Saturday, April 16, 2022

Read an Excerpt from Ruby: Book 2 Ladies of the Night Series by Taylor Lee



Praise for Ruby …
Book 2 in Taylor Lee’s NEW Sexy Suspense Collection: Ladies of the Night.

“USA Today best-selling author Taylor Lee soars with Ruby, the second book in Lee’s provocative new series, Ladies of the Night. The Ladies are covert agents in a secretive, off the grid security organization. Highly trained fighters, they’re as gorgeous as they are dangerous to the evil men they’re hired to bring to justice. The only thing these formidable women are NOT is “ladies.”

Chloe Harper, Code Name: Ruby is a diminutive, red-headed vixen. But don’t let her size fool you. The fierce firebrand is as accomplished with a knife and Glock 19 as she is bringing men to their feet with her womanly wiles. Noah Walker, the stunning black former Army Ranger, is no slouch when it comes to attracting women, but even he is no match for Ruby. Both agents are more than equipped to take on what appears to be a rogue operation in the command structure of the national agency that hired them. The twist and turns of this surprising mission will have your head spinning. The only thing more riveting is the passion that flares between the two indomitable agents.

Love Kaylea Cross's heart pounding romantic military thrillers? Sylvia Day’s and Maya Banks red hot sexy heroes, feisty heroines and high adrenaline action? Fern Michael’s compelling characters? Grab Ruby and prepare to be addicted.

“Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”  Malcolm X

Chapter 1


 Glancing across the expanse of the ornate ballroom at the upscale Continental Club, Agent Chloe Harper’s heart skipped a beat.  To be more accurate, it damn near came to a dead stop.  Ditto on her breath.  Chloe, aka Ruby, comforted herself with the knowledge that sans breath and a beating heart, she had only seconds left in this lifetime--if that.  Managing a dry snort, she reassured herself that if her last conscious sight was a glimpse of Noah Walker, at least her life would end on a positive note.

When her heart started pumping again and she was able to draw in a ragged breath, confirming that she would have to live through this challenging night, Chloe chided herself that if anyone could cause a woman’s heart to skip a beat, it was Noah Walker.  

It didn’t help that the tall, warm-skinned man was a colleague and, she admitted, a man she’d lusted after ever since she met him, it was also likely that he was on the top ten list of “hottest men alive” of every woman in attendance at the posh affair.  How could he not be?  It was as though the gods had thrown Idris Elba and Columbus Short into a male beauty blender and turned it on high.  The result was, without a doubt, one of the sexiest black men Chloe had ever seen. She guessed that few people among the crowd of makers and shakers, and maker and shaker wannabes knew that the smiling man was neither who he seemed to be, nor how he introduced himself.

No, the problem was that Chloe did know who Noah Walker was, in all of his many charming iterations.  Worse, he knew all of hers.  While that could be a problem, given that they were undercover agents with two of the most secretive off the grid agencies working in the shadows, Chloe didn’t fear Noah unmasking her—any more than she would unmask him. No, the problem was that the last time she’d seen him, Chloe was stark naked and having as close to an unraveled panic attack as she’d ever endured.

 Chloe felt her cheeks flame as she searched for a hiding place. To get to the ladies room she would have to walk by the crowd of people who were intent on getting as close to her colleague as possible. No matter how she chose to steal by, she was certain he would spot her.  She had to admit, that even in this crowd or perhaps especially in this crowd, she would be hard to miss.  Bright red hair and a sinfully tight emerald green dress were sure to draw the eye of even the most besotted fans trying to get the attention of the superstar holding court in the center of the throng. 

Slinking behind a pillar, Chloe allowed herself to remember the last time she had seen Noah Walker.  Along with their partner Grayson Webb, she and Noah had been part of a group present when a despicable man had literally choked a young woman to death in an autoerotic asphyxiation sex scene gone bad.  That the monster hadn’t so much as looked back when Noah had cut the bonds holding the teenaged victim and confirmed that she was indeed dead had added to Chloe’s  angst.  It wasn’t as though she hadn’t seen hideous sights; Chloe had survived eight years in the jungles of Somalia and more Middle Eastern countries than she cared to remember.  A Staff Sergeant in the Army, Chloe Harper had served as an adjunct to several squads of Army Rangers who worked some of the most dangerous and most secretive undercover missions the Army assigned to the elite units.  Given her conspicuous physical characteristics, Sgt. Harper’s inevitable role was as bait to attract whichever high level target the Army wanted eliminated.

