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The only unpleasant sight was the group of guys at the pool table in the corner. Some
Latino, some white, they sported too many bald heads, muscle shirts, and tattoos for
Rogan’s liking as a cop—they just looked like trouble. And he knew he’d seen at least
a couple of them hanging with Martinez and Gonzalez here before.

That’s when his eyes fell on the lady in the navy blue suit. Damn, talk about out
of place. What on earth was some uptight professional chick doing here, dressed like
that, on a Friday night? Not like it was against the law or anything, but . . . well,
she just looked sort of silly. Not to mention far too stiff, even as she lifted a
sandwich to her heart-shaped lips.

That was when he realized she was pretty. Almost hard to notice given the way she
was dressed, and with her coppery red hair all pulled back tight in a bun like a librarian
would wear. But she had damn attractive lips, that was for sure—and as his eyes traveled
downward, he caught a glimpse of shapely legs ending in a pair of pumps that would
have been more sexy than professional if they weren’t the exact same shade of navy
as her tailored suit.
You should let your hair down, honey.
She just looked . . . buttoned up too tight. Didn’t she know this was the tropics?

Just then, his cell phone vibrated and he pulled it from his pocket to find a text
from Colt. They were getting together tomorrow night.

It was then that the shouting started.

Rogan looked up to see none other than Juan Gonzalez yelling at a tacky-looking white
woman—who happened to be sitting at the same table with the buttoned-up chick. He
hadn’t even noticed her before, too busy—for some insane reason—checking out the suit.
But now Gonzalez was saying, “What the hell you doin’ with
her
,
here
?” Though he barely deigned to toss a glance in the suit chick’s direction as he yanked
the woman up by her arm, toppling her chair in the process with a thud that would’ve
sounded louder in a room where there wasn’t already so much noise.

Rogan tensed, knowing that if things escalated, he’d have to get involved—but damn,
he really hated to blow his cover here. Even if he managed to defuse the situation
without flashing his badge, getting in Gonzalez’s face would mean he’d be remembered.
Which would mean he’d have no chance of accomplishing what he was here to do.

Now the woman, who seemed to be Gonzalez’s wife or girlfriend, was yelling back, jerking
her arm away, telling him to get his grimy hands off her. And—shit—that was when the
chick in the suit stood up. “I don’t know what’s going on here,” she said to him,
loud and clear enough to be heard above the din, “but I was in the neighborhood on
business and stopped in for something to eat when I ran into your wife. I have no
idea what you think was happening, but we were only saying hello. So what’s the problem?”

Oh hell—now Gonzalez turned to the suit. He towered over her, tall and lean, as he
stared her down, stepping up close enough that it made Rogan uncomfortable. Much more
uncomfortable, in fact, than when he’d grabbed the other woman, but Rogan didn’t know
why.

“The problem,” Gonzalez said, “is that I don’t like bitch lawyers talkin’ to my bitch
wife. Got it, bitch?”

Rogan couldn’t quite see the woman’s reaction—she faced slightly away from him—but
she didn’t cower or back down in any way. And when Gonzalez turned again to his wife
to begin yelling at her some more, commanding her to get her ass home, then going
so far as to give her a push in the direction of the door—the suit chick shoved her
way in between the two of them, saying, “Don’t you touch her or I’ll call the police!”

Great. Just great.

And when Juan Gonzalez put his hands on the suit chick—clamping down on her upper
arms—Rogan reacted, his instincts taking over. He bolted to his feet and began moving
in that direction.

Of course, now other men who’d caught wind of the scuffle were stepping forward to
help, too, but that didn’t stop Rogan. It was more a compulsion than a decision at
this point—he’d already mentally committed, driven to protect the out-of-place woman
in the suit. Even if she didn’t seem exactly helpless, still arguing with Gonzalez,
and the way Rogan saw it, just digging herself into still-deeper shit.

Rogan was the first person to reach them, and he quickly drew a conclusion on what
his best move would be, on all counts—he pulled back his fist and landed a hard right
to Juan Gonzalez’s jaw.

Clearly not as tough as he looked—and liked to act—Gonzalez dropped like a stone to
the floor of the Café Tropico.

But that didn’t even begin to quiet the situation. Now the dudes from the pool table
were looking over, dropping their cues as they decided to get involved—and, oh hell,
one of them
held on
to his cue stick, reminding Rogan of something he’d learned from bar brawls in younger
days: they made good weapons.

At the same time, the other mixed bag of men who’d been ready to come to the suit’s
rescue were still on the scene, a couple of them asking the tacky wife if she was
okay, others starting to catch wind of the scary-looking dudes headed their way—and
from the corner of his eye, Rogan realized one of them was Martinez.

