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Trace of Fever (The Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor Book 2) Kindle Edition

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Length: 394 pages
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About the Author

Lori Foster is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author with books from a variety of publishers, including Berkley/Jove, Kensington, St. Martin’s, Harlequin and Silhouette. Lori has been a recipient of the prestigious RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Fantasy, and for Contemporary Romance. She’s had top-selling books for Amazon, Waldenbooks and the BGI Group. For more about Lori, visit her Web site at www.lorifoster.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Arms crossed and his shoulder propped against the wall outside the elaborate, corner high-rise office, Trace Rivers considered his options. Having an inside source would shorten his job. As a pseudobodyguard, he hadn't been given the opportunity to uncover shit yet, and he was getting antsy. But if he could turn someone who was privy to the info he needed, then he'd get somewhere.

Murray Coburn was dirty. Trace knew it. Hell, a lot of people knew it. But they couldn't or wouldn't touch the bastard without rock-solid evidence. The legal system had failed.

Trace would find the evidence eventually, though, and then he'd mete out his own form of justice.

Until then he had to contend with the odd assortment of disreputable punks and bullies working for Murray.

He also had to contend with Helene Schumer, better known as Hell—a name that suited her well. She never missed an opportunity to grope him, to boss him, to make his job more trying than necessary. But as Murray's current paramour, Hell had privileges denied to others.

If Murray uncovered her perfidy, he'd kill her without remorse. That thought didn't bother Trace at all, but Murray would also lose trust in him, and that couldn't happen.

The unsavory idea of using Hell didn't sit well with Trace, but it would be expedient, especially since the lady acted like a nymphomaniac around him.

As she approached now, her intent obvious in the slanting of her eyes and the curve of her painted mouth, Trace did his utmost to ignore her. Luckily he was saved from her assault when the timid receptionist, Alice, approached with a message.

Using the name he'd given for this cover, she said, "Mr. Miller?"

Trace kept his gaze on Hell, but replied, "What is it?"

"There's a woman downstairs asking to see Mr. Coburn. Your presence is requested to see what she wants."

In theatrical fanfare, Hell paused with her feet braced apart, her hands on her rounded hips, her chin at a haughty angle. "A woman? Who the hell is she?"

The receptionist ducked her head. "No idea, ma'am."

"Tell them to keep the woman there until I arrive." Though he could have communicated directly with the staff downstairs, Trace dismissed the young woman to do the chore, to remove her from Hell's wrath. Hell's viciousness was one of the things Murray seemed to enjoy most about her, so he never required her to curb her more cutthroat tendency of mauling the messenger.

"I don't want another woman seeing Murray."

Vicious and territorial. Of course, she had to know that Murray screwed anything in a skirt, with and without consent.

"He's out anyway." The bastard had left two hours ago, and though he'd been favoring Trace as his personal protection, this time he'd taken another man with him.

"Find out who she is and report back to me."

"I don't think so." Everyone in the organization feared Hell, almost as much as they feared Murray. except for Trace; he felt only contempt—for them both.

And maybe that accounted for Hell's constant pursuit, and Murray's apparent regard.

As he started toward the elevator, Hell stepped in his way. In her spiked heels, she stood eye-level to his six-foot height. Her long dark hair hung sleek down her back, her lips and nails painted shiny red. A sheer camisole, stretched tight over her enhanced boobs, was cut low enough to display not only her cleavage but damn near her navel and tucked into a pencil-thin skirt. she looked killer-gorgeous, as always.

Gorgeous, and evil. She stared at his crotch. "How convenient for you, that you're being called away."

God, Trace despised her. "Yeah? How's that?"

As daring as always, she reached out a hand and cupped his balls through his slacks. "I anticipated a private moment with you."

Far from enjoying her touch, Trace didn't trust her not to mutilate him. He grabbed her slender wrist and squeezed the delicate bones. Though he knew he caused her pain, her lips parted and her eyelids went heavy.

She licked her lips and searched his gaze. "If you were naked, I would have my nails in you right now."

Which was a damn good reason not to get naked with her. Trace smiled in triumph. "But not this time, Hell." He removed her arm by squeezing until she gasped and her fingers opened. He tossed her aside. "I have work to do."

"Trace?"

