Authors: Denysé Bridger
A haunted and abandoned hotel is the setting for a very
private party between two lovers, one of them a world-class, sophisticated
intelligence operative who’s trying to teach his young and innocent lady that
curiosity can sometimes take her places she’d be better off not going. Amid
elaborate trappings meant to scare and entice, Rick’s seduction takes some
unexpected but wickedly wonderful twists, with a hint of the paranormal. But
Rick also has a lesson to learn when his past collides with his present, and
almost destroys everything he cherishes most.
erotic suspense romance
from Ellora’s Cave
Rick Leighton watched from his vantage point on the third
floor of the crumbling hotel. His mind was flip-flopping continually as he both
waited for his careful planning to reward him when Cindi walked into this trap
and worried about recent developments on the job. Rick had worked in espionage
for over fifteen years and he’d made more enemies than he cared to think about.
Lately, he was increasingly aware of the shadows of his past closing in on his
his waking hours.
He’d left the intelligence field for a few years but
inevitably been lured back. He was considered one of the best in the business
and, ego aside, he knew he was good at the job. He was something of a legend in
his field, and a huge part of it was his successful use of the attraction so
many women felt for him. He’d never cared deeply enough for it to be a problem,
but he had tired of being the agency whore and it was instrumental in his
leaving. Then came the surprise of his life—and his biggest weakness now—the
woman he’d fallen in love with so unexpectedly. Her father had been his mentor
in many ways and, strained as their relationship was at the moment, Rick knew
Josh never stopped protecting Cindi either.
He shook off his concerns the moment he saw familiar
golden-blonde hair, focusing on the elaborate game he’d set in place for
Cinthya Bradley. Her presence filled him with conflicting responses, part of
him furious at her lack of care in coming and part of him undeniably thrilled
by her arrival. He’d been planning this for weeks, and now it was in play.
Drawing back from the window, he smiled and extinguished the
single candle that he’d lit while waiting. Deep within the cavernous building,
he heard a sound that was suspiciously like a door being opened. He frowned as
he considered the direction it had come from, somewhere in the back of the
ancient hotel. Cindi should have been at the front. The second thump was at the
front and he dismissed the earlier sound as he slipped into position.
The Mayfair was an old, old hotel, and a lot of things went
bump in the night when winds blew through the smashed-out windows and the
various entrances to the place creaked and groaned. He was being overly
paranoid. He’d felt someone lurking in the shadows for days, but no one ever
revealed themselves. He was suffering from job stress and needed time off. It
wasn’t the first time he’d felt ghosts around him. Occupational hazard.
His grin slid into place when he heard the first telltale
squeak of the stairs…
Cinthya Bradley’s nerves were tingling as she made her way
into the derelict building. There were countless legends about this ancient
hotel and the reports of hauntings numbered in the hundreds. No one could fully
remember the reason it had been abandoned for over half a century.
She’d done some research into the background of the Mayfair
Hotel for a school report years earlier, and all she’d been able to unearth was
in the late thirties a murder was reputed to have taken place here. A young
couple vanished after checking in to spend their honeymoon. The staff at the
time refused to speak about it, undoubtedly ordered to keep their mouths shut.
In the years that followed, of course, rumors circulated and grew exponentially
with each decade. Reports of shrieking, ghostly sightings and blood-spattered
walls abounded until the place closed. New owners attempted to reopen once but
they closed again within a few months. That was back in the forties. No one had
The locks had been broken for as long as she could recall,
but the place remained deserted anyway. Even the homeless avoided the Mayfair,
and that should have been enough to keep her outside. Of course, it wasn’t.
She’d simply walked into the place after a couple of tugs on the door. Rusted hinges
squealed an objection, then gave way.
If Rick found out she’d stepped foot in the place, she’d be
hearing about it for days. Rick loved her but he wasn’t above lecturing her for
things he classified as ill-advised or foolish. The problem was she frequently
did things that fell into that category.
Cinthya’s curiosity was one of her biggest character flaws,
and she was fully aware of it. She simply couldn’t quell it often enough. Her
smile flickered when she recalled how often Rick had told her that particular
trait was going to get her in serious trouble one day.
Hopefully not today
But this probably was another example of that insatiable inquisitiveness
overriding good sense. The old Mayfair was a monument to another era, though
its grandeur had faded long ago. In spite of that, there was an undeniable
ambiance. She swallowed hard and went past the dusty front desk, all senses
strained and alert.
Her heartbeat grew louder with each step she took toward the
staircase that would put her on the third floor, where the room she’d been told
to find was located.
