Authors: Adriane Leigh
I glanced across the kitchen, nervously sucking on my bottom lip, my thumb hovering over the phone. The clock on the oven read nine exactly. “I guess this is it.” I sucked in a sharp breath and flipped his card over, finding the hastily written digits on the reverse. I punched them in, hands quavering just slightly, before I took a breath and hit the call button.
“Hunter Ellis,” a voice boomed.
“Ah, hi…” I cleared my throat. “Hi, this is Erin Warner, I was just calling you about—”
“Ah, Erin.” His voice immediately clicked to a lower register with recognition, maybe even with pleasure.
“Yes, Erin. Sorry, I forgot to introduce my—”
“Perfectly all right, as I recall I didn’t either. Can I have a car pick you up in thirty?”
“Excuse me?” I stumbled.
“To talk business. I’ve got a meeting at eleven,” he revealed. “It’s now or never, Princess.” One minute he was all “business” and the next all “Princess” — who was this guy?
“I…I don’t even know what we’re talking about!” My blood heated.
“I want you to be my PA. For travel purposes, mostly.”
“You…what? Are you insane? I’m sorry, I mean, I’m not qualified for—”
“Everyone’s qualified to be a personal assistant,” he laughed. “Does hanging out with me all day sound like such a horrible idea?”
“Stop cutting me off!” My voice rose further octaves. His rumble radiated straight through my veins to my core.
“I think you like it.” He was still smiling, I could hear it.
“Wrong. I hate it,” I grit. “And I’m not qualified.”
“If I say you’re qualified, then you’re qualified. So you see, Erin, it doesn’t matter if you think you can do it, I know you can. And as for the other thing…why do your legs shift and your lips turn up in that cute little grin every time I interrupt you?” he purred into the phone.
I sucked in deep lungfuls of breath, gritting my teeth and cursing the day I’d bumped into this man.
“So thirty minutes?” he asked. My cheeks warmed and I huffed into the phone before I could stop myself. His laugh vibrated across the line. “Thirty minutes,” he finished and the line went dead, the sound of his chuckle fading into the background.
Exasperated but intrigued, I sighed and pulled my tea into my hands. A smile split my face and my thighs twisted together thinking of seeing him again. I took a sip before spitting the tea back into my cup. Cold. I grinned again, dumping my tea into the sink and scurrying up the stairs to get ready. Apparently, I had a meeting with a very sexy business owner. It didn’t even occur to me that he hadn’t asked for my address.
“IT’S GOOD TO SEE you again,” Hunter, looking as relaxed and sexy as ever, greeted me at his door less than an hour later.
“It’s good to see you too,” I nodded as he let me in. “I’m not sure why I’m here though.” Yes, I am. I need this job. I need financial independence.
“Mm,” he grinned, his eyes, flicking up my body. I knew if I wasn’t careful I could get swallowed up in the spell he cast around him. “I like a girl that gets right to the point.” His smile widened before he took off in long strides through the entry. I followed him into a beautiful foyer filled with photography on every spare wall. Handsome black and whites hung with just the curve of a breast, the silhouette of a nipple, the arch of a back, but more striking was the floor-to-ceiling photo dominating one wall.
A woman suspended from one long twisting rope, her body arched, her bottom round and full, nipples beaded as one long rivulet of water trailed between her plump breasts. She perched on tiptoes, her hair falling behind her body in such a long cascade the tips nearly touched the top of her ass. The only color in the photo was her vibrant red nails. One splash of blood red.
“Gorgeous,” I finally said.
“Thank you, it’s a favorite. Old though. It’s been hanging here for nearly three years. I usually like to switch them out more often than that.” He trailed a fingertip over the soft curve of her ankle, twisted and pulled taut as she balanced with ballerina-like precision. “Join me in my office?” He held his hand out to indicate I should follow him.
“I’m still not sure—” I looked around, realizing for the first time we were alone in his home.
“I want to talk to you about this.” He waved his hands at the photos on the wall.
