Betrayal (Phantom Protectors Book 2) (9 page)

BOOK: Betrayal (Phantom Protectors Book 2)
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She walked through the doorway and pulled out a seat at the table.
Two place settings of fine china lay gracefully on the table. He removed a napkin and placed it in her lap giving her a quick kiss before turning to retreat into the house. “I hope you like Italian.”

She got a good look at hi
s backside as he disappeared back into the house. Gracie leaned back into her chair. He carried a casserole dish between two mittens in his hands and placed it on the table. “Dinner is served.”

He removed the
lid and served her a generous portion of lasagna before serving himself. He poured them each more wine, and he sat down next to her.

“Smells great.”
She opted for safe small-talk and tried to ease the mounting sexual tension between them, a tension they would have to deal with sooner rather than later.

“I don’t get to cook much at the compound, so I hope it’s
edible.”

She stabbed the lasagna with her fork and blew the steam away. She placed the fork in her mouth and let her lips slid over the tines. The flavors burst against her tongue. She closed her eyes and moaned
, letting the savory sauce linger in her mouth as she chewed. She opened her eyes to find Ridge with a forkful held over his plate, unable to take his eyes off her.

He cleared his throat. “I should have cooked for you a long time ago.”

He shook his head and took a bite of his own food. They ate in silence as the sexual tension mounted around them setting her body on fire. Unable to think straight she grabbed her wine glass, sipping for the courage she desperately needed. “Why are you doing this?”

He s
et his fork on his plate. “Is it so hard to believe I’m attracted to you?”

She raised her brow
s. “Yes.”

He stood
, picked up the plates, and disappeared into the kitchen, and she followed. He set the china in the sink and turned back to her. “I tried to fool myself into thinking I could take this slow with you.” He ran a hand through his hair and hesitated before he stepped closer.

His admission left her without words. She threw every bit of caution she had into the wind. She stepped closer until the
y met in the middle of the kitchen. He didn’t move to kiss her. “Gracie, tell me you don’t want this.”

She placed her hands on his chest. “I’d be lying.”

His hands ran a path up and down her arms. “Tell me it’s not a good idea.”

She shook her head. “I can’t think of anything I want more.”

She ran her hands up around his neck and pulled his lips to hers. She was being honest. Right here, in this moment, she wanted him. He lifted her behind the knees and carried her through the house and up the stairs, kissing her as he went. He kicked the door closed with his foot when he’d made it to his room. He gently sat her down on her feet. “We shouldn’t…”

“We should.”
She silenced him with her lips, pressing hers hard to his. Her hands tugged at the hem of his sweater, only moving an inch away from his searing heat while she tried unsuccessfully to remove the clothes obstructing her path. He reached behind him and tugged first the sweater and then the white shirt over his head.

She let the palms of her hands slide down his washboard abs, her fingers trac
ing the indentions as she went. He was perfect. Why he wanted her, even knowing she wasn’t perfect, nagged at her mind, but she pushed the thought away. He was offering, and she was taking.

He
covered her hands with his and stilled her downward progress. “Gracie, we should talk.”

She leaned forward and kissed his chest. “Talking is overrated.”

His lips found hers, and he kissed her like a man who was never going to see her again. He placed all of his passion in that one single kiss. He pulled back. “There’s stuff you don’t know about me, Gracie. Stuff I need to explain.”

She slid one of the buttons on her blouse through the hook
, exposing some of her skin. She held his gaze as she worked on the rest. “So explain.”

She watched in fascination as his gaze rivete
d to every movement of her fingers. “I...”

She let the blouse fall to her feet and stood in front of him in just her bra, her jeans
, and her boots. “Go ahead.”

She reached behind her and unfastened the bra and let it fall to the floor. “You’re running out of time, Ridge.”

He stepped to her and lowered his head and sucked on her nipple, as he lifted her other breast. “I can’t think straight with you undressing in front of me.”

She chuckled as
he cupped her bottom and lifted her off her feet, and she laced her legs behind his back. She let her head fall back on her shoulders as he moved to her other breast and lavished the same attention to the twin. “That feels so good.”

He turned toward the bed and eased her down as he stayed between her
jeans-covered thighs. He moved lower down her body, placing kisses down the valley of her stomach. He stopped when he got to her jeans, with his fingers on the button. “Gracie, you’re going to regret this.”

She shook her head and clenched the comforter as he ran his hands back up her stomach. “That’s not possible.”

He sucked again on her breast as his hands worked the button on her jeans. He moved down to her legs, murmuring as he came up for breath. “You can’t say I didn’t warn you.”

