Read What Chris Wants Online

Authors: Lori Foster

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BOOK: What Chris Wants
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“Probably within the hour.”

“Oh…good.” Now what? He looked around, hoping for inspiration.

Priss saved him when she sidled up and said, “Come on in. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about some stuff anyway.”

Trace always looked like a thundercloud, but more so now with Priss’s announcement. “What stuff?”

Looping her arm through Matt’s, she told her husband, “I want to surprise Alani with the works. You know, top-to-toes polishing. New haircut and style. Maybe a deep conditioner. Manicure and pedicure in some fresh, trendy color. Maybe a facial, too, and makeup—”

Looking glazed over by the details, Trace interrupted her to say, “Sounds good. Have fun.” He and Dare went into the house together.

Snickering, Priss leaned into Matt. “They’re so easy. Talk about girl stuff and it’s all they can do not to yawn.”

Chris was the same, at least in that respect. He was so disinterested in the things that interested Matt.

God, he didn’t know what to think—especially when Priss steered him toward the yard instead of the house.

“Want to sit on the dock and talk?”

And avoid Trace and Dare? “Absolutely.”

As if she’d read his thoughts, she grinned. “You know they like you, right?”

“Yes, of course. The warmth is there in the narrow-eyed scrutiny of my every move.”

Priss hugged him close with a laugh. “Hey, they allow you in, and that says it all.” Still leaning into his side, she pulled out her phone and sent a message. “Molly will join us.”

With a distinct lack of enthusiasm, Matt said, “Yay.” What were the wives up to? Matt had the awful feeling that he was about to be grilled.

They were only halfway down the hill to the dock when Molly and both dogs came out. Tai and Sargie charged down the hill, circled them, ran back up to Molly, down again—and then to the dock, where they made perfect doggy dives into the water.

As they swam this way and that, going under the dock and around the boathouse, Matt laughed. “What are they doing?”

“Looking for Chris.” Priss slanted a look his way. “They love him.”

Matt firmed his mouth; he wasn’t about to comment on that. Not until he talked to Chris.

The dock rocked under their feet. Sunlight sparkled off the surface of the water in a dazzling display. So pretty and peaceful. He understood why Chris enjoyed it here so much.

Sitting down at the edge of the dock, Matt pulled off his shoes and peeled off his socks, setting them behind him. Priss came down so close to him she damn near sat in his lap, her shoulder to his, their elbows bumping as he rolled up his pants to midcalf.

Wearing shorts without shoes, Priss dropped her feet in, kicking lazily. Molly crowded in on his other side. She wore capris and smelled like sunshine, as if she’d already been outside for a while. Matt knew she sometimes took long walks while working on plots for her books.

The women sandwiched him in. He could feel the strength of their purpose, and finally, after cooling his feet off in the water, he said, “All right. Let me have it.”

Without preamble, Priss launched into speech.


“What’s up with
you and Chris? One minute you two look annoyed with each other, and then you spend the night.”

“But then you leave practically before the sun is up,” Molly interjected. “And Chris hides it well, but he’s not happy.”

Not happy? That was news to Matt. He said to Priss, “It’s none of your business,” and then to Molly, “He told me to leave.”

“Oh.” Molly leaned around him to look at Priss.

Priss shrugged.

They were both wonderful and he adored them, but he wouldn’t discuss with them the confusing particulars of his relationship with Chris.

Except maybe to say, “I had to get to work anyway.”

“Oh,” they said again.

Matt rolled his eyes. “I should have brought my trunks. It’s broiling out here today.”

“So take off your shirt,” Priss told him. “I would if I could.”

That made him laugh. If her husband heard that sentiment, it’d likely set him off—either making him jealous or causing him to carry her off so she could remove her shirt, and more. As Matt opened the buttons on his shirt, he teased her. “You like to give Trace heart palpitations, don’t you?”

“It doesn’t take much,” Molly said. “If she breathes, Trace goes on the alert.”

Priss smiled in satisfaction. “Look who’s talking. As if Dare is any different around you.”

In the most noticeable ways, the men were different. They had unique abilities, unique outlooks and an aura of danger that somehow suited them.

Matt folded his shirt and put it behind him with his shoes and socks. The sun on his bare shoulders felt good. A swim would feel even better. He eyed the water, considering it.

Priss gave him a playful shoulder bump. “Chris is a skinny-dipper.”

That didn’t surprise Matt, but it did give him an inspired visual. He could actually see Chris standing under the bright sunshine, no worries, no modesty, wearing only that cocky smile.

He didn’t dare look at either of the ladies. “Do tell.”

“You know he’s a nature buff. But the skinny-dipping was before we—” Priss waved a finger from Molly to herself and back again. “—came around. Now, with ladies underfoot, he stays proper.”

Chris, proper? That had to be a joke. The man wallowed in being improper—and Matt loved him for it. He could always count on Chris to be the cure to all things stuffy or boring.

As a verbal nudge to Priss, Molly added, “And speaking of Chris…”

“Right.” Priss inhaled, preparing for another launch.

Cutting her off with a laugh, Matt sprawled back on the dock and dropped a forearm over his eyes. “Listen to you two trying to be subtle, when you’re anything but.”