The old hotel was eerie in the approaching darkness and she
was finding it difficult to hold on to her resolve to do this without calling
Rick. There’d been a weird message on the machine when she got home—something
about discovering a secret she needed to know. The voice had sounded slightly
familiar, although she couldn’t quite pinpoint why. There’d also been just
enough mystery in the vague words to arouse her interest. The entire
situation—the call and her coming here to this deserted hotel—reminded her of
something she’d heard of once, but her efforts to pull it from memory hadn’t
been remotely successful.
She should know better than this.
She couldn’t escape the twinge of conscience that reminded her
how often she played out of her league. When her father had retired from the
Agency and started his own private investigation business, he’d thought his
daughter would be safe from the ghosts of his violent past. More than once
though, Cinthya had paid for the deeds and decisions of Joshua Bradley’s
previous career. Her relationship with Rick wasn’t a point of reassurance
either in the creaking darkness of the forsaken hotel. There were people who
knew him and his reputation, and often it was a point of protection, but here
that was irrelevant. It was with Joshua’s
reluctant blessing that
his twenty-year-old daughter had stepped into a loving relationship with his
former business partner, the shadowy, sophisticated and lethal Rick Leighton.
The more than fifteen-year age difference was only the first objection her
father had voiced when Cinthya had been forced by her own conscience to open up
to him—conscience and the undeniable need to share her happiness with the other
important person in her life.
Rick’s recent decision to leave Bradley’s Private
Investigations and reenter the life of an active Company operative set up an
entirely new array of potential dangers for Cinthya. It was a risk she was more
than willing to take, but not something that lessened the worry from her father
She leapt back in fright when something clingy and
featherlight brushed against her face. With a cry of disgust, she batted away
the filmy cobwebs and peered into the shadowy stairwell. She was on the second
floor—only one more flight to climb. Then she’d have to find room 313.
Some people claimed the Mayfair Hotel was haunted, and those
who lived in the area could tell endless stories about “sightings” and other
mysterious events in the ancient edifice.
Another shudder ran the length of her spine when she heard
skittering near her feet. Rats! The place
to be infested with rats.
She glanced around, her breath still as she searched the growing darkness for
the beady red eyes she was sure she’d find watching her. There was nothing
staring at her from the blackness of the corners and she sagged against the
wall as she gasped for air.
God! Rick was right, I should never have stayed up all
night watching horror movies.
He’d consented to sit through the original version of
Phantom of the Opera
—he deemed that particular film “a classic”—but Cinthya
had been on her own after that. It had been nearing daybreak when she’d finally
crawled into bed—and about another thirty seconds before she flew out again,
tripping in the sheets and falling flat on her face at his unexpected grab.
Rick had almost fallen out of bed himself from laughing at her. He was still
laughing when he’d left the apartment earlier this afternoon.
Cinthya dismissed the monsters and ghouls of the previous
night and concentrated on locating the room where she was supposed to find her
mystery caller. A sag in the weathered wood of the floor creaked in the hollow
corridor. She bit her bottom lip to prevent any sound from escaping. Her
hammering heartbeat gradually subsided and she felt some of the fear-induced
dizziness pass. A chill rippled through her though, when she realized she was
staring up at the shadowy ceiling, her gaze drawn to the vast network of
cobwebs that had been woven over the years. It looked like wisps of cotton,
stretched to the point of breaking, except that this thready cloak was dulled
with years of dust and grime.
A distinct thud at the other end of the long hallway had her
heading in that direction.
She was several doors away from Room 313 when she was
grabbed from behind. A firm hand over her mouth cut off her scream. There was
no chance to fight off her attacker and she cursed herself as she was dragged
into a room and flung into a chair. Whoever had grabbed her was little more than
a shadowy presence in the near-total darkness. Her hands were tied securely
behind the high chair back and her feet were bound to the legs of the seat.
The room grew blacker as her panic escalated, and she tried
to force her eyes to adjust by keeping them closed. She let out a gasp of
protest when a blindfold was tied around her head. For a split second, the
sensation of silk distracted her thoughts; the smooth feel of the material
against her skin was actually soothing. Her captor chose not to gag her, but
Cinthya knew it would be futile to yell anyway. She’d be considered one of the
hotel ghosts if anyone heard her at all—not much of a chance in this
“What’s going on? Who are you?”
That was brilliant!
she chided herself.
There was no reply and she strained to identify the sound as
she caught the distinct rasp of a match being struck. She could smell the hint
of burning wood, then the stronger odor of oil.
