But she’d just been doing her job. That’s what she kept telling herself as she hurried down the sidewalk, passing the graffiti-sprayed exteriors of the old warehouses.
What was she going to do now?
I’ll be seeing you tonight.
Her practical mind clicked over, taking control. She was on her own, something she’d grown accustomed to in her twenty-six years. You could really only count on yourself—trite but true. So she’d need to find out who was responsible for stalking her clear across the country, and she also needed a gun. Then she needed to know how to use one, because she honestly had no idea how to even take off the safety and—
Rounding the street corner, she winced as she realized that two of the overhead streetlamps were now out and the packed parking lot was nothing more than hulking, looming shadows and a cesspool of potential assault and battery.
Great. Getting stabbed and robbed would be the icing on the f**ked-up cake and make her night.
Digging the car keys out of her pocket, she threaded them between her fingers and kept her eyes peeled for any suspicious movement. She picked up her pace, focusing on the third line of cars where she’d left hers.
The parking lot nearest to Leather and Lace was like a used luxury-car lot. She passed Audis, Volvos, BMWs, and a whole fleet of foreign vehicles. Alana was willing to bet her relatively flat ass that half the city’s power players were members of the club.
She wanted to be all kinds of judging, but she was the type of person to call a spade a spade. How could she judge them when she had been inside that room with Chandler, picturing herself on the longue?
Unwanted heat unfurled low in her belly, and she swore softly as she cut between a Mercedes and an Infiniti SUV. She would not think about Chandler. She would not give that son of a bitch one more ounce of her—
Alana stopped a few feet before her Lexus, her breath expelling harshly. It was so dark here she couldn’t be sure what she was seeing. Bending at the waist, she blinked once, thinking that her eyes were playing tricks on her, but when her vision centered on the front of her car, she cried out in disbelief.
The windshield had been smashed in.
Jagged edges of glass remained, but the whole center was gone—completely gone. Wicked sharp pieces of glass lay on the dashboard.
Her breaths came out in short pants as she reached down and opened the driver’s door. Glass was everywhere—on the seats, the floorboards. She started to reach in but stopped herself. Lying on the passenger seat was a brick. There appeared to be a paper wrapped around it, secured with a rubber band.
For a moment, Alana was absolutely frozen. She didn’t move. Her breath stilled in her throat. All she could do was stare at that brick, and the only thing that moved was her heart. It thumped heavily in her chest, sending adrenaline coursing through her veins.
Her gaze crawled over the interior and then widened when she saw the ignition. The whole lower part of the steering wheel had been torn open, wires exposed and dangling like little red and blue snakes.
“Oh my God,” she whispered, slowly shaking her head. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
Anger poured into her chest, causing her hand to tighten around the keys until the metal dug into flesh. Someone had done this to her car—her property. No way in hell did she believe this was coincidental. It had to be the ass**le behind the letters, and…
Icy fear snapped at the heels of her fury. Her breath came out in a ragged exhale. The person who had done this could still be here, waiting and watching. Oh my God. Her heart jumped in her chest painfully. Backing away from her car door, she scanned the darkness ahead of her.
She swallowed, but the knot of fear made it difficult. She was out here, alone, and if someone wanted—
A heavy hand landed on her shoulder.
Shrieking, she spun around, dropping the folder and throwing out her hand that held the key-shank she’d created.
“Jesus H. Christ, woman!” a deep voice exploded as a hand clamped down on her wrist.
Part of her brain recognized the voice, but the adrenaline and fear had kicked in her fight response and once that had been unleashed, it was taking her brain precious seconds to catch up to how her body was reacting.
She tried to pull her arm free as she raised her knee, aiming for any body part she could do damage on. Hopefully the gonads.
Except she never connected with any flesh.
A second later, her back was against the SUV parked beside her car and a broad, firm body was pressed against hers. Thick, muscled legs made it impossible for her to kick. Both her wrists were captured in a secure hold, pinned near her shoulders in record time. The keys hit the ground somewhere down by her feet.
