Read Dream Girl Online

Authors: Kelly Jamieson

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary

Dream Girl (6 page)

BOOK: Dream Girl
4.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

"I'm sure they would have deleted anything incriminating,” he said.

Ashlyn smiled. “They may have,” she said. “But I can find it even if they did delete it."

His brows lifted, but he said nothing.

"Seriously. I'll need more info about your computer systems,” she added in as businesslike a tone as she could manage. “Your hardware and software and what security you currently have in place."

"When would be a good time to come to the brewery?” Dave asked. “We'd prefer to do it when your staff isn't there, obviously. For now, you need to continue with business as usual. Don't say anything to any of your employees. You two are the only ones who need to know about this."

They nodded their agreement as Dave continued. “Once we have some information, we'll prepare a report and decide about further action."

"I guess the best day would be Sunday,” Connor said. They all nodded, not surprised at having to work on a weekend.

"Let's all meet at the brewery at nine o'clock Sunday morning,” Dave said. “We'll talk more once we've seen the place."

Connor and Zach stood up to leave.

"Ralph, John, Ashlyn, if you could stay a minute, I'd like to discuss a few more things with you,” Dave requested as he got up to show Connor and Zach out.

Ashlyn watched Zach leave with mixed feelings of relief and disappointment. He hadn't even tried to talk to her or see her again. Maybe she'd ditched him one too many times. Or maybe he really did know what she'd done. The gnawing pain in her stomach intensified.

"Can you copy all their hard drives on Sunday when we go?” her father asked her. She turned her attention to business.

"No,” she said. “They said they have eight computers. It takes a couple of hours to copy a hard drive. I could only get a few done."

"Well, we'll prioritize based on what we know about each employee,” Dave said. “But this may be more work than you bargained on."

"That's okay.” She smiled. “I need the money."

He grinned. “Okay. See you all Sunday morning."

Ashlyn went down the elevator and out the front door of the building. Tall office buildings blocked the low, late afternoon sun. Rush hour traffic clogged the street, horns blared, and office workers rushed by on their way to Friday evening happy hour.

As the door swung shut behind her, a man moved away from the shadows where he'd been leaning against the building and took hold of her arm. She jumped and turned to use a self-defense move, but found herself staring at Zach.

[Back to Table of Contents]


Chapter Five

"Oh, God,” Ashlyn gasped, “You scared me."

"Really,” Zach said with apparent unconcern.

She swallowed. She had no idea how to handle this. She'd have to wing it. One thing she
know was the less said, the better. Not only did she have her own ass to cover, but she had to protect the privacy of her client, Jessica Montgomery.

"What's the deal with you?” Zach asked very softly, still holding her upper arm. His face was tense, like he was striving for self-control. She'd thought he was such a nice guy, but right now he looked a little scary. His dark eyes glittered, and his hand was hard on her arm.

"What do you mean?” She licked her lips.

"Why do you keep leading me on, and then disappearing?"

"I have never led you on!"

"Oh, yes, you have,” he bit out. “You flirted with me. You let me kiss you. You kissed me back! And it was fucking hot."

"Oh.” Her tummy fluttered down low, remembering just how hot that kiss had been.

"Are you playing some kind of game? Or are you just a pathological flirt? I can't figure it out. Help me out here, babe."

She had no clue what to say. “I'm sorry,” she squeaked out. “I really didn't mean to do that."

"The first time I figured you just got scared and realized you shouldn't be taking a strange guy home. The second time, though, you pissed me off.” His voice was harsh, his square jaw tight, and his lips pressed tightly together.

"I'm sorry,” she said again, with genuine regret. “There were reasons, but I can't talk about them right now. Could you please let go of my arm?"

He stared at her. “Okay,” he said finally, releasing her. “Just tell me this: Were you or were you not attracted to me? ‘Cause I thought we had something going on. Was I wrong?"

Now she was silent for a long moment. Then she blurted out, “are you married?"

His brows snapped together over his nose. “Huh? Of course not. Would I have hit on you if I was married?"

She definitely didn't want to answer that question. Okay, he wasn't married. He was good-looking, successful—and so angry he unnerved her. She hadn't been able to stop thinking about him since she'd met him, despite believing he was someone's cheating husband.

married?” he asked suddenly.

