Sinful Secrets

August 1, 2014

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Cynthia Eden delivers a sexy romantic suspense tale…SINFUL SECRETS.

One year ago, Catherine Donnelly spent a wild night in a stranger’s arms. Sexy and mysterious, Jason August broke through all of Cat’s defenses. But when dawn came, she ran from his bed, and she never looked back, until now…

Catherine vanished from Jason’s life before, and he isn’t about to let her escape again. Cat will discover that the only man who can truly keep her safe in a world gone mad…well, that would be the man she married a year ago, on one hot Vegas night.

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A dangerous man should never look so innocent.

Catherine Donnelly stared down at her lover. His sun-kissed skin was a sharp contrast to the silken, white bed sheets around him. His dark hair was mussed—from her fingers—and his eyes, those amazing, golden eyes, were closed in sleep.

An empty bottle of champagne sat on the nearby nightstand. Another empty bottle was at the foot of the bed. She licked her lips—Cat could still taste the champagne…and him.

Jason August. Not the man of her dreams, after all. More like the man from her nightmares.

Her heart thundered in her chest as she slowly backed away from the bed. Don’t wake up. Don’t. Because she didn’t want to talk to him. Couldn’t.

Cat didn’t want to break in front of Jason.

The hotel room was wrecked—from them. The night had been like something out of a dream. She’d never imagined that she could feel that much pleasure.

Or, right then…so much pain.

She’d spent the last week with him. Been lost in him. Too late, sanity had stirred within her.

He wasn’t the man she’d thought. Not just a sensual stranger who wanted to look past the façade she presented to the world.

Jason August was her enemy, and she could never, ever forget that.

Cat hesitated at the hotel room’s door. Helplessly, her eyes kept returning to Jason. She’d touched every inch of his body during the night. Just as he’d explored all of her. For once, she’d completely let go with her lover.

She’d known him for a week. Finally given in to her need—their need—and had sex with him less than seven hours ago. Sex that had lasted and lasted…sex that, Cat was sure, had ruined her for other men.

Too good. I should have known there would be a price for pleasure like that.

Her hands were trembling. She forced her gaze to move away from him. Then Cat slowly removed the ring from her left hand. A simple gold ring. Not so perfect any longer. She put it near his briefcase. The case that she’d foolishly opened while he slept.

The ring meant nothing. Last night had just been a fantasy. A beautiful dream that had finally ended with the cold approach of dawn. Nothing about those hours had been real.

Well, nothing but the pleasure…

And the pain.

Cat slipped out of the room, and she didn’t look back.

Chapter One

One year later…

She wasn’t used to hiding in the shadows. And when it came to hiding in the shadows that were outside of a rather infamous sex club…Catherine “Cat” Donnelly knew she was involved in a situation that was way over her head.

The Playhouse was busy that night—but then, according to the stories she’d heard, the place was busy every night. Filled with the rich and elite, it was a perfect, sensual playground for them. A club without limits.

It was also a club that she was supposed to enter that night.

Provided, of course, that she could actually step out of the shadows and walk inside the place. So far, she sure hadn’t gotten up the courage to approach those heavy, wrought-iron gates.

Her hands smoothed over her clothing. She’d seen people wearing all kinds of outfits during her shadow-lurk time. Some women had sashayed inside while covered in head-to-toe leather. Others had glided in wearing four-inch-heels and clad in dresses that seemed to be made of diamonds.

Cat glanced down at her t-shirt and jeans. Fantastic. Talk about the plain Jane heading in with the butterflies.

But it wasn’t as if she had a lot of choice in the matter. She’d been blackmailed into this little meeting, and the last thing she wanted to do was attract attention as she went inside. Hmm…surely there was a side door at that place. A less, attention-grabbing entrance.

Instead of heading toward the bright lights and the main entrance gate, Cat slunk back even deeper into the shadows. She’d circle around the place again and maybe find—

A warm, hard hand curled around her, and Cat screamed. The cry she emitted was certainly no delicate little gasp of a scream. It was a full-on, terror-filled shriek that broke the night.

