She heard laughter and music, glasses clanking and the sounds of ESPN’s SportsCenter from the bar when she stepped out into the darkened hallway. No Shane. Breathing easier, Hailey turned and ran smack into one very hard, very familiar chest.
“You made a wrong turn at Tallahassee, Officer Roarke.”
Heart thundering against her ribs, she looked up, thankful the hall was dark enough to camo her bruises, and saw that sexy lopsided almost-smile of his. What would it look like at full grin?
“I…” Thump, thump, thump. In an instant she got lost in those smoldering eyes just like she’d done three months ago. “Hi.”
“Hi, yourself.” Shane’s voice was as soft as a whisper and as dangerous as a lover’s first touch. And he was standing so close she could feel the heat radiating off his muscular body and smell the beer lingering on his tongue. “You are the last person I expected to see in Chicago in January. What are you doing here?”
Oh, man. How to answer that one?
She should really step back. She had enough problems already to last a lifetime. Her arm ached, her face hurt, and her adrenaline was suddenly back in the out-of-this-world range. But just like she’d done in Puerto Rico at that wedding, she pushed aside the rational side of her brain that said she was flirting with disaster where he was concerned. “I’m here for work. Not here. Um, in Lake Geneva, I mean. But there were a few errands I needed to run in the city.”
Had she really thought seeing him tonight was a good idea? Oh, good God. She was seriously losing it.
“Errands, like, hanging out in a dive bar all by yourself?” The sparkle in his eyes said he was baiting her and she should be careful.
And like a fool, she ignored it.
“No. That was an afterthought. Sorta.” And a bad one. Her palms grew sweaty.
“An afterthought,” he said, eyeing her carefully. He shot a thumb over his shoulder behind him. “Shoulda been your first thought with this crowd. What kind of business does a Key West patrol officer have up here?”
“None. I mean, a patrol officer doesn’t. But I do. I’m taking a break. Leave of absence, really.” Lovely. Now she couldn’t even form a coherent sentence. If that wasn’t a sign she needed to bail, nothing was.
His sister must not have filled him in on what had happened with her family, thinking he wouldn’t care. And why that bothered her so much at the moment was as much of a mystery as was the fact she hadn’t cut and run already.
“My father died.”
“Two weeks ago. Heart attack.”
“Oh, geez. I’m sorry.”
She had to avert her gaze because the concern pooling in his chocolate eyes was suddenly too much to deal with. And because even though she and her father hadn’t seen eye-to-eye recently, there’d been a time, ages ago, when they’d been close. The memory of that stayed with her, and it hurt, just a little, just beneath the breastbone, whenever she thought of never seeing him again.
“If there’s anything I can do—”
She waved a hand and pulled her gaze from his strong chest. “Thanks. No. Really, I’m fine. It wasn’t a complete surprise. His health hasn’t been good lately. He asked me to help out with the company about six weeks ago. I’m only staying on until a new CEO can be appointed.”
“So what are you doing in Lake Geneva?”
“Oh. Um. We’re midway through construction on a new resort there. Unfortunately it’s way behind schedule. With everything surrounding my father’s funeral and such, this is the first chance I’ve had to get up here to check things out.”
He nodded slowly, and again she had to look away because those eyes of his were just too much to deal with. They made her think of dancing and laughing and his hands on her hips, his body pressed up against hers, his breath fanning her cheek and all the incredible places they could have gone that warm night in Puerto Rico if he hadn’t walked away.
Her cheeks heated at the memory, and she took a small step back to break the spell she was slipping under. She’d fantasized about him for the last three months, but the reality was, if he’d been interested, she’d have heard from him before now. The fact she hadn’t was what she needed to remember. That and the fact the very last thing she should be thinking about right now was a guy.
“I should get going,” she said.
“What? You can’t leave yet. I just got here. Let me buy you a drink.”
A drink? With him? And those sexy smoldering eyes? Ah, no.
“I can’t,” she said quickly. “I have to drive back to Wisconsin tonight before the roads freeze much more. And besides, I’ve reached my Cubs limit for the night. In fact, I think I’ve reached it until at least the playoffs.”
He chuckled then, a smooth, rich sound that vibrated all the way through the floor and into her toes. “It’s kind of a religion around here.”
“Ah, yeah. I got that. Spring training hasn’t even started.”
“Pitchers report in two weeks. Can’t get here soon enough.” He grinned then, and oh, man, yeah. That smile at full force was too much. She had to glance toward the door to keep from staring. Before she could figure out a way to say goodbye, he touched her at the elbow. “How about coffee?”
“Come on, don’t say no. My sister Keira gave me this espresso machine for Christmas that I haven’t figured out how to use yet. This is the perfect excuse to break it out. My place is just around the corner.”
His place? Oh, holy hell, no. That was a monumentally bad idea. “I shouldn’t—”
His fingers tightened on her elbow, and she looked up to see that mischievous spark in his eyes all over again. The same one she’d seen in Key Biscayne. The same one she’d seen in Puerto Rico at that wedding. The same one she’d dreamed of way longer than was smart, and which had driven her here tonight when she should be safe in Lake Geneva right this minute, licking her wounds. “I don’t bite, Hailey. And besides, even if I did, we both know you could kick my ass anytime you wanted.”
Their eyes held, and she felt her lips slowly curve at what he was obviously remembering. The night he’d shown up in Key Biscayne to find his sister. Hailey had been there and thought he was an intruder. She’d taken him down hard to the patio, disarmed this beefy Chicago homicide detective and started reading him his rights before Lisa had come barreling out of the dark and announced he wasn’t a peeping Tom, but her brother.
“I guess one cup of coffee wouldn’t hurt anything,” she heard herself say before she thought better of it.
His grin widened. “Quick and painless. I promise.”
Her heart thumped. She seriously doubted that.
But damn if she wasn’t thinking how sweet a little pain, the likes of which only he could provide, would go along well with some espresso.
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