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Authors: Lori Foster

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BOOK: The Guy Next Door
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His smile slipped into a grin. “Anytime.”

She’d been surprised and inexperienced enough to say, “Really?”

“Oh, yeah.” His gaze went molten as he looked her over, making it clear that he liked what he saw. “All you gotta do is knock.”

Natalie had taken him at his word, and from there they’d fallen into an unbelievable routine that was both scintillating and simple.

The first time she’d knocked at his door, feeling very tentative, alternate excuses at the ready, he’d answered a mere second later. His look of expectation had
sharpened to satisfaction then quickly turned to lust. With that dark gaze devouring her, her worry dissipated as if it had never been.

After that, it got easier. And now, when she wanted him, she had no issue at all going to his door to let him know.

No, that wasn’t entirely true, because she
always
wanted him. Minutes after she left him, she ached for him again.

Trying to keep her obsession with Jett under wraps wasn’t easy, so at least three times a week she went to him. The rest of the time she lectured herself on moderation, on keeping things uncomplicated. If she pressed him, if she took up too much of his time, he’d grow tired of their uncomplicated arrangement.

But Natalie relished the lack of expectations. There were no awkward dates for her to flub or conflicting opinions to put them at odds or, God forbid, any uncertainty about his intentions.

So far, Jett had been very accommodating. Of course, one of these days he’d have other plans. Or not be home when she knocked. Or… She gulped.

One day he’d find someone else, someone important to him who wouldn’t appreciate him having a no-strings affair with his neighbor across the hall.

But not yet.

Not today.

Natalie was sorting through her feelings about the indistinct future when Jett opened his door.

Her breath caught. Forget the future; she wanted to concentrate only on the here and now.

Wearing nothing more than a damp towel and his wet hair uncombed, Jett’s dark-eyed gaze burned in a
look she recognized only too well. He stood with his feet apart, one hand on the doorknob, the other on the frame above his head. The towel parted over one muscular thigh, showing an old scar, almost like a gunshot wound, on his right leg.

So many times Natalie had wanted to ask him about that scar. How had he gotten it, when.

Why?

She had no idea what Jett did for a living; she didn’t know anyone who’d been shot.

It’d be so easy to ask him…but she knew she shouldn’t. If she asked questions, it left him open to do the same. Eventually he’d find out that her father was ridiculously wealthy and well respected in the business world. He’d find out that she and her sister had been effectively disowned.

And he’d find out about her mother.

Her chest tightened with the thought. No, she didn’t want that.

The effortlessness of their straightforward sexual relationship was too enjoyable to modify it with idle curiosity.

Shaking off all other concerns, Natalie stepped toward Jett. As if her movement broke a spell, Jett dropped his arms around her and drew her in close, taking her mouth in a hungry, devouring kiss. Still with his mouth on hers, he lifted her inside and kicked the door shut.

Wow. Today he rushed things, and she loved it.

In two steps Jett had her pressed to the wall in full-body contact, his big hands framing her face while he ate at her mouth with an all-consuming kiss. His tongue
moved over hers as he adjusted his hold, turning his head for a better fit.

He smelled fresh and hot, felt damp and strong. Whatever his occupation might be, Jett stayed in prime physical shape with admirable stamina. In appreciation, Natalie contracted her fingers over his chest muscles. He made a sound of pleasure and ground his erection against her belly.

After her quick shower, she’d changed into a casual, oversized sweatshirt with a wide neckline, and loose drawstring leisure pants. The clothes weren’t all that complimentary, but they were easy to remove, and she knew she wouldn’t be wearing them for long.

When Jett’s hand traveled down her spine to the waistband of the pants, then slipped inside to knead her backside, he discovered her lack of panties.

“Damn, woman,” he rasped against her throat. “You know how to make me burn, don’t you?”

Natalie couldn’t reply, not with him touching her, drifting his fingers around to her belly, down between her legs. She went on tiptoe in reaction, her head back, her shoulders pressed hard to the wall.

