“Yes,” she blurted, even though she didn’t drink. “White, please.”

“I’ll have red.”


The man in the black and white uniform nodded. “And may I suggest for an appetizer the blah-blah-blah …”

As whatever he was saying went in one ear and out the other, Elise shifted in the banquette seat and stretched her back. Fidgeted with her skirt. Her left shoe.

And then she realized the men were both looking at her as if they expected her to yea or nay something. “Well, yes, that sounds lovely.”

God only knew what she was going to end up with, but like it mattered? Trying to focus on Troy, she let him start talking, his hands and face growing animated from the story he was telling. But it was as if she couldn’t hear him, even though he was right across the table from her.

Boy, it was hot in here.

Pulling at the collar of her blouse, she realized she’d forgotten to take her coat off. That was it. She was having a hot flash because not only did she still have on a couple of yards of wool, they were flame-grilling steaks across the way, and—

Wait a minute.

With a feeling of dread, she leaned out around Troy and looked down to the very far back of the restaurant.

Right by the emergency exit, at a table for two, a lone figure dressed in black was sitting in the very dimmest part of the place, nothing but a glass of water in front of him.

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Axe’s eyes glowed in the darkness.

As he lifted that glass in salute to her.

Son of a bitch—

“I’m sorry, what?” Troy said with surprise.

Oh, God, had she said that out loud?

Axe sat back and silently counted down how long it took Elise to make an excuse to use the ladies’ room and head his way with her hair on fire.

Ten … nine … eight …

Bingo, he thought to himself as she got up and came steaming in his direction.

As she arrived at his table of two for one, he was glad in a perverse way that he’d gotten under her skin. He’d hated seeing her walk in with that human, sit down with him, and laugh at whatever joke he was sending her way.

Especially looking like this, with her hair down and her skirt up above her knees.

“What are you doing here?” she gritted out.

“Having dinner.” He indicated his knife and fork, and put up the napkin he’d laid in his lap. “Guess what I’m having? Steak. It’s going to be steak.”

Hell, he should order the stuff raw just so he could tear it apart with his fangs.

“You can’t be here right now.”

“Oh? Is there a law of physics I’m not aware of? You know, I learned how to blow up cars this week and also how to make a grenade out of a can of Coke, a toothbrush, four inches of duct tape, and a Little Debbie snack cake. But there was nothing about why I can’t be where I want to be at mealtimes. Do enlighten me, Your Highness.”

“You. Need. To. Go.”

“Okay, fine, I lied about the grenade. I can assure you, however, that I’m having my dinner here.” He pointed to the table. “Right here.”

“This is not—”

“Professional? I’m not on the clock. So being here is not outside of the scope of my duties because it is not within them.”

“You are insane.”

Axe cut the shit and just stared up at her. “And you are … seriously beautiful tonight.”

That stopped her in her tracks. And he took the opportunity to linger on her full lips, and her sweet, creamy throat, and the curve of her breasts … and those legs that were covered in black tights that did nothing to hide her smooth calves and dainty ankles.

“You are so beautiful right now,” he murmured, refocusing on her lips. “And I know that tonight it’s all for him. That’s okay. I accept that. But the least that you can do as I sit here and watch you with that man is leave me in peace to enjoy the sight of you. It is all I have.”

Elise crossed her arms over her chest. Dropped them. Looked around.

But she didn’t leave.

“So you thought of me, too,” he said, well aware that he was seducing her with the tone of voice he was using. “Were you up all day, twisting and turning in those fancy sheets, imagining me on you … in you.”

As she gasped, he leaned forward. “I’ll pretend all you want. If that’s what it takes for us to work together. I’ll never talk about this …” He motioned between them. “… thing between us again. I’ll be a good boy who keeps his hands to himself—his fantasies, too. But in this moment, honest is as honest does—and in my head, I’m making love to you. Right on that table over there, right in front of him to prove I can.”

Axe deliberately raked her body with his eyes, and he left nothing out of his expression: The gnawing hunger, the bottomless pit of need, the rabid, animal lust—he let it all show.

And God help them both, she was supposed to run.

She was supposed to give him another highly logical speech, that intellectual equivalent of a “fuck off” of hers that was so much classier than he deserved.

She was supposed to fire him.

Then storm off.

Elise didn’t do any of that.

Instead … she bloomed right before him, her body responding in a rush that magnified her natural scent into a bouquet that made him hard as a fucking rock under the table.

In a low growl, he said, “Go back to him. When you’re done, I’ll meet you outside.”

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