The Baby Contract(10)By: Barbara Dunlop
She held her breath, but the click and clatter sounded normal. Thank goodness.
She kept her voice even and unconcerned, pretending she wasn’t attuned to his every movement, expression and word. “What’s your main focus in South America?”
Research had told her Pinion protected business executives and provided security to resource companies operating in areas with drug trade and guerrilla activity.
He walked the few paces to the shooting range and pushed a magazine into the gun. “Lately, it’s been VIPs. Kidnappings are on the rise. Mine-site protection is pretty much standardized, and very effective. The drug lords don’t mess with gems and minerals, and the guerrilla groups want the notoriety of a high-profile hostage as much as they want the insurance payout.”
“Kidnapping insurance has been a mixed blessing.”
He snapped on a set of earmuffs and raised the weapon to his shoulder. She followed suit, covering her own ears.
“You could put it that way,” he shouted.
Then he pulled the trigger, and three shots rang out in rapid succession, hitting the center of a bull’s-eye target fifty yards away.
“It’s better if they have insurance,” he stated in a raised voice, releasing the magazine and popping a cartridge out of the chamber.
“If there was no insurance, on aggregate, fewer people would get kidnapped.” She pulled off the earmuffs.
“I’m insured,” he said, placing the AK-47 back on the table and removing his own hearing protection. “And as a Pinion employee, you are, too.”
“So you could send me to South America.”
“Bushmasters grow up to ten feet long.”
She wasn’t even going to pretend she wanted to cope with a ten-foot snake. “Perhaps a nice city posting. Maybe Buenos Aires?”
He’d come closer as they spoke. “Not a lot of guerrilla activity in Buenos Aires.”
His eyes were deep blue, intelligent with a trace of humor.
He was incredibly sexy. If he was anyone else, in any other circumstance, she’d be parting her lips, tipping her head with an invitation. Or maybe she’d just up and kiss him, forget waiting for him to make the first move.
“You passed weapons proficiency,” he said softly.
The back of his hand brushed hers, sending a rush of warmth along her arm. He didn’t pull away, and neither did she.
“Is that bravado?” he asked, carefully watching her expression.
“I’m well trained.”
She knew she should back away. She was sending signals she didn’t want to send, waiting for something to happen that couldn’t happen. Her brain was conjuring up his kiss in vivid detail. He had to be a fantastic kisser. A man didn’t look like that, didn’t smell like that, didn’t have that predatory expression if he wasn’t about to deliver an amazing kiss.
He tripped the backs of his fingertips up her bare arm.
Her stomach contracted. It fluttered. Her entire body stilled in anticipation.
The buzz of the fluorescents grew louder while the white light flickered rapidly in her peripheral vision. Troy’s earthy scent blocked out the sharp tang of gunpowder. Her skin was heating, the moist air pressing against it like bathwater.
He bent his head.
His lips brushed hers, and heat rocked to her core.
He groaned, leaning into her, his arms wrapping around her, his lips going firm against hers, parting, invading.
She kissed him back, her hands balling into fists, pressing them to his hips. This was reckless and dangerous and downright stupid, but she gave in to the insistent pangs of arousal as they coursed through her. She touched her tongue to his, marveling at the flood of sensation.
Her body tightened with desire. Her hips pushed against his thighs. His palms slipped down her back, cupping her rear, pulling her close, then lifting her to press her intimately to him, her thighs wrapping around his body. The kisses went on, heated and impatient as he turned to perch her on the table.
His hands slipped under her T-shirt, kneading her bare waist, making their way up. She could feel her nipples harden beneath her cotton bra, tingling in anticipation, waiting for his touch, desperate for his touch.
“This is bad,” he rasped.
No, it was good. It was too good. It was ridiculously good.
“There are cameras,” he said.
That got her attention.
She jerked back. “Here?”
“Is someone watching?”
She struggled to quash her hormones, to catch her breath, to summon up the guilt and embarrassment the situation warranted. She was kissing her boss. More than that, she was making out like a crazed teenager with the very man judging her professionalism.
Maybe this was a test. It was probably a test. She’d passed weapons proficiency only to fail miserably at self-control. She scrambled to salvage the situation, seizing on the first idea that hit her brain.
“About me going to South America?” She dredged up a coquettish smile and blinked up at him.
His eyes went flat along with his voice. “Are you kidding me?”
She brazened it out, walking her fingertips up his chest. “I speak pretty good Spanish.”
He trapped her hand with his, squeezing it tight. “You’re telling me this was persuasion?”
She looked him straight in the eyes. “Of course it was persuasion.”
“Are you sure?”
She lifted a brow. “You believe you’re that irresistible?”
His expression flinched.
“Think about it, Troy.” She gave a careless little laugh.
He grasped her chin, holding her head still, staring into her eyes.
Anxiety overtook her. She ordered herself not to crack, to hold onto her self-control. If he knew she’d melted like sugar in his arms, he’d kick her to the curb.
His jaw clamped tight, and the moment stretched into infinity.
“Don’t you ever,” he growled, “ever try to play me again.”
She’d have nodded, but his grip was too tight.
“Got it?” he demanded.
“Yes,” she whispered.
He turned abruptly away, and she all but sagged against the table.
* * *
“Anyone else see it?” Troy asked Vegas as he marched into the control room.
“No,” Vegas answered.
Troy halted, relief easing the knot in his chest. He didn’t really know why he cared. It was no skin off his nose if the guys saw him kissing Mila.
“Thanks,” he said.
“I did it for her.”
There was no reason to protect Troy’s reputation. It was Mila who would suffer if anybody saw the footage. And she’d brought it on herself. Still, Troy didn’t want to make her life even more difficult while she was here. Only a colossal jerk would do that.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he muttered to himself.
“I know exactly what you were thinking,” said Vegas.
“I don’t usually let women play me.”
“Huh?” Vegas looked surprised.
“She’s better at it than I expected.” Troy’s mind rewound to the shooting range. “A lot of women have tried. I can usually spot it coming a mile away. And her? Her. I had every reason in the world to suspect she’d try something.”
“What makes you think she was playing you?”
Troy gave his partner a look of astonishment. “Intellect and reason. She’s looking for a permanent job.”
“Doesn’t mean she’ll use seduction.”
“She admitted that she did.”
Vegas peered at him. “She admitted she was playing you?”
It took Troy a moment to frame a response. “Is there something wrong with the way I’m speaking English?”
“Nothing wrong with the way you’re talking,” Vegas said, glancing to the monitors and punching a couple of computer keys.
Troy was hit with a sudden suspicion. “You didn’t put her up to it, did you? You were just yankin’ my chain yesterday.”
Vegas raised his palms in a gesture of mock surrender. “I’ve got way better things to do with my time.”
“So do I.”
“That’s reassuring. The footage is deleted. It’s like it never happened.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear.”
As far as Troy was concerned, the kiss had never happened. It had been tradecraft, that was all. Mila was a beautiful woman. She knew it and had seen an advantage in flirting with him. Under normal circumstances, if she was on an operation, he’d admire her skill.
“Did she pass?” Vegas asked.
Mila was definitely proficient in the use of firearms.
“Care to elaborate?”