Chapter 1

One year later . . .

 

In the west precinct of the Seattle Police Department, Joss O’Neil purposefully sat in the back of the briefing room, her mind far from the job. The epic one-night stand she’d experienced a year ago captivated her thoughts. Perhaps having wild sex in the bathroom of a nightclub hadn’t been the classiest spot to give in to her desires. But the guy she’d met that night had given her the hottest sex of her life. She vividly remembered the way he’d touched her and how he’d made her feel. Wanted. Sexy.

Then life had happened, as had five months of the police academy and another eighteen weeks of field training. While that night hadn’t been far from her mind during her training, there was a good reason that guy was at the forefront of her thoughts now.

Bedroom eyes stood at the front of the room behind a long table, addressing a group of ten police officers sitting in rows in front of him.

Maddox Hunt. Police lieutenant. Total badass.

From what she’d learned recently, he was also the resident heartbreaker. Or so she’d been told by her best friend, Emilia when she’d started in the west. Once Emilia had seen Joss drooling over Maddox, she’d said not to expect much in the way of getting a date out of him. Apparently, there’d been whispers around the station that Maddox liked his sex kinky and his relationships fleeting. But a guy with serious commitment issues didn’t deter Joss—it sealed the deal. Then and now.

A relationship had been the last thing on her mind at the nightclub. Even a year later, she wasn’t looking for anything long-term. She’d given six long years to Nick the prick, who’d then broken up with her after he found a better life in New York City. The blow had stung. She’d been hurt, devastated over the breakup. Nick had been her life for a big chunk of her high school years and during university, too. Most of all, she’d been angry with herself. When had she lost her backbone? Where had her voice gone? When he’d broken up with her, she’d sobbed like her life was over. Barf!

Never again.

Never again would she be that quiet woman who didn’t think of her feelings first. Never again would she stay silent and not speak up for the life she wanted. Never again would she settle for a man who didn’t touch her with the passion she deserved.

Leaning back in her seat, watching Maddox addressing the group, she remembered that she’d woken up the morning after the nightclub incident without a single bit of remorse. Even now, she didn’t regret a damn thing. The filthy, dirty sex he’d given her that night had been all she was after.

Still, though, even after seven days of working for the Seattle Police Department, she had a hard time accepting that he was her lieutenant. When she’d been offered the job with the Seattle PD in the west precinct under the command of Eric Dalton, the police chief and a close family friend, she hadn’t even considered that her one-night stand might be her superior.

Somehow, that meant she had to forget that everything Maddox did screamed sex. The way he moved like a tiger ready to pounce. The way he spoke, low and confidently. How his intense eyes watched her sometimes. It had only been one week of them working together, and already she couldn’t take any more. Hell, her deprived vagina was silently weeping.

“You really have got to stop looking at him like that,” Emilia whispered, dragging Joss’s attention to her.

Joss leaned to the side. Coming closer to Emilia, she whispered, “It’s near impossible when he looks like that. Couldn’t he have gotten…I don’t know…uglier in the past year? Seriously, I think he looks better than I even remember him looking before.”

Emilia laughed quietly.

She knew Joss inside and out, and she’d listened to Joss endlessly gush about Maddox for the days following the one-night stand before the police academy had taken over their lives.

Emilia was two years older, with warm, hazel eyes and honey-colored hair that she usually wore in a bun—mostly because the job required it. They’d met five years ago because Nick was best friends with Troy, the guy Emilia had been dating and who she’d ultimately married.

“You also had three martinis the night you two defaced the bathroom,” Emilia said with a sassy smile. “Maybe your head was a little fuzzy?”

“We may have christened the bathroom, but there was no defacing,” Joss defended.

Emilia snickered, a hand over her mouth. “Maybe, but regardless, you’re right. That guy…” She glanced toward Maddox standing at the front of the room and stared a little dreamily at him. “He’s seriously hot. And if I weren’t married, I would be so jealous that you got to touch him.” She looked sideways at Joss, a sly smile crossing her face. “Okay, maybe I am a little jealous. But protocol is a finicky bitch, and that sexy beast is now your superior, so stop looking like you want to eat him.”

