Hell, he really liked seeing her in his clothes. So this was a double dumb idea.
“Why are you scowling?” she demanded, the pile of clothes almost as tall as she was. “You’re not the one being pushed around.”
He leveled a mild stare at her as he pushed open an empty dressing room. “There you go.”
“I do have two eyes in my head,” she spat back, unceremoniously dumping her load on the floor. “Captain mother f**king obvious.”
Raising a brow, he grinned. “Man, you really did wake up in a great mood this morning.”
It was true. She had been as prickly as a hedgehog since she grumbled into his kitchen, her hair in cute disarray and her clothing rumpled. He should’ve been the one pissed off because he’d found her actually cute, like he was a girl or something, but she stole those rights right away from him. Instead of responding to his comment, she slammed the dressing room door in his face.
Chandler growled low in his throat, startling the woman sitting on the bench behind him.
“You don’t scare me,” came Alana’s muffled voice through the door. “Make all the animal noises you want. It’s not me who comes across as needing a rabies shot.”
“I beg to differ,” he muttered, dropping onto another bench directly across from her room.
Today was the longest Saturday ever.
He’d already avoided two calls from Chad, which told him that the first thing Chase had done when Chad’s game was over was call him and gossip like a woman. He’d have to talk to Chad at some point, but right now, there wasn’t a pressing need for it. Hours had also passed since he’d spoken to Murray and asked him to check out Alana’s apartment and gather as many personal items as he could. He hadn’t heard back from him yet, so he wondered if Murray got himself arrested sneaking into Alana’s apartment.
He was also tired, hungry, and horny. So f**king horny it was like being sixteen again. He went to bed hard, woke up hard, and was now sitting outside a dressing room, hard.
It had been a long time, if ever, since he’d wanted a woman this badly.
Tipping his head back against the partition wall, he scanned those shopping in the store. Last night, he’d barely gotten any sleep knowing that Alana was across the hall, and now he was paying for it. Half of it was his fault. He’d put the moves on her yesterday, kissing her. At first, she had frozen against it, but when she’d gotten into it, damn if she hadn’t responded. Just thinking about Alana sliding her tongue against his had him bursting at the seams. He wanted to bust into the dressing room, take her home, and get her on her knees. Maybe even tie her wrists, spread her legs…
“What the hell?”
Chandler’s head jerked up in time to see a scrap of red lace fly over the dressing room door. His lips split into a grin. When Alana had been busy arguing over the jeans he’d picked out, he’d slipped the teddy into her pile of clothing.
A second later, the door cracked open, revealing Alana’s glare and pink cheeks. Her shoulders were bare with the exception of two tiny ivory straps. “You pig! I’m not sleeping in something that a stripper would wear when she’s working the pole.”
Now he was picturing Alana in the teddy working a pole. With her glasses on.
Her eyes narrowed dangerously, as if she knew the direction of his thoughts.
“That’s okay.” He stretched out his legs, crossing his ankles. He’d been wrong before. The end was nowhere in sight. “You can just sleep naked. I honestly like that idea better.”
It was in the evening when Murray swung by, and Chandler’s temper had been stretched thin. The whiskey he was nursing wasn’t doing much to help.
“About damn time,” he muttered.
Murray huffed. “That’s not how you should answer the door.”
Not in the mood to bullshit, he cut the crap. “Find anything?”
Edging past him, Murray carried in two large tote bags. “I brought whatever personal girlie stuff I could find. It took a while. The place was a complete mess.”
“So it’s as bad as we thought it was?” He led Murray into the kitchen, the farthest away from the stairs. He hoped Alana didn’t come down, because rehashing the condition of her apartment surely wouldn’t put her in a better mood.
Murray deposited the totes on the counter. “Absolutely f**king destroyed. Took a knife to anything that could be torn apart, even the walls. The f**ker even emptied out her fridge. That’s some major kind of rage.”
