Wicked Lies

Men Of Summer Book 2


Jazz Lancing is the stuff of legends. A mountain-bred ex-Navy SEAL with rugged dark looks, a tall muscled frame, and gorgeous blue eyes, he can have any woman he wants in the state of Tennessee. Except Annie Mayes. The beautiful, innocent teacher refuses to fall for Jazz because she’s hiding a secret more powerful than her own temptation …


Jazz knows that Annie isn’t who she says she is—that she’s lying about her identity, her past, and her motives. But can she be trusted? Little does he know Annie has been craving his kiss for years, dreaming that Jazz would take her in his arms and save her from her demons. But telling Jazz the truth could put both of them in peril. In this deadly game of danger, deceit, and darkness, is desire worth the risk of losing…everything?

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Loudoun, Tennessee

Damn, he could feel her watching him.

It wasn’t the itch a man got when he was being hunted; he knew that feeling well. This was different. It was an awareness he’d only felt once in his life, with one other person. And if her ghost were going to haunt him, it would have started long before now.

No, the ghost of that young woman wasn’t tracking every move he made. A ghost hadn’t been tracking him for the past three months, either.

As he moved through the crowded clearing next to the lake where the summer weekend gatherings were held, he scanned the tree line covertly, searching for a certain shadow or movement that would identify her hiding place.

What the hell was she up to?

He’d given her plenty of time to come to him and let him know what was going on. More than enough time to stop with the games and mysterious familiarity he glimpsed in her eyes sometimes.

He was better at this game. Most of his life had been spent playing it in the mountains surrounding his home, and often winning had simply meant living another day. And he was still there to prove he knew what he was doing.

The hunter always knew when he was being hunted, though.

Jazz Lancing knew that feeling well. The question was, what exactly did the pretty little thing stalking him want?

The thought sent a chill racing through him, tearing aside any amusement. There was always the chance that some part of his or his adopted brothers’ pasts could be returning to haunt them. But that particular option just didn’t feel right. No, she was just a woman, one with an agenda, one playing a very dangerous game.

“Hey, Jazz, what’s up?” The question had his head turning, his gaze slicing to the other man where he stood against the side of his pickup.

Caine Manning had only been in Loudoun about a year and a half now. He’d bought an old farm outside of town and spent most of his time trying to pull it into shape. The rest of the time he was part of the Maddox family security force known as Kin. But hell, just about every able-bodied, well-trained male in the area with the right mind-set was part of that force.

“Nothin’ much, Caine. You?”

Reaching into the back of the truck and pulling a chilled glass bottle from the tub of ice sitting against the cab, he tossed it Jazz’s way.

Catching it, Jazz glanced at the beer then back to Caine.

“Stay a minute and have a drink.” The other man’s lips quirked with a hard edge as his gaze scanned the crowd. “We’re friends, right?”

Hell, he didn’t need this.

“Yeah, we’re friends.” Twisting the top of the bottle off, he tossed the cap into the back of the truck before leaning against the side. “What does that asshole want now?”

The asshole in question, Cord Maddox, had been noticeably absent when Jazz had needed him the year before. These days Jazz wasn’t in the mood for any favors the other man might need.

“Just a meet,” Caine murmured. “Said to expect him in a few hours. He has a few things he has to take care of first.”

Jazz grunted at the information and took a drink of the beer, his gaze once again scanning the area.

“We’ll see,” he finally answered, catching the surprise that flickered in Caine’s gray eyes. “Tell him I’d like to know where he was when Slade was in New York and we needed his help. He was nowhere to be found.”

Slade was one of Jazz’s brothers, the eldest, the one who had nearly lost his life and the life of his young son while working in DC. Jazz hadn’t appreciated the lack of help when he’d called for it, and he’d sworn then that should Cord need him, then it would just suck for the other man.

Caine nodded slowly. “He said you’d be pissed over that. Said to tell you he was chasing a ghost, and he owes you. The meet isn’t for him, it’s to repay that debt.”

Chasing a ghost.

Jazz froze for a heartbeat of time, some warning sensation rushing through his senses. There was only one ghost he and Cord Maddox could have had in common, and chasing after her was impossible. Unless Cord had figured out how to visit the dead.

The information that this meeting was repayment for being unavailable when he’d been needed was interesting, though. What could the other man have that Jazz would consider valuable enough to cancel that debt?

“I’ll be around,” Jazz told the other man shortly. “Tell him to find me. That’s not an agreement, just a willingness to listen, you hear?”

“I hear ya.” Caine nodded.

Finishing the beer, Jazz tossed the bottle in the trash can tucked into the corner of the pickup’s bed. “If he’s playing games, though, he’ll regret it.”

“I’ll pass the message along,” Caine assured him. “Take it easy, Jazz.”

“Yeah, I’ll do my best.” Turning, Jazz made his way back into the crowd.

Jazz wasn’t in the mood for more games. He’d already forgone his normal weekend attire of cutoff jeans and bare feet for boots, denim, a dark T-shirt, and a knife tucked in his boot. There was a warning brewing in his senses, one he’d become acquainted with years ago and never ignored.