Good God, she had been incapacitated that quickly.
It would’ve been rather impressive if she wasn’t seconds away from having a full-blown heart attack.
“Are you done?” he asked, his voice carrying a hard edge. “You could’ve taken my eye out.”
As her heart rate slowed down, her brain finally started to work again. Lifting her head, she found herself face-to-face with Chandler once more. Not just face-to-face, but mostly body-to-body.
“Sorry,” she croaked out hoarsely and then wondered why in the hell she was apologizing. “You scared me! You snuck up on me.”
“Snuck up on you?” A muscle ticked in his jaw, visible even in the poor lighting. “I wasn’t sneaking. I’m not part ninja.”
Considering she hadn’t heard him, she begged to differ on that statement. And the man had the reflexes of a jungle cat. “Part ninja or not, it’s nighttime and you put your hand on me in the middle of a dark parking lot without warning. Excuse me for—”
“Overreacting?” he suggested, dark brows lowered. “Is this how you normally respond?”
Were they actually going to argue about this? From the look of it, the answer would be yes. Her fingers curled helplessly and she drew in a deep breath. The action brought her br**sts flush with his chest, and she couldn’t stop the electrical jolt that zinged through her, nor the way her ni**les hardened at the sensation.
Oh goodness, her reaction was wholly wrong, all things considered.
She was going to blame residual trauma from seeing her car obliterated. “Let go of me,” she said, taking another breath and immediately wishing she hadn’t. The jolt hit her again, stronger. “Now.”
“I don’t know about that.” And just like that, Chandler’s demeanor shifted. Everything about him changed. His body relaxed in a way that said he was ready to snap into action but was solely focused on her. The lines of his face softened, and his eyes took on a hooded, lazy quality. “You might try to shank me again.”
A whole different set of warnings went off in the back of her head as the air became rife with the kind of tension that had nothing to do with the car or the fact that she’d almost blinded him in the eye moments before. Nearly every part of their bodies that mattered was lined up. His breath was warm against her forehead, and around her wrists, his thumbs began to move in slow, idle circles. A fine shiver skated over her skin as her pulse fluttered under his fingers. Everything he did, from the way he held her against the car to how his intense stare reached in, captured, and then seared her, oozed raw, almost primitive sexuality. Never had she come across anyone who affected her on such a level. It had been that way the first time she’d met him and then again at his brother’s apartment.
Chandler shifted his hips, and she sucked in a sharp breath. She felt him against her belly, long and hard. Heat simmered low in her stomach and then dropped lower, like it had inside the room. Except they hadn’t been touching then, and while he really wasn’t doing anything now, her body was reacting to his in a way that shocked her.
This was so not the appropriate time for this. Even though she doubted anyone would come after her now that Chandler was here—and if anyone did, he most definitely had a death wish—but still. There were more important things to be focusing on.
But instinct was telling her that if she tipped her head back farther, Chandler would gladly accept the unspoken invitation. It wouldn’t matter that they barely knew each other. He’d already stated quite clearly what he wanted from her, much to her disbelief. He would kiss her, and she already knew that she’d be kissed in a way she’d never experienced before.
Her heart tripped up over the thought of his lips moving against hers. One kiss and she’d be putty in his no-doubt-skilled hands. Alana wasn’t easy, but with this man, she’d probably throw herself onto her own back.
His hands dropped from her wrists, landing on her hips, and as he leaned in, his nose grazed her cheek, snapping her out of her stupor. What in God’s name was she doing?
Placing her hands against his chest—an incredibly hard chest—she pushed. “Back off, buddy.”
He stepped away and opened his mouth, but then seemed to rethink what he was about to say. He finally checked out her car, frowning when he saw her open door. As he moved forward, she gulped in air and ignored the smidgen of disappointment.
