After Love by Kathy Clark
An Austin Heroes Novel; Book 1
Published: January 19, 2016
Published by: Loveswept
A pulse-pounding tale of two wounded souls tempted by a dangerous proposition: new love.
DEA agent Nick Archer puts his life on the line every day. A former Marine, he fears nothing . . . except commitment. Nick has no trouble finding women eager to warm his bed, and no problem sending them on their way the morning after. Relationships don’t mix with risky careers, a fact Nick learned the hard way after his marriage fell apart.
He’d go it alone if it weren’t for his new K-9 partner—and the stunning trainer who makes Nick sit up and take notice.
They lay there, their limbs entangled, their skin slick with sweat.
“I made a chocolate cake for dessert,” she said, her voice muffled against his neck.
“I thought this was dessert.” He nuzzled his face into her hair. “It was delicious.”
“Hmm…I’m glad you liked it.” She stirred, pulling away from him. She took the red, white and blue crocheted throw off the back of the couch and wrapped it around herself.
Nick took that as a sign that it was time for a break. He got up, wincing as he levered himself up from the hard floor. “I’m getting too old for this.”
“Next time, we’ll go to my room.”
She said it so casually, he almost missed it. But his heart quickened at the promise there would be a next time. He’d been afraid this would be a one-time shot. But he wasn’t sure he was up for another round so soon. “Right now?”
“No, not now. Maybe Harley will need a refresher course sometime soon.”
Nick felt uncomfortable standing naked in front of her while having what appeared to be a serious conversation. “Hold that thought.” He returned to the kitchen, stepping over Harley who had moved into the living room to be closer to them. Nick pulled on his jeans and stuck his underwear in his pocket. He put on his shirt, but didn’t bother buttoning it. He was about to go back into the living room when Jamie walked in.
She had wrapped the throw around her, under her armpits and tucked in between her breasts. The open weave of the crochet allowed tantalizing peeks at the bare skin underneath. She filled their glasses with the rest of the wine, handed him one, and sat at the table.
Nick remained standing, but he leaned forward on the back of the chair he’d sat in earlier. “Now, about that refresher course.”
“That’s what I was talking about earlier,” she said.
“That makes it sound sleazy. What I have in mind would be mutually satisfactory for both of us.” She hesitated.
“I’m not looking for a relationship,” she finally continued. “I’ve been in love, and it was wonderful. It’s the after love part that brings pain. I worried every time Mike left the house. And when my worst nightmare happened, it was suddenly all over…the love…the laughter…someone to cuddle with at night and to celebrate the holidays with…and the sex.” She wiped away a tear that had trickled down her cheek. “I’ve had a great love. I don’t need another. I have the farm, the dogs, my brother, and a busy life.”
There was another pause. Nick waited patiently, still with no clue where the conversation was going.
Jamie met his gaze steadily. “I have to be honest with you. I don’t need love any more. But I miss the sex. You and I get along okay. I just thought…”
Nick cocked his head as if he hadn’t heard her correctly. “So, I’m your booty call?”
She shrugged. “You don’t have a girlfriend, do you? Who would we be hurting? Just some hot sex…and no strings. And it’s all temporary. I can end it whenever and you can do the same. Isn’t that every man’s dream?”
“Well, yes,” he answered reluctantly. “But…”
“And tonight was good, wasn’t it?”
“Then why not?”
Nick’s first thoughts were that this was the craziest idea he’d ever heard…from a woman. It sounded like something he would suggest. His own experience with love had ended badly, too. He understood her concern that there was nothing but pain after love. He definitely had no plans for any type of permanent relationship either. It was just a little unnerving to think about it in such clinical terms.
But then, she was right. Sex without responsibility was perfect world…especially if it was with Jamie. Why was he hesitating? He was being offered an endless dessert tray…without calories.
“Are you serious?” he asked, still concerned that this was some sort of test, or a game whose rules he didn’t know.
