And if he wasn’t married, that might be the swooniest thing I’ve ever seen.
“It’s nice tonight,” I comment as we walk across campus and into the nearby neighborhood where my apartment is. “It’s warming up.”
“It is,” he agrees. “Summer will be here before we know it.”
“This is me.” I gesture to my building and take my bag from him. “I’ll be fine from here.”
“I’d like to walk you in,” he replies seriously. I glance up to see his mouth firm.
“I want to make sure your place is empty.”
I roll my eyes. “Look, I understand that young girls are being killed, and it’s heartbreaking and horrific, but I hardly think that the killer is waiting for me in my apartment.”
“Lila.” He stops me on the sidewalk and takes my shoulders in his hands, his hot gaze on mine. “There are things happening with this investigation that I can’t tell you about. I need you to trust me. I need you to cooperate with me.”
“Okay.” I back out of his touch, making him frown. “But your wife might have an issue with you coming into my apartment. Especially after last summer.”
I turn to walk ahead of him, but he pulls me to a stop again, and this time he looks… angry.
And maybe a little confused.
“I’m not married.”
I blink, but before I can speak, he continues.
“Did you think that because I mentioned Casey this morning that I’m married?”
“I’m a single dad.” And with that he turns and walks ahead of me.
“It’s fine.” But then he stops again and scowls at me. “No, it’s not fine. Do you seriously think that I’d fuck you the way I did last summer if I were married?”
“I don’t know you.” I’m surprisingly calm now that I know that he’s not married. “It’s not like we’ve actually had conversations about ourselves.”
“Well, let me make myself perfectly clear; I’m not a cheater. Casey’s mom is gone. I’m not married. I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Okay.” I nod as he steps a little closer. He drags his fingertips down my cheek, but doesn’t kiss me. He’s really good at the sexy, get really close and make me want it thing.
And he’s single.
“Let’s get you inside,” he whispers and kisses my forehead, sending electricity from my head to my feet, then takes my hand and leads me to my door. “Stay here.”
“Stay here,” he repeats, and waits for me to unlock the door before he walks in, leaving me on my doorstep.
This is ridiculous.
I step inside and shut the door, toss my purse and keys on the nearby table, and lay my computer bag on the dining room table.
“So help me God, Delila, if you don’t start listening to me, I’ll spank your ass.”
I twirl at his angry voice, my jaw dropped. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me.”
“One: how do you know my full name?”
“I’m leading this investigation. I know more about you than you’re probably comfortable with.”
Well, that fucking sucks.
“Two: try to spank my ass and I’ll knock you on yours.”
His lips twitch. “Good girl.”
“You’re an arrogant ass.”
“I’m not arrogant, I’m doing my best to keep you safe.” He advances on me and pins me against the door, his hands flat on the wood, on either side of my head, his mouth inches from mine, stealing the breath from my lungs. “Nothing is going to happen to you, Lila.”
“I’m safe, Asher.”
“Yes, you are. I’m making sure of it.” Just when I expect him to kiss the ever-loving hell out of me, he gently cups my face in his hands, his thumbs trace circles on my cheeks, and he lowers his face to mine. He nibbles the corner of my mouth sweetly. “I’ve dreamed of this mouth,” he whispers.
My hands find their way to his ribcage, bunching his T-shirt in my fists.
Jesus, I want to fucking climb him.
“The chemistry between us is crazy,” I reply.
“I know.” He swallows hard and kisses down my jaw to my ear. “You’re so damn beautiful, Delila.”
“I hate my name,” I whisper.
“Because it’s an old lady name.”
“I love your name.”
God, he’s intoxicating me. I’m numb from the pleasure, and yet, I’m more sensitive than I’ve ever been.
And that doesn’t make any sense.
None of this makes any sense.
“I want to spend tomorrow with you.”
I open my eyes to find his on me, narrowed just a little. His hand has drifted down my side to my hip, but he’s still holding the other side of my face in his strong hand.
“To protect me?” I ask.
“That’s only part of it.” He kisses me chastely. “I want to be with you. Do you have tomorrow off for the holiday?”
“Yes.” I give a little nod. “Okay.”
“Okay.” He kisses me one more time, bites my lower lip, then takes a deep breath and leans his forehead on my shoulder. “I have to go. Lock this door and stay smart, Lila. I’ll be back in the morning.”
“Oh, and I’ll have Casey with me.” He winks. “You’ll like her.”
Is okay all I know how to say?
I watch as he leaves, lock the door behind him, and take a deep, cleansing breath. Dear sweet Jesus, that man is potent. And he’s a good guy.
A good guy with a kid.
The thought would normally scare me, but I feel a smile spread across my face at the thought of watching him with a little girl. Does she have him wrapped around her finger? How is he with her?
I’m suddenly looking forward to tomorrow.
“Is Lila your girlfriend?” Casey asks as we drive from our townhouse to Lila’s apartment. I grin at her in the rearview.
“No. She’s a friend.” How do I explain to my daughter that Lila is so much more than a friend, but not my girlfriend, when I don’t even understand it yet myself? I’ve never introduced Casey to a woman that I’m interested in. No one has ever made me consider keeping them around for the long haul, and I’m not going to bring someone into Casey’s life just to have them say good-bye again.
But I actually want Casey to meet Lila, and that has me more than just a tad nervous.
“And why are we hanging out with her today?”
“Because I’m looking after her for a little while. You’ll like her. She’s nice.”
“Is she nice enough to maybe eventually be your girlfriend?” she asks hopefully.
I simply chuckle, my heart hitching a bit at the longing in Casey’s pretty green eyes, and park in front of Lila’s building, then lead Casey up to Lila’s door.
I knock and scowl when Lila opens the door without even asking who is on the other side.
“What if I had been the bad guy?”
“Are you the bad guy?” she asks with one brow raised, and damn if I don’t want to kiss that smirk right off her gorgeous face.
“He’s the good guy¸” Casey replies seriously.
“You must be Casey,” Lila says with a smile and holds her hand out to shake my daughter’s. “I’m Lila.”
“You’re pretty,” Casey says.
“You’re prettier,” Lila replies as she grabs her handbag and keys. “Do you know where we’re going?”
“Breakfast,” Casey says and glances up at me for confirmation.
“Breakfast,” I agree.
“Perfect. I’m starving.” Lila offers her hand to Casey, and together they walk hand in hand toward the car.
Watching them together, the tall, slim brunette and my small, slim redhead, makes my heart catch.
I’ve never imagined bringing a woman into our lives full time. Casey is happy and well adjusted the way things are, and asking her to accept someone new has always seemed rather selfish of me.
It never occurred to me that she might need, or even want, a woman in our lives.
And damn if Lila doesn’t look perfectly comfortable with my daughter.
“Do you have a place in mind?” Lila asks, and she and Casey climb into the car and buckle themselves in.
“I do.” I grin at her and wink as I back out of the parking lot. “You’ll see.”
There’s a little hole-in-the-wall joint not far from Lila’s place that Casey and I love. It’s busy today, but we’re quickly shown to a table in the back corner with a view of the street. I sit with my back to the window, as always, with Casey next to me so I can keep an eye on the room.
I never sit with my back to a room.
“They have the best pancakes,” Casey announces, setting her menu aside. “May I please have bacon with mine, Daddy?”
“Of course,” I reply and kiss her head, then glance up to find Lila watching us.
“How old are you, Casey?” she asks.