Chandler rubbed an ache along his shoulder. The old wound gave him trouble from time to time. “Did he get inside the way I thought?”
He nodded. “Right through the sliding glass door. The woman needs an alarm system and needs to replace that door. Those are the worst possible pieces of shit ever.”
“Find out anything else?” He picked up his glass of whiskey.
“Spoke to William Manafee. The man didn’t have anything really nice to say about Miss Gore.”
A flash of unexpected anger zinged through him. “What did he say?”
“Other than Miss Gore being a bitch of the highest order and that she destroyed his marriage?” Murray crossed the kitchen. “Nothing else. But I don’t think it was him. Even though he’s not a fan of the little publicist, there was a level of reluctant respect in his voice.”
That did little to soothe his rising anger. From personal experience, he knew Alana was hard to deal with, but she helped these people, even his brother, and at great cost to herself. Was he the only person who seemed to understand that?
“I also went ahead and tried Van Gunten’s agent,” Murray continued. “She said that Jennifer wouldn’t be available to speak with me until two weeks from now. She’s on a movie set in Australia or some shit. Wasn’t able to search down any of her friends, except the Ryan fella. It’s definitely not him.”
“Because he overdosed about three months ago.” Helping himself, Murray grabbed a beer out of the fridge and propped a hip against the counter. “Did she mention anything about a message?”
Chandler’s brows lowered. “No. What message?”
Popping the lid off the bottle, he took a quick swig before he answered. “In her home office, the words ‘You lying whore’ were carved into the wall.”
Chandler’s hand tightened around the glass. “No. She did not mention that.”
“Maybe she didn’t see it.”
Anger whipped through his insides with acid-tipped barbs. “Seems like a hard thing to overlook.”
Murray eyed him closely. “All depends on if she went into her home office and how shocked she was by seeing her apartment. I’m telling you, man. That placed was f**ked up. She might not have noticed it.” He took another gulp of beer and then tossed the bottle into the garbage. “Are you sure she’s being honest with you?”
“About what exactly?” He finished off his glass of whiskey, reached for the bottle, and then thought better. Getting drunk off his ass wasn’t the brightest idea.
“Are you sure there isn’t an ex involved in this? I know she told you there isn’t, but the amount of damage was substantial. And calling her a lying whore? It all seems very personal.”
He wished Murray would stop saying “lying whore,” because it made him want to punch someone in the throat. And since Murray was the only person in front of him, he was the only target, and that sucked. He liked the guy.
“I know she apparently pisses people off on a daily basis, but this is personal,” Murray added.
“She doesn’t piss people off daily.” The back of his neck burned. “She helps people.”
Murray opened his mouth and then his eyes narrowed. Several seconds passed. “Where’s she staying?”
Silence. It stretched so long Chandler wondered if the man had lost the ability to speak, but finally Murray spoke. “Are you f**king serious?”
The burn on the back of his neck increased. “Are you?”
“She’s staying here?” Murray’s voice dropped low. “In your home?”
“Unless there’s a different meaning for ‘here’ that I’m unaware of, then yes.”
Murray stared at him like he’d whipped out his c**k and started swinging it around. “Why not a hotel or somewhere less personal? Like we’d normally do in this situation? Or, I don’t know, have her go to family and we run detail outside?”
“She doesn’t have anyone else,” he said, acting on the urge to defend what he was doing and her. But the moment those words left his mouth, he regretted them.
“Does she have you?” Murray shot back.
Chandler’s eyes narrowed dangerously, but his voice remained level. “That’s really none of your business.”
Murray opened his mouth.
“I mean it, bud. Don’t f**king push me on this. She’s staying here with me and that’s as far as I’m discussing it.”
Holding up his hands, Murray shook his head. “Whatever. If you think this is a bright idea, then go with it. Not going to judge.”
Chandler didn’t respond and he didn’t relax at those words.
“Where is she anyway? Hiding from you?”
