Sibley Xenopoulos has more attractive, successful men vying for her attention than she has the time to deal with. But she's only ever had eyes for one—Private Investigator, Leo Spanos.
If ever a man needed saving, it's Leo.
His life is in terrible danger, and a bad, BAD man is on the loose. Leo positively craves Sibley, but he's convinced that being involved with him could ruin her life in more ways than the obvious.
Set in Kentucky, the second installment in the Lovers in Louisville series is full of local color and drama. Sibley runs a bed and breakfast in a Victorian mansion located in Old Louisville, and Leo's investigation business is booming, but he needs to somehow stay out of trouble.
Adult themes and hot, sexy scenes are intended for mature readers only.
Release date: November 19, 2019
Publisher: Ringmaster Publishing
Print pages: 280
Content advisory: explicit sex
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Åse and Gunnar’s wedding was a beautiful celebration, and Sibley was thrilled for them. If anyone deserved a happy life, it was Åse. Gunnar appeared to positively worship Åse, and it warmed Sibley’s heart to see them together.
Sibley longed for someone she could reciprocate those kinds of feelings with. She just knew that it was not going to be Paul—her boyfriend from the year she spent working in New York. He still called her from time to time, but she was clear with him that they did not have a future together. As sorry as she was for breaking poor Paul’s heart, she knew it would be wrong to string him along, even in a long-distance relationship.
As Sibley walked down the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony, she caught Leo’s eye. He looked terribly handsome in a dark suit, and he had a fond, appreciative look on his face as he flashed her a beaming smile. Leo generally looked rather sad, so this was a good look for him. Sibley smiled back and couldn’t resist giving him a wink. He seemed like such a sweet guy. She wouldn’t mind getting to know Leo Spanos a little better. And it turned out he was Greek too. Her family would love that.
Sibley’s eyes shifted to the front where Gunnar stood, looking as handsome as a man possibly could in his tuxedo. But, holy cow! There was another one almost just like him standing there as Best Man. Sibley was so stunned by the sight of this new guy, she lost her footing for a split second. This had to be Halden, Gunnar’s brother whom Åse had mentioned. Where Leo’s dark brown gaze had been full of appreciation and warmth, this character’s icy blue eyes burned. Halden seemed to take her in from top to bottom, and then he fixed his stare on her boobs. Realizing this, Sibley blushed furiously as she took her place across from the men where she would attend Åse. Halden was incredibly handsome, but how could he make her feel like he’d just undressed her with one glance? Sibley wanted to fan her hot face.
The ceremony was moving, and the reception was amazing. Sibley and Halden were formally introduced finally and naturally had to be photographed together several times. Sibley kept her hands to herself, clutching her Maid of Honor bouquet, but in several of the photos, Halden had his arm wrapped around Sibley’s waist. They were seated next to each other during dinner, and Halden turned out to be a very interesting guy with a wicked sense of humor, and he was full of stories about his recent trip to Dubai. He was a well-known glass artist who traveled the world installing his work in museums, businesses, luxury homes, churches, synagogues, and wherever someone wanted a stained-glass window or a blown glass fixture. He did it all.
When the dancing began, they were expected to dance together, but by then Sibley was getting a little exhausted by Halden’s flirting. He seemed just a tad too eager for someone she’d just met. So, she sought out Leo’s face in the crowd and tried to send him a mental message to please come and cut in. Leo didn’t pick up on her distress, though. He was back to looking sad.
Finally, when the song ended, Sibley spoke up, “Halden, it’s been lovely dancing with you, but there’s someone I need to go speak to, if you’ll excuse me.”
Halden laughed, kissed her cheek, and said, “Have fun!” He went off to prowl the group of artist friends Åse had invited to the wedding. There were some very attractive women in that group, and he was ready to make their acquaintance. Halden was an equal opportunity philanderer.
Sibley took a deep breath and headed for Leo’s table. He seemed to be playing a game on his phone and wasn’t looking up. As soon as she approached and said, “Leo?” his head snapped up with a surprised look.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Sibley chuckled, “I was just hoping I could persuade you to come dance with me.”
“Um, sure, Sibley.” Leo rose and gave her his arm. It was a slow dance, so as soon as they hit the dancefloor that had been built over Gunnar’s tennis court, he took her into his arms, not too tightly. Then he asked, “So… where’s Paul?”
