Read Atlanta Heat Online

Authors: Lora Leigh

Tags: #Romance, #Suspense, #Adult, #Contemporary

Atlanta Heat (5 page)

BOOK: Atlanta Heat
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But she had learned that those lessons she had missed as a child held her back now. She succeeded in her career, enjoyed it and the company she worked with. But interaction, allowing herself to be vulnerable, defenseless enough to allow herself to belong anywhere or with anyone, had become impossible.

Now, lying on Macey’s big bed, that monster snake curled in the glass tank across the room, she admitted that she had never felt that loss more keenly than she did now.

She could have been curled against him, reveling in a fantasy come to life. Macey had starred in her most erotic dreams for nearly two years. But as she lay there, she realized he had somehow managed to situate himself into her heart.

If he were any other man that she desired, then she could have at least taken the physical pleasure he could give. If she hadn’t hungered for more than just his touch, if she didn’t crave more than just his kiss or the heated possession of his body.

Shaking her head, she forced herself from the bed, glancing at the bedside table and the clock set there. It said twelve, but if it was noon or midnight, she had no idea. There were no windows in the basement Macey called the cave, no way of telling if it were day or night.

She glanced at the glass cage and watched as the snake, Drack, Macey had called it, flicked its tongue out, her eyes slitted and displaying something akin to curiosity.

It figured Macey would own an anaconda. He couldn’t do anything the easy way, could he?

“Well, she’s awake,” he spoke from behind her, his voice lazy and amused as she straightened the bed.

“Is it noon or midnight?” Whichever it was, she needed coffee before she took someone’s head off.

“Noon. Sunny and in the high nineties. Weather guy said it might hit a hundred before evening. Be thankful we’re nice and cool down here rather than sweltering out there.”

“I like the heat.”

“Yeah, I like it hot too,” he assured her. “Want me to turn off the AC?”

Emerson shook her head. “Do whatever you want to as long as you have coffee.”

“I couldn’t live without it. I also have lunch on the stove and ready to eat. You can shower first if you like. Homemade veggie beef soup and bread. It’s one of my specialties.”

She straightened and stared back at him suspiciously.

“Soup out of a can doesn’t constitute homemade just because you fixed it on your own stove, Macey.”

She turned and caught the flash of his smile as he leaned against the doorframe, his arms crossed over his broad chest.

“Homemade means from scratch, smartass.” He laughed at her. He was the only person she knew who had the nerve to actually laugh at her to her face.

“It’s safe to eat?” She moved to the dresser and gathered the shirt and leggings he had left there the night before for her to wear.

“It’s not safe to snarl at me when you first get up,” he told her, though the vein of laughter hadn’t left his voice. “Where did you come by that prickly attitude, Em? It’s cute as hell most of the time, but when a man’s trying to seduce you, you should soften it some.”

“I do, when I want to be seduced.” Her return smile was tight, but the tension whipping through her was anything but anger.

She could feel his touch. His lips on her breasts, his fingers between her thighs, and that was a very dangerous thing to remember.

“Go ahead and shower.” He shook his head at her, his overly long hair brushing his shoulders as his gaze softened. “I’ll put the coffee on and feed you. Maybe you’ll be nicer then.”

“You like that dream world you live in, don’t you?” she asked him, though she had to admit she wanted to smile. It was impossible to stay mad at Macey for long. Irritated, yes. Frustrated most often. But anger wasn’t an emotion she could sustain around him when he was trying to be nice.

“Hey, baby, my dream world is what it’s all about.” He grinned wickedly. “Want to know the part you play?”

“No thank you, I think I can probably figure that one out on my own.”

She escaped quickly to the bathroom and the shower with his chuckle lingering on the air behind her. Damn him, he was getting under her skin and she knew it. It was bad enough that she had all these pesky emotions to deal with, but dealing with them while the object of them was around wasn’t going to be easy.

She showered quickly, dried her hair, and dressed in her borrowed clothes before striding into the living room and toward the smell of coffee and homemade soup. If the smell was anything to go by, it was going to be delicious.