“I don’t want to eat him.” Joss looked from left to right, glad no one sat anywhere near them. Most of her fellow rookies sat as close as they could get to Maddox. Not her. She didn’t want to smell his woodsy cologne and feel all that sexiness wafting off him. “I only want to lick him and claim him as mine.”

Emilia’s light brows rose over her eyes. “You lick it. You bought it.”

“Exactly.” Joss laughed.

“Ladies.”

Joss’s lips snapped shut, and she jerked her head to the front of the room, finding Maddox with his narrowed eyes directly on Emilia. Which also wasn’t a surprise. As much as she’d been avoiding Maddox, he’d been avoiding her, too. He never talked to her alone, and when he did look at her, there was so much distance, he seemed like a completely different person than the one she remembered. In the nightclub, he’d had heat in his eyes. Intensity. Now…nothing.

Heartbreaker, indeed.

That night, blistering hot.

A year later, ice cold.

His left eyebrow arched, and as it did, he said, “Is there something you would like to share with the rest of us?”

“No, sir,” Emilia said, firmly shaking her head, fighting a smile.

Only then did Maddox look at Joss. “And you, O’Neil?” he asked curtly.

“No, sir, nothing to share.”

The muscles in his jaw clenched twice before he looked away, allowing Joss to breathe again. He turned and addressed the group. “We’ve had a good week,” he told the crowd, pressing his knuckles against the table in front of him.

She watched him closely, noting that he had a special way about him. He commanded a crowd in a way she hadn’t seen before. People respected him. Trusted him.

That energy filled the space when he added, “And a good first week should be celebrated.”

“Uh-oh, prepare to panic,” Emilia whispered under her breath.

The mother of all curse words echoed in Joss’s mind as Maddox calmly added, “Tonight I’ll be hosting a barbeque in my backyard, as has been my annual tradition with my team.” He straightened from the desk and crossed his arms over his thick chest, glancing from face to face. “Let me know if you aren’t able to make it.”

“I can’t, sir,” Emilia spoke up, raising her hand. “My shift doesn’t end until midnight tonight.”

“I’m sorry we’ll miss you,” Maddox said, again scanning the room. “Anyone else?”

In the front row, Tommy began, “My mother had surgery, and I need to be there for her…”

Joss leaned over to Emilia and whispered, “There is no way in hell I’m going there alone.”

“Sadly, I think you are,” Emilia whispered back.

Joss could barely stop herself from throwing herself at Maddox, and that was while she was in her uniform with a clear moral barricade stopping her. At his house? Out of uniform? With booze available? Oh, she was in big trouble.

Joss began considering every option to get out of this. Dammit, she’d never been a good liar. Usually, if she attempted even a little white lie, she ended up making a complete ass of herself and stumbling over her words. “Can’t I suddenly be viscously sick and send him an email?” she asked Emilia.

“An email, Joss?” Emilia snorted, resting her arms on the table. “He’ll know why you’re avoiding him. Do you want to have that conversation with him? He’s going to know that you’re bailing because you two fucked like rabid bunnies.”

“Oh, dear Lord.” Joss groaned, dropping her head into her hands. It was bad enough seeing him for these briefings every day and having to pass him in the hallway. “I can’t do this, Emilia.” Joss lifted her head, glancing at her best friend. “You need to help me think of a way to get out of it.”

Emilia paused, her eyes flicking up to the ceiling while she nibbled her lip. Only a second later, she shrugged. “Sorry, buttercup, I’ve got nothing. It’ll be worse if you don’t go. I know he said it like it’s a choice, but it’s not.” She peered in Maddox’s direction and shuddered. “And believe me, Maddox—with all that alpha broodiness—really isn’t the type of guy to not call you out on it. I wouldn’t put it past him to do it in front of everyone either. Is that what you want?”

“No, of course not,” Joss grumbled, miserable. Sadly, Emilia knew him best from working alongside Maddox in the east precinct before transferring to the west. “I honestly don’t know how I’m going to get through this.”

“Hmmm…” Emilia pondered, tapping a finger against her lip. “Oh, I know. What about your mother? If anything can kill your raging hormones, it’s your mom being there. Bring her.”