But the man holding her just laughed as he turned Cat in his powerful embrace. “Oh, love, do you really think screams matter out here?”

His voice…

“The Playhouse is full of screams, though most of them are of the pleasure-filled variety.” The faintest hint of a British accent underscored his words.

It was the same voice that had been haunting her—every day and night—for the last year. It was a voice that she had wanted to forget, but never could. A voice that belonged to—

Jason August.

The most dangerous man she’d ever met. The man she’d hoped to never see again.

The man who was currently holding her far too tightly. Their bodies were pressed flush together, and Cat could feel every inch of his steely strength against her.

“Let me go.” In contrast to her scream, her words were now barely whispered.

Darkness surrounded them, so she couldn’t see his expression, but she could just make out the slight, negative shake of his head. “Let you go? After I’ve gone to all the trouble of getting you back? Oh, love, I don’t think so.”

She kicked against him, a hard hit of her sneakered foot against his shin, but he just laughed again.

He was as big as she remembered, easily close to six foot-three, with wide football player shoulders—not that the man had ever tossed a football. And holding her and her five foot-four inch self sure didn’t seem to be a strain for him.

“You need to calm down,” Jason told her in that rumbling voice that had once made her panties melt, “and then we’ll—”

“What the hell is going on here?” A man’s voice demanded, cutting through Jason’s words.

A beam of bright light hit them. A flashlight. Jason’s hold eased, just a bit, and Cat was able to turn in his arms and face that light. Of course, the light immediately blinded her so that she had to blink and squint to try and see her rescuer.

“Mr. August?” Shock coated the rescuer’s voice. “I-I was doing a security check and I thought I heard a scream—”

“That was my scream,” Cat gasped out.

“Be very careful,” Jason’s voice was a lethal whisper in her ear. “This isn’t a safe place for you.”

What was that supposed to mean?

The light slid off Cat’s face and raked down her body. “You know the rules, Mr. August,” her rescuer said. Cat knew they were being confronted by one of the Playhouse’s staff members. “No play outside the doors.”

Play? Play? “I’m not playing—”

Jason’s hold tightened on her. “My apologies, Charles. My lady and I were just on our way to my car when we just had to…stop…for a moment. It was the heat of the moment. I’m sure you understand.”

Charles chuckled, and Cat wanted to slug him. So much for a rescue.

Jason started dragging her away from the guy—Charles—and deeper into the shadows. The lights of the Playhouse would vanish in a few more moments as they headed back down the street.

“Wait!” Cat called out, frantic.

“Despite what you might think,” Jason gritted out, as his lips brushed over the shell of her ear, “I’m actually trying to save that sweet ass of yours.”

Trying to save it?

She stopped fighting. The sound of Charles’s retreating footsteps barely reached her ears as she turned to face Jason. “You mean you’re not the one who planned this little meeting?” She was supposed to believe that?

“No.” Clipped. Then he seemed to hesitate before he asked, “You came here…because you thought you were meeting me?”

Her eyes narrowed as she strained to see him. “Well, you are the man standing with me in the dark.”

His hand slid down her arm and his fingers circled her wrist. The tips of his fingers were rough, callused, and, dammit, when he touched just that spot, she shivered. It wasn’t like she could help the fact that her inner wrist was some kind of crazy weak zone for her.

“I didn’t lure you out here,” he told her as they rounded the side of another building.

A long, black limo waited, idling at the curb.

“But—but you—”

“I’m not the villain tonight, though I know you won’t believe that.” Now he was pulling her toward the limo. “I’m the man here to save you.”

Bull. She definitely didn’t believe him. Jason wanted nothing but to destroy Cat and her family. The limo driver jumped out when he saw them approaching, and he hurriedly moved to open the back door.

