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Authors: Michelle Celmer

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BOOK: Nanny Next Door
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CHAPTER SIX
D
ANIEL TURNED
to see Jeff Harris come in, his girlfriend clinging to his arm, a member of his posse on either side. He watched with morbid curiosity as the mayor did a quick scan of the bar, then the dance floor, knowing the exact second he spotted Sydney. His brow lifted in surprise, then instantly lowered.
Oh, yeah, he wasn’t happy. That gave Daniel way more satisfaction than it should have.

Daniel looked over at Sydney, but she seemed oblivious to the fact that her ex was there. And he hoped it stayed that way. She was actually having fun now. He didn’t want Harris to spoil it.

A rookie cop—who had to be at least ten years younger than Sydney, cut in and the firefighter walked off dejectedly.

“I get the feeling he would be pissed no matter who she was dating. He seems to get off on making her miserable.”

“Something’s different with you,” Sammi said. “Usually by now you’ve prowled the perimeter and chosen your conquest, but tonight you haven’t left the bar.”

She was right. Daniel had been so focused on Sydney that he hadn’t made a single connection. He hadn’t met a woman, townie or tourist he could take home tonight. It hadn’t even crossed his mind until Sammi mentioned it.

But now wasn’t the time. He had the feeling, by the way the mayor was watching Sydney, he was waiting for the best moment to make trouble for her.

“The way Daniel’s been watching Sydney, I’d say
she’s
his next conquest,” Jon said.

“Just watching her back,” Daniel told him. “She didn’t want to come here, but I persuaded her. I told her she needed to get out.”

“Well, she seems to be having a good time,” Sammi said.

The song Sydney and the rookie were dancing to ended and he walked her to the bar to buy her a drink.

“Yeah, but the mayor is up to something,” Daniel said. “I can feel it.” And he wasn’t going to leave her to fend for herself. She was still too vulnerable.

“So you’re going to protect her?” Jon asked.

“That’s what I do,” Daniel said with a shrug. “Protect and serve.”

“Don’t you mean protect and
service?
” Sammi said, and the men laughed.

“Like I said, she’s just a friend.” But if she wasn’t a single mom, wasn’t his neighbor, wasn’t his
friend,
he would seduce her in a heartbeat. He didn’t think it would be difficult.

“So you wouldn’t mind if I asked her out?” Jon said.

Daniel shrugged. “Nope.”

“Aren’t you a little young for her?” Sammi asked. “She doesn’t strike me as the cougar type.” Jon gave her playful shove.

“So what do you think the mayor will do?” Jon asked.

“I’m not sure.” But they didn’t have to wait long to find out. The mayor’s girlfriend excused herself to the ladies’ room, and the second she was out of sight Harris was crossing the brewery, weaving through the crowd, heading for Sydney, who stood at the bar talking with one of the deputies’ wives. Luckily Daniel was closer and reached her first.

“Let’s dance,” he said, linking an arm through hers.

She out let a surprised, “Oh!” as he half walked half dragged her to an open spot on the edge of the dance floor. A slower song was playing, so he tugged her close, and the way Sydney fell against him, unsteady on her spike heels, said the alcohol was going to her head. And instead of tensing the way she usually did when he touched her, she actually relaxed against him.

“Thank you for forcing me to come with you tonight,” she said, smiling up at him. “I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.”

Man, she had a sexy mouth. And he was seriously considering kissing her—just to see if she would let him—when he glanced past her and realized they were about to have company.

“Bogie at twelve o’clock,” he said, nodding in the mayor’s direction.

Sydney turned to look, cursing under her breath. But then she gave her head a shake and said, “You know, to hell with him. I’m having too much fun to care.”

“Sydney,” the mayor hissed, stopping beside her and Daniel. “A word.”

“No,” Sydney said, sliding her arms up and around Daniel’s neck.

The mayor’s brow rose.
“Excuse me?”

“She said no,” Daniel told him.

