Authors: Kimberly Dean
Delia clung to him like a life raft in a storm. Her need had been strong all night, but now it threatened to incinerate her. The heat was blinding. Her teeth scraped along his shoulder, and she held on for dear life. “What’s wrong with me? Why won’t it stop?”
“You’re in heat,” he growled. He thrust so hard and so fast, the headboard rattled against the wall. “I don’t care about the doctor’s diagnosis. You needed to mate.”
Mate. The word was enough to make her come. The orgasm slammed into her hard, and he wasn’t far behind. He thrust one more time, nearly sending the headboard through the wall into Mrs. Sneed’s apartment, and his body stiffened. He spurted into her for what seemed like forever before he sagged onto her.
They lay there together, his weight pressing her into the mattress as the urgency dissipated.
Delia went quiet.
Jackson Lloyd was her lover. The whole man. Every side of him.
Timidly, she ran her fingers down his spine. It was going to take some adjusting to, but he was still the same man he’d been in the darkness. Sexy. Bold. Caring. He’d be good to her. He’d be good for her. There was no reason to be nervous.
Other than the fact that he held her livelihood in his hands.
Her eyes widened. The day was already half over. “The bid!”
“Rob’s taking care of it,” he murmured tiredly. He nuzzled the side of her neck, and her cheeks flamed as he slowly disconnected their bodies.
The budget. That was probably the reason he’d come here in the first place. He’d needed clarification on something—the sensor quotes, her spreadsheet…
Her thoughts came to a screeching halt. Oh, God. Her spreadsheet. He’d found the error and had come here to fire her.
“Rob’s terrible with numbers!” She pushed at Jackson’s shoulders. “Let me up. I’ll go in and make sure everything’s ready. We’ve still got some time.”
He moved to her side so she could breathe more easily, but kept one leg thrown over her hips. His dark eyes were alert, but he seemed more curious than angry. “It’s ready. I cleaned up your spreadsheet last night and gave him the final numbers before I came here. Don’t worry about it.”
“But… I don’t understand. If you didn’t come here about the budget…”
“Are you asking me why I showed up at your apartment in the middle of the night?”
She nodded hesitantly.
He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “Twenty-two.”
Her eyebrows drew together. It wasn’t what she’d expected to hear. “What?”
“Twenty-two. I knew you were sick when I found that error. You never make mistakes like that.” His fingers brushed across her cheekbone, and the look on his face sobered. “That’s when I knew it was serious. I got over my jealousy real fast.”
“You were jealous?” she choked out. “About what?”
He actually looked embarrassed. “You caught me by surprise when you left work so suddenly, and when I saw Rob with his arm around you…”
“I knew you got the wrong impression!”
“What was I supposed to think when you two started sucking face on a public sidewalk? You want to talk about envy? That old green monster took a huge bite out of my ass.”
The kiss. Delia was horrified. She hadn’t known he was watching. She never would have let Rob kiss her if she’d known.
The realization made her come up short. She never would have let Rob touch her. A flirty little kiss or two was okay, but if he’d asked for anything more?
She would have been tempted, but Jackson was the one. They’d been gearing up for this for two months. It was he that made her feet stumble, her words clumsy, and her heart slam against her ribcage.
She looked at him in wonder. “I thought Rob was your best friend.”
“He is—the little prick. He staged that whole thing and thought it was funny, too.”
“He did what?”
For once, Jackson was the one who acted uncomfortable. He let out a long breath and ran his hand through his hair. “He knew how I felt about you,” he said quietly. “Hell, he’s known since the first day I interviewed you, and he’s been goading me to do something about it ever since. Yesterday, though, he kicked his plan into high gear.”
“But… I don’t understand.”
“Let’s just say we had a man-to-man talk when he got back to the office.”
“Oh, no.” Delia didn’t like the sound of that. “You two didn’t. I never meant to come between the two of you.”
“Relax. That pretty boy face of his is just fine.” Jackson reached out and began to toy with her hair. He seemed entranced with the way the red strands wrapped around his fingers. “You’ll find a receipt for a new trash can, though, when you get back to the office.”
