Beneath These Lies (Beneath #5)(15)


by Meghan March

None of my business, I reminded myself, but at the same time, his words from last night echoed through my brain. “I don’t want anyone to know that I’m fucking fascinated with you either.”

I needed to stop myself before I tumbled down the same rabbit hole. This man was dangerous. And yet, strangely, I trust him.

It didn’t matter. All that mattered was getting Trinity back.

Rix, obviously not waging the same mental war I was, stepped back. “Take care, duchess. I’ll be around.” He strode toward the door without pausing to even look back.

“That’s it?”

Rix stopped, steps from the door, and turned. “You want more from me?”

It was a loaded question. I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights.

Words, Valentina. You need words here. Say something. Anything.

“I, uh . . . I just . . .”

Oh hell, he’s moving again. Toward me.

Rix stopped only inches away this time. “You think you can handle more, duchess?”

Handle more what? That was the question. More of him? God help me, but the idea was so much more tempting than it should have been.

He lifted his hand, moving it slowly toward my face, as if waiting for me to bolt. But I didn’t bolt. I didn’t want to bolt.

Because even though the air had shifted in the room from all business to something decidedly not businesslike, I still felt safe. And that meant everything.

When his thumb finally smoothed across my cheekbone and his palm cupped the side of my face, he spoke. “I’m not gonna lie and say I don’t want more. A fuck of a lot more. But you aren’t ready yet. I know it, and you know it. But that don’t mean I don’t want it. I’ll be back, duchess. We settle this business, and then we’ll figure out the rest.”

“Okay,” I whispered.

A hint of a smile played around the corners of his mouth, but Rix didn’t let it free. He dropped his hand, but only for as long as it took to pull me close and bury it in my hair. There was no hesitation, no asking for permission, before his lips took mine.

I gasped against his mouth and Rix shifted, his tongue sliding between my lips as he deepened the kiss. With his free hand, he palmed my ass and rocked his erection into me.

Heat flashed through me, violent and needy. My hands bunched in his shirt as my gasp turned to a quiet moan. My panties were soaked when he finally pulled away.

His silver eyes flashed with untamed desire, and he said only one word before heading for the door, unlocking it, and letting himself out.

“More.”

TRYING TO GO ABOUT MY life and pretend like nothing was wrong was nearly impossible. Actually, skip the nearly, it was impossible. Still, I attempted it.

After I flipped the OPEN sign to CLOSED again at the end of the day—and purposely avoided thinking about Rix doing the same thing earlier—I contemplated my choices. Go home and wander my empty house, worrying about Trinity, or go find a distraction.

A distraction in the form of good food won out.

I made it a point to go out to dinner alone often. Some might think it odd, but I was a single woman who loved all the amazing food New Orleans had to offer, and not just out of a take-out container. Tonight, I settled on oysters.

Slipping into Royal House, my favorite oyster bar in the city, which happened to be conveniently located near my gallery, I asked the maître d’ for a table for one. There was no shame in it. I didn’t care that most everyone else was paired off or in large groups. Okay, so I did have a tiny twinge of longing to be one half of a couple occasionally—especially, like tonight, when I needed a distraction.

As a hostess led me through the restaurant, I saw a familiar face at the next table over. Detective Hennessy.

I lowered myself into my chair and nodded at him.

“Ms. Noble,” he said. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“Detective.” His presence didn’t surprise me. He worked out of the precinct in the Quarter, and I’d seen him more than once on the street.

He gestured to the empty seat across from him. “Care to join me? Oysters would go down better across from a beautiful woman.”

His compliment stunned me into an awkward silence, and I couldn’t come up with an excuse quickly enough to decline gracefully. Although, did I really want to decline? Maybe he was the distraction I needed tonight.

“Um, sure, I guess. That’d be fine.”

My even more awkward acceptance of his invitation hung between us as I stood and moved to his table. Things swirled further down the path of awkwardness when he rose to pull out my chair and seated me in it. How did I go from intending to eat oysters and distract myself to feeling like I was sort of on a date?

“You didn’t call today and I haven’t heard a thing about the wreck, so I’m assuming you found your employee?” he asked.

Crap. So much for forgetting for even a few minutes.

Rix’s warning played through my mind. No cops. But I was also a terrible liar. Yet technically, the detective’s question was whether I’d found Trinity, and I knew where she was now. It just wasn’t where either she or I wanted her to be.

I decided to say as little as possible, and went with a nod.

Where was a server when I needed one to order a drink? I glanced over my shoulder, but didn’t see one in the vicinity. Time to change the subject.

“So, is this one of your usual haunts?” I asked.

Hennessy smiled and leaned back in his chair, lifting his glass to his lips. He studied me for a moment before answering. “It’s close, the food’s damn good, and I like the atmosphere. Especially tonight.”

“Why tonight?” I smiled back, relaxing into my own chair.

“Isn’t it obvious, Valentina?”

My cheeks heated when I realized I’d walked right into that one. That’s when it occurred to me what was different about tonight. He wasn’t treating me like a victim. He wasn’t handling me with kid gloves the way he had during every interview and subsequent meeting. Hennessy was treating me like a woman he was interested in.

The realization shifted everything in my head, and the distraction I’d so desperately needed presented itself. In a moment, I went from sitting across the table from a cop to ordering a drink with a man. A man who I could acknowledge was incredibly attractive. Around six feet tall, solidly built, with muscles that you couldn’t get sitting behind a desk all day, and short, messy blondish-brown hair that used to be buzzed when I’d first met him. Before I would have said his most striking feature was his bright green eyes, but tonight I was shocked to see tattoos winding up his forearms and disappearing under his rolled-up shirtsleeves. How had I never noticed those before?