“Retrieval,” Hallie said through gritted teeth as she pushed me inside the suite. “Here’s an idea. Try not to blow it all before we even get started. And I told you, we’re not … whoa.”

A red leather couch was backed up to an exposed brick wall. Across from it sat a small desk and a huge flat screen. The room was perfectly proportioned. French doors opened onto a private balcony, or gallery, as they are called in Lousiana. A split staircase led upstairs. To the bedroom.


Where there was one bed. One big, big bed and a bottle of champagne.

“I’ll take the couch,” I said. Or better yet, we’d finish the job today, and I would go home, lock myself in my apartment, and stand in a cold shower for two solid days.

“Don’t be passive-aggressive.” She threw her bag on the desk, unzipped it, and pulled out a sweater. “We can share the same breathing space for a day. Screw this job up and get me in trouble, and I’ll be forced to find inventive ways to injure your man parts.”

I tried to hide my smile as I sat down on the couch. Everything with Hallie was easy and complicated at the same time, in the very best way, but being alone with her in a hotel room with one bed was one complication I had no idea how to handle.

“Maybe you just want to think about my man parts.” Apparently I was going to handle it overtly.

She blinked a couple of times. Finally. I’d managed to throw her off. “Maybe I should do this myself.”

“I said I was in. I’m supposed to be helping you.”

“Right. Because you were so helpful in the lobby?”

“We both know you could do this job blindfolded in a blackout,” I argued. “Just like I know why you want to be here.”

-- Advertisement --

“I don’t think you do.”

“You wanted out of your house,” I said. “You’re out. What else is there?”

Her look of frustration told me there was a lot more. “Maybe I wanted to get somewhere private and give you a chance to kiss me.”

I almost fell out of my seat. Her excuse was a diversion from the truth, and the perfect one to throw at me. I stood.

Tilting her head up, she moved close enough that our chests were almost touching. “Hallie,” I warned.

“Don’t you want to?”

“Want to what?”

Her hands went to her hips. “Kiss me.”

Caution spun my brain dry. “Not a good idea.”

“Not good,” she agreed. “Great.”

“It isn’t—”

“We’re alone. Legitimately alone. Hint. There’s … tension, and maybe I’d like to ease it. What’s the problem?”

“Too fast. Out of nowhere. Complications. Cloudy motives.”

“All I see is sunshine.”

I couldn’t give in for a few reasons. One was fear of an imminent explosion. Another was that I was obviously outmatched, and I didn’t know how I’d make myself stop kissing her if I ever started.

“Listen.” I took a huge step back. Breathed. Breathed again. In that moment, honesty outweighed sense. “I’m not going to pretend like this isn’t something I want. You’re amazing.”

“Okay.” She looked confused.

“I thought you should know.”

“You’re either feeling sorry for me or buttering me up, and only one of those options makes sense.”

“It’s neither.”

“Okay, then,” she said. “I’m amazing. Know what else is amazing? My kissing. Are you going to find out or not?”

“No.” I backed up another step. “Because you’re frustrated, and I don’t know if I’m the cause or the cure.”

“Maybe you’re both.”

“Maybe that’s not good enough for me.”

“Oh my damn.” She dropped her head into her hands. “A guy with standards.”

“A guy who likes you.” It was out before I could pull it back.

She jerked her head up. “You like me?”

I didn’t answer.

“I can’t do this right now. I’m sorry I … tried to jump you, or whatever.” She picked up her bag. “Let’s just get the job done, and then I’ll … I don’t know what.”

Before I could say another word, she disappeared into the bathroom. I went to the bedroom and changed into my suit, then came back down to wait. When she opened the door fifteen minutes later, I lost all feeling in my extremities.

“I … you.” I cleared my throat. “It … um. Hi.”

“Hi.” The fire had mellowed, but I could still feel it. “Does this work?”

The shirt wasn’t low cut or black, but dark blue. It shimmered, and covered her from collarbone to hip bone. Classy.

But when she did a slow spin, a cutout showed off most of her bare back, the one that had started haunting my waking moments as well as my dreams.

“It works.”

The tie on my suit had barely been snug, but now it was insanely tight. Maybe I needed to compliment her. Girls usually responded well to compliments. I had no idea what the protocol was for intended theft or retrieval.

“That shirt is like … a mullet. Business in the front, party in the back.”

“That is an absolutely terrible comparison.”

I swallowed really hard. “It was supposed to be a compliment.”

“You don’t date much, do you?”

I stared at her, unsure of what to do next. “Do you need a jacket or something?”

“And mess up the look?” She batted her eyelashes dramatically.

Definitely didn’t want to mess up the look. “I’ll give you mine if you get cold.”

“No, you leave your jacket on. Any bodyguard worth his salt is going to be carrying.”

“I don’t have a weapon. I don’t need one.”

“I realize that you’re He-Man sized and all, but your role in this little drama is to act as my bodyguard. If something bad goes down and you aren’t armed, we’re both in trouble.” She sighed, dug around in her bag, and shoved a stun gun into my hands.

I stared at it. “I have no idea what to even do with this thing.”

“Just make sure the safety’s on so you don’t tase your nuts off.”

As I often found with Hallie, I had no idea how to respond.

“I’m not going to lie and say that most often I find it disgusting when men can’t look above my shoulders. But above my shoulders is where you usually look.”

“That’s where your eyes are.” I sounded like an idiot.

“Do you know anyone who has eyes elsewhere?”

“I mean that’s where your intelligence is. I can see it there. I like that part of you.”

“I know. And that might be where your focus is right now, but I have to be honest. After our earlier conversation, I’m hoping your thoughts are somewhere else entirely.”

Chapter 11


I needed to be 100 percent to do a job, and I had to do this one well to keep Dune in my father’s employ. Now he had my thoughts spinning, and other parts of me aching. We were alone in a hotel. I’d thought there was something happening between us beyond a working relationship, but I couldn’t even convince him to stray a smidge into moral ambiguity. All he could think about was the job. I just wanted a kiss. So I would have an answer.

-- Advertisement --