Shane reached for his longneck, shoved the slice of lime the bartender had set on top into the bottle and took a long swallow. Heaven. Or as close as he was gonna get tonight.
Kauffman drank deeply from his own beer and turned to lean back, one elbow propped up on the bar. He gestured toward the dance floor, where Lisa and Rafe were now moving to the beat of some spicy salsa music. “Look at that poor sap. Guy’s so whipped it’s painful to watch.”
Shane looked, closely, and saw, yeah, Sullivan was definitely whipped. Especially with that goofy grin on his face that screamed he was as head over heels for Lisa as she was for him. And watching them, something in Shane’s chest eased, just a tad. Maybe the two truly had a shot. It’d definitely taken Lisa a helluva long time to find someone she could believe in and trust. Who was Shane, really, to judge her choice? It wasn’t like his choices over the years had been any better. Shit, the last time he’d acted on an interest in a woman…
His side pinched, and he swallowed hard. Took another long drink, and forced that lovely memory right out of his head. He didn’t want a shred of what had happened six months ago to taint even a moment of this day. He just hoped he was wrong and that this time, this time, his sister had finally found the treasure she was really looking for.
Even if the guy was a thief.
Shane lifted his Corona, and told himself, either way, he’d still keep a close eye on Sullivan. “You say that like a man who’s seen the error of his ways.”
Kauffman’s cocky grin faded. “I have. And I guarantee you won’t ever see me make a fool of myself like that again.” He brought his beer to his mouth, but his eyes stayed locked on Rafe and Lisa and there was something there Shane couldn’t quite gauge. Contempt? Pity? No that wasn’t right. It was more like…
Yeah, that was it. Kauffman was jealous. But not over Lisa. He liked Lisa well enough, had even announced at the rehersal dinner last night in his toast that she was perfect for Rafe, and had meant it. No, right now the man didn’t appear jealous of her, but of the connection his friend Rafe had finally found.
Laughter drew Shane’s attention before he could wonder any more about Rafe’s shady business partner and what kind of woman could put that lost look in a man’s eyes, and he turned to glance toward the sound. Then did a double-take like he had every time he’d spied Rafe’s ex, Officer Hailey Roarke, through the crowd tonight.
Holy Hades, the woman was hotter than hot. Her curly blond hair was swept up in some sort of up-do on the top of her head, soft tendrils framing her face and twirling down the long, shapely length of her neck. The little black dress was simple and conservative, not too low in the front or back, not too tight, but nipped in enough to showcase her curves in a classy way. The hem hit just above her knees, drew Shane’s eye down, and no matter what he tried, he couldn’t help follow the long line of her legs, see the muscles in her thighs and calves, the way those ice-pick heels made her look damn sexier than any stripper he’d ever seen.
Almost as if she knew he was looking at her, she glanced up, and their eyes held for a moment. She smiled, one side of her kiss-me lips curling ever-so seductively, before her lashes dropped to cover those sapphire irises and she turned back to the conversation around her.
Bad, bad, bad idea. You’d be wise to stay away from her.
“She doesn’t bite,” Kauffman said in Shane’s ear.
Shane lifted his bottle again. Swallowed. “If you know that from experience, I don’t want to hear it.”
Kauffman chuckled. “No way in hell I’d ever go down that road. Rafe would kick my ass from here to Miami and back again.”
Shane frowned once more. Did not want to think about Hailey and Rafe Sullivan together. Ever, if he could help it. He still had no idea what she’d seen in the guy and didn’t need the visual of the two of them in his head. Especially not when he couldn’t stop visualizing getting her off somewhere dark and private and using his hands and teeth to strip that sexy little black number off her sultry skin. Even though he knew that was something he couldn’t let happen. No matter how much he’d been fantasizing about it the last few hours. Or days. Or, hell, the last month for that matter.
Hailey looked back up at him from across the room, and Shane’s blood went white-hot at the smoldering look in her eye.
Leave now. Just get up and walk out of the bar before it’s too late.
“You shouldn’t let that stop you though, copper,” Kauffman continued on as he slapped Shane’s shoulder. “I mean, you could take Sullivan. Probably. Maybe.” Kauffman grinned. “If Rafe was already tired or wasted or distracted by the barracuda over there like he is now.”