On a sigh, he turned back to her. "What?"

"I want you to take me shopping."

"Not in my job description, doll."

"It is—if Murray orders it." She rubbed her reddened wrist over her breasts. "And Murray will order anything I want."

Having nothing to say to that, Trace turned away from her and stepped into the elevator. When the doors closed, he let out a breath of relief.

Since he'd infiltrated the organization three weeks ago, posing as a bodyguard, Hell had been the toughest part of maintaining his cover. Eventually he'd have to deal with her. As a medicinal chemist, she supplied any and all drug persuasions that Murray might need for his human trafficking venture. Lackeys captured the women and Murray, the bastard, sold them to the highest bidder—after Hell ensured their compliance through risky drugs.

Trace looked forward to the moment when he'd deal with her.

When it came to annihilating the scourge, he didn't discriminate against women. Helene Schumer had to go; the world would be a better place without her.

Priscilla Patterson simpered and feigned distress as two hulking brutes tried to bully her toward a secluded conference room of the office building. What they intended to do to her there, she couldn't say.

They were not gentle, making her show of defenselessness difficult to maintain. Her arm got twisted; someone pulled at her ponytail, making her gasp.

And then suddenly, a quiet but stern voice spoke up. "Let her go."

Just that easily, she was free. She twisted to find a face to go with that deep voice, and froze. Wow.

Unlike the Neanderthals who'd taken pleasure in manhandling her so roughly, this man looked smooth and debonair and…sexy.

He strode toward them with a frown that brooked no arguments. Standing easily six feet tall, he was muscular but not overly bulky, clean-cut but not in a too-polished GQ way. Very fair hair, straight and a little too long, contrasted sharply with the most piercing golden-brown eyes she'd ever seen. He wore khakis and an obviously expensive black T-shirt. She detected the bulk of a Kevlar vest beneath the shirt.

A black-leather shoulder holster held his gun. The belt around his waist carried two extra magazines, a stun gun, baton and mace. His black lace-up steel-toed boots could be deadly.

The man was ready for anything.

But maybe not ready for her.

That bright caramel gaze drifted over both of the hulks with contempt. "I'll handle her from here."

Grumbling, the men moved away.

He took her arm. "come with me."

Priss tried to resist, but he was far more physically persuasive—without really hurting her—than the other men had been. "Where are we going?"

"Farther away for privacy."

"Oh. Okay." In her flat shoes, she hustled along beside him, feeling very short and suddenly unsure of herself. "You work here?"

He didn't reply but drew her around the corner, shielding her from prying eyes. He, on the other hand, stayed in view, and Priscilla assumed it was so he could keep an eye on the others.

Cautious and suspicious—qualities she appreciated.

He gave her a very slow perusal, from her dark reddish-brown hair in its high ponytail, to her crisp blue blouse and her over-the-knee, old-fashioned skirt, to her flat-heeled Mary Janes.and then back up again. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh." She pretended to be flustered by his direct stare. And truthfully…she was. But only a little. This was too important for her to fudge it.

She hugged her big satchel purse to her chest and said with just the right quaver, "I came to meet Murray Coburn."

"Why?"

She widened her eyes. "Well, that's actually private."

He stood there, waiting, his gaze unflinching, direct.

Ha. He didn't know her fortitude if he thought a little stare-down would discomfort her. Pasting on what she hoped was a winsome smile, Priscilla blinked her eyes at him. "Oh, I should introduce myself." She held out a hand. "I'm Priscilla Patterson."

He looked at her hand, and his left eye twitched.

He didn't touch her.

"Yes, well…" She tucked her hand back in close to her body. "Will you please tell Mr. Coburn I'm here?"

"No." And then, striking an exasperated stance, he asked again, "Why do you want to see him?"

When she started to look away, he caught her chin and lifted her face. "I don't have time for this, so stop the coy act."

This time her eyes widened for real. He knew she was acting? But how?

Shaking his head, he released her. "Fine. I'll have the men show you out."

"No, wait." She caught his arm—and was stunned at the unyielding strength there. It was like grabbing thick rock. "Okay, I'll tell you. But please don't make me leave."

He crossed his arms, which effectively shook off her touch. "I'm listening."

"Murray is my father."

