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Today a steamy excerpt my novel Bounty Hunter. Logan Dunn is not your ordinary, run-of the-mill Bounty Hunter. His job is to return runaway slaves to their masters, a job he does well. He's hard as nails, bad to the bone, with a sexual allure that stuns most any woman he meets...until they're practically begging him to take them away...hummm...perhaps that going a bit to far. But there is no one better at handling women on the run.
Excerpt from Bounty Hunter, Copyright (c) 2002, all rights reserved
His face is his most remarkable feature. At once, deep, threatening, evasive and direct. He has a square jaw, high cheekbones, and dark hair combed back from his face so that all of his intensity assaults you from the start. Sometimes he wears a pencil-thin mustache and a day’s growth of beard along his chin line. For a time he’ll keep the beard and trim it close, defining the lines and the swatch of hair at the cleft of his chin. Some days he’s clean-shaven. Everything depends on his mood—or what he needs in order to do his job.
It’s safe to say that he is a paradox. His eyes draw you in and send you away at the same time, making him uncomfortable to be around…until he smiles. Then the lights go on and the charm weaves its magic and sucks you in for good. You have the feeling that it might be impossible to get away.
He startles you; fools you into thinking that he’s naturally good-natured, the nice boy down the street, with a smile and a merry twinkle in his eye for every girl he meets. Other days, he fools you into thinking that he has no heart. He’s just that cold.
One morning not too long ago, he walked into a Houston high-rise, looking casually chic, not like the men in suits that darted through the halls like dark bugs in a maze. For that reason he stood out from the rest of the working crowd, and drew the eye of nearly every woman who passed. His jet-black pants had pressed pleats; his shirt was a crisp white, open at the neck, and the leather bomber jacket had a worn, elegant look. Despite his casual air, he was on serious business.
He took the stairs rather than the elevator since he was only going up four
stories. He needed the exercise after so many days driving—from Seattle to Houston this time.
He fingered his business card as he leaned into the counter above the receptionist’s desk.
“Mr. Arthur Riggins, please?”
“May I tell him who’s here?” the pretty redhead asked. Her cheeks looked a little rosier for having been drawn inside this visitor’s aura.
“Logan Dunn. You can give him my card.” He tossed it to her and stepped back from the counter, gazing around at the executive offices of Riggins & Worthy. Blue. There was a lot of blue and teak-colored woodwork: desks, chairs, paneling. Nicely done, he thought.
The pretty receptionist should have asked him for more information, but what was written on his business card was enough to get her attention and send her scooting toward an office in the back.
Moments later, a balding man about fifty-five appeared, walking his way. He’d removed his coat earlier in the day, and loosened his tie as if he were hard at work. He stopped twice on the way to talk with his employees, then greeted his visitor with an amiable handshake. “May I help you, Mr. Dunn?”
“I think we should probably talk in private,” Logan told him.
“Yes, certainly.” Mr. Riggins nodded, his demeanor suddenly nervous and suspicious.
Behind the closed door of Riggins’ office at the far end of the fourth floor, Logan Dunn went directly to the point. He was detached, cool and somber enough to make the dead quake. “You have a Marcia Rayburn working here?” he asked.
“Yes. Yes, we do. Marcia, yes. She started here about, hum…seven months ago, January. Yes, it was January. I remember now, right after the first of the year. She’s a very good employee. Lovely, girl. Keeps to herself, but pleasant enough. Why?”
Logan Dunn didn’t seem to care about his opinion of the woman, he moved on quickly. “Mr. Riggins, I have reason to believe that your Marcia Rayburn is not who she says she is. She’s wanted in Seattle on several outstanding felony warrants. It’s my job to arrest her and bring her back to stand trial.”
Arthur Riggins stared at him, eyes bugged out. “You have a warrant for her arrest?”
“I have the documents right here if you’d like to see them, but I really need to present them to Marcia Rayburn and determine if she’s the woman I think she is. May I see her?”
“Yes, of course.” The man hustled from the room, while Logan Dunn indulged in a private smile. It didn’t take much to have powerful men jumping in fear. And that made him as powerful as they were.
Minutes later, Arthur Riggins returned with a studious looking woman of perhaps twenty-nine or thirty years. “This is Marcia Rayburn,” he introduced her to Logan.
