“The writing team of Stepnanie Tyler and Larissa Ione (Sydney Croft) have gave us another great story about the ACRO agents. The depth of emotion between the characters seems very real. Taming the Fire is truly a page-turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This is a great series and I hope that there will be many, many more books to come.”
—Robin, Night Owl Romance Reviews
“This is the fourth novel in the ACRO series and centers mainly around Trance and Rik. Sydney Croft creates a thrilling paranormal read with action and scorching romance at every turn. Taming the Fire has a lot going on, and if you’ve been following the series you’re going to love some of the developments for this story’s secondary characters.”
—Kimberly Swan, DarqueReviews.com
“[The] Fourth installment in this erotically charged series is totally outstanding. This is [a] sizzling hot series that has never failed to keep my undivided attention. The collaboration of Sydney Croft is nothing short of brilliant.”
—Mandy Burns, Fresh Fiction
“Full of action and adventure, this book takes a long leisurely stroll through the world of BDSM. The characters' gifts are each unique and special…Ms. Croft definitely grabbed this reader's attention and was able to keep it throughout the entire story.”
—Kimberly, for Coffee Time Romance & More
“The exciting “stormy’ adventures of the ACRO agents continue as Trance and Rik battle for sexual supremacy in an exhilarating entry. Filled with BDSM, the story line focuses on the changing relationship between Trance and Rik while their common enemies stalk them…ans of the ACRO saga will enjoy Taming the Fire as it burns you.”
“This is a fantastic addition to the series about the paranormal world and the efforts to save all mankind. I thoroughly enjoyed the byplay between all the characters, not just the leads. The plot is well formed and detailed and the characters are truly vibrant. I am anxiously awaiting the next installment from this awesome author!”
—The Romance Reader's Connection
“I didn’t read this book, I devoured it. The ACRO world is full of danger and suspense, mixed with hot, sexual emotions...I tip my hat to the writing team of Stephanie Tyler and Larissa Ione, who make up Sydney Croft. I can only hope they have more adventures planned for the ACRO world.”
—Joyfully Reviewed, A Joyfully Recommended Read!
"You look like you need a daddy."
Trance merely stared down the Bear who was dressed in all leather, and gave a small shake of his head. Wrong sex and wrong preference, but he didn't mind the attention. He had an open mind when it came to anything concerning sex, but women did it for him and always had. That wasn't changing.
So no, he didn't need a daddy, but hell, if the right woman came along, he wouldn't mind playing the daddy and everything in between.
He didn't hold out much hope for the right woman, though, which made his whole, wouldn't mind, speech easier to feed himself.
Besides, he wasn't here for a soulmate - he was on a mission from ACRO - the Agency for Covert Rare Operatives - to rescue a now free agent named Ulrika. She was on the run from Itor Corp, a powerful agency that also employed agents with special abilities. Her name meant power of the wolf, and she'd originally belonged to a small, rare European tribe of therianthropes, people who believe they are animals in human flesh. According to ACRO's cryptozoologists, therians claim to shift, spiritually and psychologically but not physically - that could be proven -- into their animal.
By all reports, Ulrika had lived in harmony with her animal soul, until Itor got a hold of her, mutated her powers without her consent. Now, she was a powerful shapeshifter who used sex to control the angry beast living inside of her, and if she had a chance in hell of staying alive, she was going to need his agency's help.
Which was why he was here, undercover and posing as a sub rather than his Dom preference.
This wasn't one of the worst clubs, but it wasn't one of the higher end ones either. No, Ulrika would be hiding in a place where she could stand out without fear of being caught, and this underground London club was off the map.
He'd been watching her all night as he sat on the smooth leather stool in a stance that signaled available. Most of the Doms avoided him, as they should. Even tamping himself down, the wild streak practically throbbed from him.
But Ulrika was drawn to that. From what he'd gathered, she liked her men hard to handle. Probably because the tamer ones were unable to handle what she had to offer during sex.
She appeared next to him, catching him off guard. He took a sip of his whiskey as if he was the one who called her over, but she wasn't buying it. She put a strong arm on his, and he let her push his hand with the glass in it to the bar where he opened his palm and surrendered it.
Kira, another ACRO operative, an animal whisperer, had been right on pegging tonight as the night. Ulrika was definitely on the prowl.
She slid a firm finger under his chin and forced it upward, as if appraising him.
No, this wasn't going to be easy.
