Excerpt: Baby Call the Shots – 3


(Unedited preview)

Neither of us said a word on the rest of the drive. I glanced over at him once, thinking maybe he’d fallen asleep, but he tilted his head and met my gaze and I almost didn’t want to look away from him and back at the road. Ten minutes later, I pulled into the well-lit parking lot outside his five-star hotel. It was like coming back to civilization after being on a deserted island. Desperate to be back but mourning the loss of something special, something private. Something just between the two of us.

He hadn’t reached for his door handle yet, so I waited. He turned in his seat. “Mai, do you want to come up for a drink? A proper toast to celebrate a job well-done.” He held up his hands in pre-emptive surrender. “I swear I won’t touch you. Unless you ask nicely.”

I shot him a harsh look. “Please. Do you remember what I do for a living? And what I did before that, in the Army?”

He nodded. “You could kick my ass from here to the Capitol and back if you wanted. You’ll be perfectly safe. No reason to say no, right?”

There were a hundred reasons to say no. At least, I was pretty sure there were. Right now I couldn’t think of any. Well, maybe…The thought skittered away from me as I watched Chase watching me.

“One drink,” I said. “Something really good. Expensive. With a lot of heat.”

He grinned.

“That was unintentional,” I said as we both climbed out of the car.

He laid his hand on the small of my back as we stepped up onto the curb in front of the entryway. The movement seemed unconscious, protective but not condescending or demanding. He nodded politely to the concierge on duty. He didn’t stop to chat or explain himself or justify my presence. Just walked through the lobby like he owned the space and he didn’t give a damn what anybody thought of him bringing a strange woman here with him. Which he probably didn’t. His confidence was catching. I was no prude, but I’d never felt so at ease walking past strangers who were probably doing the calculations in their heads and presuming Chase and I were about to have sex.

Which we were not.

They’d be surprised when they saw me leave alone in ten or fifteen minutes.

We walked to the elevator farthest from the lobby and he used an app on his phone to open it. When the doors closed behind us, I realized there were only two buttons on the panel: L for lobby and P for penthouse. The ride was swift, smooth, and uninterrupted. The doors slid open onto a small hallway with only one door.

“You have the whole top floor?”

“Not quite.” Chase held his phone close to the scanner outside the door and the lock clicked open. “There’s a private club toward the front of the hotel, accessible from a different elevator.” He held open the door for me and I stepped into a plush, white and black-themed room worthy of the high-roller suites I’d seen when the team and I had run a mission in a few weeks earlier. “But this side is leased year-round by Bespoke. And it definitely has the better view.”

He took my coat and hung it and his on a rack inside the front door.

I walked across the ankle-deep white carpeting and looked out of the floor-to-ceiling windows that led to the balcony. The dark water of the Potomac snaked along far below us, and the nation’s capital sparkled like a jewel on the opposite shore and reflected off the black water.

“I’ve never seen it look more beautiful,” I said.

“We can have our drink out on the balcony, if you want.” Glasses clinked as he lined them up on the bar and pulled out a bottle from under it.

I shivered at the thought. “I’d rather stay in here where it’s cozy.”

“Cozy?” He walked toward me with a rocks glass partly filled with amber liquid in each hand. “I don’t usually think of this apartment as cozy, but with you here, it is.” He handed one glass to me. “The good stuff, as the lady requested.”

We held our glasses in the air.

“A toast,” I said, “to new teammates, even if they are temporary.”

“And to new friendships,” he added, “and to hoping they’re permanent.”

My pulse kicked up its pace. I ignored it. I clinked my glass against his and took a deep drag of whisky. It was sweet and spicy and smoky and hot. It coated my throat like honey and left a tingling burn in its wake.

“God, you weren’t kidding about this being the good stuff,” I said.

“The best stuff.” He was staring at my lips. When I smiled, he came out of his reverie and took a few steps back, away from me.

The space between us allowed me to breathe without taking in the woodsy, masculine scent of aftershave and warm skin. “I have you a question for you,” I said.

