Here it is at least, after much sweating over the fifteen versions of this damn book! You can breathe: a fifth Spotless is coming your way.
March and Island are back and this time, they’re rescuing Joy—Island’s BFF—who ended up in a Cancún jail after nearly killing her boyfriend’s side chica with a three-feet tall birthday cake. Ancient aliens somehow get involved in this mess, and also a guy name Angel Somoza, who hates sloths. There’s gunfights, frenetic capering from Mexico to Cairo, passionate sex, Roomba cats, and a lot of questionable science thrown in.
It’s the final chapter of the Spotless series, and just another Monday for March and Island.
Or listen to Amy McFadden reading part of this chapter! 🙂
This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2018 Camilla Monk
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Camilla Monk
Cover design by Camilla Monk
“You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, Mike. A cuttlefish can change shape and color in under a second. See that Corolla across the street? It could be her.”
— Crystal Viper, Undercover Shifters #4: Prey to the Sea Lion
Okay, so it starts kind of like Hart to Hart: he’s March November, a self-made millionaire and former legendary hitman, who now runs Struthio Security, a wholly legitimate business catering to high-end clients in serious trouble—think being in the cross-hairs of a Nigerian warlord or wanting to escape the United Arab Emirates by sea. At night. With your wife, your three kids, and their pet gerbil.
Mr. November works with Mrs. Novemb—I mean with Island Chaptal, his girlfriend and partner, who has fluffy auburn curls like Jennifer Hart. She used to be a computer engineer, but a lot of stuff happened, so now she’s his CTO and hacks poorly-protected devices and fiber optic cables for him, which kind of sounds like she slept her way to the top. He swears though, that her technical skills are second to none, that he would have hired her even if they weren’t living together, and it has nothing to do with being able to keep an eye on her 24/7 now that she has an office two doors from his. Love is threaded with little white lies, I guess.
Anyway, they don’t have a cool butler named Max, but Struthio has an awesome COO named Phyllis—Yeah, everyone got to be Chief of something when we re-printed the business cards, except Gerald, March’s crabby orange tree, who did nothing to deserve a promotion and just keeps popping greenish and misshapen oranges all over the place.
Together, Island Chaptal and Mr. November fight crime, or rather, they will once they’re done fighting about raisins…
We’re looking into each other’s eyes. Me staring up defiantly and leaning with my back to our kitchen counter. Him, his arms braced either side of me on the countertop. He tilts his head like a predator to better loom —March loves to loom— which is easy since I’m five-three and he’s got a foot on me. His mouth is a tight line, quivering from an occasional twitch in his jaw. Dark-blue eyes narrow in their effort to read me. He’s so close I can count each crow’s feet, each line on his brow. I know he wants to stay pissed a little longer about the pile of damp raisins drying on a stack of paper towels next to me on the counter, but he can’t. Not when he’s watching my tongue dart to lick my lips.
“I promise I won’t do it again,” I say softly, before hardening my voice a notch. “But promise me you’ll never freak out and wash raisins again.”
His throat tightens under the neck of his perfectly pressed white shirt. The British accent he inherited from his father gives each word a sharp edge as he replies, “Acceptable. But let’s state it again for the sake of clarity…”
I shrug one shoulder and wait for the rest. March needs order. He needs to edict rules, even knowing he’s the only one who’s going to follow them.
So, I let him have this.
He clears his throat. “In the event that y… that any occupant of this house who doesn’t like raisins makes the decision to pick them out from their muesli,” he draws a sharp breath. “Under no circumstances should those be transferred to an open raisins bag.”
Because muesli raisins come covered in oat dust, and also they’re dark, and March nearly had a heart attack when he opened the pantry this morning and found himself nose to nose with a handful of tainted muesli raisins swarming in a bag of golden Sultanas. I just thought saving them in the bag was a better idea than throwing them away since I know March doesn’t like to waste food.
It didn’t go well. I came out of the shower to find him furiously sorting and rinsing the offending fruit. I tried to apologize because I hate when he gets like this, when his obsessive thoughts take over, and the slightest trace of dust on the furniture or an unsorted bag of raisins send him into a tailspin. But he gave me the cold shoulder, soon followed by a mild tongue lashing. By then I was legit pissed too: I mumbled I needed to go get ready—which March knows to be the Island equivalent of ‘fuck you; I’ll be sulking for the next couple hours.’ He gritted out my name, in that clipped, angry voice that makes my blood boil and my chest tighten. I ignored him, batted away his hand when he tried to stop me, but he managed to smoothly corner me against the counter before I could flee up the mezzanine… and here we are. Negotiating, cooling down. Or maybe heating up…
March leans close enough to brush his nose to mine and asks, “Are you still angry?”