Voice low with satisfaction, Jett said, “Ah, baby, you’re already wet for me.” While teasing her with his strong fingers, he lightly kissed her throat, behind her ear. “Been thinking of me?”

“Yes.”
Always,
Natalie could have said, but she held back that telling confession. Right now her involvement with Jett was uncomplicated and burning hot.

So what if she occasionally got the urge to just
talk
to him? Thanks to a father who didn’t care, a mother who’d left her and suitors who’d cared more about impressing her father than her, she’d learned to keep her
relationships simple. If Jett got to know her, he’d get to know her family and the very misleading background of wealth.

Then how could she ever trust him again?

She’d found out the hard way that when most men looked at her, they saw only dollar signs. Never again would she put herself through that.

Near her ear, Jett whispered, “Hey, where’d you go, Natalie?”

Her heart softened; Jett was so attuned to her that he always sensed her mood, and he never failed to react to it.

She forced away the faint edge of melancholy, the niggling urge to reach for more than
this,
and said, “I’m here, with you, getting dangerously close to coming.”

“Not yet,” he told her. He took one step back, and when she reached for him, he caught her hands. With a level look of instruction, he kissed each palm and pressed her hands down at either side of her hips.

Breathing hard, Natalie acquiesced with understanding. Jett often liked to take control sexually, always with combustible results. He never, ever hurt her, never even caused her a twinge of discomfort. He was an openly giving partner, unselfish and talented. Regardless of any details that Natalie didn’t know about him, she knew
him.
She didn’t have a single doubt that anything Jett wanted to do to her was for her pleasure.

She could hardly wait.

After licking her lips, she said, “Why don’t you take off the towel?” Looking at his body always thrilled her. She loved it that he was all man, hairy in the right places, solid and hard, so much taller and stronger than her.

“You first.” He caught the hem of the sweatshirt and tugged it up. “Raise your arms.”

When she did, he lifted the sweatshirt off over her head, baring her breasts.

Cool air-conditioning drifted over her skin. Her nipples were already tight, aching.

“Stand still.” Jett lowered his head to dampen each one with his tongue, teasing, circling.

Her thigh muscles tensed, her belly hollowed. She waited for him to suck—but he didn’t. He just kept teasing, lightly kissing, licking, but stopping short at what she wanted most.

She closed her eyes on a wave of sensation that felt sharpest between her thighs. “Jett…”

“Shh.” He straightened again, cupped both her breasts in his hands and used his thumbs now to circle her wet nipples. “God, you have the most gorgeous body ever.”

Both she and her sister were large-breasted, but the rest of her? Average at best. Not that you could tell that by the way Jett reacted to her. From the beginning he’d seemed very drawn to her physically.

While working her nipples with his thumbs, Jett took her mouth again. He kissed her soft and deep, and he kept on kissing her long after she needed and wanted more.

Growing desperate, especially with the mounting sensitivity of her breasts, Natalie turned her face away to catch her breath.

He recaptured her mouth, not giving her time to think, to speak. When she moaned, he only tilted in his hips, pressing his solid erection to her so that she’d know he was in the same shape. Situated between her
thighs, he stroked against her in a parody of sex but without the ultimate satisfaction.

She loved how Jett built the need until her entire body felt alive, every nerve ending sparking. Sometimes he kept it up until she couldn’t take it anymore.

She was there
now,
and still he seemed relentless.

When he pulled away suddenly, a haze of lust left her disconcerted. Without giving her a chance to regroup, he knelt and tugged the pants down to her ankles. “Step out.”

Using his shoulders for balance, Natalie lifted each foot free and he pushed the material and her flip-flops away from her.

She was now naked, and he was still on his knees in front of her.

Her lungs struggled to get enough air. Slowly, far too slowly, Jett slipped his hands around her hips to her backside and held her secure.

Knowing what he would do, her voice quavered. “Jett?”

He leaned in, nuzzling against her, breathing deeply of her scent, and Natalie thought her knees would buckle. She wove her fingers into his cool, silky hair and inadvertently tightened them when she felt his open mouth against her. “Oh, God.”

