Locked In (Locked in Love) (Volume One): An Alpha Billionaire Romance (8 page)




I’d picked the dress because I knew it would stand out.


It did.


Reclining on a chair in my security room, I watch Elise move through the guests. She blends in, looking as if she could easily be one of them.


Except to me. I see her looking around the room. I know she’s cataloging faces, couples. And, judging by the direction she is heading, she’s going to look at Bryce’s safe.


Bryce Hollins is a competitor. My rival, in more ways than one. He is forty five to my thirty five, and he likes to throw his age and experience in my face. Publically, at least. We have the top two security and safe companies in the world. Mine has been built from the ground up. My father laid its foundation, and my determination has driven it to the top, mortar by mortar.


Bryce inherited an already booming business from his father. His grandfather had started it. It is a legacy business, and the world’s elite loved their legacies. For the moment, though, Locked In Securities is number one in sales.


But Bryce held the title of “Uncrackable.” His top-of-the line home and business safe has never been cracked. It is the one he was using tonight.


My newest safe will steal that from him. After tonight, if my plan goes smoothly, Bryce will be put firmly in his place as number two.


Elise is closing in on Bryce’s security.


I hope she busts their balls.


As she marches up the steps, preparing to slip around a corner, I stand and straighten my shirt. She’s doing her job, to my delight.


I have my own job tonight, and duty beckons.





The guys are dressed in tuxes. Whoever owns the third safe has the money to make sure their guard is properly attired.


The only obnoxious part is their “Men in Black” sunglasses and ear pieces. The sunglasses obscure their faces. They’re also impractical indoors.


And they make you look like a douche bag


Following one around a corner, I watch him enter a room. The door opens just wide enough for me to see a freaking refrigerator-sized monstrosity in the middle of the room. Obviously the safe.


“You need to go back, ma’am, this area is off limits.” I jump, startled, and whirl around.


A tall man in sunglasses is behind me, gently reaching for my shoulder. Shrugging away, I offer a smile. “No worries, I’m working the place like you are.”


He doesn’t relent. As his fingers close on my shoulder, I grab his wrist, applying pressure at the soft spot. Not enough to hurt him, just enough to suggest that maybe I know what I’m doing. Oh, and to back off.


“Whatever you’re doing at the auction, you don’t have permission to be
,” he snarls a bit, withdrawing his hand. “Let me show you the way back.”


“Actually,” I can hear the frustration mounting in my voice, “I have permission to go anywhere by Jameson Locke himself. So if you don’t mind, fuck off.”


Okay, I’ll admit-- I’m probably escalating the situation more quickly than is necessary. But I really, really hate men, or really anyone, telling me what to do. And grabbing me. It’s in my best interest to slow my temper. “Look, just call and you’ll see. Elise Martin, Private Investigator.”


He sneers. “P.I.? Really? What exactly are you investigating?” Then he frowns. “Unless he hired you to investigate Mr. Hollins--”


Mr. Hollins? Must be the owner of the safe. Competitor, I think Dalton said.


“What? Nope. Just here protecting the good, rich people of the world from would-be thieves.”


His hand goes to his ear piece and his frown intensifies. I wait, tapping my sneaker on the marble floor.


“Okay,” he says, but his voice sounds dubious. “You’re free to go. However, you are not allowed near Mr. Hollins’ safe. That room is under our protection, and no one may enter who’s not his personal staff.”


I smile and shrug. “No problem.”


Tall and Angry leaves me, heading back into the room. I catch him motioning to me, and several sunglasses turn in my direction. Winking, I head back to the party, making a mental note about Hollins and again thinking how dumb it is to allow so many different people guard an auction of this magnitude.


After all, too many cooks in the kitchen, and all that.


Caterers buzz by and I grab a flute of champagne. I’m not going to drink, not on the job, but I pretend as I waltz through the crowd to fit in. And, when people aren’t looking, I slip my business card into purses and pockets. Maybe not the most direct approach, but I’m getting a feeling I’m not used to.




I grew up in wealth. But this… this is on a whole new level. Now that I’m in the press of bodies, overhearing their cultured accents and seeing the food being served, I realize I have no idea what I’m doing. These people are country-club wealthy. They are own-small-islands wealthy.


Crudites on trays pass by and I take a piece. It’s Wagyu beef. My jaw would drop if it could. This beef alone costs hundreds of dollars a
. It’s heavily marbled in thin, gorgeous ribbons. Popping it in my mouth, it practically melts and I hum a little in appreciation.


Eyeing the trays more carefully, I see raw oysters flown in from the shore; chocolate-dipped raspberries with flakes of gold leaf; tiny octopuses, deep red and skewered.

I’m not going to down much of it, but I venture a taste of champagne. It’s the real deal. This is hundred-dollar-bottle bubbly. Even without downing it, it makes me feel a little heady.


Not for the first time, I begin to doubt myself. What was I doing here? What did I think to accomplish? It had seemed an amusement to play Jameson’s game. He was smart, I’ll give him that. When he challenged me, there’d been what… a thrill?


It didn’t help that just sharing a room with him sent me buzzing. Thinking about him now, I can feel my skin heating. Hopefully people will think my blush is from booze, not lusty thoughts.


