Authors: Lorie O'clare
Angela stared at Jake, not saying a word. She took him in from head to toe. He was acutely aware of wherever she looked. When she lifted her attention to his face he swore he witnessed her mind switch gears.
"I'm going to head upstairs to talk to my dad," she announced, starting toward the door. "Mario is supposed to send his car for me early this evening. I'll be in contact with you before I leave and let you know what we've decided at that time."
"You aren't leaving yet." Jake was right behind her, reaching for her and dragging his fingers down her smooth, thick hair before she spun around, yanking the strands from his fingers.
"Rule number one is this is my case. You answer to me, not the other way around. I give the orders." She held her index finger up toward his face and straightened to her full height, which was probably somewhere around five and a half feet tall. "That is, if I decide we can work together. For now, I'm going to my room to call my father." When she took a step backward her hands were facing Jake, palms out, as if she were warding off some dangerous animal. "You aren't going to stop me and you aren't going to touch me."
"I'm not the bad guy here, Angela," he said, holding his own hands out in a gesture of surrender. He had no problem with Angela running the show. If she remained this skittish, though, he would have to work even harder to protect her.
When she let out a loud breath her body deflated. "You're right. I'm sorry. This case means a lot to me. I've come so far on it. And I'm really curious why Dad doesn't want to do backup and asked you instead," she mumbled, pushing hair behind her shoulder.
"Because of his missing-person case."
"I'm curious to find out what case could be more important than this."
"How often do you two discuss each other's cases?" Jake didn't know Huxtable and his daughter's relationship well enough to know whether he'd tell her everything or not. Angela's tone suggested she believed she knew about every case he had, though.
Angela tugged at her sleeveless sweater, stretching the knitted material over her breasts, then crossed her arms, showing off her cleavage as she leaned against the door instead of opening it.
"Lately all we've talked about is this case." She dropped her attention to her hands, unfolding her arms and staring at her fingernails, which were nicely filed and painted a bright pink. "I guess he could be working other cases right now without me knowing it." She didn't look up when she tucked her hair behind her ear. "I'm used to knowing everything he does, though," she added, sighing and shaking her head.
Jake sensed her sincerity. Angela was proud of her father, loved him, and more than likely believed she took care of him. Huxtable might be a hard-ass, but he wouldn't weigh her shoulders down with anything else while she worked this case. That meant he loved his daughter as much as she loved him. Maybe it was that tight bond that had sent him flying out to California, stuffing his pride the best he could and asking for help on his daughter's behalf, because he knew she was going in way over her head.
"What are your plans tonight?" Jake asked.
"To end the game," she said without hesitating.
"Nothing wrong with optimism." He noticed her hand on the doorknob again, but she wasn't turning it. He really didn't want her leaving. If she did, he'd probably boot up his laptop and start researching her. It would be a lot easier, and more enjoyable, learning about Angela from Angela. "Call your dad here," Jake decided, moving into her space and taking her hand off his doorknob. "It would be a good idea to hear your debriefing. I need to be brought up to speed on everything."
Her hand was soft, her fingers long, slender, and warm. Jake gripped her smaller hand in his, turning her as he did, and guided her back into his suite. When he ran his fingers down her back, he swore she shivered. Her silky black hair was thick, very straight, and had an enticing aroma to it he'd love to breathe in deeper, filling his lungs with it. Holding her hand and escorting her, his fingers and palm barely moving across her slender, perfectly arched back, damn near hardened every inch of him to stone. Jake needed to figure out how to work with this woman without sporting a hard-on every time he got close enough to smell her, feel the sexually charged energy she emanated, or touch her. Maybe it was the Chicago humidity affecting him. Jake didn't lose control around women, no matter how hot they were.
Angela slid her hand out of his when she once again stood near the chair where he'd sat. She stared at her hands, rubbing them together. Jake wondered if he affected her the way she did him. That was one hell of a scary thought. If it was the case, knowing each of them was defenseless around the other would either prove incredibly deadly or wear both of them out trying to fight it.