“This?” I wrinkled my eyebrows. “But I thought…” I glanced at the leather bag containing my laptop, thinking the bulk of my work as his personal assistant would be paperwork and travel arrangements.
“It’s related.” He arched a playful eyebrow in challenge.
“Lead on then.” I followed dutifully when he walked down the long hall, shaking his head and laughing the entire way. I couldn’t have cared less if he was laughing with me or at me; I was too busy admiring his ass in the roughened denim that hung at his hips. My
What an intriguing thought.
“Have a seat. Thanks for coming at such short notice. I expect a lot of questions, so we should get down to it. I’m a photographer, obviously.” He gestured to the nudes hanging on the walls around him. “I travel a lot for shoots, often multiple weekends in a row. I’ll need you to do other things on occasion too, but I really need a right-hand man, or woman,” his eyes sparkled then, “when I’m on location. I won’t need you here every day when I’m in town, but know my calendar. If I need you outside of that, I’ll call you.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed one long leg at the ankle. I shut my eyes for one long minute, not hearing a word coming out of his mouth as I tried to get my bearings, calm my racing heart, and regulate my breath. Regardless of his aching good looks, I needed a job. Any job.
“Erin?” His throaty voice rippled in the air between us.
“Sorry.” I glanced at a threesome of photos on the wall behind him, featuring just that…variations on a threesome. How would I ever keep it together on these shoots with him?
“I need you there every single trip, no excuses. Sometimes two weeks at a time, whatever the shoot requires. The upside? Paris, Milan, Prague, all expenses paid. And I compensate well,” he said, his intoxicating green eyes gleaming, full lips chiseled in the shape of an elegant bow and lifted just marginally at each corner in a perpetual dancing smirk. He unfolded one long leg and leaned forward in his chair, his elbows coming to rest on the edge of the polished grain. “I’m asking you to be my shadow.”
MY HEART HAMMERED AS his words hung in the air between us. My palms pricked with beads of unnerved arousal as I cast my eyes up the lean ridge of his muscled forearm and on to carved biceps that bulged and met the sharp line of defined shoulders. A beautiful straight nose and high cheekbones accented his already beautiful face, but his eyes….
“Erin?” He interrupted me from my thoughts on…him. “I said the job would only work if you were unattached.” He leaned in closer, his eyebrow lifting, eyes intense on my own. “Are you available for anything I need, Erin?” His fingertips grazed my knuckles and had moisture flooding between my legs. My heart thundered and my eyes fell closed as I clenched my hand into a fist.
I swallowed and breathed the shaky words, “I can be available whenever you need me.”
His eyes held mine for endlessly long beats and a bevy of words clogged my throat, but instead I stayed silent, wondering just what exactly his
“Perfect.” His smile widened into a full blown, heart-stopping grin with flashing white teeth and smoothly curved lips. I would sit at his feet forever if he continued to smile that smile. “Can you start this afternoon?”
“What?” I coughed and lurched forward, my elbows on the edge of the desk.
“I’ll run you through the basics of what I expect and then we can get started.” He stood and was already on his way out the door. “Erin!” His beautiful lilt carried down the hallway as I crept on soft steps around the corner.
“This is…” I paused, stupefied, tears nearly pricking my eyelids as I scanned the photography.
“Every photo evokes the same thing…” Hunter commented, his hand lightly brushing against mine, the energy on a constant loop through his system that I wanted to catch like a firefly in a jar and harness for my own. Possess it, nurture it, love it.
“Love,” I said softly. Everything about his photos evoked love.
“Exactly,” he breathed next to me, eyes flashing with something that pulled at my very heartstrings. The air rippled with kinetic energy, something I couldn’t place, something I’d never quite sensed before.
I sucked my bottom lip between my teeth and was about to say something intelligent, flirty, I wasn’t sure, but a series of beeps beat me to it.
“Shit.” Hunter shoved a hand in the pocket of his jeans and fished out a phone, glancing at the number on the screen before looking up. “I’ve got to take this. Give me a minute.” He pressed the phone to his ear and was out the door in long strides before I could reply.