He nodded and set down his empty glass on the edge of the bar. “Okay.”

I took my time, sipping down the last drops of whisky and sucking the taste off my lower lip, which made him stare at my mouth again. Shit, I was in trouble. Question, Mai. Get back to the question.

“Speaking of teammates, you were good today with Malone. A natural.”

“Thanks.” He flashed a genuine smile. “That’s high praise coming from someone in HEAT.”

“And you liked it, the adrenaline rush of it, I could tell. And you’re super fit and into extreme sports.”

He grinned and leaned against the bar. “Thanks for noticing. Is there a question in there somewhere?”

“I’m getting to that.” I moved away from the glass door and set down my glass on the white marble coffee table. “Your skill sets seem like a perfect fit for HEAT, and you’ve obviously passed all the background checks if you can read in on some of our operations, so…why aren’t you an agent?”

He widened his eyes. “Oh. Um. Well,” he stared out the balcony door and into the distance. “I guess because it’s Derek’s thing. Or it was. You have brothers. You know how it is to want something for yourself, something different.”

“I guess.” In my family, I had blazed the trails and Ben and Michael had been the ones to choose whether they would follow them or go to all the trouble of cutting new paths for themselves. Chase’s statement rang true enough. Was that all of it, though? I sensed he was holding something back. “It’s probably different for you, being younger.”

“Hey, now I get to ask you a question,” he said before I could ask a follow-up.


“What do you mean, no?” he asked. “’This is what teammates do: ask each other questions, get to know each other.”

I was pretty damn sure whatever it was we were doing had nothing to do with being temporary teammates.

I shoved my hands in my pockets and braced myself. “One question,” I agreed, and hoped I wouldn’t live to regret it.

“Is Aaron Malone the reason you left the Army?”

And just like that, I regretted it. The best course of action was to treat it like the yes or no question it was. “Yes.”

“Makes sense.”

I tensed. What did he know or suspect about Malone and me?

“He stole supplies from your unit, had powerful people cover it up, then threw your captain and friend under the bus,” he said. “I’m impressed with the restraint you showed last Saturday in not shooting him. Hell, I probably would have come with live rounds if I were you.”

“I might have, if I’d known he be there,” I said. I didn’t mention that Malone’s betrayal hadn’t stopped there, that it been even more personal. That was one secret I was smart enough to keep.

I laid my hand on the side of my neck and stretched. Chase’s expression changed as he watched me. His lips parted, his eyelids drifted partway shut, his gaze skimmed my body.

And my body woke right the hell up.

An adrenaline spike like the one that had flooded my bloodstream at 90 miles per hour jolted through me. But this time, desire coiled low in my belly. Fuck me, I wanted Chase Wilder. And why couldn’t I have him? He wasn’t really in HEAT so not off-limits per agency rules. He was leaving on an early flight in the morning so it wasn’t like we’d have awkward conversations at the office coffee machine.

I licked my lower lip and caught it between my teeth, anticipating how his firm mouth would feel on mine. He made a low, guttural sound in response. And I knew he wanted me, too.

“Hey, Wilder,” I said softly.

He took one step toward me.

“A couple more things.”

He took another step.

“We probably won’t see each other again after tonight, except maybe in passing.”

Another step. If I reached out, I could lay my hand on his hard chest. I resisted, wanting to pull him closer with my words.

“So, this is me, asking you nicely…”

One more step. We were just inches apart. His masculine scent and warm skin drew me to take one tiny step toward him.

“To touch me,” I whispered.

He stood still, staring at my lips, matching his breath to mine. The desire in my belly spread lower and throbbed between my legs. I wanted him to slide his long fingers inside my pants, down into my panties, then deep inside me so he understood how wet and desperate I was for him.

When he didn’t move to take me up on my request, my breath hitched with anticipation. “To be clear, I won’t ask again.”

A slow smile spread across his face as he reached for me. “I think you just did.”


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