She said the first thing that came to her head: “Halt right there.”
The man slowly straightened to an impressive height and turned. Julia gripped the door handle tighter. Eyes as dark as coal slowly raked over her, as if they had every right to. Gorgeous eyes. Thick, dark hair that was tussled just enough to set a woman’s imagination afire. Who knew burglars could be hot? Yes, officer, I did tackle him, but I had to. It had nothing to do with those perfectly muscled shoulders and that flat stomach. I admit, we rolled around on the floor once or twice together, but purely so I could restrain him.
Julia shook her head to clear it. Down, libido, down. This is not one of those dreams where someone like him kisses someone like me, and I wake up frustrated and reach for my vibrator. This is reality, and even though he’s gorgeous, he could still be dangerous.
One of his beautiful eyebrows arched at her prolonged appraisal of him, then his gaze settled appreciatively on the exposed length of her legs. “And you are?”
“Security.” She referenced her uniform and name tag. “You don’t belong in here.”
“You’re security?” he asked incredulously. “The singing or the stripping kind?”
Instantly angry, Julia put a hand on one hip and demanded, “Do I look like a stripper?”
His eyes slowly, ever so slowly, roamed over her high heels, short skirt, and riotous head of hair.
She stomped a foot at his lack of appropriate response. “This is a power outfit.” She looked down and tugged at her uniform top. “Not this. But it’s coming off.” When his eyes widened, her ire rose. “Not for you. And that’s not what I meant. I have a beautiful red shirt that goes with this skirt. A nice conservative shirt. And this skirt is a perfectly appropriate length for a business meeting, according to Entrepreneur Today.” She took a deep calming breath. “Why am I justifying my outfit to a possible criminal? I don’t know what you’re doing here, but you need to leave.”
“Or what? What would you do?” He stepped closer.
Good question. Julia looked behind her, then back at him. See, this is why I should have taken the salesperson job at the mall. But I thought, Night security—that will give me more time to read and network during the day. Where are you, Paul, when I need you? That’s it. Paul. “I won’t have to do anything, because my partner is already on his way up. In fact, the next time that elevator opens, it’ll be him, and he is twice your size and has taken just enough steroids to have a little rage, if you know what I mean. I’ll do what I can to hold him off, but if he catches you, that gorgeous face of yours will never look the same.”
A predatory smile stretched his lips. He closed the short distance between them, effectively pinning her against the wall between his arm and the door. “I don’t believe you,” he said, his voice deep and husky. He studied her as if he were trying to solve a puzzle. “Are you going to tell me what you’re really doing here?”
Her voice tight in her throat, she said, “I told you. I’m security.”
He opened his mouth to say something, and Julia lost control. Attraction peaked and collided with panic. Her frantically searching hand closed on a lamp on the table beside them. With one swift move she cracked him in the temple with it. He stumbled back and raised a hand to the assaulted area. “What the hell . . . ?”
They both froze. His eyes lit with a fire that set her heart racing.
In the doorway, a male voice broke in. “Mr. Andrade. Are you okay? What happened?”
Julia put the lamp down quickly and swayed a bit beneath the realization of what she had just done. “Mr. Andrade. As in, George Andrade?”
Still looming angrily over her, he said, “Gio. No one calls me George.” He addressed Paul curtly. “She works here?”
“Yes, sir. For over a month.”
Glittering black eyes bored into Julia as she smiled awkwardly back at him. “I didn’t recognize you.”
“Evidently.” He rubbed the red mark on his left temple.
Paul stepped forward with concern. “I’m so sorry, sir. This is my fault. I ran next door to get medicine—”
Gio held up one hand to silence Paul, and the gesture proved impressively effective. In this jungle, money trumps muscle, Julia thought sarcastically. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow. Right now—”
Tomorrow. Tonight. Time. Crap. Julia glanced at the clock. Seven thirty. Shit. She turned apologetically to Paul. “Oh, my God, Paul. I am so sorry. I’ll take the heat for this. I promise. This was all my fault. Write it up however you need to. I would, but I can’t stay. I’m already late.”
She made the mistake of meeting the eyes of the man who still looked dazed from his encounter with the lamp. She instinctively reached toward his temple in sympathy, then dropped her hand. “I’m sorry. I should have studied the photo book Paul gave me better. It’s just that you were dressed like . . . and then you were all . . .” She frowned. “You could have just told me who you were and none of this would have happened, but we don’t have time to go into that now. Don’t be mad at Paul, okay? He has a stomach bug. But normally, he’d die to protect you. Who else can you say that about?” She glanced quickly at the clock again and said, “I totally understand if you need to fire me, but can you do it tomorrow?”
She turned and fled.
After her whirlwind departure, Gio looked across at Paul. “Just tell me you didn’t issue her a gun.”
He leaned a little closer and Julia quickly looked down, afraid her eyes would reveal how he was making her feel.
“You should be more careful, Miss Bennett. A man could get the wrong impression about you.”
Her eyes flew up to clash with his. “I appreciate your concern, Mr. Andrade, but it’s unnecessary. I get along well with both Tom and Paul. We sometimes laugh. It’s what people do when they work together.”
“I don’t like him near you.” His eyes burned into hers.
Her breath caught in her throat. She shook her head, sure that she had misunderstood what she’d heard. “I’m sorry?”
He brushed a thumb softly across her lower lip. “You heard me.” He dropped his hand, spun on his heel, and walked away.
About the Author
Ruth Cardello was born the youngest of 11 children in a small city in northern Rhode Island. She spent her young adult years moving as far away as she could from her large extended family. She lived in Boston, Paris, Orlando, New York–then came full circle and moved back to Rhode Island. She now happily lives one town over from the one she was born in. For her, family trumped the warmer weather and international scene.
She was an educator for 20 years, the last 11 as a kindergarten teacher. When her school district began cutting jobs, Ruth turned a serious eye toward her second love- writing and has never been happier. When she’s not writing, you can find her chasing her children around her small farm, riding her horses, or connecting with her readers online.
Come Away with Me is coming live on MARCH 31