She came to his desk and fanned her face with one hand, batting her eyelashes. “Well, I do declare, what’s this I hear about you redeeming my fragile reputation in a mighty duel?” she asked with a southern belle accent.

Trey failed to staunch a grin. “Ma’am, it was my duty to defend your honor at all costs. A man does what he has to for the sake of a lady.”

She dropped the act, setting her hands on her hips. “When I submit a budget proposal in the future, should I expect boulder tossing and pissing contests? Or was this a one-time thing?”

“Remains to be seen. Adam is…Adam.” He sighed.

“He needs six weeks of boot camp. That’ll get his attention. It worked for me and my smart mouth.” Her teeth tugged at her glossy lower lip. “Well, mostly.”

“Considering Adam’s issues with authority, he’d get kicked out on day one.”

“What’s his problem?”

“Do you have three hours?”

“No, and neither do you. I want to show you something.” She paused, staring past his shoulder at the floor. “Is that your girlfriend’s yoga mat?”

He noticed the frosty nip in her voice and experienced a wave of satisfaction. Especially since she’d shown zero sign of being affected by his kiss the day before, which had bothered him. He wanted some sort of response. He wanted her affected. Damn it, he wanted her period. Her kisses, her throaty moans, her smile and humor. He didn’t care that she worked for him. He wanted to explore a relationship with her, and taste more of her kisses. “No girlfriend. The mat’s mine.”

Her expression relaxed. “Really?”

“Yoga is an intense workout for the mind and body.” Not that he’d had much time to devote to the practice lately. Another reason he’d stooped to arm wrestling Adam. Trey needed intense physical outlets, too. He just didn’t resort to the ones Adam preferred.  Except maybe sex. That hadn’t happened lately either.

He could remedy that with one phone call to his willing ex-fiancé, but he had severed those addictive ties to Jenna geographically and emotionally when he’d moved away from the life he’d purposely left behind. Jenna was as unhealthy to his peace of mind as bounty hunting. Manipulative and conniving, she’d steered him in the wrong direction one too many times. Six months ago, he’d called her anyway and chartered a private jet to Vegas. That night, she’d tried to rope him into another one of her schemes. The next day, he’d fiercely regretted his lapse of judgment. He’d left her bed less satisfied than if he’d maintained his celibacy. He hadn’t told anyone about his secret excursion, not even Cade. His brother had always accused him of being self-destructive when it came to the women he chose, and he hadn’t wanted to see the accusation in Cade’s eyes.

Devon glanced at the yoga mat again. “I’m not into stretching and contortion. If I’m going to sweat, I’d rather be active and moving around.”

He glanced at her gorgeous legs and imagined ways they could move around together on his bed.

“Anyway, when you see what I have to show you, I think you’ll find it interesting,” she said.

“Okay.” His gaze strayed to her lips.

“Are you coming or not?” she asked.

I’d love to, what are you doing for the next forty-five minutes? Instead, he answered, “Right behind you.”

They rode the elevator to the fourth floor and Devon led him to her office. The marker scrawls covering her whiteboards looked like a roadmap of hell.

For a minute, he almost felt guilty for pulling the plug. But he definitely didn’t regret what happened after. Kissing Devon had awakened his lust, and he knew his intense attraction to her wasn’t going to fade anytime soon. Devon was brilliant, classy, and completely different from any woman he’d ever dated. Which made him want her even more. He wanted something positive and permanent in his life for a change. An amazing woman to share his success with, who understood and appreciated how hard he worked to make a better life for his family. Something beyond mere lust.

“Hey, eyes up here, pal.”

Slowly, he lifted his gaze to lock with hers. “Sorry. Your mouth is distracting.”

“Thank you.” She shot him a grin that quickly turned into a frown. “But we’re not here to talk about that kiss.”

“Which one?”

“Both. Neither.” She threw up her arms. “Stop distracting me.”

“Now you understand my predicament.”

Devon grew serious. “We do have a predicament. Or…I do.”

That gave him pause. “Explain.”

She gestured for him to stand beside her at her keyboard. “Better if I show you than try to explain it without context.”

He slid in behind her, leaving less than an inch of space separating their bodies. She smelled delicious, and he loved when she wore her hair swept up in a tight twist. The slender arc of her neck tempted him. New jewelry blocked his view or would bar him from lifting his hand and tracing the delicate curve from her neck to her shoulder.

She bent over her keyboard and entered several keystrokes. “One of my guys isolated a bizarre string of sequences in the hacker’s code.”

A window popped up on her screen, white text against a black background. “Bizarre, how?”

“It forms a riddle, sort of a code within a code. It’s something I’ve rarely seen. This guy has mad skill.”

If she meant “mad” as in “talented psycho,” he was inclined to agree.

When she pressed the Enter key, an image flooded the screen. A pixilated picture of a black flag with a skull-and-crossbones motif.

She explained, “There was a guy I met a few years back at a tech convention called DEFCON. Ground zero for the best, elite hackers and programmers in the world. Well, I didn’t meet him, exactly. He hooked up with our group remotely, and together we executed a brilliant hacking strategy that won our team a lucrative military contract.” She swallowed. “He went by the name of Captain Jack.”

He blinked. “I don’t get it.”

“Captain Jack Sparrow, from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.”

“A pirate. Great.” He scowled. “What does this pirate want with you?”

“That’s the thing. I don’t know.” She hugged her waist. “I’m not sure I want to know. Except he went to a whole lot of trouble to track me down and get my attention.”

Tags: Vanessa Waltz Billionaire Bodyguard Suspense