Authors: C A Vincent
The expression on his face was thunderous as he closed the distance between them. She dared to look back at James. He flashed a smile and quietly reassured her Nate wasn’t one of the “unsavories”. He then asked her to relocate to a different hotel, listing off a few off quickly for reference. Just as Nate reached them, he stood and walked away. He didn’t even bother to introduce himself. Alicia couldn’t help but think his blatant rudeness was nothing more than a heavy dose of male posturing. Shocked, all she could do was watch after his retreating back.
“Do I need to hire a bodyguard?” Nate asked, coming to a stop beside her. He helped her to her feet and pulled her into the circle of his arms, clearly intent on exhibiting some of his own ego.
“He’s a detective and he wants me to change hotels,” she said, pushing gently on his chest. Nate refused to let her go so she pushed harder. When it looked like he still wouldn’t release her, she arched an eyebrow at him and geared up to give him an earful. He growled as he very reluctantly let go.
“I have half a mind to have you stay in the second bedroom of my suite,” he said, “especially if that oily bugger is following you.” When she stepped away, he snagged her hand and held it, clearly unwilling to let her put too much distance between them. “Unfortunately, having you so close would be too tempting. There’s no way I’d be able to resist you.”
Another admission of his attraction to her. Alicia frowned up at him. He’d made a few similar comments during breakfast, before he ended it abruptly. As if the hum of energy between them wasn’t enough of a reminder. It was all getting to be too much. She started to tell him as much, only to have him cut her off.
“I own Langston Incorporated. I prefer chicken over beef. My favorite color is green, for no particular reason other than I like it, and I will watch any movie my date likes without complaint, just for the fact it will make her happy. Oh, and everyone tells me I’m way too damn
sensitive for a guy,” he said in a rush. There was a wry grin on his face by the time he was done and, though he was smiling, his eyes were very serious.
Despite the almost adorable rush of words, his possessive and protective demeanor still bothered her. As was his boldness. Alicia knew darn well there was a story behind his actions and words, and she couldn’t help wanting to know it. At the same time, she needed to be free to do as she wanted during her short stay here. If she didn’t cut Nate off now, she strongly suspected he would end up manipulating her to his will most, if not all, of the time.
“You’re very pushy, did you know that?” she asked. He smiled a slow, seductive smile. It was devastating in its effect on her. All of a sudden, she couldn’t quite catch her breath and, once again, her breasts tingled. Never before had a man made her feel this way with just a look.
Oh my God!
Alicia thought, struggling to keep her libido in check.
What the hell is it about you?
She gave her head a shake and stepped away, pulling her hand out of his for added comfort. Then, realizing she needed to put still more distance between them if she was going to be able to think clearly, she continued walking. She hoped he would and wouldn’t follow, both at the same time.
Thankfully, reason took over when there was enough space between them. The absence of his nearness, along with the inability to smell the spiciness of his aftershave helped her get her head on straight. She breathed a slow, unsteady sigh as she turned to face him. His chocolate-brown gaze was intense as he watched her from beside the chaise. As added proof of how confused she was, the fact he’d stayed put bothered her more than it should. She took another deep breath and marshalled her thoughts.
There was a tension in his posture as he waited for her to speak, like he knew what she would say and didn’t like it. To her complete shock, what came out of her mouth wasn’t the “I think we need to go our separate ways” speech which was playing through her mind.
“Slow it down a bit, okay?” she asked. Nate’s jaw went slack, as did her own, Alicia was sure. Perplexed, she waited form him to answer, silently rehashing her “Goodbye” speech a second time.
It’s the smarter thing to do,
she told herself. Just as she opened her mouth to speak it, Nate apologized.
“I can do that. I’m sorry for laying it on so thick. You kinda bowled me over.” For effect, he waggled his eyebrows. A mortified groan escaped past her lips at the reference to their sudden and somewhat painful meeting. “Sorry. Again. Bad joke. Detective or not, the guy bothers me. If I promise to behave and not get all He-Man on you, will you give me the chance to show you I’m not some sex-crazed creep.”
Against her better judgement, Alicia considered Nate’s request. He’d been nothing but kind since she flattened him in the middle of the sidewalk earlier, despite the overabundant remarks about wanting to touch and hold her. Did she take a chance, in case he was being sincere?
Or do I cut and run? He’s probably just be biding his time,
the voice of paranoia interjected.
“We’ll stay public,” he offered. It was almost as though he could read her mind. She shivered. “Not a mind reader. But I do read people. It’s all part of what I do for a living. Any time we spend together will be in public. If you want to explore, we’ll go with tour groups.”
Nate’s words gave her an incredible sense of relief. Public outings meant no physical contact and no strings. Just two people building a friendship and spending time together. Alicia couldn’t help the grin that split her face. She’d be able to see the sights after all, and with someone she was slightly more than reasonably sure she could trust.
“I’d like that,” she answered, walking slowly back toward the chaise. She covered herself with her wrap-around skirt and repacked her tote. A small thrill of anticipation shivered through her at the thought of spending more time with Nate. The alternative was having the so-called detective dog her. All of a sudden, Alicia was very glad she hadn’t said her goodbyes.
Nate breathed a sigh of relief. He’d cut his call to Jared short when he saw the too-thin local sneaking up on Alicia. It was too bad really, because he and J were at the deadline to make an offer on a company and he’d had to hang up before they could come to an agreement on the terms of the purchase. J wanted him to grease the pot a little. He refused to make the deal too sweet. Doing that would make them look desperate. It was now all a moot point because Jared had just sent him a text saying another buyer had scooped them. He pocketed his phone as he and Alicia started walking.
