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Strip Search

Shayla Black - Author

Paperback | $16.00 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9780425268223 | 384 pages | 05 Nov 2013 | Berkley | 8.26 x 5.51in | 18 - AND UP
Summary of Strip Search Summary of Strip Search Reviews for Strip Search An Excerpt from Strip Search
The best way to go undercover…is to take it all off.

If the Feds want to nail a Mafia kingpin, they need a slick trap to catch him. Enter Mark Sullivan, who’s totally built for the job—to go undercover as a male stripper in the Vegas club where the mobster works. The perk? The club’s owner. Sure she’s got some unsavory connections, but how can anyone with those legs be all bad?

When it comes to business, Nicola DiStefano’s a pro. As for pleasure, she’s been out of commission too long to care. If anyone can strip her of her inhibitions it’s the new guy who’s stirring her wildest G-string fantasies. But Mark and Nicki have more in common than sizzling sexual chemistry. They each have their share of secrets and motives, and with the mob closing in, what gets exposed is as irresistible as it is dangerous.


Chapter One

HOW do you feel about spending every night surrounded by adoring women eager to worship your body?”

Mark Sullivan stared at his brother-in-law across the desk in the posh Manhattan office as if he’d lost his mind. “Is this a trick question?”

With a rueful smile, Rafe said, “I got a call from my pal Norton over at the FBI yesterday. He needs a little freelance work done.”

“Really? Is that regulation?”

“It’s a favor. I owe Norton for keeping my ass out of a sling while I was . . . bending the law to prevent you from doing ten to twenty in beautiful Leavenworth.”

“Then I owe him, too. Big time. But why don’t you want this? He asked for you, right?”

Rafe hesitated. “This is a little beyond my realm. You know my business is primarily electronic security. This case really needs a CPA, my man, and that’s you.”

“Okay. What’s up?”

“Norton wants to send in a civilian, someone who has fewer rules to follow, someone fresh. The FBI has an agent in this location already on a separate case but . . . they suspect something is up, that maybe the agent has gone rogue. They haven’t heard from this per- son in nearly three months.”

“Got a name?”

“Nope.” Rafe shook his head. “Norton wouldn’t spill it, just in case the agent is even deeper undercover or has temporarily stopped communicating because things are hot. In either event, watch for signs and steer clear.”

“Sure.” Mark grinned. “When do we get to the part with the adoring women?”

“Ha! I knew that would get your attention.” The smile slid off

Rafe’s face. “We’ll come back to that. Have a seat.”

Frowning, Mark stared at his sister’s husband and lowered himself into a black leather club chair. The jagged Manhattan sky- line jutted up into a gray sky, but the sight did nothing to distract him now. Why the secrecy? Why the formality?

“Okay, I’m sitting. What’s this about?”

“Here’s the deal: The Feds are chasing a Mafia connection. Money laundering. If they can figure out where the money is coming from and where it’s going, they hope it will net them a big fish.”

“Makes sense.” Mark shrugged. “So why are you looking at me like I’m a big game hunter and you’re about to tell me guns have been outlawed?”

“The tip came from your ex-wife, Mark. She finally gave up some information about her connection. With her trial starting soon, she’s looking for a plea bargain.”

Apparently she valued her plea bargain more than her neck. While he was glad she was finally cooperating, it didn’t surprise Mark that Tiffany failed to grasp the fact her freedom would be worth nothing if she was dead. Appreciation for lasting things had never been her strong suit. She’d certainly valued quick, easy money more than their marriage.

“So what did Tiffany say?” Mark finally asked.

“She didn’t have the guy’s name, just a description and the name of the place he worked at the time of their connection. She claims her contact told her he would gain control of the money pipeline this summer.”

“Okay.” Mark realized Rafe held a manila envelope in his hand and wore a reluctant expression. “What’s in the envelope?”

“Nothing, really,” Rafe said, looking away and tossing the brownish rectangular envelope on his desk. “Just some papers and . . . nothing.”

“Bullshit.” Mark stood and crossed the space in three long strides. “When I came to work with you, we agreed up front to complete honesty. Don’t go back on your word now, man.”

Rafe rolled his eyes. “Now I know why your sister can sniff out even the tiniest white lie. You trained her too well, damn it. I can’t even surprise her for Christmas, while she managed to blow me away with the announcement that she was pregnant.”

“Stop trying to sidetrack me. What’s in the envelope?” Mark said through gritted teeth, feeling his temperature rise.