“Sure.” I stumbled, feeling thrown into something that was way over my head, but loving the challenge of it, of him.
If I hadn’t been consumed with the photos and the love and the job and Hunter, maybe I would have realized that the phone he’d answered was a cheap burner. And if I’d noticed that, maybe it would have occurred to me that there was only ever one reason for someone to carry an extra disposable phone — a secret.
But I was consumed by the energy that radiated from him and in awe of the art he created from and about passion. I sucked a bottom lip between my teeth as my eyes perused the photos before my bladder took that moment to plead for relief. I headed back down the hallway we’d come from, searching for a bathroom.
Not wanting to be nosy, but also not knowing how long he would be on the phone, I tried one door and found a large pantry off of the kitchen. Frowning, I tried the door next to his now closed office and found it locked. I sighed, realizing I’d have to wait for the formal tour.
“Looking for something?” That same deep voice that had caught my stumble in the street yesterday pressed against my back as his hand latched on mine over the doorknob.
“Don’t ever go through my shit, Erin. That’s rule number one. Don’t open doors that don’t belong to you.” His body pressed against mine and his thick voice echoed in my ear, raising the hairs on my neck. “You may not like what you find,” he purred and my stomach twisted with anxiety and something else. Sex. I fucking wanted him. I wanted him right here, against this door, in his hallway, no matter how much he fit the type I tried to avoid but seemed inexorably drawn to.
“Hear me?” His hand tightened around my wrist in warning.
“Y—yes.” I choked on the word.
“Good.” He turned me in his arms, one hand climbing up my arm and curling around the nape of my neck. “I think this could work, Erin. You just have to obey the rules.” His words throbbed through my bloodstream.
Fuck. He was so intense. So brutally beautiful, all rough edges and hard muscle.
“Some shit just came up I’ve got to take care of, but we’ll talk later this week about what exactly I need from you.” I stood rooted to my spot, eyes wide, speechless. “I’ll call you a car.” His hand kneaded my neck before he pressed a hard kiss to my temple. “And Erin?” He pulled away with a cocky smile. “Pack your bags.”
I zoomed the lens in on the bay windows of the brownstone to find her chatting on the phone, a freshly brewed cup of tea on the table.
“Probably him,” I grunted, making a note to check her cell records to confirm who she was talking to.
She twirled her dark hair between her fingers as she spoke, then took slow sips from her mug when she listened. She was adorable in all the typical girl-next-door ways with dark hair, expressive eyes, and unmarred creamy skin.
I had a thing for the sweet ones. All too many times they found themselves in the crosshairs.
Funny how a girl can get snowed in love so easily. There she was chatting away, thinking herself perfectly safe in his arms, and here he was the devil incarnate, putting her in harm’s way without her cute little upturned cheeks even knowing it. She was just one in a line of his victims.
She hung up the phone a moment later and sat at the table, a soft frown on her face. Apparently love wasn’t all roses in paradise this morning. Erin climbed all three stories of the red-bricked building where I knew she’d be headed for her morning shower in the en suite master, followed by another cup of tea before she’d settle into the small corner office and sit behind her computer, working diligently all afternoon.
This was her daily routine. I’d already had it established from the first day I’d set to surveil the million-dollar home at 733 Colfax. I sighed and turned away, slipping the key into the ignition until I saw her dart back up the stairs. I frowned as she rummaged through her walk-in and then watched the beautiful Erin Warner walk down the front steps ten minutes later.
Apparently she was forgoing routine today.
With a leather brief on one shoulder and too-high heels that looked hellaciously uncomfortable, she slid into her BMW and pulled out of the driveway, hitting the curb before she went speeding down the street.
Just what in the hell was she up to now?
I found myself more intrigued with her than I’d been with any other target. I hadn’t specifically been tasked with following her, but she was so knee-deep in shit and she didn’t even know it, she needed someone to watch her.