’Course, then he’d have to let Quentin deck him. He’d been asked to be her bodyguard, not her lover.
And yet, the attraction between him and Allison had been simmering for a long time. The threat against her had simply been the match that had ignited the tinderbox that they’d shoved their attraction into so they could safely ignore it.
He was going to have to tread carefully, that was for sure. Among other things, he had to figure out sooner rather than later who was making the death threats. After that, he could focus on figuring out what uncharted territory he and Allison had steered their relationship into.
He glanced back over at her sleeping face. Whether Allison was going to admit it or not, what they’d started tonight wasn’t finished.
Allison woke to the smell of fresh coffee. Had she set the automatic timer on her coffee pot?She rolled over and opened her eyes. Dark wood ceiling beams greeted her. She frowned, momentarily disoriented. Where was she?
And then it all came rushing back…the death threat in the mail…her agreement to come out to the Berkshires with Connor despite her better judgment…their intimate dinner…the two of them tangling the sheets together.
She flushed. He’d certainly lived up to her fantasies and then some.
They’d woken up in the middle of the night, and they’d had at each other in a way that had been just a bit less mind-blowing than the first time.
More importantly, she knew that last night she’d seen a side of Connor that he rarely let anyone glimpse. She’d seen vulnerability when he’d talked about his father’s death and she’d realized his protective instincts ran deep and strong.
Then he’d made love to her tenderly and passionately.
Made love. Was that literally what it had been?
Her mind shied away from the question.
Certainly he desired her. She hugged the sheet to her as she thought about Connor’s demonstration of desire last night.
She had to admit their relationship had changed irrevocably.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs.
She groaned. Leave it to Connor not to give her a moment to freshen up and look presentable.
“Rise and shine, princess.”
He was dressed in a beat-up T-shirt and jeans and his hair still appeared damp from his shower. He looked positively yummy.
A smile played at the corners of his lips. He held out the steaming cup in his hand. “I brought your shot of caffeine. I was going to hold it under your nose to resuscitate you, but I see you’re awake.”
She sprang up in bed and held out her hands. “Bless you.”
He handed her the cup and then sat on the side of the bed. “Cream, no sugar.”
She sipped. “Mmm. Excellent. How did you guess?”
He shrugged nonchalantly. “There are a few things I’ve picked up about you over the years. One of them is how you like your coffee.”
“Part of your dossier on me?”
He looked at her enigmatically. “You could say that.”
“Hmm.” She lowered her eyes and sipped. “Thanks for bringing the coffee. It really wasn’t necessary.”
She again felt the same uncharacteristic shyness with him that she’d felt last night, before…before… As she felt herself start to blush, she yanked her mind back from that trail of thought.
“Actually, it was necessary,” he said matter-of-factly.
She quirked a brow, struggling for the casual, un-caring attitude that had been so easy to adopt where he was concerned—before last night.
“I’ll admit to a selfish desire to see how you looked lying in my bed this morning.”
She couldn’t resist asking, “And how do I look?”
“Like a woman who’s been thoroughly made love to.” His eyes were hot. “Just like I imagined.”
She felt herself heat. “You’re crazy.”
He nodded. “Yep, crazy for you. Though I have to admit jumping your bones last night was a good antidote for that. At least temporarily.”
Oh, boy. Somehow Connor’s new sexually tinged teasing was more dangerous than his old sarcastic tone.
“May need to inoculate myself every day though,” he mused, making a show of rubbing his chin in thought. “Strikes me as the kind of thing that wears off easily.”
She nearly choked on her coffee. Every day?
He looked amused as he caught her reaction. “Don’t worry, petunia. If last night was any measure, you’re more than up to the task. I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that we’d be dynamite in bed together, given how we’re used to ripping into each other.”
“Hmm,” she said, shrugging as if he’d just told her nothing more significant than what the weather was outside, “I guess I should be flattered.”
