Morton “Jacko” Jackman isn’t afraid of anything. He’s a former Navy SEAL sniper, and he’s been in more firefights than most people have had hot meals. Lauren Dare scares the crap out of him.
Gorgeous, talented and refined, she’s the type of woman who could never be interested in a roughneck like him. So he’s loved her fiercely in secret, taken her art classes, and kept a watchful but comfortable distance. Until now.
Lauren had finally found a home in Portland, far from her real identity, far from the memories of her mother’s death, and outside the reaches of the drugged-out psycho who’s already tried to kill her twice. One tiny misstep—a single photograph—has shattered it all. She has no choice but to run again, but this time she’ll give herself a proper farewell: one night with Jacko.
Their highly charged emotional encounter changes everything. In Jacko’s arms there cannot be fear, there can only be pleasure. Anyone wishing her harm will have to pass through him, and Jacko is a hard man to kill.
Lauren trembled as they walked up to her front door. Okay. Jacko had basically already said yes, to anything she proposed. So how hard could this be?
Very hard, it turned out. Because that rush of conviction in the SUV driving over here had dissipated, leaving her feeling sad and foolish.
She’d heard the stories about him from Suzanne and Allegra, though they’d tapered off lately. But still, they’d been plenty colorful.
How he was a player and he liked them young and super sexy. Biker chicks, mostly. That wasn’t her. She wasn’t very young anymore and she was anything but sexy. A B-cup at best, in her more optimistic moments.
She wasn’t even that good in bed, or so she’d been told. What did she know? It all seemed so very mysterious, right now, walking up to her porch, with a light snow falling around them. That whole Sex Thing seemed alien, something Martians did.
Another woman would know precisely what to do and would be a firecracker in bed. Firecracker. That was the term one of her stepfather’s goons had used to describe a wannabe model-du-jour he’d bedded. What did firecrackers do? Sex was such a basic activity, what room was there for improvement?
And yet there had to be room for improvement because Lauren knew, without a shadow of doubt, that no one would ever, ever call her a firecracker in bed. Not even a sparkler.
Oh God. This was a really really bad idea. They were at her door and the whole Sex Thing loomed behind it. And really, in her experience sex wasn’t that great. Maybe it would leave a bad taste in her mouth, cloud up her happy memories of Portland.
Had Jacko realized that for a brief moment of lunacy she’d contemplated dragging him to bed? Because though he always looked impassive and impervious, he was actually pretty observant. How humiliating if he realized it, shuddered at the thought, politely accepted a shot of her whiskey and made a fast escape.
And, and even if he did throw her—what was it called?—a mercy fuck, what would that gain her? She’d never see him again. She was going to embark upon a long trip tomorrow with no idea of the destination. She’d need a good night’s sleep, not a night faking orgasms.
Thoughts buzzing in her head like angry hornets, she scrabbled uselessly in her tiny evening purse for the key. She was close to a full-blown anxiety attack and her hands were numb. Ah, there the key was, on her silver paintbrush fob. But her hand was trembling; she couldn’t fit the damned key into the lock, one of those fancy ones Jacko had bought for her and had installed himself.
Something big and warm and hard enveloped her hand, stilling it. His hand, gently removing the key from the crazy lady’s hands and opening the door himself.
Lauren looked up into that hard, expressionless face, wishing she had a clue what he was thinking. How to make a quick getaway, probably. So he could go home, change out of his formal clothes, hop onto his massive bike that all the men at Alpha Security International envied and go to a biker bar. Where he’d pick up a biker chick.
Who’d be young and sexy and fantastic in bed.
“Breathe,” Jacko said, that deep voice heard in organs other than her ears.
She wheezed in a breath. At the same time, Jacko opened her door, ushered her in, then closed it behind them.
She didn’t have time for any more anxious thoughts because a second after the door closed, her back was against it, Jacko’s considerable weight pressing against her, and he was kissing her.
And kissing her.