Rules of Engagement
Rules of Engagement

The Duquesnes, Book 1.5

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Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Length: Novella
Release date: Ellora's Cave, 1 February 2008
Reissued 12 November 2011

WARNING: Graphic language and explicit sex scenes (M/F, anal sex, mild bondage)


Synopsis

After being shot three times in the chest and left for dead by his last lover, Jake Duquesne decides the middle of nowhere is a good place to recuperate. And it's perfect, until someone tries to sneak up on him, gun drawn and cocked. Unfortunately for his would-be assailant, Jake is not one to wait around quietly while someone tries to kill him.

Waking up handcuffed to a strange bed is not part of Katarzyna Delaney's plans after being jilted at the altar for the third time. Looking at Jake, however, makes her realize plans should be flexible. With a few simple rules, she can have her long-awaited honeymoon--and without a battery-operated device.

Then people following no rules but their own join in.


Excerpt

"You don't remember what happened last night?"

Confusion swamped her features. "Last night?"

Jake lifted a sardonic brow. "When you were attempting to enter this cabin," he reminded her dryly. Then, with emphasis, he added, "Illegally."

The confusion didn't disappear.

"As in, without the owner's consent."

"But…" Her voice trailed off as realization dawned. "Oh God." She squeezed her eyes shut and sucked in a breath. "That can't be right."

He mentally crossed out amnesia and drawled very sarcastically, "Oh, it's very right. I assure you, Katarzyna Delaney."

Her eyes flew open at his harsh, humorless tone, or maybe it was his pronunciation of her name. KAHT-ah-ZHEE-nah. Perhaps she wasn't used to people who didn't butcher her name on the first attempt. Luckily, he'd had plenty of practice with non-Anglicized names. All part and parcel of his previous job.

"My cabin has the bullet hole and the bullet from your weapon to prove it." Even with the faint Southern accent softening his words, they still had bite.

His captive looked as if she hoped the bed would open up and put her out of her misery. "Your cabin?" Her lashes lowered as she bit down on the corner of her lip. "That can't be right," she murmured, more to herself than to him.

"Technically, it's my cousin's."

Her eyes flew to his. "Your cousin's? Who's your cousin?"

He eyed her warily. "I'm the one who should be asking the questions."

Frustration crossed her features. "Just tell me if your cousin is Ella Willis."

"Ella Willis," Jake echoed, neither confirming nor denying her statement.

"A close friend," Katarzyna explained hurriedly. "She offered me the use of her cabin for the next two weeks. Her husband is my lieutenant."

Jake stared at her. She looked earnest enough, but the people in his world lied for a living. He dismissed the police ID--those could be forged. And Ella knew he was here. She wouldn't have offered the cabin to someone else without warning him first.

"Listen, you have to believe me. Please."

There was only one way to settle this. He crossed the room, snatched the cell phone lying on top of the highboy, flipped it open and powered it on. The reception wasn't great and he had to move to the window before a single bar appeared in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. He punched in ten digits and waited. The third ring was cut short.

"Hello?" a voice mumbled sleepily.

"Ella, it's Jake."

He heard sheets rustling and imagined Ella was pushing herself into a sitting position.

"What's wrong?" his cousin demanded, all traces of sleepiness gone from her voice.

"I'm at the cabin and I have an unexpected guest. She claims you sent her."

Ella took the telephone away from her ear and murmured something he couldn't make out. He assumed she was telling her husband to go back to sleep. Then she sighed into the telephone, confirming his worst suspicion. "Is she a tall, good-looking redhead?"

It was his turn to sigh. "Yes."

"Answers to Katarzyna Delaney?"

Another affirmative.

"Yes, I sent her."

He muttered an expletive, cast a hard look at the woman handcuffed to his bed, who was unashamedly listening to his conversation, and would've stalked from the room had he not been worried about the cellular reception. He settled for turning his back on the bed and the woman bound to it.

"You could've warned me."

"Yes, I could have," Ella agreed in a disconcertingly reasonable tone, "if you hadn't shut off your cell phone. Sometimes you take that whole loner thing too far. It's not healthy. Ted Kaczynski was a loner."

A low growl rumbled from his chest.

Ella blew out a breath. "You can get mad at me and yell at me all you want, but don't take your temper out on Katarzyna. She's been through enough." When the growl didn't cease, she added, "She needed to get away for a bit, so I offered her the cabin."

"While I'm still here," he pointed out between gritted teeth.

"So?" she drawled, using that careless tone of voice that always set off warning bells in his head. After a beat, she said, "She's attractive. You're available."

He was glad his interfering cousin wasn't in the same room because he might've strangled her. Then her husband would've arrested him. It wasn't worth the hassle.

Still, his voice lowered dangerously, as much to keep his captive from listening in as from temper. "Are you setting me up?"

"Dear God in heaven, no! She's sworn off relationships with men, so you're safe. Besides, I don't think anything permanent would work with you." She paused. "I was thinking more along the lines of a fling."

"Jesus Christ," Jake muttered, running a hand down his face. "You're pimping me out."

Copyright © 2008 by Ann Bruce. All rights reserved.


Reviews

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"The pages are smokin'... Bruce's style is smooth, the plot well thought out and believable."
Simply Romance Reviews, A

"A fast-paced story, full of breathless, intense, mind-melting sex and suspense that’ll have you gasping and begging for more long after this brief story’s over."
Fallen Angel Reviews, 5

"Boy and girl end up sharing a cabin--I'm sure you have read such a story before. Are you willing to read it again if Ann Bruce promises to make it fun and sexy?"
Mrs. Giggles, 81

"Ms Bruce’s writing is...very vivid and economic."
AztecLady, 8

"A book that cannot be put down once opened."
Coffee Time Romance, 4

"The heat rating scales the roof."
Manic Readers, 4

"A sexy, pleasurable read--deliciously short and sweet."
Night Owl Romance, 4