Her Bad Boy by Emma Woodhouse – Part One

Chapter One

“Good afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Barstow.”

Although she jumped at the sound of his voice, it was because she hadn’t realized he was there, not because she didn’t recognize it. A low, slightly gravelly tone that dripped with sensuality, even when he was merely saying hello—attached to a man like that who exuded sex unselfconsciously from every pore—was the farthest possible thing from forgettable. That was an uncomfortable truth that Allyria Barstow knew all too well, from first-hand experience.

He was leaning his impressive self against the frame of her office door, arms folded over his broad chest, one leg crossed over the other at the ankle. He was still wearing the same tux from last night, she noted, swallowing hard, noting that the bow tie was hanging by what looked like a thread from his open collar, revealing the long, tanned column of his neck. The fit was extraordinary and obviously hand tailored, accenting the pure masculinity of his frame, the jacket clinging lovingly to the muscles that lurked beneath, the pants doing so to an eye-opening extent in certain areas that she had a hard time keeping her eyes away from, although she finally managed to drag them back to the neutral zone of work that was piled on the desk in front of her.

He continued smoothly, easing away from the door, “I’m not surprised to find you here, although I had hoped that, after your ordeal last night, you’d be taking it easy at home instead of trying to work yourself to death.”

She refused to take that bait. Instead, she went on the offensive. “What are you doing here, Mr. Bove?” Allie frowned. “And, more to the point, wasn’t the door downstairs locked?”

He had the grace to blush slightly—although not much—but he didn’t sound in the least apologetic as took several steps into the room, making the relatively good sized space seem much too small for the two of them to occupy at the same time, since he seemed to have sucked all of the air out of it. “I’m afraid that I have rarely met a lock that was much of match for me.”

“Shades of a misspent youth, no doubt,” she commented acerbically, avoiding his eyes while trying not to seem as if she was trying—and failing miserably—to remain inured by his presence.

“Something like that.” He inclined his head, turning to close the door behind him, although why he bothered, she would never know.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and she was the only person who was enough of a workaholic to be in there. Everyone else had a better sense of self-preservation or, beyond that, an actual life to live outside of the office.

The sudden realization that they were alone didn’t frighten her anywhere near as much as it should have. instead, desperately wishing that she hadn’t decided against wearing a bra, she felt her nipples hardening into aching peaks beneath what she hoped were enough layers of clothes to either hide her unwanted response from his sharp gaze or render him disinterested, considering the disreputable state of the mismatched set of sweats she’d thrown on over an ancient t-shirt this morning.

But she couldn’t possibly be that lucky. Lucas Bove wasn’t the kind of man who missed much—or he wouldn’t likely have gotten to the lofty, if questionably legal or moral—position he currently occupied, and she could literally feel his gaze flickering over those distended points as surely as if it were his tongue, rendering her breath even more ragged than it had been.

“I had rather hoped that we would be on a first name basis by now, Allyria.” The slow, deep rumble added fuel to the fire she had no way of dampening.

Allie fought the urge to fidget—to cross her legs and lean into that dominant stare, knowing it would be a useless act to find some measure of ease in his presence that he would never allow.

“But you continue to resist me at every turn, in even the most benign things such as that.” Lucas came to stand in front of her desk, easily dwarfing both it and her. “Despite what happened between us not so long ago.”

There it was. He always brought it up—her one moment—okay, night—of weakness, and he never failed to remind her of it.

“Perhaps it’s because of what happened between us,” she threw back.

Coming around the desk with an elegance that belied his size, he hitched a hip onto the corner—much too close to her. But she could hardly allow him to see it affect her in any way. So, Allie leaned back in her chair, folding her hands over her stomach as if she hadn’t a care in the world.

“Did I leave you unsatisfied?”

It was a highly impertinent question on so many levels—but mostly because she knew that he knew, beyond any conceivable doubt, that he hadn’t. Christ, she’d damned near died on him more than once during those long, devilishly unforgettable hours she’d spent in his arms.

On that basis, she refused to answer him, merely raising her eyebrow, and receiving a wicked, knowing grin in return.

“And yet you disappeared out of my life the very next day, refusing to return my calls or respond to my texts.”

There hadn’t been very many of either, but she wasn’t eager to point that out to him.

“If I didn’t have a healthy ego, I might have been hurt.”

She didn’t bother to suppress her outright snort at how preposterous either of those ideas was. He could have pretty much any woman he wanted—some in ways she thought she might not like to contemplate—and she highly doubted that anyone had the ability to hurt him in any way. It was much more likely to be the other way around.

The smile she was expecting from him didn’t appear. Instead, he continued to stare at her intently before he moved again, this time leaning back against her desk right next to her chair, those long legs stretched out before him, effectively, quietly barring the most obvious escape route.

She saw his hand coming towards her long before it touched her with exquisite gentleness, but she still flinched a little when it did, and a flicker of her eyes to his caught his grimace at that, but she couldn’t suppress it and wasn’t in the mood to want to bother to try, either.

“You’ve got a nice shiner going there. How’s the lip?” Try as he might, even with his considerable will, he was entirely unable to keep the edge of concern from his tone. Although he’d been released from jail less than an hour after he’d gotten there, he’d succeeded in keeping himself away from her all night, but he’d finally reached the end of his rope and now, here he was, that soft cheek in his palm, bearing the absolutely unacceptable evidence of the fact that he had failed to keep her safe.

“I’m fine, thank you, Mr. Bove,” she replied primly, standing abruptly—unable to stifle a bit of a moan at doing so that had him frowning deeply. Allie made her way—somewhat less than gracefully in favor of expedience, not wanting to give him the opportunity to actually trap her there—around the other side of the desk, desperately needing to put some distance between them. “Is that why you’re here? To assess the damage?”

Although she did, indeed, find respite from his nearness by standing in front of her own desk, she realized her tactical error as soon as he appropriated her chair and she felt the balance of power shift in his favor. As if it hadn’t already been heavily weighted towards him from the moment they’d met.

Again, he managed to sound somewhat insulted. “I came here, Miss Barstow, to ascertain for myself that you are—indeed—all right.”

Allie crossed her arms over her own chest, partly in anger, but also knowing it might help conceal at least parts of her body’s highly inappropriate reactions to his proximity. “If that is true,” she responded, her tone conveying the idea in no uncertain terms that she highly doubted it. “Then you can leave now, because I am, as I just said, perfectly fine.”