“On the stove.” He was sitting at the computer, a security program working through several formulas and protocols, if the screen she managed to read meant anything.

“We had a bit of action around here early this morning sometime after we arrived,” he told her as he pointed to two monitors off to his left.

A replay showed the black van had pulled up in the alley and the four men had exited it. Dressed in overalls, they had entered the backyard and began canvassing the outside of the house.

“Did they manage to get in?” She moved to the control center and watched as Macey flipped through several commands to show each view of the house.

“They didn’t get in, but only because they managed to figure out the garage alarm had a false code
box.” He shrugged at that. “They moved back when they saw that, seemed to be checking for signs of life. They had all their heat-seeking and sound-detection devices.” He shook his head as the replay followed the men working around the house with black boxes.

“Military devices?” She leaned in to look closer. “I thought they were still in the R&D phase.”

“So did I,” he grunted as he rubbed at his jaw and leaned back in his chair. “That means our boys have some military connections we haven’t managed to pinpoint.”

“Have you tried contacting anyone from the team yet?” she asked, watching one of the men, trying to pierce the shadows cast by the ballcap he had pulled low over his forehead.

He looked familiar. Something about the shape of his jaw and the way he moved made her think she had seen him someplace before.

“I’m not risking it.” Macey shook his head. “Any transmissions out of the house could be tracked at this point. I have all Internet and broadband shut down for the time being. Reno knows how to get a message to me, if one is needed. Right now we’re just laying low.”

The monitors flipped from playback to real-time view, showing the peaceful, tree-shadowed street and kids playing in the yard next door.

“Why do you live here?” She stared at him in bemusement. “I would have figured you for a man with an apartment, not the responsibility of such a large house.”

“Emerson, Emerson.” He shook his head sadly. “I’m a family-type man, I told you that. The house belongs to my parents, more or less. They moved out to the farm with the grandfolks a few years back and I watch after it. I’m not an apartment sort of guy. Too many restrictions.”

“Too many nosy neighbors?”

“You haven’t lived on a residential block, have you, sweetheart?” He snorted. “Try block parties, someone knocking at the door at midnight to borrow a tool or to stop and chat. Old guys giving you women advice and old ladies warning you not to listen to them. Trust me, an apartment would be a hell of a lot more private.”

By the tone of his voice, he didn’t seem to mind the advice or the midnight visits. That should have surprised her more, she realized; the fact that it didn’t worried her.

“What about you?” He swiveled around in his chair as she moved to the kitchen and the smell of coffee. “Why an apartment over a house?”

She lifted her shoulders in a shrug. “Too much room for just one person. I wanted something smaller.” Too many open rooms to wander through alone would have driven her crazy, made the loneliness sharper.

She didn’t glance back at him; she couldn’t. Macey would see things she knew were better kept hidden, both for her peace of mind and for the state of her heart.

A heart that was rapidly beating out of control.
She hadn’t missed the sexual wickedness blazing in his eyes when he had stared at her moments before. She could feel it now, his gaze roaming over her back, her butt as she fixed her coffee. She would eat later, but for now, she needed a clear head to deal with Macey.

“You don’t seem to return home to Virginia a lot,” he commented as he leaned back in his chair and watched her quizzically. “The admiral seemed a little put out that your parents hadn’t seen you for a while.”

She took her coffee to the small round table and stared back at him resentfully. She didn’t want to discuss her family, but she could see the determination in his face.

“Why would the admiral mention my family?”

“He had a hard time contacting them when you were taken by those French terrorists.”

“They have a life.” She sipped at her coffee and tried to ignore the hurt.

“They also have a daughter,” he said tightly.

“A daughter who, as you said, rarely returns home. Look, Macey, we don’t have family reunions; sometimes we manage to catch dinner together if I’m there on business or they’re here to see the admiral about something. We aren’t tied at the hip.”

“You don’t have to be tied at the hip to be a family,” he pointed out. “You don’t seem like the type of woman who would distance herself like that from family. You’re close to the admiral, but not your mom and dad.”

Mother and father, not mom and dad. She shook her head.

“This is really none of your business.”

“I’ve met your parents,” he said.

