She moaned and held his mouth to her skin with a hand on the back of his head, again rocking the apex of her thighs into him. He wanted to take her right there against the wall, he wanted that more than he’d ever wanted anything in his life. He sucked in a breath and reached for the hem of her T-shirt to rip it off when he heard someone clear their throat behind them.

Jade went stock-still, and Dell pulled his mouth away and rested his forehead against hers.

“Huh,” Adam said behind them. “The hand thing makes a lot more sense now.”

Jade tore free of Dell. Putting her hand to her lips, she stared up at Adam, her chest rising and falling like she’d just run a mile. “We—we were training.”

The corners of Adam’s mouth quirked as he rubbed his jaw, doing his best to hide his amusement. He failed. “Yeah? You could make a million bucks off a DVD of that kind of training.”

Dell gave him a shut-the-fuck-up look. Jade moved past them both and grabbed her purse.


“Sorry, it’s late. I didn’t realize how late. I’ve gotta go, I have a thing . . .”


But she was gone and two seconds later the front door shut somewhere above them.

“You are such an asshole,” Dell said to Adam, and shoved past him, heading for the stairs.

“Really? Because I’m not the one kissing my receptionist, the receptionist who’s clearly battling some demons.”

Dell turned around on the stairs and nearly plowed Adam over. Adam arched a brow, silent.

Dell blew out a breath. “You’re an asshole.”

“Repeating yourself. It’s the first sign of guilt, man.”

“She’s not just a receptionist. She’s . . .” More. She was much more to Belle Haven, and it was to his own shame that he’d only begun to realize it as she’d effortlessly taken over the dreaded bookkeeping with seamless ease, freeing up hours a day for him. “And I told you we were training tonight.”

“Yeah. You were training real hard.” He shook his head. “Do you have any idea what you’re doing?”

Dell shoved his hands in his hair. “Does it look like it?”

“You could hurt her.” Adam paused. “Don’t.”



“You really think I’d hurt her?”

Adam just looked at him.

Okay, so he didn’t have a good track record. Who did?

“Just slow down,” Adam suggested.

Slow down? He and Jade had been co-workers and friends for a year and a half already. She was leaving in a matter of weeks. How much slower could they go? He pushed free and took a shower and a drive, and look at that, he ended up at Jade’s place. As he got out, he knew that for once Adam’s radar was off. It wasn’t Jade in danger of getting hurt.

It was him.

An hour later Jade was on her couch. She’d checked her locks, engaged her alarm, fed Beans, and had her Oceans 11 DVD in and playing. Some people knitted when stressed out over things like kissing their boss. Some people ate potato chips.

Jade watched movies with Matt Damon in them. With the movie playing in the background, she was working her way through her things-to-do-in-her-spare-time spreadsheet. This meant she was painting her toenails, reading the stack of People magazines she hadn’t yet gotten to, and catching up online with her financial obligations.

All while trying to not think about the fact that she’d thrown herself at Dell.

Because she had.

Thrown herself.

With a remembered groan and a hot blush, she covered her cheeks and closed her eyes. “This is bad,” she whispered to Beans.


“I was hoping you’d disagree. Although . . .” She blew out a breath and leaned back. It’d felt good to have his hands on her. Really good. And his mouth.

God, his mouth.

It’d been too long for her, way too long. Her own doing, of course. For a long time after the attack, she hadn’t wanted to be touched. Even though she hadn’t been raped, she’d felt a disconnect from others and hadn’t wanted physical contact.

Seemed that was changing.

On the coffee table, her cell vibrated an incoming call.

“Darling,” her mother said. “You missed your weekly check-in, I was worried.”

When Jade had left Chicago, her family had threatened to come after her and drag her back. Lovingly, of course. They had only her best interests at heart, and she’d scared them.

She’d scared herself.

But she’d needed the space and the time, and they’d finally come to an agreement. She would call and check in once a week, and in return, they’d let her be. She called them every Wednesday evening. “American Idol isn’t over yet. I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“I don’t like the new judges,” her mother said. “You need anything?”

This was always the first question asked. Followed quickly by the second: “And are you okay?”

Jade shook her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m fine, Mom. Really.”

“You don’t sound it. You sound nasally. Are you sick? If you catch a late-night flight, we could have you taken care of by morning—”

“Not necessary. How’s Dad?”

Her mother sighed. “Okay, the same as always, I expect. Stubborn and working himself into the ground, of course. Which means he’s overworking himself running the show. And we all know that only speeds up the symptoms of his Parkinson’s.”

“He’s not listening to his doctors?”

“Your father? Hello, have you met him? He knows it all, remember? And we both know there was ever only one thing that kept him home, happy in the knowledge that he didn’t have to work every day, and that was you being in the office instead of him. Baby, you know I don’t want to rush you . . .”

Jade kept her unladylike snort to herself.

“But you’re really coming home?”

Jade closed her eyes. “Yes.”

“Have you given notice there then? At your little dog place?”

Jade rubbed her forehead and stared down at her toes. She’d done a damn good job with them if she said so herself, though they needed another coat. “It’s an animal center, Mom. We see all animals, not just dogs.”

“And you . . . enjoy it. Checking in dogs.”

“I know you don’t get it, but I’ve been very happy here.”

“In Idaho.”

In Jade’s mother’s opinion, the entire country consisted of three cities. Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. Anything in between belonged in some alternate universe, Idaho included.

“Idaho is very nice,” Jade said.

“So you’ve said. Why don’t I come visit?”

“No!” Jade lowered her voice with effort. “Like I said, I’m coming home.”