“I wish I could.” Sally O’Neil loved to talk. If her mother were there, Joss could be silent, while pretending she wasn’t thinking very dirty things about her boss. “But my parents are still in Paris.” Every year, they took a few months off to travel the world. Retirement life had its perks.

Emilia sighed. “Okay, well, that’s a shame. Even your dad would help if he were around.”

Joss nodded, knowing Emilia was right. Dad was a retired cop. He could talk shop while Joss faded into the shadows. It wasn’t that she couldn’t control herself around Maddox. Of course, she could. The problem was, she kept thinking she would slip up around him. Let him see how much she still wanted him, if he hadn’t already seen it. And how awful would that be, considering he’d told her plainly: this is a one-time deal? Especially considering their night together had happened a year ago.

The last thing she wanted was to look pathetic and horny.

She focused back on Maddox, watching him talking to the others as they began to rise from their seats. His presence rattled her in ways she hadn’t anticipated nor was prepared for. She was supposed to have forgotten him. That’s what you did with one-night stands. You screwed and moved on. But it almost felt like they had unfinished business.

Sexy, unfinished business.

As the cops began leaving the room, Maddox’s eyes met hers. Those intense, warm eyes held hers, and her breath became instantly trapped in her throat. The same butterflies that had whipped around in her belly a year ago returned. Heat flooded her, and warm wetness slicked between her thighs, making her panties feel tight. Energy seeped into the room so heavily, goose bumps rose on her flesh. And like she had that night in the bar, she felt seen.

“So, what are you going to do?” Emilia asked, snapping Joss’s attention away from Maddox.

She blinked, rose, and tucked her chair under the table. “I’m going to go to that damn party.” What other choice did she have?

“Atta girl.” Emilia smiled and patted Joss on the back. “Put on those big girl panties with pride.”

Joss snorted a laugh and followed Emilia out of the room, thinking to herself: I secretly wish he’d rip those panties right off.

 

* * *

 

The workday ended uneventfully. It wasn’t until later that night at the barbeque while Maddox was flipping the burger patties cooking on the grill that things began to look up.

From his spot on his large, redwood deck, he glanced to the reason his cock was semi-hard, and his balls had felt stuck in a vise grip all damn day.

Joss O’Neil.

She stood near his outdoor stone bar, chatting with two other male rookies who’d obviously taken a clear interest in her. He understood why. She mesmerized him the same way. Long, chocolate-brown hair. Light green eyes with gold flecks around the irises. Pouty lips that had once ravished him with blazing hot kisses. And a body with enough curves she felt like a woman beneath his callused hands. Maddox had liked that difference between them. His hardness to her softness was a contrast he enjoyed.

He wasn’t entirely sure what it was about this girl exactly, but she pushed at all his basic instincts. Pursue. Claim. Protect. And as he watched one of the men place his hand on her arm and laugh at something she said, he fought against the desire to march over there and interject himself into the conversation, putting her focus on him. But he knew better. He never went back for seconds. Besides, she was now his subordinate, and touching her could put him in the line of fire for a sexual harassment lawsuit.

“That’s her, isn’t it?”

Maddox glanced left, finding Greyson Crawford, his college roommate, offering him a beer. Maddox took the beer, and Grey ran his fingers through his dark blond hair, his gray eyes pinned on Joss across the way. “Yeah, that’s her,” Maddox replied. Truth be told, he hadn’t intended to tell Grey about Joss. That was until his foul mood lately had left him with no option but to explain.

While most cops at the party had loved ones at home, or even family to spend their weekends with, Maddox had Grey. Regardless that Grey wasn’t on the force, his close relationship with Maddox meant an invite to events meant for cops. Sure, some cops didn’t like an outsider in their midst, but Maddox welcomed the day someone said something to him about Grey’s presence.

With the shit Maddox saw on the job, and what he’d seen some children go through in the foster system, he never mourned that his mother had left when he was four years old and didn’t return. Nor did he feel bad about his father, John Hunt, who lived in a nursing home due to his worsening Alzheimer’s. But when Grey demanded answers for Maddox’s tense mood in a way only a brother would, Maddox had to oblige.

