“You were protecting Liam. And the PI you’d hired to help find me had just been killed for asking the wrong questions about me. I’d have judged me, too, in that situation.”
“You did nothing wrong. I was wrong.”
“I did nothing for far too long. I was afraid to ask questions. Afraid of being killed. Afraid of being without resources. My list could go on and on.”
“You were eighteen when your family died and you were told to hide or die. Rollin and his people were powerful adversaries. Had you started digging for answers, you would have been captured and used as a weapon to get Chad to hand over the cylinder. You did the right thing.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. It’s done now and I’m here. Chad’s alive. We’re taking steps to be aware of any threats.” I lift a finger. “And,” I add, “Liam is in my life to be overprotective and bossy. Strike that. You and Liam are in my life to be overprotective and bossy.”
“I’m not bossy.”
“Oh please. You love to bark out orders.”
“Only when necessary.”
“Did you get that from the same book of answers that Liam quotes?”
The garage door buzzes with Liam’s arrival and I push off the cabinet, fighting the urge to rush to him and ask for details about Josh.
“Relax,” Tellar urges. “I’m sure it went fine.”
I nod. When door finally opens, Liam rounds the island in a light gray suit with a white shirt and silver tie, his expression unreadable, jaw set hard, power radiating off him. He stops beside me, casting Tellar a look that sends him toward the door.
Liam steps in front of me, his hands settling at my waist, his big body pinning me against the counter, his piercing blue eyes holding mine until the door shuts, then says, “Do you have any idea how much I want to tear your pants off, set you on the counter, and fuck you right now?”
Heat rushes over me at the bold words he favors, and apparently, I do too, since my nipples pucker beneath my bra and I have to force my voice to ask, “To celebrate, or to work off frustrations?”
His gaze drops to my mouth, lingering, then lifts to meet my eyes. “Because I want to.” He inhales, settling his hands on either side of me. “But if I do that, I’ll take you to bed afterward, and I won’t let you up. And as appealing as that is, you need a dress for that party tonight.”
“Does that mean things were good or bad with Josh?”
“It went well, which means we need to establish a reason to have more contact with him.”
“Define ‘went well.’ ”
“I gave him a partial list of keywords to monitor and he’s going to begin this afternoon.”
“What did you tell him about the cylinder?”
“I told him it was a clean energy source that would rock the economy. That’s all he needed to know.”
He laces my fingers with his. “Let’s go shopping.” He leads me toward the door while I replay Tellar’s words in my mind. Go bold or stay home. I’ve been conditioned by past circumstances to feel fear rising in my belly—but that was then, and this is now. I’m not staying home.
A FEW MINUTES later, Tellar pulls the Bentley into heavy afternoon traffic. “Where to?” he calls over his shoulder.
“Saks Fifth Ave,” Liam instructs him.
I blanch at the outrageously expensive store he’s chosen. “It’s the Saturday before Christmas,” I argue. “The midtown stores are going to be even worse than the streets. Let’s go to some smaller place I know.”
“You aren’t picking a dress based on the price tag,” he replies, seeing right through my argument. “We need to get you over your fear of spending money.”
“It’s not fear,” I say. “It’s . . . discomfort.”
“Then your discomfort.” He glances at his watch. “We have a good four hours we can practice.”
“You make four hours sound like a lot, but it’s not. Especially considering lunch. I wish we’d had a little more notice before this party.” I cut him a look. “Speaking of which, Josh said you hadn’t told me about the party. When did you know about it?”
“When did I not? He holds this thing annually, and like clockwork, he calls me every December first to insist I attend. Also like clockwork, I ignore him. This year I don’t have that luxury, but you can bet I’ll preach the merits of better use of our funds for the future.”
I smile inside at the way he includes me with the use of the word our and his fierce determination to avoid parties. “Do you already have a tux?”
“I own one,” he confirms.
“What kind of recluse are you?” I tease.
“The kind that’s always prepared.”
“And always in control,” I tease again.
“Always,” he confirms, his eyes meeting mine, and there is no mistaking the erotic challenge burning in their depths.
While I normally enjoy being overwhelmed by his total alpha sexiness, I’m feeling like a bird whose wings are no longer clipped, and I have the urge to test his claim. Right here. Right now. “Always?” I ask softly.
His eyes narrow, darken, and there is no question that he’s read between the intended lines. I hold my breath, certain I have tempted the wolf.
“I’m pulling up to the building to let you off while I park,” Tellar announces. “Unless you want to come with me while I park.”