruder in the apartment when I arrived earlier today, and I thought you might be the same person coming back. Please forgive me.”
She placed her hand over her chest, presumably checking the pace of her heart. “You did scare me.”
“When was the last time you saw Zach?” He decided to jump right into the subject at hand. Perhaps the distraction would soothe her a little more.
Michele seemed to struggle for the answer. “Um…last Saturday, I think. My layovers have kept me away since then. What happened? Is Zach okay?”
“I don’t know. I just got here myself, and I have no idea what’s going on.”
She started to cry and walked across the room, throwing herself into Jack’s arms, burying her head into his chest. “Poor Zach! I have been trying to call him for days!”
Jack held her for a while, not knowing what else to do. But after a couple of minutes he gently pushed her back. “Michele? Why don’t we sit down and talk for a while. Maybe there’s something you can remember to help us figure out what’s going on. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said pitifully, wiping her eyes.
“Would you like something to drink? A glass of wine perhaps? I saw a bottle of Beaujolais on the counter.”
“Yes. That would be good.” She placed her hand over heart again.
Jack took a couple of glasses from the cabinet before uncorking and pouring the wine, and he met Michele back in the living room. He set one of the glasses on the coffee table in front of her. “Here you go.”
“Thank you, Jacques.” She smiled at him in a sexy way that made him feel uncomfortable, considering the circumstances. But maybe that was just her way.
Jack took a sip of the Beaujolais and settled into the chair, delicately probing Michele’s emerald eyes. “Can you remember anything Zach might have said to indicate he was in some sort of trouble?”
“Well,” she started, “he did seem a little nervous the last time I saw him. I asked what was wrong, but he just said his work was giving him more stress than usual.”
“Did he mention anything about a safety deposit box?”
Her head cocked to the side. “No. Why?”
“He sent me the key to one. He mailed it all the way to California with a note saying he was in trouble.” At least Jack knew it was safe to tell Michele about the key. “Can you think of anything he might want to hide from other people?”
“No, Jacques. None of this makes sense to me.”
“That’s all right, Michele. I’m sure he just didn’t want to get you involved.”
She nodded apologetically.
“Listen. I’m meeting with a friend of Zach’s tomorrow who might have some information. And I’m sure I’ll find a way to get into that safety deposit box. One of the two is bound to shed some light on the situation. So don’t be discouraged, okay? I promise I’ll find him, no matter what it takes.”
“Okay.” She ran her fingers around the perimeter of her face as if her hair were bothering her. “Who are you meeting tomorrow?”
“Louis Barton. Do you know him?”
“Louis? No. I have never met him in person. Zach and I do not go out much.” She smiled.
“Do you think I can trust him?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Zach has said good things about him, but I know they are competitors as well. I just do not know.”
“Well, he seemed nice enough on the phone, and I need all the allies I can get. I guess I’ll just have to feel him out at lunch tomorrow.”
“Oui.” She nodded.
“Maybe we should try to get some sleep. Why don’t you go on into the bedroom, and I’ll stay out here on the couch. Just let me know if you need anything.”
“No, Jacques. I am too afraid to be alone. Will you stay in the bedroom with me, please?”
Jack could feel her undressing him with her eyes, and he knew the T-shirt left very little to the imagination. His uneasiness with the situation was so obvious he even surprised himself. “I don’t know if I would feel right being in the same bed with you. I mean, you are Zach’s girlfriend.”
She smiled. “That is silly, Jacques. Zach and I are not exclusive. Besides, I am not asking you to have sex with me.”
“Well…I…I wasn’t suggesting…”
“Come on.” Michele took his hand and led him into the bedroom before directing him to the bedside near the window, patting the mattress with her hand, indicating he was to lie down. She removed her jacket and shoes, flipped off the wall switch and settled onto the bed, still wearing her blouse and skirt. She snuggled up to him, laying her head on his chest.
“Please hold me,” she whispered. “S’il vous plait, Jacques. J’ai peur, en ici je sais que je suis en sécurité.”
Jack was still uneasy with the situation, even though he realized it was senseless to feel that way. He placed his arm around her, holding her close, protecting her. He recognized the word “security” in what she said, and it reminded him she was just scared. He was doing nothing more than consoling her, and Zach would surely do the same if the roles were reversed. There was nothing sexual about it, so Jack had no reason to feel guilty or uncomfortable.