Gut instinct:
Get out. Quick.
No one, including Gonzalez, had gotten a good look at him yet—his cover wasn’t blown.

His second gut instinct?
Take the buttoned-up chick with you.

He wasn’t sure where that part had come from—she seemed better able to defend herself
than Gonzalez’s wife, who he’d been happy to leave in other people’s care. Maybe it
was because she still looked so ridiculously misplaced; maybe he feared it would make
her the easy target of Martinez’s thugs. He wasn’t sure, but he didn’t stop to examine
it—he just found his hand clamped tight to one navy blue sleeve and the slender arm
underneath as he tugged her toward an out-of-the-way side entrance, at the same time
calling to Dennis’s niece behind the bar, “Might wanna call nine-one-one, honey.”

Upon leading the woman out into a narrow old alley, the south Florida balminess hit
him like a brick. They didn’t have weather like this in Michigan and he was still
getting used to it. Though large, open windows to the Café Tropico were but a stone’s
throw away, stucco walls surrounded them on both sides, and shutting the door behind
them reduced the ruckus to a low, steady racket.

Now that they were alone, the woman stared down at where he still held on to her,
then shifted her glaring gaze to his. Her eyes were blue. And her hair looked more
auburn than copper now. “Who are you and what on earth do you think you’re doing?”
she snapped. “Unhand me this instant.”

Rogan just blinked, not sure if he was amused or irritated. “Unhand you? Who
are
you? The fucking queen of England?”

She appeared aghast, her eyes widening. “How dare you drag me out of there like that!”

Rogan lowered his chin matter-of-factly. “Hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but
I saved your fish-out-of-water ass in there. Dragging you out was an act of mercy.”

Through the windows up the alley, sounds of the brawl inside—women shrieking, guys
yelling, things breaking—could be heard. And then the shrill but distant wail of a
siren sounded, putting Rogan’s mind at ease. The disturbance inside would be over
soon. Which meant he could resume concentrating on what was happening out
here
.

Namely that despite her belligerence—something he hadn’t expected—the woman in the
suit was even more attractive than he’d realized. He liked the warm shade of her hair
and the way it shone when light hit it, like moonlight on the water—and damn, he really
wanted to see it down now, falling around her face. Her eyes were bright, determined—even
if also combative at the moment. And her lips looked made to be kissed. And . . .
well, like they might be good for something else that came to mind, too. Only now
did he see how her suit hugged her body, highlighting the curves and making her look
far less frumpy than he’d originally thought. In fact, despite her attitude, the lady
lawyer was beginning to seem downright sexy to him.

“I need to get back in there, check on Kayla,” she told him, attempting to pull her
arm away.

He held firm. For more than one reason. His groin had begun to tighten. “She’s fine,
sweet cheeks. There are plenty of people looking after her by now. And she’s not the
same kind of target as you.”

She flinched within his grasp. “Sweet cheeks?”

A short laugh escaped him. “Sorry—I made an assumption.” That her ass was sweet, he
meant.

And when her face turned nearly as red as her hair, he knew she understood. Even if
he shouldn’t have said it. But something about her made it too easy, too tempting
to resist. Already he could feel how hard she worked at being prim and proper and
professional. And already he could sense something much more interesting bubbling
just beneath the surface.

Even as she blushed and went quiet, he took in more about her. A complexion too ivory
for a place like Miami. Long lashes that framed those eyes. They were a deep, dark
blue here in the alleyway beneath a dim bulb by the door, but he had a feeling that
in the sunlight they’d be electric.

Something dusky drew his gaze unwittingly down to find a tantalizing hint of cleavage
peeking from beneath a simple white silk blouse—enough delectable curve and shadow
that he knew a button had to have come undone somewhere between the moment she’d stood
up to face Juan Gonzalez and now. Like it or not, she wasn’t buttoned up so tight
anymore.

And eyes that had gone from angry to embarrassed now grew . . . more sultry. A soft
blush still burned on her cheeks, but that, too, now felt like something that was
more about a slow heat building between them than anything like embarrassment. Her
lips were slightly parted, making something in him needful, hungry.

He still hadn’t let go of her arm. But she’d quit asking him to. She’d quit pulling
away at all. He liked having hold of her. Despite himself, he liked knowing she couldn’t
really get away if he didn’t want her to. But just as much, he liked that she no longer
seemed so bent on fleeing.

Their gazes locked, held. In his peripheral vision, he took in the subtle shift of
her blouse, sensed her chest heave slightly. He let out a breath, aware of the desire
palpitating between them suddenly like a living, breathing thing.