He lifted one of her legs
, slid the zipper down on the boot, and tossed the boot to the floor. Then he made quick work of her other one. He pulled the zipper down on her jeans, eased them down her thighs, and tossed them over his shoulder. He ran his hands up her thighs. “You’re so beautiful.”

He laced
his fingers through the elastic of her black thong, and it met the same fate as the rest of her clothes. She lay before him completely naked, while he was still partially dressed. “I think you’re wearing too many clothes.”

He slid off the bed and started to unbutton his jeans. She got up on her knees and held out a hand. “Let me.”

He moved closer and she put her feet on the ground. She slid the button through the rivet watching him kick off his shoes. She pulled the jeans down his muscular thighs and over his feet. His black boxers were the last barrier she was dying for him to remove. She cupped him as she stood before him and leaned up on her toes to place a kiss on his lips.

“You’re killing me, Gracie.”

He eased her back down on the bed with their mouths still joined and his boxers still on. He lay to the side of her as his hands explored her body, down her stomach to in between her thighs. She moaned as he slid first one then two fingers into her channel igniting waves of heat and pleasure from within. She closed her eyes and let the feeling wash over her as he stretched her channel, building her frenzy. Her toes curled, and she clenched the comforter as the tension inside of her climbed, throwing her over into an abyss. Ridge pressed his lips to hers, claiming her as she shattered into a million pieces, finding her release. He continued the slow slide of his fingers inside her letting her ride out the pleasure as she relished the feel. She opened her eyes and found his gaze pinned to her. “I have to see that again.”

She grinned
as she laid boneless and content on the mattress. “What?”

“The look of pure bliss on your face when I give you the next orgasm.”

He pulled his fingers from her and pushed down his boxers. She reached to fondle him. Wanting to give him back as good as she’d got, but he slid between her thighs and pushed inside of her. “Damn, you feel good, baby.”

She slid her nails up
and down his back as he eased deeper into her. “Condom?”

He slowly slid back in and out. His brows pulled together in concentration. “Tested and told not possible.”

She read the meaning into his scattered words and relaxed letting herself enjoy the pleasure of his body. “Oh Ridge, that feels so good.”

He slid all the way to the hilt and stopped
, letting her acclimate to his size. His face was tight, intense, and his eyes darkened with possessive heat. His voice was rough as if he was trying to hold the edge back. “We’re just getting started, Gracie. Hang on tight.”

He sl
id out and back in and sighed with contentment. Each stroke became quicker and more frenzied as he brought her to the peak again, and she couldn’t hold back another orgasm. She squeezed her eyes closed and dug her nails into his back as she screamed his name when he pushed her over the top. Her muscles clamped around him as she pulled him over the cliff with her.

 

Chapter 10

 

 

Ridge rolled off of Gracie and placed his arm over his eyes. His plan tonight hadn’t been to sleep with her. It had been to gain her trust…. and, well, that had flown out the window when he watched her take her first bite of lasagna.

His breathing evened as he reached for her and pulled her closer to his body. The connection they shared was
something he hadn’t been expecting, making him lose focus on the mission at hand. He’d wanted to tell her the truth before things got too far, but she was just too damn tempting. He wanted to beat his head against the wall for letting it get that far, no matter how great she felt in his arms.

Gracie laid a palm on his chest. “No regrets.” She replaced
her hand with a kiss and started to push from the bed.

He pulled her closer. “Where do you think you’re going?”

She propped her cheek into her hand as she ran her nail down his stomach, eliciting another stir in his libido. “We had dinner, we had dessert, and I thought you’d be ready to take me home.”

He leaned up and pressed his lips to hers as he pulled her
down to lie on his chest. “We aren’t done, princess. That was just the appetizer. I’ve already broken the rules, might as well enjoy it. Right?”

She chuckled. “Only you would have rules for whatever this is.” She glanced up into his eyes. “What is this anyway?”

He kissed her forehead and rubbed her back, unsure of exactly how to answer that question since he had no clue. “I don’t know. I figure if we don’t name it, then there won’t be any rules to break. How does that sound?”

“Works for me.”
A grin formed on her lips as she climbed on top of him and leaned down to kiss him. His hands went to her hips and lifted her, sliding inside of her wet heat.

 

****

 

Ridge woke to the sun streaming through the window and Gracie cuddled against his chest. For something to be so wrong, it felt anything but. He slid from beneath her and padded into the bathroom. She was a wild one; that was for sure. He glanced at his reflection in the mirror and let his shoulders sag.

