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Going All In

The Order: Book 1

Author(s): Lillian Ridgeway

Natalie and Alek share a profession and a past, and most would consider them friends. Yet they have always held walls up between them. After all, Natalie and Alek are nothing alike. She is a talented “found” warrior in The Order, a part of the thin line that protects the innocent from supernatural creatures who mean them harm; he, though very competent and skilled, is a blue-blood legacy. What neither can forgot is that Natalie was practically Alek’s sister-in-law just a few years ago. After a dangerous mission and a close call, Natalie and Alek end up exploring volatile areas of their relationship, some which have been willfully ignored for years. With the help of another close friend, a daring proposal and a little alcohol, everything finally comes out into the open under the dark of night. What will Alek and Natalie do with knowledge that neither is ready for?



Natalie was gripped with a sudden panic. It happened, sometimes. Never while she was "on duty", thank the Goddess, but often when she was already emotional, stressed, or worked up. Right now, she most definitely did not want to be alone. Just her and her thoughts, in the dark of the night of her small room, would let her inner-demons out.

She much preferred flesh and blood demons to those.

Natalie stared at the table for a few long minutes while she heard Leo and Alek moving around, preparing to leave. She considered her options. How to get them, at least one of them, to stay, without looking weak? Even among friends so close, Natalie kept up a barrier. She did not want to seem needy, even if she was.

"Let me buy you a nightcap?" she managed to get out as the panic grew.

She felt it in her chest, and she didn't trust her hands not to shake.

Leo shook his head. "Early meeting tomorrow, Nat-"

She raised her eyes to meet his, and pulled out the big guns. It was difficult to get the word out past her tight lips and gritted teeth; almost a physical pain. "Please?"

A request from Natalie- an honest request, sans smart-ass humor- caught both of the men's attention.

"Please stay," Natalie almost muttered, not quite looking at either man.

Leo immediately sat back down. She'd allowed him to see her like this very rarely during their long friendship; she held it together so well on a regular basis that these moments were inevitable, though infrequent. "I guess I could stay for a drink."

Alek looked as if he had been caught in head lights, but sat himself back down. "I guess I could go for another, too."

Nat poured one round, then another. Conversation returned slowly, about mystical work-related things, patrols, ex-partners, and spells gone wrong; stories about how close each had come to buying it more than once at the hands of some evil thing that went bump in the night. They talked about the mundane as well, who was sleeping with whom in the ranks, thinking no one noticed, and betting how long the relationships would last or what would bust them up. Normal cadence and tone, Nat's uncharacteristic moment ignored but not forgotten.

Natalie kept pouring; topping off Leo and Alek's drinks, filling up her own. The alcohol wasn't numbing her fast enough or slowing down the adrenaline, despite her injury. She had already been to the gym earlier, immediately after being medically cleared from her patrol, to work off the nerves. Following the work out with a late night drinking session might have seemed like overkill a few hours ago, but right now, she still felt as if her entire body hummed with tension, and knew that booze alone wasn't going to cut it tonight.

The alcohol must be working some, though, as Nat considered the two male specimens drinking with her. They were trained and experienced Warriors, too; they would understand her need, surely? Well, Leo would. He'd helped scratch that particular itch on more than one occasion with talent and understanding. Alek, she wasn't as sure of. If she proposed it….?

When she was honest with herself, she knew she wanted Alek, for more than a simple one-night stand. But she never wanted to sit and think it through, frightened of where it would leave her once she had it all reasoned out. After all, why would he want anything to do with someone like her? Her mistake on a field op had deprived him of a dearly loved sister. That had to be a sticking point, she was sure, although there were so many other reasons, too.

If she couldn't have a relationship with him, could she have him for just a night? Just once. To remind her of why it couldn't work, to give her something else to think about in the deep darkness of a midnight patrol through a creepy, overgrown cemetery. A few more drinks brought an idea, the perfect solution. She grew quiet, considering her approach. This was touchy. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea. The thought had occurred to her before, surely, but she'd never had the opportunity or nerve- contrary to some rumors about her- to try it out.

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 978-1-60435-412-6
Genre: Romance
Date Published: 09/24/2009
Publisher: Red Rose Publishing

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