Sibley answered with a snort, “Back in New York.” And that was all she said. She meant it to sound final and she was done with the big jerk, but unfortunately her tone of voice may have given Leo the wrong idea.
Even if she had a boyfriend, Leo couldn’t resist saying, “You look incredibly beautiful tonight, Sibley. That dress matches your eyes perfectly.” Both were an amazing shade of aquamarine.
Sibley was briefly distracted when she caught sight of Halden a few feet away nibbling on a giggling young woman’s neck. Her eyes quickly locked on Leo’s and she answered softly, “Thank you.” Those eyes of his looked like windows to his soul. She just wondered about the tiny bit of sadness or regret that seemed to constantly be there in them. “So, Leo, how did you meet Gunnar? He said you’ve been friends for quite a while.”
Leo gave her a bright smile, and his eyes lit up as he answered, “He called me up out of the blue actually. Apparently, one of my buddies on the police force told him about me. He wanted some inside information on what it was like to be a private investigator and asked if he could take me out for a beer and pick my brain.” Leo chuckled at the memory. “I’d already read several of his books by then, and I was so flattered that he’d have questions for me, of all people, I told him I’d buy the beer!”
Sibley laughed too, as he went on, “He’s such a great guy, and he asked questions that really made me think. It felt like an honor to be in his company, and here he was thanking me. It was pretty cool. Anyway, we kept collaborating whenever he had a question, and then we started going out for beers just because it was fun. Then he met Åse, and all of that sh…stuff went down with her. She’s as amazing as he is, and I couldn’t just sit by doing nothing and watch Gun-Man lose his mind.”
“Oh, yeah, sorry.” Leo smiled. “I started calling him that after he suggested we take a trip out to the shooting range for some practice. It turned out he not only had a gun, which shocked the sh… daylights out of me, the guy can really shoot! Anyway, I almost lost my shit, I mean my mind, while Åse was abducted. Here you have two of the nicest people on earth going through hell. I had to step up. And I like to think that some of my sleuthing helped us to get the intended results. Of course, it was Gunnar who actually rescued her in the end. I just kept the bad guy still with the help of Becky and Sawyer until the cops arrived.” What Leo didn’t say was that he’d kept his gun aimed at the kidnapper’s head while Gunnar’s normally sweet yellow labs stood on the guy’s chest and snapped ferociously at him, almost tearing his jacket to bits. The terrified asshole had pissed himself.
“Well, to hear Åse talk about it, which she doesn’t do very much, she seems to think you were a tremendous help to Gunnar during that time. I know they both count you as a very dear friend of theirs.”
Just then the music switched to a fast song, and before Leo could say another word, Halden came zooming up to them laughing and scooped Sibley into his arms, twirling her away with him on the dancefloor, announcing, “If you don’t dance with me again, you gorgeous creature, I may die of loneliness!” Halden buried his face in Sibley’s neck as she had a fit of giggles.
Leo rolled his eyes at the idea of Halden lacking for female companionship, and then he shook it off and went in search of another dance partner.
The celebration went on into the wee hours of the morning, and Sibley managed to talk to Leo a few more times. Each time she got a better idea of what he was like. Serious, somewhat mysterious, and he was obviously interested in her but was holding back for some reason. She figured time would work that out. Or not. She certainly was attracted to him.
Sibley had returned to Louisville on Åse’s request to turn the former Halvorsen family home into a bed and breakfast inn that they would call the Manor. It was a huge Victorian mansion in the Old Louisville neighborhood that was more house than the family had needed with just two kids. But they loved the place and lived there throughout all of Åse’s life growing up. The house consisted of a huge parlor and library in the front on the main floor, and towards the back of the house it had a beautiful formal dining room and enormous kitchen with a breakfast nook. The floors and paneling were all hardwood arranged in intricate designs. Next to the kitchen was a solarium that Åse had used for years as her studio. The second floor had five bedrooms plus the master suite, and the top floor had two beautiful rooms and a large common sitting area at the top of the stairs.
After the out-of-town family members and close friends who’d come for the wedding moved out, the Manor opened for paid guests, and Sibley was constantly busy. They had remodeled the backyard storage building into a comfortable studio apartment for her, but she often had to run up and down the stairs to make certain things were perfect for the visitors. It was a big job.