Logan gave the woman a quick once-over. “No, this is Mary Stein, Mr. Riggins,” he said, feeling sure that he had the woman he’d been looking for. If it weren’t enough that she matched the description and the picture in his files, upon pronouncement of the name, he saw her squirm like a snake caught by the tail. Even if he hadn’t had her face indelibly etched in his mind, he knew, simply by the way her scared body vibrated, that she was guilty of everything she’d be charged with. Logan raised his eyebrows. “You going to deny that you’re Mary Stein?” he asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Marcia returned too quickly, as if she had something to hide. Even Mr. Riggins could hear her voice about to crack.
“You’re telling me you’re not Mary Ellen Stein from Seattle?”
“I’m Marcia Rayburn,” she spat out through gritted teeth.
Logan’s somewhat pouty mouth turned into a pleasant snicker, as a bit of boyish charm leaked out from his otherwise grim façade.
“There are identifying marks,” he said, turning to Arthur Riggins. “If they check out, then I’ll have to take her into custody.” He took a folded paper from his pocket and handed it to the curious executive. He didn’t know a damn thing about the legal process, but he had no reason to doubt the man.
Riggins nodded. He looked almost as anxious as the woman who stood between them.
“Marcia?” Arthur made her look his way. “You need to cooperate with this man.”
Marcia Rayburn was a soft-spoken woman of impeccable deportment, who impressed her associates at Riggins & Worthy as a thoughtful, kind and efficient worker. She wasn’t the type to make waves; it wouldn’t have been in her nature. She avoided gossip, smiled regularly and simply wanted to fit in. And she did. If she was sometimes guarded, that was taken as a sign of her cautious temperament.
She blushed upon hearing her boss’s directive.
“We can get this matter cleared up quickly,” Logan Dunn said succinctly. “Raise your skirt for me, Mary.”
“Raise her skirt! Is that really necessary?” Arthur jumped in, visibly shocked.
“There are identifying marks,” Logan repeated.
Arthur eyed the young man suspiciously, but then turned to the woman. “Go ahead,” he nodded.
Marcia clutched the sides of her blue suit skirt. The style was simple, business-like, in a shade of powder blue that looked especially lovely with her blue eyes and the pale blonde hair, which fell to her shoulders in a gentle wave. Knowing that she had little choice in the matter, she inched the knee-length hemline up her thighs until it was possible to see an odd impression on her leg through her pantyhose, appearing about midway between knee and hip.
“What is that, Marcia?” Arthur asked her as he tried to make sense of what he saw from several feet away. He was dying for a closer look but afraid to step any closer.
“XT. It’s a brand,” Logan answered for her.
“That right?” Arthur inched just a tad bit closer, squinting.
Marcia shivered and closed her eyes, the only way she could fend off her embarrassment.
“Good enough,” Logan told her. “But I’ll have to see the one on your breast, too.”
The woman looked at him pleadingly. “Oh, please. Haven’t you seen enough?”
“Tremaine made it clear that I need to be absolutely sure,” he answered coldly. “If you’ll just unbutton your blouse, it won’t take a minute.”
“Mr. Dunn, is this really necessary?” Arthur backed off in a bewildered, indignant huff.
Unfazed, the implacable Logan answered, “She’s a felon, Mr. Riggins. I don’t make the rules; I just enforce them.”
“But wouldn’t that mark on her leg tell you what you want to know?” he pointed to Marcia’s now covered thigh.
“Maybe, maybe not. Branding is not as unusual as you may think in certain sub-cultures of our society. You wouldn’t want me to have the wrong woman, would you?” He turned to Marcia again. “Your blouse.”
“But what if I just admitted who I was and got this over with?” she implored him. Her face was ashen; her eyes pooling with tears.
“Oh? So you admit that you’re Mary Stein?”
“If that’s what I have to do.”
“Makes no difference who you claim you are. Your body has all the answers I need.”
She sighed heavily, as if the burden of the world were on her shoulders. Of course, he’d insist, she thought. He acted on behalf of Mr. Tremaine, which meant that there was nothing to be gained from resisting. She was a submissive woman at heart, and even now, months away from her obligations, some well-remembered drum beat in her with resounding clarity. Her body enlivened in strange ways because of what this man instructed her to do. Some would say that on an elemental level, she enjoyed the horror and the humiliation.