Ah, but there was a reason. He was attracted to Michele. And not just a little. He loved the way her brown hair curled inward around her face, and how her full lips just beckoned to be kissed. He could easily visualize how her petite body would look naked and how it would feel pressed against him. And, as if those thoughts weren’t enough to drive him insane, he could feel her sensual energy radiating through him as he held her. It was firing up his primal urges, taunting him like crazy, and his heart raced.
“I am sorry, Jacques. I cannot sleep,” Michele pulled away from him and sat up.
Thank God. Another second of that and…
“I think I will take a bath.” She smiled at him as if knowing he would be thinking about her in there.
“Okay. That’s fine,” he responded with barely any breath behind his voice. “I’ll be right here if you need me.” He shut his eyes and wondered if he had just made some sort of advance. What could she possibly need from him in there?
“Thanks,” Michele cooed softly, and she kissed him on the cheek before getting up and pulling the bathroom door behind her, leaving it ajar a few inches.
Jack looked toward the door, the stream of light beaming into the dark bedroom, and he realized he could easily watch her without being detected. Didn’t she know that? Was this an invitation?
He thought about it for a moment, but settled back down. He had no business invading her privacy, especially considering that she had a relationship with Zach, bizarre as it may be. Clearly, Michele and Zach were free to sleep with whomever they wanted, but if the roles were reversed, Jack would still want to keep his friends off the fuck list. Therefore, he assumed Zach would feel the same way, and he felt it best to keep his hands off Michele as a gesture of respect for their lifelong friendship. It was far more important than childish voyeurism, after all.
He remained there for several minutes, listening to the water filling the tub, the excitement of watching Michele bathe that lovely body stewing in his mind. This wasn’t going to be easy. He sat up and ran his hand over his face, trying to shake it off, but the tantalization only grew stronger. He glanced back toward the door as his moralistic thoughts faded, and he eventually eased his way over, his shoulder placed evenly with the edge of the door to shield him from being seen. He closed his eyes, opened them again, and tilted his head until he could see inside.
Michele had already stripped to her bra and panties, and she fiddled with her hair as the tub filled with steaming water. Jack delighted in her round bottom, her gentle shoulders, the superb curves of her legs. If her breasts were as lovely as the rest of her, he would probably faint dead away on the floor.
His heart continued to race, in part because he was being so naughty, but also because of the sexual tension building within him. What heavenly torture this was.
The tub now filled, Jack watched as Michele bent over to turn off the faucet, the anticipation of seeing her chest just about killing him now. She reached behind her back with both hands to disengage the bra and drop it to the floor. She fondled the undersides of her breasts as if delighting in their freedom from bondage, and she released them for her secret observer to see.
Jack gazed in pure voyeuristic pleasure at the delicate round treasures she revealed, their upright posture, her erect nipples, and he could feel the heat in his face as it went flush. He never imagined they would be so flawless. He could almost feel his mouth enveloped over her nipples, savoring them.
Michele still faced him as she slid her panties to the floor, flaunting the totality of her naked flesh to him, and Jack was so moved he almost fell backward. Her body was smooth and fair-skinned with a pair of slender muscles framing either side of her flat tummy, and a thin landing strip ornamented an otherwise shaved pelvic region. In totality, she was an alluring creature, and to resist a woman like that seemed impossible. He knew he was in big trouble.
Think about Zach, you idiot! Zach!
Jack shook his head, disgusted with himself, and he settled back onto the bed. He took a few deep breaths and endeavored to clear his mind of the lewd fantasy. But before long, it became impossible not to listen to the water as Michele bathed herself, and he struggled to ignore the images of her that were now permanently burned into his brain. What was he going to do? Why had the universe planned this sick torture for him?
He arose and sat on the edge of the bed again, trying to conjure up some sort of distraction. Then he realized he had completely forgotten about the ongoing risk of the intruder returning to the apartment. Michele’s arrival hadn’t changed that, and he knew staying with her in the bedroom would require a different strategy.
