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In His Control

In His Control
Mouse over the cover to see the hero,
Jean-Marc Lacroix

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In His Control
April 2014

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Enemies by day…

Police Commissaire Jean-Marc Lacroix is obsessed with catching le Revenant, a clever high-end thief who is targeting mansions and castles all over Europe. Jean-Marc’s by-the-book superiors are convinced his unorthodox methods make him a loose cannon…but he refuses to let the slippery master-of disguise get the better of him. He starts hunting the man on his own time.

Lovers by night…

But little does the French detective realize that the ghostlike man is really a woman—a stunningly seductive American art student whose accidental but sizzling stumble-upon leaves him breathless and hungry for more. That very night, their dangerous game of cat and mouse deepens…determined enemies chasing across Europe by day, intimate strangers by mask of night. That is, until the awful moment when Jean-Marc realizes the truth about her, and must make the terrible choice between honor and duty…and the notorious woman he has unwittingly come to love.

In His Control was formerly titled:
The French Detective’s Woman
The Paris Caper

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From Chapter One

Paris, France
August

Ciara Alexander felt naked without a disguise.

Sliding into the darkness of the swanky Club LeCoeur, her heart pumped fast to the hard beat of the rock music as she scanned the crowded dance floor. She didn’t know what had possessed her tonight, coming as herself. Recognition would be disastrous.

But for some reason she’d felt reckless all day. Anticipatory. She had an irrepressible feeling something was going to happen tonight. Something big.

Something that would change her life forever.

Little did she realize how right she was. Nor just how disastrous things could really turn out.

But at this moment she felt incredible. Invulnerable.

Not that she was an adrenaline junkie. That time going in the second story window at Baron Palchow’s Strasbourg chalet and running into a German shepherd had nearly given her a heart attack. And the job she’d pulled at Le Mans during the famous race and there been cops everywhere…that one had shaved a few years off her life, too.

No, she didn’t enjoy the feeling of danger roiling in the pit of her stomach, knowing she was about to risk life and limb and years of freedom. Frankly, anyone who did was a fool. However, she had no choice. It was time, and the job had to be done.

Joining the dancers on the floor, Ciara lifted her arms and closed her eyes in pleasure. This she did enjoy.

Moving her feet and her body rhythmically, she felt the driving music clear to her toes. It didn’t bother her that she had no partner. She’d find someone eventually. Or maybe she’d dance solo all night. No matter. She could lose herself in the throng and dance for the sheer love of it.

Aside from which, being on the dance floor would bring her closer to her target—the jet-setting Dutch middle princess, here in Paris on her annual million-euro shopping spree.

That was something else Ciara didn’t get. Shopping. The need to possess all that…stuff. Stuff was transitory, here today, gone tomorrow. You got attached to it, but anyone could come along and take it away from you. Who needed the grief? Besides, stuff was irrelevant if you had a million euros in the bank.

Money. Now there was something a person could rely on. Money kept a person safe.

Someday Ciara would be safe. If she just had patience a little longer.

It was difficult. But what was she supposed to have done when CoCo had approached her shortly after Etienne’s death, far wiser, even then, than her tender eleven years, wanting to escape her seemingly inescapable life of crime? Ciara hadn’t hesitated for a second. Nor had she with the four other street kids she’d taken under her wing during the eight years since. So tonight she must swallow her fear and the niggling guilt, and do what must be done.

Looking around the club she didn’t see the Dutch princess, but she was there somewhere, or would be soon. Davie had said so, and Davie always had the inside scoop. Plus, the evening tabloids had been closely following the young princess’s every move for the last week, and paparazzi were lined up outside the front doors. The princess would be at Club LeCoeur and stay till the wee hours of the morning, no doubt about it.

Patience, Ciara, and all things will come.

The first song blended into the next, and then the next, as she worked her body to the music. She’d been in LeCoeur before, so the trendy black and silver décor, the pink marble bar with gleaming crystal glasses hanging in racks over it and a multitude of bottles lined up behind, the canopy of white fairy lights twinkling above the dance floor, were all familiar in their posh ostentation. It was the perfect gilded cage in which to trap her avaricious young pigeon.

