My cell phone beeps and I grab it, noting the text is from Amanda. She’s tried to call me three times in the five minutes since we sat down, but the reception in here is horrible and the call keeps dropping.

“Amanda again?” Chris asks.

I nod. “A text this time.” I hold my phone so that we can both read the message. A strange man is outside and he won’t leave. He’s sitting by the door. Ralph and I are afraid to go to our cars.

Chris reaches for his phone. “Tell her I’ll send Jacob over, but she should also call the police.”

“I could tell them here,” I suggest, watching as Chris types a message to Jacob.

David axes that idea. “These guys won’t be a help. It’s faster if she calls.”

I punch in Amanda’s number and get yet another broken signal message while Chris’s phone beeps with a text.

“It’s the room,” David says. “I find I can text but not talk. Step outside but be quick about it. They’re making us squirm for a few minutes, but they’ll be here anytime now.”

I push to my feet and Chris shackles my arm. “Don’t let anyone draw you into conversation. Tell them you can’t talk without David present.”

I nod and he releases me. Stepping outside the door, I enter a bullpen-like room that hums with voices and electronics, where about a dozen desks, some occupied and others not, fill the space. Random people mill around, some noticing me, most ignoring me.

Claiming one of the metal chairs lining the wall, I dial Amanda, who answers on the first ring, sounding breathless and urgent. “Sara.”

“Yes. Are you okay?”

“Yes. For now. I’m sorry to bug you, but Crystal is in some meeting and this guy is creeping us out. I was afraid to call the police and bring more media attention.”

“Chris is sending the head of security from our apartment building to you. His name is Jacob. Let him in when he gets there, but if you feel you’re in danger, call 9-1-1.”

“I’m not sure. He might just be a reporter. I don’t want to make a big deal out of nothing, but Ralph and I are both creeped out.”

“How long has he been there?”

“Not long after you left. ”

I don’t like how that sounds. “Don’t take any chances. Jacob is only five minutes away. Text me when he gets there so I know you’re okay.”

“I will. Thank you.”

I end the call and dial Jacob. “Please tell me you’re almost at the gallery,” I say when he answers.

“About a block away.”

“Good. They say this guy has been hanging by the door since we left.”

“I’ll handle it,” he assures me and when we end the call, I stand up, intending to return to the room. My skin prickles and a familiar surge of power I know can be from only one person washes over me. My gaze lifts and collides with the steely gray stare of Mark Compton. I am frozen, unable to move, unprepared to see him, though Crystal told me he was headed back here. But I am, and my blood is racing in reaction, my heart skipping random beats.

Another man in an expensive fitted suit, much like Mark’s gray one, steps to Mark’s side, his features ruggedly male, whereas Mark’s are of a classical male beauty. And where Mark’s classically clean-shaven and handsome, his short blond hair always neatly groomed, this man’s thick, black hair is long enough to be tied at his nape, and the stubble on his jawline is much heavier than a shadow.

The man says something to Mark, and I get the feeling the stranger is his attorney. Mark barely acknowledges what’s said to him, closing the distance between us with predatory grace: beautiful, powerful, impossible to ignore, and I am his prey.

I’m not immune to Mark’s certain flavor of power and masculinity, but being affected by his larger-than-life presence and wanting him are two different things. It’s a way Rebecca and I differed, and I can’t help remembering her words. He was magnificent. Really, truly the most gorgeous man I’ve ever known. Instant lust exploded inside me. I wanted to feel him close to me, to feel him touch me. To touch him.

She’d started out infatuated and then fell in love, and suddenly I’m angry with Mark for not seeing what he had with her, before he lost her. Even more for trying to push her away by involving Ava and Ryan, and possibly others, in their intimate moments.

I step forward, stopping when we are toe-to-toe, but he speaks before I do. “Ms. McMillan,” he says in that low baritone that’s both sultry suggestion and hard steel.

I lift my chin and meet his stare, and I see the barely masked heartache in the depths of those shrewd gray eyes. I see love lost, and my anger is ripped right out of my chest. “Mark,” I whisper, bleeding for him, with him. “It’s good to see you.” Without any conscious decision, I wrap my arms around him and press my cheek to his chest. He doesn’t hug me back but I don’t care. It kills me to realize that Rebecca finally taught Mark what it is to love, and she’ll never even know.

“Ms. McMillan,” he warns tersely. “Now is not the time for affection.”

I step back and put my hands to my hips. “Why don’t you return our phone calls?”

His expression is unreadable, the pain I’d seen minutes before carefully banked. “I’m certain you’re aware that I’ve had my hands full.”

The stranger joins us, his piercing blue eyes finding mine. “This is Tiger,” Mark says. “My attorney.”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Inside Out Romance
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