The man staring back at him wasn’t a user, didn’t take advantage of people, yet he still hadn’t told her the truth. He’d gotten close al
l right, a lot closer than even the general would have wanted. He wasn’t a playboy. Sleeping with her had been wrong on so many levels. He clenched the sink in front of him and closed his eyes as he pondered what the hell he was going to do now.

He thought the assignment was un
necessary. He’d just never realized that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t equipped to deal with the little sex kitten.

With just the bat of her eye
lashes, she now had him wrapped around her little finger. He let out a sigh as he took his shower and dressed for the day. He’d planned to see her again, today actually, and it looked like he got his wish. Now convincing her to spend the day with him was on his new agenda. He stepped out of the room and gazed down at his sleeping princess, who had replaced the comfort of his body by now snuggling with a pillow.

He trotted down the stairs with a
new mission; breakfast in bed for the woman who drove him crazy in more ways than one. He rounded the corner and froze. The back door to the patio stood wide open. He turned to the sound of tisking coming from the living room and spun around. Ethan was sitting on his couch with the remote in his hand. “You left the back door open, Romeo. Anyone could have come in here and killed you while you slept. So be glad it was just me.”

“What the hell are you doing here?”

His confidence and determination were impenetrable. “My goal is to protect Gracie, and you’re not helping matters.”

Ridge balled his fist and felt the
electrical vibrations in his fingers. He took a deep breath and stepped into the living room. “Listen, Ethan, is it? I’m more than capable of taking care of Gracie—”

“I heard.”

Ridge tried his best not to the fry the bastard with the electrical currents coursing through his body.

“Been here that long, huh?”

He laced his fingers behind his head.
“Yep.”

“As I was saying, I’m more than capable of taking care of her
, and I believe you fulfilled your end of the deal. You took her to the banquet. Isn’t it time for you to go running back to Southall?”

“One point for you.
At least you checked up on me. I would say I’m impressed, but after how vulnerable you left her last night…I’m not.” 

Ridge crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes. “Listen
, buddy—”

Ethan pushed up from the couch. “I’m not your buddy.”

Gracie emerged at the top of the stairs with a sheet wrapped around her body. “Ridge?” She glanced from him to Ethan. “Ethan, what are you doing here, and how did you find me?”

Ridge dropped his arms to his side. “Gracie
, just go get dressed. I’ll handle this.”

She placed her hand on her hip. “Excuse me!”

Ridge turned toward her. The lines of his face softened. “Baby, please get dressed while I find out what Ethan is doing here.”

Ethan raised a brow. “I didn’t come here to see you.”
Ethan glanced to the top of the stairs. “I came to see her. I figured out those numbers.” He nodded to Gracie. “Just thought you’d like to know.”

She clenched the sheet tighter to her chest and held up a finger. “Don’t go anywhere
. Just let me get dressed.”

Ethan turned to smile at Ridge. “Hate to ruin your plans
, Romeo. Seems Gracie and I have some work to do.”

Ridge left the asshole standing where he
’d found him and went into the kitchen. If there was one thing he knew about Gracie, it was that she’d want coffee before anything else. He started a pot and grabbed two mugs and the milk from the fridge. Gracie entered just as the fresh pot was made. He poured her a cup and added milk and sugar and handed it to her. She leaned up on her toes and placed a quick kiss on his lips before moving to the table.

“Sit down
, Ethan, and tell me what you found.”

Ridge turned with his own mug in his hand and leaned up against the counter.

Ethan studied her face. “Does he know?”

She shook her head. It seemed whatever he didn’t know, he was about to find out
, and that brought a grin to his lips. Ethan might have taken her to a party, but somewhere along the line, she’d let down her guard.

“Are yo
u sure you want to do this here?”

Gracie waved her hand in the air. “It’s fine. I’m sure he’ll find out anyway.”

Ethan pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to her as he took a seat on the other side of the table. “The names, as you know, are pharmaceutical companies and or chemists.”

She nodded as Ridge moved to sit beside her and put his arm around the back of her chair. Ethan chuckled
, and Ridge wanted nothing more than to hit the bastard, but he held back. He really did want to hear what Ethan had to say since it was apparent Gracie had trusted him enough with names that she hadn’t mentioned to Ridge or his brother.

“And the numbers?”
she asked, looking down at the paper.

“Bank accounts associated with each firm.” Ethan leaned back in the chair. “From what I can tell, the only thing they have in common is that they each transferred money into
the same Swiss account on the same day, and each deposit was over a million dollars.”

Gracie’s mouth parted.

Ethan rested his elbows on the table. “Now do you care to tell me who Adam Lowell is and how he fits into the picture?”