“Absolutely. Of course, I would expect your discretion. I work with a lot of law enforcement agencies, and I need to protect my credibility. And then there’s my brother…” She shook her head. “He would never understand.”
“Probably not,” Nick agreed. He still wasn’t sure he did. But, hey, who was he to turn down a beautiful woman who needed sex? If she wanted a businesslike arrangement, he was up for it. Nick held out his hand.
Jamie smiled and heaved a relieved sigh. She took his hand and shook it. “Then we have a deal.”
“I guess we do.”
She stood and gathered her clothes.
“I’m taking Harley to Grammy’s to meet the family tomorrow. Plus, I’ve got the boys, and my brothers should be there, too.”
Jamie clipped the leash on Harley and handed it to Nick. “Let me know how Harley does.”
“Uh…I will.” He retrieved his gun off the refrigerator, slipped his feet in his tennis shoes and squatted down to tie them. When he stood back up, Jamie handed him his socks and practically pushed him toward the front door. “Why don’t you come with us? I’m not sure how he’ll act around kids, and it would be good to have to along to keep an eye on him. I can’t vouch for the company, but I guarantee the food will be great.”
“I don’t know. What would your grandmother think?”
“That I just got a new K9 partner, and this is part of his training.”
She considered it for a moment. “I suppose I could go. Sundays are always slow.”
“Great. I’ll pick you up around eleven.”
“I’ll be ready.”
They paused in the doorway. What exactly did one say to someone he had just fucked but who had now become a secret partner…of sorts? A handshake? A kiss? He bent down to kiss her, and she turned her face so it landed on her cheek.
Jamie squatted and gave Harley a hug and a goodbye scratch on the ears. “You take care of your man,” she told the dog. “Keep him safe and make me proud of you.”
Harley wagged his tail and nudged her with his nose.
She stood and tightened the throw around her. “Goodnight, Nick. Drive carefully.” She started closing the door.
Nick nodded and was left no choice but to cross the porch and head toward his truck. With his underwear in one pocket, his socks in the other, and his unbuttoned shirt tails flapping in the wind, he had a sudden flash of empathy for all the women he had sent away after a casual fuck.
And he didn’t like it.
Praise for After Love
“Fast-paced, riveting . . . Playful dialogue between Nick and Jamie certainly kept me entertained, and I loved every moment they were together as their banter increased the sexual tension between them. . . . [The author] did justice to their instant and intense chemistry.”—Harlequin Junkie, on After Love
After Love is the first book in the Austin Heroes series about three brothers, a DEA agent, a Texas Ranger, and a Homeland Security Agent. The second book Almost Forever comes out in July, and I can’t resist sharing the gorgeous cover of Justin, the Texas Ranger.
A cold case leads to blazing-hot temptation in this novel of romantic suspense from bestselling author Kathy Clark. For readers of Nora Roberts and Karen Robards, Almost Forever pairs a rugged lawman with a woman who may just be a murderer.
Kathy Clark is the pen name of the writing team of Bob and Kathy Wernly. Kathy had almost two dozen books published by Harlequin, Dell, Crown, and others before her husband offered to do all the marketing and write the first drafts. Who wouldn’t eagerly accept that kind of free labor? Since 2012, Kathy and Bob have self-published nine novels, including the award-winning YA time travel series, Time Shifters, and a New Adult series called Scandals. They also self-published an erotic romance and had another erotic romance novel published by Loose Id.
They currently have a six-book contract with Random House for their Loveswept line. The first three books were in the Denver Heroes series and were published in 2015. In 2016, they launched their Austin Heroes series with the first book, After Love, coming out in January. This series is about three brothers, one a DEA agent, one a Texas Rancher, and one an agent for Homeland Security. Almost Forever will be out in July, and Another Chance comes out in November.
Kathy and Bob love the sand and surf of Florida or the Caribbean when they travel, but they also enjoy their view of Pikes Peak from their home in Colorado.
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