Chloe had been so successful that when she decided Army life was no longer for her, she’d had her choice from among the best of the security agencies that sought retired military hotshots. To everyone’s surprise, the esteemed Sgt. Harper turned down offers from the top tier companies and instead joined the incipient outfit known by its provocative name, Ladies of the Night.  The first hire in the renegade company, Chloe joined its founder, Riley Davis, in what many in the industry said was a time bomb, certain to explode.  Lt. Col. Davis, according to most of the men who’d worked with her, was as volatile and uncontrollable as she was beautiful.  Within a year after resigning from the Army, Col. Davis had been blackballed by virtually every prestigious security agency.  According to the companies she’d worked for, the unanimous conclusion was that the volatile Lt. Col. was unmanageable and therefore to be avoided at all costs.

Chloe disagreed.  She’d worked two active duty missions with Col. Davis and when she'd learned that the explosive Army hotshot was opening her own firm, Chloe had never looked back. Against the advice of everyone she knew, she approached Col. Davis and begged her to hire her.  It just so happened that begging wasn’t necessary.  Riley Davis confessed to her, after their five hour introductory meeting, that Chloe’s military accolades, appearance, and sheer verve made her a natural for the woman-owned, woman-only company that its founder was certain would leave the rest of the agencies in the dust. As Chloe signed the contract pledging her livelihood to the upstart company, her new boss christened her.  Col. Davis had determined that all of her agents would receive code names.  Setting the standard with her own code name, Diamond, the irascible leader gave the redheaded agent-to-be her code name. Chloe became Ruby.

.           It was as Ruby that she’d met Noah Walker.  Determined to contain her rioting emotions, Ruby forced herself to remember that fateful night.  It was the first time that she’d ever given in to the horrors that she routinely experienced in her chosen profession.  She was serving as a barmaid and stripper in the Caligula Club, the high-end BDSM club owned by their target. Ruby was present when the young girl had literally been strangled in front of her and the other two agents, as well as a group of leering men.  When the hideous club owner made no secret of the fact that the girl’s death had aroused him, Ruby had given in to her shock. Certain that she couldn’t breathe, she’d begun shaking uncontrollably.  Whisked out of the Club by her co-agents, Noah Walker and Grayson Webb, Ruby was so shaken that she barely remembered leaving the Club.

What she would never forget was Noah holding her in his lap as Grayson sped through the midnight streets of the Phoenix suburb.  Pulling up in front of Ruby’s condominium, Grayson made quick work of her elaborate security system.  Inside her prized sanctuary, Noah continued to hold her while Grayson grabbed the nearest bottle of Scotch and poured each of them a tumbler full.  While the Scotch served to at least to help her get breathing under control, it also made her aware of the man who was holding her on his lap. It didn’t hurt that he was also stroking her back as he held her against his strong body, crooning comforting words in her ear. Even now she could remember his masculine scent combined with the fragrance of one of her favorite colognes. 

What she had tried to forget the next morning, and for the many days that followed, was how he had put her to bed.  Carrying her into her bedroom, he’d laid her on her four poster bed and began rummaging in her dresser drawers. With a satisfied grunt, that could have been a suppressed chuckle, he returned with one of her many Marvel Superhero nightshirts, this one Batman.  Stripping off the miniscule scraps of material that comprised her outrageous Caligula Club "uniform," he’d slipped the colorful nightshirt over her head and pulled it down to cover her naked body.  When she woke up the next morning after a fitful sleep, she was horrified at the memory of a gorgeous hunk of a guy undressing her and seeing what he had put on her.  Why, oh why, couldn’t she have had silky sleep slips in her drawer instead of a bunch of juvenile cartoon characters?  Even now she groaned at the memory.

