How she’d missed that this morning, she had no idea, but facts were facts—Teddy had moved out on her like a thief in the night.
Detective Lieutenant Luke Hanover had been away from the San Francisco Police Department for exactly one day of his three-week leave and already he’d lost his edge, walking into his grandma’s Lucky Harbor beach house to find a B&E perp standing in the kitchen.
She sure as hell was the prettiest petty thief he’d ever come across—at least from the back, since she was wearing nothing but a white lace bra and a tiny scrap of matching white lace panties.
“You have some nerve you…you rat fink bastard,” she said furiously into her cell phone, waving her free hand for emphasis, her long, wildly wavy brown hair flying around her head as she moved.
And that wasn’t all that moved. She was a bombshell, all of her sweet, womanly curves barely contained in her undies.
“I want you to know,” she went on, still not seeing Luke, “there’s no way in hell I’m accepting your breakup message. You hear me, Teddy? I’m not accepting it, because I’m breaking up with you. And while we’re at it, who even does that? Who breaks up with someone by text? I’ll tell you who, Teddy, a real jerk, that’s who— hello? Dammit!”
Pulling the phone from her ear, she stared at the screen and then hit a number before whipping it back up to her ear. “Your voice mail cut me off,” she snapped. “You having sex in your office while I was in the building? Totally cliché. But not telling me that you weren’t planning to re-sign the lease? That’s just rotten to the core, Teddy. And don’t bother calling me back on this. Oh, wait, that’s right, you don’t call—you text!” Hitting END, she tossed the phone to the counter. Hands on hips, steam coming out her ears, she stood there a moment. Then, with a sigh, she thunked her forehead against the refrigerator a few times before pressing it to the cool, steel door.
Had she knocked herself out?
“It’s just one bad day,” she whispered while standing in the perfect position for him to pat her down for weapons.
Not that she was carrying—well, except for that lethal bod.
“Just one really rotten, badass day,” she repeated softly, and Luke had to disagree.
“Not from where I’m standing,” he said.
At the unexpected male voice, Ali’s heart leaped into her throat. She whirled and stared in shock at the guy standing in her kitchen. Reacting without thinking, she grabbed the key bowl off the counter and flung it at his head.
He ducked, and the bowl bounced off the wall behind him, shattering into a hundred pieces. As ceramic shards tinkled to the tile floor, he straightened, dominating the kitchen as he turned to her, eyes narrowed.
“Who the hell are you?” she demanded, heart thundering.
“Oh no, you first,” he said, arms crossed, looking impenetrable and imposing. “Why are you throwing shit at me?”
Wishing like hell that she had clothes on, she was surreptitiously reaching for the coffee mug on the counter—another of her creations—to pitch at his head when he lunged and wrenched the mug from her hand. “Stop with the target practice,” he said, oozing dangerous levels of testosterone.
He was tall—six feet, at least—and built like he was very familiar with a gym or physical labor. And while he stood there in the middle of the kitchen as if he owned the place, she took in other details. Sharp eyes. All the better to see you with, my dear, she thought half hysterically, feeling a little bit like Little Red Riding Hood must have when she’d been trapped by the big, bad wolf.
His hair was dark brown and tousled, as if he couldn’t be bothered with a comb. His T-shirt was stretched across broad shoulders, his jeans sitting low on lean hips. And his cross-trainers made no noise when he took a step toward her.
All the better to catch you with, my dear…
He didn’t look like the big, bad wolf, she told her panicky self. Nor did he look like an ax murderer who broke into homes and tortured women in their undies—not that she was sure what an ax murderer might look like. Snatching the dish towel off the counter, she attempted to cover herself since her Victoria’s Secrets weren’t hiding much of her secrets.
The maybe–ax murderer’s gaze wasn’t leering, though he was definitely taking in her body, and she forced herself not to squeak as he snatched her sweater off the back of a chair and held it out to her, mouth hard.
All the better to eat you with, my dear…
Heart in her throat, she didn’t reach for the sweater. She was afraid to. Instead, she eyed the block of knives two feet over on the counter, wondering if she could possibly get to them before…
He shoved them farther away.
Dammit. “You’re trespassing,” she said, proud of her steely voice.
“No, that would be you.”