Cat dug in her heels. There was a street lamp near the limo, and from that faint light, she could finally see Jason better. He was wearing a tux. Looking dangerous and elegant, and the man was just as handsome as she remembered. That wonderfully square jaw. Those sharp, hard slashes that were his cheeks. The long blade of a nose. He hadn’t changed at all in the last year.

Power and intensity filled the air around Jason. Damn him. Why couldn’t time have been a bit of a cruel bitch to him? Did he have to still look—


His growled word had her blinking—and realizing that Jason was also studying her under that street light.

Cat swallowed. She wasn’t, um, beautiful, not like most of the women that Jason spent his days with. She knew all about those women. She’d sure tortured herself by reading the magazines and newspapers that featured the gossipy stories on his latest and greatest hook-up.

“I…I can’t leave.” Why did her voice sound so husky and breathy? Cat cleared her throat and tried again. “I…I’m supposed to meet someone inside the Playhouse.” She’d been so certain that someone was Jason.

“You’re not going in there.”

And he wasn’t going to tell her what to do. “This little reunion scene has been fun.” No, it hadn’t been. “But I am going inside—”

“Do you know what happens in there?”

“Sex?” That was rather obvious. It was a sex club.

“Hot. Hard. Dirty. Fucking blow-your-mind sex.”

The kind she’d had with him. “I know that.” Her voice was back to being breathy.

“So why do you think someone wanted to meet you inside that club? Just what do you think is going to happen once you go past those doors?”

When Cat had thought she might be meeting Jason…game on. But now, “I-I have to go inside. You don’t understand. Someone is blackmailing me!”

He bit out a curse. “And you thought that someone was me. Way to have no fucking faith in me.”

Knowing what she did about him, faith didn’t exactly enter the equation. And, jeez, but every time the man said fucking in that clipped accent of his…it sounded sexy.

Focus, girl. “I have to go in the club.” If she didn’t…no. That didn’t bear thinking about. I’m going in. She yanked away from him. Took two determined steps.

And found herself swept up into his arms. “Jason! Stop it!”

He wasn’t stopping. He slung Cat over his shoulder and started carrying her to the limo.

“Uh, sir…” The driver began. “I don’t know about—”

“Start the car, Tim. Just start the fucking car.” His accent was even more pronounced as he gave that sharp order—and as Cat pounded her fists against his back. As hard as she could. But the guy didn’t flinch. He did toss her into the back of the limo and before she could lunge forward and jump out, he pinned her against the leather seat.

He held both of her wrists in one, big hand, and he seemed to surround her in that vehicle.

“I’m protecting you,” Jason told her. “You probably won’t buy that, but I’m—”

“You’re kidnapping me!”

The limo was taking off—and taking her away from the Playhouse. No! “Stop!” Cat yelled, but the privacy shield was up, separating her from—what had his name been?—Tim?

“I am stopping…stopping you from getting hurt.”

She gave a sharp laugh. “Really? Because if I don’t get in that club, my life is going to be destroyed.”

He didn’t ease his hold. His scent teased her nose. Masculine. Crisp. When she’d left him a year ago, that scent had seemed to cling to her skin, marking her.

“Someone has pictures,” Cat confessed, her voice lowering. “Pictures…of me.”

He slowly released her hands. Probably because the limo was moving at a fast clip then, and he knew she wasn’t about to hurl herself out of a speeding car. Cat wasn’t quite that desperate. Yet.

“What kind of pictures?” Jason demanded.

Her cheeks stung with heat. “What kind do you think?”

He growled. A deep, animalistic sound. “You…with a lover.”

Miserably, Cat nodded. “Pictures and video. He…he sent a clip of the video to my email account. Told me that if I didn’t meet him at the Playhouse, tonight, that he’d leak the video and all the images to the Press.” Her chest was hurting because her heart was pounding so fast. When she’d gotten that video, she’d been terrified…and she’d hopped the first flight out of Maine. “You know what that kind of exposure would do to my family right now.”