His tongue moved over her,
in
her, and then suddenly he stood to take her hand in a rush. “You’re killing me, honey. Let’s go before I lose it.”

At that moment, “losing it” seemed like a pretty good idea to her. She gave him a look, letting him know that sex in his foyer worked just fine for her.

Wearing a half smile, Jett shook his head. “Sorry, honey, but tonight, that’s not part of the plan.”

“What plan?”

“Shh. Just wait.” Gently, he urged her toward his bedroom. So that he could keep his gaze on her, he back-stepped all the way, staring at her breasts, how they jiggled with each step. His gaze sharpened and his jaw firmed; he made a sound of appreciation.

Beside his already turned-down bed, his voice gravelly with need, Jett said to her, “Lie down in the middle of the bed, on your back.”

Natalie had no issue with that. Anything to hurry him along worked for her.

But the second her head rested on a pillow, Jett dropped the towel and came over her to straddle her hips. She was just reaching for him when he caught her wrists and raised them up over her head.

“Jett,” she complained. She didn’t think she could wait much longer. She wanted to touch him. She wanted to feel him alive, throbbing in her palms.

“Not yet.” Holding both her hands loosely in one of his, Jett fiddled with the headboard—and then she felt the smooth, braided rope slipping over her hands, felt it pull taut with a gentle tug from him, closing around her wrists like a noose.

Alarm slammed into her.

She jerked her arms, but they remained secured over her head. “Jett?”

He surveyed her upper body, his face taut with lust. “Relax. You’ll like this.”

“But…” Again she pulled, and accepted that there was no way for her to break the hold. Her heart began pounding for an entirely different reason.

Satisfied, Jett stretched out next to her, propped on an elbow and rested his free hand low on her belly. He
looked from her bound hands down her arms, over her face and to her chest. “Even like this, all stretched out on your beautiful back, you have an impressive rack.”

Natalie tried to calm herself. She wanted Jett. But…she just didn’t know about this.

Trying to decide what to say, she whispered, “I’m not sure…”

“Trust me.” He bent and drew one nipple into his mouth, shattering her thoughts. She felt the gentle pull of his mouth everywhere: on her nipple, in her stomach, between her legs. It was a potent mix—sharp pleasure with an edge of uncertainty. Danger. Lust.

Again she tested the restraint, and this time, the feel of being powerless, at his mercy…excited her. She’d never been one to live on the edge; never, ever had she had this type of purely sexual encounter.

She remained nervous but not really afraid. However, she had to know.

“Jett?”

“Mmm?” Leaning over her, he switched to her other breast, licking, nipping with the edge of his teeth until she gasped and then enclosing her in the heat of his mouth.

Natalie moaned before managing to say, “I…I need you to tell me what you’re going to do.”

Movements unhurried, he sat up beside her and looked her over. “All right.” His dark brows puckered, and then, as if making up his mind, he parted her thighs and knelt between them.

Before Jett had accustomed her to his unique brand of earthy sexuality, she would have felt exposed. Now, she just enjoyed his attention and the fact that he took so much pleasure in looking at her—in every way.

He trailed his fingertips down her inner thighs, tickling, adding to her tension.

“You and I are going to talk.” He used his thumbs to part her, opened his big hands wide on the very top of her thighs.

The way he looked at her in such detail would have been distracting enough, but he…wanted to talk? “Jett?”

Giving up the perusal of her body, he raised his gaze to lock onto hers. “We’ll talk, and when we’re done, you’re going to come for me.”

CHAPTER TWO

N
O WOMAN HAD EVER LOOKED
more delectable than Natalie did right now.

Worry softened the lust in her big brown eyes. Her keen intellect cautioned her of his intent, but her sensual nature was game for some risqué play.

In the dimmer light of his bedroom, her lashes left long shadows on her velvety cheeks. From her slender throat to her soft belly, heat flushed her fair skin. Her rosy nipples were drawn tight, her thighs open to him, her pink sex already glistening and swollen.

