THE BADGE AND THE BABY
Harlequin Temptation
Bachelors & Babies
ISBN 0373258410
August 1999

Bachelor plus baby . . .

Keeping up with his tiny, demanding, precious niece was more than Detective Joel Wolfsley could handle with one leg in a cast. Gangsters, yes. Babies, no. He was a sucker for his sister, though, and the munchkin's mom needed his help. Besides, his plight was the perfect excuse to get up close and personal with the gorgeous kennel owner next door.

Equals trouble!

Willa Darling took one look at the tough-talking "Big Bad Wolf" holding a baby and knew he was all bark, no bite. Joel might have needed a little help in the diapering department, but he was a family man at heart - no matter what he said. Which meant that in spite of the wild passion they shared, Willa would have to let him go ...

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BOOKLIST

The Comfort of Favorite Things - Bliss and the Art of Forever - The Sweetness of Honey - Beneath the Patchwork Moon - Boots Under Her Bed - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock(Digital Edition) - Unforgettable - The Second Chance Café - Unbreakable - Undeniable - Holiday Kisses/This Time Next Year - Twenty-One Hours/SEAL of My Dreams - At His Mercy - Playing Love's Odds (Digital Edition) - Love Me Tender (Digital Edition) - Love In Bloom - (Digital Edition) - The Icing On The Cake - With Extreme Pleasure - One Good Man - No Limits - A Long, Hard Ride - Maximum Exposure - Kiss & Tell - Deep Trouble - In Danger - At Risk - Tex Appeal - The Perfect Stranger - Beyond A Shadow - Infatuation - The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Erotic Romance - Deep Breath - Goes Down Easy - Red Letter Nights - Totally Charmed - Kiss & Makeup - Undressed - Larger Than Life - Sara Smiles/Beach Blanket Bad Boys - The McKenzie Artifact - The Beach Alibi - The Samms Agenda - The Shaughnessey Accord - The Bane Affair - Mother, Please! - Indiscreet - Wicked Games - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock - Striptease - The Sweetest Taboo - Bound To Happen - No Strings Attached - Roped Into Romance - All Tied Up - Love In Bloom - Four Men & A Lady - Love Me Tender - The Badge And The Baby - The Grinch Makes Good - The Heartbreak Kid - Call Me - Playing Love's Odds

Joel wasn't sure how they'd made it to his bedroom, only that they had. He wasn't going to complain about the trip, not now when they were finally here. Sure, he'd've loved to have wrapped Willa's naked legs around his waist and kissed her senseless the length of the hallway.

But he wasn't a miracle worker. What he was was in a cast. Keeping himself upright when his motor control had been cut off by his libido's jet engine, well . . . he wouldn't have passed a sobriety test if he'd been asked to walk a straight line.

And even if he had been stone cold sober and able to stand arrow straight, Willa was wearing workboots and jeans and he couldn't handle either of those with any measure of finesse.

Not that the sweet talking of a first time necessarily guaranteed smooth moves. The opposite was usually the case. The guy came fast because, well, hell, he couldn't take the wait any longer. And the lady--because he didn't have experience with any females who weren't true ladies--was more often than not a bunch of nerves about doing the right thing and didn't come at all.

Joel might not be able to sweep Willa off her feet or strip her naked without her noticing his slight of hand, but he would damn sure make her come.

"You weren't lying, were you?" she asked.

She stood in front of him, facing the bed, her flannel shirt held to her chest. Nuzzling the shell of her ear from behind, he reached over her shoulder and tossed the shirt to the floor. Then he reached for the hem of her tank. He took the shirt off over her head then pulled her back into his body and, biting down hard on a shiver, savored her warm and soft and supple skin.

Still savoring, he followed the direction of her gaze--toward his headboard from which a dozen pair of handcuffs dangled. Complete with keys, each was shackled to the narrow railing by one bracelet. No, he hadn't lied. But right now he didn't want to explain the history of the collection.

He growled low in her ear and said, "The better to have my way with you."

"Is that so?" She dropped a light kiss on the forearm hugging her collarbone inches above her breasts.

"Or," he added with a bit of a chuckle. "The better for you to have your way with me."