He was ready if trouble came, but trouble hadn’t entered the scene yet, just the awareness of it, the certainty that it was headed his way, in the form of the slight shadow he barely glimpsed that followed him from the side of the hill rising above the clearing.

Using the trees for cover, shielding herself in darkness, she was making her way to him.

And he was waiting for her.

The little schoolteacher was no slouch, either. She’d had practice and she’d obviously had a good teacher at one time. There were several occasions over the past weeks that she’d reminded him of —

The past.

She reminded him of the past and that was something he didn’t want to delve into at the moment. So much so that he had half a mind to ditch Cord’s meeting and just go the hell home.

Right after he confronted his little schoolteacher.

* * *

He couldn’t just stay in one place and let all those simpering, flirting women come to him, could he? Oh hell no, Romeo Lancing had to be in the middle of the crowd where those simpering little twits had an excuse to rub all over him.

She’d heard the rumors that he was a hound dog when she returned to Loudoun, but believing it was something else. You would think watching those women rub over him like cats in heat would be enough proof. The fact that her best friend, Jessie Colter, had told her more than once about Jazz’s inability to form a lasting relationship with a woman was just further proof.

But she remembered the twenty-three-year-old he had been ten summers before, the year she turned seventeen. Popular, wild as the wind, and as charming as any rogue could hope to be. He’d been at her parents’ New Year’s party, and after that he’d become a regular visitor.

Her brothers were at first amused, then irritated. She’d heard of the warnings Jazz had been given where she was concerned. But he’d only had eyes for her. He’d flirted, smiled; he’d lie for her when she hid from her brothers at the gatherings and laugh if they became angry over it.

Once, long ago and far away, she’d been out there, dancing and laughing, secure and certain of her place.

Long ago and far away —

So long ago.

Now Kenni moved in the shadows, watching Jazz, tracking him. Once, she’d attended these weekend get-togethers with her brothers and cousins.

Kenni remembered laughing, flirting, being the social butterfly everyone called her that last summer she’d been home. And as she did all those things, Jazz had watched. He’d smiled when she caught him watching, winking and laughing at her brothers’ wrath.

She would have smiled at the memory if it didn’t hurt so bad.

She hadn’t flirted or danced just for the joy of it, and in the two years since she’d been back in Loudoun she’d learned nothing had changed really. She was still far too attracted to the man who had held such fascination for her when she was younger.

She avoided him, but that didn’t keep her from watching him now as he strode slowly past the bonfire in the center of the clearing. Like a conqueror, a warrior from centuries long gone, he strode past the flames, fierce and unconquerable. Untamed, sexy as hell, sexually renowned, and far too dominant for any woman to ever completely control.

Firelight flickered over his hard features, loved the broad planes and angles and shadowed them perfectly. He looked brooding, intent, and dangerous.


She’d watched him over the past two summers, trying to decide how closely he was tied to her family. Watched as he moved through the gatherings like a panther while everyone else mistook him for an overgrown tomcat. It was almost funny how they missed the animal that lurked around them, always watching, listening, waiting — determined to strike if an enemy showed itself.

At sixteen, almost seventeen, she’d been completely mesmerized by the twenty-three-year-old Jazz. Six and a half feet tall, neon-blue eyes, and rich, thick black hair. He was every girl’s dream, including hers.

She wasn’t a girl anymore. She was an adult and she’d learned just how dangerous it was to need anyone. Jazz was a weakness she simply couldn’t afford. No matter how intent he was on seducing her. But she knew she needed him. And she needed him for something far different from any physical desire that might torment her.

It actually surprised her that he’d stayed in Loudoun though. At thirty-three he’d never married, had no children. The young man had matured into a powerful, dangerously honed adult male cleverly disguised by laughter, jokes, and a facade of innocent, seductive fun.

He’d changed, though. He barely resembled the young man she had known in her teens.

Regret burned inside her chest at the knowledge that she had no idea what had caused those changes in him. She’d been away for eight years with no contact with friends or family and no way of knowing why the Jazz she had known, the one she’d been certain would one day be hers, had lost the gentle softness in his gaze.

Even after her return two years before there was no catching up, no asking why or how or when, because no one knew who she was. The identity she’d returned with would have no cause to know how he’d changed, or why. If anyone here knew who she had been, it would be a death sentence.

The fear of being detected was so strong — and growing stronger by the month now — that she sometimes felt she was becoming paranoid. That the sense of someone watching, waiting, had to be fear rather than fact.

This was the feeling that had her tracking Jazz, had her finally admitting she may need help, despite the terror the thought of revealing herself brought.

She’d been watching him for nearly three months, trying to learn how closely connected he was to her family and the mountain militia group known as the Kin. A group very few people who weren’t a part of were actually aware of.

