Midnight Man (Midnight #1)

No, he stood outside her ridiculous excuse for a door and rang the bell, like a normal human male waiting for a female. To go out. Out on a date.

He supposed that’s how you do it. Man waits for woman outside door. His dating experience was pretty limited. Usually when he wanted sex he’d go to an off-base bar and cast his net until someone bit. Sometimes it took five minutes, sometimes ten.

The women weren’t looking for hearts and flowers and he wasn’t looking to give it to them.

Suzanne Barron was an entirely different matter. Getting into her bed was going to require some finesse and some dusting off of his rusty social skills. He was going to have to make some polite non-business-related conversation, something he rarely had with civilians.

Why couldn’t he just fast forward to the good part? He shrugged his shoulders under the cashmere overcoat that was part of his businessman disguise, wishing they were already in bed, recognizing how unusual it was for him to be so impatient.

He’d once hidden behind a boulder in the Sandbox for four days and four nights without moving a muscle to get a shot at one of Abdul Rasheem’s lieutenants. This itchy feeling was unlike him.

He was going to have to get through this evening. And probably a few other evenings after this one. Asking her out to dinner—out on dates—was necessary. There had to be something between meeting her and having sex. He couldn’t just say, “Let’s go to bed.” It didn’t work that way, not with ladies.

Or so he presumed. He didn’t have much experience with the species. So here he was, locked into getting through an evening making conversation.

He didn’t want to make nice.

He didn’t want to have to give his opinion on how to decorate his new office. He just wanted to dump the whole problem in those pretty hands of hers and let her take care of it. And he sure as hell didn’t need her input into what security system the building needed. He was fine with that.

What he wanted was to skip dinner and go straight to bed. Feel those long, slender legs wrapped around his waist. Sink into her. She’d be hot and tight…

He sighed and shifted, jaws clenched. It was altogether likely that getting into her building was easier than getting into her bed.

The door swung open and there she was, Suzanne Barron, as of this morning his new landlady and just about the most desirable woman he’d ever seen, silhouetted in the frame, warm fragrant air from inside the building condensing in the cold night.

Damn! His stomach clenched. Did the whole freaking building smell like her?

She looked up at him, one foot in, one foot out, stunning and anxious, as if she could read his thoughts, which, please God, she couldn’t. Her long coat was open; revealing a pale pink blouse with pearl buttons opened enough to show the round swell of ivory breasts. His hands fisted.

“Hi.” She couldn’t read his mind but maybe some of his sexual energy was coming through because she looked a little apprehensive. Maybe he should have taken two cold showers.

“Good evening,” he rumbled in reply and she smiled, some of her tension easing.

Right response.

Good.

He could do this. He could. For a few hours at least.

She bent to carefully lock the door he had cracked in three minutes flat. She straightened and as she turned her head up toward him, perfumed strands of dark honey-blonde hair caught on the dark wool of his coat. He lifted them off carefully and they ran like silk through his hand. She watched him with wide gray eyes as if he was about to eat her up.

Nothing he’d like more. Just spread her out and dip in. Get her ready before mounting her…

He took her elbow and a deep breath. First things first. He had to feed her and strangle out some conversation before climbing on top of her.

It was going to be a long evening. The first of many long evenings.





“Thanks for ringing the bell and not picking the lock.” Suzanne looked up—way up—at the man walking beside her down the path to the front gate.

His mouth twisted and lifted in a half smile. “You’re welcome.”

“I’m sure you were tempted.”

“No. I’d made my point.”

He certainly had.

He was so close she could see the individual drops of rain in his black close-cropped hair. What a surprise when she’d opened the door a few minutes ago. This morning he’d looked dangerous and disreputable. She’d agreed to sign a lease only because he was an officer, if probably not a gentleman.

This evening she had no problem believing he ran a successful company. Wow, did he clean up nicely. He looked just as powerful as this morning, only clad in a fine wool suit and gray cashmere overcoat, he seemed…respectable. Like someone she could be going out to dinner with, without worrying he’d eat her up and spit out the bones.

He offered her his arm as they walked down the steps, stopping under the porch covering the gate. It was raining heavily now, a steady Portland rain, out of sullen low gray clouds.

John had produced a heavy oversized umbrella but waited a moment for the rain to abate a bit before walking out into the downpour. Suzanne glanced down. He wasn’t wearing combat boots like this morning, but he did have on heavy highly polished elegant shoes suitable for the rain pelting off the sidewalk.

Unlike her Rossetti pumps. She sighed. The pumps had been expensive and she was going to ruin them.

Never mind. She lifted her gaze and automatically scanned the street, as she always did.

Two blocks down and one block over was a trendy new gallery and three blocks the other way a fusion Asian restaurant was slated to open next week. The Pearl was coming up in the world.

But this particular stretch of Rose Street was dark and run-down. Suzanne often hesitated before making the plunge into the street toward her car and she never went out alone after dark.

She didn’t feel afraid now, though. Hand on John Huntington’s powerful arm, with him by her side, she felt absolutely no fear. None at all.

“Let’s go.” Holding the umbrella over her with his right hand, he placed his left arm around her waist and hurried them to his car.

Truck, more like it. Suzanne looked with dismay at the open door of the passenger side of the Yukon then up at him. From this angle and in the darkness all she could see was a large jaw.

She barely had time to contemplate the distance and the impossibility of climbing into it in her tight black skirt when John swung her up in his arms and placed her gently on the seat.

She was an adult woman and he had picked her up with no more effort than if she had been a child.

Again, she had to marvel at how quickly the man could move. She was still adjusting her coat when the driver’s door opened and closed quickly, letting in a swirl of cold air. He turned on the ignition.

“Where are we going?” she asked when they reached Brandon Avenue.

He cast a quicksilver glance at her. “Where you wanted.” Though he didn’t say the words aloud, his tone said “of course”.

Suzanne blinked. “Comme Chez Soi?”

He shrugged. “That’s right.”

She gave a half laugh. “You were able to get reservations at Comme Chez Soi on a Friday night?” There was a permanent two-week waiting list. A last-minute Friday night reservation was impossible.

They were moving into the downtown district and she could see his clean, hard profile more clearly. His face was hard, set. “I persuaded them to make room for two more, yeah.”

He’d persuaded…she caught her breath. He’d been armed. Had he pulled a gun on them?

Suzanne brought her fist to her mouth. “Oh my God, John, what did you do to them to get them to give you a table?”

He laughed, a rough low sound. “Not what you’re thinking, honey. I stopped by and gave the maitre d’ a note with a dead president on it.”

Happy the darkness disguised her pink cheeks, Suzanne looked blindly out the window.

‘Honey.’ He’d called her honey. It meant absolutely nothing of course. But her heart had taken a violent leap in her chest. She folded one hand over another and took deep breaths to calm herself down.

It was like being in a cave, just the two of them. A dark cave cut off from the rest of the world. Traffic was light and the sidewalks were deserted. The big machine rode silently through the streets, leaving an arc of water in its wake. The soft whir of the windshield wipers kept time with her heartbeat.

He drove fast but well. She felt utterly safe in a secure cocoon.

“It’s raining really hard,” she said finally. He hadn’t spoken a word in the last ten minutes. She had to learn to make conversation with this man, without her voice or her hands trembling. The weather seemed a safe topic.

“Par for the course here,” he grumbled. “Rains all the time.”

For a moment, she was charmed at the thought of big, bad John Huntington being disgruntled by some rain, as if he was made of spun sugar and would melt. “Well…” she teased gently. “Not all the time. There’s the odd sunny day. Or two. You’re not from around here, are you?”

She couldn’t place the accent in his deep voice. Not western, for sure.

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