Tanya Westling did not leave her job as a globe-trotting humanitarian to spend her nights playing roller derby and sleeping alone. Armed with a few adult toys and a prayer, she challenges him to a sensual game that will strip away their ideas of what sex should be.
Cole’s surprised but it’s his dream come true. With each sexual encounter, the walls between them come crumbling down and each must face the truth of what their marriage has been and what it could be.
Inside Scoop: Contains an alpha hero who wants sex at all hours and a heroine who knows what she wants, just not the words to get it. Also depicts criminal activity, the strong arm of the law and a self-rescuing heroine
This book was previously published by Ellora's Cave.
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An Excerpt From: HOT TANGO
Copyright © SIDNEY BRISTOL, 2017
All Rights Reserved, Inked Press
Each night he got to come home to Tanya. It was a novelty that hadn’t worn off yet, even after three years. He was so used to coming home to their condo. Empty. On a good night he would get to make a video call to whatever part of the world Tanya was working in. In those days he’d lived for the first week of her coming home. For that time they were randy teenagers all over again, unable to keep their hands off each other. He’d pitied his married coworkers who talked dispassionately about their spouses, because he and Tanya burned up the sheets.
Cole scrubbed his chest and shoulders, taking off a layer of skin as he went.
He wasn’t unaware of the change in his relationship with Tanya. He sure as hell wanted her, and that was the problem. Not long after they’d moved into the house, Tanya had suggested christening their couch. They’d been tipsy and his fine control had slipped. He’d left actual bruises on her arms, shoulders and hips. She’d not complained once, never brought it up, but the sight of bruises he’d left on her was enough to shut down their sex life.
Cole knew his own strength. He tested it out against bad guys in the field every day, and Tanya didn’t stand a chance against him. So he kept a firm handle on his control, because the honest truth was that she was a brightly burning star and he was the weight holding her down.
Sluicing the water off his body, he did a quick rubdown with a towel then paused at his clothing. A dose of painkillers sat on top of the fabric and a glass of iced tea was sweating condensation on the counter.
His temples pulsed with an impending migraine.
She’d known his head was killing him before even he realized it. He took the medicine before getting dressed in sweatpants and one of the many gray SWAT t-shirts that made up his off-duty wardrobe. Glass in hand, he retraced his steps to the kitchen, which was empty. The light beyond it was on, illuminating an intimate dinner.
The hair on his arms rose in a precautionary warning, as if to say Danger ahead!
On a typical night they ate either at the bar in the kitchen, the back patio or in front of the TV.
They rarely used the dining table.
“This looks nice,” he said as he stepped through the kitchen to the table long enough to seat ten people with elbow room.
Tanya turned to face him. She’d changed into a simple cotton dress in a soft, summer green that set off her eyes. All that was missing was a flower for her hair. “I thought you might want a nice dinner after working late last night and all day today.”
The table was set, complete with linen napkins probably sewn by thankful mothers from Thailand or somewhere. A small vase he vaguely recalled being part of a Valentine’s Day gift sat in the middle with a bunch of daisies in it.
“It looks very nice.” He put a hand against the small of her back and kissed her forehead with the briefest touch possible. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She preened under his praise and circled the table to sit across from him.
He settled into the chair, evaluating the room for a tactical retreat. Until the time when he needed to make an exit, he smoothed the napkin over a knee and inhaled the fragrant aroma of whatever concoction Tanya had put together. The woman wasn’t a chef, but she could cook a wide variety of foods, at least three dishes from each people group she’d spent considerable time helping. It was her souvenir, she said.
Tanya picked up her fork and studied him across the table. “I didn’t even hear you come in last night. Did you get to see any of the opening ceremony?”
“Nothing. My team was on the outside. We mostly did traffic control all night.” He shoveled a mouthful of what looked to be meat, some kind of noodle and sugar snap peas into his mouth.
“That’s too bad. I loved the superhero theme they went with. It was very cool to see the city’s history played out like one big musical number.” She snickered and grinned. “Made me think about that old Halloween costume your mom made you.”
“Stop right there.” He coughed around his food, shaking a finger at her. His mother had terrorized him by holding Tanya’s hand and showing her every single picture she’d ever taken of him. Including those of the superhero costume he’d worn until the seams literally burst because he was too big.
Tanya laughed, not at all repentant. “You were so cute. I wonder if she would give me a copy to frame.”