The patrons were as pretentiously showy as the furnishings. With their self-consciously chic and expensive designer clothes, they were not regular Parisians, but the countryless jet set habitués of international society. The masses of jewels heaped around their wrists and necks—diamonds and emeralds and rubies—sparkled and glittered in the darkness of the club like bright stars in a black sky.

Perfect.

A tiny bead of perspiration trickled down Ciara’s neck and as she danced, she reached back to lift her hair off her nape, momentarily glad for her decision not to wear a wig in the warm summer night.

Suddenly she noticed a man watching her, leaning against a pillar at the edge of the dance floor. Tall and dark-haired, he had broad shoulders enhanced by an elegantly tailored jacket—Helmut Lang, if she wasn’t mistaken. His smoldering eyes followed her body’s every move. When their gazes collided, it was all she could do not to stop in her tracks and stare back at him.

She turned away, irritated.

This wasn’t what she was here for. A man like that was a one-way ticket to disaster. Distracting. Hell, downright dangerous. The kind of man who could start a woman to fantasizing…

But fantasies weren’t real. Ciara knew that. Only the job was real.

Two large, strong hands surprised her, brushing over her hips from behind and holding her lightly. “Voulez vous dansez avec moi?” a smoky male voice whispered in her ear.

Making a pretense of moving to the music, he pulled her back against his torso. It was firm, muscular. All male.

“No,” she answered, suddenly tongue-tied, her usually flawless French vanishing into an awkward patois. “I don’t want to dance with you.”

But for some reason her feet refused to move away from him. God, he felt good.
“You are American?” he asked softly, not letting her go.

“Yes,” she answered without thinking.

Instantly, she regretted telling the truth. She didn’t want this man—or anyone—knowing anything about her. The truth could be traced.

Still, her nerve-induced accent had probably made her nationality obvious. A dangerous slip.

“You don’t like dancing with Frenchmen?” he murmured, sliding his impertinent hands up to her waist. His fingers gripped her a shade tighter; he pulled her a shade closer. Her heart pounded a shade harder.

“I like dancing alone,” she said firmly.

She could smell him. Musky. Masculine. She fought not to enjoy it, and the feel of his large hands on her.

He chuckled, the sound rich and savory in her ear. “In France we think it’s more fun with two people.”

“In America we like to choose our own partner.”

“So do we,” he said, and lowered his voice. “I choose you.”

Her stomach zinged. Under other circumstances she may have considered taking him up on his not-so-subtle offer. The man was sexy as hell, and it had, after all, been quite a while. But not tonight. Tonight she had no time for hooking up. No time to indulge her fantasies. Or her loneliness.

Intent on sending him on his way, she turned in his arms. And caught her breath.
He wasn’t handsome. Not even close. His face was a conglomeration of sharp angles and harsh features, his dark eyes more penetrating and intense than any she’d ever seen. But something about his look was so compelling a shiver spilled through her entire body.

He didn’t smile. Didn’t cajole. Just reached up and traced a thumb along her jaw. And murmured, “Dance with me.”

She licked her lips. As if that were answer enough he drew her close and put his arms around her, sliding the fingers of one hand into her hair.

Her will to resist slipped completely. He felt too good. Solid and built, and…oh, so male. His voice oozed power and confidence. Not the prissy French of the upper class, but the coarse accent of the Paris banlieux—the rough and tumble melting-pot ‘burbs. A little wild, a little uncivilized. A little like Etienne.

It had been a long, long time since she’d lost Etienne, her first and only love. And ages since she’d given in to any other man. Her lifestyle since his untimely death hadn’t been conducive to anything more than a brief affair, so she’d passed up most opportunities for masculine company. Something so shallow wasn’t worth the hassle, or the memories, or the heartache of wanting more.

But this man… Lord, this man was damn tempting.

“Okay,” she found herself saying, and the corners of his lips curved up. “But just dance.”

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