He followed her down the hall to . . . the supply cabinets?
She touched the drug lockup. “I just checked to make sure it was locked up for the night,” she said quietly, turning her back to him to stare at the cabinet. “And it made me wonder if I’m better.” She put her hands on the locked door and bowed her head slightly. “Do it,” she whispered. “Attack me again.”
Again? “Jade.” Her name felt like it was torn from his throat. “I—”
There was a terrible pause where he’d have sworn he heard her heart pounding from where he stood. With a sick feeling deep in his gut, he came up behind her just as Adam came into the room.
Jade froze. Dell felt the change in her instantly and glanced at Adam, who stopped where he was.
Jade’s breath hitched.
“It’s just me,” Dell said quietly to her. “You can do this. Remember how I showed you in my gym.” He stepped closer, into her space now. A strand of her hair stuck to the stubble on his jaw and then she trembled, killing him. “Jade—”
“Shh.” Dropping her head to the cabinet, she spoke to herself. “It’s easier in the gym. It’s less real.”
“We don’t have to do this—”
“Yes, we do. Someone’s still hitting vet clinics.”
At the realization that she didn’t feel safe here in his place, a helpless fury rushed him. “Jade—”
“Please, Dell? I want to do this here, in the real world, until I don’t want to throw up at the thought.”
No one understood that better than him. He wasn’t sure exactly what had happened to her, but he was good at guessing. She hadn’t fought back and that haunted her. She wanted to be strong. He understood that, too, the need, the passion driving her to make sure she was strong no matter what. So he tightened his arms on her and pressed her up against the cabinet.
She stomped on his foot, plowed her elbow into his belly, and when he bent with an “oomph,” she whirled, a pen in her hand, ready to poke him in the eye.
Which, thankfully, she didn’t. She dropped it to the floor and stopped short, breathing hard. “Oh God.”
“Nice,” Adam said, nodding. “Follow up?”
“A knee to the family jewels.” She swiped her forehead with her arm. “Drop him like a stone.”
“Sounds good,” his brother said. “I wouldn’t have minded seeing that.”
Dell slid his brother a long look and received a rare but genuine laugh. Adam humor.
“I could use a pizza now,” Jade said.
Still smiling, Adam raised his hand. “My treat,” he said. “Promise to do that again tomorrow and I’ll spring for the beer, too.”
Two days later Dell was sitting in his office staring at the files on his desk. He needed to work, but he hadn’t written a word in ten minutes. For the millionth time, his gaze landed on Jade out in the front room.
He’d thought that her request and his promise to treat her the same at work was just the usual womanspeak for we are now sleeping together so I own you.
But she’d meant it. She hadn’t tried to discuss their night or, to his chagrin, repeat it.
She was closing up for the night; straightening the chairs along the wall, talking to Gertie who was padding along after her, then laughing at something the silly parrot repeated as she wiped down the front reception counter with her special antiseptic wipes.
He loved to watch her.
It wasn’t just the clothes, he decided, taking in her black pencil skirt and kick-ass heels, the ones that had little bows at her ankles. It was the way Gertie loved her. The way she’d taken on Beans. The way both of them, dog and kitten, followed her around like she was the Pied Piper.
It was . . . well, f**king adorable, for one thing. And for another, he found it hot. Her loving his animals was hot.
She moved back to the computer and sat, staring at the screen, fingers whirling on the keyboard. Her hair was carefully contained and controlled in some complicated twist up on her head, and her white blouse . . . Christ, had it been unbuttoned that far when she’d first come in this morning? Because damned if she didn’t look like every man’s secretary fantasy. In fact, just like that, it started to play in his mind.
Slowly she rose to her feet. Licked her lips as she reached up and undid her hair, shaking her head, causing the soft, silky waves to tumble to her shoulders.
Her fingers began working the buttons on her snug white blouse, revealing a black lace bra beneath which barely covered her ni**les and—
“Jesus, where the hell are you, Disneyland?”
Dell blinked at Adam, who’d come and perched a hip on the desk. He stared at Dell with a straight face, but he knew his brother better than anyone on earth.
Adam was laughing his ass off on the inside, the fucker. “Not Disneyland.”
More like Penthouse Forum . . .
Adam gave a purposeful, knowing look in the direction where Dell’s gaze had been fixated.
Jade. Not giving him a naughty secretary striptease . . .
Dell kicked his office door shut.
Adam’s mouth twitched and he leaned forward, opening the door again.
Jade glanced over, saw them, and gave a quizzical look.
Adam waved at her.
Jade paused, narrowed her eyes, then went back to her work.
Adam turned to Dell. “This is new, you doing all the mooning. Usually it’s the women showing up or calling incessantly. But now it’s you. You’re the one mooning now.” He shook his head. “Poor dumb bastard.”
Dell shoved Adam off his desk. “Don’t you have something to do to earn your keep?”
Adam smiled. He knew damn well that his business, the classes, the training, the breeding . . . all brought good money into their pockets. “You’re pissy. You know what that means? That I’m right.”
“Really? You want to go there? Maybe I should get Holly on the line for you. Then we’ll talk pissy.”
“Hey, at least I’m not changing my MO midgame,” Adam pointed out.
“You let Jade come to your house,” Adam explained.
“Yeah. To train her. You’d have done the same thing.”
“No, I’d have brought her to the gym in town. But you. You took her home.”
So they both knew that Jade was the first woman Dell had ever had out there.
“Next thing,” Adam said, “you’ll start thinking about giving her the key code.”
The guilt must have shown on Dell’s face because Adam tipped his head back and laughed. He was still laughing when Dell, not liking where this was going, turned back to his work. “Why are you here, anyway?”