He walked into the living room, turned on the light, and surveyed the scene for a moment. How, from the bedroom, would he get the jump on someone? He wouldn’t be close enough to the door to hear it open, and the assailant could easily sneak over to the bedroom without being heard, just as someone had probably done with Zach.
An idea hit him, and he carried a dining chair to the front door, wedging the back of it underneath the lever. If someone tried to open the door, it would make a hell of a racket, giving Jack plenty of time to grab the Beretta and confront the intruder. Satisfied, he turned off the light and went back to the bedroom. He took the Beretta off the dresser, switched on the safety, and placed it between the mattress and box springs on his side of the bed. Once again, he felt prepared.
His task had not only resulted in improved security for the night, but it sufficiently squashed his arousal, so he could comfortably wait for Michele without being tortured.
After another five minutes, Michele had finished bathing, and Jack could hear her emerge from the water as the tub drained into the pipes. The image of her body flashed through his mind again, and it sparked another reaction in his equipment, but he managed to shake it off. He began to count backward from a thousand in increments of seven, hoping it would keep his brain occupied.
Michele returned to the bedroom wearing a black silk robe that apparently belonged to Zach, as it was too big for her petite form. She sat on the edge of the bed, showered in the light from the bathroom, and brushed her hair. She looked at Jack and smiled.
“Did you look, Jacques?”
“What?” His heart leapt. She caught him completely off guard. Did she see him watching her?
Michele stopped her hair brushing and crawled over to him, “I said, did you look at me?”
Jack was stunned. His mouth opened wide, but not a sound emerged. What could he say? How could he admit he had done something so demented as to peep at her while she took a private bath? It was her right not to be violated like that. But he didn’t want to lie to her either.
“You did. Didn’t you?” It seemed like she would be disappointed if he hadn’t.
Jack realized his silence had become awkward, and he had to say something. “Michele, I’m shocked you would think I’d do something like that.” He could feel his face turning bright red as he lied to her, and the feelings of guilt toward Zach resurfaced in a big way.
“Am I not beautiful?” She pouted.
“Oh, you’re lovely,” he blurted much too quickly. “But Zach is your boyfriend, and it’s just not appropriate for us…”
The lapel of Zach’s robe fell open, exposing one of her breasts, and the sight of it stopped Jack’s speech dead in its tracks.
Michele glanced down and noticed the exhibition, but made no attempt to cover it up. “Jacques. Jacques. It is okay.”
“No it’s not,” he replied, looking away. “What about Zach? Dear God.”
She cradled his head in her hands and turned his face toward her as a tear fell from her eye, and she looked desperate. “Zach is important to me, but we have no commitment to each other. Surely he has told you that. Besides, I am scared, Jacques, and I need you to touch me. Please.”
Jack threw the covers aside and jumped from the bed before using his hands to cover up the generous erection underneath his boxer-briefs. “I’m so sorry, Michele, but I just can’t do this. It just feels wrong no matter how well you justify it. The two of us are already half-naked, and now we’re talking about having sex, so I already feel like I’ve betrayed him.” Jack could sense the sexual frustration fueling his emotions, and he realized it sounded like he was angry with her.
Michele huffed with frustration as she stood up, and she dropped Zach’s robe to the floor, pausing to flaunt her naked body before storming back into the bathroom.
“I will leave here and find someone else to protect me!” she yelled back. “You are an inconsiderate bastard, Monsieur!”
What the hell? Didn’t she get what he was saying?
Regardless, the caring part of Jack couldn’t stand the thought of failing to help her despite how unreasonable she was being. His father had ingrained a strong sense of chivalry in him, and it had become a central part of his very character.
“Michele,” he said calmly. “Please don’t leave. I didn’t mean to suggest…”
She stepped out of the bathroom in her bra and panties to interrupt him. “I make my own decisions, Jacques. If I want to screw your brains out, that is my decision! Zach has nothing to do with it, and neither do you!”
“Non! This body belongs to me and no one else!”
“Will you let me say something, please?”
Michele placed her hands on her hips and tilted her head, impatiently waiting for his response, but the vision of her in the scant underwear was clouding Jack’s thinking, and he struggled to focus.
