Hunter Monroe needs a smart woman who can defend herself. The only woman he knows to meet the criteria is his former cop partner, Regina Arrigoni. She saved his life, so he knows he can count on her. She’s fit, strong and wily, but can she be feminine, soft and a submissive wife to him, requirements for the job infiltrating The House of Christian Love to retrieve his quarry?
Regina’s a cop, She is strong, smart, independent, and able to defend herself. When her former partner, Hunter Monroe, now a P.I., asks if she can work a job with him as his submissive wife, she has her doubts, for the first time in her life, of being able to successfully complete a job. But Hunter knows she’s the world’s worst money manager and makes her an offer she can’t refuse—if she partners him in the job he’ll pay off her credit cards, which are way out of hand. Also, her chief wants her to take the job with him and offers her a promotion from beat cop to detective once the job is completed to Hunter’s satisfaction. So what’s not to like about being debt free and a promotion?
But Regina worries about acting the part of a submissive wife to Hunter’s dominant husband role. Can she play a part that is so foreign to her and be believable?
Release Date: June 22, 2021
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
A Red Satin Romance
Groveland Police Department
Just when Officer Regina Arrigoni’s life had grown downright predictable and stale as day-old bread, her ex-partner entered to rile things up.
She stood in Police Chief Maria Sanchez’s doorway, studying Hunter Monroe, where he slouched in a chair beside the chief’s desk, his face in profile—until he turned and met Regina’s eyes, then slowly rose to his feet.
He was still handsome as a GQ model, but with a few rough edges to him. With his rich brown hair, he always seemed to sport a five o’clock beard by noon, and his eyes were dark and riveting still.
Regina’s boss sat behind her desk, dressed in her police-issued navy-blue suit and crisp white shirt, her long indigo-colored hair pinned up neatly as usual. “Have a seat, Officer Arrigoni,” she said, indicating with a pen at a chair next to Hunter’s. “I believe you two know each other.”
What an understatement.
Regina closed the door, paused beside Hunter and shook his outstretched hand before easing into the chair next to him, bumping elbows with him after he sat down again. The three of them were in a half-circle, almost in a huddle. Memories flooded her mind and soul as she caught his scent, a combination of leather, tobacco and sweat. “Hey, how are you doing?” she softly inquired, turning her body to face him, devouring all of him with a smile on her lips.
He gave her a hard, narrow-eyed look. “Not bad. You?” he asked.
From his body language—how he sat facing the chief and not her spoke volumes. She’d caught a hint of indifference in his tone, but said breezily, “Just hunky-dory.”
From his aloof tone, she guessed he held a grudge. Against her. She imagined he was still angry she’d left the force and him two years ago, without telling him. Once he had been released from the hospital and returned home, to his wife, the best thing she could do for herself and him back then was leave Chicago. Closing him out of her life had been the right thing to do.
He’d been the first married man she’d fallen in love with—and the last. Never again. Thank God he never knew about her feelings for him.
“So, long time no see,” she said, breaking the silence, guessing he’d say something about her leaving the Chicago police force sooner than later. “What’s going on?”
“I’m hoping you can help me work a case.”
His lips were turned up into a smirk-style smile that had both irked and excited her in the past. He was still cocky—confident is what he’d say. She faced the fact she still adored him. Besides, ‘the attitude’ suited him.
“This is the job I briefly mentioned yesterday,” Chief Sanchez said. Her boss was confident, built like a racehorse, tall and lean—young to be a police chief, at thirty. She was also single, and decidedly a career woman. Never had there been a word of gossip about the chief, though a few of the male officers insinuated she was a lesbian—it was never mentioned aloud. Regina thought, more power to her.
The chief rose from her chair, her posture straight and tall. She swung her hips as her long-legged strides carried her to the door. She paused before leaving and added, with a wry smile at them, “I’ll leave you two to your discussion. Good seeing you, Hunter.”
Hunter inclined his head and the chief left.
Regina knew the case involved the disappearance of a wealthy young woman in Chicago, but that was the extent of information she’d received.