“I can be subtle,” Molly insisted.

“Not when you’re hanging out with Priss, you can’t.”

With a shrug in her voice, Priss said, “We love Chris. No reason to be subtle about that.”

Of course they loved Chris. Who didn’t? “So you want to know my intentions, is that it?”

Molly cleared her throat. “Something like that.”

“You two aren’t going to let this go?”

Priss laughed. “Nope.”

Apologetic, Molly echoed, “No.”

“Fine.” He didn’t bother to sit up. Truthfully, with the heat of the sun sinking into his bones, he didn’t feel like moving at all. “I’d be all in. But Chris is tied to this place, and this place is top secret.” He lifted the arm to squint at the women. “I know he’s Dare’s housekeeper, and apparently that’s more important to him than just about anything else.”

More important than a lasting relationship with Matt.

The truth hurt, so he covered his face again.

Silence reigned. He could hear the dogs climbing out onto the shore, the tweeting of a bird in a tree, the low buzzing of insects.

The air vibrated with growing tension, and when he felt breath on his face, he moved his arm to investigate.

Priss was right there, scowling at him. “Chris is far more than a housekeeper.”

At least her position looming over him blocked the bright sunlight. “How much more?”

The most ridiculous expression came over her face, making her look like she’d just been caught doing something she shouldn’t.

Slowly, she retreated.

Matt came up to his elbows.

Both Priss and Molly stole a glance at his chest and abs, and then stared at him with wary regard. “Is my fly open?” He looked down and found nothing amiss.

Suddenly the dock rocked and they all three turned to see…Chris.

So that’s why the dogs had given up swimming. He should have realized.

Chris wore unlaced sneakers and baggy shorts that looked like they’d been in the lake earlier and had dried in the sun. The logo on his T-shirt was so faded that Matt had no idea what it might once have been.

A light breeze ruffled Chris’s dark, messy hair and reflective sunglasses shielded his bright-blue eyes. Both dogs stuck close to him, one at either side of him. Given the lack of a smile, Chris wasn’t pleased with the visit.

Matt didn’t care. Still on one elbow, dismissing Molly and Priss from his mind, he said, “Hi.”

Chris took off the glasses, and Matt sort of wished that he hadn’t. Displeasure didn’t begin to cover it. Chris was

Molly scampered to her feet. “I, ah, think I’ll go help Dare with dinner.” She fled the scene.

Priss, ballsier than Molly, rose with less haste. She stared down at Matt, and said, “Consider yourself invited to dinner.”

Matt looked back at Chris. He still said nothing.

“Uh, sure. Thanks, hon.”

Still, she didn’t leave. “For the record, I did want to talk to you about Alani. With the baby and all, she’s due some pampering.”

“Consider it done.” Matt had a hard time keeping his gaze off Chris. “Just let me know when.”

“You’re a good friend, Matt.” She gave him a smile that all but reeked of pity. “Thank you.”

* * *

Few things got
to Chris. Being relaxed was as much a part of him as his blue eyes. He saw no point in getting riled, or causing a scene, or raging over things he couldn’t change. He adjusted to circumstances. He made the best of all situations.

Those traits contributed to his value as a personal assistant to Dare.

But right now… He worked his back teeth together while Matt watched him with guarded uncertainty.

And that infuriated him more than anything else.

He kicked off his shoes. “Fuck it.” On his way past Matt, he peeled out of his shirt and dropped it, with his sunglasses, wallet and cell phone, near Matt’s clothes. He made a clean dive into the refreshing water.

Both dogs immediately leaped in after him.

Matt did not.

Swimming out a ways, he blew off energy, then stroked through the water on his way back. He made a point of not looking, but still he knew that Matt remained right there, dressed only in crisp, rolled-up chinos, propped on his elbows beneath the blistering sun.

On Dare’s dock—where he shouldn’t have been.

Chris reached the ladder, and still didn’t know what to say or do. A shadow fell over him and he looked up.

Matt stared down at him, his expression somber. “Should I leave?”

Chris released the ladder and fell back into the water again. “You shouldn’t have come here in the first place. You weren’t invited this time. Not even by Priss.”

“Got it.” He started to go.

Chris cursed low. “Wait.”

Matt did—with his back to him.

“You’re already here, so you might as well swim.”

“I don’t have trunks with me.” He started off again.

Contradictory needs exploded. “
Damn it, don’t be a bitch

Sucking in a sharp breath, Matt froze, and then rounded on him. Eyes narrowed, shoulders bunched, he pointed at Chris, but he had no words. His mouth opened, but nothing came out.

And Chris couldn’t help it. The situation was so absurd that he snickered.

That pushed Matt over the edge and he jumped in. Laughing, Chris went under the water and came up several feet away. He saw Matt searching for him, all but steaming the water with his anger.

Chris splashed him.

Matt jerked around so fast he almost drowned himself.

“Take a breath,” Chris told him.

“Fuck you. It was a mistake to come here.”

Wading closer, Chris agreed. “It was. I explained that to you, remember? You can
just drop in. Ever.” He got within an arm’s length of Matt, and added, “But I’m sorry I overreacted. I shouldn’t have called you a…” He snickered again.

