Authors: Ciar Cullen
Tags: #Will Never Be Enough
“Layla, what is it? I didn’t mean to insult you, honestly.” Kevin turned her chin around with the tip of one finger, and his eyes widened at her expression. “Oh, sorry. All right, we both have sad tales, then. When this is over, perhaps we can share them? You’re right, it’s none of my business. Toughen up, now. Game face.”
She nodded. “I’m generally better than this. Ask Sarah.”
“One more thing?” Kevin asked, ignoring her comment. “This is for me, the real me, so you don’t have to answer.”
Layla looked at him curiously.
“Are you named after the song?”
“My parents worshipped Eric Clapton. Still do.”
“Then they must be all right.” He sighed and leaned back, closing his eyes.
Layla wondered what he was thinking.
This is either going to be a very, very good week or a very, very bad one. And I don’t think you have any control over it. I hate that feeling. It’s all in a man’s hands again. But what hands
She looked down at Kevin’s. Long fingers, gold watch against a tanned wrist, tiny black hairs on his arm peaking from beneath his starched white shirt.
God help me. I’ve got the hots for my boss. The almighty Kevin Colin, president of the firm, multi-millionaire. Tony Stark without the iron suit
“Who’s with Molly?” Layla asked.
“She’s with my parents. I should have put that in the portfolio. Sorry.”
“Oh, good. I mean, your girlfriend would care about that.”
He kept his eyes closed and smiled. “Would she now?”
Kevin had to suppress several groans during their rehearsal. Layla’s scripted words, even recited mechanically, pounded through his mind, through his body, no matter how hard he reminded himself it was a sham…
“I’m so in love with you, I’ll do anything you want, anytime, anywhere. You especially like me to service you orally, and you insist upon that service at the snap of your fingers. You’re rather aggressive in the bedroom, and we enjoy a bit of light bondage, a little light discipline. Hmmm, guess who gets the discipline—what a surprise. You like to take photos and videos. My God, Colin, who writes this stuff? Did you? How much of
Her words spun around and around in his head…“
I’m so in love with you
What would it be like if she meant it? He had heard those words before, years before, from his wife. But not since. Because he hadn’t let a woman get that close, and never would again. Women loved his money and position, but no one knew him, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to let a gold-digger get close to his Molly.
Kevin had thrown a newspaper onto his lap to hide the bulge threatening to betray him. He’d been with beautiful women, sophisticated women, but none of them came close to this fantasy in the flesh. A bombshell. Clever, sexy, funny and vulnerable. How had Layla survived five years in the Agency, and in the Middle East? The body of a porn star, the skills of a world-class spy, a genius IQ, and the heart and soul of a child. Wounded, but not just by the job gone bad.
What’s the guy’s name, and why would he walk out on her
Or did she end it
And those lips, holy shit, what that mouth would feel like…those huge brown eyes looking up at me
Kevin shuddered at the thought and a groan slipped out.
“You all right?” Layla looked over her glasses at him in concern. “I’m fine. Just thinking about Ardros.”
What am I going to do about him
You’re an ass, Kevin. A total idiot. You brought Layla here to turn on Andros, and now you don’t want her near him. Well, get over it. You need her in
bedroom more than in yours
“Mmmm?” She continued turning pages of her
to Greece. “You know, it might be pretty spectacular to see some of Greece in the company of the director of antiquities, even if he is a crook…”
“Layla, shut up for a second.”
She looked at him, her gaze locking onto his.
So close. What’s that perfume
? Kevin took in a deep breath and stared at her glossy red lips.
Layla shifted uncomfortably as the flight attendants announced their imminent arrival in Athens. Kevin kept staring and moved even closer.
“What…what are you doing?” She sounded breathless.
“I’m going to leave the ‘when’ up to you,” he whispered, “but it’s going to happen sooner or later. As we discussed, you aren’t required to have sex with anyone on this job, but you will have to be a convincing girlfriend. Girlfriends and boyfriends kiss, hold hands, make out, touch, fight. Kiss,” he repeated, keeping his gaze on her lips.