During the years she and Hunter had worked together, Regina had gotten into more than one sticky predicament in the line of duty, in particular the last incident to which they’d responded to, as partners. Never would she forget the gut-wrenching feeling of dread when she saw Hunter take two bullets, in the back. She recalled how her voice trembled as she called in the code for back-up assistance, hovering over him, gun out, watching covertly for his assailant’s return.
Once Regina learned Hunter would recover, she’d put in her notice at Chicago Police Department and took her current job in Groveland, a small community not thirty minutes away from her previous station.
Hunter, after healing, remained in Chicago, but had left the force, and had started his own P. I. business, which was now highly successful as Regina had read plenty about him in the newspapers.
After the door closed, Regina turned sideways to face him. “Okay, let’s hear it.”
He relaxed against the back of his chair with a nod. “The job involves infiltrating a church called The House of Christian Love, though I’ve several sources who’ve confirmed it isn’t a church at all, but a cover for a sex establishment. It’s located smack in the middle of Chicago, near our old beat.”
“How long has the woman been missing?”
“About a month.”
“The trail’s likely gone cold by now,” Regina said, stunned.
Hunter grimaced as he crossed one knee over the other. “I don’t like it any better than you. Chicago police have been working on it around the clock, from the moment the woman’s parents reported her missing, the day after she disappeared. They just recently managed to get someone inside the place.”
“That’s good. Can they secure a search warrant?”
He shook his head. “Nope. That’s why they hired me.”
“So, why contact our police department?” she asked.
“The family’s originally from Groveland and has donated generously to your mayor’s upcoming race. The mayor called and asked your chief for help. Since the case is out of Groveland’s jurisdiction, the force can’t be directly involved, but your boss suggested, since we knew each other, and had worked together successfully in the past, that you might be willing to help out.”
“Darn,” she said, under her breath, “I haven’t heard a thing about this. Nothing on the news, internet or in the newspapers.”
“It’s not gone public yet. The woman’s father wants it kept quiet, and being a wealthy man helps.”
Funny how things always seemed to boil down to either money or politics, or both.
“So, you’re saying you’ve tracked this woman down to this place, right?” At his curt nod, she added, “Tell me what you know so far about this church.”
“It’s a place that follows the tenets of domestic discipline, though the fact isn’t widely known. Most people just know it as one of those strange, cult-like churches.”
“Domestic...what?” she said, unable to keep the squeak out of her voice.
Hunter’s cool, dark-eyed gaze slid over her curves before finally settling on her eyes.
She cringed, wishing she’d done a better job laying off the donuts since he’d seen her last.
“It’s when a wife gives her husband carte blanche over her person. She gives him complete control of their lives, makes all the decisions, basically he’s head of household.”
A shot of desire blazed through Regina at the look he gave her. It took her a moment to realize he was waiting for a response. “Huh?”
Now the look he leveled on her was impatient and annoyed. Better, she decided.
“Bottom line is, no pun intended, a husband can—discipline his wife if she doesn’t do what he says.”
“You know what I mean,” he snapped as he dropped his crossed leg to the floor.
She shrugged. “No idea what you’re talking about, and—”
“You always understood better by doing rather than words,” he growled.
She emitted a shriek when he launched her easily over his knee.
“Hunter!” She flailed without success to get up. His arm was an iron band around her waist, holding her in place.
At that moment, the chief stuck her head inside, her eyes wide at first, then narrowed as a small smile slid across her lips. “Sorry. From the noise I thought you were done. I’ll just use a phone in another office,” she said, then quickly shut the door.
Just as quickly, Hunter yanked Regina back up and pushed her down in her chair again. “You get the idea?”
Regina scowled. “I can’t believe this,” then added, “does it work both ways?”
Hunter’s eyebrows shot up. “What do you mean?”
“Does the wife get to smack the hubby around?”
“Get real, Regina,” he drawled, his voice laced with irony.
“This isn’t a joke, is it?” She narrowed her eyes on him.
“No. Here’s the latest on the case. My client’s daughter had been seen entering the place with a man they didn’t recognize and hasn’t been seen leaving the place since. There just happened to be outdoor cameras outside the facility that caught her. Her family believes she’s being detained there against her will. And a steady stream of money has been leaving a joint account the woman has with her parents, funds payable to the House. I could use your back up and experience to get her out of there.”