“I mean why are you here, in my office, bugging the shit out of me?”
“Other than it’s fun to f**k with you?” Adam shrugged. “Thought we’d get something to eat.” He took another peek at Jade. “You figure you know what you’re doing? Because both Brady and I have our doubts.”
He had no clue. “You and Brady should f**k off.”
Adam took one look at his face and shook his head, still amused. “Good to see this on the other foot for a change.”
“I’d be worried about Jade, but you know what? Even with whatever’s clearly bothering her, she’s still going to eat you up and spit you out.”
Dell could get on board with the eating him up part. “What the hell does that mean?”
“Hey, if you don’t know, I can’t help you.” He tapped Dell on the head with his knuckles. “Yeah, still hard as wood. You always did have to learn the hard way.” He headed to the door. “My money’s on you, though.”
Late the next afternoon, Jade signed in the last patient of the day—Lulu the lamb was by turns sweet, curious, and holy hell on wheels.
Keith had brought Mrs. Robertson and Lulu to an exam room. Jade was at her desk doing the whole wind down for the day when she heard Mrs. Robertson and Dell laughing.
Two minutes later, Mrs. Robertson and Lulu checked out with Jade and left.
Jade turned to her last chore, Dell’s laptop. The other day on the helicopter back from a S&R training, he’d made a bunch of notes for her to add to patient files. She’d been asking him to e-mail them to her, but he hadn’t, so she’d confiscated the laptop to do it herself.
That’s when she found the patient files she’d never seen before, a whole set of them that had never been entered on the books. Frowning, she scrolled through them. Wellpuppy and -kitten checks, simple surgeries like neuters and spays, dentistry, vaccinations . . . Confused, Jade searched, but though she found names, dates, and detailed services provided, there was no billing information.
Because he hadn’t billed, she realized. Not for any of it.
She went deeper and found that these services occurred approximately once a month and went back years. Thoroughly baffled, Jade went into the back and found Dell in front of the x-ray machine, laughing with Mike, who was cleaning up the equipment.
“What’s wrong with Lulu?” Jade asked.
“She ate Mrs. Robertson’s birth control pills,” Mike said.
“That’s not dangerous for her?”
“Not the pills,” Dell told her. “But the case is . . . problematic.”
Jade stared at Dell. “She ate the case, too?”
Dell smiled. “Yeah but no worries. The x-ray shows she broke up the case pretty good, though. It’s going to all come out okay in the end.”
Both men cracked up at this. When they’d composed themselves, Mike said good-bye for the night.
Dell surprised Jade by snagging her h*ps and drawing her in close, gripping her with a protective, possessive familiarity that should have pissed her off.
Instead, her heart stuttered to a stop. She looked down at his hands on her, at his fingers, the ones she’d had on her body all night long three nights ago now, tender. Rough.
Demanding . . .
Tilting her head up, she looked into his face. “What are you doing?”
“Breaking my promise. I’m gonna kiss you, Jade.” He flashed her a wicked smile that blew a few brain cells. “Want a breakdown of what happens next?”
“I—” It shouldn’t be so sexy when he spoke in that low alpha voice. She lost her train of thought when his hands ran up and down her sides, dangerously close to the swells of her breasts.
“God, I love this top,” he murmured, dipping his head to kiss her neck. “And you smell good enough to eat.”
“Dell, we’re at work.”
“When we’re not at work, you ignore me.”
“That’s . . . that’s not true.” Was it? “You didn’t come by or call, either.”
He went still and stared at her, looking genuinely flummoxed, as if he was so used to women coming to him that he’d not even thought of it. “You are so spoiled,” she said. “And—” Her phone was vibrating in her pocket. She pulled it out, saw that it was her mother, and put it back into her front pants pocket.
Dell’s brows went up.
“It’s nothing.” But the phone kept vibrating insistently.
Dell slid his hand into her pocket, taking his sweet-ass time pulling out the phone, making sure his fingers brushed against her hip bone, letting his thumb slip beneath the waistband of her skirt to touch bare skin as he looked at the ID screen. “It says Mom,” he said. “Jade, you can’t ignore your mom.” Before she could say a word to that, he hit Answer and said “Jade Bennett’s phone, how can I help you?”
Jade tried to snatch the phone back, but Dell used his superior height against her. “Yes,” he said very sweetly into the phone. As if he were ever sweet. “As a matter of fact, Jade is right here. Hold on a moment.”
She snatched the phone. “Mom, is everything all right?”
“Of course, darling.”
“Okay . . . but I’m at work, you know that, right?”
“I know.” Her mother’s voice was clear enough for Dell to hear. “So who was that lovely young man?”
“Was that your secretary?” her mother asked.
Jade smirked at Dell. “Not quite. Mom, you know that I’m the secretary here.”
“Actually,” Dell said. “You’re more than—”
Jade slapped her hand over his mouth. “Can I call you back after work?”
“Oh, there’s no need. Just wanted you to know that I went by your town house today and aired it out for you. I was thinking a fresh paint job.”
It was difficult to concentrate with one hundred eighty pounds of solid muscle and testosterone pressing into her. “I just painted it.”
“Eighteen months ago. And how about some new furniture? Just yesterday I found this adorable King James end table—”
Dell made the most of their close proximity and sank his teeth lightly into the lobe of her ear. Desire rolled through her and she barely managed to swallow her moan. Shoving at him, she said, “I don’t need new paint or new furniture, but thank you.”
“Plants, then. How about a few plants, something to make it homey for your arrival.”
“No plants,” Jade said firmly, giving up trying to push Dell away as he kissed his way down her throat, his hands gliding up to cover her breasts. Damn. He was good . . .