“What’s a ‘sort of relationship?”
“I wanted it to work. There wasn’t any physical attraction, though, but I thought that in time there would be.”
“You can’t program something like that. It’s either there, or it isn’t.”
She nodded but didn’t comment. “We’re the next exit.”
“I know. Is that why you ended it?”
“How do you know I ended it?”
Because Dennis would be frickin’ crazy to walk away from you. “Just a guess,” he said.
“Yes, I ended it. He was interested in my money, not me. I was more angry than hurt when I realized what a jerk he was. We never—”
“The relationship hadn’t become physical.” She couldn’t believe she’d told him that.
“Because there was no physical attraction.”
“Were there any hard feelings?”
“Maybe at first. He called often,” she said. “But then he finally gave up and moved on. Last I heard, he was engaged.”
“That was quick.”
“She was an heiress.”
He nodded. “Did you tell Wincott about Dennis?”
“Yes, I did.”
Neither one of them said another word for several minutes. Regan was thinking about Alec and her reaction to him. It was dangerous, this attraction. He was doing his job, and when he was finished, he would leave. Simple as that. If she became too attached to him, she’d be miserable when he left.
Okay, think of all the reasons why she shouldn’t get involved, no matter how outrageous. There was, of course, the obvious reason. Her heart would be broken.
Even to kiss him would be unethical, she decided, and maybe grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit. She sighed. Heaven help her, she was beginning to think like Aiden. The possibility of litigation would always leap into his mind first. But it could happen, she told herself. After all, the man was stuck with her. She was the one in the position of power, wasn’t she? And in a way, didn’t he work for her? He had been ordered to protect her, and if she made any kind of sexual advances, he’d have every right to take her to court. She could just see it now. Her picture plastered all over the newspapers, and reporters with camera crews chasing her into the courthouse. It would be a nightmare.
By the time they’d reached the hotel, Regan had convinced herself that she was in complete control of her emotions. She had sorted it all out. Yes, she was definitely back in control.
Alec took her hand as they crossed the lobby. He nodded to the security guard stationed in front of the elevators. He’d already checked his credentials and knew who he was.
They were on their way up to her floor when she said, “I’m sorry I didn’t introduce you to Spencer.”
“That’s okay. It didn’t look like you were having a happy reunion.”
“You mean you were hiding your emotions, and I wasn’t supposed to notice?”
“Are you making fun of me?”
The elevator stopped. Alec stepped out first. He nodded to the policeman facing the doors.
“Is it quiet tonight?”
“Yes, sir, it is.”
All of the rooms down her corridor were now vacant and were to remain that way until further notice. That was yet another security precaution Aiden had made without consulting her.
“That policeman looks familiar,” she said. “But I haven’t seen him here before, have I?”
“No,” he answered. “This is his first night. You saw him in Lewis’s office.”
“That’s right. You were defending him. He didn’t get fired, did he?”
“No,” he assured her. “He’s taking a couple of shifts here for extra money.”
She nodded and then asked, “Are you going to be here tomorrow?”
“You’re sure? It’s Sunday.”
“When are you going to pack?”
“Let me worry about that.”
“I’ll introduce you to Spencer tomorrow then. And you’ll get to talk to Aiden again. Won’t that be a treat? They’ll both try to tell you how to do your job.”
He shrugged. “That won’t bother me. So, I’m gonna be seeing both of them?”
“Oh, yes. Tonight, you see, was round one. They’ll try again tomorrow.”
“Try what again?”
“To get me to agree to give Emerson a ‘go away’ settlement. I won’t agree, though, no matter how practical it is.”
“Are you telling me they blindsided you during that party tonight?”
She nodded. “Of course they did. They knew I wouldn’t make a scene.”
He smiled. “And you’ve made a lot of scenes in the past?”
“When I was younger.”
They’d turned the corner and were standing in front of her door. She tried to tell him thank you and good night in the hall. He looked exasperated with her, took the key out of her hand, and unlocked the door.