She chewed her bottom lip even while breathing hard. She wouldn’t be able to free herself, and still she strained against the special restraints. Her legs, opened wide around his hips, flexed when her back bowed.

“It’s all right, you know.” Keeping his hands off her proved impossible, so he smoothed them down her ribs to her hipbones. Spreading his fingers wide, he used his hands to frame her sex. “Why are you worried?”

Her heavy-lidded gaze went smoky; she pulled at her restraints.

Damn, but he liked this. Too much. “You look sexy as hell like this, Natalie.” He drifted his thumbs back and forth, brushing her pubic hair.

Closing her eyes to regain her wits, she took a deep breath then asked, “What do you want to talk about?”

Watching her was a unique pleasure. As he touched his thumbs to her vulva, he whispered, “Everything.”

Breath held, she tipped her head back and concentrated on the way he made her feel. To most of the world, Natalie presented a modest sense of decorum. In bed with him, she became a complete hedonist.

Jett smiled at the sinuous movements of her perfect body.

Natalie might not realize it yet, but they were totally in sync. He was experienced enough to know it, even if she wasn’t. Sexually, they were a perfect match.

It’d be interesting to see how they matched up out of bed too, but he had to tread lightly with that idea. If he came on too strong, she might mistake his interest for a commitment.

Looking at her voluptuous body, he told himself that he should take what she so freely offered and enjoy it while it lasted.

But deep down, he knew that someone in her past had hurt her.

Whether that person was still in the picture, Jett didn’t know. He did know that Natalie wasn’t married and never had been, wasn’t engaged and wasn’t seeing anyone other than him. But maybe the guy who’d hurt her was an associate or a family friend.

Jett scowled. Eventually he’d uncover all her secrets.

One thing at a time.

As a teacher, Natalie got extended time off for spring break. That meant plenty of grown-up time away from kids and papers, without the administration keeping tabs on her. No way in hell would he let her hit the dating scene without him.

Not without a fight.

And God knew, he never fought fair. Soon enough, Natalie would know it too.

“Honey, look at me.”

Warily, she brought her gaze back to his, uncertain yet willing. “What?”

Jett kept one hand on her right leg, on her inner thigh. The other was still between her legs, playing with her ever so lightly. “I overheard you on your cell phone last week.” Beneath his palm, her thigh felt sleek and soft. “You were coming into the apartment, talking about spring break.”

She went utterly still, her eyes widening with caution. “Spring break?”

He narrowed his eyes at that evasive reply. “I know that you teach middle school, Natalie.”

She shook her head but asked, “How?”

To distract her from what he had to say, Jett draped her legs up and over his, widening her even more and scooting in closer to her body. He was so hard that he hurt, but for now he could ignore his own need.

He heard her sharp inhalation at this new position, and he said, “You told me that you teach.” Back before she’d decided she had to keep him out of her life. “Don’t you remember?”

“No.”

To keep her just as he wanted her, he put both hands on her thighs. “You didn’t give me any details, but I have ways of finding out things.”

Though he didn’t look at her face, he felt her new nervousness, the burgeoning suspicion. Any second now, she’d demand that he let her go.

And of course he would. She needed to know that
she could always trust him, and that for him, no meant no, period.

To keep her from calling it quits, he cupped his hand over her mound again. “You are so hot.”

She hesitated, just as he’d known she would. It had been that way from the beginning with Natalie. They were so sexually suited that a mere touch could ignite them both.

But despite Natalie’s deliberate avoidance of emotional ties, he sensed that what she shared with him was more than sexual.

She definitely loved having sex with him, but sometimes she used sex as an excuse to seek him out for other reasons. After weeks of the most detailed physical exploration imaginable, he could easily read her frame of mind. Within minutes of Natalie knocking on his door, Jett knew if she was upset with someone, if she needed comfort, or distraction.

If she needed reassurance.