His lips twitched at that. “Maybe.”
“Wouldn’t blame her for that.” Murray headed for the door. “I’ll let you know if I find out anything else on the celeb and friends.”
“Okay.” He started to close the door but stopped. “Oh, and can you—”
“Call and get someone out there to clean up her place?” Murray smiled broadly, and for some reason, it made the guy look scarier. “Already did it. Also got a security system ordered for her.”
Muscles in his back eased a little. “You’re awesome.”
After Murray left, Chandler made sure his place was locked down, alarm set, and then grabbed the totes before heading upstairs. What Murray had said about an ex nagged at him. Had he been incorrect and Alana had held back important information?
Whatever it might be, he was about to find out.
He started to knock on her bedroom door but found it slightly cracked. Easing it open, he slipped into her room. Maybe he should’ve knocked, but what the hell? It was his house.
His gaze fell to the bed first, and it was empty. Shopping bags were stacked on the floor against the dresser. The room smelled of her—lilac and vanilla. His eyes moved to the door to the bathroom. It was also ajar and soft light edged around the bottom. Sitting the totes on the dresser, he was about to force himself out of the bedroom when a startled cry edged with terror erupted from the bathroom.
What the hell? What kind of trouble could she get herself into alone in a bathroom?
More than a little concerned, he moved toward the bathroom door. In the back of his head, he knew he should announce himself, but he pushed open the door.
And came to a complete stop, something tugging at his chest and causing the muscles to tighten in his stomach. Pulsing adrenaline coursed through him, and he couldn’t remember why he even came up the stairs to find her before he’d heard her cry out.
Never in his life had he met a more contrary woman, but right then, she was the embodiment of wet dreams. Go figure it was when she might be asleep.
She must’ve had a nightmare that had passed over her. Now she rested peacefully, but a storm was raging inside his body.
Alana was in the tub, her head resting on a rolled-up towel, facing the door. A practically serene look marked her expression. He’d never really seen her as such. The tug in his chest was stronger this time, drawing him closer.
Her hair was piled up around her head, but without anything to hold it there, several tendrils hung down, drifting over her shoulders and into the water. The scent of shower gel filled the bathroom, which explained the frothy white bubbles that obscured her body except for the sweet swell of her chest and a gracefully bent knee.
Seeing her like this was a punch to the gut and caused his already hard c**k to pulse against the zipper of his jeans.
Goddamn, it was the sexiest thing he’d ever seen. And he’d seen a lot of sexy in his life, but this—fuck yeah—this was stunning. Maybe it was the white-capped bubbles drifting over her skin or the way her plump lips were slightly parted. It could be the innocence of it all. How she slumbered without knowing he was there, watching her.
Or maybe it was just because it was her.
Alana shifted slightly. She let out a soft, contented sigh that boiled his blood. Her knee slipped under the water, stirring the bubbles. The peaks of her br**sts broke the surface. Nipples dusty pink and tightened into little nubs, they were absolutely perfect.
Holy hell, he was…he was absolutely undone by the mere sight of them.
He must’ve made a sound or she finally sensed his presence, because her eyes suddenly flew open. She sucked in a startled breath.
Their eyes locked.
Alana jerked up, tucking her legs under her. Bubbles sloshed over the sides of the tub as she rose. Water sluiced down her body in thick rivulets, drawing his heated gaze.
For the best seconds of his life, she froze before him, completely and splendidly naked. Her arms to her sides, tiny bubbles gliding down her skin, and all that beautiful flesh on display for him to devour. And boy, did he ever eat her up with his stare.
His mouth went dry as his balls tightened. As he suspected, she had been hiding a lush body under the shapeless suits. True, her br**sts were small, but they were perfect for her narrow waist. Her h*ps flared out, sweetly rounded, and her thighs were shapely. In a second, he could picture them wrapping around his hips. She was bare between the thighs, with the exception of a neatly trim thatch of dark curls.