Some nut was
setting fire to the crumbling hotel and she was going to go down with it! She
opened her mouth to speak then decided against it when she couldn’t think of a
single thing to say. Pleading with whoever was doing this wouldn’t get her very
Visions of flames running through the old building,
devouring it, began to fill her mind, her imagination conjuring images that
terrified her more every moment.
She sensed movement more than she actually heard it, and her
heartbeat threatened to deafen her when she felt someone standing over her.
“What do you want?” She winced at the unmistakable quaver in
her voice then jumped when she felt hands on the back of the chair, close to
her shoulders. She opened her mouth again but never uttered a sound as her lips
were covered with a warm, gentle kiss.
Recognition left her weak and shaking as she answered the
thrust of her lover’s tongue. The caress was sensual and provocative, leaving
Cinthya breathless and excited when it finally ended minutes later.
“What took you so long, honey?” Rick whispered, his breath
soft against her lips.
“Take the blindfold off and untie me,” she said, a flare of
irritation working into her tone when she realized she’d walked blithely into
an elaborate joke. Rick wasn’t going to let her live this one down for some
time, of that much she was certain.
Rick complied with part of her entreaty. He removed the silk
blindfold, took a few steps backward, then settled on the edge of a dusty bed
to watch Cinthya’s face. He grinned broadly as she looked around. An oil lamp
was the only light in the room, casting flickering shadows over walls that were
stained and scarred with age.
“You’re getting off easy, you can’t really see this place.”
“Are you going to untie me now?” Cinthya asked once her gaze
had swept the room and come to rest again on him.
“It might be more interesting if I didn’t,” he said, amused.
“Rick! C’mon, cut it out. Untie me. Please?” She added the
last with a smile—the wide-eyed one that generally got her anything she wanted
from him. But tonight he seemed immune to this particular ploy.
“Why should I?” He was smiling, and she knew he was
deliberately inciting her annoyance. “You had no idea what might have been
waiting for you in this dump, did you? But you strolled in anyway. Did it ever
occur to you that you could easily get yourself killed?”
Cinthya recognized the edge in his tone and decided to keep
her mouth shut. It was difficult to argue with him when he was right, even more
so when she was tied to a chair at his mercy. “Are you going to let me out of
this chair now that you’ve made your point?”
Rick seemed to consider the idea, then his grin returned.
“What makes you think I’ve made my point?”
His smile took on a wickedness that made Cinthya squirm in
Dropping to his knees, he placed his hands on her thighs.
Her gaze locked on his hands, following them as they glided over the smooth
silkiness of her stockings and disappeared beneath her soft, well-worn denim
“You wouldn’t—” She gasped when Rick’s fingers hooked in the
waistband of her pantyhose. He tugged them down to her knees.
“Wouldn’t what?” he asked absently, pulling her blouse free.
He opened the buttons then pushed the material aside. Her breasts were barely
contained within the low-cut cups of her push-up bra.
“You’re not—” Cinthya’s protest ended when he leaned forward
to cover her mouth with another deep, probing kiss. Her tongue flicked at his
and the caress became a hungry demand. She eased forward in an effort to
increase the persuasive pressure on his lips.
Rick released her for a second and smiled into her eyes.
“Let me go. I want to… Touch you.” Cinthya stumbled on the
words—she tended to shyness when they tried anything new—but his hypnotic, dark
eyes drew the truth out of her.
Rick claimed her trembling mouth again as his hands tangled
in her hair, drawing her into another searing kiss. Cinthya shivered, her body
coming alive at his touch, her admission creating an undeniable ache that made
her realize just how badly she wanted to touch him. His hands skimmed over her
shoulders, baring them completely to his exploring caresses as he pushed her
jacket and blouse out of his path.
When his fingertips whispered over her lace-encased breasts,
she shuddered, a ripple of thrilling anticipation that quivered in her muscles.
He tugged at the edge of her bra, drawing the material down to free the already
taut buds of her nipples, teasing them into fully erect hardness. He finally
broke the intense kiss and she gasped. The sharp breath quickly became a shaky
moan when he closed his mouth over one pebbled nipple.
She tugged at the bonds that held her immobile in the chair
and twitched in a spasm of reaction when Rick bit lightly at the tip of her
He’s not going to do this to me here
, she told
Not tied to a chair. That’s a little too weird.
But a perverse
thrill of excitement bolted through her at the thought.
Something flickered in the air behind him, but she barely
caught it through the haze of pleasure she was feeling. A chill brushed the
back of her neck then vanished when Rick’s tongue rapidly fluttered against her
trapped nipple. The rush of wet heat between her legs pulsed wildly, blinding
her senses to anything but him.