With: Susan Stoker
Nothing is more important to Blake Anderson than the work he does with his brothers at Ace Security. At least that’s what he thinks until he meets the fiercely independent Alexis Grant. The security firm’s new intern pushes all his buttons—and makes his temperature rise. But giving in to temptation might be risky business.
Alexis can tell that Blake has his doubts about her ability to commit. But while most people look at her and see only a flighty rich girl, she knows he sees much more. Determined to prove herself to Blake, Alexis jumps at the chance to work undercover. And when her case takes a dangerous turn, she puts her trust—and her heart—in his hands.
Now, as Alexis digs into the deadly secrets of a local gang, Blake will lay everything on the line to protect the woman he’s come to love.
A couple of hours later, her burner phone vibrated. She’d gone back to her own computer after sitting next to Blake reviewing the schedule for thirty minutes. He’d smelled delicious that morning, and she would’ve sworn he was purposely torturing her by twirling a pen in his fingers, making the tendons and muscles in his forearm dance right in front of her eyes. She’d gotten wet, not able to pull her eyes from his arm for several moments.
Alexis had been following up on Google alerts for the Inca Boyz and several other cases when the phone vibrated. Her eyes immediately went to Blake’s for some reason. Reassurance? Comfort? Help?
“It’s okay, Alexis. We’ve gone over what you’re gonna say. Go ahead and answer it. Put it on speaker,” Blake said in a calm tone, pushing back from his chair to walk over to her. He put one hand on her upper back and gently rubbed, showing her that he was there and was supporting her. It was all she needed.
Nodding, Alexis took a deep breath. She could do this.
“Hello, this is Alexis,” she chirped happily into the speaker.
“Yo, this is Kelly,” the voice on the other end of the line said, her raspy voice echoing into the large room.
Blake’s hand pressed harder against her back, showing her his support. Nathan hadn’t moved, but he was looking over at her from his spot behind his desk.
“Hi! I was hoping I’d hear from you,” Alexis told her, wiping her sweaty hands on her jean-clad thighs.
“I talked to my friends, and they’re looking forward to meeting you,” Kelly told her without much enthusiasm.
“Goodie,” Alexis exclaimed. “Although something came up this weekend. My mom and dad are having some fancy party that I can’t get out of, so I can’t get to the bars. But I’m free for lunch. Wanna go somewhere and get something to eat? You’re welcome to bring one of your friends if you want. My treat.”
There was silence on the other end of the line for a beat, and Alexis hoped she hadn’t blown it. She’d done exactly what they’d all discussed, but for some reason it felt like the entire operation was all on her shoulders.
Until Blake shifted behind her, bending over and wrapping one arm around her chest and put his head next to hers, rubbing his rough cheek against her own. He’d never touched her in front of his brothers before. The kiss they’d shared last night was seared into her brain, and Alexis turned her head to look at the sexy man standing behind her chair, completely in her space, and shivered.
“I guess so,” Kelly whined. “Although I thought we were gonna drink together.”
“We will,” Alexis confirmed happily. “There’s nothing I like more than throwing back some shots and letting loose.” Her voice dropped to a sickly sweet, disappointed tone, “But not this weekend, darn it. But I’m happy to meet you for lunch. Where do you want to go?”
“You coming over here?”
Knowing Kelly meant her side of town, Alexis was quick to reassure her. “If you need me to.”
“The bar we like to go to serves lunch. We could do it there next week.”
Alexis swallowed hard. She’d thought Kelly would suggest a restaurant of some sort. She wasn’t sure how to answer.
Blake turned his head so his lips were at her ear as he whispered. The warm air of his breath tickled her ear, and goose bumps zipped down her arm as she once more grew wet between her legs at the delicious sensation. “Tell her that’s fine. There will be a lot less people around for lunch at a bar. You can give her an excuse about why you need to leave after an hour or so. I’ll keep you safe, Lex. Trust me.”
Without looking up at Blake, Alexis nodded. She was nervous to go to a bar in gang territory with Kelly, but going in the light of day would be easier than showing up at night, when it was sure to be more dangerous.
“Great idea,” Alexis gushed to Kelly. “I love bar food. When and what time?”
“How about ? Eleven?”
It was soon, but the more Alexis thought about it, the better she’d feel to get it over with. Having to wait a week would be torture, but it was better than going the next day. It would give them time to scope out the bar and the area and come up with a contingency plan just in case. It would also give the guys a chance to tell her what the hell she should be doing to stay safe. This so wasn’t in her comfort zone, but if she could have a hand in taking down the Inca Boyz, she’d do it. She looked up at Blake and raised her eyebrows in question. He, in turn, looked over at Logan. Alexis didn’t take her eyes off Blake, knowing Kelly was waiting for a response.
Blake got the okay from Logan, and his eyes came back to hers and he nodded.
Alexis licked her lips, liking the way Blake’s eyes dilated at her unconsciously sexy actions, and swallowed hard before answering Kelly. “Awesome! I wasn’t sure you’d be able to get together so soon. I can’t wait to hear all about what you’ve been doing since we graduated. I know it’s been a while, but I’ve missed hanging out with you, Kel. I want to hear about everything you’ve been up to and if you have kids and if you’re dating or married. It’ll be so fun.”
“Yeah, right. So, next week. Snake’s Bar. You know it?”
Once again, Alexis looked to Blake. He shrugged and his eyes went to Nathan this time. Alexis followed his gaze to see the other man typing quickly on the keyboard in front of him. He nodded and gave them a thumbs-up.
“I’m sure I can find it,” Alexis told Kelly. “This is so great. I’m so happy I ran into you.” It was getting harder to keep up the chirpy, happy voice, but she did her best.
“Later,” Kelly said decisively, and disconnected.
“Bye,” Alexis told the other woman unnecessarily, as she’d already hung up, and clicked the “Off” button on the phone.
“Snake’s is on Thirty-Fifth and Wabash,” Nathan told them. “It’s smack-dab in the middle of Inca Boyz territory, but at eleven on a not too much will be going on.”
“Right. She probably did that on purpose. They want to check Alexis out before getting their club too involved. Want to see if what Kelly says about her is true or not,” Logan guessed, heading back to his desk.
“You did good,” Blake told her, standing up but keeping his hand on her back. He’d propped himself up with his other hand on the desk top in front of her. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?” Alexis asked, her eyes glued to Blake’s arm right next to her. She could feel the warmth of his hand against her back, and she wanted to close her eyes and lean into his touch, but with Logan and Nathan there, she didn’t dare.
“You’re tense. Your fist is clenched and you’re gripping your thigh with your other hand. I know this is new to you, and you’ve got some bad memories when it comes to Kelly. You don’t have to do this, you know. We can stop it now, before this goes any further. It’ll be easy for you to tell her something came up and you can’t make it. Just say the word.”
Alexis looked up at Blake. She could see the sincerity in his eyes. There was no judgment in his face, just concern, which made her relax. He’d make sure nothing happened to her when she met with Kelly. “I’m good, Blake. Promise. I want to take them down as much as you guys do.”
Susan Stoker is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author whose series include Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes, SEAL of Protection, and Delta Force Heroes. Married to a retired Army noncommissioned officer, Stoker has lived all over the country—from Missouri to California to Colorado—and currently lives under the big skies of Texas. A true believer in happily ever after, Stoker enjoys writing novels in which romance turns to love. To learn more about the author and her work, visit her website, www.stokeraces.com, or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorsusa
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