“I don’t know,” I lie, avoiding his gaze. I’ve done my part, listened to his lecture and offered a compromise. Now it’s his turn.
He sighs. His hands leave the granite countertop to encircle my wait tentatively. “I overreacted, and for that I’m sorry.”
I close my eyes and finally allow myself to touch him. My fingertips roam up his arms, his shoulders, all the way to his face. I feel my way across the landscape I know intimately: the strong jaw and aquiline nose, short chestnut hair that would become curls if he let it grow, thin lips that rarely smile in public, but grin when it’s just the two of us. I reach around his neck to hug him when he pulls my body flush against his.
“I’m sorry too,” I say, my voice muffled by the warmth of his shoulder as I breathe freshly laundered cotton. “I could tell you weren’t okay, and I shouldn’t have let things escalate. I guess… we’ve been living together for almost a year, and sometimes I still don’t know how to handle you.”
Like when he wakes up in the middle of the night and creeps out of bed to check that all doors are closed, or when he swipes the cooktop over and over and over with an antistatic wipe, because lint never gives up, and neither does March.
But he knows all this already; he knows we both pull our weight in this bumpy relationship, and that we manage amazingly well most of the time—me, the recovering slob, him the poster boy for high-functioning OCD. It’s just that sometimes I won’t pay attention, I’ll forget to lock the door or to pick up my clothes from the floor, and March can’t “get over it” because his brain simply doesn’t work that way. That’s when it gets tough, and I need our bond more than ever.
Fortunately, he knows that too.
His lips brush my temple, press an anxious kiss there. “You handle me better than anyone I’ve ever known in my life.”
I wish I had the right words to express how it makes me feels when he says things like that, but all I can conjure are big, definitive statements I can’t force past my lips. Not just ‘I love you’; more like ‘I’ll love you until I die, and even after that, I’ll reincarnate as a skin mite to squat your glorious chest hair.’ So, I stay quiet and nuzzle the crook of his neck, a smile on my lips. I peek over his shoulder at the long shadows slicing through morning’s blue haze and stretching across our penthouse’s polished concrete floor and barren furniture. Through the windows, Manhattan’s glass skyscrapers are catching fire. It’s seven am; a sullen October sun is rising is rising at last.
“Do you want to give breakfast another try?” I ask.
One of March’s hands ventures under my t-shirt, trails along the hem of my favorite pair of panties, the ones I stole from NASA—it’s a long story. His head dips; his lips search mine, and he says, “Not yet.”
I feel an impish grin tug at my cheeks and lock my legs around his waist with a sigh, allowing him to lift me from the counter. “We’ll be late for work,” I murmur.
A deft hand slips back under my t-shirt to snap my bra open. “I don’t think so, Miss Chaptal. I can be surprisingly quick.”
I giggle in his arms. “That came out so wrong . . .”
His voice drops an octave, and his tongue finds a spot on my neck that sends a shiver cascading straight to my navel. “Then I’ll take my time with you.”
Possibly true, but he’ll make sure we’re sitting at our desk at eight sharp nonetheless, because office rules. Oh well, ours is a short commute—the floor below; I think we’ll manage.
As March carries me up the mezzanine stairs and back to our bed, I register the rustle of leaves across the living room, followed by an ominous thud. I stop kissing him long enough to peek over his shoulder at Gerald—March’s sociopathic orange tree and the third wheel in my relationship. A shriveled green lump just dropped from one of his branches and now sits a few inches away from his pot. Classic intimidation tactic. Maybe he listened to us arguing and thought that today, at last, would be the day I grab my suitcase and jettison out of our ménage à trois . . .
Except not. Screw you and your little mind games, Gerald. Enjoy twenty minutes of moderately loud missionary right above your leaves!
“Biscuit, what exactly are you doing with your hand?”
March marks an awkward pause at the top of the stairs, turning to see what kind of shady business was just taking his place in his back. I fold back my finger lightning-quick before he can catch me flipping off his potted tree. “Um, nothing.”
Ever the master of concision, this simple word is March’s only warning before he drops me onto our bed—which is already made, of course. I’m a pink-faced, smiling mess, bouncing on the mattress and gazing up at him from behind a curtain of auburn curls as he methodically unbuttons his shirt. The white cotton parts to reveal a rug of silky, springy chestnut hair covering his pecs all the way up to his clavicles and cascading down his abs to disappear under the waist of his dark jeans. Some might call it a happy trail, but to me, the term conjures up the kind of sparse, pencil-thin line guys flaunt in cologne ads. March never wears any cologne, never trims a single hair below his neck, and that, right here, is a goddamn interstate leading down to paradise.