“What in the hell?” he said, facing her car fully. Gripping the door, he bent at the waist. “Looks like you lost a windshield.”
She rolled her eyes. “No shit.”
He cast a look over his shoulders that would’ve sent men running in the opposite direction. Alana made a face. “The sarcasm isn’t necessary,” he said before turning back to her car. “Man, they did a number on this baby. Looks like someone was trying to get himself a free ride.”
She snorted. “You must be the muscle of your company and not the brains.”
Again, he shot her another dark look, which she ignored.
“Ten minutes ago I told you that I was receiving threatening letters. Do you really think those two things aren’t connected? Wait. Don’t bother answering, because you could give two shits about that.”
He stared at her, his eyes nearly black in the darkness. “Miss Gore…” His voice was a low warning.
“Because the only thing you were concerned with back in that—that club, was getting laid.”
He made a noise in the back of his throat that sounded like a growl. “That wasn’t the only thing I was concerned about.”
“Whatever.” She coughed out what probably sounded like a half-crazed laugh.
Kneeling down, she swooped up her keys and started picking up the letters that had slipped out of the file. “Why are you out here anyway? Did you want to check out my ass this time around?”
He sighed. “Actually, I was following you.”
Her brows rose as she stood. Then she saw that he was holding the brick in his large hands. She forced her gaze to his face. “Why were you following me?”
“To check out your ass.”
Alana entertained a brief fantasy of kicking him between the legs. “Okay. You know what, I obviously have a few phone calls to make, and I’m probably going to need that brick, since it’s evidence and— Hey! What are you doing?”
“You can call the cops, but all they’re going to do is file a vandalism report. Nothing more. And that’s not going to do very much for you.” Ignoring her as she reached for the brick again, he pulled off the rubber band, snapping the elastic, and a piece flung somewhere into the great beyond. Tossing the brick aside, he unfolded the piece of paper. Under the flickering street lamp, she could see the stationary, and knots of unease blossomed in her stomach.
No way—absolutely no way.
“Bitch,” Chandler said, glancing up. His lips formed a thin, tight line. “Lovely.”
Alana took a step back and then slumped against the SUV. “Shit.”
He was suddenly beside her, his hand on her shoulder. “Alana?”
She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the piece of paper he held in his other hand. There had been a tiny part of her that had hoped it was a random coincidence, but now she knew it wasn’t. She hadn’t noticed when it had been wrapped around the brick, but in the faint light and unfolded, she recognized the one-sided design—the black and white lines that crawled up the sides of the ivory sheet and the tiny flowers in each corner.
Fingers appeared under her chin, guiding her head up with surprising gentleness. “Are you okay?”
Not really. Her heart was beating way too fast again. Dizziness swept through her as her eyes locked with Chandler’s. A fine sheen of sweat dotted her forehead. There was a good chance she was going to be sick.
“Alana?” Real concern colored his tone as he slid his hand to the side of her neck, as if he was about to check her pulse. “Come on, baby, say something.”
“The paper the note is written on—that paper is mine,” she said. “It’s from my home.”
“Back in California?” he asked, his thumb doing its magic again, but this time on her neck.
“No—my apartment. Here in the city.”
Chandler was officially worried.
Alana hadn’t spoken a word since he’d gotten the directions to her apartment out of her. Considering how mouthy and absolutely frustrating she usually was, silence from her had to be a bad thing.
He glanced at her as he came to a stoplight, the red from the light glaring across her profile. She was staring out the window, worrying her bottom lip. Her arms were folded, keeping the file tight against her chest like a shield.
She hadn’t protested when he called Murray to get a tow truck out here. And she also hadn’t questioned why he hadn’t contacted the police.
He knew they’d probably treat her the same way he had when she’d asked for his help. Well, with the exception of the “wanting to f**k” comment. Sure, they’d go to her place and check it over—at some point tonight. The city was teeming with crime¸ and vandalism and a possible break-in wouldn’t be high on their list of concerns.