Gracie’s eyes widened in shock as she glanced from Ethan to Ridge and back down to the paper in her hand.
“Are you sure the money was wired to Adam?”

Ethan nodded.
“The exact same day that Floyd was killed.”

Gracie leaned back in her chair. “He was my best friend in college, one that I didn’t remember until yesterday when I saw him at the benefit.”

Ridge rubbed her back. “How is that possible, Gracie? How did you forget a guy that was so important to you?”

A blanket clouded her mind as she tried to find the answers that eluded her
. “I don’t know.”

She went
on to tell both of them about the fateful night in college and her lost memory that emerged in a dream when she’d spotted the man with the black eyes and how Adam pleaded with her to run. None of it made sense the night she remembered and made even less sense now.

Ethan reached for her hand.
“Gracie, where he is now?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know.” She turned and met each of their faces with all of the blood drained from her face. “I saw him the night of the banquet talking to the man with the black eyes and Sinclair.”

Ridge glanced down to Ethan’s hand holding Gracie’s and shook the anger he was feeling inside so he could concentrate on the problem at hand. “Who is Sinclair?”

Ethan pulled his hand back
, and Gracie turned in her seat. “Sinclair is the new territory boss and also my boss as of tomorrow.”

Ethan rose from his seat. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Gracie.”

For once Ridge agreed. “I think Ethan’s right. I’m not sure you’re prepared to take the guy on alone, and we won’t be there to watch your back if something happens.”

She held up her hands. “Let’s get one thing clear…” She glanced from Ridge to Eth
an and back. “I. Am. Doing. This. So you can either help me or back off.”

Ethan nodded. “I’m in.” He walked to the back patio doors. “Why don’t you lock up behind me
, Romeo? I’m going to check on Tara and Cathy at your house and make some minor adjustments to your non-existent security.”

Gracie stood and lifted the paper with the names. “Thanks for your help
, Ethan. I really do appreciate everything you’ve done.” Ethan walked out the back doors and disappeared.

Gracie refilled her mug and leaned against the counter. “I’m surprised you let him in.”

The tension in Ridge’s shoulders returned. “I didn’t. It seems we got a little carried away last night, and we not only forgot to lock the doors, we forgot to shut them too.”

Gracie’s eyes widened.

“It’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever done, Gracie.” He pulled her against his chest. “I was so wrapped up in what was happening that I completely forgot.”

She looked up into his eyes. “Ridge
Connors, you are not backing out of this…whatever it is. You’re looking for an excuse for us not to be together.”

He kissed her forehead. “You’re wrong
, princess. It’s even more of a reason why we should. We just need to be more careful.”

She stepped out of his embrace and walked back over t
o the table. “Speaking of being careful, we didn’t use any protection last night.”

Ridge
moved to the fridge and pulled out some eggs. “You don’t have to worry, Gracie.” He moved to the breadbox and grabbed the bread. “I’ve been tested, and it’s not possible for me to get you pregnant. The doctors seem to think it’s because of my abilities.”

Her hand flew to her mouth as she moved back to his side. “Ridge, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

He handed her the bowl and the eggs. “It’s part of life. How does French toast sound?”

 

****

 

They worked together and enjoyed easy banter as they made breakfast, and he’d talked her into spending the rest of the day with him. It was her last official day of being unemployed and she wanted to spend it in his arms. The more time they shared together, the more she realized that she hadn’t really known him at all.

She’d seen only the working side of the man. Beneath his ridged exterior
, he was funny and charming and caring, all things she wouldn’t have expected from the uptight twin. He’d dropped her off hours ago with the promise that he’d be by after her first day at work to see how things went. He’d asked her to be careful, as if she wouldn’t already, but she took it with a grain of salt, knowing that it was his nature. She spent the rest of the evening with her friends and catching up on good times.

The alarm clock buzzed at precisely six a
.m. As tired as she was, she’d been looking forward to today. She sat up in bed, stretched her arms over her head, and wiped the sleep from her eyes as she sniffed the air. The scent of coffee drifted to her nose, and she grinned as she slid from the bed ready to start her day and start hunting for answers.

Gracie arrived at the compound after getting lost two times. It stood back in the woods
, the setup similar to what Floyd’s had been, but with much more security. Security that would eventually be an issue unless she played her cards right. She pulled out her fake ID and handed it to the guard at the gate. After a quick phone call to confirm her story, he pointed her in the direction of Sinclair’s office. There were several large buildings next to each other and at the very end, sat what looked like a large house.

BOOK: Betrayal (Phantom Protectors Book 2)
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