For a long moment, he simply considered her with those disturbingly intent eyes of his, remaining annoyingly still when she couldn’t manage not to tap her foot and glare at him expectantly, as if he was going to instantly obey her, when she knew full well that she was the one who was expected to obey him.

When he stood suddenly, she flinched, but refused to allow herself to take a step back, even when he rounded the desk again. Allie anticipated that he was going to try to embrace her or touch her somehow, tensing in a way that hurt, but she ignored it in favor of being ready to resist him.

Instead, he walked right past her to pull the shades, so that they were instantly plunged into semi darkness, even further cut off from the rest of the world—however empty it was outside her office.

“Wha—what are you doing?” she asked, damning the tremulousness of her speech.

When he answered, he was standing directly behind her, and she would have sworn she could feel his deep, surprisingly soft voice reverberating through her entire body, lighting unwanted fires within her that she hadn’t the wherewithal to put out.

“I thought that might make you feel a little bit more comfortable, since I intend to discover for myself whether or not you’re telling the truth.”

Allie had no illusions about just how he intended to go about doing that, and she’d already turned to face him and begun backing away as he advanced towards her. In her haste, she misjudged the placement of the furniture, causing her to back up into the desk and nearly lose her balance because of it.

Luckily, he was there to keep her from falling, but when he wrapped his sure arm around her waist to steady her, she yelped embarrassingly.

Seconds later, she found herself sitting on his lap as he occupied her desk chair, trying to ignore the look of blatant concern on his face. “I’m so sorry to have hurt you,” he murmured, holding her as if she was as fragile as a bubble. “I hope you know I didn’t mean to.”

He sounded terribly sincere, but she couldn’t resist digging, “As opposed to the times when you did intend to, you mean?”

There was that endearing blush again. “Well, every girl needs to be spanked every once in a while,” he teased, blush rapidly disappearing on his cheeks and reappearing on hers as his tone lowered to an even more intimate level. “I think good girls like you need to be punished more often—and much more strictly—than naughty girls, in order to ensure that you continue to behave correctly.”

Her hips rolled against him—once—of their own volition as she gasped, “Lucas!” But then she ruthlessly reined in her desires and tried to strain away, finding that—although she couldn’t get away, he was in no way hurting her as he held her right where he wanted her.

He smiled mischievously. “That’s much better than Mr. Bove, don’t you think, although not quite as good as ‘Sir’?”

Allie wasn’t about to answer that. “Let me up.” She pushed experimentally—and tentatively—against him, not wanting to touch him any more than she absolutely had to. She knew what lay down that road, and although her body was quite willing to run full speed down it again, the rest of her was not. Or so she kept telling herself.

He looked down at where her hands lay on his chest muscles, then up at her expectantly, saying with unmistakable quiet, “Allie.”

It had only been one night, but she had learned so much about him and they had connected on such a deep, visceral level that that was all it took to make her shiver, her body harkening back to that short time-out from reality that had been those sixteen or so hours that they had spent together, and her hands left him immediately.

She had been taught that anything less than instant obedience was unacceptable and she would be made to thoroughly regret any hesitance he saw in her about doing so. Those lessons were still ingrained in her consciousness, even now.

“Good girl,” he praised, and she felt herself unable to hold back the floodgates of warmth that coursed pell mell through her body at his usually hard won approval.

He began to undress her then, slowly, as if he had all the time in the world. And, as far as Lucas was concerned, he did. He would personally annihilate anyone who disturbed them. She was here with him, sitting—more docilely than he could have hoped—on his lap, obviously aroused and just as obviously reluctant about being so.

There was very little he enjoyed more than convincing a woman—most particularly this one, for some reason—to abandon her morals and her rules and her deeply ingrained scruples in favor of yielding herself to him—and the heavenly sins in which he would indulge the two of them. To get her to do so—when he’d grown to know just how closed off she was, how tightly wound and tense and downright cloistered her existence—was an even more delicious experience than he’d ever had before in his life.

He knew all about her—probably more, even, than she did about him. It behooved him to know his enemy, and he had done his research with relish when she’d been brought on and added to the department that handled his usual type of legal case—ones that called into question the business practices of his family and associates on an annoyingly frequent basis.

She was, as he had just called her, a good girl—an almost zealous rule follower—in every way that mattered to most people, not his usual type at all. She was a model daughter to her parents, got amazing grades in high school and college, graduated at the top of her class from Harvard Law, spent a few years clerking in prestigious positions that most in her profession would have given their arm, a leg and three feet to be in, and then she disappeared for a year or two.

He’d hoped that meant he was going to find out something juicy about her past, but it had turned out to be the exact opposite, as he came to expect of her. He found out that she’d been working for a small but well regarded firm in her hometown in order to take care of her ailing parents, who died within weeks of each other.

Within the next few months, after what appeared to be devastating losses she mourned deeply—although privately—she’d been welcomed into the department in which she was currently a rising star, winning an impressive amount of the cases she was given—even the most challenging ones—and sending business associates and even the odd family member of his to jail right and left.

She kept her nose clean—drank very occasionally and never to excess, eschewing all other vices, too, as far as he could tell. There weren’t even any messy romances—or, indeed, any neat ones in her past—and he’d looked as far back as high school.

Whereas he’d always been able to do things like this and remain quite distant from the facts he was digging up about someone, something was different about her. He devoured every bit of information he could collect about her, desperate to find something—anything—about who she might have been involved with, coming up with a big fat zero, which had led him to a conclusion he had found incredibly tantalizing. What if the illustrious Miss Allyria Barstow was a virgin?

Lucas shook his head, forcing himself to concentrate on the present. How his mind could possibly have wandered so far when she was in his arms, he would never know, but then, he tended to react differently around her from anyone else.

The hoodie fell unheeded to the floor around them, his eyes immediately gravitating to breasts he already knew the weight and delicate texture of, noting with not a small sense of pride the shadowed peaks of her nipples beneath the worn fabric. At the sight of them, his own hips arched his hardness against her, although the sensual gesture was cut short when his wandering eyes caught sight of the alarming blue splotches that were unmistakably fingertips on her fore and upper arms.

He sat up abruptly, a big hand splayed on her back, keeping her from falling as he caught her wrists gently, holding her still before him as he catalogued each and every mar on that otherwise pristine surface. His face grew more and more menacing as he pushed up the loose sleeve of her t-shirt to reveal a large handprint that wrapped almost entirely around her upper right arm.

Allie heard an unmistakable growl as he checked her other side to find an almost identical bruise there before he lifted her off his lap and stood with her in his arms, moving to the end of her desk to sweep everything off it with one long arm as he set her down atop it with supreme tenderness and reached for the hem of her t-shirt.