Whatever it was, Rafe wanted to hide it bad. Since coming to work with his brother-in-law, they’d been nothing but even, equal. After a rocky introduction, they’d settled into a great working and familial relationship.

So this shit just pissed him off.

Rafe sighed and reached for the envelope. “Don’t look at this. It’s really unnecessary. What you need to know is, the guy we’re after is Caucasian, stands just at six feet, is somewhere between twenty- eight and thirty-five, has dark brown hair and brown eyes, no distinguishing tattoos or birthmarks.”

“Gee, that narrows the suspects down to ten percent of the male population. Hell, that could almost describe you. Let me see what’s in the envelope.”

Without further comment, Rafe sighed and handed Mark the packet.

First, he withdrew a piece of paper with a candid headshot taken out on the street during a cloudy day, along with small bio. “Blade Bocelli? This is the guy we’re after?”

“With the description Tiffany provided, I called a PI who owed me a favor. He narrowed the list of suspects down significantly. This is the most viable one. Bocelli is a mid-level thug, but he has a direct line to the upper echelons of the Gamalini Family, we think, through Pietro DiStefano. Bocelli’s brother was Mafia, but he went to prison a few years ago for murdering a federal judge. Anyway, it appears Blade Bocelli is the dude the Feds want to nail.”

“Great.” Nodding, Mark reached inside again and withdrew an eight-by-ten glossy photo.

The breath left his body in a single rush. Tiffany.

Mark stared at the picture of his ex-wife, taken during their marriage, as evidenced by the fact she was wearing the wedding ring he’d put on her finger one rainy November afternoon. She had her skirt hiked up to her hips, her black high heels spread wide and a dark-headed man standing between them, his pants loose about his hips. Black leather stretched across the man’s wide back and shoulders as he held Tiffany in place with a white-knuckled grip. In the heat of the moment, her red hair had fallen askew and her mouth opened wide.

“Son of a bitch,” he muttered.

“You didn’t need to see that, Mark. Seriously. I tried—”

“It’s not as if I didn’t know she cheated.” But it didn’t keep the sight of it from curling rage through his stomach. “Some computer tech head, the janitor at the bank, now this guy. That’s the least of her crimes, really.”

Tiffany didn’t have the power to hurt him now, nearly a year after their divorce. Shock, at times. Annoy, every time.

She’d only married him to frame him for embezzlement so that she could launder money for the Mafia and take her cut. A year ago, when he’d first learned the truth, it had devastated him. The knowledge he’d meant nothing to her beyond the means to a profit had flattened his heart. He’d loved her—or thought he had.

Today, she was just a stinging reminder of his failure to see her for what she was, his piss-poor ability to recognize what true love wasn’t, and his really, really bad taste in women.

“I’m sorry,” Rafe muttered. “Look, if this case is too personal . . .”

Too personal? Being humiliated and duped was personal. Catching the jerk who helped orchestrate his downfall—that sounded like a good time.

“No, I want it. If this Blade Bocelli is the scumbag who helped Tiffany on her way to prison”—while plowing his way between my ex-wife’s thighs—“and he’s laundering money, he deserves to do hard time.”

Rafe slapped him on the shoulder. “You’re a better man than me. If I saw a picture like that of my wife with another man, I’d dismember him slowly and painfully.”

“My ex-wife, thank you very much. Besides, you don’t have anything to worry about. My sister would never do that to you. She loved you, even when you were too stupid to know you reciprocated.”

“Point taken.” Rafe smiled. “So, want to hear your cover? This is the part where the adoring women come in.”

Mark tossed the offending picture of Tiffany and her Mafia thug lover onto Rafe’s desk. “Finally, a subject of great interest. Lay it on me.”

“You’re going to Las Vegas. Blade Bocelli appears to still be living and working at the same Vegas nightclub he started at last year, shortly after it opened.”

“What do we know about the club?”

“It’s called Girls’ Night Out. It’s actually a male strip joint. Hence the adoring women.”

Mark hesitated. “I’m going in as the accountant, right?”

Rafe’s cat-ate-the-canary smile warned him that something was deeply wrong. “The club is actively seeking dancers. I hope you don’t have two left feet.”

Mark stood. “Wipe that freakin’ smirk off your face. I’m not going in there as a male stripper and taking off my clothes so bored housewives can shove dollar bills down my G-string.”

“It’s our only in.”

Cursing a blue streak, Mark paced to the other side of the room and gazed absently over the midtown view. “I’m a hell of a lot better prepared to demonstrate karate than shake my booty. I’ve never done anything like that.”

