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       Hot in Handcuffs: Three Novellas of Erotic Capture, p.1
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         Part #4 of Shadow Stalkers series by Sylvia Day
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Hot in Handcuffs: Three Novellas of Erotic Capture


  Berkley titles by Sylvia Day

  The Crossfire Novels

  Bared to You

  Reflected in You

  Entwined with You

  Anthologies

  Hot in Handcuffs

  (with Shayla Black and Shiloh Walker)

  Men Out of Uniform

  (with Maya Banks and Karin Tabke)

  The Promise of Love

  (with Lori Foster, Erin McCarthy, Kathy Love, Jamie Denton, and Kate Douglas)

  On Fire

  Sylvia Day

  INTERMIX BOOKS, NEW YORK

  INTERMIX BOOKS

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

  penguin.com

  A Penguin Random House Company

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  ON FIRE

  An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

  PUBLISHING HISTORY

  “On Fire” was previously published in the anthology Hot in Handcuffs

  InterMix eBook edition / September 2013

  Copyright © 2012 by Sylvia Day.

  Excerpt from Razor’s Edge copyright © 2011 by Sylvia Day.

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  Cover design by Sarah Oberrender.

  “Peaceful harbor” © Kenny Hung/Getty Images.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-15406-3

  INTERMIX

  InterMix Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group

  and New American Library, divisions of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  INTERMIX and the “IM” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  Contents

  Berkley titles by Sylvia Day

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Epilogue

  Special Excerpt from Razor's Edge

  About the Author

  This one is for my dear friends,

  Shayla Black and Shiloh Walker.

  Here’s to many more years of

  friendship, laughter, and commiseration.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  To all the readers who’ve enjoyed the Shadow Stalkers mini-series so far, I hope you love this new installment! Thank you for buying my books, sending me your notes and e-mails, and otherwise being totally awesome. I appreciate you.

  chapter one

  Darcy Michaels adjusted her gloved grip on her toolbox and picked her way carefully over the charred remains of her favorite candy store. Around her, firefighters moved through the smoldering ruins, checking every crevice and corner to be certain the fire was completely extinguished. Water dripped from the blackened walls and ceiling to puddle on the floor below, and the smell of smoke and burned sugar clung to her nostrils and skin, sinking into the very fiber of her uniform.

  “Third one in as many weeks,” James Ralston muttered behind her. “I’m sorry, Darcy. I know you loved this place.”

  She stopped and faced her mentor, her chest gripped in a vise of pain. Like the two previous fires, this blaze had destroyed a location that was dear to her and had held precious memories. She’d celebrated her twelfth birthday at the Sweet Spot candy shop, and she stopped by every Friday to stock up on the sour lemonade straws her sister had turned her on to.

  Focus on the details, Darcy. Don’t lose it now.

  “Whoever the arsonist is,” she said, “he’s not going to quit. He’s been doing this too long. It’s in his blood.”

  The frequency of the acts and the terrible brilliance of the timed-delay incendiary devices being used spoke of someone who’d had time to perfect his madness.

  She couldn’t help feeling violated, despite knowing how irrational that response was. As much as she’d wanted to leave Lion’s Bay as a kid, she couldn’t even contemplate abandoning the sleepy seaside town now. The same memories that had driven her parents to move away kept her bound to the area.

  “I don’t know what to make of it.” Jim’s forest green eyes were warm with compassion and intent on her face. “We don’t have any new residents and it’s the off-season. Tourism is down. Anyone not from around here sticks out like a sore thumb.”

  She turned in a slow circle, her trained gaze following the burn patterns he’d taught her to read.

  “This guy didn’t just crawl out of the w-woodwork,” she said, startled to hear her voice cracking. She cleared her dry throat. “I think we need to bring the big guns in on this.”

  “Miller’s doing a good job. He’s meticulous and thorough.” He touched her elbow lightly. “You don’t want to be the one who steps on his toes.”

  Darcy nodded, acknowledging the sensitive nature of her relationship with the town’s sheriff. “I know, but I think he needs more resources, and I think he’s too stubborn to ask for help.”

  The last time the Feds had come in, they’d run roughshod over Chris Miller and his deputies, cutting him out of the loop while draining his limited resources. She remembered that tense time all too well, because the murder they’d been investigating had been the tragedy that brought her home. “And frankly, Chris’s ego is the least of our problems.”

  “Let’s gather the evidence, then we’ll discuss the next best steps.” Setting his hand on her shoulder, Jim gave her a reassuring squeeze. “Maybe you should stay with someone tonight?”

  Reaching up, she set her hand over his. He knew her so well.