“Before November first.”


“I could help you pack.”

Aka call a moving company. “I don’t have much to pack.”

And she didn’t want any visitors here. So far she’d managed to avoid a family invasion by going home to Chicago on the occasional holiday. The last thing she wanted was for them to show up en masse and see her life here. Not that she was ashamed of it. She wasn’t at all. But neither was she ready to share this world she’d found for herself.

Still, her mother meant well and missed her, so Jade made nice for a few more minutes, then hung up, feeling the usual guilt wash over her. She put a second coat of nail polish on her toenails and didn’t think of Dell or how she’d nearly inhaled him whole.


And in any case, it was hardly her fault. He’d more than met her halfway, and good Lord Almighty, he was no slouch in the kissing department. She’d nearly gone up in flames for him right there on the mats. One more minute of his amazing mouth on hers and she’d have stripped off her own clothes to get his hands on her.

Except that Adam had shown up.


She was suspecting a conspiracy but really he’d done her a favor because she had no business starting anything with Dell.


They’d had all this time and hadn’t acted on their attraction. And now she was leaving. Getting involved with Dell was out of the question.

Not going to happen. And anyway, it’d been nothing but sheer hormones. That’s all. And pheromones. And good God, sheer testosterone, the stuff came off him in waves when she wrestled around with him on those damn mats.

“This is why normal people have regular sex,” she told Beans. “Keeps them sane. Sane by orgasms.”

Beans didn’t seem impressed by this kernel of knowledge.

“Okay, so I’m low on self-control,” she admitted. “Sue me. But it’s his fault—you should have seen him in those shorts, all hot and sweaty and . . .” Gorgeous. “Look, all I need to do is . . . not look at him.” Ever.

She’d have sworn that Beans rolled her eyes on that one before she leapt to the back of the couch and began to wash her face. “Oh, please. If you’d been standing in front of him, all hot and intent and protective and . . . hot, you’d have jumped him, too.”

Beans finished her face and went to work behind her ears.

Jade shook her head and set down the bottle of nail polish. She’d had a glass of wine, but she was still unnerved, quivering with tension and unused adrenaline. If Adam hadn’t interrupted them, what would she be doing right this very minute? She was picturing it when the knock came at the door; she jumped and knocked over the nail polish. She righted the bottle, attempted to keep her heart in her chest by pressing hard between her breasts, and did the duck walk to the door so that she didn’t smear her toes. She looked through the peephole, then went still.

Dell. He’d showered, put on jeans and a long-sleeved graphic henley that emphasized the chest and arms she’d had her hands all over earlier.

He looked . . . perfect.

She looked down at herself. She wore the oversized Harvard sweatshirt she’d pilfered from Sam years ago, Toy Story–themed pajama bottoms. At least she didn’t have on her donkey slippers; they were by the couch waiting for her toenails to dry.

Yeah, she was a catch.

When she opened the door, Dell wore a solemn expression—until he took in her pj’s.

At that, a small smile crossed his mouth.

She tried to remember if she’d put mascara back on after her shower. She hadn’t.

When it became clear she wasn’t going to invite him in, Dell simply stepped into her. And dammit if she didn’t back up, and then she was watching his very fine ass as it moved into her place.

He stood in the center of her living room and turned to face her. “We have unfinished business.”


They had unfinished business?

Assuming he meant their near physical miss, Jade hesitated.

With another small smile, Dell shook his head. “I meant your training. You left early.”

“Figured we were done.”

“Yeah. That got a little out of hand.” He paused, but she shook her head.

“If you’re going to try to apologize again, don’t.”

He just looked at her with those dark eyes, and she let out a breath. “Look,” she said. “We both know the truth is that I kissed you, so if anyone should be apologizing—”

“I’m not apologizing for the kiss.”

“Oh.” She blinked. “Then . . . ?”

Instead of answering, he sat on her couch in the same place she’d just vacated and took in the movie playing on the TV, the spread of fingernail polish, the half-eaten bowl of popcorn, the opened laptop.

Too late she realized what she had up on the screen.

He smiled, then laughed out loud, his amusement eradicating the lines of tension in his beautiful face. He leaned forward to read more.

“Hey,” she complained. “That’s private.” She moved toward him to shut the laptop, but he held her off, easily grabbing both her hands in one of his wrists and tugging her down beside him.

“Watch the freshly done toenails!”

He grinned and did just that, taking in the pale blue polish. “Pretty.” Then he went back to her screen, reading her things-to-do-in-her-spare-time spreadsheet:1. Organize junk drawer.

2. Clean hairbrushes.

3. Relax.

4. Don’t think about Dell.

Dell slid her a look but didn’t point out the obvious, that she wasn’t doing anything on her list.

“Cute pictures,” he said of the piglet and calf pictures on the other half of her screen. Both were close-ups of two adorably earnest but wary faces. “Friends of yours?”

She sighed. “Yes.” When he only looked at her, brows up, she shrugged. “I’ve adopted them from Adopt a Farm Animal.” She tugged her hands free of his and refilled her wineglass.

“You adopted a pig and a calf?”

“It’s the late-night commercials. They play sad music and show pictures of abused, neglected animals.”

His smile widened.

“They look right at you! Oliver, the calf—” She pointed at the picture. “He’d been abandoned and had nearly starved to death before he was rescued. And Miss Piggy was heading to the bacon factory. Now I write a check for fifteen bucks a month and they live happily ever after. What’s the big deal?”

“Christ, you’re cute.”

“I—” She narrowed her eyes at him. Cute? “You take that back.”