Her family was having a last ditch, frantic effort to save their crumbling restaurant empire. One wrong move now…

And they’d lose everything.

Isn’t that just what Jason wants?

“So you’re fucking some loser in a video,” Jason snarled. His voice held a lethal intensity that sent a shiver over her. “Your family can deal with that shit. The public can deal with it. It’s not going to hurt stock prices.”

Her breath stilled in her lungs. Then she sucked in a sharp gasp of air. “You…you really weren’t the one blackmailing me?” He’d been at the Playhouse. He’d taken her away…

“No, I’m not blackmailing you. Look to the asshole you were screwing in the video. If he made the video, odds are high that damn prick is the one doing this to you.” He slid away from her, and the hard heaves of his ragged breaths filled the car. “Fuck!” Jason yelled suddenly and the guy drove his fist into the nearest window.

“Jason! Stop! Are you crazy?” Wait, probably a bad question. Obviously, the man nicknamed the Bad Boy of Britain by the Press was crazy. That was his whole spiel, right? His early past was a mystery—at twenty-three, he’d shot to meteoric fame in Britain when he opened up two restaurants that had immediately become the places to be for the rich and privileged. Five years later, he’d brought his business to the United States…and the man had been steam-rolling right over all the competition in his path ever since.

Including my family.

Including me.

No one got between Jason August and something he wanted. She knew he was thirty-three now. Confident. Determined.

And with a reputation that said he’d do anything necessary to seal his deals.

His fist slammed into the window once more. She grabbed his arm, holding on tightly. “Stop it! You’re going to hurt yourself!”

His head turned. Their eyes were less than two inches apart. Their eyes…and their mouths. “There’s a video out there…” His voice was low and menacing. “Of you fucking someone else?”

Oh, this wasn’t going at all the way she’d expected. Cat slowly shook her head.

“Cat…” Her name was a savage snarl of frustration. “You just said—”

“It’s not someone else in the video.” It wasn’t like she had some giant line of lovers. “It’s…it’s you.” The clip that had been sent to her had been only ten seconds long.

She’d clearly seen herself—clad in a black lace bra and panties.

And she’d seen Jason. No shirt. Muscles rippling as he bent over her on that big bed.

What?” Shock coated the single word.

“The man in the video with me…it was you.” Her lips were too dry so she quickly licked them, and she was aware of his gaze dropping to her mouth.

She couldn’t see his eye color, but she knew it was gold. Deep, burning gold.

The gold went molten when he was aroused.

She went molten when he was aroused.


Cat realized she was still holding his arm. She should let him go. Instead, her fingers slid down that arm and she touched his knuckles. She didn’t feel any blood on them. That was good, right? “You’re lucky you didn’t break your hand. What in the hell were you doing? You can’t just—”

“You thought I was blackmailing you.”

Uh, yes.

“You thought I recorded us fucking a year ago, and that I had the video—that I was going to show that film to the world so that I could get a dig at your bastard of a brother and your father?”

Cat nodded. She also forced herself to release his hand and to slide back—as far back as she could go because the man’s fury was palpable.

Her shoulders hit the leather seat behind her.

Jason didn’t move. “I didn’t record us.”

“Someone did,” she whispered right back. Why, why had that video surfaced after a whole year?

“And if I had recorded us,” Jason continued, as if he hadn’t even heard her, but Cat knew that he had, “I damn sure wouldn’t ever let anyone else watch it. You were for me, Cat. Only me.” His voice roughened. “You still are.”

Wait, had he seriously just said that? His voice had been little more than a growl so Cat wasn’t sure. Her fingers slid toward the door near her left-side. “Okay, so there seems to have been a…um, misunderstanding here.”

“You went to the Playhouse to meet me.


“You went to a sex club to meet me.

She’d just said as much. Her eyes narrowed on him. She wished there was more light back there! “I went because I thought you were blackmailing me! It wasn’t like I was going there to—to have sex with you!”

