“I don’t know…” She nibbled on her lower lip.

“Perhaps you would feel more comfortable discussing this in more businesslike surroundings,” Luc said. “No disrespect to Harley’s place of work…” He gestured up at the stage, and Lia followed his gaze. The blonde had been replaced by a redhead who was actually wearing something, something that looked to Lia’s inexperienced eyes like feathers, but the woman was molting fast. Lia turned away thankfully as Luc continued. “…but perhaps you would feel more comfortable at my office.”

“Your office?” she asked. That sounded infinitely better. She got to her feet, ready to go, then paused. “Won’t it be closed?”

“Oh, I think they’ll open up for me. But before we leave...” He reached out toward her and Lia had to force herself to stay put, stand her ground. What was he doing? She looked down as his long fingers flicked open the top two buttons of her dress.

“They’re done up the wrong way,” he murmured.

“Oh.” She stood still as he refastened them, feeling the graze of his knuckles against the soft swell of her breast. Glancing down at those long, tanned fingers, a sharp jolt of sensation ran through her, and she bit back a gasp, wishing, not for the first time that night, that she’d worn a bra.

“There,” he said, stepping back, “we can go now.”

He picked up her jacket from the chair and held it for her. She slipped into it, and couldn’t prevent a shiver from rippling through her as he stroked the material down her arms.

“Right then,” Harley said, “that’s sorted. I’m glad. Old friends should help each other out and any daughter of Jimmy Brent’s is a…” he paused and shook his head. “Never mind. You go with Luc now, he’s a good lad, you’ll be okay with him.”

Lia frowned. All of a sudden, Harley seemed to have shed his evil persona and was radiating good will. What was going on here? She cast a quick glance at Luc. Anything less like a lad she had never met, but he was smiling at the other man.

“Thanks, Harley. I owe you.”


Owed him for what, she wondered, but then he slid an arm around Lia’s waist and she shot forward into overdrive.

They were on their way before she realized she hadn’t actually agreed to go with him. But she was filled with an almost overwhelming urge to get out of there, to get away from that horrible brutish man and his horrible sleazy club. And after all, they were going to an office.

What could possibly happen in an office?

Lia had never been impressed by a car before; she rarely noticed them as long as they worked. But this one was truly wicked—long, sleek, and black, and it purred. It suited its owner perfectly. Whatever Luc Severino did for a living, legitimate or otherwise—and she was leaning toward the “otherwise” at the moment—he was obviously successful. The car screamed expensive.

Luc had been silent since they’d left the club, wrapped in his own thoughts, which, from his set expression, obviously weren’t happy. Lia used the time to pull herself together and work out what was going on. Was he regretting his offer of help? And why had he? What was his relationship to her father?

As far back as she could remember, Lia had despised her father. Hated everything about him—what he did, his way of life, and most of all, how he’d treated her mother. Her mother had accepted it, taken everything he dished out, and then pined away when he’d disappeared.

Lia had been glad when he’d disappeared, and she swore she was never going to end up like her mother. “Keep away from handsome, dishonest bullies” had been the creed she had grown up with.

The thought made her glance over at the man next to her, and her breath quickened. Her father might have been handsome, but Luc Severino was in a class of his own. He was stunning in profile, all lean, hard, masculine lines.

Lia turned away to stare out the window. The adrenaline oozed out of her system, leaving her shaky and weak. Her muscles remained locked rigid, and she forced her limbs to relax. The tension drained away, but too late she realized it was all that was holding her together. Luc must have sensed something; he swore under his breath and pulled the car over to the side of the road.

“Are you all right?”

“Of course. I’m sorry. I’m not usually like this, but I was actually frightened in there. It was stupid of me.”

He sighed. “Not so stupid, cara, you were out of your depth. But you can relax now—you’re safe.”

She shivered. “That man, he seemed so cold, so…”

“So unimpressed by your charms? Don’t take it personally—Harley’s gay.”

“You mean, you and he…?”

Luc let out a short laugh. “No, not him and me, but he does have a boyfriend.”

“How do you know him?” she asked.

“Harley’s an old friend.”

“But you seem so different.”

“Are you trying to find out if I’m an honest businessman, Lia?” He slanted her a quick look. “Does it matter?”

Did it? It shouldn’t. He was merely a means to an end, a step closer to finding her father and getting the money she needed. But she realized it did matter—she didn’t want Luc to be some sleazy, dodgy criminal, like her father. She forced the thought to the back of her mind. What Luc Severino did—legitimate or otherwise—was of no concern to her.

“No, it doesn’t matter.”

Luc pulled out into the traffic once more and shortly afterward, they turned into an underground garage. The car stopped briefly at a security check only to be waved through by the uniformed guard.

Luc got out, came around, and held the door for her, but Lia managed to scramble out before he could reach in to help her. She followed him to a bank of elevators but hesitated as he gestured for her to enter, some inner sense screaming that this was a huge mistake.

“It’s only an elevator, Lia,” he said smoothly.

She stepped forward reluctantly and closed her eyes as the elevator doors slid shut. When she opened them, Luc was watching her, a glint of amusement in those beautiful eyes.

“Would you like to contact someone, let them know where you are? Your mother perhaps?”

“I’m not a child.”

“I’m aware of that,” he said, his eyes sliding over her body, “but it’s a sensible precaution.”

Lia shook her head. “No,” she muttered. “You think I’m naïve, don’t you?” For some reason, she hated the idea, but it was hardly surprising—she’d acted like a complete idiot. Her only excuse was that she hadn’t been thinking straight.

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