His amused tone was intentionally bland. “There’s nothing wrong with my anatomy.”

She knew that all too well, but she was also perfectly capable of admiring masculine beauty without succumbing to the appreciation. And she hoped to heaven Hunter wouldn’t wind up being the exception, because his ultra-cool aura wrapped in hard-edged alertness provided a kind of excitement no man had before. Ever.

Just remember what happened the last time you found a man intriguing and fell victim to your emotions, Carly.

She wouldn’t let her fascination sway her again. She couldn’t let her fascination sway her again. Her career was only just now recovering.

“Who are you?” She pulled herself from his grasp and turned to face him, ignoring her crushing disappointment at the loss of his touch. “And don’t tell me you’re a simple network security consultant because by the end of that show I knew you were more. And today proves my instincts right.”

He looked down at her with the intense focus that always set her on guard. “What else do your instincts tell you?” he said.

That she’d never met anyone like the enigmatic Hunter Philips. That no man had ever intrigued her so thoroughly. But mostly that he was a force to be reckoned with.

“That you could have taken those two guys down with your bare hands,” she said, staring up at him, knowing in her heart it was true.

After a long pause with no response from Hunter she debated her next move. She was dying for a visual confirmation of the object that adorned his hip, and there was only one ploy she could think of to accomplish her goal. He was decidedly more dangerous than she’d originally believed, which meant she should pass on the plan. Her palms were growing damp at the thought.

Don’t do it, Carly. Don’t do it.

Oh...what the hell.

Tamping down her nerves, she stepped even closer, his nearness providing her with a forbidden adrenaline rush. “I think you could have taken them on bare-handed without so much as wrinkling your clothes.” She began circling him slowly, not having to work hard at the sensual tone. “Not a mark on your pressed white shirt...” As she rounded his side his alert gaze followed her with a keen interest that prickled her skin. Sweat pricked between her breasts. “Not a crease in your dark pants...” She ignored his probing, assessing eyes, afraid she’d lose her nerve. “Or the classy black leather jacket...”

Heart thumping harder, she stopped in front of him and began to run her fingers down the edge of his sleek coat, as if to feel the material. What would he do when she tried to take a look?

“Am I right?” Fingers on his lapel, she risked a glance at those oh-so observant eyes, now lit with awareness, and an exhilarating rush skittered up her spine. “Would you have delivered two right hooks and emerged victorious and wrinkle-free?” Tense with anticipation, she began to lift the edge of his coat to get a peek at his hip.

Brow creased in subdued humor, Hunter pulled his jacket back in place, blocking her view. “Maybe.”

Good God, he was a tease.

She dropped her hand to her side, the disappointment intense. Damn. The more she learned, the more captivating he became—and the more she wanted to uncover.

In light of everything, an interesting possibility suddenly dawned bright. She narrowed her eyes. “Are you a former crook?” Her answer came in the form of a quizzical eyebrow. “You know...” She tipped her head curiously. “One of those high-tech, illegal hacker guys who gets caught, serves his time, and then starts a security firm helping businesses protect themselves from people like them.”

Hunter leaned back against the graffiti-plastered alley wall, crossing his arms. He seemed entertained by the question. Truthfully, he seemed entertained by the entire situation. And he appeared intent on driving her crazy by not answering, along with goading her every chance he got.

“What does your gut say?” he said.

“My gut says there is more to you than meets the eye.” Carly crossed the pavement and turned to lean a shoulder against the metal wall beside him, close enough to get his attention. Hopefully his full attention, without compromising her own.

She had to hike her chin to meet his gaze. Flirting with a man your own height was so much easier. Flirting with a guy when you weren’t sure which side of the law he fell on...?

She lifted a brow. “Are you going to answer my question?” Not one of those beautifully wrought muscles moved. His ready-for-anything aura was undeniably fascinating. “For all I know you’re a threat I should run screaming in the other direction to avoid.”

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