Even in sex, he has me bested. He just doesn’t know it, and I’m not about to tell him. We’ve only fucked twice and each time he’s taken me to new heights. I’ve never come so hard, ever.


My fingers drift across my throat, recalling the way he’d choked me, just enough to make it feel dangerous, while pounding away at my ass. Beneath the silk of the dress, my bottom still tingled, sensitive from the spanking he’d given me.


I’ve seen enough in my work, both as a cop and as a PI, to know that if he did these things…


He was just getting starting.


My knowledge of BDSM was small; mostly what I needed for the job. Locke
like more than that. Like he didn’t just want to make sex a little daring-- it was like he wanted to


Gnawing on my lip, I secret away to the hall that leads back to my room. God knows I need this money right now. But my heart is pounding, my palms are sweating, and I am realizing I’m in over my head with this guy.


It isn’t easy to admit.


I’ll have to forgo the check, because suddenly, I’m not sure about anything anymore.


It’s the memory of your father speaking. You can do this better than anyone, and Locke deserves to be caught


This was true, I knew, but it didn’t change my need to be alone for a moment. To regroup, and change, and head home. Besides-- what was Locke doing to deserve being caught, besides being arrogant and domineering?


I turn a corner and am surprised at how quickly it became quiet. For fun, I scuff my sneaker on the marble. The tiny squeak is quickly muffled. Well, it shouldn’t surprise me that a guy this wealthy has ensured proper acoustics in each room. The bustle of the auction is only just audible.


It’s good to be quiet. I stop and look at a painting on the wall. It’s a copy, but signed by the copier-- no forgery. My arms cross in front of my chest, protecting me. It’s a copy of a Monet,
La Promenade
. I love the way the girl is standing with her back to the wind, her eyes just peeking over her shoulder at you. The colors, the little boy in the background, all seem to be telling you this is a good day. A happy walk. But to me her expression is troubled, like you caught her doubting herself, doubting the moment.


Something I’m uncomfortably familiar with.


Shoes click near me and I turn to see one of the patrols. “Hey Martin,” one of them, Forrest, I think, says. “Looking good.”


It was these kinds of comments that rankled me so much when I was a Detective, but I manage a smile and nod.


Their footsteps disappear and I’m alone again, alone with this girl and her thoughts. In my mind, all the different scenarios are playing out. If I stay and nothing happens with Locke, I’m not sure my ego can handle the rejection. I was the one who stepped away, and I knew if we ever touched again--


No. That couldn’t even be a possibility.


I hated that I was even thinking about him this much! I’m logical. Find the facts. Search for the clues. Evidence.


Nothing I’d done or said since meeting him met with any kind of logic, aside from seeing a check. And here I was again, considering walking away from it!


As these thoughts mull and war, a shiver runs up my spine. It isn’t the kind sparked from desire, like the ones I get around Locke. It’s a tremor of fear.


I have a theory that our instincts are a lot sharper than we give them credit for. We’d never have survived as a species, though, if it weren’t for gut hunches. They were what told us that we might need shelter, or that food might be near.


Or if we’re in danger.


My stomach clenches, because that’s what’s happening now. The hairs are raising on my neck and everything feels cold. My breath is thundering in my ears.


You’re trained in defense and some martial arts, Martin. Locke has every inch of this house on video. There are patrols if you scream.


Knowing all this didn’t help all that much, but taking a deep breath, I force myself to look away from the painting.


A figure in head-to-toe black is standing and staring at me.







About the Author


So, I probably won’t make a webpage, but if I do, it won’t have a blog. It isn’t that I don’t like blogging, I just never think of it. So, if it is okay with you, I’ll be using these sections for that. If you’ve ever read J.A. Huss, and I suggest you do, then you know she calls this “End of Book Shit.”


Recently I watched “The Thomas Crown Affair.” You know, with Pierce Brosnan. It is such a delightful movie, and the original is just as good. I’m an amateur art historian and I’m in love with capers, so this movie had me hooked! It obviously inspired a bit of this story. Or a lot of it.


What did I change? A hell of a lot. Jameson isn’t going to be the congenial playboy that Thomas Crown was. He’s got a past, and that past has teeth and claws. If he seems cheerful, it’s a mask that he’s adapted to (and may not even realize he’s wearing).


Elise is no Rene Russo, either. She’s got the smarts and the sass and a hell of a lot more curves. But she is way more insecure and has her own secrets. For her, it isn’t about the chase. It’s about fighting her own demons.


“Why,” you’re asking me, “are you writing more fucking serials!? Just write books!” There’s a lot of controversy over serialized romance. I’m a junky for it, myself. Look, I get it. I promise not to drag this story out for three hundred short releases. This release right here? Over twenty thousand words. That’s considered a novella, not just a short story.


Do you remember Sunday comics? Or do you have a favorite weekly TV show? Maybe on Showtime, or HBO-- something you pay extra for? That’s serials for me. I love the anticipation of a new release. I love and HATE cliffhanger endings, because it leaves me jonesing for more. I’m sorry if serials aren’t your favorite, but maybe now you know where I’m coming from. It’s the rush of seeing the new release and knowing, finally, you’ll have some questions answered (only, of course, to have new ones pop up).


If you want me to tell you when the next release is out so you don’t have to check, sign up for my newsletter here:




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