She felt branded by his stare.
The tips of her br**sts tingled and then hardened, pebbling against the satin and his borrowed shirt. A sensual thrill sent chill bumps across her skin. He looked at her like he wanted to devour her. She tried not to like the feeling that brought forth in her—the crazy rush of excitement and anticipation—but it pooled low in her belly nonetheless.
“You should wear your hair down more often,” he said.
Alana blinked slowly. “What?”
“Your hair,” he repeated as he leaned against the doorframe, crossing his arms as he spread his legs. With his eyes all blue fire and the small grin full of lazy arrogance, he really was quite stunning. The picture of masculine beauty. “You’re an attractive woman, but with your hair down and those glasses off, you really are quite beautiful.”
As his words sank in, she snorted. She knew she didn’t look like she face-planted an ugly branch, but beautiful? Yeah, that was not the case. If anything, Alana was exceptionally plain with her dark hair and eyes. “Beautiful? Removing my glasses and letting my hair down isn’t a drastic makeover.”
“If I say you’re beautiful, then you’re beautiful.”
She arched a brow. “Oh, you’re the deciding law on this?”
The lazy grin spread. “I am. So I don’t want you wearing your hair in that bun anymore. Makes you look like you’re ten times older than you obviously are.”
“Are you f**king serious?”
“I am f**king serious.” He cocked his head to the side. “I like the glasses, though. Reminds me of this teacher I had in high school. Every time they slipped down her nose, it made my—”
“Enough!” She held up her hands. “I totally get the picture, but you don’t get to tell me how to wear my hair.”
“I’m your bodyguard.”
Staring at him, she gave a quick shake of her head. The man was insufferable—sexy, but incredibly insufferable. But within the matter of minutes, he’d yanked her out of her self-pity and the tight grasp of fear, and for that she was thankful.
Didn’t mean she had to accept any of what was coming out of his mouth or follow through with the crazy idea of her staying in his home. “You being my bodyguard doesn’t mean you’re my personal stylist, Chandler, and I can’t—”
“Speaking of personal stylist, you look better in my old clothes than you do in those God-awful suits you wear. And trust me, you look f**king hot in my clothes.”
Her cheeks tightened with a blush she wished would go away and die. “Thanks,” she gritted out.
“Thank God the clothes in your closet were destroyed. See? There’s a silver lining in every dark cloud or whatever bullshit they say. We can go shopping tomorrow and find you something that actually makes you look good.”
Too pissed to be hurt by his comments, she curled her hands into fists at her sides. There was a good chance she was going to punch him in the face. “First off, f**k you.”
His blue eyes gleamed with mischief. “I like where this is heading.”
Correction: she was going to kick him in the balls. “Secondly, I’m so glad that my entire wardrobe being destroyed is such good news to you. Thirdly, I’d rather run in front of a speeding city bus than go clothes shopping with you.”
“Well, that sounds drastic.”
Her jaw ached from how hard she was clenching her teeth. “And finally, I can’t stay here.”
The laziness in his posture vanished in an instant and he straightened. “You’re staying here, Alana.”
“I can go back to the hotel—”
“Absolutely not,” he interrupted, eyes flashing cobalt. “It is not safe for you to stay in a hotel.”
A dull shard of dread hit her in the chest, but she ignored it. “I’m fine at the hotel.”
“If you really believe that, then why did you come here?”
Ah, he had a good point. “That was a mistake, but there’re tons of people around and—”
He unfolded his muscular arms. “Exactly. There are tons of people who go in and out all day and all night long. It’s a major security threat, and I should’ve pulled your ass out of there the first night.”
It still struck her speechless for a moment to know that he’d been watching her when she’d thought he’d forgotten about her. “I’m not staying here. It’s absurd. It’s your home, Chandler. It’s so inappropriate.”
One dark brow arched. “Who gives a f**k about appropriate?”
A look of impatience crossed his face. “You worry about what other people think too much.”