Harris shot daggers with his eyes. “When you address me,
Deputy,
you address me as sir.”

When hell froze over, maybe.

“What are you doing here, Sydney?” the mayor demanded.

“What does it look like I’m doing? Hanging out with friends.”

“You don’t have any friends.” And it was clear he took a great deal of satisfaction in that assumption.

“You keep telling yourself that,” Sydney said, leaning even closer into Daniel, until her breasts were nestled firmly against his chest.

Harris’s eyes narrowed and he said, “Are you
drunk?

“Why do you sound so surprised? You’re the one telling everybody what a lush I am. I’m just living up to my reputation.” She looked up at Daniel and said, “Do you know the only times I ever drank while we were married? It was when Jeff wanted sex, and getting tipsy was the only way I could stand to have him touch me—”

“That’s enough!” Harris thundered, grabbing Sydney’s arm and yanking hard. If Daniel hadn’t been holding on to her she probably would have tumbled over.

Daniel was two seconds from decking the son of a bitch, when Harris’s girlfriend appeared at his side, looking like a wounded doe, and said, “Jeffy, what are you doing?”

At that point people had stopped dancing and were watching, and maybe Harris realized that he’d just come off as the jealous ex-husband who was still pining for his wife, because he dropped Sydney’s arm so swiftly she fell back into Daniel.

He gave Sydney one last furious glare and then stormed off, his girlfriend scurrying after him.

“Did he hurt you?” Daniel said, examining her arm.

“I’m okay,” she said, looking a little rattled. “I guess I hit a nerve, huh?”

“You realize he just assaulted you. You should file a police report. You have a bar full of people who will corroborate.” If Sydney had done the same to Harris, Daniel didn’t doubt she would be cuffed by now. The bastard deserved a taste of his own medicine. He deserved to be humiliated.

“It’s not worth it.” She slid her arms back around his neck, pressed the length of her body against his. He realized that watching her stand up for herself had made him hot as hell.

He eased her into his arms, forcing himself to keep his hands north of her waist. When what he really wanted to do was cup her behind and grind himself against her.

Nope, not gonna happen. She was drunk, and he knew better. Fooling around with a woman who couldn’t consent was a line even he wouldn’t cross.

She gazed up at him with heavy-lidded eyes, a smile on her full, glossy mouth.

God, he wanted to kiss her.

“Is he watching?” she asked.

Daniel skimmed the crowd and saw Harris standing by the bar, eyes on Sydney, looking ready to spit nails. “He’s watching. And he’s pissed. You made an ass out of him.”

“No, he did that to himself.”

Good point.

She grinned up at him and said, “You want to give him something to be really pissed about?”

“What did you have in mind?”

She pulled his head down and brushed her lips across his.

Oh, man.

It was far from passionate, yet suddenly his pulse was racing. He’d kissed a lot of women, but he couldn’t recall ever
feeling
it like this.

Sydney’s eyes fluttered open and she gazed up at him, lips parted in surprise. Whatever it was he’d felt, apparently so had she.

Time seemed to stand still, the air between them so thick it was damn near impossible to draw in a full breath. Then she curled her fingers into the hair at the nape of his neck, her nails raking over his skin, and he almost groaned. Before he knew what he was doing, his lips slanted over hers and he captured her mouth. With not only her ex, but most of Daniel’s friends watching, after he’d been so adamant about not dating Sydney.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. This was so wrong. He needed to stop this before it went any further. Before he couldn’t stop.

He broke the kiss and pressed his forehead to hers. They were both breathing hard.

She gazed up at him, eyes glazed. “You want to get out of here?”

Shit.

Don’t do it, Daniel. This is a bad idea.

But before he could stop himself, he was leading her to the door, walking so fast she could barely keep up with his longer strides. The only thing he could think about was getting her home and naked. He wouldn’t allow himself to consider anything else. Like the inevitable consequences.