With a soft snort, Ruby realized it was the same feeling she had about what she was wearing now. Knowing that there wasn’t a chance in hell that she and Noah wouldn’t run into each other sometime during the event, she tried unsuccessfully to stretch the tight fabric of her dress an inch or two lower to at least cover her upper thighs.  Her dismay at the dress she had chosen was confirmed when she saw the look on Stuart Mason’s face when he spotted her.  Unfortunately, it was a look that she had seen more than a few times in the past.  Which was problematic since Stuart Mason was her fiancé. 

Stuart’s frown deepened as he approached her. His caustic tone underscored his distaste.  Without bothering to say hello, he grasped her arm and said, “Jesus, Chloe, why did you choose to wear that dress?  I told you specifically that this was a formal affair and that some very important people would be here tonight.”

His distaste was so apparent you’d have thought that she’d chosen to wear one of her many stripper outfits, that she wore routinely in her covert line of work, to a gathering of habit-clad nuns. For a guilty fleeting moment Chloe wondered why she had chosen this particular dress and if perchance she’d done it on purpose to annoy Stuart.  Deciding not to dwell on that self-aware insight, Chloe chose instead to placate him… and at the same time poke at him.  After all, Stuart could do with a little poking. His pompousness demanded it.

“And good evening to you as well, Mr. Mason.  I’m pleased to see you.  And may I say you look wonderful.  I like your tuxedo.  It makes you look impressive. I mean, even more impressive.”

Stuart had the decency to blush at her obvious taunt.  Still gripping her arm, he made an obvious attempt to explain his rudeness.

“I’m… I’m sorry, Chloe.  It’s just that I practically had to sell my left nut to get invited to this shindig.  Only partners at Grafton Summers were guaranteed tickets.  If I wasn’t on the Marshal case, there’s no way I could have wrangled a ticket.” He added with another annoyed glance at her dress, “I thought I’d explained how important this evening is.”

Chloe tossed her head and simpered. “You did.  What you didn’t do, because you knew it was unwise, was to tell me what I should or should not wear.” She added crisply, “Which is a good thing, Stuart, since getting tickets to this important event had more to do with my boss pulling a few strings than the particular case you’re working.”

Stuart’s flush deepened, this time with what looked like anger. His harsh tone confirmed that she had offended him. 

“That’s not the issue, Chloe.  The issue is why you chose, as you so often do, to wear an inappropriate dress.”

Ruby fought the anger constricting her chest.   Not for the first time she wondered what the hell she was doing agreeing to marry Stuart.  Forcing herself to take a deep breath, she began silently listing the factors that had made her accept his proposal.  He worked at a decent law firm and made an acceptable salary.  He wasn’t handsome by any means but he was slender and in reasonably good shape.  He was short--not sideshow short--but at five feet eight inches he was often the shortest man in the group. Chloe didn’t care. In fact, given her own size and the countless nicknames she’d borne all her life, she sympathized with Stuart and continuously told him that she preferred men she didn’t have to look up at.

Stuart didn’t share her passion for sports but then she couldn’t think of anything that Stuart was particularly passionate about except his reliance on manners and status. While that could be annoying, it also underscored what Chloe liked best about him.  He was predictable, almost to a fault.  His job was safe, not especially exciting, but dependable. Her life with him promised to be uneventful in the best sense of the word.  Enough money to live well, support a couple of kids, to buy a house in the suburbs.  You know: the kind of life that normal people had. Normal was something that Chloe (and now Ruby) had longed for her entire life.  Something she had never come close to having.

A deep voice interrupted her reverie.  Without turning, she knew who it was.  The fact that her legs were shaking, and that she had to lean against the pillar to keep from falling confirmed that the handsome man advancing on her was none other than her secret heart throb, Noah Walker. Before she could respond he reached for her hand.

“Chloe, I didn’t expect to see you here. It’s been much too long.”

He glanced at her dress, clearly appraising her audacious attire. Seeing his dark eyes light with mischief, Chloe decided that Stuart was right; the top of the dress was too low and the bottom was too high. Before she could choke out a response, Noah winked at her.

“Great dress, Chloe.”

When she muttered a barely audible “Thanks,” Noah pulled her up next to him and murmured conspiratorially, “It almost beats the Batman nightshirt.” 

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