Kell felt more than heard Iris as she approached. Wearing a sleek black dress that split to mid-thigh he knew she had to have a weapon on her somewhere. The woman rarely smiled but right now she was grinning. “I thought I was gonna die when you just tapped him on the shoulder like that. You should’ve just punched him.”
His eyes widened slightly at her comment. “Didn’t know you were so bloodthirsty.”
She simply shrugged and the man he’d just flex-cuffed moaned about police brutality. “We’re not the police you dick,” Iris muttered as she grabbed one of his upper arms.
Kell took the other and they began leading him back toward the house. Oh yeah, tonight was off to a great start.
Five hours after handing the would-be jewel thieves over to the police, the party was winding down and most people had left. Throughout the night Kell had gotten flashes of that damn red dress. But Charlotte had done well at staying out of sight, clearly dodging him.
He hadn’t seen her leave, though, so he’d switched posts with one of the men guarding the main entrance. She had to come this way sometime. As if on cue, she strode toward him, arms linked with a drunk-looking woman. An older woman—he recognized Charlotte’s mother from photos—subtly held the intoxicated woman up on the other side as they slowly walked toward the giant front doors.
Their heels clicked along the marble entryway and though Charlotte wasn’t looking at him, he knew she was very aware of him. Her posture was stiff and a flush had spread down her neck and chest. Though he could only see the outline of her breasts, he had a feeling that flush kept going and it made him remember how she’d looked as she climaxed underneath him. Feeling an uncomfortable tightening in his pants, he shifted and drew his gaze back up to her face.
Only to find her watching him warily.
As they neared, Charlotte murmured something to her mother, then dropped the other woman’s arm and strode toward him, all liquid grace and sinful curves. He could almost believe she was unaffected, but he knew her too well. Her normally full lips were pulled into a tight line and there was worry in her dark eyes.
She cleared her throat as she stopped in front of him and clasped her hands tightly in front of herself. “Hi, Kell. I didn’t expect to see you here.”
His jaw clenched once as he tried to order himself to be nice. No matter how angry he was at the way she’d left things between them, he never wanted to cause her pain. “I gathered that from the way you ran away earlier.”
Her cheeks flushed crimson, but she didn’t look away or try to deny it. “Yeah…sorry about that. You surprised me and I sort of panicked.”
He took a step closer, completely invading her personal space. Not that he cared. That sweet, familiar jasmine scent wrapped around him subtly, reminding him of too many things he tried to keep locked down. Unable to stop himself, he reached out and clasped her hip, tugging her closer. He didn’t care that there were people around—namely some of the men he worked with—he just needed to touch her.
She let out a gasp at his possessive, bold move and he couldn’t blame her. But hell, a year of not seeing her or getting to touch her and he felt damn near possessed with the need. The telling thing was that she didn’t pull away.
It was subtle, but she gently shivered as he flexed his fingers around her hip. Oh yeah, she liked it when he got a little dominating. He was glad that hadn’t changed. “You look good, Charlotte.”
She swallowed hard and shook her head, as if trying to clear it. Then she came to her senses and stepped back, but not so far that he let go. “I’d like to see you tomorrow if possible. We need to talk.”
Surprised by the abruptness of her words, he let his hand drop as he nodded. “When and where?” He had the day off, but even if he hadn’t, he’d have taken it off. They needed to set things straight.
She looked down at her clasped hands for a moment and when she met his gaze again he saw such a raw vulnerability there that it struck him like a body blow. “Maybe your place? I’m staying with my parents until I get a home of my own and—”
“You’re living in Miami?” Oh, hell yeah.
She nodded, a foreign emotion he couldn’t define in her eyes. She looked almost scared. Of him? No, he immediately rejected the thought. “How about nine? If that’s too early—”
“Nine works. I’ll give you my address.”
“I already have it.”
Now it was his turn to be surprised. “You do?”
She nodded again. “I’m in Miami to see you.”
His chest constricted with so many unsaid things, but she still looked scared and he refused to believe it was because of him. Something else had to be going on. “What the hell is wrong? Are you in trouble? You know I’ll help any way I can.” There wasn’t much he wouldn’t do for this woman no matter how much time had passed.
