Under the Tycoon's Protection(3)By: Anna DePalo
When his hand slid down and cupped her bottom to pull them closer together so their bodies were in intimate contact, alarm bells went off in her head. She grasped his shoulders, intent on pushing him back, when she realized the ringing wasn’t only in her head.
The phone rang again, insistently, and Connor set his hands on her shoulders to steady her as they broke apart.
Flustered, she glanced around the living room to determine where the ringing cordless was located.
She spotted it peeking from under a throw pillow on the couch and hesitantly picked it up. “Hello?” Her voice was still husky with arousal.
“I’m coming for you.” The voice at the other end of the line was raspy and hoarse.
“Who is this?”
“Lay off your cases at the DA’s Office or you’ll end up dead.”
Her hand tightened on the receiver. She knew she had to keep him talking to get more clues. “I don’t scare easily.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Connor tense and his brows draw together. She turned away as he strode toward her.
There was a grim chuckle on the phone line. “I’m willing to bet Daddy would pay a nice little sum to get you back—dead or alive.”
Suddenly, the receiver was torn from her hand. “Touch her and I’ll obliterate you like the scum you are.” Connor’s voice was clipped and deadly. “You won’t be able to walk down the street without watching your back.”
Allison guessed the line must have gone dead because Connor punched a few buttons on the receiver, listened for a few seconds, and then tossed the phone onto a chair with a disgusted look on his face. “Should have known it wouldn’t be that easy to trace.”
“Why did you do that?” she demanded, bracing her hands on her hips. “You didn’t even give me a chance to try to draw him out.”
“Draw him out?” he asked incredulously. “Forget it, honey. You may work for the DA, but take it from someone who’s had a lot more experience with criminals. This guy’s a wily bastard. He’s only going to be drawn out when he comes for your pretty little neck.”
“There’s no need to be crude,” she snapped.
“What did he say?” he demanded.
“He warned me to back off the legal cases I’m working on.”
Seeking a distraction, she adjusted a pillow on the couch. “And he implied that kidnapping was in the cards.” She didn’t add the part about a ransom to get her back—dead or alive. No use adding even more fuel to Connor’s bonfire.
Connor cursed. “I’m bunking down here.”
“What?”“You heard me. My job starts now.” He cast a skeptical look at her tiny, chintz-covered couch. It looked about as comfortable as a linoleum floor. “I don’t suppose that couch converts into a sofa bed?”
“It doesn’t convert into anything. It’s an antique.”
He could almost hear her mentally add, “And if you’d grown up with some class, you would have known that.”
In his line of work, he’d become accustomed to spoiled, born-rich types who looked down their noses at him and the shadings of a Boston accent that still caused him to drop his r’s on occasion.
He’d long ago mentally filed Allison Whittaker under the heading Pampered Debutante. In return, she treated him with a haughty disdain that was so cool it could give polar bears frostbite.
True, he’d long ago sparked her ire by hauling her butt out of that rough-and-tumble bar, but he’d been fully justified. She’d been too much of a sheltered and naive princess to know what she was getting herself into.
When she’d announced after law school that she was joining the District Attorney’s Office, he’d figured she’d last about a nanosecond. She’d surprised him by hanging on for four years, but he’d always thought—despite his taunt about her aversion to the country-club crowd—that it was only a matter of time before she threw in the towel to marry a guy named Sloan, or, God forbid, Blake, and raise little Ralph Lauren-clad infants in an upscale suburb.
He glanced at the clock on the mantel. Since she looked ready to argue with him again, he decided to change tactics. “It’s nearly two in the morning. I’m beat and in no mood to drive back to my place. So, why don’t you show some mercy here?”
He watched the fast-moving emotions on her face as she debated what to do. When she seemed to come to a conclusion, he knew he’d won, but he carefully schooled his features into a bland expression.
“Fine,” she said reluctantly. “But only for tonight.” She moved toward the doorway. “There’s a guest bedroom. I’ll just go up and make sure it’s in shape.”
