Friday, March 11, 2022

Read an Excerpt from Diamond: Book 4 (Ladies of the Night Series) by Taylor Lee



Praise for Diamond …
“USA Today best-selling author Taylor Lee does it again! Diamond is the 4th book in Lee’s provocative new series, Ladies of the Night.
“Riley Davis, Code Name: Diamond, founded Ladies of the Night after she was fired by the third off the grid security firm for not being a “team player”. Riley filled her company with women like herself—former military hotshots who were tired of being dismissed by their male counterparts because of their beauty and independence. “
“The Ladies are covert agents in a highly secret, off the grid security organization. Highly trained fighters, they’re as gorgeous as they are dangerous. The only thing these formidable women are NOT is “ladies.”
•Partnering with the elegantly sexy Col. Ross on a covert operation, Diamond finds herself plunged into the cesspool of Washington Politics at the highest levels.

•When their client turns out to be the #1 suspect in the murder of the man running against him for the U.S. Senate, the two agents are caught in an untenable situation.

•A situation almost as conflicted as the one that has been brewing between Diamond and her attractive investor.

•In a deadly mix of murder, lust and politics, Diamond finds herself faced with losing her company or her heart—or both.

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 Diamond and prepare to be addicted.


“I have a proposition for you, Diamond. How would you like to be my lover? For a limited time, obviously.  Say for three--at the most four--weeks?”

Riley Davis stared at the much-too-handsome man, whose slate gray eyes were sparkling with amusement.  Doing her best to keep her jackhammering heart from fracturing her chest wall, Riley forced herself to take a deep breath. Pretending to consider the impertinent ‘proposition’ from the man who’d already turned her life upside down, she said carefully, “I don’t understand. Can you be more specific, Col. Ross?”

Ian Ross grinned at her.  “What don’t you understand, Col. Davis? The three-week timeframe?  Or what being my lover entails?”

Determined to concentrate on their strictly business relationship rather than on Ian’s clearly teasing suggestion, Riley allowed herself to remember the first discussion she had with the imposing man now sitting across from her, his lip quirked up at the corner. Even to this day, a year after creating their partnership, Riley still marveled that she’d been gutsy enough to approach the formidable man.  She knew that sheer desperation had given her courage to do the unthinkable.  That was to ask Ian Ross, the most prominent financier in their city, with connections along both coasts as well as internationally, to invest in her company. Or, more accurately, to invest in her.

When she was fired from the third consecutive undercover operation for what the company owner had the balls to call insubordination, Riley had had it. Knowing that she had nothing to lose, she threw a world class temper tantrum.  Facing down the amazed owner, she’d berated him. Told him that if it was insubordinate to challenge some puffed up flyboy who wouldn’t know how to run an op unless someone tattooed step by step directions on his dick, she’d take insubordination any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. At least the surprised commander had the decency to laugh at her descriptive insult as he showed her out the door.

That night, fighting against her fears, Riley acknowledged that she had burned one bridge too many. The facts were clear: in a word, she was screwed.  There wasn’t a security company in the country that would hire her. She had rebelliousness, and yes, insubordination, written all over her. The worst part was she had brought it on herself. It didn’t matter how many medals and ribbons decorated her Lt. Colonel’s uniform, or how many U. S. Army Generals sang her praises, even while they cautioned that she was a bit, well, ‘ornery’ and not given to taking orders well. 

In the world of elite covert organizations that had their pick of eager ex-military agents, Riley had too much baggage for anyone to put up with her need to rewrite every operation to her exacting specifications, especially since she wasn’t in charge of those operations, indeed was supposed to play a ‘supportive’ role. Those agencies that did take a chance on her--after all she was a shrewd and impressively beautiful woman--made it clear afterwards that they regretted it. After firing her and swearing that they would never hire her again, they rubbed salt in the wound. They made sure every prestigious company they knew understood that Riley Davis was trouble with a capital T.

Attempting to drown out her certainty that she was about to become a bag lady if she couldn’t figure out how to make her skills pay off, she turned to her ever-ready companion, a bottle of scotch. It turned out to be an auspicious choice. After working her way through three quarters of a bottle of Ardbeg, Riley had a daring thought.  If no one would hire her, even though they knew how qualified she was, why not simply hire herself? At least she appreciated her superior talents, and unlike her male counterparts she rather liked her admitted irascibility. In other words, why not start her own damn company?!