He always gauged her mood and then adjusted the lovemaking to reflect it. That meant sometimes things were fast and frenetic, sometimes slow and easy, and at times, even sweet and…loving.

Tonight she was worried. About what, he didn’t yet know, but he hoped before the night ended, she’d tell him.

Natalie didn’t recognize it, but an emotional connection played a large role in making the sex so damn good. She was too naive to realize that the thrill of a purely physical encounter quickly dimmed, that
just
sex, cold and detached, could never be as intense as the involvement they shared.

For a while now they’d been going strong. Neither of
them had tired of the other, and neither of them sought companionship elsewhere.

At least, that better be the case, because the idea of her doing
this
with anyone else felt like acid in his gut.

There were days when he knew she was in her apartment alone, and it kept him on edge wondering why she didn’t come over. The urge to go to her, to change the dynamics of their relationship, prodded him more times than he cared to remember.

It wasn’t until he’d heard her talking about taking off for vacation that he’d decided to push her for more than sex.

“I like you like this, Natalie.” As Jett teased his fingers along her stomach, she shivered. “I like knowing that you’re here and that you’re not going anywhere.”

Her lips parted, and then she dropped her head back to stare at the ceiling. After releasing a long, shuddering breath, she said with confidence, “You would never hurt me.”

“I’d die first.” He saw the tension leave her shoulders, and he smiled slightly. “What were you thinking?”

She squirmed in indecision.

“Natalie.” He put his hands by her hips and leaned over her. “You can ask me anything.”

“All right.” Her gaze dropped to his thigh but then flickered away. “That scar on your leg…”

Though it still ached at times, Jett rarely paid it any mind these days. “An old bullet wound. What about it?”

Her eyes flared wide. Hesitant, she licked her lips.

Damn, but he felt that lick everywhere. “You are so fucking beautiful.” He had to hurry this along so
he could get inside her. “Now tell me, what about the scar?”

“I shouldn’t have said anything.”

Jett had to shake his head at her indecision. She was so damn vulnerable and so defensive of her privacy. She shared her body without reserve but feared sharing anything more. “But you did, so tell me, does it bother you?”

“No!”

He looked at the scar and shrugged. “I’m used to it. To me it’s just a mark, but I suppose it’s ugly.”

“Oh no, Jett.” Pure reaction tightened her thighs around him. “Nothing about your body is ugly. I didn’t mean anything like that.”

“Then what?”

She gave another small tug on her restraints. “This hardly seems the time to chitchat.”

It was exactly the time to chitchat. “Why not now? We’re neither one going anywhere, so we have plenty of time on our hands.”

After a few seconds more, she got her backbone and met his gaze with an exasperated expression of daring. “It looked like a bullet wound to me, so I’ve sometimes wondered what type of dangerous man you might be.”

His mouth twitched. She thought him dangerous? Perceptive of her.

“Is that funny?”

Given his background and his capability, it really wasn’t much of a stretch. When necessary he could be deadly. “I guess not.” He hoped she wouldn’t be too put off by the life he’d led.

“So why are you smiling?”

Jett tried to look more serious. “I’m only a little dangerous, I promise.” Encouraging her toward more conversation, he explained, “I do security work now, mostly domestic investigation.”

“Security work?” Her expression sharpened. “What does that mean?”

“Means I’m a private eye.” Jett watched her and saw her eyes widen with understanding. “It makes it pretty easy for me to uncover secrets.”
Your
secrets.

Aghast, her brows came down and her mouth firmed. “Have you been snooping into my life?”

He gave a noncommittal roll of one shoulder. “Can’t help myself. I’m the cautious type. See, I’m also ex-military and ex-FBI. Being well-informed is the name of the game, and I’m afraid old habits die hard.”

She absorbed all that with a frown. “So that bullet wound…?”

“Is why I’m not still FBI. Other injuries I could brush off, but that one caused more damage and got me grounded, stuck on desk duty.”

“You don’t have the body of a desk jockey.”

