Spotlight & Giveaway: Play Dirty by Lora Leigh

Posted March 29th, 2024 by in Blog, Spotlight / 25 comments

Today, HJ is pleased to share with you Lora Leigh’s new release: Play Dirty




PLAY DIRTY kicks off a new series that will appeal to the many fans of Leigh’s Navy SEALs and Elite Ops series, but also to anyone looking for an emotionally charged read.

She saved his life when they were kids and then he saved hers. When she became a young woman, Poppy knew she would never love anyone the way she loved Jack Lee Bridger.

But after a near tragedy, Jack left home to become a Navy SEAL and Poppy knew there wouldn’t be another like him. Not for her. She remembered the way it felt when he looked at her with those smoldering eyes. The way he kissed her. Touched her…

Now it’s years later and danger is dogging her footsteps and Jack is back. And Poppy knows that he will do anything–absolutely anything–to keep her safe. She trusts him to protect her body, but can she trust him with heart?


Enjoy an exclusive excerpt from Play Dirty 

Chapter One

Poppy stared into the full-length mirror with a critical eye, determined
to look her best.
She couldn’t do anything about the curls her red hair held on to so stubbornly. The deep curls fell to her shoulders in abandon, one insisting on laying over her forehead, but tonight, they looked softer, less frizzy than normal. Her makeup was minimal, a light application of mascara, a soft gray shadow over her eyelids, making her emerald-green eyes seem brighter. Some gloss along her lips.
The flirty skirt she wore ended just above her knees, the blouse, a lighter shade of blue, barely covered the low band of the skirt. It was just low enough to hide the hilt of the little dagger, secured in its leather sheath and tucked inside the band of her skirt.
Her fingers glanced over the wooden hilt, her heart giving a hard beat of remembered excitement at its presence. The little knife was for her protection, since she couldn’t seem to keep her butt at home instead of sneaking out and attending parties she had no business going to, she’d been told.
Jack had looked so stern and disapproving that night he’d given her the dagger at one of those parties. He’d spent that evening in the relative solitude amid the vehicles parked at the edge of the clearing, instructing her on how best to use it to protect herself.
He wasn’t the boy she’d ordered into her parents’ home all those years ago. This Jack Bridger was harder, stronger, and even more handsome than he’d been as a boy. His black hair was cut military short and all she wanted to do was bury her fingers in it and test the feel of it. The gray-blue color of his eyes was mostly somber, but the color would darken whenever he saw her.
And when she saw him, her heart would trip. Race. She was in danger of stuttering and all she could think about was having him hold her against him, his lips moving on hers, kissing her with the same need for her that she felt for him.
She touched her lips with her fingers, her stomach tightening, heart racing. Tonight, she promised herself. He would kiss her tonight. She’d felt it coming the past few weekends. He was always at the parties this summer, hanging around until she arrived, watching her the entire time she was there.
He’d dance with her a few times, then if she didn’t walk back with her friends along the heavily traveled path that ended across from her home, she suspected he was the one who called her brother, or one of her friends’ brother’s.
Tonight, he could take her home himself, she decided. She belonged to him. She’d known that for years. She’d waited for him, dreamed of him. Tonight, he’d see that.

Jack was late arriving at the party. Every summer he, as well as Poppy’s brothers, Mac-Cole,
John David, and Evan, along with Caine Crossfield and River Dawson, if they were home on leave, did their best to make certain five young women remained safe while allowing them to try their wings and test their freedom.
This summer, Jack’s attention had been fractured between keeping his hands off Poppy and tracking the bastard who had more than once made the claim that he was going to have Poppy that summer. Whether she wanted him or not.
That weekend, Jack was going to make certain Wayne Trencher understood how dangerous focusing on Poppy was to his health. Trencher was a known sexual predator, a monster. Jack had no
problems making monsters disappear. The US government had actually trained him in doing just that.
Wayne Trencher had managed to slip away from him, though, and the next thing he knew, the little bastard had shown up at the party Poppy and her friends were attending. As he drove to the clearing where the party was held, he flipped open his mobile phone and called Mac-Cole.
“Leave a message,” Mac-Cole’s recorded voice requested.
“Get your ass to that party,” Jack snapped. “Trencher evaded me and I just received a call that he’s there and so is Poppy.”
He disconnected the call and pressed his foot heavier on the gas as he drove as fast as possible to the turnoff that led to the dirt road winding its way to the clearing.
Arriving at the party half an hour later, much later than he normally arrived, he parked the truck as close as possible and hurried to the music-and laughter-filled area where everyone met and socialized. Music throbbed through the clearing that had been lit up by a combination of work lights and vehicle lights.
Catching sight of Poppy’s friends, he noticed Poppy wasn’t with them and felt tension beginning to gather tighter inside him.
“Sasha, where’s Poppy?” He stepped to the young woman generally accepted as the leader of the small group.
He could feel a warning chill crawling up his back.
“She got tired of waiting for you,” Sasha informed him, flicking him a disgruntled look. “She texted a bit ago that she was walking home. Geeze, Jack, she only comes here to see you.”
She’d walked home.
He swung away from the group of young women and hurried across the clearing to the path that led to the street directly behind her parent’s home. As he hurried through the crowd, he didn’t see Wayne Trencher either.
The warning chill at his back became ice racing through his veins and he had a feeling the only person that meant anything to him was being hunted by a monster. A monster that may already have her in his grip.