“We have two weeks to prep. I’ve got a line on someone who’s ‘retired’ from the biz and can teach you what you need to know.” “But an exotic dancer? C’mon . . . be serious.”

“That’s the gig. You want to catch this guy or not?”

Mark stewed in silence, contemplating all the ways he’d make an idiot out of himself onstage wearing nothing but a scrap of cloth with a piece of string up his ass.

“Oh, and before you answer, let me introduce you to one of the major perks of the case,” Rafe said, cutting into his brooding.

Rafe reached into the packet again, this time to extract yet an- other photo. Only this one was of a woman in brief denim shorts and a red tank top, holding a pen and a few pieces of paper. Her head was turned toward one shoulder, facing whoever had been holding the camera, her expression looking slightly off-guard. Dark hair framed her face, drifted halfway down her back. Slanted blue eyes looked a bit wide and startled, while full lips parted in question.

Mark grabbed the photo and stared harder. She had a face beautiful enough to qualify as a starlet’s and a body tempting enough to belong to the Devil’s daughter. Immediately, his imagination turned unruly. He pictured himself parting her lips—with his tongue, with his cock. Her cleavage peeked out above her tank top, and his pants grew a tad too tight as he thought about peeling it off, holding her pert breasts in his hands, and kissing her nipples. Brown? Pink? Coral? Didn’t matter. He wanted her.

“I thought she might get your attention.” “Who is she?” Mark demanded.

“The club’s owner, famous New York party girl Nicola DiStefano, Pietro DiStefano’s niece and . . . your new boss.”

A smile crept across his face. “Seriously?”

“Before you start thinking about what a cushy assignment this is, there’s one catch: The Feds think it’s likely Nicki is in the dark about her club being used by Bocelli to launder money, probably for her uncle, a big-time Mafia man. But they don’t know for certain that she’s unaware, so she can’t know her place is being investigated.”

“No problem. I’ll maintain my cover.”

“Which reminds me, you’ll be going in as Mark Gabriel. I’m having a phony driver’s license and Social Security card made for you as we speak. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. You’ve got to get into her club’s books and study them. Find out what’s going on, see if there are any patterns, try to glean who might be behind it all. To do that, you’ll have to earn her trust.”

“Earn her trust. How?”

Rafe sent him a sly grin. “Be creative.”

Mark had ideas, juicy, salivating, lustful ones . . . though not deeply ethical. Being a guy, Rafe’s mind obviously ran in the same direction.

“C’mon. What are you suggesting I do, fuck it out of her?” “Whatever works.”

He rolled his eyes. “So while I’m working for her, I get her to trust me. Fine. I’ll find a way to get it done.”

“It’s still not that easy. The job isn’t just yours. You still have to . . . ah, audition.”

* * *

BRING in the next victim,” Nicki DiStefano called with a long- suffering sigh.

Within moments, her younger half sister Lucia appeared, thick auburn hair restrained in an elegant French twist and white librarian sweater perched on her shoulders. Nicki laughed as she stared down at herself. The black bra she hadn’t realized she was wearing was visible through her yellow tank top, and her diamond navel ring winked in the club’s dimmed lights.

“So how was the first audition?” Lucia asked.

Nicki pushed aside all thoughts of the ways she and her half sister were different and realized this was one thing they would agree on wholeheartedly.

She made a face at Lucia. “Blech! He’d been watching too many old Michael Jackson videos, I think.”

“Really?”

Lucia laughed, managing to sound so refined and mature, de- spite being a mere twenty-three, more than three years Nicki’s junior. Then again, earning a Ph.D. the same year she could legally drink, rather than learning intimately the inside of every nearby evening hot spot, did make Lucia more mature. Nicki had never finished college . . . but she’d sure known every nightclub worth knowing in New York. She grimaced at the realization and shoved the thought away.

“All the crotch grabbing . . .” Nicki said with a shudder. “I think he liked the self-touching for an audience way too much. Put a whole new meaning to the song ‘Beat It.’ ”

With a hand over her mouth, Lucia stifled another laugh. “Well, maybe your second candidate will be an improvement. He’s certainly very easy on the eyes.”

With that cryptic comment, Lucia disappeared. She might be a refined history professor, but that twinkle in her eye was pure mischief. Maybe her sister was being facetious.

“Bring him on,” Nicki called.

A moment later, the stage door creaked, then slammed shut. Dang it, she really needed to buy some WD-40 for that . . .

