When a woman shares her deepest secret with the man she loves, the last thing she wants is for him to laugh at her. Or worse…not believe her. But that was what happened three years ago when Chloe Perkins confided in Leo Brant.
The words were like a bombshell, one that had a cataclysmic effect on their relationship. Leo’s world was black and white and he didn’t believe in any of that. Walking away from Chloe all but killed him, but the lies she told him would have destroyed them anyway.
Now she’s back in his life, all but thrown into his arms.
He’s got a new job and it’s all centered around Chloe.
Keep her safe. That’s it. He isn’t supposed to want her, love her, need her…and yet here she is, back in his life once more and all he can do is want her, love her, need her.
With danger breathing down her neck, he’s going to have his hands full and he needs to be smart and stay away. But his black and white world is suddenly getting rather gray and he can’t seem to tell up from down, right from wrong, truth from lie…
“No. Absolutely, no,” Leo Brant growled, glaring at his boss, soon-to-be partner.
Soon…but not soon enough.
If they were partners, Leo could actually argue this one. But as it was, all he could do was beg. He was just about ready to get down on his knees and do just that too.
Not this. Anything but this. I’m just getting to the point to where I can almost think about her and not feel like punching something.
Staring into Dave’s eyes, he decided to throw pride to the wind. “Man, anything else. Please. Anything else, but not that. Do not ask me for this.”
“Sorry, man. Beggars can’t be choosers.” Dave Pascall’s amused eyes told Leo he was fully aware just how desperate Leo was to not do this job…and how fully Dave didn’t care.
In short, Leo was screwed.
“Client is paying top dollar to see that’s she’s given round-the-clock protection for the next two weeks and we are going to provide that.”
“Fine. We can. Just find another part of ‘we’,” Leo said.
Dave blinked. A lazy smile curled his lips as he leaned against the wall. “I’m sorry, I said that wrong. By ‘we’ I meant ‘you’. You’re the only one I’ve got available who handle this. You’re it, man.”
Anything, anybody but Chloe Perkins. He could handle anybody but her. Conniving, con-artist little grifter. An image of her face flashed through his mind and, despite himself, he felt the same swift punch in his heart that he felt all too often when he thought of her.
Three years. He ought to be over her by now.
You are, he reminded himself. It isn’t hurt. Isn’t heartache.
She’d used him, manipulated him. If anything had gotten hurt, it was just his pride. And it wasn’t pain he felt when he thought of her, it was anger.
That had nothing to do with why he didn’t want to have anything to do with her now. She was bad news.
Chloe had always been bad news. He’d just figured it out too late, and even as he tried to convince himself it wasn’t hurt he felt, he knew better. She had hurt him—she’d torn his heart to shreds, the way she’d lied to him, and then the way she’d looked at him, right before he’d walked out the door.
You’re not being fair, a voice whispered.
Out in the lobby, a door banged shut and a female voice snapped, “I know you were asked to escort me in, but that doesn’t require you touching me…hands off.”
He knew the sound of her voice, knew it all too well, even raised in anger. Swearing, he dropped his head on the desk. Then he lifted it and slammed it down against the banged-up metal. “This isn’t happening,” he muttered. “Isn’t happening, isn’t happening.” He banged his head a second time, a third.
“Knocking yourself unconscious won’t do any good. I’ll just babysit until you wake up and then I’ll be pissed off at the delay,” Dave said. “Chloe needs to be out of town…as in yesterday.”
Looking up, Leo glared at the man he’d always considered his best friend. “Why, damn it? What the hell did I do to deserve this?”
An irritated look crossed Dave’s face and he shut the door, muffling the irate sounds of Chloe’s voice. “Stop being so dramatic. It’s got nothing to do with you and everything to do with her.” He glanced back over his shoulder, as though he wasn’t certain the closed door was enough. Then he came in closer, leaned over the desk. Quietly, he said, “Chloe’s life may be in danger, but until there’s proof, there’s nothing the DA can do. I’m doing this as a favor to a friend, but if I hadn’t been asked, I’d do it anyway. She’s got some nasty people after her, Leo.”
Something that might have been fear rolled through him, but Leo shoved it aside. Chances were it was nothing more than an overactive imagination on Chloe’s part.
“You lead the kind of life she leads, you’re going to piss people off. I told her that three years ago, remember? She’s a big girl. If she’s in trouble, she needs to clean up her own mess.”
Leo knew his friend well enough to recognize the look in Dave’s dark eyes.
It was disappointment.
“Shit. Are you not hearing what I’m telling you? Her life. In danger. Are you still that pissed off at her?”
Leo scowled and shoved a hand through his hair. “Hell. No. You know me better than that. I’ve never been pissed off at anybody I know so bad that I’d want them dead of it. But this is Chloe. You know Chloe. She’s the queen of dramatics. She’s the queen of con artists and grifters and bullshitters and she…”
His voice trailed off as Dave leaned over his desk, placed his hands flat against it. “I know who she is,” Dave said, his voice low and quiet. “And unlike you, I didn’t write her off three years ago. I actually know her better than you do. Considering the fact that you wrote her off and walked away from her, you really aren’t suited to be making any sort of judgment call. You don’t know her, Leo. Maybe you never did, if you think you can call her a con artist. Or maybe you should listen to your gut instead of that rock-hard head of yours.”
Then he straightened and smoothed his tie. “Look, this isn’t up for discussion. She’s your next case and if you really want to buy into the business, you’ll just suck it up and do your job. She’s the job. Keep her alive.”
Heaving out a sigh, Leo shifted his gaze to the glass windows and Chloe Perkins. Chloe. Shit. Why had fate brought her back into his life…again?