He forced himself to stay still under her gaze. If she was a true, born Dom, she'd have known that he wasn't a submissive, not by a long shot. But from the files he'd briefed himself on before he left the ACRO offices, he knew Ulrika's need for sex overrode most of her other senses. Especially now, when she was scared and on the run.
He would be the one to bring her in, even if it meant posing as something that went against every one of his most basic survival instincts.
The wolf lady was beautiful - long, reddish blond hair, piercing gold eyes. And yes, he didn't avert his gaze purposefully, because if he was going to pull off his role as a sub, it was going to be as one who was nearly un-trainable.
"Eyes down, boy," she said, her voice sure and strong, with the barest hint of a German accent, and he shot her one final glance before doing her bidding. "You won't be an easy one, will you?"
"I'm not a boy," he said.
She chuckled lightly. "You'll be whatever I tell you to be tonight."
His cock jumped at her words.
"Are you worthy of that privilege…boy?"
He wanted to strap her to a spanking bench and make her ass a pretty shade of red and then they'd find out who was worthy.
He bit the inside of his cheek instead of telling her that.
"You may speak," she said, her hand caressing his ass.
"I'm worthy. Mistress."
He brought his eyes up to meet hers again, and she merely raised her eyebrows at him. "Unless you'd rather call me daddy, I suggest you lower your eyes and learn to love boy."
He hadn't expected the sense of humor. She'd been watching him for longer than he'd thought.
He lowered his eyes, but only so he could stare at her perfectly formed breasts under the low cut, gauzy blouse she wore. Much different than most of the leather-clad mamas in this place.
She brought her cleavage close to his face. "Like what you see?"
He breathed deeply - her scent belied what she really was underneath - part woman, part wolf…and he was the perfect one to tame the beast he knew was inside that body.
"Yes. I like." His voice was husky with need, and if she hadn't been able to tell from that, all she needed to do was look down at the massive bulge between his legs, straining to be set free from the black pants he wore.
"Room three. Face the wall. And keep your clothes on. I want to have some fun taking them off myself."
He nodded, pushed off the stool and walked toward the room without the requisite, yes, mistress.
He heard her low growl follow him down the darkened hallway all the way to room three, with its heavy cuffs and chains hanging from the far wall. Which was exactly where she wanted him and the last place he wanted to be. No, he should be the one cuffing her, arms above her head, her breasts and body open to him for his pleasure.
Instead, his body would be in Rik's hands.
She was part uncontrollable predator and all danger, to herself and the outside world if she couldn't learn to control the change. In order to help her do that, he'd have to control her first. Slowly. Without her realizing it.
He'd have to hypnotize her into wanting him to be her sub, again and again, because word on the floor was that Mistress Rik didn't take the same sub twice. Ever. And since his skill as an excedo had, as far back as he could recall, included the ability to tame most people with one look into his eyes, he really was the perfect man for the job.
It had been three months since she'd surfaced on the scene following a botched assassination attempt on the head of ACRO's new sister agency, The Aquarius Group. Ulrika's failure to kill Faith Black had apparently led to her escape from Itor when Ulrika's handler was captured. She was now on ACRO's radar, and hopefully Trance could get her off Itor's before they tracked her down.
Now, he remained, facing the wall, feeling her eyes on him. She'd picked one of the private rooms, which gave him hope that she wasn't into displaying him for the world to see.
He wasn't heavily into the BDSM scene - not anymore, but when he was in his late teens and early twenties, he was a frequent visitor to all the clubs, first in the Chicago area where he grew up and later, wherever the Army stationed him. These days, he wasn't looking so much to handle as he was a woman he could fall in love with. But there were very few women who would understand what he was and the job that utilized those special skills to the best of their ability.
It was kind of hard to explain to a date that you possessed the gifts of super strength, better than average eyesight and the power to hypnotize most any human who looked you in the eye.
It was even harder for him to truly let go during sex - because Trance knew his own strength, and his worries about hurting a woman accidentally during lovemaking had stopped him from ever getting past the formal stage with any woman - sub or otherwise.
Rik's breath was warm on the back of his neck. He turned his head to let it graze his ear and she caught his lobe between her teeth, nipped just hard enough to make him turn his head back.