Leaning her head back against his shoulder, she brushed fingertips over the tiny mark she'd left on his skin. "I think I'd like to have my way with you. But first . . ."

No. No firsts. "First?"

"Will you tell me what you want me to do?"

The invitation was every man's dream and left Joel speechless. At that moment, he couldn't remember having ever wanted a woman with this degree of possessive fierceness. It bothered him. A lot.

But it didn't keep him from saying, "What I want you to do is simple. Let me make love to you."

Willa stared back at him over her shoulder, her gaze confused yet satisfied, her mouth a spoiled pout. "That defeats the purpose of the question, doesn't it?"

"Baby, right now I don't give a damn about the question. Only about the answer." Her head was still tilted back. Her bound ponytail brushed his skin.

Feeling her hair against his bare chest was torture. He hissed out a low breath. "If I don't get inside you and quick, I'm afraid I'm gonna go off."

She kept the line of her mouth straight but he knew it wasn't easy. He knew that because when she turned in his arms to face him, he saw that she'd caught her lower lip between her teeth to hold back her grin.

Of course, she couldn't hold it long. "Are you saying we may be dealing with an accidental shooting?"

He grinned, drew fingers down her spine, stopped when he reached her jeans covered bottom and squeezed. "Does the term weapon misfire mean anything to you?"

Her blue eyes flashed with humor and the recognition that she was about to take a cop to bed. "I suppose you're looking to holster that weapon?"

"Well now darlin'. I'd better do just that." He squeezed again. Both hands. Both buttocks. "Or else we'll be dealing with the consequences of a little friendly fire."

Willa threw back her head and laughed. "You need help."

If anything, he was about to need a mop and a bucket because her breasts were bouncing against his chest and now her fingers were moving.

And they were moving over his skin. And they were unbuttoning the copper buttons that barely held his fly together. And when she'd finished with the buttons and stopped moving, he had a hard time not jerking his pants to the ground.

"Joel?"

"Willa?"

She looked up. "I have a problem."

She had a problem? "Anything I can do to help?"

"I'm having trouble with your pants."

The trouble was that she didn't have them off yet. "What kind of trouble?"

"I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to get them down. I've run into an--" she tilted her head to one side and frowned "--an obstacle."

What she'd run into was his hard-on. "Trust me. It's . . . surmountable."

She rolled her eyes at that. "I'm sure it is. You got your pants on, after all."

Joel frowned. They were either suffering a serious miscommunication here or he was more impressive than he'd thought.

"I mean, I can get them down to your knees without a hitch," Willa continued. "But I'm not quite sure what to do after that."

His cast. She was talking about his cast while he was talking about parts of his body that were as hard as the navy fiberglass. "Ah, that's easy. An old stripper's trick."

And then he ripped open the pants leg from the point above his knee to his crotch. Willa smiled. "Velcro?"

"Pretty cool, huh? The wife of a buddy at work fixed me up. Their six year old did a head over heels off his bike and broke his ankle. She'd done the same for her kid. And when I got stuck with this thing--" he indicated the cast "--I asked her if she'd help me out. I have a couple pairs of tearaway jersey pants, but I'm a blue jeans kinda guy."

"This is great," Willa said, fingering the hidden closure.

"Yep. Four pairs of my jeans are now ready for show time on the Richmond Strip." He did a little jiggle, a little bump and grind.

"I like it. I like it a lot," she said and ran her fingertips up his bare inner thigh to the leg of his briefs. "But I do have one more question."

And one more answer was probably all he had left before his knees buckled. "One. That's it."

"It's okay, isn't it? If I make love to you, too?" Her eyes were wide and blue and honest and more giving than he'd ever expected.

He hissed out a long low frustratedly impatient breath. He knew what they were making here wasn't about love but it sure as hell didn't feel like just sex. "As long as you know that what happens here this first time isn't . . . well . . ."

And after all the promises he'd made to himself, he was going to blow it. He'd be doing good to last about as long as a randy virgin schoolboy.

"Isn't, well, what?" She'd slipped her fingers into his shorts now and was feeling up his backside.