“Oh come on.”
“Not going to happen.”
Tanya didn’t even try to pout, she just grinned at him and twirled her fork between her fingers. He could hear her mother’s voice in his mind telling Tanya to stop playing with her food. Some habits could never be broken.
“How was practice?” he asked to change the subject.
“Really good. I think the bout next weekend is going to really be awesome. Did you get Saturday night off, or do you have to work?”
“I worked it so I’m on duty during the day and will be off that night, but I am on call.”
“Awesome.” Tanya smiled without a trace of bitterness or resentment.
Cole was not unaware that he had yet to make it through a single one of her games because of work. He felt guilty, but she’d never said a cross word about it. He hoped like hell he could make it to this one as it would be the last major home game of the season before playoffs, which were held over one week in a tournament style.
“What do you have going on this week?” He stabbed a large piece of meat with his fork and cut it up.
“Finishing up the consulting gig with that soda company, writing up a leadership plan for continued Gulf relief and I’ll probably get started on the plan for the office building job. They want to make the whole tower green, mount solar panels on the roof, do a few terrace gardens and implement a paperless system on top of the regular stuff.”
Tanya’s move into the private sector was to serve the latest craze and even she didn’t know how long it would last, but she was one of the most well-equipped people to offer these types of services. It didn’t hurt that companies paid her a king’s ransom to do the jobs either.
“What about you?” she asked.
Cole chewed slowly. Sometimes it was difficult to decide what to tell Tanya and what to keep from her for her own good. There were aspects of his job that were dark, disturbing and haunted him.
At other times he just didn’t want to worry her needlessly. Usually he shot straight with her because she’d always told him the stark facts about situations she’d faced with One World. They were both the type of person who didn’t shrink from difficult situations.
“Truth?” He swallowed and put his fork down. “We’re working on a raid on top of all the Olympic staffing. It’s a good thing we have so many other PDs supporting this because it’s crazy. Everyone’s on high alert too. Remember that Ali Saed guy who was captured? He’s the one thought to be a leader of a radical terrorist group. Well, his followers have been threatening to attack symbols of our way of life unless he’s released.”
“And you think they might target the Games?” she asked as calmly as if they were discussing the weather.
“It would make sense.”
“Please be safe?”
They lapsed into silence. Forks scraping bowls and the click of glasses on the table were the only sounds between them. Tanya was the first to finish her meal. She pushed her plate away and folded her hands together on the table. The energy in the room shifted slightly, raising the hair on his arms.
Danger! Danger! Danger!
“Something on your mind?” he asked, despite knowing better than to ask. Whatever Tanya wanted to talk about, she’d damn sure let him know.
She had the grace to appear abashed. “I just want to talk to you about something. I know this isn’t great timing, there’s a lot going on over the next two weeks, but I just want to talk about it.”
Cole’s mind raced with the possibilities. Children? A new business move he wouldn’t like? A trip? Something from home? He tested each but came back to the same one.
It had to be kids.
They’d been married for over a decade and everyone was on their case about popping out the next Cole or Tanya. Parents, siblings, friends, coworkers—they hounded Tanya and him all the time about babies, but he and she had been on the same page about where they were in life. Sweat broke out across his brow and his vision sharpened the way it did before a raid.
“God, forget it.” Tanya shoved away from the table and grabbed her plate.
Part of him wanted to let her storm off, but she didn’t deserve that. He squeezed his eyes shut. “Tanya, wait.”
“No. Anytime I want to talk about something serious you get like that. Start looking for a way to escape.” Dishes hit the bottom of the sink and the sound of water rushing out of the faucet punctuated her words.
She had him figured out.
Cole picked up his plate and brought it to the sink, where Tanya was resolutely ignoring him. He scraped the last of the dishes off in the compost bin and waited for his wife to acknowledge his presence. Her mouth was frozen in an adorable frown he wanted to kiss away. God, he had fantasies about that mouth. Even when she was angry.
Her scrubbing increased in speed.
“Babe, please talk to me.”
“Don’t be patronizing,” she snapped and plunked the dish in the opposite sink to rinse.
He pushed her hands aside and took over the rinsing, letting her go back to scrubbing. Their first date had been dinner at her parents’ house, after which they’d washed dishes together. It was one of their oldest routines.