"And if you're in charge," he added, trying to relax her, especially if she was fighting to douse the fire burning alive inside her, "you're going to have to tell me what you want me to do."
"You're right." Angela glanced at him and her flushed cheeks were incredibly noticeable with her long black hair bordering her face. "I'll call Dad first, but stay quiet while I talk to him."
Jake gave her a salute, which she either didn't catch or ignored. Her expression remained serious, almost preoccupied, when she pulled one of the chairs out from under the round table near his windows. He sat facing her. When he stretched his legs under the table, he brushed his ankles against her smooth, warm skin. She sucked in a quick hiss but still didn't look at him. Instead she focused on her phone, scrolled down, placed her call, then put it to her ear. She was definitely fighting to ignore him.
Which proved to him Angela was as affected by his presence as he was by hers. Although Jake knew she would suffer along with him, somehow knowing this didn't boost his ego the way it usually did when he learned of a pretty lady drooling after him. He could speculate on the reasons or simply accept that nothing was the same with Angela as it was with any other woman he'd ever met or spent time with before.
"Hi, Dad," Angela said, her entire face lighting up as she leaned back in her chair. "How's your day going?"
Jake listened to father and daughter chat idly, playing catch-up. He saw a tight connection between the two of them, concern, love, and friendship. He also saw a new side to Angela. For a minute or two, she appeared to forget Jake sat facing her, watching her. Everything about her transformed, her pretty eyes glowing, her laughter melodic. He wouldn't have believed it possible for his insides to twist with even more turmoil and sexual energy so raw, not intimidated, and damn near unleashed, as if what he felt was right and even approved of by some unknown authority.
Angela looked up at him, shoving hair behind her shoulder as her expression sobered. "He's sitting right across from me," she said, her voice still light, although that wary look was back in her eyes. "Why didn't you tell me you flew out to California? What if I'd needed backup?"
Angela nodded at whatever her father said. "True," she said. "You're right and you know I discuss every movement. How could you run backup otherwise? We didn't know for sure it would be quiet. You can't leave town again, though. Are we clear?" Angela smiled as her father probably sounded appropriately chastised. "And why do you have to take a missing persons case right now?"
Angela dragged her fingers through her hair as she listened to her father's explanation. "So what is the case?" she asked, resting her head on her hand and staring at the table.
"You're right," she agreed quietly, then after another moment stiffened, her expression tightening. "I just agreed with you, didn't I?" she argued. "And you know I can stay focused. I only asked about your case so I would know what you're doing."
Huxtable's voice was suddenly louder through the phone. Jake heard his name but didn't catch what was said. Angela had her phone pressed firmly against her ear, blocking his ability to hear most of what Huxtable said.
"Nothing will distract me from this case, except maybe not knowing what you're doing." She stressed every word. "Tell me about your case."
There was another brief pause as she listened to whatever her father was saying.
"We haven't discussed much yet," she explained, speaking faster now. "I'm going to bring him up to speed."
Apparently Angela decided not to argue against Jake working with her.
"I'm fine.... Yes, it's fine. Don't worry," she urged, her voice softening as she displayed her nurturing side. There wasn't a side to her that didn't make her glow and draw her sensuality closer to the surface.
"Dad," she breathed, sighing. "You know I'm going to worry more if I know you're working a case and don't want to talk to me about it." Her smile looked strained, and although she looked in Jake's direction, Angela wasn't focusing on him. He'd lost out to her father. "Yes, this is a strenuous case. You know I wouldn't argue that. It doesn't mean I'm incapable of being there for you. Why don't you want to tell me about it?"
Jake suddenly pictured his home and no one ever being able to pull off something on someone else or hold on to a secret for too long or try doing anything behind the rest of the family's back. Sometimes living with a houseful of investigators and bounty hunters was a royal pain in the ass. Jake managed not to grin when Angela's frustration became apparent.
