Publisher: Munro Press
Series: Military Men 3
Release Date: 25 Aug 2015
Book 3 in the Military Men series.
Sorrel Bitter Thyme seems destined to spend her entire life at the Children of Nature compound. Not an ideal situation. She dreams of so much more—a better future, one outside the cult where she can experience freedom.
After working long hours, she’s close to achieving her secret goal. She’s perfected the Dream Cream, which enhances orgasmic pleasure, and it’s time to approach Fancy Free management with her invention. Easier said than done! Sneaking around the cult leader who will steal her idea if he learns of the financial potential is tricky and rife with problems.
Jake Ramsey, a Special Air Services soldier on sick leave, agrees to go undercover in the cult to help local police close a case against the leader. Fun times when a beach holiday with a sexy babe would suit him better. Plain and dumpy Sorrel is his inside contact and not what he expects.
Their partnership works well. A rapport blooms, and kisses meant to cement their cover, take on new possibilities. Jake uncovers secrets, and their loving heats up, passion coalescing into more than camaraderie. Then danger stalks Sorrel. What began as a favor is now deadly serious—a game Jake must win to keep Sorrel safe.
Warning: Contains an alpha male soldier intent on protection, a determined ugly duckling heroine who dreams of freedom, and a cult leader with his eye on financial security and revenge.
Note for Readers: You must be over eighteen to read this excerpt.
Sloan, a country town in New Zealand
Sorrel Thyme peered through the scratchy bushes, desperately trying to ignore the sand flies making a meal of her bare arms. This had to be one of the world’s most uncomfortable ways to score a job interview. The man and woman she was spying on started to kiss—a passionate no-holds-barred kind of kiss. Horrified, she watched hands steal beneath clothes, gulped as said hands squeezed and caressed.
The amount of flesh on view grew alarmingly, and she squirmed, heat whooshing through her body to explode in her face. Talk about embarrassing. She wasn’t sure what to do, where to look. Alice and James Bates, the owners of the Fancy Free condom company, didn’t have a mere picnic on their minds. Oh, no. They were busy tearing off each other’s clothes, right in front of her.
Aghast, she squeezed her eyes shut, her skin crawling from exposure to the bugs. It was the only way to explain the edgy sensation blooming inside her, prickling across her skin, irritating her breasts.
The sharp evergreen scent of the totara and manuka trees wafted to her, refreshing and aromatic. Her stomach let out a feisty rumble of complaint, and she jerked in panic. The bushes concealing her rustled, and her eyes flew open. She froze, horror filling her at the thought of discovery.
Alice and James continued their amorous activities. Sorrel’s breath eased out. She caught a flash of pale breast. At least they were too far away to hear her stomach clamoring for food. Placated by the thought, she eased her weight into a more comfortable position. The bush played a musical tune against her robe, a branch cracking beneath her right foot.
“What was that?” Alice asked, her voice carrying across the clearing.
Sorrel bit back a moan of dismay, her gaze darting this way and that to determine the damage. If she didn’t move, didn’t answer perhaps they’d decide a restless bird loitered in the trees. I promise to leave the instant they settle again. Please let them continue. Maybe she’d manage to retreat with her dignity intact.
This was a bad idea. A stupid one. How she’d ever thought—
“Who’s there?” James was on his feet now, putting his jeans to rights and staring in her direction. “I know there’s someone there. You might as well come out.”
Intent on self-preservation, Sorrel sprang to her feet, adrenaline kicking in big-time. She cried out as cramp struck in a painful surge, staggered two steps. Her robe snagged tight on a bush. Held fast, she panicked, jerked free, frantic to escape.
Then he was on her, tackling her from behind. She hit the ground. A pained grunt escaped, the air exploding from her lungs. A hand closed around her leg, and seconds later, his weight held her in place.
“Let me go.” She flailed. Ineffectually, as it happened. James Bates was one big dude.
“Who is it?” Alice called.
He shifted his weight, and Sorrel could breathe again. She sucked in a huge draft of air and gathered herself, ready to flee.
“Not so fast.” James grasped her upper arm and yanked her around to face him. His bright blue eyes held an edge of anger that had her quaking in her sandals. He dragged her into the clearing where Alice stood with her arms crossed protectively over her chest.
Sorrel couldn’t meet their gazes. She straightened her robe, brushing off the dry leaves and dirt. Her hands trembled while panicked thoughts buzzed through her mind like a swarm of bees in a tizzy.
Not going well.
This was a bad, bad idea.
With escape looming large in her mind, she slid a furtive glance to her left then to her right.
“You’re from the Children of Nature cult.”