“If you were going in a sex club, love, then you were certainly going to get fucked.”

Was the car slowing? She couldn’t tell for sure. Maybe. “Tell your driver to stop. I want out.”

He stretched out his legs and seemed to cage her in even more. “What did you plan? That you’d offer me sex in exchange for not releasing the video?”

This was way out of control. “The video has you in it, too! You need to be worried! You can’t want the world to see—”

“To see me taking you?” She thought he shrugged. “I don’t want people seeing you, but knowing that you’re mine…that’s a secret I’ve kept too long. Maybe it’s time everyone learned that truth.”

“Stop it,” she snapped at him, pushed too far. He acted as if what she’d revealed didn’t matter. She’d been terrified when the video first appeared, and now that she knew Jason wasn’t behind the blackmail…how am I going to stop that video from being released? It could be all over the Internet by morning.

Jason would just get hyped more. The Bad Boy of Britain would have struck again. She’d get slammed and labeled as the sister who’d slept with the enemy.

Silence filled the vehicle. It stretched as more miles passed. That silence was wrecking her nerves. “Let me out of the car, now,” Cat ordered him. She tried to sound imperious and not scared, but she was pretty sure she sucked at that attempt. “I have to go back! If I don’t show up tonight, he will put that video up.”

The car was finally slowing. Yes! She lunged for the door handle. Jason just tossed out his hand, a move that was lightning fast, and his fingers curled around her wrist. “You’re not getting away again.”

She had to get away. “It’s my life we’re talking about! Someone back there—someone wants to destroy that life.”

His hold tightened on her. “I won’t let that happen.”

Laughter broke from her then. Wild, angry. “Right…as if you weren’t the one who tried to destroy me the last time I was in Vegas.” There was a reason she’d stay away for so long. That reason was currently rubbing the inside of her wrist with his callused fingertips.

The limo stopped.

“Let me go,” Cat said. She knew the words sounded like a plea. What did he want? For her to beg?

Very slowly, his fingers unfurled from around her wrist. She hesitated. Cat had actually thought that would be so much harder. But, right…he’s done with me. I’m done with him. Her chin lifted and she shoved open the door. Her sneakered heel hit the pavement and—

Cameras flashed all around her. Voices shouted.

Her jaw dropped. The limo had stopped right in front of a long, red carpet that led into the Archer’s Arrow Casino. A huge crowd of reporters surrounded that carpet and they were all taking pictures of her.

She wasn’t as recognizable as her brother—Cameron was usually in nearly as many tabloids as Jason—but—

Jason slid out behind her. He put his arm around her waist and he turned her toward him.

“What is happening?” Cat demanded, but suddenly, his tux made sense. A terrible, horrific sense.

“My new restaurant opened tonight,” he told her, golden eyes gleaming as more cameras captured their image. “Thanks for helping me celebrate, love.”

Then his lips took hers. He kissed her right there, on that red carpet, in front of the reporters and the crowd, and Cat realized that it didn’t matter if the video of her and Jason leaked out.

Jason August was staking a claim on her right then. Right there. Kissing her for the world to see.

By dawn, they’d be the ones in the gossip pages.

By dawn, her brother would know about her relationship with Jason. Her father would know.

Cat shoved her hands against his chest. The guy was freaking unmovable. He just kept kissing her, and she would not let her toes curl. Slowly, slowly, his head lifted. “Too long,” Jason whispered.

She shook her head. “Why?” Didn’t he realize what he’d just done to her?

“You can thank me later,” Jason told her and the guy flashed her a wink. He kept her hand in his and turned toward the crowd with a smile on his too-handsome face. After a few more photos, he started guiding her along that red carpet. She caught sight of a TV star sliding out of another limo just a few feet behind them.

This couldn’t be happening.

But, oh, hell, it was.

The secret she’d tried so hard to keep for the last year was about to rip her world apart.