That’s when her lips began to tremble, just a little. And a bit of fear snuck into
her eyes as she lifted her free hand to point toward the metal door they’d come through.
“I . . . um . . . she’s my client.” Her voice came softer than before.

“I got that,” he said deeply.

“But . . .” Now it was she who expelled a heavy breath, as if she’d been holding it
without quite meaning to. And she shook her head, her eyes dropping uncomfortably
toward his chest. “Lord—when she suggested meeting here I never dreamed it would be
someplace her husband hangs out. What was she thinking? She wants to divorce him,”
she added, seeming to feel the need to explain. Then she crushed her eyes shut for
just a second and spoke under her breath. “Damn it, I shouldn’t have told you that—it’s
none of your business.” She seemed to be talking nervously now, and he knew, even
more than before, that they both remained very aware of the fact that he still held
her arm in his grip.

And that was when Rogan stopped trying to hold back and gave in to the urges pulsing
through his body. Still clamping tightly to her wrist, he lifted his other hand to
firmly cup the back of her neck and leaned in to kiss her. There was nothing gentle
about it—and though he hadn’t weighed it, he supposed he hadn’t meant for there to
be. He wanted to kiss her hard, and even though he fully expected her resistance,
he wanted to make it difficult for her to fight the kiss, difficult to push him away
without giving herself a chance to sink into it.

And that’s exactly what happened. At first she shoved against his chest with her free
hand, trying futilely to withdraw, the back of her head retreating against his hand,
and a small squeal of protest left her. But he kept kissing her, hard, and as he moved
his mouth powerfully over her soft lips, he realized to his surprise that pretty soon
the palm against his chest relaxed and her mouth was meeting his with complete and
utter abandon.

A thick satisfaction poured warmly through his body as he stood kissing her in the
hot alley, keenly aware that the buttoned-up chick in the business suit wasn’t resisting
one little bit.

Chapter 2

A
pril could barely process what was happening. What was she doing? How had this happened?
Was she really kissing some big, dark-haired, broad-shouldered guy she’d barely exchanged
two words with? How on earth had she ended up in this alley with him? And dear God,
he’d manhandled her—was
still
manhandling her. She hated that. Didn’t she?

She’d tried to push him away, of course, but his grip had been too tight, and then,
then—at some point she’d just stopped. Stopped fighting, stopped struggling. She’d
just accepted. And enjoyed. She’d begun to relish the response of her mouth, and of
her body. She’d begun to lean closer, to rest her torso against his, to let her breasts
connect with his chest. One minute she’d been talking with Kayla Gonzalez and the
next she’d found herself lost in the most potent and unexpected pleasure of her life.

I don’t do this. I don’t kiss strange men.

And yet as his tongue pressed between her lips, she let it—and then she met it with
her own. She thought how strange it was to be doing something so intimate with a man
she didn’t know and was pretty sure she didn’t even like.

The next thing she knew, his hand was in her hair and he was pulling at the clip there,
yanking it free. Despite other noises that should have been louder, she heard hairpins
hit the concrete beneath her feet as her hair fell around her face. Or . . . maybe
she didn’t really hear them at all—maybe it was more like she felt them, falling,
leaving her, no longer holding things together the way they were supposed to. The
clip itself hit the ground, too, and the stranger’s fingers were running through her
hair now—he was using both hands. He’d finally let go of her wrist. Despite herself,
she missed the touch, felt a little too free.

You should stop this now. You should use this moment to do what you tried to do in
the first place and back away.

Only his kisses permeated her being far too much at this point. It was like the pleasure
was an oozing, spreading thing, seeping through her whole being. It had been a while
since she’d been kissed, and her lips hungered for what he was giving her even as
she suffered the sensation of somehow being almost consumed by him. No matter how
she sliced it, though, his kisses were too rough and delicious to pull back from.
Her loosened hair seemed to form a veil around their faces.

She didn’t know how long they kissed. Two minutes? Three? Five? Only that it seemed
to go on a long, satiating while.

And when finally he ended it, pulling back, she sucked in her breath, stunned. Stunned
that it was over. Stunned that it had happened at all. Stunned that she’d let it,
that she’d wanted it, that she hadn’t broken away the very moment it had been feasible.
For a while, everything else had ceased to exist, but now sights and sounds came back
to her—people arguing in the bar—though she could tell the police had arrived and
were getting things under control.

She felt adrift, bewildered, standing there in the alley. Like this couldn’t be real.
She simply couldn’t wrap her head around it—it was as if she’d become someone else.