Her hands came around his chest - unbuttoned his shirt slowly. As she peeled it away from his shoulders, she brought her nose in to smell him, to nuzzle his neck and to nip the sensitive skin at the nape. His senses were on high alert, every touch of her fingers was like fire against his skin. His heart beat loudly, his mouth dried and maybe this was all a mistake.
A hand caressed his heavy sac and then his shaft through the fabric of his pants. He'd wanted to wear his usual leathers, but in them he was certainly not unassuming.
"You're nervous," she said.
He didn't answer, didn't have to. It was more nervous energy than actual fear, but it all worked in his favor. Enhanced his role.
She rubbed against his bare back since he still faced the wall, eyes down as she hadn't given him the command otherwise.
"Your safe word?" she asked.
Again, the deep chuckle. "You're a funny boy. I have a feeling you won't be as funny by the time I'm through with you though. Are there things you're not comfortable doing?"
Yes, this. All of this. "My tolerance is high," he told her instead.
He didn't know if that was actually the truth or not, but he had no way of knowing, had never subbed as many of the other Doms did in order to learn how to better their role. He only knew that he preferred pleasure over pain, used restraints with his subs only to enhance pleasure…he wasn't into humiliation and, from what he'd heard, neither was Rik.
It would definitely be a learning experience.
"Tell me your name."
"It's Trance," he said.
"That's your real name?"
"It's the name I use when I'm out playing."
"Fair enough. Turn toward me. Arms over your head."
He did as she asked. She pulled at the chains above him, shortening them so his arms would be held at the highest possible tension while his wrists were caught in the soft leather binding.
She fastened the cuffs and his insides began to chafe almost immediately. His muscles burned slightly and he tugged at the chains, just the way she'd expect.
"Relax," she said, put her hands on his upper arms. But he didn't want to relax. He wanted to come, didn't realize how badly until he was firmly held down.
"Turn your head - look at me, boy. I need to make sure you're all right."
He did as told, raised his eyes and let the familiar feel of vertigo take hold of him, a side effect of getting someone else under his control. Rik stared at him, cocked her head in confusion for a second before reaching for the zipper on his pants.
Yes, she'd restrained him, but the chains would never hold. Nothing would, except his own will.
This one was going to be special. Ulrika could feel it. Smell it. And, when she ran her tongue over the pulse point in his throat, she could taste it. Power flowed through his veins, the currents as strong as those of the river Elbe where she used to fish as a child.
But those days were as dead as her people, and in the years since she'd been taken from her German homeland, she'd learned to tamp down both the memories and the grief, and concentrate on nothing but survival.
A large part of her survival depended on what she was doing now, with Trance.
Her touch as she pulled down his zipper was feather-light, and unexpected, if his quick intake of breath was any indication. Her own breathing hitched as his cock broke free from the soft denim jeans, and she resisted the urge to take it in her palm.
The man was a magnificent creature...broad shoulders, rugged features, and muscles carved from stone. A light dusting of blond hair coated his chest, which was as deeply tanned as the rest of him. Longish blond hair, shot through with darker brown, framed eyes as blue and clear as an Austrian mountain lake. Eyes that fascinated her, drew her in when he should be keeping his gaze averted a lot more than he was.
It had been a long time since she'd encountered anything like him. Usually her customers were either handsome or fit, but rarely both, and never to such extremes.
And before this life...she didn't want to think about it. Yet, for some reason she couldn't help it. The full moon always brought out the beast's fiercest urges, and her worst memories. Such as how Itor had destroyed her clan, had wiped her kind from the face of the earth with experimentation that only she had survived. Now they wanted her dead. After subjecting her to years of hell and forced service, they were tired of playing.
She, however, wasn't. The beast in her needed to play. If the beast wasn't kept sated, it came out, a rabid, uncontrollable thing that raged hard, killed indiscriminately, and wouldn't give back her body until it wore out. She'd wake in strange places, aching and covered in blood that wasn't her own, her memory a black hole.
Sex kept it calm. Meat kept it fed. Dominating humans kept it happy.
She'd just eaten three rare steaks. One down, two in the works.
Her gaze snapped to his. "Did I tell you to speak?"
His blue eyes gleamed, and she held her breath, unable to do or say anything until he dropped his gaze. "No, mistress." His voice was like a velvet whip on sensitive skin, and she felt it all the way to her sex.
This man was not a sub.