Marcia had been dressing conservatively since she started working at Riggins & Worthy. And, oddly, with the button at her neck undone, a feeling of relief washed through her. Arthur Riggins would never notice, but Logan Dunn could feel the change as a subtle shiver that rattled his bones. As her trembling hand continued its slow decent from one button to the next and her blouse opened further, the meticulous Marcia Rayburn became Mary Ellen Stein again. With her blouse undone to her waist, she reached inside under her white slip and pulled her left bra cup up over the soft white flesh, exposing for the waiting audience a perfectly-shaped breast, full and round, with a pale areole and a darker mauve-colored nipple. Although Logan inwardly admired the woman’s attractive body, he had to ignore his physical response at times like this one. Inspections were business, nothing more. Arthur Riggins, on the other hand, felt his crotch leap viciously as the lovely secretary exposed herself. He managed to contain his physical excitement by gripping the desk with white knuckles, however, enough to register the appropriate awe seeing the curious tattoo on the side of Marcia’s—rather Mary Stein’s—breast: the word ‘slave’ in neat black lettering.
“My God!” Arthur gasped.
“You’ll be coming with me, Mary,” Logan said.
“Yes, sir,” she quietly acknowledged.
“And if you don’t mind, Mr. Riggins, I need a few minutes with Mary alone,” Logan informed the shocked executive.
He was flustered, flushed and anxious to escape the room. “Yes. Sure,” he said shaking his head. “Damn, I can’t believe it.”
“Would you like to study the entire warrant?” Logan offered again.
“No, that won’t be necessary. I’ve read enough.” He couldn’t stop shaking his head in amazement, and with the awkward scene too uncomfortable to bear any longer, Arthur left the room.
“Well, you looked relieved, Mary Stein,” Logan said once they were alone. His head was slightly cocked as his one eye zeroed in on her coolly.
“I’m not,” she said. “I’m not guilty of any crime except loving a man too much. I can’t love him back any more and he knows that. Why does he have to press the matter?”
“Because he owns you.”
“He can’t own me!” she tried with him desperately.
“In his world, he can, Mary Stein, you know that as well as I do. By his rules, you don’t back out once you have given your word.”
She sighed quietly; it was no use arguing. Tremaine had won, just as he always did. With that fact clear, the longing in her heart expanded, as if this was what she’d wanted all along, to be captured and returned. But that couldn’t be possible!
“Can we get this over with quickly? Please?”
“We can get it done the way it needs to be done,” Logan answered her grimly.
“But, surely, these good people don’t need to be exposed to my trials, or the world you must return me to.”
“I’m afraid that Mr. Tremaine really doesn’t care about ‘these good people’. My instructions are to see that ‘the real woman is bared for all eyes to see. Let them snicker at her shame’ I believe that’s what he said.” Pulling something shiny from his pocket, Logan moved on her as she shrunk back in fear. She watched in wonder as with one flick of his wrist, a long, sharp blade popped out of its metal case. “And I do my job well.”
Cornering her by the wall, he calmly reached inside her open blouse at her left shoulder, and with one swift jerk cut through the strap of her slip and the strap of her bra. He did the same at her right shoulder. A third slash split her brassiere in two, and he quickly snatched the ripped fabric and pulled it out.
“Take the slip off from underneath,” he ordered.
Her heart started to pound as she realized what he had in mind. “No, please. You can’t. Not here.”
He shook his head. “You wonder why I came for you here? I could have quietly taken you from your apartment, but you chose an enemy who wants to see you shamed. Now, how you behave in the next few minutes is your choice. You can hang your head in disgrace, or walk out proudly. I’m just doing what I was generously paid to do.” He paused and when she failed to answer, he repeated himself again, “Take off your slip.”
Mary’s wide eyes were glued to the man. Her breathing was labored and her heart beating unnaturally fast. With trembling hands, she reached underneath her skirt and tugged at the thin nylon material of her slip until it was free of the waistband and slid off her hips. Jerked free, it lay as a silky pool at her feet. She stepped out of it gingerly so her sensible heels wouldn’t get tangled in the torn straps.
“The shoes and the panty hose, too,” Logan instructed.
Her eyes returned to him, woefully frightened. Her face was as white as a sheet. “You’re not going to make me go out there naked, are you?”
His smirk was momentarily playful before it disappeared. “If it were up to Tremaine, I would, but since that would rock the bounds of common decency in this place, he’ll have to settle with a less provocative display. You can button your blouse, but the shoes and pantyhose have to go. Might as well get this with over as fight me.”
While she considered her bleak alternatives, Logan began fishing through a black leather bag he’d brought with him.