Oh. My. God.

Through the stage door and past the black curtain, her second audition entered the room. Nicki lost her breath—and the ability not to gape like an utter idiot.

Who was this Adonis dressed in a crisp white collared shirt and black leather pants? A glance at her list told Nicki that his name was Mark Gabriel. Such an innocuous few syllables to term the embodiment of every sexual fantasy she ever remembered having.

The room felt warm suddenly as he stepped onto the stage, under the dimmed lights, a worn leather backpack slung over one shoulder. Lord, he was huge—very tall, broad, bursting with muscle. Blond hair an amazing golden color hung past his collar. His eyes—green? Maybe darker?—pierced her as he nodded.

“Miss DiStefano.”

Wow, his deep, powerful voice alone was orgasm-inducing. Would he be offended if she told him she wanted to take Polaroids so she could fantasize about him the next time she spent a lonely morning with her battery-operated boyfriend? And could she get an MP3 of him saying her name, just for effect?

“C-call me Nicki.”

Was she actually stuttering? He hadn’t danced a step, and she was acting like a groupie. Most likely, he got that a lot.

“Nicki,” he returned smoothly.

Was it her imagination, or were her panties actually turning damp?

“And you’re Mark?” she managed to say in a somewhat even tone.

“Yes.”

Not a big talker, apparently. That was just as well. All she really wanted to do was look at him . . . fantasize about touching.

Wait! It’s an audition, not a grope fest, logic screeched. Wishing that logic would keep its nose out of her thoughts, she returned her full attention to Mr. Yummy-Enough-to-Drool-on.

“Ever done this sort of work before? I didn’t get a resume from you.”

“No.”

No explanation. No offer to get her a resume. Interesting . . . “Where are you from?”

“Florida.”

Which explained the gorgeous golden skin. “That’s a long way from Vegas.”

“Looking for a change of scenery.”

Nicki hesitated. Something in Mark’s face, a certain tenseness maybe, seemed to say it was far more complicated than having grown tired of looking at palm trees and beaches. But it really wasn’t any of her business. The man was here for a job. If she hired him and he did it well, then the rest, his past, whatever—it didn’t matter.

“Can you dance?”

He shrugged one massive shoulder, even as his lips—oh, how did she miss that scrumptious mouth earlier?—curled up in a smile. “I get by.”

Lord, he gave her the tingles. Why was she interrogating him? He could stand perfectly still and make them both a small fortune. A fortune she desperately needed, if she ever wanted financial in- dependence and freedom from the tight press of her uncle Pietro’s thumb.

Still, it wasn’t in her nature to take anything at face value, especially men, even if her hormones were doing the mambo.

“Can you flirt?” she asked. “This job requires it.”

As if she had challenged his very manhood, Mark set down his backpack, eased off the stage, and strode toward her table. He didn’t swagger—it would have been too cheesy on him. He . . . prowled, as if hunting someone. Her, by the look on his face.

And what a face it was. Square jaw, square chin, covered with a fine five o’clock shadow.

As he edged closer, Nicki realized his eyes were neither green nor brown. They were somewhere in between, like moss growing over rich earth. They were gorgeous, and she wondered if he was aware of her awestruck stare. Lord, bury her in a hole now if he was.

Mark sat on the edge of her table, leaned forward, and sent her an amused smile.

Dimples. Real, live dimples creasing each side of his face. On any other man, they might have looked girlish. On him, oh no. He looked all man. She’d died and found heaven.

“I can flirt, if I have to. I’d rather just talk to you. About you.”

It had to be a line, and she’d be stupid to be affected by it. Ignoring her speeding heartbeat, Nicki cocked her head and regarded him with what she hoped was a cool gaze. “That’s laying it on a tad thick.” He leaned in. “It’s being honest. I searched for you on Google before this meeting. You run with quite a crowd. What was it like hanging out with Paris Hilton at parties?”

“Relatively dateless. And once she got into home movies . . . well, then I really couldn’t compete,” she said flippantly.

“So all the men you met in the past were stupid?” “Excuse me?”

“To be more interested in a careless bimbo than you, they’ve got to be stupid. To run a business takes some guts, brains, and substance.”

A burst of pleasure flushed her body at his words. For years she’d wondered why men failed to see the qualities of a woman beyond her waistline, ass, or breasts. Maybe this guy did. And maybe he was blowing sunshine up her skirt. She couldn’t deny, however, that he was good.

“You have the most interesting eyes,” he murmured. “They’re so blue and exotic next to your beautiful olive skin.”

