Chandler didn’t respond, so she shoved the file folder toward him, which wasn’t very far, since he was in her personal space and then some. He didn’t take it, and her irritation grew into frustration. “They’re all in here—twenty of them.”
“Okay.” He drew out the word as his gaze dipped. But not to her hands. To her chest.
Alana didn’t know what to think or say at that point. She was a logical woman. A minute ago, he had had a woman in here who had two baby butts for boobs and she was barely a B cup. Not to mention there was no way in holy hell he could see her goods. She was wearing a white blouse buttoned straight up to her chin and a suit jacket. Unless he had x-ray vision, he was just being an ass.
Struggling to get a grip on her quickly rising anger, she snapped the file folder against his chest. “Do you want to look at them? Or do you want to continue staring at my br**sts like a pig?”
That ghost of a smile spread into a full smirk. “I think I’ll keep staring at your br**sts like a pig.”
“Well, that’s lovely.”
“They sure are,” he replied.
Alana took one deep, even breath. “Mr. Gamble, I’m here—”
“Because you need my help,” he interrupted. “I got that.”
“And I’m trying to show you what I’ve been receiving.” She smacked the folder off his chest once again. “So can we— ”
His hand shot out, as fast as a cobra striking, startling her. He wrapped his fingers around her wrist, gently but firmly. Lowering his head, he brought his lips to within an inch of hers. So close she could taste the minty scent of his breath. “While I like to be smacked in the chest with random objects from time to time, you keep it up, I’m going to think that’s an invitation for me to return the favor.”
Her mouth dropped open.
“On a different part of the body,” he added, winking. “And with my hand.”
She gasped and her skin burned, but not from embarrassment. Oh no. The mere thought of his hand on her ass almost had her forgetting why she came here. Almost. She jerked her arm free, knowing he simply allowed her to do so. “That was extremely unprofessional.”
Chandler laughed deeply, sending a shiver down her spine, and spread his arms wide. “What about any of this would be considered professional?”
He had a good point, but still. She took a step back, which grated on her nerves. “Mr. Gamble, I am trying to—”
Having no idea where he was going with that statement, she shook her head. “Say what?”
Her brows knitted as she stared up at him. “I do believe I’ve been saying your name. Perhaps all that muscle and hair are impairing your hearing.”
He chuckled again as he stalked forward, reclaiming the distance between them. “That wasn’t very nice, Alana.”
At the sound of her name rolling off his tongue, the muscles in her stomach tightened. “What? Do you want me to say your first name?”
“Yes, actually, I do.”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, no thank you. I prefer to keep this businesslike.”
“Again, what about this is business appropriate?” He moved his arms out to his sides once more, gesturing around him. “The handcuffs? Or the lovers’ swing folded in the corner? Or the lounge, which comes complete with stirrups?”
Oh dear Lord…
“Or the fact you hunted me down?”
Her lips mashed together. “I didn’t hunt you down. It wasn’t that hard to find you. After all, if you weren’t at your office, home, or with your brothers, where else would you be but at a club with such a stellar reputation?”
He cocked his head to the side. “Have you been stalking me, Alana?”
“It is Miss Gore to you, and no, I’m not stalking you.” She took another deep breath. “Are you going to listen to me or continue to derail the conversation?”
“I wasn’t aware that’s what I was doing,” he said. “I’ve been following along easily. You’ve been receiving threatening letters, which I assume are in the folder you keep using as a weapon, but I’m not sure how I can be of any help with that.”
She stared at him a moment, absolutely baffled. “Doesn’t it seem obvious? You run a company that specializes in personal security. I’m coming here because obviously I need security.”
Another deep laugh erupted from him, but this time, it didn’t make her warm on the inside. “I’m not sure if you understand the kind of security we offer.”
Bristling, she tipped up her chin. “I’m sure I do.”
He shook his head slowly. “We offer security to people who are under a real threat, Alana. Those who have received death threats or have had attempts on their lives made—attempts made by very serious and very deadly people.”
“How do you know attempts haven’t been made or that I haven’t received death threats?” she demanded, clinging to her temper with a fine thread. “You’ve been too busy ogling me and making sexual innuendoes.”
“Back to your br**sts?”
The base of her neck was starting to tingle. “Oh my God.”
“You brought them up. Both times. Not me.” A quick grin flashed across his face. “And if attempts were made on your life, you wouldn’t be here showing me letters. And while I’m sure you have a list as long as my arm consisting of people you’ve pissed off, I doubt any of them are a serious threat.”
Her eyes narrowed. “How would you know that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because you blackmailed my brother’s fiancée and nearly drove him insane?”
A bit of heat peaked on her cheeks. “Whatever. Look at them now. They’re getting married. They should be thanking me.”
He shot her a dry look. “How many other people have you helped like that?”
She wanted to feign innocence at the question, but she knew better. So did Chandler. His accusations made her uncomfortable in ways he probably couldn’t even fathom. “Look, I need to hire someone who can be discreet and—”
“I can’t,” he interrupted.
“What?” Surprise shuttled through her. “Why not?”
Chandler’s lashes lowered, shielding his eyes. “Several reasons, but mainly, there’s a rule that all my employees operate by, as do I.”
“Under no circumstances do any of my employees or I take a job that has a conflict of interest.”
Confused, she held the folder closer to her chest. “Is your brother a conflict of interest?”
He shook his head, and a moment passed before he answered. “No. We don’t protect anyone we want to f**k.”