Before he could lift it over her head, though, her hand settled lightly onto his. “Lucas, please, don’t,” she whispered, eyes downcast when she knew they needn’t be. She was hardly the cause of the bruises she wore.

Neither was he, and she knew that was what was making him crazy at the moment. He had marked her quite considerably that evening, but they were confined to her bottom and the backs of her thighs, and, later, when she was alone, she had reveled in the sight of them.

But these—even though she knew she was not at fault and she fought against the feelings with everything she had—they still made her feel a bit ashamed.

Lucas tipped her chin up, not allowing her to avoid his eyes. “You must let me, kitten,” he ground out, the endearment softening the ferocity of his command. “I will bind you if I have to—you know I will—but I would prefer not to so that I don’t take the chance of hurting you.”

“But they will just make you madder,” she whispered, horrified to find that she was having to fight back tears.

He actually flinched at her admission that there was more that he wouldn’t want to see, but he wouldn’t relent; she could see it in his eyes. “Remove your hand from mine, young lady,” he ordered, although his voice was velvety and soothing—for the moment. But she knew the unyielding steel that was behind it that would come to the fore if she resisted his will.

Slowly, reluctantly, she obeyed him, putting her arms over her head as he drew the t-shirt off her body and lay her back on the desk before him, revealing several purplish red bruises near her collar bone, as well as the unmistakable imprint of a hand that had cupped her breast from underneath and squeezed very hard, blue fingers clearly visible to either side of the nipple on her left breast, and, lastly, a large angry bruise over her right ribcage.

His hand floated near that area but carefully didn’t touch her. She watched him swallow hard, his eyes glued to the sight. “Is that where you hit the radiator after he flung you away?”

“Yes—the hospital said bruised ribs.”

“I would imagine so.” His reply was surprisingly neutral sounding, although his tone and his expression became murderous when he continued. “I should have finished him off right then and there for putting his filthy hands on you.”

Regardless of his temper, the fingers that tucked themselves beneath the elastic waistband of her sweats were so soft they were almost tickling her. Although her hands automatically reached down to prevent him from removing one of her last lines of defense against him, they hesitated and came to a stop well before touching him and instead ended up back on either side of her hips.

In this vulnerable, submissive position, his “good girl” at her small surrender to him was even more potent to her, and she could feel herself literally leaking onto the panties he was just about to relieve her of.

When they—and her sweats—were off her and thrown onto the pile, his eyes swept over her, relieved beyond measure to see that no further contusions had been revealed, but he wasn’t about to assume anything. “I want you to turn onto your left side, honey, really quick. I just need to check your back. I’ll help you as much as I can and I’ll be quick about it.”

He was as good as his word, although it did hurt her a bit and she could see how upset he was that she was in any kind of pain at all, but he was glad he’d done it anyway as he helped her onto her back again, because although there was only one relatively faint bruise, in comparison, it was a full handprint of someone having slapped her ass cheek hard. And he knew exactly whose hand that was, too.

His own hands formed into fists at his sides, but Allie diverted his attention by trying to get up.

“You can’t do anything to him, Lucas. You can’t. You know who he is—he’ll find something—anything. He’ll make something up if he has to and use it to send you away for a long time; you know he will.”

“Kind of like you’re trying to do?” he sniped, regretting the comment immediately.

She tried more urgently to push her way past him, but it was like trying to move the Rock of Gibraltar. “Which is why we’ve already decided that this will never work.”

Before she knew it, she was lying back again, pressed gently but firmly down merely by his presence over her. He hadn’t hurt her in the least, but she wasn’t going anywhere, she knew, until he allowed it.

“That was something you decided, not me. They’re mere impediments, if that is how we choose to see them.” With Allie refusing to meet his eyes, Lucas dropped what was an argument he knew was not right for this moment. “Regardless,” he rasped. “I cannot help but want to claim the beauty and bounty that is laid out before me.”

Allie shook her head. “You can’t, Lucas.”

Misreading the reason for her protest, he brushed the hair back from her face, gazing down at her with such longing and raw potency that Allie was nearly lost just from that. “I will be very careful of you, kitten,” he promised solemnly, letting those big, but still somehow elegant and incredibly gentle hands of his roam everywhere over her, as if he was physically reestablishing his claim over her.

“I know you will, Lucas,” she answered quickly, not realizing what she was revealing to him so blithely.

“You do?” He smiled down at her.

Allie sighed, rolling her eyes a bit. “Yes, I do. I know that you would never treat me the way the chief of police did. You’re better than that, at least with me.”

A bit of an unnecessary qualifier thrown in at the end, but he would take it. “I’m glad you realize that, because you’re right.”

“You’re a very gentlemanly…” she gasped as his hand brushed over an eager, swollen tip “…mobster. You mother…” another soft moan as he bent his head to the same distended berry, suckling strongly, flicking his tongue over her as she arched wantonly in his arms “…raised you right—in some ways,” she finished, already breathless from his attentions.

“Thank you, I think,” he murmured against her breast, but she could feel him smiling as he said it, wandering lazily over to the orphaned breast, pausing for a few beats to stare down at the disgusting discoloration of her flesh.

Allie could see the muscle working in his jaw, but when his head descended, it was only to apply the slightest touches of his lips to the affected area, as if he would kiss them away, and that pure, exquisite gentleness—which had been such a surprise to discover in a man like him—was almost her undoing as she felt him, finally, claim her nipple.


Chapter Two

During the long, sultry moments when his mouth expertly erased the touch and feel of the other man’s hand there, Allie gave herself over to the feelings he conjured so easily within her, unable to resist wave after wave of both imminent desire and the potent memories of the previous time she had yielded herself to him, body and soul—with positively devastating results.

But when he began to move his mouth down her body, stopping here and there to acknowledge and soothe a contusion—although avoiding her injured ribs entirely—she tried to regain her equilibrium, which had always been dangerously absent any time he was around.

“Lucas, no, you can’t! Someone might come in!” she panted, reaching down to try to stop him, but he was already out of her reach by the time she was able to fight through the web of sensuality he was weaving deftly around them.

He stood to his full height then, catching her eyes as well as her hands as he removed his legs from where they had been around hers—trapping her there beneath him—to instead introduce his knee to the slight gap between hers, applying a firm steady pressure until her body acquiesced, regardless of what her mind wanted and allowed him that intimate entry.