“As many times as we’ve done this, you still don’t have it down?”
She didn’t answer. Alec went in first, as was the routine. She followed and shut the door, then waited until he had checked the bedroom, the closet, and the bath.
He was removing his tie as he walked into the parlor. She’d already taken off her coat and draped it over the arm of a chair. She dropped her wrap and her purse on top. She was blocking the door but couldn’t make herself move.
She cleared her throat. “Thank you for going with me tonight.” The suite seemed to be getting smaller and smaller the closer he came. He smiled, and her knees began to wobble. “I really appreciate it.” She sounded as if she had a bad case of laryngitis now. If he would only stop looking at her and give her time to unscramble her thoughts, she might be able to move out of his way and let him leave.
“Regan, I was doing my job.” He tucked the bow tie into his pocket and unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt. “There, that’s better. Now I can breathe. So here’s the thing.” He walked over to her, reached around her to slip the dead bolt in place, and then placed both hands on the door on either side of her face, trapping her. Her shoulders were pressed against the door.
Don’t think about it, she told herself. Just don’t think about it. God, he smelled good. She’d never realized how erotic Dial soap could be.
Okay, she was definitely losing it, she thought. If she could just make herself stop staring at him, but those eyes, oh, Lord, those incredible, gorgeous, seductive eyes.
What had he just said? Something about the thing? “What thing?” she whispered.
He knew he was rattling her. He leaned a little closer, but he still wasn’t touching her. “Guess what?”
His voice was husky and low. She had goose bumps all over her arms. “What?”
He leaned closer yet still wasn’t touching her. “I’m not on duty now.”
Alec moved back an inch, then went completely still, and waited. If she showed the least hesitation, he would walk away, and that would be that. He just hoped to God she wanted him to stay.
It took a couple of seconds, but then Regan understood why he had stopped. It was up to her now.
She slowly lifted her hair away from that spot just below her left earlobe that was so very sensitive. Then she angled her head to the side. And waited. If this were a tennis match, the ball was now in his court.
She took a breath and held it. And closed her eyes. She felt his warm sweet breath against her ear a scant second before his mouth touched her skin. Shivers cascaded down her limbs. A simple little kiss and her heart started racing. He kissed his way down the side of her neck. His mouth was hot, yes, definitely hot.
She wondered how she would react if he kissed her on the mouth. She’d probably turn to mush. It was time to stop fooling around. She was definitely going to send him home before she did anything she knew she would regret in the morning.
She put her hands flat on his chest and whispered, “Alec?”
He immediately stepped back. He didn’t say a word. He simply stared into her eyes and waited.
She couldn’t blame anyone but herself for what happened next. She grabbed the labels of his jacket and jerked him toward her. Her mouth was but an inch away from his when she said, “Don’t sue me.”
SHE WASN’T MESSING AROUND.
She didn’t give him time to ask her to explain. Clutching those lapels in a death grip, she stretched up on tiptoes and kissed him, long and hard, frantically and passionately, just the way she had fantasized. One absolutely perfect kiss, she told herself, one powerful, all-consuming kiss that would surely satisfy her unreasonable craving. Then she would let go of him, unlock the door, and send him home.
It was a good plan, really it was. It would have worked too if he had cooperated and remained passive. He didn’t cooperate, though. He participated. And then he took over. His arms suddenly wrapped around her, and he held her tight as his mouth slanted over hers with amazing control. After about five seconds it became apparent to her that he had far more experience at this sort of thing than she did. The man made kissing an art form. His hands slid down her back. His mouth never left hers as he lifted her up against him. Oh, no, he definitely wasn’t remaining passive. She probably should have spelled out the plan ahead of time, she supposed, and that was one of the last coherent, though admittedly idiotic, thoughts she was able to hold onto while he kissed her senseless. Her hands were now around his neck—had she moved them there or had he?—and her fingers were tugging on his hair.