“You mean assuming she’s there against her will,” Regina replied. At Hunter’s nod, she added, “How? What would I need to do?”
“Since we haven’t been able to get a search warrant, thought we’d go in undercover with you as my wife.”
Wife! Regina gulped, concealing the longing in her heart and, hopefully, her face devoid of expression. How often had she wondered what it would be like being his wife?
“To infiltrate the house, we’d pose as a loving couple—you the dutiful wife wanting to make me, your new husband, completely happy.”
“But what exactly does the job entail?”
“Like I said, we’d pose as husband and wife, seeking to live in joyful, marital harmony, in the domestic discipline lifestyle that this particular house upholds. We’d go through training sessions together, rather, you would go through the training. I’d be your trainer, first here, before we enter the house, then we’ll receive further instruction upon entering the place.”
“Uh-huh.” Regina grimaced, beginning to see the nature of the job. She’d had no experience in the area but had heard a bit about the BDSM lifestyle from other cops who had. Dare she go any further with her burning questions? She looked away, thinking how little information she had to make a decision. All she knew was this job, according to her boss, could be her break-out case to advancing her career, which was a huge enticement.
If she made detective, there’d be no more wearing uniforms that fit too snug over her curves and stuck to her in sweltering heat on a day like today. No more talking to school-aged kids about safety and not using drugs but, best of all, no more driving a patrol car aimlessly about the town, waiting for someone to commit a crime; for that matter, waiting for anything to happen.
She had only herself to blame for her boring existence. It had been what she thought she’d wanted two years ago. She had applied for and bagged the job as a suburban cop in this wealthy community northeast of Chicago, about half an hour away. In hindsight, she should have stayed with the Chicago force but back then, she’d been sick and tired of big-city street action after Hunter had been shot. She also left, knowing she couldn’t trust herself around him any longer. It was months later she learned he’d left the force too.
Back then, Regina and Hunter had been partners. At thirty-four he was seven years older than her, he had always taken the lead and she had always followed, though she had questioned him plenty. Consequently, they’d butted heads on a daily basis, with her generally the loser. She sighed. No matter what anyone said, it was still a ‘man’s world.’ But then, she never minded losing to Hunter since his instincts were keener than hers and, in the end, he was generally right.
Her gaze riveted on him again. His jaw was still angular, his cheekbones high and lips finely chiseled. His deep brown hair, once cut military short, had grown, bangs rakishly long. He gave her a steady look with dark eyes that pierced her body and soul. Heat poured through her, though the air-conditioning was running full blast. He emanated a masculinity that excited her, but she had always concealed her feelings from him. Two years ago, she’d been half-crazy in love with him—but not any longer. Liar!
“Regina?” Hunter said, “We need to begin working together on this case sooner than later.”
“I’m not sure... I’m thinking this over.”
She paused when he rose from his chair, his eyes flickering over her body again, his hands buried in his pants pockets, leaving his jacket open where she could view his package. Quickly, she looked away as heat filled her face.
He shrugged. “Guess it was worth a shot. You wouldn’t have been right for the job, anyway.”
Inside, Regina bristled, not too surprised he seemed to be taking her uncertainty personally. They had plenty of close, personal history between them; she’d saved his life. You can’t get more personal than that.
“I’ll find someone else.” He turned on his heel, ready to head for the door.
Thinking again about the possibility of advancing in the force, Regina came to a decision and rose from her chair. She couldn’t allow this opportunity to slip away. This might be her only chance for promotion for a long while, if ever.
Before he got too far, she stepped after him and clamped a hand around his forearm, feeling his strength.
“Wait a darned minute, Monroe. I need to hear details about this job before I make my final decision.”
She tilted her head back and scowled at him. “Something funny?”
“You’re the only cop I’ve ever heard, male or female, say darn instead of damn.” His eyes riveted on her, and he added softly, “Always liked that about you.”