As if he’d
made
her someone else.

That was why she followed one more simple impulse—the urge to pull back her hand and
slap him. She’d never slapped anyone in her life but was instantly proud of the effort;
it was a firm, well-landed slap across his face and the sound of it pleased her, making
her feel a little more back in control. Like she was used to.

For a brief second, the stranger appeared surprised, lifting his hand to his cheek.
But then he just laughed and said, “Little late for
that
, Ginger.”

She drew back slightly, as if he’d uttered a dirty word. “Ginger?”

“Like on
Gilligan’s Island
,” he said easily. “You remind me of her.”

She said nothing in response because she could think of nothing to say. Though she’d
only ever seen a little of the show, wasn’t Ginger some über-sexy, sensual movie-star
type? She simply stared at his chest, focusing on the dark T-shirt he wore—she’d learned
early on during this encounter that it was so much easier than looking him in the
eye. She wanted this to be over, wanted to be anywhere else. More to the point, she
wanted this to never have happened.

Even without allowing herself to lift her gaze, she sensed him looking her up and
down. And then she felt it, too. Like his eyes were touching her. Running smoothly
over her body from head to toe. Her breasts heaved slightly within the lace that held
them, leaving her shockingly aware of them and making her wonder if her nipples were
showing through her blouse and bra.

But wait—I have a jacket on, so it doesn’t matter. He can’t see that part of me.

And then she flinched, wondering why the hell that realization actually disappointed
her a little. Who
was
she? Who had she become with this man?

Casting a mischievous expression her way—oh damn, she’d accidentally glanced up at
his face—he said, “You look a little shaken up. Come on. Let me walk you to your car.”
And he motioned easily toward the alley’s exit onto Ocean Drive in the distance.

Yet April simply stood there, utterly astonished. He’d kissed her like that and now
they were just . . . done? No names, no discussing the kisses, nothing? Even if she’d
been contemplating her own escape, willing herself away from here only a few seconds
ago, somehow having
him
want to end it, and so easily, offended her.

But then . . . God, did she
want
to discuss this, to acknowledge it?

No, she’d been right in the first place, even if his nonchalance about it stung. It
would be much easier to just forget it and move on, easier to remember who she was.
Which was certainly not a woman who made out with strange men in dimly lit alleyways.

So she said, “I’m fine on my own,” pleased when the words came out sounding strong,
sure, like her usual sturdy self.

The man before her hesitated; then a twinkle lit his dark eyes. “That’s debatable,
but whatever you say. Have a nice night, Ginger.”

When he turned to go, she started to relax—but then, just as quickly, he spun back
to face her. And he lifted both hands to smoothly draw loose fabric together over
her chest. She glanced down, gasped softly. To see that a button had come loose. To
see his hands there. Despite herself, her breasts ached to be touched—she felt the
fabric tightening over them far more keenly than made sense. They both watched in
silence as he slowly took his time threading the button through the hole.

“Think this came undone,” he said deeply.

Then he turned and walked away.

* * *

A
pril sat in her office the next morning, feeling out of sorts. Partially because she’d
slept badly and had run late, then discovered the blouse she’d planned to wear had
a stain on it, and now she felt tacky for having decided to wear it anyway and just
keep her jacket buttoned all day.

Between clients, pro bono work, and family commitments, she had too much on her calendar
today, as usual. And that reminded her:
Don’t forget to schedule a few minutes with Ellen to talk about Kayla’s divorce and
whether it’s truly feasible for me to handle it.

And . . . then there was the guy who’d kissed her senseless last night. She couldn’t
believe she didn’t even know his name. And she still wasn’t quite sure how she’d let
something like that happen. It was so not her.

Maybe it’s because he was absolutely gorgeous.

She let out a sigh as the revelation whispered its way through her mind.
Okay, yes, he
was
gorgeous.
Probably six-two or six-three, hair black as the night, and an olive complexion shadowed
with the dark stubble that had ever so lightly abraded her face, adding still more
sensation to what had already been extremely potent kisses. He’d dressed simply, wearing
blue jeans and a black T-shirt that had stretched over broad shoulders and a well-muscled
chest. Add in his sturdy grip and she’d been left knowing just how strong he was.
In fact, she could still almost feel his hand on her arm, holding her like a vise
she’d had no chance of breaking free from.

Remembering that—that sense of being trapped, detained, against my will—should horrify
me.
But what actually horrified her at the moment was the realization that instead it
was making her panties a little wet. Good Lord, what was that about?
She had no idea, but she didn’t like it. It made no sense, no sense at all. And April
was a woman whose world made sense. It might be busy as hell, and stressful as hell,
but it always made sense—and she liked it that way.

