Midnight Man (Midnight #1)

Midnight Man (Midnight #1)

Lisa Marie Rice



CHAPTER ONE


December 21st

Portland, Oregon



She’s scared of me, he thought.

Damn right.

Seven hours ago, he’d killed two men and wounded four others. Death and violence clung to him like a shroud. He was still wired from the kill, blood pumping.

Which might be why ever since crossing the threshold of Suzanne Barron’s office, he couldn’t think of anything but bedding the damned woman.

John Huntington eyed Suzanne Barron across her very stylish desk in her very stylish office. She was stylish herself—classy, elegant, stunningly beautiful. Smooth, creamy ivory skin, dark honey-blonde hair, gray eyes like a pool of still mountain water, watching him warily.

“So, Mr. Huntington, you didn’t say in your email exactly what your business is.”

The way she was looking at him, if he’d said “bear hunting and cannibalism” she just might believe him.

In the corporate world he was a wolf carefully dressed in the sheep’s clothing of pencil pushers—Brioni and Armani. It took a while to see the kind of man he was and some people never managed until it was too late.

But right now, just in from Mexico, he looked like the wolf he was. In black leather jacket, black turtleneck sweater, black jeans and combat boots, adrenaline still coursing through his system, he wasn’t anyone pretty Ms. Barron would or should want in her building. Especially since—he’d seen the signs—she lived alone.

She was already leery of him and she didn’t even know about the Sig-Sauer in the shoulder holster, the K-bar knife in the scabbard between his shoulder blades or the .22 in the ankle holster, otherwise she would have probably ordered him out of the building.

She watched him, anxiety clouding luminous eyes.

He was coming down off an adrenaline high. The consulting job teaching soft oil executives how to deal with a hard world had gone very bad very fast. A small army of Frente de la Libertad terrorists had come down from the hills and tried to kidnap the entire top management of Western Oil Corporation there on a junket.

Luckily he’d been on the spot and had routed them, taking down two tangos and wounding four. The rest had been mopped up by the local police.

John had been flown back up Stateside in the grateful CEO’s private Learjet, with a contract to provide security for Western Oil worldwide until the end of time and a $300,000 bonus check in his pocket, just in time for his appointment with the gorgeous Ms. Suzanne Barron.

Time to convince her that he wasn’t dangerous. He was, but not to her.

“I own and run my own company, Alpha Security International, Ms. Barron. I have an office just off Pioneer Square, but my company is expanding quickly and I need new premises. There’s plenty of space here.”

John looked around her office. He hadn’t been expecting anything like this. The ad in The Oregonian had simply stated the footage and the location, in the Pearl, a rough part of town slowly gentrifying. Outside was a wasteland. Walking through the front door of the two-story brick building had been like walking into a little slice of heaven.

And the four interconnected rooms she’d showed him—it was as if they’d been fashioned for him. Large, spacious, high ceilinged. The smell of new wood and old brick, so completely different from the modern crapola suite he’d rented in an expensive high rise off Pioneer Square.

Inside, the building felt like an exquisite jewel with its brass fittings, light hardwood floors and soft pastel furniture. She’d put up some discreet lights to mark the holiday season and the air was spiced with the evergreen boughs on the heavy mantelpiece and what smelled like oranges and cinnamon.

Harp music that sounded as if it was being beamed down directly from heaven played softly from hidden speakers.

He’d had an instant sense of homecoming, strange in a man who’d never had a home. His nerves, still jangled from the takedown, started calming. This was exactly what he’d been looking for, without knowing he was looking for it.

Add to that the cool, luscious blonde who’d met him at the door, offering her soft, slim hand. His body, already primed for battle, had immediately become primed for sex.

Hell, since when had he become so easily distractible? In the normal course of events, gunfire couldn’t distract him from a mission. Of course, gunfire wasn’t a wildly attractive blonde, but his mission here was to find a new office and now that he’d seen this place, he was determined to have it. And the landlady. But first, he had to get his hormones under control; otherwise he’d come up empty-handed on both counts.

Down boy, he ordered himself.

He must be pumping hormones into the air by the ton, because she was sitting way back in her chair in an unconscious attempt to put distance between them—the thought that a desk and some air could stop him if he really wanted to jump her was so ludicrous he wanted to snort—and her eyes were so wide he could see the milky whites around the pupils.

Time to get her to climb down from that emotional ledge and reassure her that he wouldn’t gobble her up.

Not yet anyway.

He studied the room, deliberately not looking at her. He kept his face bland, giving her time to study him, and heard her breathing start to slow down.

Pretending to study the room was a ploy but he soon found himself distracted by its beauty. He didn’t have the tools to analyze how she did it, but he could appreciate the end result. Stunning, soft pastel colors. Comfortable furniture that managed to be both modern and feminine. She’d kept the architectural details of the period—early Twenties he’d guess. Everything—every detail, every nook and cranny, every object—was gorgeous.

She’d had enough time to calm down so he turned back to her.

“Did you do the restoration work, Ms. Barron?”

The question relaxed her. She looked around, a smile curving soft pale pink lips. It was raining outside. The dim water-washed light coming in through the tall windows turned her skin the color of the mother of pearl bowl holding some kind of fragrant plant on the windowsill.

“Yes. I inherited the building from my grandparents. It used to be a shoe factory but the company went bankrupt twenty years ago and has stood empty ever since. I’m a designer and I decided to restore it myself instead of selling it.”

“You did a wonderful job.”

Her eyes rose to meet his. She stared at him and her breath came out in a little huff. “Thank you.”

She toyed for a moment with a pen, tapping it lightly against the highly polished surface of the desk. Realizing she was betraying nerves, she put it down again. Her hands were as lovely as the rest of her, slim and white. She had two expensive-looking rings on her right hand, no rings on the left.

Good. No other man had her and now that he’d spotted her, no other man was going to get her. Not until he’d finished with her and that was going to take a long, long time.

Her hands were trembling slightly.

Suzanne Barron might be one of the loveliest women he’d ever seen but reduced to essentials she was an animal—a human animal—and she could sense, probably smell, the danger in him, especially acute now.

He’d always had this effect on civilians. Well, he reminded himself, he was a civilian now, too. He wasn’t in the service anymore where he could be instantly recognized for what he was.

All his life he’d lived in a fraternity of like-minded men, friend or foe. Fellow warriors knew who he was and usually treaded lightly around him.

Civilians never knew how to cope, like lambs sensing a tiger had infiltrated the flock. Uneasy without knowing why.

Moving slowly so as not to alarm her, he reached across and handed her a folder. His hand briefly touched hers. It was like touching silk. Gray eyes widened at the touch and he withdrew.

She rested her hand on the cover sheet. A small furrow developed between curved ash eyebrows.

“What’s this, Mr. Huntington?”

“References, Ms. Barron. My CV, service record, credit rating from my bank, three letters of recommendation, and a list of the major clients of my company.” He smiled. “I’m honest, pay my taxes, I’m solvent and practice good hygiene.”

“I don’t doubt any of that, Mr. Huntington.“

A thin line appeared between her brows as she leafed through the folder. He kept still, moving only his lungs, a trick he’d learned on the battlefield.

“What do you mean by service—oh.” She looked up. Something moved in her eyes. “You’re a Commander. An officer in the Army.” He could see her relaxing faintly. An officer seemed safe to her. She couldn’t know what he’d done in the service; otherwise she sure as hell wouldn’t be relaxing.

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