So still that he looked like a stone statue, the man stared at her. Only an infinitesimal narrowing of his eyes showed any reaction at all. "You're fucking with me."

Okay, so coarse language didn't really shock her, not anymore, not at twenty-four when much of her life had been spent on the sordid side of survival. She still gasped. "Sir, really." Fanning her face as if to alleviate a blush, Priscilla frowned at him. "I assure you that I'm serious."

A noise at the front of the lobby drew his attention, and after a quick look, he cursed low. Catching her arm, he dragged her farther out of view and bent close. "Listen up, lady. Whatever harebrained plan you have to cozy up with Coburn, forget it."

With complete honesty, she said, "Oh, but I can't."

He snarled, and then he shook her. "Trust me on this— you don't belong here. You don't belong in this building, much less anywhere near Coburn. Be smart and take your pert little ass out the door and away from danger."

Pert little ass? Frowning, she looked behind herself. From what she could see, her ass—pert or otherwise— looked nonexistent thanks to the shape of the skirt.

A deliberate choice.

But because he looked genuinely concerned, which was surely at odds with the duty that would be assigned to him, Priscilla shrugged. "Sorry. I didn't come this far just to walk away."

Footsteps sounded behind them. His jaw tightened. "There's a back exit. Go down the hall, hang a left, go through the—"

So stubborn! "Excuse me." Priss stepped around him just as a behemoth rounded the corner, followed by the two men who'd bullied her earlier and another, equally disreputable-looking fellow.

She'd seen plenty of pictures, so she knew right away who stood before her.

Murray Coburn.

Dark, slick, massive in build with an enormous neck and back, he looked exactly as she'd expected, right down to the trim goatee and calculating gaze.

"What's going on here?" Murray sized her up, and though she knew she wouldn't be to his liking, his gaze turned smarmy. "Who are you?"

Again Priss held out a hand. "Priscilla Patterson. I'm your daughter."

Trace swallowed down a curse. He wanted to toss the girl, in her ridiculous clothes with her ridiculous ponytail, over his shoulder to carry her out the front door—away from harm.

He wanted, quite simply, to kill Murray in front of her, then kill the rest of them, too. Little Ms. Patterson might be traumatized for life, but damn it, she'd be alive.

Unfortunately he couldn't do a damn thing except stand there looking bored and mildly put out.

Murray's gaze swung to him, blue eyes as cold as the arctic zeroing in. "What the fuck is this, Trace?"

"A nuisance, that's all. I was just getting rid of her." Trace clamped a hard hand onto her arm.

With a flick of his hand, Murray stopped him from taking a single step. He dismissed the other men and after they'd walked away, he looked at her again. His brows were down in that fierce way that made most people quake in fear.

It was an affectation wasted on Trace.

Beneath his well-trimmed goatee, Murray's mouth was flat and hard. "Bring her up to my office."

And with that, he walked away to the private elevators.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Glaring at the girl, Trace asked, "Happy now?"

She looked almost smug when she said, "Getting there." She gave a pointed look at his hand on her arm.

Ignoring that silent command, Trace high-stepped her toward an empty conference room on the lobby floor.

"Hey!" She tried to free herself, but couldn't.

Funny thing, though, Trace noticed that she moved in an expedient, stylized way that, against someone without his level of skill, might have gotten her free. "You're going to hurt yourself."

She worked up a few tears, letting them glisten on her long dark lashes. "You're hurting me."

"Not yet," Trace told her, unmoved by the false show of emotion. "But the idea of putting you over my knee gets more tempting by the second."

That left her tight-lipped and silent—with no remnant of tears to be seen.

Trace propelled her into a room and toward a conference table with chairs. "Sit." When she started to defy him, he filled his lungs and made a move toward her.

She dropped into a seat. "Why are you doing this?" Hands gripping the chair arms, she summoned up lost bravado and lifted her chin. "You heard what Mr. Coburn said. He wants you to take me to his office."

"Yeah. But I heard what he didn't say, too."

She shook her head. "What are you talking about?"

"I have to search you."

Aghast, she said, "I beg your pardon?"

"Beg all you want." He was so pissed right now, he might enjoy hearing it. "I'm still going to check you over. Everywhere."

Her eyes widened in alarm.

