“Pulling up is fine,” Liam says, shackling my arm and leaning into me, his cheek to mine, his breath warm on my neck as he whispers, “Whatever naughty thought you have in mind, I can promise you, mine is ten times naughtier. I’d suggest you lock the dressing room door, unless you want to find out.” He releases me, leaving my body buzzing and my cheeks flushed as he opens the door and exits the car.
Feeling warm all over, I abandon my coat as Liam has, sliding the Chanel purse he bought me crosswise over my body, and for no apparent reason I think of the gun he insists I carry with me. Glancing toward the door, Liam offers me his hand, his gaze meeting mine. I tilt my head, seeing the challenge in his action, the control he wishes to claim. His sexy, sometimes punishing mouth curves, an erotic challenge igniting the air, several charged seconds clicking by before we both start laughing for no reason at all.
He claims my hands and helps me out of the car, and the next thing I know he’s molding me close to him, his hand pressed to the small of my back. “I love you, Amy Bensen,” he murmurs, his breath a warm fan on my cheek in the cold winter air.
“I love you, too, Liam Stone,” I say, inhaling the scent of nuts cooking at a street vendor’s cart as the energy on the street expands around me, people bustling here and there and everywhere it seems. And I know in this moment why I was more comfortable here than in Texas. This place long ago became my home. “And I love this, too.”
“This?” he inquires, leaning back to give me a curious look.
“The people and the energy of the city.” I grin at the sound of a guitar strumming “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” “The street vendors and musicians.” I flatten my hand on his chest, over his heart. “The fact that we’re safe enough to let Tellar park the car and we’re here alone.”
He drapes his arm around me and we weave our way through the crowded sidewalk to the store’s entrance. Irritatingly, a prickling sensation begins on my neck, and I smash the urge to look over my shoulder. I’m just being paranoid. Tellar is watching us, no one else, and my fear will not be bolder than me.
The Dressing Room
LIAM AND I REACH THE STORE as an elderly woman is struggling with the door. He quickly opens it for her, and she stares at him with such gratitude that he and I are both smiling as we enter, hand in hand. Warmth welcomes us as we step onto the white tiled floor. My gaze does a fleeting scan of the glittering glass cases holding cosmetics, perfumes, and accessories, while luxury handbags are displayed across the aisle. It’s a stunning first impression, but my real focus is the magical white Christmas tree directly in front of us, towering at least fifteen feet high.
My gaze catches on the gorgeous crystal angel on top when Liam announces, “This way to the ladies’ department,” and starts pulling me forward.
“Wait,” I say, digging my heels in and halting our process, pointing at my discovery.
“The tree topper?” he confirms.
“Yes.” I step in front of him and place my hands on his chest. “What do you think? Because I think it’s magnificent.”
“Magnificent,” he repeats, his eyes lighting with my description. “Sounds like we have to have it.”
“Not if you don’t like it. Do you like it?”
He cups my head and kisses me. “Yes, baby. I like it.” Releasing me, he glances around, motioning to a petite red-haired woman who rushes to our aid. “We want it,” he states, indicating the angel.
She laughs. “You wouldn’t believe how many people ask about that angel, but unfortunately that’s how I discovered it’s not for sale.”
Liam doesn’t laugh. “We want it,” he restates, removing his wallet from his pocket. “If you don’t sell it, we need to know who does.” He hands her his store card. “Whatever the cost, we’ll pay it, including your services to locate a new one.”
Her eyes go wide and she looks uncomfortable, glancing at the card. “Mr. Stone. I apologize. It’s not really a matter of cost. It’s been on the tree for years. The manufacturer went out of business.”
“Then we’ll take this one.”
She shakes her head. “You aren’t the first to ask that, either. Management won’t allow us to sell it.”
Liam’s lips quirk as if she’s said something amusing. “Why don’t you let me take the pressure off of you,” he glances at her badge, “Ms. Williams? I’ll talk to your manager.”
“Oh well. Yes, of course. I’ll find her. Where will you be?”
“Ladies formal wear,” Liam says, his hand settling on the small of my back.
“Yes sir. I’ll find you.” She turns and rushes away.
Liam and I start across the floor toward the elevators. “We’ll just have to find another one,” I say. “It’s not that big a deal.”
“You want that one,” he states stubbornly. “You’re getting that one.”
I stop and grab his arm, halting him. “Liam. I’m fine with another topper.”
“I’m not,” he says, lacing our fingers together. “Come. We need to find a dressing room.”
He puts us in motion, forcing me to double-step to keep pace with him. “We don’t need to find a dressing room, Liam Stone,” I insist, feeling panicked at the idea of being caught. He ignores my words that are a measure of defiance in the act that is all kinds of sexy when it shouldn’t be. Not now. I’m just too used to staying off the radar to take this risk. “I’m locking the door,” I vow.