.” Matt slapped water into his face. “Forget it. You can’t even apologize without laughing at me!”

No, he hadn’t meant to hurt Matt’s feelings. Not ever. “I’m sorry.” Hand to his heart, still smiling, he said, “I swear. I wasn’t laughing at you. Truth is, I was laughing mostly at myself.”

Suspicious and unappeased, Matt kept his distance. “Why?”

“I never lose my cool.” Chris glanced up the hill, but for once it didn’t appear that anyone watched them. “I shouldn’t have lost it this time either. But I’m serious here, Matt. You can’t drop in unannounced.”

Matt considered that. “If I’d told you I wanted to visit, would you have invited me?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.” Sargie brought her floating ball to Chris and he tossed it. The dog swam away after it. Tai gave up on both men and climbed out onto the dock, where she shook hard, then stretched out in the sun.

Matt ignored the dogs. “That’s the problem. I can’t seem to stay away.” Their feet bumped when he got closer. “If you don’t want me around, say so. But make up your mind one way or the other.”

Chris disliked being put on the spot almost as much as he hated surprise visits that then had to be explained to Dare. “It’s not that easy.” Which actually meant,
It’s impossible

“It could be.” Slowly, Matt moved closer still until he had to put one hand on Chris’s shoulder to stay afloat. “I want it to be.”

And just that, a simple touch—on his
—made his thighs and abdomen tighten, weakening his resolve. Chris wasn’t a saint, and he wasn’t inexperienced. He’d known sexual chemistry before.

But never like this. Never this powerful or consuming.

Add that to the emotional punch, the intent way Matt looked at him, his gaze on Chris’s mouth, and damn, it was tempting to just forget all the precautions.

But he couldn’t. He might be blasé, but he wasn’t stupid or irresponsible. With regret, he said, “Don’t push, okay?”

In a rush, Matt again turned away. He’d reached the ladder and was halfway up when Chris grabbed for him.

He got hold of Matt’s pants—and now, with them wet and baggy, they…came down.

Matt screeched.

And damned if that didn’t get Chris laughing again.

Matt fell into the water, driven more by modesty than unsure footing, with a great splash.

When he surfaced, Chris grabbed him, kissed him hard—because damn it, not kissing him wasn’t an option—and he smiled. “You’re already here, so you might as well stay.”

It took Matt a second. “Not if I’m not wanted.”

“I never said that.”

Matt started to speak again, but paused instead. “I swear, Chris, you are the most fickle, bewildering—”

“Stay.” For good measure, he added, “I know Priss invited you, but…” He fought against himself—and lost. “Now I’m asking, too.”

“For the night?”

Ruefully, Chris shook his head. “Just for dinner this time. I have a ton of stuff to get done afterward. It’s going to be a late night for me.”

Matt considered it, his expression suspicious. “That’s not just an excuse?”

“I don’t make excuses.” But he was grateful for the reason to utilize common sense instead of dragging out the inevitable. “If I wanted you to go, I’d say so.”

“We’re going to have to talk about it sooner or later.”

“I know.” Chris pushed away to douse himself in the water. “But not now.”

Matt relented. “All right,” he said, but he added, with warning, “As long as you know, I won’t wait forever.”

* * *

Dare stood with Chris,
one hand flattened on the desktop as they looked over the file. “I need the background on the last five owners. Go back two, even five years if you have to. I need to pinpoint when the forced labor started there.”

“Got it.” Chris did some quick typing, organizing the details of the assignment.

“Do a check of the neighborhood, too. See if there’s been any uptick in crime.”

“Got it.” A little more typing and he set the papers to print.

Pacing beside them, coiled with tension, Trace said, “Sorry for the rush. This job came out of nowhere, and I’d do it myself, but I’m buried in research on that damned twisted cult.”

Chris sat back in his chair. “The seventeen-year-old, right?”

“Her parents have been insane with worry.” Trace unwound enough to rub the back of his neck. “God save me from misguided youth.”

“We looked at her parents, her home life and upbringing,” Dare told him, “making sure she didn’t have reason to book. Everything checked out at home.”

“Her boyfriend got her involved.” Trace started pacing again. “He’s a damned twenty-six-year-old plant.”

“Last count,” Dare said, “he had about a dozen girlfriends in the compound—a reward for bringing in recruits.”

“When are you moving on it?”

Dare folded the file. “Couple of days, tops.”

“Authorities will move in right after I’ve cleared out.” Trace’s eyes narrowed. “I want to get the kids out of there first, though.”

“Keep them from getting caught up in the media frenzy.”

“That’s about it.”

“No worries.” Chris pushed back his chair and collected the papers and file. “I’ve got this covered so you can concentrate on teaching that twenty-six-year-old bozo the error of his ways.”

Dare shook his head. “He’s a creep, but he’s small fries in the overall scheme of things.”

“The cult leader has support from local politicians.” Trace looked to be in a killing mood. “I think they use the compound as their own private playground.”

Chris whistled. “The politicians I researched a week ago?”

BOOK: What Chris Wants
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