She shrugged. “I know of more effective ways to deal with situations than swearing.” Not to mention the fact that she’d grown up hearing her father curse, to her mother’s everlasting annoyance, yet he’d been a kind, gentle father—also a cop. Neither of her parents had wanted her to become a cop, but nothing they said could deter her. Her father had retired early from the force, though, for her mother’s sake. Every time the poor man left to go to work her mother complained and whined for him to find another job. He luckily had come into an unexpected inheritance at the age of forty-three. That was three years ago, and he and her mother spent the cold weather months in Florida, and the rest in Chicago, in the home Regina had grown up in. Now her mother, whenever she spoke to her, asked her to find a different line of work, but Regina couldn’t. Being a cop was in her blood.
“Yeah, I know.” He took her hands, looked down at them with a wry smile. “You bite your nails to the quick, instead.”
She shrugged. “So I save money on no manicures.”
At his touch, more heat tore through her body and her hands numbed. She put it down to the fact he held her wrists in a tight grip, short-circuiting her circulation. She knew it was an excuse. This man alone had the ability to cause her to feel like a cat in heat, merely from the simple touch of his hand.
While working with him, she’d kept as much distance as possible between them, for good reason; the few times they’d made physical contact all sorts of crazy things had happened to her body—like moistness seeping into every crevice and between her thighs. The man had always affected her that way, but she’d kept her paws off him. In her book of ethics, married men were off-limits.
He was still trim and fit. His broad shoulders were clad in a washed linen-look shirt, a solid dark blue tie around his neck. His hips were narrow, and she recalled how fine his ass looked tucked into his uniform pants, or in a pair of jeans. Now he wore a pair of twill slacks, giving him a professional appearance. He looked good, and all of the passion she’d felt in the past crashed to the surface. Damn! And now he had her swearing besides, though she decided it didn’t count because she did it inside her head.
“I require details, like I said, lots of ’em.” She yanked her hands from his, crossed the room, and plopped down on a window ledge.
Hunter raised his brows and folded his arms across his chest. “If we’re to keep our cover, you would have to follow every order I give, each and every one, without hesitation, and without argument.”
She caught the gleam in his eyes and lifted her chin. “I’m good at following orders, you know that.”
“Right,” he said skeptically. “Like I said, we’ll be pretending we’ve just returned from our honeymoon. You will need to act as if you’re unequivocally surrendering yourself to me.”
Surrendering? Regina squirmed at the word yet managed to say, “When we worked together before, you knew you could depend on me.”
She saw the sincerity in his eyes and the softening as well. “I can’t think of a better cop to cover my back than you. Bottom line, though, we need to convince people we’re in love, and that every command I give you will follow.”
Regina caught the low purr in his voice, saw how his gaze swept over her body with an intimacy she’d never seen from him before. Something was different about him. Was it her imagination or was he looking at her differently? Like—way differently! With blatant desire, she decided, gazing into his brown orbs again. Gulp. “I don’t know if I can do that—and be convincing.”
“I think you can, or I wouldn’t be here. You did when we were partners, albeit, not without an argument first, but that won’t be allowed.”
They’d rarely agreed on procedure; he went strictly by the book while she was somewhat of a renegade. Their association, for the most part, had been an emulsion of oil and water for the good times; gasoline on an open flame for the others. They had found a way to live with it. But the most important thing was that they’d always had each other’s backs.
He drew near and stopped in front of her. Then her heart sped up when his fingers quickly pulled one strand of her upswept hair loose and he curled it around his finger.
She looked up at him, her mouth gaping, as he examined her hair and spoke softly. “We’ll need to spend time together first, practice our relationship so that it’s believable, in order to allay any suspicions once we do enter this church, so to speak. There you will pretend to take instruction in how to become the perfect, obedient little spouse.”
‘Little’ had never been a word used to describe Regina. She was five-eight, one-hundred fifty pounds. She scoffed, “Sounds like we’re talking about me training to become a Stepford wife.”
“That’s about it. You’re on day shift this week, right?”
“Good. After work each day, we’ll work on our roles over the next several days. That should give us enough time to learn our parts.”