When they got to his truck he helped her in and then walked around. He’d scarcely made it into his seat before she was in his lap, straddling him, her lips crushed against his. He’d never been with a woman who kissed more passionately. Who tasted so sweet. She wound her arms around his neck, grinding her lower body against him. God, she was hot. But not only was this bordering on indecent, it was a logistical nightmare. There was a good reason he hadn’t had sex in a car since he was a teenager.

“Not here,” he said, lifting her from his lap and depositing her on the seat beside him. “Buckle up.”

She snapped her seat belt in place. “Drive
fast.

He drove the speed limit.

“Is what you told your ex true, or were you just trying to piss him off?” Daniel asked. “Did you really have to drink to be able to stand him touching you?”

“It’s true.”

He tried to imagine being with someone who physically repulsed him, and couldn’t even fathom it. “If it was that bad, if you were so unhappy, why did you stay?”

“For Lacey. I didn’t want her to grow up in a broken home.”

So she had sacrificed her own happiness for her daughter’s. “And how did that work out for you?”

Sydney let her head fall against the seat and sighed. “It was a disaster. I should have left him years ago.”

He was probably asking too many questions, but he couldn’t help himself. “Has there been anyone since him?”

She shook her head.

“So you haven’t enjoyed sex in how long?”

“Well, even in the beginning it wasn’t great. It wasn’t awful, either. He was just always a…selfish lover, I guess. More concerned with his own pleasure than mine. So the last time I had really fantastic sex was probably…seventeen years ago.”

That was just
wrong,
but it didn’t surprise him. For Daniel, giving a woman pleasure was what turned him on, what fed his own pleasure. And Sydney was long overdue.

He stopped at a red light on the edge of town, reached over and hooked a hand behind Sydney’s neck, leaned in and kissed her, quick and deep.

They lived only a few miles off the downtown strip, so it didn’t take long to get there. And this time she didn’t wait for him to open her door. She hopped out and landed unsteadily on the concrete driveway. Daniel told himself that it had more to do with her heels than her level of intoxication.

“My place,” Sydney declared. “Lacey is sleeping at a friend’s house. I want to be here if she calls.”

A reminder of why he avoided single moms. Too much baggage. Tonight he would make an exception.

But what about tomorrow?

He shook away the thought and followed Sydney to her back door. She fumbled with her keys under the dim porch light, then dropped them when she tried to get the key in the lock.

Not drunk, just clumsy.

He grabbed the keys, found the right one and opened the door. They’d barely made it inside and her arms were around his neck, her lips locked on his. She started to drag him backward toward her bedroom, clawing his T-shirt free from the waist of his jeans. She stumbled and he had to catch her or she would have landed on her behind. She wasn’t just a little tipsy. She was hammered.

He cursed silently. As much as she
seemed
to want him, her judgment was impaired.

He couldn’t do this.

They got to her bedroom and she dragged him inside, shoving the door closed behind them. Because that’s what moms did. They closed doors so kids didn’t see things they shouldn’t. Like their vulnerable mother getting it on with the bachelor next door.

Shit.

He
really
couldn’t do this.

He took her by the arms, unwound them from around his neck. “Sydney, stop.”

She looked up at him, brow wrinkled with confusion. “What’s wrong?”

“We can’t do this.”

“What?
Why?

“Because you’re drunk.”

“So what?”

“You aren’t thinking clearly. And there are at least a
dozen
other reasons this is a bad idea.”

“But…I
want
to.”

“I do, too, more than you will ever know. But I can’t. I’m sorry.”

Sydney looked absolutely crestfallen. And he cringed when, in the moonlight shining through her bedroom window, he could see the sheen of tears in her eyes. “But…”

“Take a second to consider what you’re doing.”

She looked up at him, then glanced around the room, as if she was wasn’t quite sure how she had arrived there. Then the reality of what she had been about to do seemed to hit home.

BOOK: Nanny Next Door
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