"I'll call you later tonight before I go to bed," she said, her tone short. "I love you, too, Dad."
Angela stared at her phone, which she flipped around in her fingers, after hanging up. "Why would he not want to discuss his case with me?" she asked, still staring at her phone.
Jake wasn't sure. "You always know the cases he's working?"
"I'm the one who accepts or declines the cases he works."
There was definitely a controlling side to Angela. Even as Jake assured himself any trait like that in a woman would make him nuts, he couldn't look away when Angela looked to him for understanding.
"I can focus on this case just fine and also know the details of his case." She stood and walked away from the table. "Unless he thinks I would worry about whoever the person is who is missing," she said, snapping her fingers and marching back to the table and reaching for her phone.
"You know quite often in missing persons cases the person isn't really missing." Jake remained seated but eased his chair back enough to comfortably stretch out and cross his arms over his chest.
"Calling him back won't do any good. He'll point out I'm already not focused on plotting out my next move."
Jake had considered pointing that out and was glad she'd figured it out herself. She picked up her phone and shoved it in her back shorts pocket. "I'm headed to my room."
Jake hurried after her when she did a quick march to his hotel room door. "I thought we were brainstorming, plotting. I need to know every development and where you plan to head with what you know so far." When he grabbed her arm he swore his world shifted. Everything inside him once again hardened, creating a steel barrier he wanted to pull her behind with him. It was a protective instinct, so strong and overbearing for a moment he couldn't move.
Angela didn't say a word but stilled. It took her a moment before she lowered her attention to where he held on to her. He swore he heard her mumble under her breath, "This isn't going to work."
"What?" he asked.
"Nothing." She pulled her arm free, then rubbed where he'd touched her. "Fine. Fine," she repeated, looking more nervous than a cat cornered and fearing capture when he remained where he was, trapping her between his body and the door. "I'm sure Dad told you everything when he hired you, but I'll go over what we know and where we are right now," she began, speaking quickly.
"Why does your father think you can't stay focused on this case if you know about his?"
"I'm focused." She pinned Jake with her captivating green eyes, as if proving her fact. "Are you?" she asked, her voice dropping a notch.
If she suddenly looked so captivating intentionally, as if determined to show him up, he couldn't be certain.
"What exactly does your father know about me?" he asked, holding his ground and her gaze.
"He knows about KFA."
"How do you know? The two of you discussed bringing me on board before your dad flew out to L.A.?" he asked.
Before he finished with his question Angela was shaking her head. "I had no idea he was pulling in new backup," she stressed.
He believed her. Angela relaxed, sensing he accepted what she said as the truth. She started around him. Jake grabbed her other arm, this time tugging enough to force her closer to him.
"What have you told him about me?" Suddenly he understood. Angela had shared what had happened, or, possibly better yet, what she wished might have happened with her father after she spent the evening with Jake in Mexico.
Angela looked surprised only for a moment before her mouth straightened into a thin line and the smoldering glow in her eyes changed when she narrowed them and glared at him. "I honestly don't remember if we discussed you at all," she said coolly. "Why does it matter?"
When she tried pulling her arm free, Jake didn't tighten his grip but instead yanked hard enough to make her stumble against him.
"Because, Angela," he said, his voice turning husky when he looked down at her and breathed in the enticing scent of her shampoo, "your father is concerned about your ability to focus. I seriously doubt a detective with his solid reputation would allow his daughter to take on a case of this magnitude if he didn't believe you were incredibly qualified to do so."
Angela didn't move, nor did she try looking up at Jake. He had an eyeful of incredibly shiny, satiny black hair traveling smoothly over her slender shoulders and draping over her back to her ass. He held her arm, feeling her solid pulse thump repeatedly against his fingers. She knew where he was going with this. Jake wished he knew how she'd react once he said it.
"That leads me to think you're usually quite focused. But for some reason, right now you aren't. Would you care garnering a wage as to why that is?" He put the question out there and waited.