Moving along the path he knew she often used when returning from one of the parties close to her home, Jack made it about halfway through the woods when he heard the scream, the sound coming
from a shack hidden about ten feet from the path amid the overgrown brush.
Jack hadn’t felt fear since he was fourteen, let alone the terror that exploded in his gut and ripped through his mind. Within seconds he threw his body into the door of the shack, instinct and
primal fury obliterating any thought at the sight of Poppy being held beneath Trencher’s much larger body.
“Please . . . ! No! Oh God . . .” she screamed out again as Jack moved toward them.
Grabbing thick, greasy hair, he tore Trencher away, then with one arm around Wayne’s neck dragged him from Poppy, even as he realized Trencher’s body was a heavy, slack weight. Dropping him to the floor, Jack saw the small dagger sticking out of his chest. The same dagger Jack had given her in case she needed protection when she’d begun sneaking out to the parties.
Crouching down, Jack checked for a pulse, and finding none stared back at Poppy as she knelt on an old, stained mattress Trencher had thrown her onto.
“I killed him.” Shock rounded her eyes and whitened her face. “I killed him, Jack.”
Blood stained her pretty blue skirt, saturating the blouse as well as her small, delicate hands.
“He was a rabid animal, Poppy. That’s what you’re supposed to do,” he told her, keeping his voice calm, unaffected.
But inside he was damned near breaking apart.
He’d been too late to protect the only person in his life who mattered.
Gripping the dead man beneath the shoulders, Jack dragged him from the shack and hid the body in the heavy foliage that grew close to the building. Once he finished, he rushed back to Poppy.
There, in the middle of that dirty floor, she’d managed to straighten her knee-length
blue summer skirt. Her panties lay to the side, shredded, and Poppy was shuddering with anger. Not fear, but pure feminine anger.
Though it wouldn’t take the fear long to arrive.
“Poppy.” Sliding to his knees beside her, he touched her face, stared into her brilliant green eyes. “Honey . . .”
God, what could he say? There were no tears, but fury and horror filled her emerald eyes and her body was shaking like a leaf in a storm.
“Jack.” Pulling back, she stared down at her hands as though they weren’t her own before lifting her gaze to him once again. “I felt him . . . I felt him . . . He was going inside me, Jack. I had to . . .”
“It’s okay, baby.” He pulled her to him, rocking her, feeling an unfamiliar dampness in his eyes. “You stopped him before he could do more than just try. I swear, you stopped him . . . All he did was try. That was all you felt . . .”
He rocked her. Sitting on the floor, he drew her across his lap, held her, stroked her hair, kissed her forehead, and did something he’d never done in his life. He soothed another person.
His Poppy.
“He was going to make me do it,” she ground out, that anger still reflecting in her voice as her head rested on his shoulder. “I told him I’d kill him, Jack.”
She looked up at him, her ashen face drawn into determined lines even as she shuddered in his embrace.
There was no remorse in her. She’d just killed the man who had assaulted her, but she wasn’t crying or hysterical. Shock had stolen the color from her face, and there was a noticeable tremor racing through her, but she was sitting in his hold, fists clenched now as she fought the continued anger.
“It’s okay, baby,” he whispered, touching her cheek with the tips of two fingers. “You did what you had to do.”
“Do you hate me, Jack?” she whispered then, her voice trembling, the question shocking him. “Do I disgust you now?”
Poppy stared into the hardened features of Jack’s face, the chill in his eyes, fearing that any tender emotions he may have felt for her were gone forever.
She’d just killed a man. Blood stained her hands and her clothing, proof of her carelessness in protecting herself. Jack was a strong man—nothing but a strong woman would complement him.
Strong women didn’t let things like this happen. Did they?
“Disgust me?” His brows furrowed as his thumb whispered over her lips before his hand dropped to her shoulder. “Never, Poppy. You could never disgust me.”
But this event would change her life forever, and she was smart enough to know that. That one impulsive decision to walk home rather than listen to one of her brothers bitch at her because she’d gone to the party could destroy her life.
And possibly Jack’s as well.
What had she done?
For a moment, the implications of what had happened overwhelmed her and threatened the fragile hold she had on the chaos
churning in her mind.
“Take it away for a minute, Jack.” Her breathing hitched as she
fought the fear threatening to tear through her. “Just for minute.
Make it go away . . .”
Before he could question her, or answer her, she lifted up to him
and laid her lips on his as they parted to answer her.
He froze.
Poppy felt Jack’s body tighten, his muscles bunching as though to push her away from him. She knew it could be her last chance for the kiss she’d dreamed of—she wanted at least one kiss. Just a single taste of what she’d been longing for.
She could never have expected his response.
As she prepared to move back, to break the fragile contact, his lips slanted over hers, his tongue moving to lick, to taste hers. Pleasure swamped her. His kiss was hot, experienced, and sent the most incredible sensations rushing through her.
She’d been kissed before, but never like this. Like she was a banquet, and he was a man starved for the taste of her alone.