A few times over the next few weeks, Leo showed up out of the blue at the Manor. He seemed to be looking for a friend in Sibley. A couple of times he stopped by with a surprise lunch for her, and he offered to do any of the heavy lifting around the Manor if she needed it. The funny thing was, Sibley was a tall woman, as in really, really tall, and never once came across as some kind of delicate flower who couldn’t pull her own weight. She never turned down his offer to help, however. And she was always happy to see him. His visits were a great reprieve from the constant work, and she enjoyed his visits immensely, even if they were brief.
During one of their visits, Leo asked, “Sibley, don’t you think you need to talk to Åse about hiring some more help? This place is huge, and I doubt Åse meant for you to run it and clean it and do all of the laundry by yourself. You cook, clean, do the books, the reservations…”
“I know, Leo. I’m doing alright, but it is a bit more than I’d expected. We do need more help. I’ll talk to her.” It would be a while, however, before Sibley broached that topic with her friend. Åse was in her new bride fog and didn’t pick up on much, and Sibley wasn’t anxious to cause any consternation.
Leo cleared his throat. “Also… I wanted to tell you something.”
“I’m leaving for California in three days.”
Sibley sucked in a surprised gasp. “California? Why? Are you moving?” She felt a terrible and unexpected stab in her chest with this news and had to steel herself before she got tears in her eyes.
Seemingly buoyed by her reaction, Leo explained, “Gun-Man hooked me up again with the guys at HBO, and they want me on the set for three months while they’re shooting another mini-series. The execs weren’t too happy with some of the script, so he told them they needed me to keep the scriptwriters in line.”
“Oh! Well, congratulations, Leo!” Three months sounded like a terribly long time, and she knew she’d miss him and his impromptu visits. She forced a smile, though, trying to seem enthusiastic for his benefit.
“Yeah, thanks. It’s an amazing opportunity.” Leo’s phone buzzed in his pocket, and he grimaced apologetically. “Sorry, I have to take this. It’s my buddy Ted Hicks who’s going to fill in for me at my office.”
Leo had a brief conversation with Ted, and then looked at Sibley again. “Um, I was wondering if you’d like to get out of here for a while the day after tomorrow. I’d like to at least take you out for coffee or lunch. Would you like to?”
“Sure, Leo. I’d love that.” Sibley smiled sweetly at him as their eyes locked.
So, they set up the date and decided on lunch. Leo came by in his souped-up Camaro and took Sibley to a new bistro he thought she’d enjoy.
Their conversation was getting off to a great start when Leo asked Sibley about what she’d done in college and how long she’d roomed with Åse, but his phone kept ringing and interrupting them. He finally took the call and looked upset by what he heard.
“Sibley, I’m so sorry. We should have done this before now.” Leo shook his head slightly and looked perturbed. “I’m afraid that I’m going to have to get back to my office.”
“I understand, Leo,” Sibley answered seriously.
“It’s just that turning over my business to someone new when I’m heading out of town is becoming a logistical nightmare. I still have to pack and make sure Ted is comfortable with all of the clients I’m turning over to him. This was a bad idea, I’m afraid. I just really wanted to see you one last time.”
Sibley smiled at that.
“Would it be alright if I called you now and then?” Leo hoped against hope she’d be up for that.
“Of course, Leo. Call me anytime. I’d love to hear from you.”
They exchanged numbers and took their lunches to go. Leo sent Sibley home in an Uber, and he left looking crestfallen. At least he had her number.
Sibley was more than okay with hearing from him, and she tried to be enthusiastic about his adventure. She was feeling just a little bit abandoned by him though. That’s silly, she told herself. We’re just friends.
After three long months in La La Land on the HBO set, Leo couldn’t wait to get back to Kentucky. Although he loved the sun and had joined in on many a wild party, he was ready for a more normal life again. He’d been handling his investigation business remotely as much as possible between the meetings he had with the HBO scriptwriters, and it was wearing on him. He constantly had to refocus his brain after delving into his own research for a client. Fortunately, he had Ted in his office to do the legwork for him, but a lot of his work could be accomplished by researching people online. He hardly had enough hours in the day, it seemed.
Leo’s business had taken a huge leap forward after word got out about how he’d been instrumental in finding Åse Halvorsen—a high-profile case given her connection to Gunnar Dahl. So, his business phone was constantly ringing these days with prospective clients. HBO was also paying him a ton of money for his consultation fee, so financially, he’d never had it so good.