She’d been back in Loudoun two years and still she hadn’t done what she’d come here to do. She was still hiding, still watching, still wishing …

Still searching for the reason her life had been destroyed. Admitting she couldn’t do it by herself hadn’t been easy. The thought of going to Jazz, or even Jessie’s husband, a former FBI agent, for help, never failed to send panic tearing through her.

She had no idea if these men, adults now, hardened and obviously far stronger than they had been when she’d actually known them, could still be trusted.

Their ties to the Kin had been strong, and those ties were apparent now, but they’d changed. She just couldn’t be certain how.

Jazz chose that moment to stop, laughing at something one of his friends called out to him, distracting her from her thoughts. He was amused, cheerful, and seemed to be as immersed in having fun as everyone else. But there was a tension in his shoulders, a tightness she’d glimpsed in the curve of his lips earlier.

He wasn’t having fun.

As she watched his head turned, his gaze raking along the crowd and the trees that bordered the clearing as though searching for someone, or something. He didn’t look long enough for her to determine who he was searching for, before returning his attention to the conversation. Of course, he knew she was watching him, she’d figured that out months before. Jazz was too well trained by the Kin not to be aware of it. And though she had been trained as well, she hadn’t spent nearly as much time being tutored as he had in the past.

The instincts he’d learned to use in the mountains were so well honed now that there was no way to watch him with anything other than lust and he not be well aware of it. Following him without him knowing it would be all but impossible, even for someone well versed in doing so. She was much better at running than hunting though. The prey rather than the predator.

Admitting she knew how to be no more than the prey was enough to piss her off, too. So much so that the decision to go to Jazz for help still had the power to rake her pride. The damned alley cat.

He was a wild man. He always had been. So tall and muscular and so savagely handsome, like some hero in those crazy romance books. He made a woman feel far too feminine and hungry inside. Her legs weakened, her stomach did all those jumpy acrobatics, and her mouth went dry while another part of her part became so damp and heated it was embarrassing.

Kenni was no different from the throng of lovers he’d had over the years when it came to her fascination with him. He was playful, teasing, seductive. And she was as drawn to him now as she had been that summer. Just as drawn to him as every other woman in his vicinity it seemed. And no woman had a chance at holding his attention, let alone stealing his heart.

No one woman lasted long in his bed, but none left it with a broken heart. Regretful, yes, but they all loved Jazz. He was their best friend and their secret crush, their confidant and their greatest sexual fantasy.

She would never be able to leave his bed and his life without a broken heart, Kenni knew. If she ever became weak enough to allow him to seduce her, then walking away without the agony ripping her apart would be impossible.

Then she’d just have to kill him.

And all that was moot if she didn’t first finish what began ten years ago.

She wasn’t going to do that until she could prove to herself that he wouldn’t betray her. She had little reason to trust the Kin. But then, it was impossible to trust a group that had been trying to kill her for ten years.

As Jazz disappeared into Slade’s RV moments later she stepped from the tree line and began picking her way along the darkened edge of the lake, around the parked RVs, and back toward the parking lot.

Long minutes later, as she slid around the white-and-tan RV belonging to Slade and Jessie Colter, the sound of cartoons and low laughter had her chest clenching in envy.

Jessie Colter had befriended her when she’d first arrived in Loudoun as the new kindergarten teacher, Annie Mayes. Had it not been for Jessie, no doubt she wouldn’t have really made friends. The other woman had insisted Kenni go to dinner with her after school, or have lunch with her occasionally on the weekends.

When Jessie had married her lost love, Slade Colter, the other woman had become an instant mother to Slade’s little boy, Cody. That child was a precocious, sweet-natured little handful. Innocent of face, sincere of speech, and as charming as any six-year-old male could be. He stole hearts right and left.

She did smile then. Just a bit of a curve of her lips before it was quickly pulled back.

“Now, was that a smile on our little schoolteacher’s lips?”

The voice, as dark as the night, as sexy as the man himself, and as dangerous as any male ever born, drew her to a sudden and complete stop as she passed the corner of the Colter RV.

Dammit. Not tonight. Not now. Resisting him now, when she was so weak, would be so much harder.

Jazz had pulled his own RV about five feet past the bumper of his friends’ vehicle at a slight angle that protected the back of Slade and Jessie’s home on wheels. It was from there that he stepped, the bottle of beer held loosely in one hand.

“Jazz …” She stepped back, wondering if it was too late to run.

“Still running scared?” The amusement in his voice pricked her at her pride more now than it usually did.

“Still determined to seduce someone who’s not interested?” she sniffed disdainfully.

God help her. She’d known he was suspicious, but she hadn’t expected him to actually surprise her quite this way.

His brows lowered.

Leaning against the side of his RV, he watched her with that low, brooding frown while he scratched at his chest negligently.

“Not interested, huh?” His lips curved into a grin that didn’t quite reach those brilliant-blue eyes, though a hint of bitterness might have gleamed there. “You wouldn’t lie to me, would you, sweetheart?”

Straight to his face? Well, it wasn’t easy, but of course she would.

“What reason would I have to lie to you, Jazz?”