Hearing the rattle of chains, Mary shivered deeply, noticing certain physical responses in her body that were as predictable as the rising sun. There was no mistaking what she felt; her groin was warm and fluid, as if she’d just made love. She hated that physical response and how it betrayed her lust to any man astute enough to understand. All she could think of now was the horrendously embarrassing thought of being marched half-dressed through the office where she’d been working the last seven months. She walked in the door that morning as the dignified, diligent secretary she’d been during her exile from Mr. Tremaine, and would walk out just two hours later, a prisoner in chains. Her body would be paraded through the office, as the bounty hunter exposed the flipside of the flawless, carefully constructed persona. She’d come to relish her freedom since she walked way from Mr. Tremaine in a Seattle department store, even if her new life seemed dry and uninspiring compared to her former one.
She saw no way out. She could bolt for the door, but he’d move fast and bring her back. And what if she did flee into the outer office? Did she want the scene that would result, the eyes staring at her in wonder as she struggled against this brute? No. There was no way out and she would not exacerbate a regrettable situation.
Reluctantly, she responded to his orders. She flipped off her shoes and tugged her pantyhose down to her ankles.
“And your underwear,” he added, without bothering to look up.
She obliged him and with that done, stood helplessly in the middle of her boss’s office submitting to the final humiliation. A metal band went around her waist, and second ringed her red, flushed throat. And chains that attached the two behind her, also threaded through her crotch high enough to raise her skirt well above her knees. Unhappy with the look of the material bunched together between her thighs, Logan ripped the four-inch slit in the side of her skirt so it was three times as long. As if he knew exactly what effect that would have, he exposed the brand XT on her thigh.
Gathering her wrists together at the small of her back, he locked them in cuffs that attached to the waistband behind her. Her strained posture thrust out her chest, the way a common prostitute does when plying her trade. Her thin blouse pulled tight against her breasts, making them vulnerable to even the most casual glance; even the pale pink aureoles could be detected with a careful gaze, not to mention the tattoo that had been permanently etched into her skin.
“You take me through the office like this, you might as well strip me naked!” she cried despairingly, as tears of fear and anger gathered in her eyes.
“Ah, Mary Stein, what’s to get so upset about? If you lived with Mr. Xavier Tremaine for ten years, you’ve been through worse.”
“And that’s why I left him!” she announced defiantly.
He laughed. “Oh, no! I know why you left him.” He stood eye to eye with her, a scoundrel’s rude jeer breaking out against the backdrop of his stolid features. “You were green with envy over his latest conquest. Don’t do yourself the injustice of denying it.”
Her eyes fired nails of hateful thoughts at him—which he easily fended off—but her heart ached, knowing that he spoke the truth.
“Oh, how can you do this!” she spat out at him.
“Because I get paid in cash, and I have no shame.”
Mary watched as her captor sauntered away and rifled through Arthur Riggins’s top desk drawer. Finding what he was looking for, he pushed the drawer shut with a firm shove, and walked back to her with a pair of scissors in his hand.
“Now, if it were my call, I wouldn’t do this,” he said a bit sadly. “It may be brutally demeaning, but it seems a shame to see this lovely hair trashed.”
“Good God, no!” She shrank back, those gathered tears rolling en masse down her pink blushing cheeks, streaking her makeup with lines of black mascara.
She pulled away, but even now she didn’t try to bolt. What was the use? She closed her eyes and held her breath, while Logan Dunn grabbed fistfuls of her hair and cut away the long blonde tresses, until there was nothing left but irregular tufts of hair sticking out from her pink scalp.
Her sobbing almost wrenched his heart. This was one thing he truly didn’t like, especially when the man he worked for had a slave as lovely as Mary Stein was. Why deny Mary her beauty, when it would be just as easy to treasure it in the captivity of chains, and experience its lush quality as it emerged in her surrendered state?
But the nasty deed was quickly done and the transformation complete according to plan.
“It will seem like an eternity but it will only be a few tough minutes. I wouldn’t get upset, you’ll never see these people again.” Brutal, but true, he thought.
Mary wasn’t listening anymore. Her mind had turned away from him. She’d backed herself into the cocoon of submission, where she might thoughtlessly, mindlessly survive the long journey down the halls of Riggins & Worthy and out the door. She’d turn her eyes away from the shocked faces and curious stares of her coworkers. She’d pretend she was on another planet, in another dimension, on a different time line, and nothing that she’d done for the last eight months meant anything. It wasn’t even real, but a dream that never was.