The next morning when a blinding headache was all that remained of the alcoholic haze, forming her own company seemed precisely as ludicrous as it actually was.  Deep in the alcoholic glow the night before she had conceived the blueprint of her incipient enterprise. She’d even come up with a name for it.  LOTN, Inc. or Ladies of the Night would be a woman-owned firm and hire only women.  Riley loved the audacious play on words that Ladies of the Night implied. Virtually every op she’d been part of required her to play a slut and she was damn good at it, as were most of her female operative colleagues. So why not exploit the image that was already front and center among the companies that needed beautiful undercover agents? Hell, men, at least the ones she knew, thought that all women were whores anyway, so why not appeal to their prejudice and turn it to her professional advantage? 

Riley convinced herself that if anyone could create a company that provided superlatively trained women operatives, she could.  She knew the kind of women that high level missions required.  She should.  She was one of them.  At base, the women needed to be accomplished fighters, the equal of the evil men they were after. They needed to know weapons from the ground up, and have the marksmanship awards to prove it.  They would be smart, confident and worldly.  And of course, it went without saying: they would also be beautiful and sexy as hell. 

Interestingly she didn’t include on her list of required attributes the ability to follow orders.  In any efficient organization that was a given, but Riley refused to make ‘obedience’ an explicitly stated criterion.  She knew that the women had to be strong enough to hold their own with the dominant males they were sure to encounter.  They would need to be assertive, and yes, opinionated.  They would know that they were key to a successful operation, and claim that position. In other words, Riley wanted to create a firm that would have been thrilled to hire her.

She was confident she could sell the concept to the covert companies who were crying out for trained women. But she intended to be choosey.  She’d make it clear from the inception that LOTN was highly selective.  Her Ladies would only work with the best and for the best.  The outrageous fees she intended to charge would make it clear, that if the hiring firms thought they were elite, they didn’t compare to the LOTN Ladies.

In the cold, dreary morning light, when even an icepack over her eyes and a double dose of Ibuprofen didn’t stop the throbbing pain that had her begging hangover gods for mercy, Riley came to grips with reality. She reluctantly admitted that while her idea was brilliant, and one that she was sure would work, it was nonetheless doomed to failure. She had inspiration and confidence up the wazoo.  What she didn’t have were the critical ingredients that would make her audacious dream a reality.

The first necessity was money, lots of it.  The second was entry into the elite group of stratospheric companies that ruled the covert world.  Unfortunately she’d been fired from virtually all of them.

Refusing to give up on what she was confident was a brilliant concept, she acknowledged that she needed a backer. Riley combed the financial press and the internet looking for investors, particularly ones who were connected to the powerful individuals inhabiting her world. She approached the few security firm leaders who would still talk to her asking them how they’d funded their emerging organizations. The name that came up again and again was Ian Ross.

Ross was reported to dine frequently in the private dining room at the White House and lunched with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He was a familiar face in the halls of Congress and often golfed with the heads of the alphabet soup organizations that hired the anonymous covert firms to do the work that the government agencies could not. If anyone was a mover and shaker in political, military and corporate circles, it was Ian Ross.  And, like Riley, the handsome playboy called Arizona his home, which made contacting him a real possibility. 

Once she was confident that Ross was her man, Riley appealed to one of her least negative former generals to engineer a meeting with the superstar. Within days, to her surprise, she received a text message from Ian Ross himself, inviting her to dinner at Bigelow’s, a high end restaurant in a swanky part of town. As she prepared for the meeting, Riley nearly lost her nerve.  For God’s sake, how many newspaper and internet stories did she have to read to know that the unbelievably handsome man was a player of repute?  On the internet alone, a search for ‘Ian Ross and the women in his life’ pulled up a bevy of beauties from every corner of society.  Movie stars, fashion models, and society princesses filled the roster.  Clicking through countless photographs of Ross at one social event after another, the only consistent characteristic of his ‘companion of the moment’ was that all the women were stunningly beautiful and that each one was staring adoringly at the tall dark-haired man beside her.  

On the night of the interview, after trying on the umpteenth outfit, Riley stared in despair at the heap of rejected clothing spewed across her bedroom floor.  She finally conceded that she didn’t have a professional business suit in her wardrobe.  Now if a slutty, ‘come hither’ ensemble was required, she had a closetful.  But a tailored suit?  Or a somewhat modest dress?  Nada!  She chided herself. God, why hadn’t she thought of this before? She could have bought something—or better yet cancelled the damn meeting. Sucking in a deep breath, Riley reminded herself that she was a retired Lt. Col. in the U.S Army and that she had faced down terrorists of every stripe--and survived. She added to herself with a snort of satisfaction that most of the bad guys hadn’t.  