“I’m not.” He took a deep breath and stepped off the proverbial ledge. “The truth? I keep waiting for you to bring up the topic of kids.”
The plate Tanya was scrubbing slipped out of her hand, suds flew up in her hair and water doused the front of her dress.
“Kids?” she yelped.
He turned toward her and rested a hip against the counter. “Well, yeah.”
Tanya wiped her hands off, staring at him as if she didn’t know who he was. “You know what has to happen in order to have kids?”
That tone was downright scary. There were two exits from the kitchen, if he didn’t count leaping over the bar that partitioned off half the space. From there he could make a tactical retreat to the backyard, the hallway or the den. Cole took a deep breath and shoved aside the urge to flee.
“What?” he asked.
“Sex, Cole. People have to have sex in order to make babies.”
“Well, not technically. This is the twenty-first century. People get shot up with sperm all the time now.”
“Oh my god, just forget it.” She threw the towel on the counter and began to storm off, but he caught her wrist and swung her around. The way her eyes flashed shouldn’t make him hard, but it did.
“Hey now, it’s just a joke.”
She tried to jerk out of his grasp but he kept his hold on her. Not enough to bruise, just contain. “No it’s not. I’m trying to be understanding of all the stress you’re under and still talk about stuff like grown-ups, and you’re evading the discussion without even knowing what I want to talk about.”
Put that way, he was being a shithead.
He took a deep breath and reversed his hold on her so that their fingers laced together. He could take anything she had to throw at him if it wasn’t kids. “Okay, what did you want to talk about if not kids?”
“Sex.” Tanya tried to pull out of his grip again, but he clutched her hand harder. “We aren’t having any. Hell, if we don’t fight we seem to not even talk, so maybe I’m getting ahead of myself and should just be asking you for a conversation about the weather every now and then.”
“Wow. Wait. Back that up. Sex?” Color him surprised.
“Yes, sex, Cole. Is that such a shocking thought?” She wiggled her hand free of his and crossed her arms over her chest, plumping her breasts.
Sex, her boobs—it made for a distracting cocktail.
Tanya steamrolled over him. He’d opened the door and she’d stepped through. There was no shutting it now.
“I miss you actually talking to me. God forbid, I miss sex. I miss feeling like we’re a goddamned couple. And this is not how I wanted to have this discussion.” One of the hair ties that were all over the house seemed to appear magically in her hand, and up went her hair.
The truth was he missed those things too, but any time he opened his mouth or got the urge, she was busy. If he were honest with himself, he could do more. He knew it and still he pulled back.
“You know what’s embarrassing? The girls took me to an adult novelty store today and I actually bought their crap thinking it might help. But no. Never mind. Go to bed. You look exhausted.”
“You bought stuff at a sex shop?” Suddenly he didn’t feel quite so tired.
Tanya busied her hands with the dishes again, but her cheeks were turning a bright scarlet. The idea of his wife surrounded by dildos and masks was going to fuel a good laugh—later. Right now his shortcomings as a husband were glaring at him.
“Yes, okay?” The anger seeped away, replaced by her signature frustration with compressed lips, high color and refusal to look at him. Tanya could never stay angry long, for which he was eternally grateful. He’d never slept on the couch as a result.
“What did you buy?”
“Yes, you did. You said so.” He stepped behind her and placed his hands over her hips, pulling her firm ass against his groin. Her scrubbing rhythm faltered. “Come on, tell me what you bought.”
“Forget it. It’s stupid.” Her voice quavered in the telltale fashion that foretold tears.
He reached around her and unplugged the sink.
He turned her in place so she faced him. “Babe, it’s not stupid. I’m sorry we don’t talk as much. We’re both busy and—”
“And you’re my husband. We should make time for each other.”
There was no denying the truth. He kissed her forehead in a silent plea for forgiveness. She answered it by looping her arms around his waist and hugging him, her head tucked perfectly under his chin, their bodies lining up just right.
“You’ll show me?” he said into her hair.
Tanya turned her face into his chest and muttered something that sounded like, “Yes.”
“I’m going to take the trash and recycling out. Why don’t you go get your new toys ready and I’ll be back in a minute?” He would need a moment to get his head screwed on straight. Besides the weird stuff her friends had given her before their wedding, they’d never brought anything into the bedroom with them. They’d never needed toys or anything to get off, so he didn’t see the point. Still, the novelty was appealing.