Her expression softened. “I know—”
“Hurry up, Charlotte, I’m not waitin’ all night for you and your baby’s daddy.” The drunk woman, maybe her sister, slurred out as Charlotte’s mother struggled to hold her up.
Kell blinked suddenly as the words registered, his gaze snapping back to Charlotte who’d gone deathly pale. Baby? She actually had a baby? She looked horrified that he knew.
And she also wasn’t denying what the woman had said. Instead she placed a soft hand on his chest, that vulnerable look back in her eyes, her smile strained. “Tomorrow at nine?”
Feeling numb, he nodded. Had Charlotte had his baby? They’d used plenty of condoms that night…but she’d definitely changed since he’d seen her a year ago. Her body was slightly fuller, her breasts just a bit rounder. But what the woman had said had to be impossible. His brain refused to comprehend what she’d said.
He wanted to demand answers, to leave with her right then or drag her off somewhere private. But when he realized Vincent was watching him curiously, he stepped back and let them leave. He watched as the valet driver handed the keys to a newer model Bentley to Charlotte’s mother before helping Charlotte get the other woman into the backseat.
An hour later the place had cleared out and the team had secured the perimeter and home, making sure there weren’t any stragglers left behind. The homeowners had regular security guys and a state of the art alarm system they would activate once the Red Stone team left, but they never did a half-assed job.
Finally Kell found himself in the backseat of one of Red Stone’s company SUVs headed away from Star Island and back into the heart of downtown Miami where his truck waited. He felt as if he was moving on autopilot, practically numb to the news that he might be a father. It was too surreal. Seconds after Charlotte had left he realized he had no way to contact her other than email. She’d changed her number months ago and he couldn’t stand the thought of waiting until nine to talk to her. It was only six hours away but it seemed like an eternity.
“So…is what that woman said true? You have a kid?” Vincent asked from his seat next to him.
The driver, Travis, muttered under his breath that Vincent was a jackass and the other passenger, some new guy, laughed quietly.
Kell’s jaw clenched. “I don’t know.” But he was damn sure going to find out.
Vincent’s eyebrows rose. “Damn. All right, you want to grab a drink?”
“Leave the man alone,” Travis muttered.
Kell shook his head. “No, but thanks for the offer.” He might have no clue what was going on, but he sure as hell wanted his head on straight for when he saw Charlotte. If she’d kept the existence of his child from him she better have a damn good reason.
Charlotte wiped a damp palm on her jeans before ringing the doorbell. Kell lived in a very quiet middle class neighborhood in a cottage style home so typical of Miami. It was nine a.m. exactly, but she was still surprised when the door swung open immediately. He’d clearly been waiting for her.
Not that she should be shocked about that. Not after her big-mouthed, drunk sister’s comment last night. God, what had Allison been thinking saying that out loud?
He was going to have questions and would probably—no, definitely—be angry with her. Kell had never been easygoing. Out of all her deceased husband’s friends with the FBI, he’d always been the serious one. He had such a dark edge to him that when she thought of how gentle he’d been with her the night they—gah, she couldn’t even go there. Just thinking about that night made her ready to melt into a puddle at his feet.
He was tall with shorter dark hair, a forbidding expression and broad shoulders she still wanted to run her fingers across just to feel all his strength. Sighing, she cursed how good he looked. She’d tried to convince herself that she’d simply built up his hotness in her mind. No such luck. He was still gorgeous. Of course she was still hanging onto ten pounds of post-pregnancy weight, and he looked like a Greek god. And those eyes—the same pale green as her son. The doctor told her that his eye color could change by his first birthday as with all babies, but she knew better.
Charlotte knew that eye color was there to stay.
With a hard stare, he wordlessly stepped back, gesturing with his hand and very muscular outstretched arm that she should enter. She so did not want to be doing this, but she had no choice. Her sandals made soft slapping sounds against the hardwood floor on his foyer. When he shut the door behind them and she heard the soft click of the lock, she felt as if she might suffocate. Her stomach muscles were pulled tight in dread.
Until he spoke. “I have a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen if you want some.”
That deep voice rolled over her like a tidal wave, evoking too many long-buried emotions. He didn’t sound angry, but his voice wasn’t friendly either. It was reserved.
She needed to keep it together. At least long enough to get out everything she had to say. Then she could have an emotional breakdown on the way back to her parents’ house. “That sounds great.”