“Oh, I can’t.”
“What? Throat punch, Kate.”
“I was actually going to cancel. I’m sorry. I had a meeting come up.”
“And by meeting do you mean hot office sex with your ridiculously sexy billionaire boyfriend?” I ask dryly and try like mad to shove away the jealousy that spears through me.
But, come on, Eli is hot. And rich. And so in love with Kate it’s disgusting.
“Well, there could be some of that, yes,” Kate confirms with a laugh.
“You’re ditching me for sex. What ever happened to sisters before misters?”
“Do you need me?” she asks soberly. “Because I can cancel the office sex, I mean, meeting, and still meet you.”
“No.” I laugh, so happy that I live close to my best friend again. “I’m okay. A little sad, but okay.”
“Let’s reschedule for beignets tomorrow morning,” she suggests.
“Will you get out of bed early enough for that, or will Eli talk you into a meeting then too?”
“Well, I can’t make any promises,” she replies with a smile in her voice.
“You’re disgusting. Enjoy your meeting. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I hang up, and suddenly all of the events from that night nine months ago come flooding back and I have to bite my lip and cross my legs at the sudden burst of pure lust that shoots through me, even making my fingertips tingle. That one night with Asher was better than all of the other nights I’ve had with other men combined.
The man knows his way around a woman’s body.
And he lives in New Orleans now.
“So, that was interesting,” Jordan says as we jog down the steps of Lila’s building on the Tulane University campus toward the parking lot.
“We didn’t really find out anything we don’t already know,” I reply, deliberately misunderstanding her.
“Right. That’s what I meant.” She rolls her eyes, making my lips twitch. “For someone who’s supposed to play the bad cop, you were sucking at it. And that’s not like you. You play bad cop really well.”
I’m not about to tell her that it took everything in me to not stalk around that desk and pull Lila into my arms and kiss the fuck out of her. Or that all I could think about while looking at her was the way she moved beneath me, the sounds she made, the way she smelled while I was deep inside her, losing my ever-loving mind.
Seeing her again was a punch in the gut. I’m surprised I was able to speak at all.
And now that I know that my Lila is this maniac’s focus, all I can think about is tucking her away and making sure she’s safe.
There’s no way in hell I’m telling my partner that. I’ll never live it down.
“I didn’t need to play bad cop,” I reply and slip my Ray-Bans on my face. “She’s not a suspect.”
“Not right now.”
I glance down at Jordan then shake my head as we climb in my car.
“And what was up with you telling her about Leslie dying?”
“It’ll be all over the news in about twenty minutes,” I reply softly. “There’s no reason to not tell her.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t tell her about the notes left on the scene too.”
I scowl and throw the car out of gear before pulling out of the parking space and turning to Jordan.
“Do you have something to say?”
She sighs and shakes her head. “God, I sound like a jealous girlfriend. It’s just that the sexual tension in that room was off the charts, Ash. I’ve never seen you like that.”
“We’ve been partners for six months, not years. There’s plenty you haven’t seen.”
She nods and then grins at me. “Whatever happened between you two must have been off the hook.”
You have no fucking idea.
“Does your husband know that you have such a raging crush on me?” I put the car back in gear and pull out of the parking lot.
“Whatever. Don’t flatter yourself. I have a hot man at home.”
“If you say so.” I turn toward the precinct and toss her a glance.
“Are you saying my husband isn’t hot?” she asks as though she’s offended.
“I’m a dude. I’ll never say that another dude is hot.”
“Well, I’m a woman, and I’m telling you he is.”
“Right.” I laugh and shake my head. “Back to Lila.”
“Yes, back to Lila.” She clears her throat, and I can tell she wants to ask questions, but instead, she just clears her throat again. “I guess you’ll be stuck to her like glue.”
“In light of those notes left on the scenes, yes.” Rage fills me at the thought of anyone wanting to hurt Lila. And with the rage is a new emotion now that I know she’s the same sweet woman that I spent one unforgettable night with last summer: Fear.
“We don’t know for sure that the threats are pointed at her,” Jordan says reasonably. “Her name isn’t mentioned. He could mean another teacher.”
I shake my head, hoping she’s right, but knowing in my gut that she’s not. “I don’t think so. Each of the victims is from her study group. If they were just in one of her classes, I could agree that it might be a crazy coincidence. But this is too focused. All three were studying in that group minutes before they were attacked. And all three of the notes are angry. Very angry. He’s making her pay for something.”
“I agree,” she says with a sigh. “I’ve seen murders before, Asher. This is New Orleans, after all. But I’ve never seen anything quite this…evil.”
“Have you?” she asks.
I nod again, slowly. “Once.”
“Yes. We had a serial killer there about four years ago.” And the motherfucker destroyed my life. “He killed eight women before we caught him.”
“What’s up with the serial killers in Seattle? Is it all the rain that sends people over the edge?” She bites her thumbnail and looks out the passenger window.
“There are no more killers in Seattle than other parts of the country.”
“Hello. Green River Killer. He killed, like, eight hundred women. That counts for a lot.”
“Good point,” I mutter and think back on the man four years ago who made the Green River Killer look like a Boy Scout troop leader.
There is no way in hell that anything like that will touch Lila.
“So, you’re going to look out for Lila,” Jordan says, mirroring my thoughts.
“Yes. I’m going to stick close to her. This fucker isn’t going to touch her.”
I glance over to find Jordan watching me thoughtfully. “How well do you know Lila, Asher?”
“Not well,” I reply truthfully.
“You seem pretty passionate about keeping her safe for someone who doesn’t know her well.”
I shrug a shoulder as we get stopped in traffic. “It’s my job to keep her safe.”
“Right.” She nods once and is smart enough to not say any more.
I cursed myself as an idiot for months after our night together for not getting her number, or at least her last name. I wanted to call her, to see her again, but she told me she lived in Denver, and God knows that trying to maintain a long distance relationship is next to impossible.
But she lives here.
Yes, I’ll be sticking very close to Lila, and not just because it’s my job. From the minute she fell into my lap on that airplane, my hands have itched to touch her. Running into her again in that bar was the best stroke of luck I’ve ever had, and that night with her was off the fucking charts.
I can’t resist her. For the first time in years, I don’t want to resist her.
I simply want her.
* * * *
“Daddy! My purple shirt is dirty!”
I swear ripely as the toast pops up in the toaster, burnt to a damn crisp, and lean on the countertop, my head down, praying for patience.
“You wore the purple shirt yesterday,” I remind her as she bounces into the kitchen of our small townhouse and wrinkles her adorable little freckle-covered nose.
“You burned it again.”
“I like the purple shirt.”
“You can’t wear it every day.” I kiss the top of her head and toss the black bread into the garbage, ready to start over. “Aren’t you going to be late for school?”
“No, it’s Thursday.” She rolls her eyes, looking suddenly much older than her ten years, making me smile. “It’s late start day at school.”
“Your favorite day of the week.” I pick her up off her feet and set her on the countertop where I can look her in her gorgeous green eyes. Eyes the same color as her mother’s. “How are you, bubba?”
“Good.” She giggles and holds her fist up for a fist-bump, which she seems to suddenly think is the funnest thing ever. Especially the explosion part. “I need my purple shirt.”
She sticks her lower lip out and bats her eyelashes at me.
Damn it, she’s adorable.
“That doesn’t work on me,” I lie.