One brow lifted. “I guess not. That’s because shuffling papers is not my thing, which is why I became a P.I. At least having my own setup, I can pick and choose the cases I want to take.”

“Is it physically challenging?”

“It can be. I stay in shape because I need to.” In an effort at full disclosure with her, Jett admitted, “I get most of my business from a surveillance firm that deals with divorce.”

Even more aghast, Natalie said, “You
spy
on people having marital problems?”

He didn’t like her tone. “It’s not that simple, but if
you want to go bare-bones, then yeah.” To make sure she got a clear picture, he shared details. “A few months ago, some bozo who’d been cheating on his wife and got busted for it decided he didn’t want a divorce. He wanted her to give him another chance, and it didn’t matter to him that she preferred to move on. Thing is, he was acting so weird, she didn’t trust him, so she hired me to keep an eye on him.”

Natalie frowned, but it seemed more out of concern than censure.

“I started checking up on him, learning his routine, his habits. A week later when the asshole bought a gun, I knew he had something planned.”

Her lips parted. “A
gun?

Jett nodded. “That same day, he checked out an old barn at an abandoned farm out in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t like it, so I followed him the rest of the day.”

As if forgetting her naked pose beneath him, Natalie shifted then asked, almost breathless, “What happened?”

“He pulled the gun on his wife.” Remembering it made Jett tense all over again. Abuse of any kind sickened him, but abuse against a woman, a wife, left him rigid with fury. “His plan was to force her into the car and take her to the barn.”

Attention rapt, Natalie whispered, “Why?”

“He said he was going to do a murder-suicide.”

“Oh my God. You heard all that?”

“And recorded it.”

Her entire countenance softened. “What did you do, Jett?”

“I stopped him.” Jett took great pleasure in giving
her that truth. It had been ugly, and he’d definitely lost control when the guy tried to stave him off by pointing the gun at his wife. More than anything, Jett had wanted to tear that guy apart. As it was, he’d done more than enough damage.

He waited for Natalie to ask him
how
he’d stopped the jerk and wondered just how much he ought to tell her.

Instead, she said, “You could have been killed.”

She surprised him with that observation. “Maybe.” Shots were fired that day. Luckily they’d only struck a tree, a car and the side of the house. “But I wasn’t. Instead, the guy is now in jail on a string of charges, and the woman is free to live without always looking over her shoulder.”

“I’m glad you were there to help her.”

Jett felt compelled to tell her, “I’m damn good at any job I do.”

She accepted that without comment then looked down at his thigh, currently under hers, keeping her legs apart. “Does it ever pain you?”

“Not often.” He ran a hand up her leg to her hip. “For this, for you, I promise it’s not a problem.”

Her gaze went from his leg to his boner. “I’m glad.”

Jett watched the rise and fall of her breasts as she rested there. He didn’t want to push her, but… “Your turn, Natalie.”

Her gaze shot up to his. “For what?”

“Share something with me. Something that I don’t already know.”

Her gaze immediately skirted away. “I don’t think so.”

“Why not?” He brushed a few of those honey-colored curls away from her face.

She turned her cheek into his palm. Sounding almost desperate, she said, “Because I like things how they are.”

“What if I don’t?”

Something close to panic darkened her eyes. Again she struggled against the restraint before giving up to say, “Try to understand, Jett.” She took a shuddering breath, licked her lips. “Sharing is…difficult for me.”

Because she didn’t trust him—but he wasn’t giving up. Not yet. “I’ll make it easier for you.” Leaning down, Jett kissed her lightly on her lips, then her throat and then each breast.

She held her breath as he sat up again, stroking his hands along her sweet, taut body, over her ribs, her hipbones, and coming to rest on her inner thighs.

Her breathing accelerated. “I don’t see how—”

“I know what you want, honey. I know what you need.” He eased a finger inside her, touching her carefully with slow, precise care. “Just relax now.”

Her lids sank down over dazed eyes.

“I’ll ask questions,” Jett quietly told her, “and you can just answer.”

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