The moment those words came out of his mouth, Chandler knew he meant them. Maybe when they’d first formed on his tongue, he was saying them just to mess with her, but there was something about Miss Gore that brought out a teasing side of him. She’d gotten under his skin from the first moment he’d met her.
Alana opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, drawing his attention to that interesting part of her face. Her lips were devoid of any makeup, not even a faint trace of faded lipstick, but they were fuller than he remembered, and he bet they’d be soft if they weren’t always in such a tense, tight line.
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that,” she said, her voice unsurprisingly level.
He wondered if anything truly got to the woman. “I’m not going to pretend.”
“This… That was… That is so inappropriate that I don’t even know where to begin.” She reached up, taking off her glasses. For the briefest second, he saw her face for the first time without them before she placed them back on.
Her eyes were dark, nearly black, but they were less cold without the glass barrier between them and the world. The skin around her eyes was free from wrinkles, and her lashes were thick, incredibly long. He leaned back, his gaze searching her face. She scrunched her nose and still, her skin barely crinkled. With the slight pink flush staining her cheeks, she looked youthful—younger than he ever imagined. His eyes narrowed.
“How old are you?” he asked, suddenly realizing that she couldn’t be as old as he originally believed.
“What?” She pinched the bridge of her nose, squeezing her eyes shut.
He cocked his head to the side, brows lowering. “How old are you?”
“How old are you?” she shot back.
“I’m thirty-three. Answer my damn question.”
“You’re giving me a headache.” She slid her glasses back on. “My age has nothing to do with why I’m here.” She paused and then added under her breath, “I don’t even know why I’m here.”
Annoyed, because he was used to people doing what he wanted, he folded his arms. “Why won’t you just answer the question?”
“Why would I? You don’t want to work for me. Do you need to make sure I’m of legal age for a good f**king? Because I can tell you two things you can take to the bank.” Her free hand formed a little fist. “I’m definitely of legal age, and your dick isn’t coming within spitting distance of any part of my body.”
A smile tugged at his lips. “What an incredible mouth you have on you.”
She stared at him for a good half a minute and then exploded like a bottle rocket. “For f**k’s sake, talking to you is impossible! Fucking forget I even came here, because this was the most pointless trip I’ve ever made in the history of f**king forever!”
He blinked, surprised by her outburst. And turned on—completely, 100 percent rocking a raging hard-on. There was definitely something wrong with that, but he wasn’t surprised. He liked his women mouthy.
And this one was a volcano.
The volcano was also leaving.
Alana yanked at the door and nearly threw herself off balance. Paula must’ve locked it on her way out, something they should’ve thought about earlier, but then again, Chandler couldn’t find it in himself to regret Alana’s interruption.
Cursing up a storm under her breath, she unlocked the door and tore it open. Within seconds, she’d disappeared into the shadowy hall outside the private room.
Chandler started after her but stopped.
“Shit,” he muttered, thrusting his fingers through his hair.
He needed to let her go. What he knew about her, which wasn’t much but definitely enough, was that the woman would be nothing but trouble. That was the last thing he needed in his life right now. It didn’t matter that her appearance had his c**k waking from its majorly inconvenient slumber. And the most messed-up thing was that he was still hard.
Damn, she had smelled good. The scent of a flower that reminded him of spring, but he couldn’t place what it was.
And now he was thinking about how she smelled. Fuuuucck.
Letting her go back to wherever she came from was the smartest thing he could do. For that matter, what the hell was she still doing in this city? Her assignment as his brother’s publicist had ended in January and from what he’d gathered from Chad, she lived in California. So why was she still here?
Did it even matter?
Chandler told himself that it didn’t, but—and there always seemed to be a but—what if she was in trouble? And he’d just told her he’d rather f**k her than protect her? He didn’t feel bad about saying that, but Jesus, he hadn’t even looked at those letters.
He bit out a ripe curse. Letters were not serious. The kind of shit he saw and dealt with on a regular basis made threatening letters something a child would do. Not to mention the fact that Alana had to have a list as long as his leg when it came to enemies who wanted to scare her.
Of course, none of this made him any less of a jackass right now.
Dropping his hand, he shook his head. Receiving threatening letters didn’t warrant a personal security detail in any situation. He hadn’t been kidding around when he’d told her they protected people being threatened by very dangerous individuals, but a twinge of guilt still churned in his stomach. He hadn’t taken her seriously, hadn’t even listened to her story.
“Shit,” he said again.
The back of Alana’s throat burned as she made her way across the crowded club floor. Even if she wasn’t speed walking, she’d stand out among the patrons of Leather and Lace. Her prim black suit was an eyesore among the shimmery tops, skintight jeans, and pretty dresses.
So plain. So boring.
Normally, that wouldn’t bother her, but tonight, she felt like all her emotions were on the outside, coating her skin instead of being neatly tucked away.
A hand grabbed for her as she rounded a cluster of small tables. She shot a warning look at the offender, a young male with kohl-lined eyes. He simply laughed and threw an arm over the shoulders of a petite redhead.
To Alana, the air in the club was suffocating—hot and heavy with the scent of perfume, cologne, and liquor. She barreled out the front door, gasping in the cool night air as it washed over her flushed skin.
Stupid—she had been so incredibly stupid coming here, thinking that Chandler would actually agree to help her. His crude statement of wanting to have sex with her was most likely nothing more than an attempt to get a rise out of her.
Even though things had worked out splendidly for Chad and Bridget, she had blackmailed them. It was doubtful that any of Chad’s brothers or friends would feel warm and fuzzy when it came to her.