“I see what all the fuss is about and why this chick has you working out harder than you have in years,” Grey said, finally glancing back at Maddox. “She’s gorgeous.”

“Those words don’t do her justice,” he admitted.

Joss was a woman of equal innocence and naughtiness. That was the sweetest type. His favorite, in fact. He recalled in vivid detail the way she’d melted under his hands a year ago, and that’s what had been driving him crazy all week. He needed to get her out of his head. He needed to stop smelling her sugary perfume when she wasn’t there. He needed to stop hearing her sexy-as-fuck moans when she came during his dreams.

Grey downed a big gulp of beer, watching Maddox closely. When he lowered the bottle, he noted, “I see by that twitch in your eye, you’re still being the gentleman.”

“My eye is not twitching,” Maddox snorted, beginning to move the cooked burgers off the grill to the serving plate. Once he’d finished, he tossed on some more meat then called out, “Burgers up.”

Grey silently watched the crowd, who, like vultures, claimed all the patties. Not until everyone was out of hearing distance did he continue. “Bullshit. You’re twitching like a man who needs a fix.”

Maddox couldn’t deny that. He felt like an addict who was scrambling to put his life back together again. She was simply there in his mind. All the time. He’d jerked off every morning and every night—sometimes twice—since she’d come back into his life. “Regardless,” he told Grey, tending to the burgers, “there are obstacles in my way. Very serious ones.”

Grey barked a laugh. “And when has that ever stopped you before?”

Never. He took what he wanted when he wanted it. The problem was, he never conquered a woman a second time. Doing so could lead to an attachment. And he’d learned from his father that that never led anywhere good. “The last thing I need is a sexual harassment lawsuit,” he said, offering up a concern Grey could understand.

“You’re right, you don’t,” Grey agreed. “Though you could test the waters and see if she’s looking for what you are. Perhaps she’s trustworthy enough that something playful between you would be doable.”

Maddox flipped the burgers then looked up and examined Joss grabbing a beer from the cooler. Her white summer dress highlighted her spectacular curves, enticing him to bend her over that cooler. The memories of her were vivid. How creamy her skin was, the way she moaned, the way she smelled, the way she tasted, he remembered it all. And so did his throbbing cock.

“It’s risky,” Maddox said, glancing back to Grey. “Too risky.”

Grey grinned. “Which makes it even more fun.”

Sounded great to Maddox, too. That was the problem.

While he tended to the burgers, flipping the ones needing it, he considered all the ways he could make this happen with her again and then rejected each idea. Besides the fact that their shared professional life was a huge obstacle, and even though he did have a feeling after working with her for a week that she was trustworthy, touching her again broke his one unbreakable rule: Don’t screw twice.

Tension tightened the muscles across his shoulder blades when Grey, who was looking at the bonfire, asked, “So, these are your new rookies, huh?”

“Some of them.” Maddox reached for his beer resting by the grill and downed a big gulp, scanning the crowd in his backyard. Some of his team sat around the bonfire, while others hung around the outdoor bar. When his father had gone into the home, Maddox had sold his bachelor pad and opted for the house that had been in the Hunt family for three generations. “Not a bad-looking bunch, are they?”

Grey’s eyes zeroed in on Holly, the most recent rookie to join the team. “You are a lucky son-of-a-bitch, you know that, right?”

Maddox grinned, knowing why Holly drew Grey’s attention. He loved blondes, and the curvier, the better. Maddox tipped his beer bottle toward Grey. “That might be true if I were allowed to touch. Which you well know I’m not.”

Grey tsked, shaking his head in obvious disappointment. “You can’t touch women who look like that and who come with their very own pair of handcuffs?” He glanced at Holly again, who was approaching the bar. “What a waste.”

Maddox chuckled, tending to the burgers again, fully understanding Grey’s point. A fondness for kinky sex was one thing Grey and he had always had in common. They’d even shared a couple of women once or twice throughout the years. There wasn’t a fantasy Maddox had that hadn’t been fulfilled. He made sure of it.

Though, over time, the show had eventually gotten old.