Give the man a prize. Sorrel twisted her hands together, her grubby robe brushing her bare legs. She had others the same, albeit cleaner, hanging on the rack in the shared wardrobe at the single women’s quarters. The white robe was a dead giveaway of her status.
“Yes,” she said, aiming for a crisp tone. Instead her voice emerged young and scared. Terrified, which was nothing but the truth because the noose was already around her neck. Day by day it tightened, threatening to choke the life out of her.
“Why are you spying on us?” Alice’s brown hair stood up in tousled peaks, her face pale beneath its sprinkling of golden freckles. “Is this a new angle—another campaign to smear Fancy Free?”
Sorrel swallowed, still prepared to flee the minute James loosened his grip. But her legs trembled, her knees threatening to crumple like flimsy paper, not up to the job of holding her weight. She’d give anything to turn back the clock ten minutes. No. She had their attention—the opportunity she’d schemed and plotted for. It was time to embrace courage.
Sorrel sucked in a fortifying hit of tree-laced air, striving for calm. “I wasn’t spying. I have no intention of hurting your company or…or haranguing you about the evils of condoms and birth control.” Better. Her voice quavered only a fraction this time.
“You were spying through the bushes,” James snapped. “Do you have a camera?”
A startled laugh burst from her. “Where would I get a camera? I have no money. I didn’t mean to spy. Really, I just wanted to talk to you.”
“Most people use the phone,” James said.
“You don’t know much about Children of Nature, do you?” Sorrel didn’t own much more than the clothes on her back, and even then she wasn’t sure she always received the same white robes back from the communal laundry.
“What did you want to talk about?” Alice asked, her tone carrying a generous helping of suspicion.
“I’ve invented a cream. It’s similar to a…an aphrodisiac. It enhances sexual pleasure. I want to sell it your company, in the hope I can raise enough money to strike out on my own and leave Children of Nature.” Once she’d started, the words poured from her, one almost running into another in her haste to get them out. “But you can’t tell anyone I’ve offered it to you. You can’t tell or they’ll take it from me. You have to promise. You have to promise me you won’t tell.”
“Shush,” Alice said, visibly calmer now. “Have you eaten?”
“I…” Sorrel’s stomach let out an embarrassing rumble, forcing the truth from her. “No.”
“James, do release the girl.” Alice offered a kind smile and stilled some of Sorrel’s unease. “Come and have something to eat. You can tell us about your product while we have our lunch.”
“I thought we were going to have a private picnic.” James scowled, his brows drawing together in displeasure. His longish dark hair gave him a disreputable air as did the stubble on his face.
Alice reached out and ran her fingertips over his cheek. “I’ll make it up to you tonight.”
The clear intimacy between the couple brought discomfort, and Sorrel stepped from foot to foot, debating whether she should grasp this opportunity or try to make an appointment for a later date.
“With a cherry on top,” Alice said and winked at her husband. “Come.” She grasped Sorrel’s hand and tugged her to their tartan picnic blanket. “Do you work in the Children of Nature store?”
“No.” Sorrel’s mouth compressed into a tight line. She used to take her turn working in the store and enjoyed interacting with the town’s people. But that had been before Brother Rick had taken over the running of Children of Nature from his father. That had—
She broke off her thoughts. “No, I make the soap and other products to sell in the store.”
“The cult won’t let you leave?” James asked, his eyes narrowed on her as if she were untrustworthy and out to hurt his wife. She’d seen the way he looked at Alice, as if she were the most important thing in his world. As a teenager she’d wished someone would look at her in that—
Again she put a brake on her thoughts. Thinking of what-if wouldn’t help her situation. She had to make her own luck.
“It’s difficult to leave if you don’t have money or contacts in the outside world.”
“Sit,” Alice said. “Here, you can have my glass. I’ll share with James.”
Gingerly, Sorrel kneeled and settled herself on the edge of the blanket. Now that she had their ear, fear writhed through her like a ravenous beast. She’d tested her product on herself, but what if her tingly cream didn’t work on other women?
“I need to do more tests,” she blurted.
“Of course you do.” Alice handed her a glass of homemade lemonade and a chicken sandwich. “Eat first, and then we’ll talk.”
“Who stops you from leaving the cult?” James asked.
Alice laughed lightly. “James, do let the girl eat before you decide to grill her.”
“I don’t trust them,” James said. “I don’t trust any of them.”
Sorrel’s shoulders slumped. “It’s all right. I understand your doubts. I’ll find some other way.” Despite her hunger and her disappointment, she placed the sandwich back on the plate and set the glass of lemonade down. “Thank you for listening to me. I’m sorry about interrupting your private time together.” She stood and turned away, defeat a heavy sack on her shoulders.