Ignoring Kauffman, Shane watched as Hailey set her glass of champagne on a nearby side table, said goodbye to the group around her and headed toward the bar. His pulse kicked up at the way she was studying him. At the look of intensity in her Caribbean blue eyes. At the way her legs moved, smooth and silky and sexily beneath that shimmery black fabric.
And he had another flash in his head, of her, pinned beneath him on that big, plush bed upstairs in his hotel room, those shapely legs of hers wrapped tight around his waist, her golden hair fanned over his pillow and her mouth open in a sexy little ‘oh’ as he drove inside her.
Don’t just walk. Run!
She got closer. And the air around him grew hot and sultry. The scent of lilacs drifted toward his nose and shut down the rational side of his brain that said he was about to miss his window of opportunity to escape.
Hailey stopped in front of their bar stools. Flicked a look between Shane and Kauffman and back again. “You boys look like you could cause a lot of trouble.”
Ah, hell. His legs were like anchors stuck to the chair. So much for running.
Kauffman grinned. Rose. Set his empty beer bottle on the bar. “Not me. I’m outa here.” He leaned in and kissed Hailey’s cheek.
“You’re leaving?” she asked. “The party’s only just getting going.”
Pete glanced toward the dance floor where Lisa and Rafe were now wrapped up tight, dancing to some slow number, and his grin disappeared. “I’ve had about as much romance and forever as I can stomach. Tell Rafe and Lisa…” Something odd flashed in his eyes before he dragged his attention from the dance floor and looked back at Hailey. “Tell them I’ll call from Miami sometime next week. I gotta get back and get ready for that auction in New York.”
He leaned in to hug Hailey, whispered something Shane couldn’t hear, then kissed her cheek again. Before he left, he shook Shane’s hand. “Maxwell, you’re all right. Even if you are a DRC.”
A devilish grin quirked Pete’s mouth as he gave them both a one finger salute and strolled out of the bar.
Shane watched Kauffman go, then turned to look back at Hailey.
Her top teeth sank against her full bottom lip in such a sexy little way, he curled his fingers against his beer bottle to keep from reaching for her. “DRC,” she said softly. “You know he meant that affectionately.”
Shane lifted a brow. “Dirty rotten copper? Yeah, I just bet he did. What did he whisper to you?”
A mischievous glint filled her eyes. “Not to bite you.”
Shane drew in a deep breath as all the blood in his body went due south. He fought for something to clear his head and all the images suddenly going off like popcorn…the ones of her mouth and different parts of his body he could definitely see and nearly feel her teeth sinking into. And damn, but he had to be a major sicko to like the thought of that. “What auction was he talking about?”
Hailey took the bottle from his hand, set the glass on the shiny bar, and slid her fingers into his. A jolt of electricity zinged up his arm at the simple contact. “He’s finally auctioning off his Egyptian collection. I don’t think he’s happy about it.” She pulled him to his feet, and he let her, even though he knew it was a really, really bad idea. “Let me ask you something, Maxwell. Do you want to talk about Pete and his artifacts? Or sit here and drink all by yourself as you watch Rafe and Lisa dance? Or would you rather take a walk on the wild side?”
His eyes narrowed at her teasing tone. And the playful look in her eyes that was clearly challenging him. In her heels she was almost as tall as he was, and too damn sexy for her own good. She didn’t have a clue what kind of danger she was toying with. “What did you have in mind?”
Her fingers flexed in his. “Well, we could go out on the patio and practice take-down methods.” Her lips curled in a one-sided, sinister smile, her words clearly hinting at the night they’d met and she’d taken him down hard, disarmed him and read him his rights. “Or I could take pity on that bad shoulder of yours and dance with you. Which would you prefer?”
Neither. Considering his history, both were bound to set him off. Get him in trouble. Jump start events she’d have no idea how to deal with. But hell if he could walk away from her now. “Let’s start with dancing. If and when I feel up to having you kick my ass again, I’ll let you know.”
That smile turned into a full blown grin, her pearl-white teeth showcasing her scrumptious kiss-me lips. “Detective, you’re on. And you just got yourself a dancing partner.”
She turned and pulled him after her out into the sea of grinding bodies and thumping music. And he smiled as he let her, for a moment, the weight of everything he’d done lifting from his shoulders, all because of her.
Then he prayed his self-control kicked in and that’s all he let her do to him.