During their research, they’d found that swindler Chuck had an additional habit—he enjoyed trolling Internet hookup sites. Archer had gotten an email earlier from Elle that she was in on the job, so they’d set up a profile for bait. Chuck had taken that bait hook, line, and sinker, and was in fact expecting to meet “Candy Cunningham” tonight for a drink.
All Archer needed Elle to do was ID Chuck and then keep him busy while they took a look in the briefcase and copied his hard drive. The evidence wouldn’t be admissible in court but the insurance company didn’t want to take it that far and risk the public hearing about their humiliatingly heavy losses. They just wanted Hunt Investigations to confirm their suspicions before figuring out their next step.
Archer texted his team and waited as they began to file back in, fresh from showers, various forms of caffeine in one hand, breakfast in the other.
Max was head of the pack and since he’d been with his girlfriend, Rory, for two months now—a record for him—there was a definite pep to his step. He sat across the conference table from Archer with Carl, his Doberman, at his side. Carl was a huge asset to their team but at the moment all he had on his brain was the massive donut in his master’s hand.
Max shoved a huge bite of said donut into his mouth. “All set for tonight, boss,” he said to Archer. “We’ve got entrances and exits covered and Finn’s going to have all eyes on deck for us.”
Finn was the owner and bartender at O’Riley’s, the pub on the ground floor of the building where the distraction would take place. He also happened to be a close friend.
Archer didn’t usually bring work so close to his home base but he never took chances when it came to Elle.
She was a great asset when he needed a distraction because she had a way of making a man forget he had a brain. He’d been a victim of this himself, more than once. Thing was, too many times to count she’d managed to get him information that had closed a case for him, info he couldn’t have gotten without bloodshed.
She claimed to do these jobs because she loved the money. He knew that wasn’t strictly true. She did love money, in the way that only someone who’d grown up without any could. But he knew that wasn’t why she did it. Nope, she worked for him when he asked because she thought she owed him.
But the truth was, he owed her.
The rest of the guys got comfortable. Joe, who besides being his IT guy was also his right-hand man. Then there was Lucas, Trev, and Reyes. Their conference room was big, but so were they and the room seemed to shrink in their presence.
“Why do you smell like maple and bacon?” Joe asked Max.
“Because I’m eating a maple and bacon donut,” Max said.
Joe’s stomach growled loud enough to echo off the walls.
Max blew out a sigh and tossed him a white paper bag. “You gotta share with Carl though—I promised him some.”
Carl gave one sharp bark in agreement.
The rest of the guys protested, loudly.
“I want it.”
“Shit, man, I’ll even pay for it.”
But Joe held tight to the bag, fighting the others off. When he was in the clear, he pulled out the donut, broke off a corner, and tossed it to Carl, who caught it in midair with an audible snap of his huge jaws.
“Dude,” Max chided his dog, “you didn’t even taste that.”
Carl licked his massive chops but didn’t take his eyes off Joe, his new BFF.
Joe bit into the rest of the donut. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back and moaned.
“Maybe you need a moment alone with that thing,” Archer said dryly.
“Right?” Max said with a smile. “I wanna marry this donut and have its babies.”
This started an explicit, filthy conversation that had everyone laughing until Archer opened his laptop. Immediately all conversation and amusement faded away.
Time to get to work.
Thirty minutes before the night’s gig, Archer heard the outer door to his offices open and close and then soft voices.
His receptionist, Mollie, greeting someone.
A few seconds later he heard the soft click, click, click of heels heading his way.
Mollie wore heels. So did some of his clients. But he knew the sound of these. Even if there hadn’t been attitude in every single step he would’ve recognized Elle’s smooth, confident stride anywhere.
And if that didn’t clue him in, the fact that his dick stirred was a dead giveaway.
A text from Mollie came through announcing Elle’s arrival just as the woman herself knocked once on his door. She leaned against the wood, saying nothing.
She looked . . . heart-stopping. That was the thing about Elle, she was always one hundred percent put together. He’d had plenty of women in his life. He knew the effort that they put in and the mind-boggling time they took, so he had no idea how Elle did it day in and day out. But whether on the job or in her personal life, it didn’t matter, she dressed like a million bucks and she never had so much as a single strand of her shoulder length blonde hair out of place. In fact, there’d only been one time in the eleven years he’d known her when she hadn’t been on her game and she sure as hell wouldn’t thank him for the reminder of that long ago, fateful night.
Earlier this morning she’d been in a power-red suit dress that had screamed success, even at the crack of dawn. She’d changed into a killer little black dress, emphasis on little. Her heels defied gravity with sexy little straps around her ankles and bows at the back, and her expression said she ate men for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
She did a slow twirl and he stopped breathing as he slowly rose from his chair. “Holy shit, Elle.”
“I wasn’t going for holy shit. I was going for sophisticated sexy.”
“Copy that,” he said. “But you’re also one hundred percent holy shit. You’re also a walking heart attack and aneurism—an all-in-one special.”
“Good. I was worried that maybe I look a little bit too much like I belong on Post Street.”
He looked her over again, enjoying the view way too much. “Post Street’s looking good.”
She rolled her eyes. “You should check out the corner of Post and Kiss My Ass.”
He grinned and strolled over to her. She smelled like a million bucks, making him want to press his face into her hair, or better yet her neck so he could inhale her like she was his own maple and bacon donut. Instead, he handed her an earpiece. “Comms. We’ll all be connected. There’ll be constant eyes on you too. The guys are already in place. Our mark isn’t known to be dangerous or armed but—”