Grey went through girlfriends like he went through boxers. Maddox stuck to one-night stands to keep things interesting and to give him the distance he preferred. He’d never been a man who wanted one woman.

That was until Joss had walked back into his life a week ago.

Round and round his mind went. He’d stop ruminating about her for a second, only to start thinking about her again. He sighed and rearranged the burgers on the grill for even cooking. Somehow, she had gotten under his skin. Maybe it was how she’d melted under his touch. Or how she’d responded so beautifully to him. For the last year, he’d searched for the same high he’d gotten with her, only to be let down time and time again. Others didn’t compare. Didn’t even come close.

As the food on the tray continued to vanish, he knew he needed to put a stop to this, and he had to do it tonight. She controlled him too much. He thought about her too often. This was his test, and he couldn’t fail. Surely, if he could stand being around her outside of work, he could gain control of the lust running rampant within.

With those thoughts on his mind, he gave the patties one last flip, then found Grey openly eye fucking Holly. “Please do your best to behave tonight,” he told him sternly.

Grey slowly looked at him, one eyebrow arching. “And do you plan to behave yourself?”

“You know I have to.”

Grey pushed away from the pole he leaned against and grinned. “Luckily for me, I’m not a cop, and I choose that sexy little blonde over there.” He pulled on the hem of his shirt, straightening it, and strode off, eyes set on Holly.

Maddox shook his head, yet wasn’t concerned. Years of friendship had taught Maddox to trust whatever Grey did. Even if he ended up taking one of Maddox’s rookies home, she’d leave his house feeling respected and satisfied. If it didn’t affect his job, Maddox didn’t care who screwed, and he never understood why the police department frowned upon relationships between cops.

Life happened, and so did love. Why fight a natural thing?

“May I?”

Maddox turned toward the sweet, soft voice, instantly captivated by Joss’s soulful green eyes. He went from semi-hard to rock-hard so fast, he fought off a groan. “Yes, of course. Please, help yourself.” He gave her a gentle smile, hoping to hide the carnal thoughts racing through his mind, those of bending her over and thrusting himself deep inside her sexy, lush body until she was quivering her release. He cleared his throat. “Are you enjoying the party?”

“Very much so, thank you.” She smiled, scooping up the burger onto the bun on her plate. “You have a lovely home.”

The smile she gave him was so fake, it narrowed Maddox’s eyes. He craved the realness he’d seen in her before. That’s what had captured his thoughts over the last goddamn year. That’s what was in his head every time his lips touched another woman. Their smiles weren’t honest like hers. She’d appeared to hide nothing of herself, bared everything as if she didn’t owe the world a damn thing. That transparency had mindfucked him.

He stared at her now, noting how she squeezed her plate tightly, knuckles turning white, telling him that she was doing her best not to shake. Another thing that had made his restraint even more difficult. She didn’t hide how much she still wanted him. Her desire was there in her rosy cheeks and her parted lips and her deep breaths.

“So…um…thanks for the burger…and for the party.” She lifted her head, and her light eyes met his.

The energy pinging between them was like a punch to his chest. His muscles tensed, breath halted. The softness, the yearning, the ache he so desperately felt, too, all crossed her expression, hardening him to steel. For a year, he’d forced himself to believe that he’d imagined this potent energy between them. That it was inconceivable to think their connection held this much power. Yet there it was, right there in front of him. Tangible. Intense. Real. His nostrils flared as he inhaled the sweet scent that had haunted him.

“Oh, shit,” she gasped, breaking eye contact.

Without saying anything more, but not needing to because her subsequent silence spoke volumes about her desires, she scrambled away.

Maddox clenched his jaw muscles, watching the way she stiffly walked away. Fuck, he understood the need coursing through her. The same urgency pulsed through him. Could he trust her? He’d read the reports and the glowing recommendations she’d received. She didn’t seem flaky or a woman out to screw over her superior.

Even if he could breathe again, the spell she’d cast over him wasn’t broken. The addiction ran wildly out of control in the same way it had when he’d first met her on that dance floor. That’s when he knew an undeniable truth.

This girl didn’t only make him want to break his rules.

She made him want to abolish them.

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