Delia couldn’t help it. The thought of Jackson Lloyd losing his legendary control—and over her—made her feel all warm inside. It wasn’t the feverish heat she’d felt over the course of the night, but a warmth that went deep into her being and wouldn’t go away. She finally understood what that mischievous smile on Rob’s face had been about. “He told you to come check on me last night.”
“It’s the only thing that saved his puny butt. That, plus the fact that he kept his hands to himself.” Jackson glanced at her uncertainly. “Are you disappointed?”
She lifted her head and shyly kissed the mark her teeth had left on his shoulder. “No.”
He cupped the back of her head and held her look. “Somebody needed to take care of you—and it was going to be me.”
“I’m glad it was,” she murmured. Finding him in her bed had been a surprise, but it was turning out to be a good one. It was just going to take her a while to merge her night lover with her day boss. Still, knowing what she did about him… His power, his compassion, his mouth-watering body, his unblinking focus… Ooh, the possibilities were endless.
A thought occurred to her, one that had bothered her even in her delirium. “But how did you get in?”
He pulled back and looked at her with one eyebrow lifted. “The lock on your door needs a serious upgrade.”
“Oh, that’s right,” she said with embarrassment. He was a security expert.
“That’s it.” He pushed himself off of her and hovered above her on all fours. “It’s time to take you in for that check-up.”
Delia protested when he gathered her up in his arms and carried her to the bathroom. “You’re not still taking me to the doctor.”
He set her on her feet and turned on the shower. “The hell I’m not.”
For some reason, standing upright beside him totally naked brought back her shyness. She knew she was being silly, but she grabbed a towel from the rack and wrapped it around herself. “But… I’m better. I swear.”
He looked at the towel with a scowl on his face. “You had a rough night. I want to make sure you’re okay.”
She caught his arm, surprising herself when it felt natural to do so. “But Jackson… Dr. Mosely knows.”
“Knows what?” The hard look on his face softened. “That you’ve been horny as a mink?”
Her cheeks flamed, and she looked away. There was no ignoring him, though, when he caught her towel and tossed it aside. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close. Her breasts flattened against his chest, and Delia felt her heart thud when she looked up into his face.
Jackson Lloyd. Her lover.
He looked at her languidly, and she recognized the gleam in his eyes.
“So let old Doc be jealous,” he said. “I’m the one who got to play firefighter.”
Her breath caught when he lifted her and penetrated her in one smooth motion.
He groaned at the tight clasp of her body. “And, baby, I’m not giving up the job.”
He stepped under the spray of water and pushed her up against the shower wall. He looked deep into her eyes as water sluiced down their hot, sticky skin. “I want to fuck you again, Delia,” he whispered. “I want your eyes open and your mind clear, so you know exactly who’s doing you.”
Her fingers dug into his shoulders, and she brazenly swiveled her hips. She had a lot to learn about the man, but this was one side of him she knew well. “I thought you said ‘one time’.”
He laughed—yet another uncharacteristic reaction that she was going to have to get used to. She didn’t think it would be too hard.
“Your fever hadn’t broken then,” he said with a grin. He thrust slowly, and the grin slipped into a groan. “We’ll make it two.”
She locked her ankles around his back and arched into him. She could hardly believe it, but it was even better now that the heated fog had left her brain.
“Or maybe twenty-two,” she said breathlessly. “It depends on how you do the math.”
“Heads up! Check out Camera 1 in the lobby.”
“Whoa. Look at those legs.”
“And that hair.” The man behind the monitor sighed dramatically. “I’ve always had a thing for redheads. Wonder what room she’s in.”
,” Jackson said icily. He pushed himself away from the wall against which he’d been leaning, and the Berkshire security team suddenly became all-business. To make sure they stayed that way, he planted himself behind them and crossed his arms over his chest. “That camera’s slightly off-center. Try adjusting it five degrees to the right. I should be able to see both the front door and the main desk when it’s in stationary mode.”
Keyboard keys began clicking furiously, and the sound made him ease up a bit. The hotel team was doing one last training run on their new camera system. He had confidence it would live up to their expectations. He just felt it best to make sure none of these computer geeks eyed his woman too closely.
