Read The Object of His Protection Online
Authors: Brenda Jackson
“No problem,” he answered as he took the beer bottle from her, deciding he needed to remember the reason he was there and take care of it and leave. There was no need wasting time thinking about how good she looked or just how delicious he figured she would taste. He had an important case to solve and didn’t have time for anything else, especially anything involving a woman.
“You have a nice place,” he said before popping the cap off the beer bottle and taking a long, needed gulp. It immediately quenched his thirst but did nothing to wipe away his desire. He had focused on her mouth too many times not to know a sampling of her taste was what he really needed.
“Thanks. It’s just right for me. Not too big and not too small.”
It was then that Drey noticed she hadn’t grabbed a beer for herself. “You aren’t drinking anything?”
She shook her head. “No, I don’t drink much.”
He licked his lips, aware more than ever of her femininity. And just to think seeing her without a lab coat and wearing regular clothes could have this sort of effect. “So, what else don’t you do, Charlie?” There, he figured calling her by the name she disliked would get her dander up and put back up the space he wanted between them. Thinking of tasting her all over wasn’t a good thing.
Charlene glared at him and said, “I definitely don’t do guys who can’t seem to get my name right.”
Too late Charlene was aware of how that sounded, which was pretty bad considering she’d never done a guy at all. But Drey didn’t know that. The way his brows rose indicated he was evidently intrigued by her statement.
“So,” he said, dragging out the single word and looking at her with those deep, dark, slanted eyes that made heat stir in the pit of her stomach. “Do you
guys who get your name right?”
Charlene’s glare deepened. The last thing she would admit to him was that she didn’t do guys at all. Carlos’s abrupt departure proved what guys thought of overaged virgins. “That’s none of your business.”
He placed the beer bottle on the table beside him before taking a step closer to her. The heat she felt earlier intensified into a hot flame. “And what if I were to tell you, Charlene, that I intend to make it my business?”
Charlene swallowed. He had taken that step with such confidence and style that if she didn’t know herself as well as she did, she would be tempted to believe him, especially with the way he said her name whenever he did get it right. She hadn’t realized just how close he was standing until she tilted her head and met his gaze, trying to ignore the strong, masculine shoulders the top of her head barely hit. “If you were to tell me that, Drey, then I would warn you that you would do better sticking to solving your cases since you have a better chance there,” she said, not wavering when she looked into his eyes.
A smile touched his lips and she knew he didn’t intend to heed her warning. “Are you saying that I don’t have a chance with you?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes. She’d had enough of his game playing. “Do you honestly think I’m gullible enough to believe that you even want one?”
She gasped when suddenly she was pulled into his strong arms and her body was pressed against his hard, solid frame. She thought she would melt right then and there when his eyes bored down at her. Why did he always manage to get such a strong reaction from her?
“There’s nothing gullible about it, Charlene,” he said, leaning down just inches from her lips. “It’s what most people call sexual attraction. We got it. We’ve had it from the first. Now the big question is, what are we going to do about it?”
“Nothing.” She whispered the word from lips that suddenly felt dry.
“I disagree,” he said, smiling confidently with a challenging glint in his eyes.
And then his mouth swooped down on hers, snatching her next breath and replacing it with a demanding, hot mouth. She heard herself moan and tried not to return his kiss but found herself doing so anyway. The moment his tongue touched hers, she could swear her panties got wet. And she was certain that the room was moving. His kiss, intense and deep, was leading her down a road she didn’t know. All she knew was that he was taking her mouth with an expertise that had her following, no matter where he led.
Of their own accord she felt her arms wrap around his neck. Lifting her arms caused the tips of her breasts to press deep into his chest. It was as if the material of his T-shirt served as no barrier at all and for all her breasts cared, she was touching bare skin. The touch inflamed her nipples and sent a heated, electrifying charge all the way to the juncture of her thighs. She didn’t want to think about that. In fact, she didn’t want to think at all. She didn’t. She let his mouth have its way, while hers did the same.
Drey deepened the kiss thinking it had been long in coming and was bound to happen sooner or later. He was grateful it was now. He had so much drama going on in his life, disappointments and confusion about a lot of things concerning his birth. But he wasn’t confused about this, the way his mouth had latched on to Charlene’s, or the enjoyment he was getting from tasting her this way. In his book, she tasted pretty damn good. Too good. Her mouth was a temptation he’d better walk away from here and now. But he didn’t want to stop just yet.