  She wanted a particular kind of support, the kind where someone was nearby if she needed them but out of her way if she wanted time to just retreat with her thoughts.

  Her gaze met Jim’s and he read her mind. “My couch is always open to you, Darcy. You know that.”

  She nodded. “Thank you.”

  “Anytime.”

  Turning away, Darcy looked for a place to set down her kit and begin.

  ROLLING OVER WITH a sigh, Darcy looked at the clock over Jim’s fireplace ma
ntel and noted the time: quarter after five. It was still dark outside and she’d been tossing and turning all night, too wired by her restless thoughts to catch the sleep she desperately needed. There was something about the fires that was niggling at her, but she just couldn’t place it. Turning it over and over in her mind wasn’t bringing the answer she was looking for to mind.

  Sitting up, she rolled her shoulders back, knowing what had to be done. She wanted her treasured equanimity back, and the only way to make that happen was to find the psycho who was stealing it from her and see him in a cage. The sooner, the better. A possible pissing match between authorities wasn’t going to be enough to hold her back. So far no one had been hurt, but their torch was barely catching his breath between fires. If he kept to his established pattern, they had only days before he struck again.

  A warm exhale over her toes brought her attention to the handsome German shepherd sprawled on the floor at the foot of the couch. When her brief relationship with Jim had fizzled out, she’d felt the loss of his dog keenly.

  “Thanks for watching out for me, Columbo.” Reaching down, she scratched behind his ears.

  The residents of Lion’s Bay were paying her to provide the same service to the town—to watch out for them and keep them safe.

  She wasn’t going to let them down.

  chapter two

  Deputy U.S. Marshal Jared Cameron waited until the Lion’s Bay sheriff sucked in a deep breath mid-rant, then he glanced at his partner.

  “This winner is all yours,” he drawled, turning on his heel and leaving Deputy Trish Morales to it. She’d been assigned to him for just that reason: she had the patience of a saint and he had no patience at all. Especially not for defensive, posturing small-town authorities who whipped their dicks out and started marking their territories the moment he rolled into town.

  “I’m not done. Where the fuck is he going?” Sheriff Miller snapped, followed by a far more modulated reply from Trish.

  Idiot. Nothing trumped the U.S. Marshals Service’s silver star.

  Jared closed the sheriff’s glass inset door behind him just to shut out the man’s voice. Pushing the irritation from his thoughts, he started through the bull pen toward the exit when an unexpected and unwanted complication walked into the station. He took scant note of her initially, but something drew his attention back.

  Grudgingly he slowed, then came to a stop. Whoever she was, she was a bombshell. Not in the physical sense. In that regard, she was of average height, slim, and moderately proportioned. Her face was free of cosmetics and her brown hair was pulled back in a casual ponytail. If he’d been looking at a photo of her, he wouldn’t have looked twice. But in the flesh, watching her move, was what snared him.

  She was hot monkey sex in a brown paper wrapper.

  The secret of her was revealed in the sensual fluidity of her body and her heavy-lidded, bottle green eyes. The primitive male in him recognized the attraction instantly, completely disregarding his brain, which didn’t have time for this sort of distraction. Unfortunately for him, the blue uniform slacks and embroidered white button-up shirt she wore told Jared he had no chance of avoiding her unless he wanted to switch with Trish and take point with Miller instead. He was stuck with deciding which part of his anatomy was going to be the least controllable: his fists or his dick.

  Maybe he’d be lucky and she would be happily married with kids, therefore not the least bit interested in getting sweaty and dirty with him.

  She was lost in conversation with the female deputy manning the front desk when he approached. The glance she shot him was cursory, just as his had first been with her. Then it snagged. Her focus zeroed in, sliding over his body from the top of his head down to his scuffed work boots and back up again. When her gaze collided with his, she sucked in a breath and licked her lower lip.

  Fuck. He was screwed. His brain was screaming at him to turn his ass around and take his chances with the sheriff instead. Assaulting the local authorities for getting on his last nerve would garner him less trouble than playing with the sizzling awareness arcing between him and the sexpot fire inspector.

  “Here he is,” the deputy said unnecessarily, pointing at him.

  Jared thrust out his hand and introduced himself. The moment his palm touched the bombshell’s, his blood rushed south and gave him a semi. He looked at her left hand almost desperately, cursing the lack of a wedding ring. A simple gold band would’ve killed his interest right then and there.

  “Darcy Michaels,” she replied, in a voice pitched high enough to be this close to girlish. “I’m a fire inspector with the Lion’s Bay Fire Department.”

  The pretty blond deputy at the front desk smiled at him with the same invitation she’d given him when he first walked in. “Darcy’s the one who asked me to put out the information about the arsonist.”