“Tell me, little one,” he whispered huskily, easily adding his other leg and forcing hers to spread wide around them as he leaned over her again, bringing her arms up to hold both of them above her head in one of his hands. “Am I going to let that—or anything or anyone else, for that matter, including you—stop me from taking what’s mine?”

His mouth teased hers a bit, being very careful of the cut and swelling, really just murmuring against them when she’d shaken her head in response to his question, those beautiful hazel eyes never leaving his.

“That’s right, young lady. You keep thinking that you’re rid of me, to go on with your regular, boring life. But deep down, you’ll always know who owns you, who can look at you and make you cream in your panties. And it’s not some white knight, some sanctimonious Captain America good guy, either, is it?”

Allie opened her mouth but paused, biting her lip.

But Lucas wasn’t about to have that. He reached down between them, grabbing those soft folds just shy of roughly, loving the involuntary gasp that spilled from her lips and the way she automatically tried to avoid his touch, but he had made sure there was nowhere for her to go but closer to him—nothing for her to do but submit to him, as she knew, deep down, that she should.

“No, no, it’s not—ah—Lucas—mmm,” she admitted, much too late to save herself, just as a long, thick middle finger made a bold foray between lips that were already swollen, and already very wet, finding itself coated in her sweet nectar long before he came to the source of it.

“Now, young lady, you had better not try to tell me that you don’t want this, because that would be lying, wouldn’t it?” he growled in her ear as he nipped the lobe, then that very sensitive spot just down her neck that he knew drove her wild. When she didn’t respond immediately, he lifted that dark head of his to stare down at her, prompting her by ramming three fingers into her with a controlled violence and asking again, almost sweetly, at the same time, “Wouldn’t it?”

She couldn’t say yes fast enough—once she could speak again, once the damningly loud moan had died on her lips. “Yes!”

He stopped abruptly, mid-thrust, to almost glare down at her, and she knew immediately why he was doing so. “Don’t make me drag it out of you, babygirl,” he warned in that heavy tone. “It should be automatic.”

Her entire body flushed hot and red. Why calling him that here, in her office, was that much harder, she didn’t know—or rather, didn’t want to think about. But it was, and she knew he wouldn’t let her get away without saying it.

“Yes…Sir.”

“Next time you forget, I’m just going to spank you.”

He didn’t have to say the rest of it—she knew what he meant. Anytime, anywhere. It was something she wasn’t anxious to test him about, because there was absolutely no doubt in her mind that he would do it.

Those talented fingers wandered around that very delicate territory, wreaking havoc wherever they touched, leaving her wrung out and breathless without ever having touched her clit—pinching and tugging her lips, forcing her to ride them as he fucked her hard, even tapping her tight rosette a time or two threateningly, and she couldn’t help squealing at that, even though she knew that he was just doing that to get a rise out of her.

Probably.

He didn’t give her any relief from all of that build up until he had sunk himself—balls deep—into her with one powerful stroke, long before she was—mentally, anyway—ready for him to do that, which was exactly why he’d done it. Her body had been readying itself for his possession since last night—hell, since the second she’d closed the door to his place after that fevered night together, if she was being truthful with herself.

But her mind had been fighting against him since she’d rolled over in his bed that morning and—minus the tequila induced haze—realized what she’d done. She was still fighting him, resisting him, wanting to match her considerable will against his—and he knew it.

As wild and hot as he was making her, he knew that her mind was railing against what he was doing. But he didn’t think she’d even realized that he’d unzipped his pants until she was already arching into—not away from—him as he seated himself deep within her, her groan of indescribable pleasure proving him undeniably right and nearly eclipsing his own loud moan as her flesh surrounded him, clinging to him, welcoming him with its own exclamation of sweet, wet acceptance as he fought to keep himself under tight control. And it was an embarrassingly hard scrabble fight to do so.

It had never been like this with anyone else. He had no idea what it was about her, but she got to him the way no other woman ever had, and he’d certainly had his fill, since long before he should have. He hadn’t had to resort to reciting the titles of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes in his head while he was fucking a woman since he was a teenager, and yet he’d ended up having to do it every single time he’d taken her—and what’s more, he sometimes got nearly all the way to This Side of Paradise before he was able to get himself back in hand.

And this time was no different. He was just as volatile, just as raw, with her as he had been that night. Lucas had wondered if her having left him that morning—about which he wasn’t happy—and refusing to engage with him once she had—about which he was even less happy—might have cooled his ardor, but he was downright ashamed to say it hadn’t, not in the least. He ought to spank her for that, but he couldn’t think about that now or he’d lose the fight completely.

“Look at me,” he growled, rearing up, leaving her hands unfettered in any way, and gratified, deep down, when she simply left them there, even though he hadn’t told her to. He grabbed her hips and, even as thoroughly mindless as he was, he was conscious of her injuries, pulling her carefully down against him, so that he could claim even more of her, splitting her even further open, legs splayed around him as she received his punishing thrusts.

“Lu—Lu—casssss!” she groaned, hands grasping at nothing as her head tossed wildly back and forth, breasts bouncing, body taut and expectant but not quite fulfilled yet.

He looked down between them at the way she opened for each of his strokes, and it was time for more episodes as he dipped his thumb into the wetness that surrounded him and delivered it to where he knew she wanted it to be, using his outer fingers to spread her lips even more fully, giving her clit nowhere to run to get away from the big pad of his slickened thumb as it settled down on top of that tiny hardness.

Each hefty snap of his hips rocked that straining, aching nub, dragging it back and forth beneath the perfect pressure his thumb maintained, and he could hear the difference in her breathing immediately, allowing himself a small, self-satisfied smile at the sound of it.

“You know what you have to do, kitten, don’t you?” he rumbled.

Her eyes widened as his potent question roared through her, as if his goal was a surprise to her, somehow, but she couldn’t really marshal any kind of coherent answer, even the simple one she knew he wanted to hear. “Please—no—mmm—I—uh—unnnnhhhhhh—no—”

Resistance. Even to this, which he knew she desperately wanted. But it wasn’t unexpected by any means. She liked to say no to him.

And he adored making it yes.

“Answer me, young lady.”

Allie squealed when he swatted her behind sharply, but that wasn’t quite enough.

Somehow, he slowed everything down, making her keen in dire need. “Do you need a spanking?”

Her response was immediate. “No—no—please! Yes, I know,” she answered finally, her tone rife with submission and resignation.

“You know you’ve earned one—or maybe even two—already, though, don’t you, my girl?”