Layla parted her lips and licked them in nervousness. The sight of her tongue on her lips shot through him like electricity. “I understand that, Kevin. I think I can manage to kiss you for a hundred grand.”
“When we kiss in front of Ardros, it can’t look like a first kiss—we’re supposed to be lovers. Very ardent lovers. The man is observant. He’ll spot a fake a mile away—he’s in the business of spotting fakes.”
“We can practice now, or we can practice later. But before he meets us, we
“I don’t think it’s necessary.”
“I do.” Kevin moved in a little closer.
My God, I feel like a kid on a date. Damn it
. “We have tonight in Athens before we move down to Nafplion. In the meantime, just get used to touching.” He laced his fingers through hers.
Layla nodded. “All right, then. I suppose we’ll have a goodnight kiss.”
“I’ll try not to make it terribly odious.” Kevin spoke formally, hoping that his hand wasn’t actually shaking.
Layla woke from a light sleep and stumbled in a haze to the shower, slowly remembering where she was, what time it was. Athens, evening. It felt like early morning, and she was in no mood for dinner.
She tried to shake off the last vestiges of sleep and stepped into a cold shower.
Why does the water take forever to get warm in this country
? How the hell was she going to separate herself from this mission, this man?
Just enjoy it, idiot. A few lousy kisses, a little acting, some snooping around
. A picnic compared to Munich…
No, don’t think about that
. Those men were a world away, a past life. No doubt the last of them were in custody by now.
Layla dressed and checked the pistol Kevin had secured on the ground, putting it into her oversized handbag. She pulled back the curtains and walked onto the balcony, taking in the incredible view of Athens at night. The Acropolis looked so small from this far away, but it still gleamed like the center of the world. Her heart lurched when the knock came.
It’s not a date, it’s not a date
. She stepped into her heels and opened the door.
. Kevin Colin in jeans. Loose, low-slung jeans and a black T-shirt. And there it was—the tattoo. A Celtic cross peaking from beneath his sleeve.
“There’s another one, isn’t there?” Layla pointed to his arm.
“Excuse me?” Kevin tilted his head sideways.
“Tattoo. There’s another somewhere.”
He laughed. “You’ve such an accusatory tone, I’m not sure I want to answer that.”
Layla turned away to grab her purse. “I’m a sucker for tattoos.”
“Well, I suppose you should know where mine are, but I doubt Ardros will quiz you. There’s another one here…” He lifted his sleeve to reveal an intricate design around his bicep. “And here.” He turned his back toward her and lifted his shirt, revealing a dragon on his left shoulder blade. The muscles of his tanned back rippled with his arm movements.
. “Fine. Let’s get going.”
“Wait a minute. We’re not even. Do you have any tattoos? You know, show and tell.” He grinned mischievously.
“No. Now can we go? I feel like an idiot, so overdressed.”
“You’ll do.” He nodded seriously as his eyes took in her cleavage. Layla caught the quick look and Kevin obviously knew it. He coughed and closed the door behind her. “Mind walking to dinner? It’s a hike.” He looked pointedly at her shoes.
“I’m fine in heels, trust me.”
“You certainly are fine in heels. All right then, to the Acropolis.”
“That’s across town!”
“It certainly is.”
Kevin took her hand as they stepped onto the street and made their way down the long winding sidewalk to the square below. They initially walked in silence, but Layla’s excitement at their surroundings grew and she pulled Kevin into open-air souvenir shops as they neared the old part of town. The smells of wonderful exotic food poured from dozens of restaurants. Bouzouki music drifted louder and softer and louder again as they passed bars and shops. The night air was warm and Layla began to relax. She reached out for Kevin’s hand after one stop and dropped a tiny statue of Athena into his palm.
His expression was curious as he examined the cheap trinket, then he smiled briefly and placed the statue into his pocket. Without a word, he leaned in and kissed her on the forehead. Layla wanted the cobbled street to open up and swallow her whole.
“I’m sorry. I…I don’t know what I was thinking. It was just a whim…”
“My girlfriend would reach for my hand, Layla. Buy me little souvenirs. It’s okay. That’s what tonight is for.”
Layla nodded, horribly embarrassed.