He stood up, grinned. “Get dressed before I’m tempted to give you another demonstration of how flattered you should be.”
Allison cupped her chin in her hand and stared out at the rain from her kitchen window. She knew she probably had a dreamy, dopey expression on her face but it had been a week since they’d gotten back from the Berkshires and the week had been close to idyllic.Her relationship with Connor had settled into a better routine, one tinged with tentative exploration. After Connor picked her up at the office, they usually cooked dinner together and then worked or watched a movie. She was pleasantly surprised to discover Connor’s skills in the kitchen extended to more than cooking pancakes and grilling.
“Necessity,” he’d said with a grin. “Single guy living alone either cooks or goes hungry. After a while, it gets boring eating food straight from a can.”
She’d made a face and he’d laughed out loud.
She’d also discovered that their taste in movies differed. He liked action-adventure flicks while she preferred romantic comedies, so they’d settled on legal dramas with a romantic subplot.
Their evenings had usually ended in her candlelit, floral-scented bedroom with its pointelle-blanket-covered brass bed. It had been amusing to watch Connor invade such a wildly feminine room and she’d laughed as he’d gingerly settled in.
Despite the threats looming over her head, the past week had left her with a feeling of contentment and sense of well-being she’d never experienced before.
She knew she was in danger of falling in love with Connor. Rather than feel alarm, however, she felt joyously happy.
There was no doubt that Connor wanted her. Her face heated as she recalled how many different ways he’d demonstrated that. And—as she’d once told her sister-in-law Elizabeth when she’d thought she’d been having trouble with Quentin—want was often the road to love.
If Connor didn’t love her yet, he nevertheless could come to realize he had deeper feelings for her. Especially if the future was anything like the past week.
She glanced up at the late-Saturday sky again. The rain hadn’t let up and Connor still hadn’t returned from his business meeting. She’d been expecting him an hour ago so they could run some errands, the most important of which was to pick up some more groceries.
She’d been planning all day for a candlelit dinner. Just the two of them, clinking wineglasses, tasting her pear salad, and then dining on a meal of pheasant with pecan stuffing, creamed spinach, and roasted tomatoes.
The salad was in the refrigerator, the ingredients for the creamed spinach ready to be combined on the stove top, and the pheasant and tomatoes prepared and ready to slide into the oven as soon as Connor got back.
She looked at her watch. Six-thirty. Where was he? His meeting with out-of-town clients must be running late.
She wondered whether she had time to run out before he got back. Most of the groceries she needed could wait for tomorrow, but she’d discovered an hour ago that she was a few ingredients short for the pie she’d been planning to make for dessert.
She glanced at her watch again and bit her lip. She could dash out to the supermarket and be back in no time. Connor wouldn’t even have to know.
Her mind made up, she grabbed a sheet of paper and scribbled a note just in case Connor got back before she did: “Out to the supermarket. Back soon.” She used tape to attach the note to the mirror by the front door, then grabbed her purse.
As she’d thought, it took her no time at all to get to the supermarket and through the check-out line. The rain meant the store was more empty than usual.
When she got outside again, the rain had stopped, but the overcast sky and fog made everything look dreary and dark.
She started across the parking lot to her car, juggling her two bags and purse.
Spotting her car, she noticed again that the new paint job—which had cost a mint—had fortunately covered up the graffiti that had been spray-painted several weeks ago.
Something looked strange however. Drawing closer, she realized the back of the car was tilting downward.
Darn. Had she gotten a flat?
Dropping her bags on the ground, she walked between her car and the one parked next to it and bent to inspect her back tire.
A clean slice through the rubber.
Her heart began to thud.
Someone had slashed her tire.
She heard a car coming toward her and automatically straightened up.
A gunshot sounded, followed quickly by another. She ducked just as the windshield of her car cracked and splintered.
Her mind raced frantically as she tried to figure a way out of the situation. Whoever had fired the bullets had sped past her, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t be turning his car around for another pass.