He knew he was going to have to hire more people when he got back to Kentucky.
This was what he was thinking about when Jeannie, a minor character in the show, stopped by the table where he sat waiting for the scriptwriters and started playing with his hair. He wasn’t particularly proud of it, but they’d hooked up once after a party. Leo was lonely and he’d had too much to drink. When the tall brunette he’d seen on the set started flirting with him, and she looked a little like Sibley, he caved in and had sex with her. Afterward he couldn’t get away fast enough and felt horrible about it. Jeannie, however, didn’t seem the least bit put off by his rapid exit and since then had hounded him incessantly. He noticed she hounded all the men on the set as well.
“Hi, Leo,” she purred. Then she put her mouth close to his ear and whispered, “I have the dressing room all to myself for a little while. Want to have some fun?”
Leo opened his mouth to tell her ‘no thanks’ when the two guys he was supposed to be advising arrived and sat down at the table with him. So, he told her, “Gotta work now, babe.” He gave her bottom a friendly pat.
She assembled her features into a pretty pouty face and then stomped off—probably to find a different partner. Leo doubted she’d be alone for long.
“Sorry to bust your balls, Leo, but we need to get this scene right and do it now.”
“It’s fine,” Leo answered with a bored shrug. He watched her perky ass jiggle as she flounced away. The woman was cute to look at, but the second she opened her mouth and said anything with that awful nasal voice of hers, he just wanted her to shut up. Plus, she had the brains of a goldfish. He truly wondered what he’d been thinking when they’d fallen into bed. Finally, he chalked it up to too many tequila shots and being way too horny.
The only good thing that had come out of their one-time involvement was that she’d dragged Leo off to the hair and makeup crew the next day and insisted that he needed a makeover. The result had been wonderful. His dated, MacGyver mullet was finally a thing of the past, and she convinced him he needed to lose his ever-present, heavy gold chain necklace. Now he finally appeared as if he belonged in the twenty-first century with stylishly trimmed hair and a short scruff instead of a mullet and mustache.
Leo was a good-looking man with soulful brown eyes and a physique that was trim and—recently anyway—fit. His olive complexion had lost its pallor in the California sun, and he seemed to be bursting with vitality like never before. He’d spent way too many hours sitting in his car surveilling subjects for his private detective business back in Louisville, so it felt good to be getting regular exercise. The people on the set were all fitness fanatics, so he hit the gym and ran a couple of miles a day just so he’d fit in. He promised himself that when he got back, he’d keep up the exercise, but he wondered what other changes he’d make. He certainly had some ideas about that.
Leo sure wouldn’t miss the “what can you do for me?” attitude he was bombarded with around the set. He was ready to get back to his friends and his favorite muscle car. The job here was about to end, and it was none too soon for him, but he was thrilled with the paycheck he’d be getting. He had his buddy Gunnar Dahl to thank for hooking him up originally with a sweet HBO deal, and that had snowballed into this gig. Gunnar was extremely wealthy from his best-selling books, movie deals, and now TV, but this level of success was all new to Leo.
The scriptwriters were snapping at each other with a minor disagreement about wording that Leo couldn’t even try to worry about, and his mind wandered, as it often did, to Sibylla Eliana Xenopoulos. Sibley. A beautiful name for a beautiful woman. The woman of his dreams, in fact. A veritable Greek goddess.
As far as Leo could tell, however, she was also the woman of a couple of other guy’s dreams, and that just frustrated the hell out of him. The day he’d met Sibley, some douchey New York tool—Paul Whatsisname—had claimed to be her boyfriend, although she hadn’t seemed to like that announcement. And there was Gunnar’s brother Halden Dahl—unfortunately a great guy—who also seemed to think she was something pretty special. Leo was worried he couldn’t stand a chance—another reason he’d been so religious about improving his appearance while he was out here in Tinseltown.
Leo had called Sibley a couple of times to shoot the breeze while he was in LA, and she’d always been friendly and a little flirty with him over the phone. He tried to tell himself she’d actually been looking forward to hearing from him, but that may have been stretching things. She probably had four or five more guys sniffing around by now, she was so gorgeous… and perfect.
