A slow grin appeared as Murray dropped his hand onto the arm of the chair. “Is that his name on the list of suspects?”
“Awesome.” Murray laughed. “You think the douche behind this is serious?”
“Don’t know.” He flicked his gaze to the screen. “I’ve only been able to get ahold of one person and rule her out. Alana is a ball breaker—no doubt about it—but is this person serious? Hard to believe.”
“Alana? First-name basis?”
“Shut up,” he said, kicking his booted feet up on the desk. “And you know, even though her tactics may piss off people, she repairs their images, ultimately leaves them in a better situation than they were in before. How can you seriously hate someone who does that for you enough to want to hurt her?”
“Are you sure it’s a client, then?” he asked, his dark eyes sparking with the interest of a new case and all its wonderful, f**ked-up possibilities.
“Could be an ex. I know she said she doesn’t have any, but you know just as well as I do, sometimes it takes the question to be asked a time or two to get a straight answer.” But he didn’t think Alana had lied about that. The woman had been rattled when she’d seen the note. He doubted she’d hide important info, like a psychotic ex-boyfriend, from him.
“So you’ve been tailing her?”
He nodded. “She’s at work right now.”
“Want me to see if I can track down some of the numbers? I got a friend who’s a friend of a player on the Falcons. And obviously I can’t do nothing else but sit behind a desk.”
Chandler laughed as he pushed the list over. “Who do you know?”
“Remember the Redskins cheerleader two years ago? The one who was being stalked by that parolee? Well, we’ve stayed in contact. I’m sure she can make a few calls and point us in the right direction.”
He shook his head. “Yeah, I bet the contact you’ve been staying in has been totally professional and doesn’t involve your cock.”
“I am not talking to you about my cock.”
Chandler’s eyes narrowed. “Do I need to remind you of the number-one rule?”
“Whatever.” Murray pushed himself up. “Do I need to remind you about the rule?”
“Shut the f**k up.”
Murray laughed as he ambled out of the office, closing the door behind him. Looking back at the screen, Chandler let about five seconds go by before his gaze fell to the small card propped along his keyboard. He thought about the nightie that had been lying on Alana’s bed, and his jeans tightened.
Chandler knew the rules. He’d f**king written them.
He just didn’t always follow them.
Besides, he hadn’t technically been hired by Miss Gore, so what the f**k ever.
Picking up the card, a slow smile spread across his face. He wanted to say that it would’ve made a difference if she had hired him, but Chandler hadn’t made a habit of lying to himself before.
Why start now?
There was something about Little Miss Alana Gore that got to him, crawled under his skin, and had him acting worse than Chase and Chad combined. He didn’t know what it was or what it would mean, but he would find out.
Because unlike his brothers, when he wanted something, he didn’t f**k around and neither did he spend time bullshitting himself. When Chandler wanted something, he went right for it.
And he wanted Alana.
Every time Alana walked into her office at Images, she was reminded of exactly where she came from. What she had to overcome to get to where she was now. If Granny were still alive, she would’ve been proud—bitter as all hell, but she would’ve been proud.
Smoothing her hand across the polished oak desk, she inhaled deeply and let it out slowly. Nothing was going to screw this up.
The door to her office flew open and Ruby Baker stormed in, her blond hair sticking out at the temples. Her partner at the publicist firm was only a few years older than she was and had reminded Alana of a librarian, with her collared shirts and pressed linen pants. “We have a problem.”
Alana stiffened behind the desk. “What?”
“End-of-the-world scenario,” she said. Closing the door behind her, she leaned against it. “We just got a call from a journalist at the Washington Post, inquiring about Dick in A Box.”
Her eyes widened as her stomach dropped. Okay. That could screw this up. She smacked her hands down on the edge of her desk. “How?”
“I don’t know.” Ruby strolled forward, slumped in the chair, and threw her arms up. “Everyone who knows about this has been either paid off, warned off, or suddenly sent off vacationing in the sunny tropics of Jamaica.”
“Someone had to have said something.” Alana cursed under her breath as she mentally sprinted through all those involved in the latest shenanigans. “I bet you it’s the maid. I told you she was going to be a problem. She has two kids she wants to put into private school. There’s money in this story.”
Damn senators and their dicks all the way to hell and back.
Every publicist’s nightmare was getting saddled with a horny politician who had no control over what hung between his legs. Of course, Alana had been assigned to Senator Grant, along with Ruby and the last publicist. Key word being last, as in no longer worked for Images. This senator had been around the block a time or two when it came to scandalous activity.
Alana was a firm believer in the fact God and the Holy Ghost hated her.
Apparently the name Dick in A Box had came about two years ago, when the senator had his junk out underneath a FedEx box, giving one of his fake secretaries easy access. Someone in the office had played the Saturday Night Live skit and the name stuck.
“The reporter was asking about the call girl.” As Ruby continued, Alana swore wispy strands of hair further escaped the woman’s bun. “I deterred him, made up some bullshit lie about the senator hiring new staff for his house, but…”
“But now the Post will be watching him. Great. We need to talk to the senator.” Sighing, she felt like face-planting into the desk. “Rock. Paper. Scissors?”
A grin appeared on the woman’s face. “On the count of three.”
Alana had gone with paper. Ruby had picked scissors. It was official. The entire Holy Trinity hated her. She pushed back in her chair and bent, reaching for her purse.
Her phone rang, causing her to jump. There was no number on the caller ID, so it had to be an outside number. Picking up the receiver, she watched Ruby slide farther down in her seat. “Images. This is Alana Gore.”
“I prefer Miss Gore. Sounds like you want to punish someone when you say it.”