Emerson stared back at him directly, keeping her gaze cool. She didn’t want to hear this, but she had a feeling a family-minded person like Macey would have to see her actions in a less than complimentary light.

“They’re cold as hell.” He sighed. “It’s hard to imagine you growing up with them. Tell me they at least loved you.”

“They loved me.” In their own way. Bemused, irritated, often uncertain what to do with her, but they had loved her.

His expression tightened, then seemed to clear as curiosity took over. “What was the one thing you always wanted as a child and didn’t get?”

The shift in the conversation threw her off balance, had her answering before she thought.

“A treehouse.” Regret shimmered in her voice because she couldn’t stop it. “I wanted a treehouse.”

“Your parents owned a fifty-acre estate and you didn’t have a treehouse?”

“Everything had its place.” Except her. She had never figured out where her place was there. “A treehouse didn’t fit into the scheme of things.”

“Everyone needs a treehouse,” he said softly, rising from his chair and moving to her.

Before she could move or avoid him, he was by
her chair, his hand sliding into her hair, his lips stealing a quick kiss. “Don’t worry, Em, one of these days, I’ll give you a treehouse.”

Sure he would. She shook her head and smiled at the thought as he released her and moved to get a cup of coffee for himself. She knew and understood promises and how easily they could be broken. Not just for children. She could have survived the broken promises as a child, gotten over them, gone on. But she had learned as an adult as well how easily even the most sincere promises were broken.

“I’ll settle for the ability to return to my apartment. Do that for me, Macey, and you’ll have my eternal gratitude.”

“That and more,” he stated, moving back through the kitchen to his computer. “I promise you, Emerson, I’m going to have that and more.”

F
IVE

HE WAS FALLING FOR
her. Three days later Macey sat hunched over his computer keyboard and tried to make sense of his own tangled emotions.

He knew he cared too much for her; hell, he had known that for the past two years. He dreamed about her, fantasized about her, and for the past two years hadn’t managed to find a single woman he wanted to fuck because none of them were Emerson.

The problem was, he didn’t just want to fuck her. He wanted to give her treehouses.

And now he wondered: who would take Drack? That was sad. He’d had Drack since he was a boy. Hell, he loved that cold-hearted reptile and would have laughed at the idea of giving him up because a woman was scared of him. But instead of laughing, his first instinct was to find Drack a home, because his heart, his soul warned him that an anaconda had no place within a family.

Family.

Geeze, the admiral would put a bullet between his eyes if he even suspected what Macey was thinking, wouldn’t he? Or had he already suspected it?

And God forbid if Emerson should suspect. But the fact was, she belonged to him. Didn’t matter what the admiral thought about it, didn’t matter the price to be paid. Though he somehow suspected the admiral was a step ahead of him here.

Emerson fit him, and he was going to make damned sure she understood that he fit her too, before this was over.

And for the time being he was going to thank God that the admiral couldn’t get ahold of him.

Complete communications blackout meant no messages transmitted to or from the team, Admiral Holloran, favorite friends, family, or associates of the dark and shadowed variety.

The blackout meant freedom from the admiral. He wasn’t about to restrict his own freedoms, not when he needed information and he knew damned certain he was secure. And the information he was after pertained to the case; at least that’s what he told himself. He had no intentions of letting anyone know he was checking out Emerson. Especially not Emerson herself.

He turned his head toward the bedroom door again, smirked, and pulled up her FBI file. Hell, who could have guessed Miss Goody Two-Shoes had an FBI file? My my my.

Picture. Stats. Hmm. No bra size, but he could guess that one.

A nice Macey handful. He looked at his hand, curled it just right, and felt his palm itch at the remembered feel of silky flesh.

Whew. Blowing out a hard breath, he shook his head and went back to the computer screen while keeping a careful ear out for the opening of the bedroom door.

Okay, FBI file. She even had a low-level security clearance. He scratched at his jaw, his eyebrows lifting as he scrolled down the screen and scanned the information. She worked for Diasonis, he knew that. The high-level programming, analysis, computer design and integrations firm was a favorite with the Bureau.

BOOK: Atlanta Heat
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