The backfiring of a car in the distance took the choice out of his hands. With the sound came the return of his senses, but not before he let his tongue swipe across her lips for one final taste. He smiled. She looked as if she was shocked, not by the kiss but at its intensity. What he felt was resentment—toward whoever owned the damn vehicle that had interrupted them.
“I think you should go now, Drey.”
He sighed, not wanting to go but knowing she was right. If he stayed, the next move was to get them both naked. “All right.”
To get some sort of normalcy back between them, where he could take his mind off their kiss, he said, “Are you sure you know how to use the kit?”
She nodded. “Yes, I’m sure.”
He lifted a brow, surprised she hadn’t given him some smart comeback. “Okay, then. I’ll check with you tomorrow.”
He turned and walked toward the door thinking this was the most excitement his libido had endured in a long time. Over the past year he had been too busy for a social life and Charlene just proved there were advantages to mixing business with pleasure at times.
He stopped when he got to the door and glanced back over at her. She was standing in the same spot staring at him. Just so she would know, he told her what he was thinking. What he had suddenly made up his mind about. “That wasn’t the last kiss we’ll share, Charlene.”
He saw her eyes narrow. “Yes, it was.”
He gave her an easy smile. “No, it wasn’t. In fact I won’t be totally satisfied until I’ve gotten the chance to taste you all over.”
And then he opened the door and left.
harlene held the phone tight in her hand as she let the caller on the other end have her say. This was certainly not turning out to be a good day. She had awakened that morning in a bad mood after a sleepless night, not having been able even to close her eyes without memories of Drey’s kiss intruding. What on earth had enticed her to go that far with him? And then his final comment before leaving…“I won’t be totally satisfied until I’ve gotten the chance to taste you all over.” Sensual shivers shot up her spine whenever she thought about it.
The irritated voice pulled her back to the conversation. Marsha Crenshaw was an attorney from the district attorney’s office inquiring about a body whose autopsy should have been completed that morning. It was on Nate’s list to do, but for some reason he was running behind schedule. In fact, Charlene had only seen him once that day and he’d seemed somewhat agitated about something.
“I’m sure the report will be finished by the end of the day, Marsha. If not, I’ll have Nate give you a call.” Charlene quickly hung up thinking the woman was getting pushier every time they talked. Rumor had it that she had lost so many cases that the particular one she was now working on was considered a must-win for her.
With Marsha off the phone and everyone out to lunch, Charlene leaned back in her chair to grab a quiet moment. Once again her thoughts drifted to what had happened last night between her and Drey. She would be the first to admit that the kiss had come as a surprise. She certainly hadn’t expected it, nor had she done anything to provoke it. What she had done was give him a smart comeback after he’d said that he intended to make it his business to know whether or not she did guys who got her name right. Things had gotten crazy from there and eventually led to a kiss she couldn’t forget.
Something else she couldn’t forget was agreeing to make an indention of that key. She had gotten busy earlier and it had slipped her mind. Thinking this would be a good time to do it since Nate was at lunch, she opened the drawer to her desk where she kept her purse. A few minutes later with the wax kit Drey had given her last night she entered the autopsy room where the records were located. She opened the huge file drawer and pulled out a folder with Joe Dennis’s name on it and was surprised the key was not in a plastic bag inside the folder. Wondering why, she began reading Dennis’s chart.
“What in the world…”
She blinked, certain she wasn’t reading the chart correctly. Nate’s report, the one that had been released to the police earlier that day, indicated Joe Dennis had died of a heart attack. The report contained no mention of the trauma to the head or the key that was found in his stomach. And speaking of the key, where was it? she asked herself as she quickly flipped through the chart. And why would Nate release a report that didn’t come close to the truth?
“Is there anything in particular you’re looking for, Charlene?”
Charlene almost jumped at the sound of Nate’s voice, then breathed in deeply. She hadn’t expected him to return from lunch so soon. She glanced over at him and noticed he was looking at her rather funny. His smile, she noted, didn’t quite reach his eyes. He had caught her snooping in the file drawer containing the cases he had worked and he was probably wondering whose file she had. She saw no reason not to tell him since she was curious as to why he had falsified the information on Dennis’s autopsy report.