“It’s my job,” she replied crossly.
“No.” He shook his head and several shorter strands escaped the ponytail. “It’s more than that. You job isn’t your life—it shouldn’t be.”
“It’s not yours?”
He laughed. “Hell no.”
Her mouth opened, but she found she had no idea what to say. Better yet, how did they get so far off topic?
“Besides, your inappropriate argument is moot. I’m your bodyguard. So if you stayed in that hotel, I’d be staying with you. But staying here is sure as hell a lot more comfortable.”
Once again, he had a point, but she couldn’t do this. Coming to CCG Security might have been the right thing to do, but she had been wrong in demanding that it be him. There had to be someone else, because she…she didn’t trust herself around him. The way he made her feel, even now when she wanted nothing more than to karate chop him into next week, was the same feeling she saw in her mother’s eyes every time she’d talked about a new guy.
“I’m fine with someone staying with me in a hotel room,” she decided, lifting her chin stubbornly. “But it has to be someone else. Anyone but you, because—”
One second he was standing by the bedroom door and the next he was in front of her, one hand on her hip and the other delving deep into her hair, cradling the nape of her neck. The words formed on her tongue, but he silenced them with his lips.
Chandler kissed her.
Shock radiated down her spine. That had to be the only reason she didn’t knee him between the thighs right off the bat. At first, it was barely a touch, but her lips tingled hotly, as if she’d dared to kiss the sun. His lips swept over hers once more as she placed her hands on his chest, prepared to push him away, but then he nipped at her lower lip. A tiny bite that brought forth a wave of tight lust that seemed to come out of nowhere. He nibbled at the corner of her lip as he pulled her against him, trapping her hands between them.
Good Lord, he kissed like a man starving for a taste.
Working at the tight seam of her lips, he pressed forward, demanding that she open up to him.
She couldn’t help her reaction to the kiss, no matter how badly she wished she wasn’t affected by it. She wanted to remain aloof to the sensual assault, to remain in complete control of herself, but a longing rose deep inside her, spreading like wildfire.
Her lips parted on a sigh, and Chandler delved inside, slowly probing the recesses of her mouth. He tasted of whiskey and something richer, deeper. The kiss deepened, and instead of pushing him away, her hands fisted in the shirt he wore, holding him in place. He kissed her like he could claim her with his tongue, and damn if he wasn’t close to doing it.
As his mouth melted against hers, her hands spasmed around his shirt, and then it happened. She tentatively flicked her tongue against his, kissing him back. His answering growl rumbled through his chest and his grip on her tightened.
When he finally lifted his head, she was panting and her stare was unfocused. “You taste just as I imagined,” he said huskily, loosening his hold on her and putting some space between them. “And I have a vivid imagination. You taste sweet.”
“Why?” she demanded, placing her hand over her lips. She felt unsteady, as if she’d topple right over if he hadn’t still been holding her by the nape of her neck.
One side of his lips tipped up. “I figured it was the only way to get you to stop arguing.”
Alana stared up at him, stunned that he’d used that tactic. “You kissed me to shut me up?”
“Basically.” The smug grin appeared as he tipped his chin down. Those shorter strands grazed his cheeks. “It worked, didn’t it?”
She jerked away, breaking his hold and stumbling back a step. Anger infused her cheeks, chasing at the pleasant pleasure his lips had given her. Now she was offended. “You kissed me just to shut me up? You overbearing, inappropriate son of a—”
Chandler caught her once more and kissed her again. This time there was no sweet brush of his lips or barely there touch. He delved right in, soaking her up and kissing her until she couldn’t breathe. A bone-deep wanting exploded, making her swollen and hot, but she cocked back her arm, punching him in the stomach.
A laugh burst from him as he caught her wrist and then her other, intercepting before she could get another indignant hit in. “Ouch, that could’ve hurt.”
“I hope it did!” she seethed, torn between being turned on and ticked off. “You just can’t go around kissing people to get them to stop talking.”