You’re going to lose your job if you keep acting like a rookie. Come on, you’re top of the line, top of your class. Game face
“I’m usually better than this. Ask Sarah.”
“Yes, you’ve said that. Here we go. My favorite.” He led her to a table at a street-side restaurant with a view of the temple high above. The waiter beckoned them to survey the dishes displayed in the window, but Kevin waved him off, muttering an order for wine.
“Good retsina wine here. Hope you don’t mind the simple stuff?”
“No, I love it. This is a great spot, simply magical.”
Music mixed with whirring cicadas and the occasional sound of a horn on the busier streets below, lending more charm to their surroundings. Layla turned her chair to catch just a glimpse of moonlight over the Parthenon.
“All right then, Ms. Swann, what shall we have?” The waiter poured their wine and stood with pad ready. “How about a sampler? I’m starving. We’re unlikely to be sitting together in the moon shadow of the Acropolis again anytime soon, so let’s take our time.”
It’s not a date
Pastitsio, mousaka, dolmadakia, souvlaki, kai salata horiatiki
?” Kevin rattled off.
.” The waiter bowed and hurried inside.
“That sounded more like food for an army.”
Kevin reached across the table and put his hand on Layla’s. “Now, I don’t want to insult you, but you aren’t quite living up to your tough-as-nails reputation, nor are you comfortable with me yet. We have about four hours to change that. Start talking—what’s eating at you?”
“You’re eating at me.”
He laughed lightly. “Excuse me?”
“Perhaps because you’re the boss, I don’t know.”
“Drink up and for crissakes, loosen up, Layla.” Kevin ran his hand through his short hair and pushed back his chair, looking suddenly very frustrated. He took a heavy swig of wine. “If it’s Qatar and whatever the hell happened there, then spit it out. Let me help you—I can be a friend, you know. If you’re over it, then start acting as if you are. There’s a lot riding on this.”
His harsh words slapped Layla into awareness.
I am better than this, damn it
“Right.” Layla sat up straight and took a taste of the wine. “How about a bit more on our plan of attack?”
“No need for that now. We’ve a long drive in the morning. Or maybe the afternoon, we’ll see. He’s not expecting us at any particular time. Tonight is for a little more rehearsal, a little more sharing, a little more comfort, and then…” He smirked.
“Ah yes, the famous practice kiss. Well, I, for one, can hardly wait,” she said and snorted sarcastically.
“Much better.” He smiled broadly. “I wouldn’t have a cowering flower of a girlfriend. Remember that.”
“What kind of girlfriend would you have? Do you have one?” Layla sipped at her wine again and nonchalantly looked at a family walking by.
“Well, since my wife’s death, I’ve dated dozens of models and movie stars. Come on, it won’t come up and it’s not relevant. If it does, follow my lead.”
The waiter came with an assistant who had trouble fitting the food on the table. Layla and Kevin both laughed and dug in as soon as they were left alone.
“Mmmm…incredible, I forgot this part. Now
Layla spiked a huge chunk of feta cheese on her fork and waved it at Kevin. They both ate voraciously, talking about Greece and their past trips, touching on Layla’s recent jobs with the firm.
“Can I ask you something, boss? You’re what—thirty-three, thirty-four? How did you do it? Create such a huge company?”
“Without a degree, you mean? No, it’s okay. I wonder sometimes myself. Well, for starters, I’m thirty-eight. Yes, really,” he assured at the startled look on her face. “And I’m not that smart. I simply have a knack for surrounding myself with talent. Like Sarah. Like you.”
Colin, you’ve made a huge mistake
He smiled at Layla and wondered why he hadn’t listened to Sarah’s warning. Not a good role-player. What the hell was her problem? Qatar. She was as jumpy as a kitten.
And you’re a bit frazzled yourself
He knew what was eating at him, and it was the sight of this goddess across the table. He had started, just for a few moments, to fall into the role. Her boyfriend. They would kiss, tour Greece and make love all day, all night. He would caress away all her pain—whatever the boyfriend had done; whatever the fuckers in Qatar had done. They would fly home and be greeted by Molly and his parents.