My body is ready: it’s all I can think about, watching the muscles ripple in his shoulders as he carefully places his shirt on the back of a chair. He smoothes out a non-existent wrinkle with his palm before dropping to one knee to the mattress. Crawling, prowling with the eyes of a big cat stalking its prey. His fingers close around my ankle, dragging me to him while I pull my t-shirt over my head. My bra comes along, and I muster the strength to vaguely fold both before tossing them onto the chair—I don’t want to kill the mood.
March gathers me in his arms, his gaze trailing south. I love that, the way he looks at me like I’m still forbidden territory even though we’ve been sharing that same bed for months, and he knows those two mosquito bites on my chest are all his, as are the ten billion moles peppering my skin—okay, it’s actually 159. Both March and my dermatologist counted.
“What are you thinking about, biscuit?” he purrs.
“How many moles I have,” I reply earnestly. I never need a filter with him, he understands that skin cancer, general relativity, and infrared photons are equally important issues.
His mouth stirs, pinching my two favorite dimples in the universe. He bends down to nuzzle my neck, his lips mapping each spot they meet. “Then perhaps we’d better perform another routine check.”
I hug him with a sigh of delight, bringing his body atop mine. It’s always the easiest part. Our skins against each other, our scent and our scars, something that requires no words, that mends our bond when it’s frayed, a bubble shielding up from the noise of the outside world. As March’s mouth progresses down and his thorough screening has me squirming and moaning on the sheets, I grip his shoulders. My nails bite into a familiar pattern of knots and lines across his skin. More than a scar, his lion.
I squeeze my eyes shut; I don’t like to imagine the hands that carved that lion head into his skin seventeen years ago, the blood seeping from each new gash and March’s agony. It was the price an eighteen-year-boy paid to join a brotherhood of fellow assassins, a family to make up for the one he had lost too soon. This disc of scarified flesh carries our memories, the worst and best instants of our lives. People we loved and lost, friends, too. March could have it lasered off, but I know he never will. Those lines and dots, the fangs and the mane, they’re etched too deep into him to ever be erased.
“I love you,” I say, like a reflex, a charm I’d wave to ward off old nightmares that knot my stomach and chill my bones.
March’s mouth stops inches below my navel, and he props himself up on his elbows to look me in the eyes. A crease of worry appears between his eyebrows. Dammit, I can hide nothing from him. Not even the slightest tremor in my voice. “Are you alright?” he asks.
“Yeah. I just . . .” I cup his face, stroke the taut, freshly-shaven skin of his jaw. “It’s okay. I think my mood gets all over the place when we fight.”
“I’m sorry,” he sighs. Then, as if he could read my mind, he adds. “I love you too, and like to believe we won’t lose each other over raisins.”
“We’re stronger than that,” I confirm with a firm nod.
As I state this, I could swear I pick up the spiteful rustle of Gerald’s leaves coming from downstairs, like a malevolent shiver in the air. At any rate, maybe it’s the boyish smile March flashes me in response, or the forbidden Lego brick pressing insistently against my hip through his jeans, but my mind clears up for good. “Now let’s have wild shifter sex, Lion…” I whisper, my hands flying down to undo his belt.
As if a spark had ignited the air around us and engulfed us into the pink flames of passion, March pulls down my panties in one swift tug, a dark glint in his eyes. “Are you a possum like last time?”
Sweet Raptor Jesus… Those seven little words set every single square-inch of my skin on fire. Forget Fifty Shades of Grey and Donna Summer: I have a boyfriend who not only knows what shifter romance is—because he’s perused a few titles among the dozens I possess—but who’s also down for a bit of role-playing where the hero and heroine’s inner animals call to each other, and they have crazy, leg-shaking, super-fusional sex together.
“No, I’m a koala,” I whimper urgently, peeling his jeans and boxer-shorts down his legs with my feet.
“Then climb on,” March growls, rolling us over so I’m straddling him.
Our mouths collide in a biting, bruising kiss while I blindly search my nightstand drawer for condoms. My fingertips meet blessed foil and the cool glass of my phone’s screen. I have this passing, euphoric thought that I’m gonna have to update the data in my orgasm-tracking app once we’re done… But it’s not Yayros that suddenly starts ringing and sends my phone rattling across the drawer: it’s a series of machine-gun texts from Joy.