Maybe it’s all just a reaction to being kissed like that.

After all, it had been a long time since she’d been kissed. Too long, some would say.

The last time she’d dated anyone seriously had been . . . well, years ago. She stopped
to do the math—she was thirty-three now and she’d broken up with Greg when she was
twenty-nine. Wow—okay, so it had been even longer than she’d actually thought. And
she’d dated a few guys briefly since then, but it hadn’t led to sex or even serious
kissing—certainly nothing like the kissing that had gone on in the alleyway outside
the Café Tropico last night. And it wasn’t that she couldn’t get a date—it was simply
that she had other priorities, and possibly also because she didn’t often put herself
in places that easily facilitated the meeting/dating thing. She was just too busy
doing the things she
had
to do—being there for the people who depended on her—and social time came after that.
Which meant usually not at all.

But she was okay with that. It wasn’t a big deal. She hoped to get married and have
children someday, and she figured that when she chose to start making that more of
a priority in her life, then it would happen. But she just wasn’t a romantic at heart,
and she also wasn’t a woman who needed sex all the time. She had enjoyed the sex she’d
had with the few guys she’d dated seriously over the years, but she didn’t feel deprived
without it. She just wasn’t that needy, in body or soul.

So maybe this weird occurrence—and her continuing reaction to it—was her body’s way
of telling her it did need a little more attention. Or maybe it was God’s way of telling
her she should get out and date more, lest she end up resorting to a heated make-out
session with a stranger in a dark alley. She rolled her eyes at the thought—but then
a weird little shiver snaked through her again at the memory.
Stop it.

Who was she talking to? Her body? Her brain? Or both?

Just then, her cell phone rang and she checked the screen to see it was her sister.
Pushing the button to answer, she said, “Hey Amber—what’s up?”

“I’m calling to see if you can come to a gallery opening with me tonight.” Her baby
sister sounded downright bubbly, barely able to keep the giddiness from her voice.

And April hated to be the bearer of bad news, but . . . “Well, I’m a little confused
on how
you
can go to a gallery opening tonight.”

That definitely staunched the bubbliness. “What do you mean?”

April just sighed. “Oh, Amber. You promised to go to Gram’s tonight to help her get
groceries. So that I could work late and maybe do something really selfish like buy
our
own
groceries.” Amber had moved in with April a couple of years back.

“Shit—I forgot. But now . . . oh, April, the most amazing thing happened! Because
it’s not just any opening I was inviting you to. I was going to surprise you, but . . .
it’s for me!”

April blinked her surprise in the solitude of her office. “For you?” A buzzing noise
drew her attention to the much larger phone on her desk, letting her know she had
a business call, but her mind was spinning at the moment, so that would have to wait.

“You know my friend who has connections to that gallery in Wynwood?” Amber began babbling
quickly. “Well, they’re having a big multi-artist show, opening tonight, and get this—one
of the artists had to cancel! And my friend got me in! Can you believe it? I actually
got a show, April! At a real gallery! In Wynwood!”

April just sat there, speechless. She was truly thrilled for Amber—she’d been selling
small tropical-themed paintings and stained glass pieces at the beach on weekends
for years, but she’d never had an outlet for her larger works of art. And a gallery
show . . . well, this was indeed huge. A bright, shining moment for her little sister.

She just wished she weren’t so tired. And busy. Even busier now, she supposed. “That’s . . .
amazing, Amber,” she finally said.

Now a little more tension weighted her sister’s voice. “Thanks. And . . . so, I’m
sorry to ask, but would you mind getting Gram’s groceries? And you can kill two birds
at once—just get ours while you’re there, too. That works out well, doesn’t it?”

Not really.
When you mixed frozen or refrigerated products with the Miami heat . . . well, it
would mean two entirely separate trips to the store. And it wasn’t like she could
just rush in and out at Gram’s anyway. She would need to spend a little time with
the woman who raised them. Amber needed to do that, too, and April would remind her
of that—soon. But not right now. “Sure, I can take care of it,” April said.

Amber flew into exuberant-little-girl mode. “Thank you, sissy! Thank you, thank you,
thank you!” Now that she thought about it, though, it seemed like Amber was
often
in that mode, even at the age of twenty-five and regardless of whether or not she
needed a favor. Oh well, that was just Amber.

“You owe me,” April said softly.

“I know. And . . . well, it
is
my first opening ever, so . . . do you think after you do the groceries you could
come by? Because it wouldn’t be right if you aren’t there, you know?”

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