That got an incredibly mournful whimper and a frantic, much sincerer chant of “no” from her that abruptly bumped him to the next level. He was proud of the way he had spanked her. His punishments were not to be taken lightly—he made sure of that, so she had good reason to whimper. And she’d have even more reason once her ribs had healed. He’d see to that, too, he vowed.

But he didn’t speed back up as Allie had thought he would once she’d answered him. Instead, he kept things at a teasingly slow, steady, unrelenting pace until he knew she was seconds from losing it.

“That’s it, baby,” he encouraged. “Obey me. Do as you’re told. Be a good girl and give me what I want, or I will take it from you the hard way.”

“No! No—no—oh, God—pleeeeeaaaaassssseee!”

Lucas watched her draw in a breath and knew that she was going to move into a scream, managing to clamp his hand over her mouth at just the right time, driving himself into her as he did so—jerkily at first because she had clamped down on him so hard he could barely move—still grazing her with that thumb at the same time, allowing her no respite whatsoever as he rode her hard, not allowing her to move away from him no matter how frantically she tried to, continuing to bring her to unimaginable heights, even as his own body was receding from hers.

She was not done until he decided she was done. Watching her surrender herself to him in that wholly intimate way was more intoxicating than any drug he’d ever tried. And he would know—he’d sampled them all.

When he could see that her body—not her mind—had had enough, he withdrew from her, keeping the hand that had been touching her intimately draped deliberately over her mons and the tops of her thighs as he reached down to retrieve her clothing, remembering that she had a tendency to get cold in the aftermath and wishing desperately that they were in his home, in his bed, where he could keep her naked and simply draw the covers up over them.

Instead, he dressed her like a child while she allowed him to do so without so much as a word. His eyes sought hers continually, questioning this unusual docility, but, although she seemed to be fine physically, her eyes were still fully dilated and she seemed a bit muzzy, not that he was objecting. In fact, he considered it a great compliment to have reduced a woman of her intellect and independence to such a state.

When he was finished, she found herself fully clothed and on his lap, again, being held tightly against him, her head on his chest as she descended very slowly indeed from the heaven he’d brought her to.

Her first coherent thought in a while was an errant one—that he seemed quite at home in her chair, although it was really too small for him. Allie pushed against his chest and he left off rubbing her back and stroking her hair, letting her sit up but not get down.

As he cupped her cheek, he could feel her blush, making her meet his eyes as he asked, “All right?” Considering the differences in their sizes, he didn’t think he’d ever not wonder that after he’d had her.

She nodded, flushing even brighter. “Let me up, Lucas, please. We’ve just been lucky that we haven’t been discovered yet by the security guard or, Heaven forbid, someone I know.”

To her surprise, he did let her find her feet, holding her steady between his legs until he was satisfied that she could manage on her own, then rising himself right behind her.

“You’re right. Believe it or not, I didn’t plan that when we got together again it would be in your office.

Allie, who was making her way around the desk, glanced back at him in surprise. “I’m right? And you planned for us to get together again?”

Lucas chuckled. “Yes, you are, and, yes, I did. You didn’t think I’d let you get away from me that easily, did you?” It didn’t matter how casually he said it. She knew exactly what he meant. “And we were very lucky not to have been seen. We should head home.”

It wasn’t until they were on the street and she took out her phone to Uber a ride home that she felt herself begin carefully corralled towards the only car in the parking lot—a big black Lincoln that Matthew McConaughey would be proud to own.

“Wait—stop! What are you doing?” Allie tried to plant her feet to stop him, but he was much too strong for her, and she knew that, if all else failed, he would simply pick her up.

But instead, he stopped and stood in front of her, cupping her face in his hands. “Despite what just happened between us, I am nowhere near done with you. It’s a Sunday afternoon. What else do you have to do besides go home and veg by yourself ’til it’s time for work?” He pressed a surprisingly tender kiss to her cheek. “Come home with me. I’ll take care of you.”

She didn’t say anything, biting her lip and looking hesitant, and he knew that her brain and her sense of morality and her conscience were ganging up on the rest of her. But he was just elated—and a little amazed—that she hadn’t told him to go fuck himself…yet.

“I’ll feed you,” he singsonged enticingly, knowing how much she loved food.

“That’s not playing fair,” she pouted prettily.

Lucas had to laugh. “How many wise guys do you know who play fair, little lady? It’s not usually a part of the job description.”

She inclined her head with a breathtaking smile. “Point taken.”

His arm snaked around her waist to pull her against him, still very mindful of her injury. “So…” he began, doing his best mobster voice. “I’ll take care of you—wait on you hand and foot. I’ll make you a real Italian meal with my Gramma’s recipe for gravy.” Then he leaned down a bit and whispered into her ear, “And I’ll fuck you raw every chance I get—I’ll be inside of you, fucking you up against the wall next to the door, seconds before you leave through it tomorrow morning to go to work tryin’ to land me in jail.”

And he was, indeed, as good as his word, on all of those fronts.

But—as it had before—the unwieldy baggage that was a monstrous amount of guilt—that had accompanied an ill-fated attempt to loosen herself up a bit—which had just begun to recede around the edges about their last encounter—had settled right back down onto her shoulders by the time she got to work.

Her coworkers, having heard about what had gone on, some of them having seen parts of it, were wonderful and sympathetic, and even her hard-bitten boss—Perry Z. Ellis—Z for Zephraim—brought her into his office, which was usually something he only did to chew her out.

“That was quite a charity event Saturday night, wasn’t it?” he started with a grunt as he sat down heavily in his chair. “Doing okay?” he asked as she took her seat a bit gingerly, but that wasn’t much due to her ribs—not that he needed to know that.

“Yes, thanks, I’m fine, Perry.”

“A bit unusual that it was Lucas Bove who came to your rescue—I was thinking it ought to have been the other way around.”

“You mean I should have been rescuing him?” she asked, deliberately playing obtuse.

There was that familiar glare. “You know what I mean. Bove is hardly the type to bother with a damsel in distress, especially since he, or someone associated with him, was more than likely the one who put her in distress in the first place, one way or the other.”

He cleared his throat. “You’re going to file charges against him, of course, aren’t you?” he asked bluntly.

She managed not to roll her eyes, barely. He sounded like Lucas had, every chance he got last night, not that she was going to tell him that. “I hadn’t really thought about it.”

Perry stopped in the middle of pouring an amount of sugar into his coffee cup that was going to give her diabetes just from watching it. “Bullshit.”

