Midnight Man (Midnight #1)

“Was an officer. My discharge papers are in there, too. And I was in the Navy.” He tried to keep the scorn out of his voice and barely restrained himself from snorting. Army indeed. Candy-ass soldiers, all of them. “It’s not the same thing.”

Her smile deepened. She was softening. Good. John was good at reading body language. The lease was a done deal. She relaxed as she read his service record.

The record mentioned some of his medals, enough to impress a civilian. The rest—for missions no one would ever know about—were in his shadowbox.

The list of clients didn’t hurt, either. He had more than a few Fortune 500 companies in there.

She now knew he wasn’t going to get drunk and disorderly. He wasn’t going to skip town without paying the rent. He wasn’t going to make off with her silver. Which was something, since she had a lot of it in here, mostly in the form of antique silver frames and a collection of tea services. Everything in his file said he was a sober highly respected citizen.

What the file didn’t mention was that before becoming an officer he’d been a trained sniper-scout, with a certified kill at 1,500 yards. That he knew forty-five different ways of killing a man with his bare hands. That he could blow up her building with what was under her kitchen sink, and that by this time tomorrow night he’d be in her bed, in her.

“Navy. Navy officer. Sorry. Should I call you Commander Huntington or Mister Huntington?”

“John would do nicely, ma’am. I’m retired.”

“John. I’m Suzanne.” A lull in the rain outside created a little oasis of quiet in the room.

All his senses were keen. He could hear the breath going in and out of her lungs, the slick sound of nylon as she recrossed her legs under the desk.

He had a view only of the delicate ankles but he knew they were attached to long, slender legs. He could just feel her thighs around his waist, calves hugging his hips…

“I beg your pardon?” She’d said something and he’d been so busy fantasizing getting her into bed he’d missed it.

John shifted, uncomfortably aware that it had been over six months since he’d last had sex. He’d just been too damned busy with getting his company up and running. Their gazes met and held.

“You’ll want to call the people on that list.” He kept his voice low, calm, unthreatening.

“I will, yes.” She drew in a deep breath. “Well, um…” She turned a ring nervously around her finger. “So. I guess—I guess you’ll be my new tenant. My first. You can do whatever you want in the rental. Though I’d rather you didn’t knock down any walls.”

“I could never in a million years do as good a job as you did decorating your office. I might just hire you to do mine.”

“Actually, um…” Her pale skin turned the most delicate, delightful pink. She reached behind her for a file. She opened it and turned it around so he could see it. “While designing this office, I fiddled with a few ideas for the rental. I used a different color scheme, made it more…” She looked up at him through thick lashes, “more masculine.” John moved his chair forward. His senses were so heightened that he could smell her skin. Some mixture of lotion and perfume and warm woman. She was blushing furiously now under his intense scrutiny.

John wrenched his gaze back to the drawings she had fanned out on the desktop, and then he focused in on what he was seeing.

Amazing.

“This is wonderful,” he breathed. He studied each sheet carefully. She’d used unusual tones—dark gray and cream and a funny blue—to create a sleek, modern environment. Practical, comfortable, refined. It was as if she had walked around inside his head to pull out exactly what he wanted without him knowing he wanted it. “Elegant, but understated. I really like the beige ceiling with the blue thingies.”

“Ecru.” She smiled.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I’m sure you have technical terms in your business, Commander Huntington—John. Just as I have them in mine. The colors are slate, ecru and teal, not gray, beige and blue. And the blue thingies are stencils.” She pushed the drawings across the desk to him. “Keep these. You’re welcome to them. And if you need any help in getting the furnishings, let me know. Nothing in my design is custom-made. You could buy everything immediately. I’d be happy to help. I get a professional discount at all the major retailers. ”

“That’s very generous of you. Would you be willing to design living quarters for me, too? For a fee, of course.”

She drew in a quick breath. “Living quarters? You want—you want to live here, too?”

“Mm. There’s plenty of space. Those three big back rooms would be more than enough for me. I keep odd hours in my business and I need to be close to the office. This would suit me fine. Now I want you to call some of the people on the list on page two.”

“I beg your pardon?” When she shifted in her chair, some floral scent wafted his way. His nostrils flared to take it in.

“I’ve provided five people as character references. Call them. Call them before we sign the lease. We can do that tomorrow.”

“I’m sure that won’t be necessary, Comm—John.”

“It’s absolutely necessary, Suzanne.” He looked around then brought his gaze back to her. “This is a beautiful space and you’ve done a great job renovating the building, but we’re in a rough neighborhood.”

It was one of the reasons he wanted his corporate headquarters here. He sometimes hired people who had looked wildly out of place in the prissy downtown building. Like Jacko, with his pierced nostrils and the tats.

“If you’re going to be alone in a building with a man, you need to know who he is and that you’re safe with him.” His eyes bored into hers. “You’ll be safe with me.”

But not from me, he thought.

“I guess you’re the expert.” She blew out a little breath.

“Yes, ma’am. You’ll call?”

Her eyes dropped to the paper. “Of course, if you want me to. You have an impressive list of references. Wait. Lieutenant Tyler Morrison, Portland Police Department. You know him?”

“Bud? Sure. He was in the Marines. We cross-trained together. Then he quit and became a cop. Call him. And one more thing before I sign. What’s your security system?”

“Security system? You mean like the alarm system? Let me check.” She opened a Filofax and started poring over the pages with a tapered, pink-tipped finger. “I don’t remember off-hand, but I know it was expensive. Ah, here we are. XOL Security. Do you know them? Oh, how stupid of me. Of course you do, security is your business.”

“I deal mainly in personal security, not building security, but I know them.” XOL Security was a crappy outfit. They’d have snowed her with fancy alarms and seven-digit codes and their equipment could have come out of a cereal box. No freakin’ way was he going to live and work in a building secured by XOL. He stood up. “I’d appreciate it if you were to secure the alarms after I leave.”

“I—okay.” She stood up too, looking puzzled, and walked around the desk. “If you really want me to. I tend to just have the door locked during the day because it’s so fussy putting on the alarm system then switching it off when I want to go out. So…I guess we have a deal?”

“You bet.”

He stuck out his hand. After a second’s hesitation, she offered hers. It was almost half the size of his, slim and fine-boned. He carefully applied a little pressure and ordered himself to let go. It was damned hard to do. What he wanted to do was pull her into his arms and take her down to the floor.

Some of that must have been coming through because her eyes widened in alarm. He stepped back.

“I’ll start moving my stuff in tomorrow. And I’ll definitely be taking you up on your offer to help me decorate. Of course I’d like to pay for the design of my office. I can see that a lot of work went into it.”

She waved that away. “No, don’t worry. I was just doodling. Consider the design a welcome present.” She turned into the hallway and he followed, trying not to ogle her backside and trying not to be obvious about smelling the air in her wake. His men said he had the sense of smell of a bloodhound. He could smell cigarette smoke on a man’s clothes a day after he’d smoked. Suzanne Barron’s smell nearly brought him to his knees.

Her scent was perfume, something light and floral, mixed in with an apple-scented shampoo, the smell of freshly washed clothing and some indefinable something that he just knew was her skin. Soon, very soon, he’d be smelling her skin close up. Just a matter of time.

The sooner the better. Christ, the view from the back was as enticing as the one from the front—sleek curves, dark-honey hair bouncing with every step she took.

He’d never seen a woman as curvy yet as delicately made as Suzanne Barron. Everything about her was dainty, fine-boned. He was going to have to be careful. No rough sex when he took her to bed. He’d have to enter her slowly, let her get used to him before…

She turned and smiled at him. “That’s all right, then.”

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