She cleared her throat. “I was reading your final report on Joe Dennis,” she said, placing the report back in the cabinet drawer and then closing and relocking it. She glanced up and saw a frown settle on his features.
“Why would you concern yourself with Joe Dennis’s autopsy?”
She heard the tenseness in his voice. She also heard a hardness that had never been there before, except for that one time she had overheard him arguing with some man.
“Just curious,” she said, refusing to let him know about Drey’s request. He’d seen Drey around but had probably assumed he was dropping by to see her for personal reasons.
“And you were curious because…” he prompted.
She met his gaze. “Because I saw the body, Nate, and I know Joe Dennis didn’t die of a heart attack. There was trauma to—”
“There was no trauma,” he all but snapped. “Are you questioning my findings?”
Yes, I am,
Charlene thought. She
questioning his findings because he knew as well as she did that they were wrong. “All I know, Nate, is what I saw. Someone had hit Dennis over the head.”
“You are mistaken, Charlene, and that’s the end of it,” he said with a finality in his tone, while coming close to raising his voice. “And I would appreciate it if you never go checking behind me again.”
“I wasn’t doing that, Nate.”
Charlene really didn’t know what to say. All she knew, all she was definitely sure about was that the report Nate had issued to the police was wrong. Why would he do such a thing? Why was he trying to convince her it was right when she knew what she saw? And what about the key that had been taken out of the man’s stomach? There was no mention of it. She had a funny feeling about this and the intense way Nate was looking at her wasn’t helping. Still, she wasn’t dissuaded by his words. She knew what she saw and she intended to get to the bottom of it.
“Great,” she muttered as she headed out of the room. “I guess I was mistaken.” But she didn’t mean it. She needed to talk to Drey right away.
She stopped and turned to Nate before reaching the door. “Yes?”
“I think you should take some time off. In fact I strongly suggest that you do. You need time to clear your head since you’re imagining things.”
Charlene held back from telling him all the things that concerned her. She tilted her head and studied him and suddenly felt uneasy. There was a reason he wanted her gone for a while and they both knew it had nothing to do with her imagination.
“And it will be time off with pay,” he said, as if that meant something.
It was an effort not to tell him just what he could do with the time off with pay, but she bit her tongue to stop from doing so. Instead she walked out of the room.
A few minutes later after removing the items from her desk that she wanted to take with her she paused before entering Nate’s office when she saw he was on the phone. She couldn’t help but notice how quickly he ended the call when he saw her.
“I transferred my reports to Miller to work while I’m gone just in case someone needs a follow-up.”
She inhaled deeply, then said, “What’s going on, Nate? Why are you—”
“I don’t want anything about Joe Dennis to go any further. You’re wrong in what you thought you saw,” he said, cutting in.
Forcing a smile, she said, “Fine. I’ll see you in two weeks.”
“Make it three and you might want to take the opportunity to go visit your parents while you have the time.”
Charlene frowned. Why was he suggesting that she leave town? “That sounds like a good idea, Nate. I’ll see you when I get back.”
As soon as possible, she needed to talk to Drey.
Drey studied the man who was standing at the window staring out as if he was in deep thought. Drey recalled just what he knew about Malcolm Braddock, other than his most recent discovery that the man was his half brother…something Malcolm didn’t know.
Malcolm assumed like his other two siblings—Tyson and Shondra—that Drey had been nothing more to their father than a mentee, someone Harmon Braddock had taken an interest in. They had no idea that their father had had an affair with his mother thirty-three years ago. It was the year before Malcolm had been born.
Although it had never bothered him before, now Drey felt a sense of loss that while he had gotten to know Harmon over the years, he hadn’t been given the chance to form any sort of relationship with his siblings. He inhaled deeply thinking there was still a lot of information his mother hadn’t told him. After she had dropped the bomb on him a few days ago regarding his true relationship with Harmon, he had left her office both confused and angry. He had deliberately avoided talking to her since that day, but he knew he could no longer avoid her. His questions needed answering. He had a case to solve and it was an investigation that had gone from business to personal. He was anxious to get that call from Charlene about that key.