“Okay.” Tanya pivoted and walked swiftly out of the kitchen.
Cole watched her leave, committing the image to memory.
What kind of an asshole was he that he ignored his wife’s needs and made her genuinely embarrassed to approach him about something like sex?
He stalked across the kitchen, dug the trash and recycling bags out of the receptacles and took them to the garage.
Early on, when they lived in Nowhere, USA, the sense of wonder that she loved him, Cole, the guy who could barely graduate high school by the skin of his teeth, never ceased to amaze him. Hell, he’d only passed because his grand scheme of getting the pretty girl to tutor him had worked out so well. Not only had she tutored him, she’d given him her heart. Even after thirteen years he was still waiting for her to wake up and realize her mistake and divorce him. Waiting for it was wearing him thin. The higher she rose, the farther he had to fall, and that would kill him.
He reentered the house with a dark mood clinging to him.
How fucked up was he? He had a hot piece of ass for a wife, whom he was in love with, and he was trying to get out of their marriage. Something had to be seriously unhinged upstairs.
Cole flipped the lights and radio off, taking his time progressing down the hall to the square of light that taunted him.
He could face down drug lords and armed robbers, but his wife left him anxious and uncertain. He sucked in a deep breath and strolled through the bedroom door.
Tanya glanced up from where she sat in the middle of their bed, still wearing the soft green dress from dinner. Two boxes sat in front of her on the bedspread, one red and the other black.
“What’s this?” he asked, sitting on the edge of the bed.
She sighed and picked at her nails. “It’s called Pandora’s Box and it promises to equip you with challenges to spice up your sex life. Dumb. I know.”
“It’s not dumb. I just don’t get it.” He picked up the box and popped open the magnetic top.
“The instructions say that you should give all the challenges a go to properly explore your sexual adventures.”
He picked up the black box and turned it to read the script. “What about this?”
Tanya snatched it from his hands and bounded off the bed. “I’m returning this.”
Now his curiosity was piqued, but he didn’t want to make her any more uncomfortable than she already was. He held up his hands. “Okay.” He turned his attention back to Pandora’s Box. “So do you or I pick the challenge?”
Tanya didn’t seem that interested in the box or amorous activities.
Cole peered into the box. There was a booklet he skipped, dice, a feather, some black folded stuff and a deck of cards.
Tanya deserved to be treated to pleasure, and if she wanted to use the box, he’d get on this train. He was aware of her gaze tracking his movements as he investigated the cards. They seemed to be ideas, suggestions for something a little out of the ordinary. A few of the cards were downright ridiculous, but the rest he could work with.
Cole peered at her over the top of the cards. A light bulb went on. He fanned them out, displaying the image on the card to Tanya but the text to him.
“Pick one,” he dared.
Tanya’s brows rose and her mouth formed a little “O”. A thread of tension, sensual and full of lust, stretched between his wife and him. He held her gaze and neither breathed as she selected a card with two people, arms wound around each other, on the brink of kissing. He took the card from her, placed the others in the box and cleared his throat. He peered into the box.
Cole pocketed one of the dice.
“Rediscover the sensual pleasure of kissing. Frequent kissing can improve the appearance of the face, giving the thirty muscles a workout. The racing pulse of a passionate kiss boosts metabolism and helps burn calories. And lastly, kissing is nature’s antidepressant, releasing the feel-good chemical oxytocin into the bloodstream.” He chuckled at all the data, but the reality was that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d kissed Tanya with anything more than a quick peck.
Tanya’s brow wrinkled. “That’s it?”
He shrugged and placed the box on the bench at the end of the bed. “I’m resourceful.”
“This is silly. Let’s just go to sleep.”
Cole circled the bed, watching how Tanya kept her gaze anywhere but on him. “I think we should give it a try first. Come on.” He stopped inches away from her.
Tanya’s gaze landed on his chest and he watched her trace the SWAT letters on his shirt with her eyes.
Sometimes he wondered if she resented his job and how much it took him away these days. It was an odd exchange for them, but he couldn’t deny that she was getting a taste of what the first ten years of their marriage had been like for him. But he wasn’t about to hold it against her. He’d never wanted to stand in the way of her dreams and, in the end, she’d pulled him with her. Making him who he was today. So he could help her.
Cole tugged the elastic band out of her hair. The way the light shone off her wavy tresses mesmerized him.