Clutching the towel for all she was worth, she shook her head. “I live here.” Although technically, thanks to Teddy, that wasn’t quite true anymore. “And if you don’t go, I’m going to call the cops.”
He didn’t go.
Ali knew exactly one self-defense move, and she went for it, risking everything to step into him and jerk her knee up.
But he moved so fast she didn’t have to time to get him in the family jewels. She didn’t even have time to blink before she was helplessly pinned against the counter by a tough, sinewy body.
“Stop,” he said in her ear. Then, as if nothing had happened, he stepped back from her, once again offering her the sweater.
This time she took it, dropping the tiny, ineffective dish towel and diving gratefully into the long garment, wrapping it around herself so that she was covered from her chin to her thighs.
Or as better as she could be with the stranger watching her carefully. He stepped back a little farther still, giving her some badly needed space. His expression was carefully neutral, but his body language spoke of a deadly tension that she didn’t want to further provoke.
“So,” he said calmly, propping up the doorjamb with a broad shoulder. “You break in?”
Was he serious? He certainly looked serious. Not to mention stoic and controlled, which set her nerves crackling.
His eyes were blue. Ice blue. She only noticed because she was watching him closely for any sign of aggression. His face might have been classified as devastatingly handsome, but it could also have been carved in stone, his expression dialed to an intimidating pissed off.
But she was pissed off too. And more than a little bit scared. Sure, she’d grown up in a tough neighborhood, but this guy was light-years ahead of her in badass experience. He had attitude written all over him, and a day’s worth of stubble darkening his jaw. Though his hair was cut short, some of it managed to fall across his forehead, which didn’t soften his appearance. She doubted there was anything soft about this man. “I didn’t break in,” she said. “I live here.”
“How would you know?” she asked.
“Because I own the house.”
Still leaning against the doorway, Luke gave the woman standing in front of him a long look that usually had bad guys running like hell.
But she wasn’t running. Instead she met his gaze with wide, hazel eyes, making him wonder about the glimpse of fierceness he’d seen when she’d been leaving that phone message. He ached for peace and quiet, and she was clearly the opposite of peaceful and quiet—so he needed to show her the door.
“You own this place?” she asked. “You’re Luke Hanover?”
She didn’t relax. “I’m going to need to see your ID.”
That was usually his line. And for a woman standing in little more than a lightweight peach sweater, she had balls. Except what she really had was an acre of creamy, smooth skin and that mind-warping sweet, curvy body. He pulled out his wallet and showed her his driver’s license. “Now you.”
She blinked once like an owl, her hazel eyes not nearly as hostile now as she shoved some of her wild hair from her face. “I’ll have to get it out of my truck,” she said. “I left my purse out there.”
The cop in him winced. But this was Lucky Harbor not San Francisco, and people felt safe here. And yet he knew better than anyone that shit happened everywhere. “I had this place rented out to a single male through a management service,” Luke told her. “No B and E experts or half-naked women were on the lease.” He’d really counted on finding the place empty and was prepared to facilitate that by whatever means necessary, because he needed that few weeks of peace and quiet in the worst possible way.
“Teddy didn’t tell me until a few hours ago that he hadn’t re-signed the lease,” she said.
“Teddy,” he repeated. “The ‘rat fink bastard’ you were yelling at on the phone?”
She nibbled on her lower lip. “So you heard all that, huh?”
Yeah, he’d heard it and had suddenly appreciated his long dry spell in the women department. “Where’s Marshall now?”
“Moved out.” Turning from him, she climbed onto the barstool, and for one brief glorious second, the sweater raised, flashing him another quick peek-a-boo shot of those hot, little panties before she settled. She really did have a world-class ass. And a wedgie.
“He never mentioned he wasn’t re-signing the lease?” Luke asked.
“No. Hence the rat fink bastard part.”
That nearly got a genuine smile out of him. It would have been his first in weeks, but he bit it back. Because in truth, there was nothing funny about this. He’d come to Lucky Harbor to be alone.
He needed alone.
It’d been years since he had been here. After inheriting the house from his grandma, he’d kept it rented out. He’d done so purposely, even though he’d spent some of the best times of his life here while growing up. The cliffs and water had been a teenager’s haven and so had the pier and arcade. Back then, he hadn’t cared that the house was inconvenient to get to or isolated. He cared even less now. In fact, he liked both of those things.