As he watched her leave, he figured he’d deal with the morning when it arrived. Allison was in over her head here, and, whether she wanted to admit it or not, she needed him.
He moved around the room restlessly. He’d gotten a call that morning from Allison’s brother Quentin. Naturally, all the Whittakers were concerned that Allison was being harassed and that it might be connected to one of her cases at the District Attorney’s Office. But Allison—not being one to be cowed easily, a trait he normally would have admired—had insisted she could handle matters by herself and no one should overreact.
His natural reaction had been to volunteer his security services. And, because Quentin was an old friend and the Whittakers had been good to him, he’d insisted on taking this matter on personally—with no fee.
He hadn’t divulged that to Allison, of course. He figured it would be easier if she thought he was a hired hand rather than some quasi–big brother trying to step in and do the right thing.
And the truth of the matter was, whatever he felt these days, he was damn sure it wasn’t brotherly. True, she drove him nuts, not the least because of her open disdain for him. But, as much as it irked him, they hit sparks off each other whenever they were in the same room.
He had enough sexual experience to recognize that for what it was. The signs were all there and too obvious to ignore. He was acutely aware of her—the light, flowery scent that clung to her skin, the startlingly brilliant blue of her eyes, the thick mass of dark-brown hair cascading past her shoulders.
She was curvy, too, her nicely rounded figure making her neither voluptuous nor willowy, but just right for making his body tighten whenever he was around her. He’d nearly blown a fuse when she’d opened the door in that short and silky slip, its matching robe gaping open above its loosely and obviously hastily tied belt.
He shoved his hands in his pockets. If he didn’t watch it, he’d get aroused right now, just thinking about her, and he couldn’t afford another lapse.
The long-simmering kettle of tension between him and Allison was getting harder to ignore and living with her under the same roof was going to try his self-control to the limit.
He’d kissed her, for cripes’ sake. Sure, he might try to rationalize it, but he knew the truth was more complicated than that.
What’s more, she’d kissed him back. Now that was an interesting little reaction for him to puzzle over. She’d been all fiery passion, just as he’d thought she’d be, and he, Lord help him, had been more than ready to be consumed by the heat.
He wondered what would happen if he tried to kiss her again…. He started to grin, then stopped short. Get a grip, Rafferty. You’re here to protect her.
True, Allison had grown from a pesky kid into a beautiful, desirable woman. But they didn’t get along well enough for anything longer than a fling, and anything shorter would feel as if he were betraying his friendship with the Whittakers. And that went a long way toward explaining why his attraction to Allison had lain dormant, never acted upon—until tonight.
So, protect her he would, his raging hormonal reaction to her be damned. Just thinking about someone trying to harm Ally had made his blood boil. She might send his libido into overdrive, but she also had some jerk trying to spook her.
Fortunately, he’d been able to persuade her to let him spend the night at her place. But bigger battles lay ahead. She thought she was getting rid of him this morning, but she had another thing coming.
In the morning, Allison dressed for work and got downstairs only to discover Connor was already in the kitchen, dressed in last night’s form-fitting black jeans and white T-shirt—which, to her chagrin, outlined the lean but hard-looking muscles of his chest.He looked up from tossing a pancake and nodded toward the coffeemaker. “Help yourself.”
She guessed she wasn’t getting rid of him just yet. She didn’t have it in her, however, to be irritated about it. “Thanks for making breakfast.” The aroma of the coffee and the smell of pancakes were already seducing her taste buds.
His lips quirked up, as if in acknowledgement that her statement was dictated only by good manners. “You’re welcome.” He slid a pancake onto a waiting plate. “I never leave the house in the morning without a shot of carbs,” he added, as if by way of explanation for his presence in her kitchen.
When they’d almost finished breakfast, she decided to tackle the bear in the room that they were both ignoring. “The threats are ridiculous. I mean, whoever is making them has to know that even if he gets me off my cases, they’ll still go forward. The DA’s Office will just get another prosecutor to handle them.”