Too late, honey. Trace nodded at her, grim, but sort of anticipating it, too. "Every nook and hollow, honey, inside every piece of clothing."

She sputtered, and Trace noticed the flush blooming in her cheeks.

With her entire small body pulled tight in rebellion, she gasped, "You're insane!"

Trace propped his shoulders against the wall. "If you want to see Coburn, I have to ensure you aren't hiding a weapon, or a transmitter, of any kind."

"No."

"Fine." Perfect, in fact. "Then leave. Right now." She hesitated. "But…"

Again, Trace took his gaze over her. She tried to hide her body under the prim clothes, but he wasn't fooled. He'd bet his favorite knife that this particular babe was in no way innocent. Whether or not she was Murray's spawn, he couldn't say. There did seem to be something of a resemblance in the color of her hair, though hers was a shade or two lighter than Murray's. And when she connived, which she'd been doing from jump, she had a certain look about her that reminded him of Coburn.

Trace glanced at the chunky black watch on his wrist. "Make up your mind, but make it up fast. What's it to be? Do you want to leave, or do you want my hands all over you?"

Product Details

  • File Size: 561 KB
  • Print Length: 394 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 037377575X
  • Publisher: HQN Books; Original edition (June 1, 2011)
  • Publication Date: May 31, 2011
  • Sold by: Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004XDVRJI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,948 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Since first publishing in January 1996, Lori Foster has become a USA Today, Publisher's Weekly and New York Times bestselling author. Lori has published through a variety of houses, including Kensington, St. Martin's, Berkley, Silhouette and Samhain. She is currently with Harlequin.

Lori believes it's important to give back to the community as much as possible, and for that reason she ran special contests in conjunction with a publisher, facilitating many first sales for new authors. She routinely organizes events among authors and readers to gather donations for various organizations.

Lori hosts a very special annual "Reader & Author" event in West Chester, Ohio. Proceeds from the event have benefited many worthy causes, including the Hamilton County YWCA Battered Women's Shelter, the Animal Adoption Foundation, The Conductive Learning Center for children with spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and The One Way Farm, Children's Home.

In 2007, Lori put together The Write Ingredients a cookbook of recipes donated by popular authors. Proceeds from the cookbook go toward Lori's ongoing "Troop project" of collecting and mailing fun, and sometimes necessary, items to our troops.

In 2008, Lori coordinated with other authors of her choosing, and through Berkley, arranged for the publication of The Power of Love, a special romance anthology of novellas about empowering women. All author and agent proceeds from the anthology go to the Hamilton Co YWCA Battered women's shelter.

In 2009, Tails of Love, another romance anthology with Lori and other contributing authors, was published through Berkley with all agent and author proceeds to benefit The Animal Adoption Foundation.

In 2010, The Gift of Love romance anthology, with Lori and other contributing authors, was published with proceeds to benefit The Conductive Learning Center, a school for children with cerebral palsy and spina bifida.

In 2011, The Promise of Love, a romance anthology with Lori and other contributing authors, will be published with proceeds to benefit the One Way Farm, a home for abused and abandoned children.

In 2012, Love Bites, a romance anthology with Lori and other contributing authors, was published with all agent and author proceeds to benefit The Animal Adoption Foundation.

In 2013, Animal Attraction, a romance anthology that goes with the "Buckhorn Brothers" series, with Lori and other contributing authors, was published with all agent and author proceeds to benefit The Animal Adoption Foundation.

Lori has received many prestigious awards, including:

Romantic Times "Career Achievement Award" for:
Series Romantic Fantasy
Contemporary Romance

Walendenbooks:
Say No To Joe - second "Bestselling Original Contemporary"

Borders Group Inc.:
The Secret Life of Bryan - "Bestselling Original Contemporary" romance title
Jude's Law - "Bestselling Romantic Comedy" romance title
Back in Black - "Bestselling Romantic Suspense" romance title

Lori Foster has been both a clue in the New York Times crossword puzzle and the USA Today Quick Cross puzzle.

Lori enjoys visiting with readers on her Facebook Fan page, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By David Gordon on July 2, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've only written a handful of reviews, however, this book was so RIDICULOUS I felt the need. I did not read the first book in the series, and certainly have no desire now.