"No!” She drew in a long, deep breath. Then, “no, you weren't wrong,” she said slowly. “I was attracted to you.” Even as the words came out, she had a feeling she shouldn't be doing this—but it was too late.

His face softened, and she felt a similar response deep inside her. “Okay, so I'm not nuts,” he said. “So now what do we do?"

"I don't know,” she whispered. “It's complicated."

He tipped his head to one side.

"You're a client,” she explained. And it was true. It just wasn't the whole truth.

"I thought you were just being consulted on this case."


"Okay, so it would be fine if we went out."

She gazed at him, her mind whirling.

"I know your last name now,” he pointed out.

"What are you going to do, stalk me?"

He grinned, and she melted at that. “No. Hell no. Look, do we have to have this conversation here on the sidewalk? All I want is to take you out for dinner or something. I know that first night maybe we moved a bit fast. All I really wanted was your phone number so I could call and ask you out.” He paused. “Well, I did want more than that,” he admitted, his eyes moving over her, and her tummy fluttered again. “But a phone number would have done. So? Will you have dinner with me?"

Oh boy, did she ever want to say yes. But this was such a bad idea, on so many levels.

"Ashlyn?” He looked at her with those hot, dark eyes, and she felt herself soften even more.

"Okay,” she whispered.

He grinned and took her hand. “Okay, let's go."

"Now?” She was stunned. “But ... I thought you meant ... sometime."

"Sometime when you can manage to run away from me again?"

"No. That's not what I meant."

"I'd like to go home and change,” he said. “I hate wearing suits.” He tugged at his collar. “How about you?"

"Um ... okay. Wh ... where are we going for dinner?"

"How about Doc McCue's again,” he suggested softly, watching her. “They have great pizza, great beer, and you can try again to beat me at pool."

That sounded so good. Apart from the beer.

"Okay,” she agreed. “Um ... I'll meet you there?"

"No way,” he said, shaking his head. “I'm not letting you out of my sight."


"We'll go to my place first, so I can change. Where do you live—for real this time?"

"Bougainvillea Street. Just off Harbor Drive."

He nodded. “Your place first, then. Mine is closer to Doc McCue's."

"What about my car?"

"Hmmm.” He thought about that.

"You can follow me home,” she offered, still not sure why she was doing this. “I promise I won't disappear."

He turned to her and looked straight down into her eyes.


She tried to hold his gaze. Then she closed her eyes and sighed. “I know you're still wondering why I acted like that, but...” She opened her eyes and met his. “I won't run tonight."

For a long, heated moment, their gazes met. And held. Then he nodded. “Connor always tells me I'm too trusting. Okay."

He walked her to her car, parked on the street near his. All the way home, she argued with herself over the wisdom of doing this.

How could she have made such a stupid mistake? She smacked one hand on her steering wheel, shaking her head as she waited at a red light. When he'd given her the fake name, she hadn't thought anything of it. Yet she
Connor's bother was his partner in the brewery from the info Jessica had given her, she just hadn't known Zach's name. And she'd never imagined they could look so much alike. And—she had to be honest with herself here—she'd been seriously distracted by the heated attraction she'd felt for him from the moment they'd started talking. Stupid, stupid,
! Anger at her own negligence simmered inside her as she drove home.

Zach was careful to keep her in sight as they drove, but it was easy. She wasn't trying to escape him. She pulled up in front of a little cottage a couple of streets off the beach. It wasn't anything fancy, with peeling paint and a cracked sidewalk, but cheery pink bougainvillea grew up the side of the small porch.

She waited for him at the door. “I have two roommates,” she told him. “I don't know if they're home."

They could hear the shower running in the bathroom and she smiled. “Yup, someone's home,” she said cheerfully. “I'll just be a minute. Have a seat...” She waved at a couch that faced a small brick fireplace and disappeared down the hall.

He looked around. The house was likely a rental property, which was why it hadn't been well-maintained, but it was spotless and kind of cute. Hardwood floors gleamed and the furnishings, while old and shabby, were comfortable and attractive.

Only a few minutes later—literally—Ashlyn returned dressed in jeans, flip-flops and a snug tank top. She carried a soft leather purse that looked like a small backpack and a sweater.

"That was quick,” he said, surprised. She shrugged.

