He wasn’t a big fan of it, either, but strangely, he wanted her beside him, and she was going to have to deal with it.

When he had her where he wanted, he gathered her wrists in his hands and began to massage the skin.

Slowly, as the seconds turned into minutes, Alana relaxed against him. Her breath evened out, and her body melted into his.

There was no way in hell Chandler was letting her go anytime soon.

Chapter Ten

Chandler ended up falling asleep Saturday night in her room, sprawled gloriously na**d across her bed and with his arm possessively thrown over her waist. Admittedly, she had never been more comfortable in her life pressed up against him, with no barrier separating their flesh, but she couldn’t allow herself to sleep while he snored softly.

Lovers slept together after sex, not two people who were getting off.

In her past, albeit brief, relationships, she’d had trouble sleeping in the same bed. Even with Steven, who had been the longest relationship she’d been in, she’d never been able to relax enough to comfortably sleep. And that had to mean something, right?

But last night… Oh God, after about an hour, her lids had grown too heavy to keep open and she had relaxed into him. The realization had jerked her awake and in a near panic, she had slipped free from his grasp, gathered up her clothes, and slept on the couch downstairs.

She’d spent the vast majority of Sunday morning and after avoiding Chandler, who seemed okay with it. The few times they’d crossed paths in the house hadn’t been pleasant for either of them. He seemed mad at her, but for what, she wasn’t sure.

Part of her didn’t regret what had transpired between them Saturday night. Good Lord, no. What he’d done to her would fuel her fantasies for a long time to come, but how was she ever to look at him again without feeling his hot mouth on her? How was she ever to forget?

Maybe she was overthinking things.

She was folding and refolding her newly acquired stash of clothing for the hundredth time when Chandler appeared in the doorway. The moment her gaze connected with his, heat zinged across her cheeks and she felt silly for blushing so easily.

“Hungry?” he asked, expression impassive.

Her stomach rumbled in response. All she had eaten earlier was a bagel with cream cheese. “What do you have in mind?”

“Thought we could go out and grab something to eat.”

For some reason, her heart flopped over in her chest. “Go out and eat?”

Obviously mistaking her high-pitched response for fear, he softened his features. “I know this place. My brothers and I go there all the time. It’ll be safe.”

It was better if he thought she was afraid instead of knowing the truth. Which was what? The sudden increase in her heart rate was due to excitement? But that was silly. This wasn’t a date.

Calmly, she placed the folded shirt on the dresser. “I don’t have anything nice to wear.”

“What you’re wearing is fine,” he replied, pushing out of the doorway. “It’s not that kind of place. You game?”

Could she really say no? Smoothing her suddenly damp hands along her jeans, she forced a tight smile. “Yes.”

He studied her a moment and then stepped aside, motioning her forward. As she walked past him, she felt his gaze drop. “I really like you in jeans.”

She arched a brow as her lips twitched. “Do I even dare ask why?”

Heated cobalt eyes drifted slowly back to hers. A half grin appeared. “It has to do with how well those pockets cup your ass.”

A laugh burst out of Alana, surprising her and apparently Chandler by the sudden sharpening of his gaze. She didn’t know what it was. The teasing was beyond inappropriate, but something about him eased the frostiness of her exterior.

“You should do that more often,” he said, following her down the hall.

“What?”

Chandler stepped around so he went down the stairs first. “Laugh.”

She didn’t respond to that. Waiting in the entryway while he grabbed the keys, she then followed him out to his truck. Once again, she noted the detailed and near-perfect landscaping surrounding the driveway and porch. One day she would like to buy a home with a yard.

“You’re going to have to let me know who you hired to do your yard,” she said once she was inside his truck. “It’s beautiful.”

He snorted. “Hired? I didn’t hire anyone. I did it myself.”

Her eyes widened. “You did?” She glanced out the window, eyeing the trimmed bushes, the roses that were months away from blooming, the colorful early spring daisies that were straining toward the fading sun. “You’re good with your hands.”

“I am.” His lips curled sensually.

Muscles low in her stomach tightened. He was damn good with his hands and his mouth and his tongue… She shifted in her seat, closing her eyes, but it was already too late. Heat unfurled in her veins. Daring a quick peek at Chandler, she knew he was fully aware of where her body had taken the conversation.

As he backed out of the driveway, he cast her an appreciative look that started at her lips and ended at her chest. His overt sexuality was far from oppressing; it turned her on and made her want more.

It’s just two people getting off, she reminded herself, and she would be okay with that, but strangely, it made her feel empty.

She needed a distraction. “So you like to garden?”

He shrugged as his gaze flicked to the rearview mirror. “I like being outside and I guess I like making things. You know? Taking a barren patch of land and creating something out of it. And I’m good with plants somehow.” A quick grin flashed across his face. “My brothers say I have a green thumb.”

“I envy that,” she admitted. “I can kill a cactus in less than two hours.”

He laughed deeply, and she found her lips responding to the sound. “It’s pretty hard to kill a cactus that quickly.”

“Not if you’re me.” She glanced out the window, watching the houses slowly bleed away, fading into businesses. “But I do want something like that one day.”

“You plan on buying a house soon?”

“I would once I got settled.”

He looked at her, and then his gaze went to the rearview mirror once more. “Then you’re going to stay here?”

“I’d like to.” Her thoughts turned wistful, something that wasn’t common. “I’d like to have a…a home.”

Chandler was quiet for a moment. “Didn’t have much of that growing up, did you?”

She almost forgot what she’d admitted the first night at his house. Shifting in the seat, she dutifully studied her nails. A manicure would be nice. Not having a conversation like this would be great, but her mouth opened and she started blabbing.