The realization found its way into her bloodstream as a rush of adrenaline. Excitement stirred the beast; nothing fired the blood like dominating an alpha, but warning bells clanged in Rik's head. Her mind raced. Itor wouldn't toy with her like this - they'd simply take her out, just as The Aquarius Group would - payback for her attempt at killing one of their top agents. No doubt ACRO would want in on the action, as well. Heck, she had to assume everyone wanted her dead.
Caution had kept her alive for weeks, and she couldn't ignore her internal alarm, even if this turned out to be a false one.
Lightning fast, she pushed his face around so he couldn't look at her, and she scraped her teeth over his ear, not lightly or gently. "Tell me why you're here."
"To submit to you, mistress."
"I don't believe you. Why do something so against your nature?"
His muscles tensed, and she smelled surprise rolling off him. "I want to know what it feels like to submit," he said smoothly, "and I hear you're the best."
"I am." She pressed against him harder, letting her stiff nipples rub against his chest through the fabric of her top. "I can make you love to be dominated. I can make you learn to crave it. To beg for it."
"Then teach me."
The underlying steel in his voice sent a shiver of feminine appreciation through her even as it raised the beast's hackles. She drew his head around and nipped his bottom lip, enough to cause pain but not draw blood. "Teach me, please. Say it. Now."
His moment of hesitation lasted no more than a second, but she once again made the mistake of looking into his mesmerizing eyes, the distraction so intense that she barely heard him say, "Teach me, please."
Nodding, she stepped back and allowed herself a leisurely scan of his body, from his bound hands to his chest, his slim waist where muscles strained, to his erection that jutted like steel from where she'd peeled back his fly.
"You will do as I say. Always."
His tone was better, properly subdued, and she heated all over. As a reward, she slipped her fingers between his legs and drew his heavy sac forward so it bulged over the top of his fly opening. Hunger consumed her, but she'd ignore her need until Trance had been properly schooled.
"You will come when and if I allow it," she said, as she drew one long nail up his cock, tracing the deep blue veins that circled the shaft like thick vines.
He breathed out a curse, and at her arched brow, he said, "Yes, mistress." Though he'd responded through clenched teeth, his voice had deepened, and she knew his hunger had climbed.
"Good boy," she murmured. "Very good." She scraped her nails over one nicely developed pec. "You should know that after tonight, someone else will have to instruct you. I don't do this for your pleasure, but for mine, and mine alone." She tweaked his nipple, enjoying his barely controlled intake of breath. "I don't do the normal exchange of trust and power. This is about power only. My power. Do you understand?"
"That's highly unusual, mistress."
She stepped away. "It's how I work. If you object, I'll send you away now."
Several heartbeats ticked by before he finally gave her a slow nod. There was so much fight in him, and so much restraint. He was magnificent beyond belief.
Her loose clothing grew tight, confining, her skin aching for the hot, smooth contact of male muscle. She would touch him, but he would never touch her. No man would touch her with his hands, ever again.
Slowly, she stripped out of her blouse, noting the way Trance's gaze darkened at the sight of her breasts. They were bigger than they looked beneath the top, the nipples hard and stiff within the gold rings that circled them but didn't pierce.
She now wore only her skirt, high heels and the radio collar, a leather-wrapped steel casing full of electronics - a homing locator and a nasty shock mechanism a handler could activate with different intensities to either control her behavior or force her to shapeshift.
The good news was that outside the ten-mile radius of a handler in possession of a controller, the collar didn't work to either give away her location or to shock her. The bad news was that the collar couldn't be removed without the tiny bomb inside blowing her head off.
So yeah, she could tell herself that she could tamp down her memories, but every time she looked in the mirror, they looked right back at her.
Right now, though, her sub was looking at her, and she wasn't going to disappoint either of them.
Watching him, she cupped her breasts, pushed them together so he could imagine his cock between them, rubbing and thrusting, each upward stroke allowing her to swipe at the head with her tongue. She circled her peaked nipples with her thumbs until sensation swept from her breasts to her sex, which flooded with her juices.
Trance's throat muscles worked on a hard swallow, his nostrils flaring, and when his tongue snaked out to moisten his lips, she knew he was ready for the next step.
Dropping to her knees, she brought her mouth close to his cock so he could feel the stirring of her breath on his skin. No touching though, except to peel down his pants. But when he rolled his hips toward her, nearly catching her mouth with his shaft, she sighed and reached for the leather-bound box behind her.
"Naughty boy," she murmured. "Time for your first lesson."
·end of excerpt·