Allie sighed. “Well, I can’t think that it would be the best career move, do you? If he tells his officers not to cooperate with me—or worse this department—we’re fucked.”

“We’d survive. We’ve had chiefs who hated us before, and we’ll have more down the line, I’m sure.” He leveled his gaze on her. “Do it. This isn’t the first time he’s tried this.”

“Hell, Perry, it isn’t even the first time he’s tried that with me!” she snorted, realizing just how relieved she was that Lucas hadn’t asked.

Sometimes the looks her boss gave her were entirely too close to how her father used to look at her—with great affection, but as if he thought she was completely off her rocker at the same time.

“Well, then, even more reason to hold the bastard’s feet—and/or points further north, preferably—to the fire.”

But Allie was shaking her head. “I can’t think that would be good for this place—and especially not the case I’ve spent all of this time building against the Bove family. We’re literally inches from being able to tighten that noose, but without testimony from his officers, it will all fall completely apart and we’ll be back to square one. Of the two, I think there’s more good in holding Lucas Bove’s feet to the fire, don’t you?”

Perry’s frown deepened. “But he’ll get away with it—you weren’t just manhandled, you were injured. I know you were. How can you let him get off scot free?”

“Was there anything else you called me in here to talk about?” Allie asked, rising and tilting her head at him expectantly.

“Well, I did want to make sure that you were okay.”

“But not enough to call me Saturday night, or Sunday morning, or Sunday night,” she pointed out.

He blushed full on at that, making his complexion even ruddier than it was usually. “Grace wanted me to, but I didn’t want to disturb you, and I knew that Harker would make sure you were taken care of.”

Her best friend, Laura Harker, had been at the event, too, and had driven her to the hospital. Allie had declined an ambulance ride, but Chief Daughtry—who was out cold and looked like he’d been worked over by an angry bulldozer—was whisked there instead, after Lucas had been literally ripped off him by about five big, strong men before he was taken into custody.

“She did, and I’m good. I’m going to go back to work now.”

“Think about it, will you? Please?”

Allie stopped, her hand on the door, and nodded, saying, “Yes, Dad, I will.”


Chapter Three

If she had worried that he was going to become obnoxious because of what had happened between them Sunday night—calling, texting, or emailing her incessantly—she was pleasantly surprised. But then he hadn’t done that last time, either, although she hadn’t known then that he had been planning to reconnect with her, even though she’d given him the cold shoulder.

She managed—usually—to tuck the more pleasant, personable part of him into that little compartment she had for him in the back of her mind palace. And he stayed there most of the time, which was surprising, considering that she spent all day every day working a case—along with people from other agencies—that was meant to bring him down. He’d pegged it perfectly when he’d said that she was going to go to work to try to land him in jail.

But that was her job. And neither of their jobs—nor any sense of self-preservation on their part—nor common sense, even, seemed to be enough to get them to stay away from each other for very long. It had been like that from the first time they’d met, in a court room, of course.

He was one of those rare men nowadays whose mama had raised him right—in some ways, as she’d said.

Allie had been there early, as was her habit, and, if she admitted it to herself, she was just the slightest bit nervous about meeting him, although she was, of course, going to do her damndest to hide it. It didn’t pay to show weakness to the enemy.

But that wasn’t a part he relished playing, and his outgoing personality and scrupulously proper behavior destroyed the carefully constructed box labeled “very bad man” that she’d automatically lumped him into at first.

He arrived quietly, with a minimum of fanfare and only one bodyguard who was actually smaller than he was. His suit was understated elegance, certainly a designer name, but definitely not black. He shook hands with his lawyer and a young guy who had to be a junior partner, then, to her great surprise, he crossed the aisle and offered his hand to Matt Bloomer, with whom she was working, smiling broadly and saying, “Good to see you again, Mr. Bloomer—I see you lost the cast—able to play the violin again now?”

Matt grinned back at him like an idiot, saying something like, “Better than ever!” when everyone knew he’d never so much as seen a violin up close. He acted as if he was shaking hands with Mick Jagger rather than a man who was responsible for—directly or indirectly—bringing a shit ton of misery to an enormous number of people via his penchant for murder. Earlier on in his career and never proven, of course. He had an ability to bring an almost corporate structure to the drugs and prostitution that filled his family’s coffers at first, although he had largely steered him away from those things to more electronic theft and hacking—the byproduct of having gone to Wharton Business School, one would think. And, if he wasn’t doing any of that personally now, it was only because he was the undisputed boss of the organization and had risen above the need to get his hands dirty. But he was still the one pulling the strings, no matter how clean he tried to appear, how legitimate his investments looked at first glance, or how damnably charming he was.

Which, unfortunately for her, was terribly, terribly charming.

“Ah, Miss Barstow. I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting you. I am Lucas Bove.”

He offered her his hand, too, and just for a moment, she considered refusing it in the name of all the people she knew he had hurt, but he simply left it out there, as if he couldn’t possibly imagine why she might not shake it while he smiled angelically down at her.

So, she ended up taking it, wishing she felt like more of a hypocrite than she did in doing so.

And he didn’t just shake it, but, before he let go, he turned her hand over and kissed the back of it, murmuring, “At your service.”

Before she could snatch it back, though, he’d already released it and turned his back to return to his side of the aisle.

He held doors open—not just for her, though, but for everyone, and one morning, when she arrived before everyone else, as usual, she heard him translating Italian for a little old lady who didn’t speak English and who was having a hard time getting through the metal detectors, for some reason.

From that first morning on, when he arrived, he had everyone’s coffee order in hand as well as what looked like scrumptious little pastries that were passed around—and he even went so far as to bring the box over to them personally.

Allie declined both things, politely, having brought her own coffee and not feeling she needed to indulge or placate him by eating what he offered, not that Matt was plagued by his own conscience in the least about it, until she spoke up loudly while glaring at him. “Thank you, Mr. Bove, but Mr. Bloomer and I are perfectly capable of attaining our own coffee and sweets if we would like to have them.”

Matt’s hand was knee deep in powdered sugar by that time, but he dutifully retracted it, handing Lucas back his coffee, too.

“As you wish,” Lucas murmured, executing a small bow.

Allie did the best she could to ignore him, his gentlemanly gestures, and his offhand reference to one of her favorite movies—if he even knew that was what he was doing—even down to not really wanting to go through a door he held, but she didn’t usually get a choice about that. There was something about this man that disturbed her—and not in a “he’s a horrible creep” way she was hoping for, considering what she knew about him.

It was more like having a high school crush, and that was definitely not good for someone in her position. Not good at all.