He stole another look for himself. Rob and Delia were now in center frame. Really, he couldn’t blame the security guys. Although they had an important job watching out for the safety of the hotel’s guests and employees, the routine could get monotonous. When a looker like Delia came onscreen, she was bound to draw attention.
He knew. He’d spotted her the moment she’d stepped inside the front door.
“Adjust the focus,” he instructed.
He’d been going crazy waiting for her. He’d spent the last three days working at the hotel to smooth out the inevitable kinks that always seemed to pop up whenever a project was supposed to finish. He didn’t mind the long days. It was the long nights that had nearly killed him.
He’d made the mistake of taking a room without her.
The two nights alone had been two nights too many. They hadn’t slept apart since her bout with that damned fever, and they wouldn’t ever again if he had anything to say about it.
He watched as Rob and Delia showed their identification to the front desk and obtained their temporary security passes. Delia said something to Rob, but he just waved her on. The cute concierge had captured his attention. Jack snorted. One of these days that boy was going to go down for the count, and when he did, he was going to fall hard.
Jackson knew how that felt.
“Keep running through the checklist,” he instructed the team. “I’ll be back.”
Trying not to act too anxious, he headed out of the secured room and down the empty hallway. This was the part of the hotel that guests never saw. The walls were stark white, the floors were concrete, and pipes ran exposed along the ceiling. It was in this secluded world that the heart of hotel operations beat. For clearance reasons, this would be Delia’s first visit.
He couldn’t wait to show her what they’d accomplished.
He waited impatiently for the elevator to arrive. When it did, it was well worth the wait. Delia stood inside looking fresh and gorgeous. God, she was a sight for sore eyes. “Hey, hot stuff,” he said gruffly.
She smiled at him softly. “Hi, boss.”
Suddenly, Jackson found it hard to breathe. He’d never grow immune to that intimate grin. It had taken him a long time to ease her into feeling comfortable around him. Coaxing her out of her shyness had had its upsides, but things were definitely better now.
She was his.
And he was hers, through and through.
“Get over here,” he said, catching her about the waist.
She flinched when he pounced so suddenly, but quickly softened against him. Jackson couldn’t help it. He’d had no idea how hard it would be to be away from her. The kiss he gave her was hot, deep, and raunchy, but she didn’t shy away. She felt the urgency, too.
“I missed you,” he growled against her lips.
* * * * *
The torment in Jackson’s voice made Delia want to melt.
“I missed you more,” she said. She truly had. She’d been aching for his touch for days. It had gotten so bad, she’d taken to wearing one of his shirts to bed. Two nights alone had seemed like forever. She didn’t ever want to go through that again. Feeling bold despite the cameras she knew were in this hallway, she swiveled her hips against him. “Can’t you tell?”
He groaned. “You should have stayed here with me.”
She nuzzled against his neck. “You were busy. We both were. Besides, I didn’t want to get in your way. You had a job to do.”
His hands bit into her waist. “You’re never in the way.”
She smiled at him. “Right. Just like you’re never in my way when you bring me receipts two weeks late.”
He looked pained, and she kissed his cheek. It was hard to remember back to when he’d intimidated her so. She patted her hands on his shoulders placatingly. There were people watching, she knew. “Now, what about that tour you promised me?”
With curiosity, she looked down the hallway. She’d wanted to see where he’d spent so much of his time. It was different than she’d expected. The glossy facade of hotels was all she’d even seen. “Is that really Command Central down there?”
Jackson looked over his shoulder down the barren hallway, and she could see the wheels turning in his head. She knew he’d gotten special permission for her to come up here. He’d liked it when she’d indicated interest in more than just than the number side of the business.
“We’ll do that later,” he said abruptly. Reaching behind her, he jabbed the up button for the elevator. “Right now, we need to go to my room.”
“Jack!” Delia gasped. The doors opened, and he started nudging her inside. She tripped over her heels and caught his shoulders as he backed her up against the wall. “What are you doing?”
“The security boys can wait.” His eyes took on a gleam that she recognized. “
She couldn’t either, but this was so unlike him. Where was his focus? His sense of responsibility? They had a job to finish. As much as she wanted to be with him, they needed to fulfill their obligations first.