“My dad was both a typical Italian and a typical man. I got his skin. Everything else, I got from my mother. She was half Norwegian, half Chinese.”

“No kidding?” His smile widened. “That’s a unique combination.”

“My father liked possessing unique mistresses. She was a beautiful woman.”

“So is her daughter.”

Boy, he looked at her. Right at her. With those vivid hazel eyes, he stared, taking her in. She didn’t want to be affected by his praise or his gaze on her. It was stupid, unprofessional.

You don’t always get what you want, a pesky voice in her head reminded her.

“You going to dance for me, or you going to sit here and gab all day?”

“Whatever you want, boss.” He winked and turned away.

From his backpack, Mark extracted a CD and placed it in the portable player located stage left. Moments later, a rich, sexy techno rhythm filled the air. To the beat of the music, he strutted to the front edge of the stage, his expression mysterious, arrogant, as his gaze locked on to hers. For a man who stood about five inches over six feet, he moved with a slick grace, a smooth prowl. Generally, if a man was a good dancer, he was also good in—

Get your mind out of the gutter, girl. He’s here to audition, not light your fire!

Nicki knew she should be more jaded. She saw this kind of stuff all the time. Every night, in fact. But something about Mark made being impervious utterly impossible. She had no idea why he affected her more than any other hottie working here. But when a bump of his hips had her catching her breath, she couldn’t deny that he did.

A large hand raking through the pale sheen of his hair as he prowled closer had her heartbeat racing. The pure sex attitude and intent stare had her lamenting every last moment of her two years of celibacy.

But when he grabbed the edges of his shirt and ripped them wide, exposing a chest bulging with muscle and abs rippling with definition, Nicki pretty much lost her mind.

The white shirt hung loose on his wide shoulders, stark against his golden skin. Every muscle in his sleek torso bunched as he took a deep breath. His incredible pectorals tightened as he raised his hands from his sides.

They stopped at the waistband of his pants.

His gaze honed in on her again, rich with promise and knowledge. This man knew a thing or two about sin. His thumb glided down his fly, directly down the length of a bulge a blind woman couldn’t miss.

Nicki sucked in a breath and held it.

A reproachful half smile taunted her just before he yanked on his shirt, stripping it clean away from his body, exposing miles more muscle heaped on his beefy shoulders. A Celtic knot tattoo encircled one of the hard swells of his very healthy biceps. Even his thick forearms, lined with wide veins, attested to his strength and vitality. Holy cow, he looked like he could bench-press her Crossfire convertible.

He grabbed his shirt in his large fist and, with it, stroked his way down his chest, throwing his head back to expose the long, strong column of his throat.

Lying to herself was useless. She’d love to be the one to put ecstasy on his face. And thinking that about a prospective employee was about as smart as cranking her air-conditioning on and flinging her doors wide to the Vegas summer.

Mark fastened his hot gaze on her once more. He tossed his shirt away with a snap of his wrist and strutted closer, so close she could see a rivulet of sweat sliding down his corded neck. There was no doubt this time; her panties were definitely damp.

Wearing nothing but a naughty smile from the waist up, the Adonis look-alike gyrated his hips in a deep, lazy movement, demonstrating a sure rhythm to the music. The perfect rhythm, in fact, for—

Stop there, she told herself. For God’s sake, she was a grown woman who’d had her fair share of gorgeous men. What was her problem?

Besides not having had a flesh-and-blood man in so long her sexual skills had moved from rusty to corroded beyond salvage?

The notion that sex was like riding a bike seemed too easy, especially when confronted with a man who could probably win the bedroom Tour de France, blindfolded. Not that she’d ever know personally.

Suddenly, he turned away. Nicki’s eyes widened at the sight of his naked back and leather-clad ass. Views of his front and back were equally drool-inducing. No doubt, he got a woman both coming and going . . . and coming again.

Bad, bad girl.

She drew in a deep breath. Now would be a good time to get her head on straight, rather than mooning over an auditioning man like a thirteen-year-old with her latest Teen Beat magazine. Mark Gabriel was here to serve a purpose, potentially to make her money.

Business, her club’s future, financial independence—those were her priorities. Period.

But then he grabbed his leather pants at both sides and pulled. Suddenly, he wore a small black G-string that showed his taut, sculpted ass. And well . . . the future seemed really far away.

Aware that her mouth gaped open, Nicki closed it. Again, he swung his hips. The muscles in his legs and backside moved in fluid harmony. Every shift in his position showed off his rippling back to perfection.