That being said, Priss (female character), was such a contradiction--none of which worked. She's a virgin; she's a porn shop owner; she's going to single-handedly take on her human-trafficking, sadistic father and his lecherous and unstable GF. Priss is mortified that she was subjected to a body search and horrified to have had to try on skimpy clothes in front of others, yet tells anyone and everyone she comes across that Dare has seen her near naked and has a picture of her. Most of the book is spent describing her body, her being naked, and her unwillingness to...ahem...groom in certain areas. I admit to reading the entire book (and would never review one unless I had), but mainly due to it being a train wreck and my curiosity to find out how on earth it got the high ratings it did. Really boggles my mind.

I read a lot of books in this genre, and generally enjoy them. In fact, I read Foster's entire Buckhorn series and thought it was really decent. I would recommend that series and thought it was cute and entertaining. However, after this one...I'm not sure if I'm willing to read Foster again. Trace of Fever was just so juvenile! I teach high school and kept thinking this is what my teenage boys would be inclined to write if I assigned them romantic suspense as a story genre.

Anyway, my recommendation would be to stay away from this one. My favorite authors in this genre tend to be Suzanne Brockmann, Laura Griffin, Julie Garwood, Cindy Gerard, and maybe even Shannon McKenna who's a bit edgier. Their books are extremely well written and I don't find myself rolling my eyes as I did, frequently, with this one.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 1, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Trace of Fever is the second book in the Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series.

Trace Rivers is working undercover trying to earn the trust of a well known and corrupt businessman, Murray Coburn when he meets innocent Priscilla Patterson claiming to be the long lost daughter of Murray but with a hidden agenda and secrets of her own.

Trace has spent quite some time trying to infiltrate Murray's business, to gain his trust so that he could eventually put a stop to the human trafficking he was dealing in. He saw Priscilla as a distraction he didn't need, it was a time when he couldn't afford to lose focus.

Priss has lived a sheltered life and after the death of her mother had set her sights on seeking revenge on the man she believes ruined her mothers life as well as her own by association; she was focused and determined much to Trace's dismay.

I absolutely loved Trace and had been looking forward to reading his story after learning bits and pieces about him in book 1 When you Dare. His sister had been kidnapped by traffickers so he has a personal vendetta against the illegal trade of women and was out to seek justice; I thought his actions were admirable. I wasn't a huge fan of Priss, she seemed to run hot and cold for me and at times acted quite immature and stubborn, I found her to be quite irritating.

The slow build-up to their relationship worked well with me, although they were attracted to each other physically from get-go they held back; I liked the possessive streak Trace showed toward her.

The bad guys were just horrible! From Murray to his girlfriend Helene (Hell) as well as the henchmen that seemed to be lurking everywhere, they were evil nasty people. I am glad they got what they each deserved.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By shakahi on May 31, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I won't give a synopsis since that's been done. After the first book I was excited to get to the second. The main characters are fun and well written. The story starts off fast so I didn't feel like I was trudging through background information. It's well paced. It stands alone but reading the first one introduces you to most of the characters. Another interesting character, Jackson, is introduced. But about 2/3rds of the way through the book the story seems rushed. Then suddenly it's two months later. We get all the adrenaline pumping action and sexual chemistry. But then it falls flat. It's a decent fun read but taking more time in the last third of the book would have made it more satisfying.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Book Lady on September 24, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Lori Foster is a talented storyteller, but that talent is missing in Trace of Fever. The only thing the book has going for it is the character of Trace, the book's hero.

Main character Priss, who probably has more too-stupid-to-live moments than any other gal in the genre, is off-the-charts annoying and unbelievable. As, frankly, are the other supporting characters: Murray, the father she's never met before, who not only traffics in human flesh but exhibits a bizarre sexual interest in his own daughter; and his side-dish Helene, a psychotic nymphomaniac who takes up way too much space in this book.

Other reviewers have laid out the plot, so I won't go into that again, but I highly recommend that you don't start Foster with Trace of Fever. It's sophomoric and unbelievable.

Places to start with a fun Foster tale: the Winston brothers short stories, Say No to Joe?, and even Causing Havoc. I think Foster is better at short stories than full-length novels, and her lighter books succeed much better than those dealing with murder and mayhem.
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