Arching to him, her hands gripped the short length of his black hair as she fought to get closer to him. To feel the warmth of the hard, hot body seeming to surround hers.
Heat built inside her—the need for more, to feel more of him,
taste more of him.
Her head fell back along his arm as his lips moved from hers, traveled to her neck, caressing the tender line of flesh. Every cell in her body was tuned to him, reaching out to him, desperate for his touch.
“Jack,” she whispered as she lifted closer to him, needing so much more of him.
“Remember this, Poppy,” he whispered, his voice hoarse as his head lifted, the blue in his eyes darkening the gray until they were the color of storm clouds. “The pleasure, the hunger. This is how
it should be, baby. When the nightmares come, remember, this is
how it should be.”
He pressed her head to his chest, and Poppy could feel the calm, steady acceptance emanating from him. The purpose.
Jack was there with her; she’d never convince him to leave if she called the police. And no doubt, his DNA was there in the shack now anyway.
Then, a horrible realization locked inside her and the implication of what she had done tightened around her heart like a vise. If she called the police, they’d never accept the fact that she’d killed Trencher.
Jack had given her the small dagger she’d used to kill her rapist. It had been a gift the year before. It could be traced back to him. And he would take the charge to protect her. She knew he would.
“Jack, what are we going to do?” she whispered, easing up and pushing her fingers through her hair as she stared around the single room.
“It will be okay, Poppy . . .”
It was there in his voice. A deadened sound that assured her he was preparing himself for whatever the results of her actions brought down on him.
Poppy stared at him as a furious denial resounded in her head.
“You think I’ll allow you to take the blame for this?” she asked him, moving from his lap to kneel in front of him. “You didn’t do this.”
He shrugged as though it didn’t matter. “Who would believe you killed a man?” he asked her gently. “Even I would never accept that, honey.”
She inhaled, fighting to find another answer.
“You’re a SEAL,” she said then. “Aren’t there ways to hide the body? To make certain he’s not found? Or if he is found, to ensure
he can’t be traced back to us? There has to be a way, Jack.”
The man had tried to rape her, and when she’d warned him she’d
never let him get away with it, he told her dead little girls didn’t
carry tales. He would have killed her. He’d intended to kill her.
Jack was silent for long minutes, and she could feel him either considering those options or considering her ability to be strong enough to keep the secret.
“He would have killed me, Jack. He had no intention of letting me leave this shack,” she informed him. “I don’t feel bad about killing him. And I won’t have you take the blame for it. I know that’s what you’re planning to do.”
She saw the quirk of his lips, the acknowledgment that she was right.
“I won’t let you.” She reached out for him, her hands gripping his arm as he sat on the floor, strong, imposing despite his position. “I won’t allow a stupid decision to walk home destroy both our lives. Do you hear me?”
Jack stared at her, knowing in that moment that every part of who and what he was belonged to this woman. She was stronger than he had ever imagined. She was only eighteen—so
young, so fragile—but what he saw in her eyes went far beyond her age.
“I can protect you, Poppy . . .”
“You think taking the blame will protect me?” she argued desperately. “It won’t, because I’ll never stay silent about what happened. I’ll tell the world you’re lying.”
Jack doubted anyone would believe her. But he had no doubt there was enough DNA on the floor to prove she was there, to prove something had happened.
He grimaced at the thought. He couldn’t let her accept the blame when she had nothing to feel guilty for. This was on him. He was supposed to protect her, and he’d failed.
“And no one will believe you,” he sighed, rising to his feet and extending his hand to her. “Come on, baby . . .”
The door to the shack burst open, and Jack rounded on the man forcing his way inside. He pushed Poppy behind him, intent on defending the only person in his life who had defended him.
Armed, dangerous, green eyes filled with fury, the intruder took in the scene before lifting his weapon and aiming at Jack.
“No! Oh God, no . . .” Before he could do more than reach for her, Poppy was around him, moving to stand between Jack and the furious visage of her older brother. “Please, no, Mac . . . It’s my fault. It’s all my fault . . .”

Excerpt. ©Lora Leigh. Posted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

Giveaway: (2) A Print copy of Lora Leigh’s thrilling new novel PLAY DIRTY


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Meet the Author:

LORA LEIGH is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of multiple series and sensual romances. A rebel at heart, a romantic by nature, and optimist by design.

25 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: Play Dirty by Lora Leigh”

  1. psu1493

    Awesome excerpt that had me wanting to read more of the story immediately. Thank you for sharing.

  2. erahime

    I feel for the main (future) couple as they went through this particular situation. Thanks for the excerpt, HJ!

  3. Patricia Barraclough

    It is a great hook for the book. Sets up the characters and their relationship. Leaves you wanting ti know what happens.

  4. Laurie Gommermann

    Wow! That was an adrenaline producing excerpt! Can’t wait to see how Jack and Poppy’s brother, Mac step in to protect her and clear up the evidence!