Where had this guy come from, Hunks R Us?

Finally, he turned and faced her, arms swinging at his sides, as he and his taut belly undulated closer. Now she had to peer up at him, and the new angle had her wishing she had invested in a video camera. It also gave her a really up close and personal view of the fact he wasn’t small anywhere.

Resisting the urge to wipe her sweaty palms down her jeans, she sat on her hands instead, to restrain herself from the powerful temptation to touch. Her panties had gone beyond damp.

Mark smiled, as if he could read her mind.

He dropped to one knee in front of her on the raised stage, and they were nearly eye-level. His gaze seemed to say that he would love nothing more than to master her body, grant her every midnight fantasy. Everything below her waist wholeheartedly accepted.

The music throbbed around them, hot and insistent. He reached out. Toward her. Closer, closer, those long fingers and that broad palm came. He held a lock of hair that framed her face between his thumb and forefinger and slowly drew it through his grasp. Then he feathered his thumb along her jaw as he stared deep into her eyes, as if she was the most fascinating creature in the world.

Her heart all but stopped. Her skin tingled. Everything between her legs ached. She’d run out of adjectives to describe how amazing Mark Gabriel was—a first for her.

With a wink and a dimpled smile, he stood, swung his hips once more, and struck a bodybuilder’s pose that delineated every muscle of his mind-blowing body as the music stopped.

Nicki didn’t know whether to clap madly or run to the stage to attack him, ripping off her clothes as she went. Or send him away before she indulged in the latter.

Instead, she sat stunned, mute.

Mark uncurled from his pose. Casting her a quick glance as if to gauge her reaction, he casually gathered his clothes and music, then hopped off the stage. He stood right in front of her, glistening and gorgeous and—oh God—she could smell him now . . . pine forest, a hint of sweat, and a whole lotta man.

She exhaled and pasted on a smile. “Well done.”

The smile toying at the corners of his mouth displayed his amusement. “Thank you.”

He shifted right, directly into her line of vision, so that she was suddenly staring at his rigid six pack and ample . . . attributes. Hot tamales, he was temptation on two legs. It would be so easy to indulge her craving for a little afternoon delight and put an end to the lengthy celibacy that suddenly constricted like a spiked collar. His golden skin sliding over thick muscle just brought on fantasies of the power he could bring to bed, the—

“Nicki?”

Great, he’d caught her staring. Well, duh! She’d been as subtle as a dog panting after a whole pile of juicy bones. She glanced again at his . . . package and figured any analogy that contained the word “bone” was just a bad idea right now.

Clearing her throat, she stood and met his gaze. “Sorry. Zoned off for a minute. Remembering some things I left unfinished in my office.”

And if you buy that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you . . .

“I know you’re busy. Sorry if I kept you too long.” He shrugged into his shirt.

“It’s fine. Um, since all I have is a name, I’m going to need some contact information. I’ve got a few more auditions over the next few days, but I’ll call once I’ve made a decision.”

He gave her the number to his cell phone as he donned his pants. Thinking it was a shame to cover up such awe-inspiring scenery, she scribbled his number greedily. Gee, if she called him during a weak moment and lured him into great phone sex, would he know it was her?

“I’ve got caller ID. I don’t always answer the phone, but for you

I will.”

Nicki bit her lip to hold in a gasp. Had he read her mind?

No, he wants a job, you idiot. Focus!

“Address?” she asked.

He hesitated. “I just got into town yesterday, so I don’t really have one. Once I find a job, I’ll be looking for a place. For now, I’m staying at a motel.”

“No sweat. I’ll just . . . call.”

“I’ll look forward to it.” He extended his hand in her direction. Oh, goody, she was going to get to touch him. Even if he only offered her a handshake instead of an invitation to do the wild thing. Her belly knotting, she folded her much smaller hand in his. Lightning singed its way from her hand, up her arm, straight to her chest the instant he touched her. From the moment she’d set eyes on him, she’d known he had potent written all over him in big red letters. His handshake more than confirmed it. The knot in her stomach tightened . . . just like her nipples.

Lord, what would happen if the man kissed her, spontaneous combustion?

“Thanks for coming out.” She hoped her smile looked nice and impersonal, as if she were talking to her uncle or old Mr. Piedmont who bagged at the grocery store a few blocks away.

“My pleasure. And hopefully yours, too.” He winked.

Oh, yeah. If the gods were kind, he had no idea just how much.




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