“You know, I also have a say regarding whether you’re allowed to screw my brains out. This body, my dear, belongs to me.” The corner of his mouth turned upward.
“No other man has ever said no to me. What is wrong with you?”
“Nothing’s wrong with me. I told you, this is about loyalty and friendship, and those are damn good reasons for me to say no. Under other circumstances…well…I doubt I could keep my hands off you.”
“Really?” She seemed to enjoy that little piece of knowledge.
“I would love to feel your hands on me, Jacques.”
Oh dear, I just created a monster.
She released the clasp of her bra and let it fall away.
“Do you not want to touch these? Would you not like to put them in your mouth? They taste really nice, mon ami.” She raised a breast to her mouth and ran her tongue around the nipple.
God help me.
“I can’t imagine anything more exciting than that, but you have to stop now.”
Michele rolled her eyes, picked up the bra and returned to the bathroom without saying a thing. Jack watched through the mirror as she put it on again and began fiddling with her blouse.
Jack had smoothed over tough negotiations with dozens of high-dollar business deals. Surely, he could find some common ground with this woman.
“Look, Michele. I’m sure we can come to some sort of arrangement. Why don’t you just get in here, lie down, and I’ll hold you again, just like before.”
“Non. Merci.” Short and to the point.
“Let me put it another way. I’m not letting you leave.”
She laughed. “And what is that supposed to mean?”
“It means you aren’t walking out that door tonight.”
She stepped back into the room, now fully dressed in her flight attendant uniform, and she gave him a wicked smile. “How do you plan on stopping me? Are you going to tie me up?”
Jack couldn’t help but be amused. “If necessary. But it won’t be what you have in mind.”
Michele pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes in defiance.
He looked her up and down and waggled a finger at her. “You can take off the skirt and the shoes, but that’s it. Then get into bed.”
“I haven’t agreed to stay here. And I will not do it until you ask nicely.”
“I’ve already tried that.”
She laughed. “That was asking nicely?”
“Okay. Let’s start over. Now, Michele. Please stay the night with me. I really want you to be here, and it would be my honor to protect you.”
“I do not believe you.”
“You sound insincere.”
“For chrissake, just get in the goddamn bed!”
“I’m not wearing the blouse. It is stiff, tight, uncomfortable, and it will bunch up underneath me. I do not like that.”
“A little while ago you got into bed with your skirt and your blouse. Seems like you’re already ahead of the game here.”
“I would never have fallen asleep like that.”
Jack sighed. “Don’t you have a nightgown around here or something?”
“I sleep naked.” She flashed him that wicked smile again. “You are lucky to have me in my bra and panties.”
That shot another bolt of fire to his groin. Shit.
“Fine. But no funny business.” He raised a resolute eyebrow.
“I would not dream of it.”
Michele began to undress again, this time doing it directly in front of Jack as she stared into his eyes. The woman simply wasn’t going to stop screwing with him. In no time she was back to her negligible bra and panties, and she slid into the bed, once again patting the mattress next to her. “C’mon, Jacques.”
He took a deep breath and obeyed, but this time positioned himself on top of the comforter so their bodies wouldn’t touch. Perhaps that would compensate for the “no blouse rule”.
Michele placed her head on Jack’s chest, and it seemed like she was trying to get situated, but in less than minute she was back out of the covers with a generous portion of her body draped over Jack, her leg resting on his crotch, her arm slid underneath his neck. She writhed around several times, apparently trying to find the right position, and each time she brushed against his groin, arousing him again.
There was no question in Jack’s mind that she noticed his partial erection and was continuing to work him on purpose, perhaps to see how big she could get him.
Naughty little minx.
He couldn’t imagine anything more intimate, and once again he found himself struggling with a combination of guilt and intense sexual energy shooting up from his crotch and intensifying in his chest—the kind of force that compels a man to succumb to his primitive instincts, to take a woman in no uncertain terms, to overpower her with his strength and plant his seed.
The urge was oh so hard to resist, but somehow Jack mustered up the strength to endure, and he began to relax as Michele finally drifted to sleep, her soft breath wafting across his neck, the faint aroma of red wine floating into his nostrils. Eventually, his arousal graduated into a strange form of intoxication, and the torture subsided, finally giving him the means to make it through the night.