“And why not?” He hauled her toward him as he took a step back. The next thing she knew, he was sitting on the edge of the bed and she was very much perched in his lap. “I thought it was actually really fun.”
There had been times in Alana’s life when she’d wondered how she got where she was. Her work? Determination. Gumption. Balls-to-the-walls type of approach. But this? She had no clue how she’d ended up sitting in Chandler’s lap, her lips swollen from his kisses and her body burning for more while she seriously wanted to choke the ever-loving crap out of him.
Chandler looped his arms around her waist, the hold not tight but firm. She wasn’t going anywhere, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to sit here. She raised her hands, ready to do bodily harm.
“It wasn’t the only reason I kissed you,” he said.
Her eyes narrowed as her hands froze on his shoulders. “It’s not?”
He dipped his chin, pressing his forehead to hers. His warm breath danced over her lips and her hands dropped to his shoulders, fingers digging into the tough muscle. “No, it’s not. I’ve wanted to kiss you since you showed up at my door looking for Chad.”
Surprise blasted through her like a bomb. He’d wanted to kiss her then? Alana knew she wasn’t the kind of woman men typically lusted over for any length of time, but she believed him. She’d felt it in his kiss.
“And I’m serious,” he continued, his lips grazing her cheek, eliciting a shiver from her. “You’re not staying at a hotel. You’re staying here.” He drew back, so that his gaze locked with hers. “It’s not going to be someone else. It’ll be no one else but me.”
Whoever came up with the idea to take this woman shopping was out of his f**king mind. Oh, yeah, that’s right. It was his astonishingly dumb idea.
Alana was worse than a guy.
Chandler had to drag her into the shops, which she conveniently argued didn’t carry the kind of clothing she’d wear. After about the fifth store, he refused to allow her to leave without purchasing enough clothes to get her through the week.
And then the arguing really began.
“That looks like a man’s suit.” He curled his lip in disgust at the black, drab suit she held in one hand.
Her eyes rolled. “It does not.”
Poking at the blazer, he frowned. “Does it have shoulder pads? What year is this?”
Alana moved around a rack, muttering under her breath. He picked up words like “dick” and “asshole,” among other sweet nicknames. “I guess you think I should be in skirts?”
He fought a smile as he cornered her between two more racks. “What’s wrong with a skirt? I bet you have beautiful legs.” He leaned in, and when her breath caught, he didn’t mistake the sudden light in her dark eyes. Catching her gaze, he tipped his lips up as he reached around her and gently tugged on a loose strand of hair. It was soft as satin. “You wore your hair down today.”
Her eyes flashed furiously behind her glasses. “Not because of you.”
“Keep telling yourself that.” As he straightened, he scanned the store for any oddballs. No one really looked out of place. The only man in the store was up at the counter, his back to them.
She tightened her fingers around a hanger until he thought she’d snap the plastic. By the looks of it now, he wouldn’t believe that she’d actually sat in his lap last night for a few moments, calm and serene.
“The only reason I’m wearing my hair down is because someone came into my room while I slept, like a total freak, and took my bobby pins and hair bands.”
Barely resisting the urge to laugh, he widened his eyes. “Really?”
She snorted, shoving that horrific suit back onto the rack. “You must have a small critter in your home that has an affinity for pins and rubber bands, because they were also missing from my purse.”
He couldn’t help it then. He laughed, and one would think they were knee-deep in a debate about politics or something actually relevant, based on how flushed her cheeks were. She shot him a glare that would have most men cupping themselves. It only made him hard as steel.
It took another thirty minutes to load her up with jeans, linen pants, suits, and so on, and he finally saw the end in sight.
Guiding her back toward the dressing rooms, he kept an eye on their surroundings and a hand on her shoulder. Normally on his assignments, he made sure those who were under his protection were kept out of the public. He couldn’t very well do that with her. She seriously had only the clothes he was lending her.