He didn’t force her to part her lips. She did that all on her own. She didn’t push him away when his tongue slipped inside. She gave as good as she was getting, and then some.
When he finally ended the kiss, she was shivering all over. She clung to him because she knew that if she let go, her legs wouldn’t support her. His hands were around her waist and she thought maybe he was holding her up, but she couldn’t be sure.
Neither one of them seemed inclined to let go. She wanted a little bit more, just one more kiss, she thought, before she lost her nerve, and reason rushed in.
He must have wanted the same thing, because he tilted her head back and kissed her again. Though it didn’t seem possible, this kiss was even better. And hotter. He was a master of seduction and so smooth he scared her. She tightened her hold and tried to get closer to him. It was a scorching kiss that made her burn. She had never felt this way before. Never had a kiss affected her so passionately.
Alec pulled back, let out a ragged breath, and tried without success to move away. He couldn’t make himself let go of her. Hell, he just didn’t want to. His head dropped to the crook of her neck, and he took a couple of deep breaths, trying hard to recover. He loved the way she felt in his arms. He loved her scent, and he loved the taste of her. He was having real trouble getting it together. How could a couple of kisses shake him like this?
He said out loud what he was thinking. “Damn, Regan.” His voice was as rough as gravel.
“Was that a good ‘damn’ or a bad one?” she panted.
He had to think about it before he answered. He lifted his head and looked into her eyes, saw the passion he’d ignited there, and felt tremendous satisfaction. And desire, he acknowledged, for a whole lot more.
“It was a good ‘damn.’ Too good.” He was picturing her na*ed underneath him when he added, “We should probably stop while we—”
She put her index finger over his mouth to silence him. “Or …” She dragged the word out.
He grabbed her hand and placed it flat against his chest. “Or what?” A hint of a smile softened his expression.
Don’t lose your nerve, don’t lose your nerve, she silently chanted. She took a breath and whispered, “Or we could not stop.”
His hands moved to her shoulders and even as he was shaking his head at her, he was noticing how smooth and warm and soft her skin was.
“You do know what kissing will lead to, don’t you?”
It was a stupid question, and he didn’t expect or wait for an answer. “A heap of misery, that’s what. I’m not a machine, sweetheart. I can’t just turn it on and off. You know I want you. I’m burning up with the need to—” He suddenly stopped, took a deep breath, and said, “But you also need to know that I don’t want what comes with it.”
Did he realize he was shaking her? She didn’t think so. He wasn’t hurting her. In fact, his touch was surprisingly gentle and sweet. He wanted her. He’d said those very words to her, and he couldn’t take them back. She was thrilled, and yet frustrated, because he obviously wasn’t happy about it. The look on his face was so intense and angry, and intimidating, she suddenly felt as though she’d just poked a lion.
She pushed his hands away. “Tell me, Alec, what comes with it?”
He was glaring at her now. “I’m leaving Chicago, remember? I’ve made that clear, haven’t I? I’m packing up and getting out of here. Understand that?”
“Yes, I understand.”
Alec gritted his teeth. He guessed he was going to have to spell it out for her. “The last thing I need or want is to leave a mess behind.”
Whoa. She didn’t like hearing that. Her eyes turned a darker blue, and her face became flushed. She was angry, all right, but he wasn’t going to take the words back.
“And I’m the mess?”
He threaded his fingers through his hair to keep himself from grabbing her and kissing her until she wanted him as much as he wanted her. He shook his head. Bad plan, he told himself. He wasn’t going to give in to his desire. No way. He could be as tough as steel when he needed to, and he was always in control.
“What I’m trying to tell you is …”
“I’m a mess.”
“Okay, that’s it. I’m through trying to be diplomatic about this.”
She blinked. “Telling me I’m a mess is being diplomatic?”
“Damn right, and you are. A mess, that is. And that ‘damn’ wasn’t a good one.”
He ripped off the jacket of his tux and tossed it on the chair. “It’s hotter than hell in here.”