Glancing in the wall of mirrors decorating the entrance to the restaurant, Riley groaned.  Damn, did her fire engine red dress really end six inches above her knee?  Could it get any tighter, cling any more obviously to her hips and ass?  Refusing to stare at her voluptuous breasts that seemed intent on escaping the low cut neckline of her dress, Riley admitted that her decision to look like the woman she usually played in her undercover operations had been a serious mistake.  Accepting that, other than turning tail and running, there was nothing to do but face the man who held her professional fate in his hands.

Assuming that she was early and would have the opportunity to sit down and remember how to breathe before he arrived, Riley was horrified when a tuxedoed Maître’ D. approached her and indicated that Mr. Ross was waiting for her. Donning her most imperious expression she walked across what seemed like a fifty foot runway to the table where Ian Ross rose to his feet and greeted her with a pleasant smile. Trying not to stare at the sinfully handsome man, Riley did her best to smile in return.

“Ah, you must be Riley Davis.”  He added with an amused glance at her dress, “At least I hope that you are.”

Pulling out her chair, Ian seated her and then moved to sit in the chair across from her.  Riley noted nervously that all the adjacent tables were empty.  Apparently Mr. Ross could even control who dined next to him. It was hard not to gawk at the impressive man.  If anything he was even more handsome than the myriad photographs she’d studied.  He was tall and had the sinewy build of a panther: sleek, slim, muscular.  Riley saw military written all over him, but unlike the ex-military men she knew, Ross oozed wealth. 

It wasn’t just his artfully styled short dark hair sprinkled with gray at the temples.  Or his tailored jacket and creased trousers that had to have been custom made, they fit his body so perfectly. His white silk shirt was open at the collar and revealed a light dusting of crisp black hair that made her stomach clench. Riley thought with a despairing sigh that everything about him screamed sophistication beyond her own, and with a surprising hint of sexuality. Damn, he could’ve been the cover model for a GQ spread featuring wealthy, designer conscious men. Which made her over-the-top dress and matching stiletto high heels even more garish in comparison. 

Interrupting her dismayed assessment, Ross focused an interested gaze on her. In a charming, cultured voice with a hint of an accent that she couldn’t place, he said, “I hope you don’t mind that I invited you to dinner, Riley.  According to Gen. Matthias, you have an important proposal for me and I wanted to be certain that we had an appropriate amount of time to discuss it.” He added with a boyish grin, “Besides I can’t think of a better way to get to know one another than over a bottle of wine. In the glow of candles, no less.”

If she hadn’t been intimidated before, at his openly suggestive remark, Riley didn’t know how she could possibly tell him that she was here to ask for his money, and plenty of it.  Fortunately Ian took the decision away from her.  Narrowing his gaze, he said, “Well, as they say, enough foreplay.  Tell me, Riley, what can I do for you?”

Rather than being intimidated by his assertive question, Riley was galvanized although even she was surprised at her answer.  

“I need money.”

If Ross was surprised by her candid response, he merely nodded.

“I see.  How much money?”

Never thinking they would get to this point in their preliminary meeting, Riley realized she didn’t know.  Actually it was worse. She had no idea. The best she could do was to swallow hard and hope that her cheeks weren’t as red hot as they felt.  It didn’t help that her voice shook. ` “I…I’m not sure.”

Ian raised an eyebrow and narrowed his gaze. “Well, my dear, I can hardly give you money if you don’t know how much you need.”

 Apparently taking pity on her, he added, “I have an idea.  How about you tell me what you want it for and I’ll see if I can suggest an amount.”

Beyond surprised, Riley began to explain.  At first stumbling over the words, Ian’s focused attention gave her courage.  Five minutes later after she’d poured out her dream to the daunting man she’d just met, she stopped short, realizing he hadn’t said a word during her garbled, breathless recital.  After what seemed like an interminable silence but was likely seconds at the most, Ian nodded.

“That’s an intriguing concept, Riley.  What very few people know is that I also own a security company.” He added with a dismissive arch of his brow, “However, we work so far off the grid, not even our competitors know we’re in the arena. I will tell you that finding the level of female operatives you describe is in fact one of my biggest challenges.”

Thinking that he had misunderstood her, Riley blurted, “B-but I don’t want to work for you.”

“What do you want, Riley?”

“I want you to…to invest in me.”

“Money or time?”

“Both.”  She quickly added, “But you can’t own me.  I must own my own company.”

Horrified that she was setting qualifications for his support, Riley was relieved when Ross nodded in agreement. 

“I won’t own you, but I will take 25% of your gross profits and supervise your hiring practices. In addition, at least in the beginning, I will need to approve each of your contracts.  Both the scope of the project and the proposed fee.”

Seeing the firm set of Ross’ jaw, it had taken Riley a spilt second to know that what the accomplished financier was offering was a take it or leave it deal. 

She took it.


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