So, when she was sitting on the hood of her car late one afternoon in the relatively deserted parking garage of the courthouse, waiting for AAA to arrive since she had a flat tire and the one lesson her father gave her in how to change a tire went just about as far as the one about how to change her oil, she was busily scrolling through her phone when she heard his voice. The one that she knew she shouldn’t be able to recognize so easily. The one that made her heartily wish she was wearing something more substantial than a thong beneath her short pencil skirt.

“May I be of assistance, Miss Barstow?”

She hopped down quickly, but not before he offered her his hand to help her, which she blatantly ignored. “No, thank you, Mr. Bove. Triple A is on the way.”

He looked dubious, checking his watch. “It’s rush hour. How long did they say it would be?”

Two hours, but she wasn’t about to tell him that. “It doesn’t matter—I’ll be fine here.”

Lucas frowned. He knew she didn’t want to be around him—she’d made that glaringly obvious. But this was not a safe place for her to be, so he would do whatever he needed to do to make sure she got on her way. “Is there a spare in the trunk?” he asked, putting his briefcase on the ground and shucking out of his suit coat.

“Yes.” One of the few advantages to driving beaters is that she had an actual spare tire. “But there’s no need for you to do that, thank you. I’m perfectly happy to wait. I’ve got my phone and unlimited data, so—”

Just when she thought that nothing she was saying to him was getting through, he sprinted away from her, but he’d left his stuff behind. Seconds later, a surprisingly small, older model car came into view, and he parked it a couple spaces over before unfolding himself from behind the wheel, chuckling at the look on her face, which clearly said that she wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see twenty other clowns come out after him.

“Not what you thought I’d drive, huh?”

She colored to have been caught staring. “No, I have to say you’re right there.”

“My father made me earn nearly everything except my room and board and my education. I’ve paid for everything about every car I’ve ever owned, and I was—before I got too busy to do it and manufacturers deliberately made it impossible to fix your own car—a fair shade tree mechanic.” He leaned a bit closer to her to impart like it was a state secret, “This was my first car—bought it when I was sixteen with money I got working at an ice cream stand over the summer. Unfortunately, I bought it before I shot up about six inches—I had to remove the back seat in order to keep driving it through college!”

Against her will, Allie found herself laughing at—and with—him, but worse, being impressed by him.

Then he proceeding to unload things from his trunk that made her feel woefully inadequate as a car owner—can of fix a flat, an actual jack—not one of the toy ones the car makers include—and a tarp, which he proceeded to spread out near the tire in question before gathering all of the tools he’d need to change it and putting them readily at hand on the tarp.

“You really don’t need to do this—” she tried again.

He looked up at her as he dropped gracefully to his knee on the clean material while rolling up the sleeves of his white dress shirt. “Yes, I do. My grandparents and my parents would all come back from the grave expressly to beat me about the head and shoulders if I left a young lady such as yourself alone and stranded in a place like this.”

With that, he set about changing the tire while Allie tried not to watch the play of muscles across his back, the way his biceps strained against the fine material of his shirt when he was removing the lug nuts, or how his butt looked when he bent over. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a thing on her phone that could compare to the show that was playing out right before her eyes.

Of course, he got it done in less than fifteen minutes, including the cleanup, and there was nary a speck of anything on his shirt that hadn’t been there before hand, either.

Another reason to hate him. If she’d been able to do it all, she knew she’d’ve been covered in dirt—or, looking at the floor of the garage, worse—by the time she was done.

“Thank you very much, Mr. Bove. I appreciate it enormously. Can I pay you—” She knew it was ridiculous to offer, but it seemed terribly impolite not to, considering what he’d just done for her. But the look on his face made her stop dead in the middle of her thought, lest she offend him and he upend her. It was that kind of highly improper look, delivered with his chin down and from beneath heavily drawn brows.

“You most definitely may not, and I should swat your bottom for even thinking of it,” he threatened, but with the hint of a smile from where he was standing at the trunk of his car.

Allie’s eyes went round, and her mouth dropped open at what he’d just said.

“In fact, I want to give you something.”

It was a can of fix a flat that he was holding over his arm, as if he was presenting her with a bottle of expensive wine.

“2016 was a very good year for aerosol tire inflators,” he quipped.

“Why didn’t you use this rather than going through changing the tire?”

“Well, I figure you work yourself to death and it might be a while before you’re able to actually get to a mechanic to get the tire fixed, and I didn’t want you to have the hassle of having to deal with another flat, because that stuff isn’t really good in the long term.” He leaned towards here again, conspiratorially. “Besides, I wouldn’t have been able to show off in front of you if all I did was stand there and hold a can.”

Allie found herself laughing—and blushing—hard at that.

She took the can he was offering, but reluctantly. “But won’t that leave you short?”

He had the audacity to wink at her. “I’m too tall for anything to leave me short, Miss Barstow.”

That got her rolling her eyes at him and him laughing, which she decided was altogether too nice a sound.

“Besides, I always carry two. You never know. I got into the habit during my lean and hungry high school years—when I actually did have two tires go on the beltway outside D.C., during rush hour. Not pretty.” He took something else from the trunk, then closed it. “Purell?” he offered.

That was it. She was impressed. “I’m fine, thank you—thanks to you.”

He stared down at her for a second, then said, “You know, if you wanted to say thanks, there’s a great hole in the wall burger joint not too far from here. I don’t think you’ve had dinner yet, either, and I know I haven’t. I would even be willing to show great restraint and not even bankrupt you when I order, even though that place has the best burgers and the freshest fries you’ve ever tasted in your life.” Lucas could see that she was debating, so just in case it helped, he added, “No one will know us, no one will see us.”

“The best, huh?”

He just stood there, grinning back at her.

What was she thinking?! Was she actually going to go on a date with him? She couldn’t! It would be professional suicide! Even just letting him help her as he had was iffy, at best! Was she going to throw away her whole career on a man who she had no doubt had killed several people in cold blood for perceived insults to his honor, or getting in his way, or stepping on his toes or whatever other completely unacceptable, criminal reason?

He could see how torn she was, not liking how tense she was getting about it, so he put his hands up. “I retract the suggestion. You don’t owe me anything. A good deed is its own reward, although I’m sure, as you know, it’s a drop in the proverbial bucket. You have a nice evening, Miss Barstow. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to wait in my car while you get in, then probably follow you a little way down the road once we’re out of here to make sure that everything’s all right with your tire, but I’ll peel off after a few minutes, I assure you.”