Jackson seemed more interested in nibbling on her ear. She pushed at his shoulders. “We can’t run off like this,” she said, trying to convince herself as much as him. “You have to be there for the final walk through.”
He punched the button for the seventh floor with relish. “Berkshire hotel management signed off on the project an hour ago.”
Her jaw dropped in surprise. They’d signed off early? That was unheard of. “Are you saying we’re done? We’ve completed all our contractual work?”
“Done, completed, finished, crossed-off and double-checked.” He pulled back and looked at her with that penetrating gaze of his. “I wasn’t going to spend another night without you.”
“Oh, Jackson.” Her fingers bit into his broad shoulders. The project had been a major undertaking for the whole company. It had taken months, and they’d had more than a few set-backs. To hear that they were really and truly done stunned her.
It also made her a little uneasy.
His look didn’t waver. “This is a big milestone for us, Delia.”
“I know,” she said, her throat going tight. In a way, she’d tried not to think about it. They’d gotten together on the night before the bid, but now the project was over. “What happens next?”
“We celebrate,” he said, firmly squashing any doubts about their future.
The elevator doors opened, and he grabbed her hand. Delia followed happily as he led her through the maze of stark, utilitarian hallways. Just when she was completely turned around, he opened a door and they walked into another world. The lush surroundings of the guest portion of the hotel were disconcerting, but Jackson knew exactly where he was going.
“I figure two more days in this hotel room should take the edge off.” He stopped in front of Room 715, the room she’d called repeatedly just to hear the sound of his voice. He pulled her into his arms for another quick kiss. “Then I thought we’d go on vacation.”
“Vacation?” She blinked. She hadn’t been on vacation for years. Unemployment tended to do that to a gal.
“Anywhere you want to go. Hawaii, Florida, the Caribbean—somewhere I can get you into a bikini. Preferably with a thong.”
Delia couldn’t help it. She blushed. She’d asked him once if he thought her backside was shapely.
Jackson’s eyebrows drew together. “What’s the matter? Don’t you want to go away with me?”
“I do.” She moved closer and brazenly rubbed her hand against his crotch. “I was just thinking that somewhere with snow might be fun.”
He made a strangled sound and jabbed his key card at the door lock. It took him three tries before he got it open. “Stupid security,” he grumbled.
She nipped at his earlobe. “That security will be paying for my thong.”
“Good point.” He tugged her inside and slammed the door behind them. “Get out of those clothes.”
Delia laughed and reached for the tie at the side of her dress. She’d come prepared. She pulled on the belt, and the wrap-around dress gaped open to reveal the sexy lingerie she’d bought just for him.
He nearly went down on his knees before her. “Oh, baby.”
He grabbed her, and they tumbled onto the bed together. Delia moved underneath Jackson as his hands roamed eagerly. She’d missed the feel of his weight pressing her into the mattress. She’d missed the sound of his breaths as he slept beside her. She’d missed the breakfasts he made her.
She’d missed him.
“You feel warm,” he said as he undid the front closure of her bra. He cupped her breast, and she bit her lip in pleasure. Her nipple was already prodding the center of his palm.
“Are you feeling okay?” he asked abruptly. The look he shot her was concerned and suspicious at once.
Delia sighed. He looked over her like a mother hen. She couldn’t sneeze without him wanting to call Dr. Mosely. “I’m fine,” she said. “It’s ninety-two degrees outside. Of course, I’m hot.”
His lips slowly curled up in a sly smile. “You can say that again.”
She felt her heart flip. God, she loved this side of him. More and more, he was loosening up that rigid personality of his. Every day, he let her see inside him just a little bit more.
She cocked her head as she looked up at him. “Don’t you ever get sick?”
“Nah.” He watched as her nipple perked up under the coaxing of his thumb. “I’m too mean to get sick.”
She caught his face with both hands and made him look at her. “Don’t you want to?
, I mean?”
He finally got the message. She knew, because his entire body went rigid atop her.
He cleared his throat. “Well, now that you say something, it is getting awfully hot in here.”
She stroked her hands down his chest. His muscles were taut as steel. “Need me to take care of you?”
With a shuddering breath, he leaned his forehead against hers. “Hot stuff, I need all the TLC you’ve got.”