“Damn,” he swore softly, making her look over at him worriedly.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. Her voice was pitched just right, not too high and not too low. It made him want to get her talking more, just so he could listen to her. Unfortunately, lust was getting in the way of his ability to strike up a meaningful conversation. Being around her and not touching her was going to be damned difficult.
“I forgot to mention I like holding hands,” he said, out of the blue. To his complete horror, his tone of voice was all sappy and wistful. He was about to apologize for already breaking his promise when she burst out laughing. Like a love-struck fool, he grinned. Maybe he wasn’t a hopeless cause after all.
he thought when, moments later, she placed her hand in his. Out loud, he asked, “So what about you? Do you like green, or do you prefer a more feminine color?”
“Can you believe I don’t have a favorite color? I gravitate toward the sombre, darker ones, but that’s because they’re more businesslike. Can you imagine walking into a courtroom and seeing your lawyer dressed in fuchsia?” Alicia answered. “Or worse yet, canary yellow?” He mulled that over for a few seconds. Was she a lawyer then? She seemed too – soft. The handful of lawyers he knew looked and behaved as though they chewed nails for breakfast every day.
“If you were the lawyer, I might like very much seeing you in fuchsia,” he said with a straight face. She shuddered before taking note of the humor in his eyes. When she saw he was teasing her, she gave him a playful shove. The extra contact between them, though not very much, was electrifying. Her heated blush told him she felt the jolt too. True to his word, he behaved and didn’t mention it.
“I’m a paralegal,” she answered, putting distance between them again. Nate made sure to keep his fingers laced in hers so she couldn’t break completely free.
“Even better. Lawyers can be such mouthpieces. I have several of those working for me. They charge two arms and a leg when everyone knows damn well it’s their paralegals and clerks who do all their legwork for them.”
He would have said more, but Alicia stopped dead in her tracks. He turned to see what was wrong. To his surprise, her face was pale and her lips were compressed in a thin white line. Nate wracked his brain, trying to figure out what the heck he’d said wrong.
“My employers burned just as much midnight oil as I or any of the other clerks did,” she growled. Damn, but she was hot as hell when her hackles were raised! Nate just barely suppressed the urge to pull her toward him and soothe her ruffled feathers with a passionate kiss.
he thought as images of making her growl and moan for altogether different reasons played in his mind. Alicia must have realized what he was thinking then because she
blushed. The look in her eyes was – hungry – and made his blood heat up. Unfortunately, she pulled her hand from his and shook her head.
“I-I can’t do this. See you around, Nate,” she said. His jaw flapped uselessly as she turned her back on him and walked away.
“What the hell did I do?” he muttered. If she heard him, she didn’t answer. Ticked off, he followed silently behind her. With the creepy detective still lurking, there was no way he was leaving her to be an open target. Besides, if he was lucky, his presence would get her talking and he’d be able to find out what he’d done to change her mind all of a sudden.
“So you’re stalking me now?” she threw over her shoulder.
“Nope. Just making sure you get back to your hotel without being accosted or abducted,” he called out.
“And what if I’m not going back to my hotel right away?” she snapped, turning to face him. Her stance was one hundred percent, pure aggravated female. Once again, he ached with the need to get her riled up for altogether different reasons.
“Then I guess I get to see you shop. It’s as good a way as any to learn what you like and don’t like. Then, perhaps at some point, you can tell me what the hell I did to piss you off.”
“I can see where your mind is at, Nate, as plain as the nose on your face. You said – ”
“So I’m attracted to you. Last time I checked, wanting a woman wasn’t crime? I didn’t put my hands on you. I didn’t pull you up hard against me and kiss you senseless. And trust me, I want to. I really,
do. I am human, Alicia, and you’re beautiful. Get over it.” Nate watched as a kaleidoscope of emotions played over her face. When the one which took hold and creased her smooth features was indignation, he had to bite back an oath.
Damn stubborn woman!
he thought, debating whether to walk up to her and give in to his urges. Maybe a hot, sexy kiss would make her more agreeable.
Even as he thought this, he worried she’d be disgusted by his efforts. With considerable force of will, he pushed the self-doubt to the back of his mind. Damn Elizabeth and her whoring ways. Not for the first time since finding out about her sexcapades, Nate found himself wondering why the hell she hadn’t played her naughty games with him. Every time he tried to get close, she turned all prim and proper on him.
Not liking where his thoughts were headed, he forced himself back to the moment and the beautiful woman in front of him. With her golden hair and her sky-blue eyes, she was the complete opposite of his ex. And even though she would rather deny herself, she did want him. That was a plus. He silently resolved to somehow persuade her to give in to her wants and desires before she went home.
“Not all lawyers are just mouthpieces,” she fired back. The fact she refused to respond to his statements about his attraction and her looks wasn’t lost on him. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask if she was outright gun-shy or just chicken. He decided instead to err on the side of caution and simply acknowledge her comment about lawyers.
“Duly noted,” he said quietly. “Now, will you allow me to make up for the aborted breakfast by walking through the markets and boutiques with me?”
Alicia bit the inside of her cheek and eyed him warily, like she didn’t believe a man was willingly committing to going shopping. Heck, he didn’t believe it himself. If he was going to succeed in his goal, though, he would need to spend as much time with her as possible. When she didn’t answer right away, he decided to give her a little push. It was the only way to find out if she was truly angry with him or just trying to keep her shields intact.
He took a step toward her and watched her eyes go round. She shook her head. It was a small shake, barely noticeable, but he saw it. And ignored it. He took another step. Though her chin went up, she didn’t turn away. He took another step. Her shoulders went up. Judging by the tension in her body, she was now ready to bolt. He was taking another step when she took off. Prepared for the action, he chased after her.