His thoughts automatically shifted away from Malcolm to her, especially the kiss they had shared last night. He felt a tightening in his groin just thinking about it. Hell, he had barely gotten any sleep last night for thinking about it, replaying every aspect of it in his mind and finally drifting off to sleep with the taste of her still very much a part of his palate. It still
The donut and coffee he’d consumed for breakfast hadn’t erased it.
And then there was the way she had felt in his arms, the way her body had automatically adjusted against his, raising his desire to a level it hadn’t been at in a while. Because of his workload, he hadn’t had time to spend with a woman, and last night Charlene had reminded him just how long it had been. A year, he had determined, was too long to go without female companionship, namely a good, hard roll in the hay.
He decided to get his mind off Charlene and back on Malcolm. He was still silently standing at his office window, evidently trying to make sense of this entire investigation and probably asking himself who would want his father dead.
Drey leaned back in his chair thinking that from the time he’d come to know Malcolm he’d always thought of him as a likeable guy. Drey was also aware of the rift that had existed between Malcolm and Harmon for years, namely because Malcolm thought that Harmon had “sold out” to play the political game. That was something Malcolm could not tolerate because of his ingrained sense of right and wrong. The man was extremely smart and in a lot of ways he reminded Drey of Harmon in that Malcolm was headstrong, he liked to debate and was passionate about his beliefs.
Something else that Malcolm seemed passionate about was the woman he was engaged to marry, Gloria Kingsley. Gloria had been Harmon’s executive assistant. Drey knew that Gloria had been instrumental in getting Malcolm to assume a leadership role in the Braddock family as well as to run for his father’s now-vacant seat in Congress.
The special election was to be held at the end of the month, and recent polls showed Malcolm was ahead of his opponent, Clint Hardy, who was running a negative campaign. With the election so close at hand, as well as the investigation into his father’s death, Malcolm pretty much had his hands full. No wonder he was standing at the window staring out, and had been that way since Drey had arrived almost ten minutes ago.
However, no matter the outcome of the election or the investigation, the one thing Drey knew for certain was that Malcolm would be marrying Gloria next month on Christmas Day.
As if on cue, Malcolm turned his head and looked at him, meeting his gaze. Drey wondered if there was anything—his facial bone structure, his strong chin or full cheekbones that would give his secret away and make it obvious to Malcolm that they shared the same blood. Drey knew there was not. Other than his skin coloring and full lips, most of his features were Asian.
“So, you think this key that was taken out of Dennis is connected to Dad’s death?” Malcolm asked, coming to sit back down at his desk.
“I would have to say yes since not too many people make a habit of going around swallowing keys.”
Malcolm nodded, then leaned back in his chair and made a steeple with his fingers. “I was standing over there trying to recall just when Dennis started working for Dad and if in the past I’ve ever had a reason to question his loyalty. But then it’s not like Dad and I were close over the last few years for me to get to know any of his associates or employees.” A smile touched his lips when he added, “Other than Gloria. She used to be quite a sticky thorn in my side.”
Drey raised a brow. “How so?”
“As his executive assistant, she thought my old man walked on water, refused to see his faults like I did. And she resented me for walking away from my father and my family.”
“Why did you?”
If Malcolm thought the question odd coming from a person who had no connection to the family, who was merely someone that he and his siblings had hired to investigate their father’s death, he gave no indication of it. Instead he said, “Despite my privileged upbringing, I’ve always been drawn to those in need and always wanted to help those less fortunate. A few years ago a bill came across my father’s desk that would have helped a lot of needy families—a bill that my dad himself had once championed. I couldn’t take any more of him not practicing what he preached.”
“So you walked away from the family.”
“Yes. Although I kept in touch with my mother and siblings, I couldn’t find it in my heart to forgive Dad for what he did by turning his back on so many who needed him to make a difference. I loved him, but I just couldn’t accept the political behavior my father was practicing. In my eyes he was becoming involved in the dirty side of politics and I couldn’t turn my head and pretend he wasn’t.”
“What about Tyson and Shondra? Did they break their relationship with your father as well?” Drey asked, thinking that the Harmon Braddock whom Malcolm had just described was not the one he had known.