"I don't fuss a lot.” She pressed her lips together.

"You look great. Except...” He reached out and tugged the elastic that held her hair back.

She put a hand to her head, combed her fingers through her hair. The silky stands fell into place around her face, and she looked at him warily.

"I like it down,” he said. “Ready?"

They climbed into his SUV. “Nice vehicle,” she said.

"Thanks.” He took the freeway to his place, although it wasn't that far, and he pulled into the front driveway of his home moments later.

"You live right on the beach.” She looked around. “Lucky."

"Yeah. I just bought this place a few months ago. I'm still having work done."

He unlocked the door and the alarm started beeping. As he punched in a code, Ashlyn heard scrabbling on the wood floor, and a huge golden dog charged at them. She gasped.

"Rocky!” Zach said, as the dog put his front paws on Zach's chest and tried to devour his face. He laughingly dodged the big pink tongue while rubbing the dog's back. “Rocky, buddy, I'm home. Now, down.” Obediently the dog returned to all fours and sat, long tail sweeping the floor behind him and his tongue hanging out of a smiling, panting mouth.

"I have to get him a treat.” Zach reached into a glass container on the table near the door. He tossed the biscuit into the air and Rocky caught it neatly then stood to crunch it, dropping crumbs all over the floor. Ashlyn watched with amusement.

"Do you like dogs?” Zach asked, looking at her hopefully.

She smiled. “I do. I'd love to have a dog. My mom still has the dog we got when I was twelve. She's getting so old, but she's still pretty healthy. What kind of dog is he?” She nodded at Rocky.

"He's part golden retriever, part something else. I'm totally guessing, but I think maybe some kind of terrier. I got him from the shelter a couple of years ago."

"He's beautiful,” Ashlyn said wistfully. “Someday I'll have a dog of my own. Will he let me pet him?"

"Probably. He's pretty much a big sucky baby, and he's protective of me, but he should think you're okay."

Ashlyn held out her hand for Rocky to sniff, and then gently stroked his soft head. “You're so handsome,” she said, and he looked up at her with melting brown eyes and smiled widely.

"Okay, my turn to change,” Zach said. “Go on in and have a seat.” The quiet told him Connor wasn't home.

He quickly changed into jeans and a T-shirt and slid his feet into leather flip-flops. It was a warm spring evening, but he grabbed a hoodie for later.

"You're quick too,” she remarked when he emerged from his bedroom. She was looking at his gleaming new kitchen. Top-of-the-line stainless-steel appliances and sleek maple cabinets lined the walls. Funky metal stools surrounded a large island topped with granite.

"You like my kitchen?” he asked with a proud smile. “It was just finished last week.” He ran a hand over the gleaming granite counter.

"It's gorgeous,” she said. “You must do a lot of cooking."

"Some,” he admitted. “I live alone ... usually ... so I don't cook much for myself. But I like to cook."

She turned to him, and his eyes moved over her. Damn. Just looking at her made him hard.

He picked up his car keys from the table near the front door and reset the alarm.

"I like your house,” she said. “I've always wanted to live on the beach."

"You live
the beach."

"Yeah.” She laughed. “That's all I can afford right now. And I need two roommates to afford that. But I'm almost done with school."


"I graduate in less than two months."

"It's been a long haul?"

"Well, sort of. I took a couple of years off after high school and traveled. So I didn't start college till I was twenty."

"How old are you now?” he asked, glancing sideways at her as he drove.

"Twenty-four. You?"

"Just turned thirty."

She nodded thoughtfully. “Tell me how you started your business."

"Well, like I told you, Connor and I spent most of high school drinking beer and playing pool.” He grinned. “And getting into trouble. For some reason, I decided I wanted to try making beer. My mother had a fit when she found out what we were doing in the garage. I told her it was a science project.” He laughed. “She almost bought it. After school I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I went to Europe. I spent some time bumming around, working in pubs in England and breweries in Germany and Denmark. When I got home, I decided I wanted to start my own brewery. I like to drink beer"—he grinned—"why not make it? So I convinced Connor to go into business with me. He was just finishing his business degree. I took some brewing courses at UC Davis. In retrospect, we were two crazy kids and shouldn't have been so successful, but we lucked out."

BOOK: Dream Girl
4.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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