Damn him. She wished she’d said cock rot instead of rash. Rash wasn’t bad enough. With her fuse fully lit now, she turned on her heel and stormed out into the night. Ignoring the chill, she got an Uber and headed home, which was one side of a postage-stamp-sized duplex in Russian Hill.
She loved her place almost more than she loved her shoes, even if she couldn’t turn around in it without bumping her elbows on the walls. It was cozy, quaint, warm . . . everything her life had never been before.
She made herself some hot tea and sat at her tiny kitchen table in her tiny kitchen and stayed up late into the night doing homework for her two accounting classes.
And absolutely not thinking about one irritating, infuriating, smug, arrogant Archer Hunt.
Archer lived in an old converted warehouse in the Marina. He had a gym on the ground floor and in the early mornings he always hit that first, beating the crap out of a punching bag. He did this to keep his body in lean, mean, fighting shape. He also did it to clear his mind.
But his mind wasn’t having it today.
Elle had kept his knife. She literally carried a piece of him around with her wherever she went and he had no idea what to make of that. Especially in the day since she’d done her best to ignore him. And when she wasn’t ignoring him, she was treating him like a bug on her windshield.
He got it. She deserved far better than he could ever come up with. And plus no way would he ever risk her being with him because she felt she owed him. So he’d put up walls, trying to be disciplined when it came to her. For her sake.
But she’d kept his knife . . .
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out an agate worry stone. The very one she’d given him in return for the knife in that run-down park the night when everything had gone to shit for the both of them. Pounding the punching bag until his muscles quivered pleasantly, he reminded himself that Elle had changed.
They’d both changed.
And neither was interested in going back. Convinced of that, he showered and headed to work.
The morning’s light was just hitting the courtyard of the Pacific Pier Building as he walked through. The cobblestones beneath his feet glinted from the middle of the night’s light mist. Heading past the fountain, he took the stairs to his second-floor office but instead of turning right at the top, he went left.
And ended up in front of the door that read Elle Wheaton, General Manager.
Spence came out of her office and went brows up at the sight of him.
And the weirdest thing happened. Archer’s gut tightened and a seed of some unnamed emotion barreled through him.
He’d been the one who’d talked Spence into hiring Elle for the job. But then something unexpected had happened—over the past year she and Spence had become unexpectedly tight.
While she’d kept her distance from Archer.
He had no business giving a single shit about it but he did. It was a hell of a thing to realize he was actually jealous. It pissed him off that he felt that way, but it was fact. He was pretty sure if anything was going to happen between Elle and Spence that it would’ve already happened, but ridiculously he still felt bitten by the green monster.
“What’s up?” Spence asked.
Spence looked him over for a long beat and then smiled. “She’s eating you up and spitting you out.”
“Bullshit,” Archer said, and then he paused. “But if she was, why is that amusing?”
Spence clapped him on the shoulder. “Going to be fun to watch, that’s all.”
“What’s going to be fun to watch?”
“You on your ass.” And with that enigmatic statement, Spence walked off, hands in his pockets, still looking vastly amused, the fucker.
Archer shook it off and reached for Elle’s office door. It was locked, but given that Spence had just come out, she was obviously in there. She was always in this early. She was one of the hardest working people he knew. He wasn’t sure what her endgame was but he suspected world domination, and to get there she took online college classes from six to eight a.m. several mornings a week. She came here to do them because her Internet at home was unreliable.
She’d be furious to hear just how much he knew about her, not that he ever intended to tell her. After all, he valued his life. “Elle,” he said with a knock on the door.
She was being cautious after last night’s stunt at the bar. Smart woman. But it didn’t matter. As head of the building’s security, he had keys to everything, although he didn’t pull them out now because he wasn’t stupid.
Elle was on the other side of that door. He could hear her breathing and chances were she’d shoot him on sight if he let himself in. After the “body rash” thing, he was feeling the same desire in return, except his weapon of choice would be his hands. He’d put them around her pretty throat and squeeze.
This wasn’t a new urge, but he could resist.
Just as he’d resisted his other more troubling urge—to haul her into him and kiss them both stupid. Or at least more stupid than he was in this very moment.
That wasn’t a new feeling either but he had no intention of following it through. On either.
“What do you want?” she asked through the door.
“Should I give you the long or the short list?”
Nothing but a loaded silence.
“You,” he said. “You’re my problem.”
“You’re mad about last night.”
“You mean when you implied to everyone in the pub that I had a sexually transmitted disease?”
There was a gasp behind him. He turned and found Trudy standing there with her ever present cleaning cart. Her gaze dropped to his crotch and he barely resisted the urge to cup himself.
“The clinic on Post is really good,” the woman actually whispered to him. “And, um . . . discreet.”
Archer heard Elle snort and ground his teeth together. “It’s a joke,” he said.
“Sure it is, honey.” Trudy patted him on the arm sympathetically. “I gotta say though, my fantasy life just took a big hit.” And then she rolled off with her cart.
Archer turned back to the still closed door.
“For the record,” Elle said through it, sounding like she might be laughing. “I never said sexually transmitted anything. Not that I’m surprised your mind went there.”