  The blonde was the type of woman he preferred to fuck—attractive enough to stir the most superficial interest and easy enough to want nothing more than a good time. Darcy Michaels was rousing something far deeper, igniting a hunger that was full-bodied and complex. The kind that overrode a man’s better sense.

  Giving himself a mental kick in the ass, Jared caught the inspector’s elbow and steered her toward the exit. “Let’s go.”

  They’d barely stepped outside when she said, “You got here quick, Deputy.”

  He considered her voice. It was a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Tilly. If anyone had asked him that morning what he thought of girly voiced women, he’d have said they annoyed the shit out of him. It was just his damn luck that Darcy Michaels was the exception. Every time she opened her mouth, his mind went straight into the gutter.

  Harder, Jared. Deeper…

  Christ. His teeth grit.

  “We have to move quickly,” he bit out, trying to regain his focus. “If he keeps to his pattern, he’ll burn something else before the week is out. What have you got so far?”

  She gestured down the street to a brick-faced fire station. “My office is over there. Do you have a suspect in mind? You came because you recognized the MO, right?”

  “It’s similar to a known arsonist, yes.”

  “We’re three weeks in with him. Where was he four weeks ago?”

  “No clue.”

  Frowning, she persisted, “So there are intervals between bursts? How long?”

  “Twenty years. Give or take.”

  She stumbled to a halt. “Are you kidding?”

  He scowled for a variety of reasons, one of which was that her arm had slipped free of his grasp when she’d stopped abruptly. “Why would I?”

  “Is he a recent parolee?”

  “Escapee,” he corrected. “Seventeen years ago. He torched a bathroom in the courthouse during an appellate hearing and escaped in the ensuing clusterfuck. Haven’t seen hide nor hair of him since. But the supervisory deputy marshal in the Seattle office helped to apprehend Merkerson the first time, and she recognized the pattern.”

  Darcy’s frown cleared. “Merkerson. That’s it! I’ve been trying to place the MO. He was way before my time, but we studied him briefly in school. What the hell has he been up to all these years? How has he stayed under the radar?”

  “He might have been incarcerated under a false name or out of the country. Or he might have trained a junior asshat to follow in his nutjob footsteps. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to nail the bastard.” Grabbing her elbow again, Jared urged her toward the fire station.

  “The hell it doesn’t matter. In just three weeks, he’s torn this town apart.”

  He heard the fury underlying her words and made note of it. Personal involvement clouded judgment. One of the many reasons why spending time with her was a really bad idea. He was already feeling the effects. While his brain was working the case, his body was straining toward hers, wired and revved and hot to screw her raw.

  They were about to cross the street to the fire station when he urged her into a corner diner instead.

&nb
sp; “I missed lunch,” he explained, hoping low blood sugar, not his hormones, was responsible for handicapping his common sense. He could fix the former.

  “I just ate. But I’ll grab a shake.”

  Another mark in her favor, he thought. A woman who might not be counting every damn calorie she put in her mouth.

  He nearly groaned as visions of other things she could do with her mouth swept through his testosterone-muddled mind. If he’d needed any proof that he was working too hard and not playing enough, he had it now. He should take the blond deputy up on her offer and ease himself down a notch.

  Reaching the counter, Jared grabbed a menu from beside the register and ran a quick glance over the limited offerings. It was a burger-and-fries joint, with a couple salads thrown in for the calorie-conscious.

  A waitress in a ’50s uniform with “Ginny” embroidered over her heart approached with her notepad and a smile. “Hey, Darcy. You brought the Fed with you. Bet Miller’s in a snit. I know how he gets when outsiders come in.”

  “How do you know everything?” Darcy looked genuinely impressed. “I just found out that the Marshals Service was here not more than five minutes ago.”

  Ginny shrugged. “Prime location for news. Welcome to Lion’s Bay, Marshal.”

  “Deputy,” he corrected, his attention returning to the menu. “Thanks.”

  “How are you doing?” Darcy asked Ginny with the easy familiarity of old friends.

  “Better. Just had a new security system installed this morning. It’s supposed to sense heat and alert the alarm company. And I had our existing fire alarms rechecked a couple days ago to make sure everything is working properly.” Ginny jerked a thumb over her shoulder at the bulky-looking chef visible through the kitchen pass-through. “Tim joked about retiring on the insurance if the place burned. He slept on the couch last night for that one.”

  “Oh, hell. Ginny, I’m sorry. I—”

  Jared stepped into the conversation before she could say anything further. “Proactive, thoughtful steps, Ginny. Good job. If your burgers are half as good as your planning, I’ll order a double.”

 
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