“Mom was never home and if she was, she wasn’t really there. She kind of ghosted through the house,” she said, sighing. “We didn’t stay in one apartment too long. She couldn’t keep a job to save her life.” Or mine. “Eventually I was sent to my grandmother’s.”

“And her house wasn’t much of a home?”

Her gaze flicked to the red light they were stopped at. “Her house was… It was cold. I mean, she loved me and I think she was happy to have me around, but I also think she was done raising kids, you know? I was unexpected.”

His jaw locked. “Unwanted?”

She sucked in a breath at the blunt question, but it was true. Her gram loved her, but she probably would’ve loved not having to raise her more.

Chandler placed his hand on her knee and squeezed. At first, Alana wanted to knock it away, but all she could do was stare at the large male hand. Something warmed in her chest and now…now she wanted to put her hand over his.

“Totally understand where you’re coming from,” he said, squeezing again. “I think my brothers and I would be pretty bad off if it wasn’t for Maddie’s family.”

She glanced at him, biting her lower lip. They did have that in common. Not the greatest thing to share. At another red light, his eyes met hers and it took a great effort to look away.

His hand was still on her knee.

She kind of liked it.

Time for another subject change. “Did you always want to be a bodyguard?”

Chandler gave a little half smile. “I don’t do a lot of personal protection anymore. I run the business and only get hands-on in special cases.” He winked at her, and damn if it wasn’t sexy as hell.

“That didn’t answer my question,” she said, feeling her lips curve into a grin.

“I don’t know.” His hand slid an inch up her leg. “I always kind of did the whole…watching out for others thing—my brothers, Maddie, and her brother. Just something that came naturally to me.”

“Just like playing ball is natural to Chad?”

“I guess. I was the only one who could really pick what I wanted to do. Chad always played ball, since he was old enough to pick one up. Chase was primed to take on our father’s business, but me? Yeah, I could do whatever.”

Interested, she looked at him. “Did you go to college?”

“I did. Are you surprised?”

“No.” She knew he wasn’t just all brawn, even though she liked to say that. “What did you study? Kicking ass?”

He laughed deeply, causing her grin to spread. “Honey, I didn’t need to study that. I could teach those classes.”

“Of course.”

Grinning as he checked out the rearview mirror, he switched lanes. “I actually majored in computer science.”

“Nerd,” she teased.

“I’m a badass nerd,” he corrected, sliding his thumb along the side of her thigh. “What about you? Always wanted to be a publicist to the misbehaved and spoiled rotten?”

Her gaze drifted to his hand. “I majored in communications, minored in sociology. I actually wanted to be a psychologist but realized I wouldn’t have the patience for that.” She laughed softly. “No big surprise there, right?”

“Never,” he murmured.

“But I liked the idea of…of fixing things—people.” She snuck another quick look at him. “Repairing them.”

He was quiet for a moment. “Some people can’t be repaired, though.”

Alana thought of the senator. No shit. “Then I do my best to keep that a secret from the general public.”

“You do a great job,” he said, and the genuine quality to his tone surprised her. “I mean, hell, you wrangled in my brother, and that had to have taken a minor act of God.”

She found herself blushing. “Thank…thank you.”

“I don’t think you hear that enough.”

Nope. Being a publicist meant you didn’t get patted on the back a lot, because when a publicist was successful, no one knew it was the publicist behind everything. It was a pretty thankless job, but she hadn’t taken it for that reason.

She wet her lips. “You’re…you’re not like I thought you would be.”

“What did you think I was?”

“I don’t know.” It was hard to put into words. “It’s just that you’ve surprised me. That’s all.”

Chandler eased the truck out of traffic, pulling into a parking lot. “Well, we’re here.”

The restaurant definitely wasn’t high-end, more like the chain type, but she was okay with that, comfortable with the chill atmosphere. She started to reach for the door handle.

“Wait,” he said, and she twisted toward him.

When she opened her mouth, Chandler leaned in, closing the distance between them. She started to pull back, but his hand snaked around the nape of her neck, holding her in place. The kiss was soft…and it was sweet—sweeter than she’d ever thought he’d kiss, like she was a fragile slice of a treasure he was only starting to explore.

Chandler pulled back just enough that when he spoke, his lips brushed hers. “We’re not having dinner alone.”

It took a moment for that statement to make it through the haze left behind from the kiss. “We’re not?”

His hand slid off the back of her neck, leaving tight shivers in its wake as he sat back, tugging the keys out of the ignition. “We’re having dinner with Chase and Maddie.”

Alana froze, her heart dropping to her knees. “What?”

“It’s okay. Come on.”

When she didn’t move, he climbed out of the truck and walked around to her side. Opening the door, he extended one large hand. A teasing grin appeared as he waited.

“We…we can’t have dinner with them,” she said.

His brows rose. “And why not?”

“Your family doesn’t like me because of Chad.” Her breath rose too quickly in her chest. “Why didn’t you say something at your house? I would’ve told you no.”

“And that’s why I didn’t tell you. I wanted you to come with me.”

She gaped at him. “Why?”

“Why not?” he challenged.

It didn’t make sense to her. Why would he want her to have dinner with his brother and Maddie? He was her bodyguard—a very inappropriate one, but whatever. This seemed like…like a real date.

He wiggled his fingers. “Are you scared, Alana?”

“What?” She snorted. “No.”

“Then get out of the damn truck.”

Her eyes narrowed on him. There wasn’t much she could do right now unless she wanted to sit in a damn truck. Sighing, she knocked his hand out of the way and climbed out on her own.

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