Holy shit. It was Chandler. She didn’t know about her punishing him, but she could totally picture him punishing her. Her cheeks felt hot, and across from her, curiosity marked Ruby’s face.
The gap of silence stretched out obnoxiously. “Alana, are you there?”
“Yes. I’m here. Sorry,” she blurted out, blinking several times. “You, uh, caught me off guard.” She wished she were alone, because he had to have discovered something. “What can I help you with?”
“Yes,” he replied, voice low and smooth. “I want you.”
Her mouth rounded. He wanted her?
A deep chuckle sent a shiver down her spine. “You haven’t had lunch yet.”
For a moment, his words didn’t process, and then they did. How did he know she hadn’t had lunch? Her eyes darted to the clock on her monitor. “It’s three in the afternoon.”
“Some people have a late lunch.”
Painfully aware Ruby was listening, she tightened her fingers around the phone. “Already had lunch.”
“Liar,” came the quick reply. “So, what about dinner?”
Why in the hell was he asking her about dinner now? “Did you find anything out about what you’re looking into?”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
Smothering a ripe curse, she smiled tightly at Ruby and then twisted sideways in her chair. “I will probably be working late tonight. And as you know, I’m at work right now, so I really shouldn’t be on the phone.”
“I’m at work and I’m on the phone.”
She squeezed her eyes shut as she bent over and reached for her purse again. “Well, you own your business. I do not.”
“True,” he replied, and then she heard him make a sound that had her stomach tightening. Was he stretching? Touching himself? “I spoke with Michelle Ward. She’s not the culprit. Still looking into it.”
She was totally picturing him touching himself now. Hand in his unbuttoned jeans, no shirt—he couldn’t be wearing a shirt in her fantasy—and his hand around his thickness, slowly stroking himself. A sharp pulse pounded between her thighs. Like a match thrown to gasoline, her body sparked alive. Her response startled her.
It also sort of thrilled her.
“Alana?” The way he said her name was as though he was tasting it on his tongue. “Did you hang up on me?”
“No. I’m just busy.” Busy picturing him masturbating. Her brain really needed to work itself out. She sat up, and once Ruby saw her face, her coworker frowned. “Thanks for the update. I’ll have to call you later.”
“I’ll call you.”
With that, there was a distinctive click and Chandler was gone. She slowly placed the phone back on the receiver.
“Who was that?”
She debated lying, but if he ended up working for her, she was going to be seen with him. Might as well get it out there now. “Chandler Gamble.”
Ruby nearly came out of her seat. “As in Chad Gamble’s brother, right?”
She nodded as she stood. “You know I worked with his brother a few months ago.”
“It’s what got you the job here.” Ruby stood, her green eyes twinkling. “So what were you doing talking lunch plans with him?”
The way Ruby said “him” made her uneasy. She headed for the door. “I ran into him a few days ago, when I had car trouble, and he helped me out.”
“But that doesn’t explain lunch or dinner or why your face was red through the whole call.” Ruby ducked her, blocking the exit. “Are you seeing Chandler?”
Alana laughed. “No. We’re friends.” The word sounded lame even to her ears.
“Are you telling me the truth?”
Her brows pinched. “Yes. I’m telling you the truth.”
“Chandler is hot shit, and the things they say about him and what he likes to do?” She fanned herself as she tugged on her collar. “I wouldn’t kick him out of my bed for eating crackers, and I’m happily married.”
Her body quivered. She’d heard some of the things Chandler liked to do. Hell, she’d seen some of those things about to happen at Leather and Lace.
“So how well do you know him?” she asked.
Alana searched for patience. “Not really well. Like I said, we sort of ran into each other.”
“When you were having car problems? Tell me, when you were working with Chad, you had to have gotten the details on Chandler. Is it true? The stuff they say? That he goes to Leather and Lace and is into dominance and some really crazy sex?”
Her mouth opened, but she snapped it shut. From all she had gathered when she’d been working with Chad and from what she’d seen with her own two eyes, everything pointed toward an affirmative. Part of her was seconds away from divulging what she knew. After all, part of being a publicist was being on top of all the gossip, but something inside wouldn’t let her.
His sex life was definitely not her or Ruby’s business. “I think all of that is just rumors,” she said finally, smiling. “There was nothing I found that suggested it’s true.”
Ruby’s face fell. “Well, that sucks. I was hoping you were going to hook up with him and I could live vicariously through you and experience some freaky sex.”
Her lips pursed. “Sorry to disappoint?”
“Oh well. Go give the senator hell.”
Saying good-bye, Alana headed out of the office and to the rental car she’d picked up yesterday. An interesting realization poked at her as she threw her purse onto the passenger’s seat. She should be focused on what she was going to say to the senator, but all she was really thinking about was how she was going to indulge in her earlier fantasy later tonight.
Before she headed out to the senator’s, she swung by the coffee shop down the block, in need of caffeine fortitude if she was going to make it. The line was short, and as she stepped in the back, she checked the time on her cell.
When it was her turn, she smiled at the young girl behind the counter. “French Vanilla, easy on—”
“The cream,” interrupted a familiar voice from behind her.
“Yes. That’s right.” She turned, surprised, and then gaped. “Steven?”
The man behind her smiled, crinkling the skin behind his glasses and flashing a set of perfect white teeth. “Hello, Alana.”
“Hey, what are you doing out on the east coast?” She stepped to the side as the cashier fulfilled her order, somewhat dumbfounded by seeing Steven Grimes in a coffee shop in D.C. “Work?”
He nodded, shoving his hand into the pocket’s of his pressed pants. “You know me, bouncing back and forth.”
Not really expecting to have seen him again, she forced a smile as she struggled for something to say and hoped her order was filled quickly. “So, how have you been?”