Sweat gathered on her brow and upper lip at the idea of spending so much time with him. What am I thinking? Even play-acting wouldn’t work. He was married. She imagined the look on his wife’s face when she learned about the job.
Regina shook her head. “There’s no way I can be submissive to you, or to any man for that matter.”
Hunter scowled, stepped back from her, folding his arms across his chest. “We’re talking make believe. Make up your mind. I haven’t got time for this.”
“The more I hear about this case the less I want to be a part of it. Forget it.” She rose from the window’s ledge, took a step, and stopped. Hunter had moved into her path.
Reaching out he grasped her shoulders and peered into her eyes. “Why? Be straight with me. We worked together for a few years just fine, and I think we know each other well enough that this shouldn’t be too uncomfortable, maybe initially, but we’ll get used to each other. And we’ll just have to keep reminding ourselves it’s a job.”
“All right. If I were your wife, I wouldn’t want you to do this job with me, that’s why.”
He frowned. “Sheila and I got divorced a year and a half ago. I assumed you knew.”
“I...I had no idea.” It didn’t change things. Right! She stepped out of his hold. “I just can’t do the subservient little woman routine. Folks would know we weren’t the real thing.” She gave him a sardonic once-over. “Besides, we’re close to the same size for God’s sake.” She swept a hand down her body and added, “No one would ever believe you could handle me.”
His eyes narrowed. “Are you saying I’m not capable of taking you down?” he snapped.
She nodded, comparing his tall, lean, muscular build against her own. “You got that right. You’ve got maybe four inches on me, but that’s it, and maybe fifty pounds.”
His eyes spit fire at her. “You got a gym around here?” he asked.
His eyes were hot and demanding...not with anger, she decided, but...lust? No way!
“Meet me there tonight when you’re done with your shift and we’ll settle this.”
She gulped, prayed he didn’t see it, then plastered on an innocent smile. “You’re on, Monroe. Six o’clock okay with you?”
“Jackson’s Gym is on Fourth Street and Tenth Avenue in the middle of town. You can’t miss it.”
He nodded. “Let’s set the ground rules. When I win, you’ll do the job, and you’ll do it well and follow every order from me. Not to mention the promotion in your department you’ll be awarded. Got it?”
Regina loved a challenge same as he, possibly more. And she loved the bantering between them—had missed it.
“When you win? You’re on, Mister P.I. The way I see it, you’ve more to gain from all of this than me. What do I get when I win, aside from a promotion?”
He rolled his eyes, hands on his hips. “We’d have to keep this on the Q. T. but how much do you owe on your Visa these days?”
Obviously, he remembered how money-management had been a low priority in her life.
She gave him a smug smile and leaned back against the desk. “I have two cards now, a Visa and a MasterCard, totaling three k.”
He growled and went nose to nose with her. “You deserve a trip over my knee, woman.”
Heat flooded her face, and she gawked at him, unable to think of a reply to his audacious comment. Also, she didn’t like the wicked gleam in his eyes. More than once, propriety, the nature of their being co-workers, and the fact he was married, had prevented either of them from forming any intimate ties. She had dreamed of him kissing her—dreamed of making love with him—even some kinky stuff...but not a—she could hardly think the word let alone say it—spanking! Discipline. He wouldn’t dare.
“Well, have we a deal?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.
“I’ll pay them off if you win,” he grumbled, “but not before taking my palm to your ass,” he warned. “That’s part of the deal, got it?”
She gulped and reluctantly nodded. “Deal,” she said softly, as she imagined him taking her over his knee. Maybe that kind of kinky stuff wouldn’t be too bad... She shook her head. What in the hell was she thinking?
“Well, that doesn’t sound like much of a win for me, though,” she griped.
He remained silent with a smirk on his face. She gulped at the very picture he portrayed and squirmed as she thought about it, biting her bottom lip, looking up at him from beneath her lashes, arms folded behind her, hands resting on her seat pants pockets. There was no way he’d do it, she decided, then grinned.
“You’re on, Monroe,” adding, “I like the idea of being debt-free.” But at the price of a humiliating experience culminating in a sore ass if he won the match? Nah, he wouldn’t do it.