Finally, the scriptwriters’ bickering stopped, and Leo got back to work. He made up his mind that when they wrapped for the day, he’d give Sibley another call. He just hoped she wasn’t already shacked up with that smooth-talking Viking Halden Dahl who looked like fucking Thor and didn’t know how to talk to a woman without flirting.
Later that evening, Leo was unwinding with a beer in his Santa Monica apartment—a great perk that the studio provided free of cost to people they brought into town to work with them on a short-term basis. He calculated the time change from California to Kentucky and decided Sibley ought to be done with dinner and relaxing about now. He dialed her number, hoping she wasn’t out on a date.
“Hey, Leo!” was her joyful response to his call. Leo felt himself buoying with pride that she sounded so happy. “I have y’all on speakerphone because I’m in the middle of making cinnamon scones for breakfast tomorrow, and I’m covered in flour.”
“Hi, Sibley. Things going well for you?” He so wanted to tell her he missed her, but it didn’t seem like the time, and he also had a bit of lingering guilt over his dalliance with Jeannie.
“Great! Oh, thanks, Eddie.” She seemed distracted all of a sudden.
“Oh,” Leo intoned in a flat voice. “You have company. I’ll let you go.”
“No! Leo, wait. Eddie is a guest here at the Manor. He used to be a baker, and he’s here in town visiting his grandchildren. He’s showing me how to bake a whole bunch of new breakfast items, and in turn he’s staying here for half price. It’s a win-win! And it’s also a lot of fun.” He could hear the smile in her voice as his nerves calmed down. “Here, I’ll introduce y’all. Eddie, this is my friend Leo who’s working right now in California. Leo, this is my friend Eddie, who can make magic out of dough!” Leo loved the musical quality of her voice and her laughter.
“How do, son?” asked Eddie in a crackling voice. Now that Leo could hear the guy, he sounded like he must be at least eighty years old.
“Great, sir. That’s terrific you’re showing Sibley some new tricks in the kitchen. Maybe I can taste some of her goodies when I get back.” Leo immediately cringed when he realized how that sounded, but Eddie and Sibley just laughed.
“So, when will you be back, Leo?” Sibley asked.
“Actually, I have reservations to fly back next Thursday, and believe me, I’m ready.”
“Want a ride home from the airport?”
At Sibley’s question, Leo’s heart gave a happy jolt. He certainly hadn’t expected that.
“Wow, um, that’s nice of you, Sibley. If it’s not too much trouble, that would be great actually. The flight gets in at seven twenty-five in the evening. Can you really get away then?” Leo was trying, and failing, to sound cool. His enthusiasm was showing, however.
“Sure, Leo, I can make that. I’m looking forward to seeing you!”
What? This was more than he could have hoped for, but he was still cautious, so he said, “Thanks, Sibley! So, how’s your… uh… boyfriend?”
“What boyfriend?” This was just getting better and better as the confusion in her voice was obvious.
“You know, the New York…er?” Leo had to stop himself from calling him the New York tool.
“Leo, I thought you knew. I sent him packing almost as soon as he got here. He wanted to move in with me, and I was absolutely not ready for that. With him.” She sounded firm in her resolve, so Leo breathed a sigh of relief.
He’d thought she’d grumbled about Paul being in New York and was unhappy about him being so far away instead of being able to attend Åse and Gunnar’s wedding as her date. Apparently, she was just unhappy about Paul, and that bolstered Leo’s spirits no end.
“Oh, uh, cool. So, how’s everyone else doing? Åse, Gunnar, Halden?” Leo braced himself for the answer.
Sibley chuckled and answered, “Åse is having a ball working with Molly at Spice part-time and designing her jewelry, Gunnar is in the middle of writing a children’s book and collaborating with his sister Ingrid so she can illustrate it, and Halden is off in… um… Paraguay...?”
“Paraguay? Why?” Leo couldn’t imagine.
“Did I say Paraguay? Maybe it’s Panama. Someplace that starts with a P anyway. I don’t think it was Pakistan…” As her voice trailed off, Leo realized that Sibley hadn’t been paying attention too closely to Halden’s whereabouts, and that was one more thing that boosted his spirits.
“Ah,” was all he said as he pumped his hand in victory and tried to keep the glee from showing in his voice. “So, I’ll let you get back to your baking. I’m sure the guests will love the scones, so thanks, Eddie, for helping Sibley out. And Sibley, I’ll see you on Thursday. Call me if there’s a problem, and I’ll take an Uber.”
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