He was going to have to stop her before she made it around to his front. "I need to be inside you, Willa. Now. It won't be slow and romantic. Not this time."

"You don't have to woo me, Joel. I'm here. And I want to feel you inside me probably as much as you want to be there."

He wasn't sure how to respond to that, but if she felt even half the need ripping open his gut, this was gonna be a hell of a coming together. "So, you think we can get busy here? Or do you need directions?"

"Directions?" She gave him a know-it-all lift of her brows. "Like how to slide tab A into slot B?"

"Mmm. Something like that."

"You want directions? I'll give you directions." She spun him around and pushed him back down onto the mattress. "Down is a direction, right?"

"So's up," he said and thrust his hips that way.

"Up? Like this?" Leaning forward she ran her palms over his fly and up his belly. He squirmed in the bed, pushing back further on the mattress so that if she decided to straddle him she'd have a place to put her knees. He just hoped she took both their pants off first.

Her hands continued up his sides, over his armpits, his triceps, to his elbows, forearms, wrists, palms, lacing her fingers through his when she reached his hands which were now high over his head. She shifted on the bed until she was doing that straddle thing he'd been waiting for.

Even with her pants on it wasn't far from heaven, feeling her over him, her breasts suspended just out of reach of his mouth. His tongue wasn't quite long enough to do more than flick lightly across her bare nipples when he wanted to draw her deep in his mouth.

She drew deep on him instead, teasing his mouth with light nips and love bites before kissing him full and hard like he wanted to be kissed, with her tongue and her body, both of which he was getting impatient to feel elsewhere.

And then, while he was doing his best to kiss her senseless in return, while he was working to coax her into getting naked so they could get this show on the road, she snapped handcuffs around both his wrists.

With a kiss dropped first on his forehead, then his nose, his chin, center chest and low on his stomach, she hopped up off the bed and left him there.

"Willa?" He called after her when she left the room.

"Don't go anywhere, Joel. I'll be right back."

Oh, she was a funny girl, this one. But she hadn't gone far. He heard her banging cabinet doors, slamming drawers in the kitchen. Then all was quiet and Joel realized he was half-naked with a hard-on and handcuffed to his own bed.

Paradise.

Of course, he probably wouldn't have been so cocky if he'd truly been trapped. But since each pair of handcuffs hung from the headboard by one bracelet and he was caught in the dangling cuff of two separate pairs, well, it would be easy to slide his hands together and open either set.

He only considered it for half a second, then decided to hang around instead and see what Willa had in mind.

A minute or two more and she returned wearing nothing but her white cotton bikinis. Joel's heart slammed to the back of his chest. Seeing her now was nothing like seeing her earlier when he'd been to drunk on her taste to focus on much of anything at all.

Her legs were long anyway, but those high cut panties seemed to add another six inches. The curve of her hip was sweet. He'd thought she might be more lean, more . . . solid and straight, but her muscles were all female. Nothing boyish here about her figure.

But what struck him most about her--even more than her legs, her strong arms and great shoulders, or even the way her breasts were as arousing now as they had been inches from his mouth--was her hair. This was the first time he'd ever seen it down.

She'd brought two pie tins back with her along with his box of squat emergency candles. As she went about setting the tins in front of either end of his dresser's mirror, her hair swung about her shoulders. Once she had a half dozen of the plain white votives burning in their shiny metal base, she flipped off the light shining brightly overhead.

Candlelight flickered as the flames ate up the wicks. The mirror reflected the tongues of light back into the room--and over Willa's hair. She turned to face him, leaned back against his dresser, framed on both her right and her left by the flames of living light.

Her hair was fair and colorless in the subdued glow, yet the light played the part of an artist's brush and turned the strands to gold. He needed to remember to tell her how much he liked it down, how good she looked wearing candlelight and white.

But he wasn't sure he'd be able to coherently remember much of anything at all because right then she smiled.

And while she was smiling she worked off his single athletic shoe and one sock. His jeans, already opened, slid down his legs freely--once she guided the fly carefully around his most valuable assets.

He'd only thought he'd found paradise half-naked with a hard-on and handcuffed to his own bed.

Paradise wasn't even the half of it.