He’d already turned towards his car when she said, so quietly that he almost missed it, “But those burgers and fries sound awfully good.”

As soon as she said it, she knew she was going to regret it—but now wasn’t the time for that, and the rest of their time together wasn’t looking good for that, either. She had never done anything like that in her life. She was—as he quickly became fond of calling her—as if reminding her of her fallen status—a good girl.

But that first date was pretty magical, at least at first—she had worried that it might be awkward to be with him, but it turned out that he was delightfully gentlemanly and observed all of the old-world courtesies she knew she shouldn’t like or want but did. He didn’t just bring her there, he escorted her, complete with door opening, offering her his arm as they walked from the parking lot, seating her first before taking his own and even—she thought—the slight touch of his hand on her back as she preceded him into the restaurant.

And they quickly found that they had a tremendous number of things in common and the evening flew by, accompanied by exactly what he’d said it would be—incredible build your own, full fat, in-house ground burgers—none of that lean shit, served up unapologetically with shoestring fries cooked fresh for every order in lard, and with plenty of salt, vinegar, mustard, ketchup and even mayo on the table to go with them.

He held to his word and didn’t really bankrupt her, but it was close! Damn, the man could put away food like nobody’s business! He had three huge burgers to her one-half pounder that she only ate half of, and he ordered endless fries—which he jealously protected against marauders—so even though she was full, she could still sneak the occasional one from his plate.

Not that he didn’t extract a price for each one. At first, it was just a raised eyebrow. Then two raised eyebrows. Then a loud, scolding, “tsk.”

Eventually, that escalated into a look very much like the one he’d given her when she’d tried to pay him earlier. But it only stopped her for a short time, although he was on his third burger by then and slowing down, so he noticed her little forays into his stash more often, and the next one got the back of her hand slapped smartly.

“Ow!”

But she held onto that fry and ate it with relish—or rather, ketchup—right in front of him.

But then he laced his fingers together on the table before him and leaned towards her a bit, his tone entirely too intimate for her comfort. “You’d better enjoy that one, because I’d be willing to bet I can make it your last,” he challenged.

“Oh yeah, big man? What’re you going to do if I filch another one?” she taunted, pinching her fingers together near his plate threateningly as if she was going to do it right this second, right under his nose.

His answer was completely unexpected, delivered in a low, husky whisper with such absolute sincerity that she didn’t doubt a single word as each one sent her further and further into sub space, right then, right there. “If you take another fry from my plate, young lady, you’re going to find yourself lifted up out of your seat and draped over my knee, where I will paddle your impudent little behind until I think you’ve learned your lesson.”

All of the breath left Allie’s lungs in a whoosh, and she plastered her back against the cushion of the booth as her entire body literally contracted at what he’d just said. And she couldn’t even come back with the usual, highly indignant, “You wouldn’t dare!” because she knew like she knew the sun was going to come up in the east tomorrow morning that he absolutely did dare!

While she did her best to pretend that what he’d said meant absolutely nothing to her—all the while knowing that he saw through her badly contrived, barely there cover up—all he did was sit there and grin at her as if he’d just won the lottery.

Lucas couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so attracted to a woman—and one who was apparently—despite the fact that she might not like to admit it—into spanking, too. But she was starting to get that trapped, nervous, anxious look again around the edges, so he drained his soda and hollered, “Cheryl, can you get us a couple of milkshakes, please?” Then he reached over and took her hand—the one that had been stealing all his fries—holding it gently. “The shakes are better than the fries or the burgers. Whole milk, whole cream homemade ice cream, with homemade whipped cream on top. I’d be willing to bet that you like vanilla, don’t you?”

She nodded, still pretty stunned by her own body’s reaction to him.

“What kind?” their waitress hollered back.

“Vanilla and make my chocolate,” he answered, staring straight at her as he said, “I knew it, even though you’re not vanilla at all, are you, Miss Barstow, beneath all of that prim properness?”

Allie had never felt so discombobulated in all her life. She didn’t have much experience with men—she’d never wanted much. She’d just wanted to go to school and live her life and not get mixed up in all of that kind of stuff.

But she was far from asexual, and the man sitting across from her was far from a socially awkward damned near virgin. He knew exactly what he was about, and suddenly, the enormity of what she’d done—of where she was—what he’d said and how it had made her feel made the world try to slip away from her, as if it was happening somewhere in the distance, away from her.

“I have to go.”

She tried to bolt out of the booth, but someone was still holding onto her hand and didn’t seem at all interested in letting her go.

“Hold on. Wait just a minute.”

“Let go of my hand,” she ground out, wishing her voice wasn’t trembling so, but adrenaline was warring with the need to either faint or throw up, and as much as she did want to get away from him, she wasn’t sure that she’d be able to remain standing once she got up.

She looked alarmingly pale, and Lucas released her hand immediately, noting that it was clammy. “Allie, wait,” he commanded sharply, adding, “please,” very belatedly.

And, to his surprise—and delight, he would realize later—she stopped her frantic flight.

“Now, I know what I said upset you and I’m sorry for that. But you look as if you’re going to drop any minute. You’re perfectly safe, I promise you. Please take a moment and take a deep breath. I won’t touch you again, but I will take you back to your car and follow you home.”

He was as good as his word—foregoing the courtesies she had liked originally on the way in—some of them because she had dashed ahead of him to his car despite how he had yelled after her to wait for him. Allie couldn’t even worry about the fact that he had ended up paying for a meal that she had owed him. She just wanted to get home. This man was much too potent for someone who was essentially a beginner. If she ever became involved with someone again—and she highly doubted that she would—he would need to come with training wheels, not rocket fuel.

When they had made it to the parking lot where her condo was, she got stopped by a nosy neighbor, but he pulled into her second spot and got out to wait for her as if he’d been there a thousand times.

That was another alarming thing he’d done.

“H-how did you know where I live?” she asked, walking slowly up the stairs of her stoop.

Lucas merely smiled in a manner that was almost—but not quite—benign, answering her question with one of his own, “Do you know where I live?”

Allie tried not to look shocked, not caring this time that she failed miserably.

As soon as she’d put her key in her lock and opened her door, she heard him say, with no trace of sarcasm in his tone, “Thank you for a wonderful evening, Miss Barstow.”

And then he was gone, and she was left there, trying not to let him see her peeping out her window at him as he drove away, feeling excited and scared and elated and deflated at the same time, then realizing—starkly—that it would be much better for her health in so many ways if she didn’t feel any of those things.

Not about him, anyway.


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