Kate Sikes has finally met who she believes is Mr. Right, only Detective Walker Pruett isn’t all about flowers and living happily ever after. In fact, after the greatest night of sex Kate’s ever had, she hasn’t seen Walker once.
However, she refuses to pine away for him or call him even though he invades her thoughts and her dreams—that is, until he shows up to investigate a case of robbery at the hotel where she works. Once again, Kate is left to fight Walker’s charms, though she knows he can’t commit and she’s convinced he’ll eventually break her heart.
Staring off into space through the window had become Kate’s pastime of late, one she wouldn’t admit to anyone. She’d never been the type of woman to pine for a man, but pining was exactly what she was doing for the likes of Walker Pruett, the man who had turned a night ruined by a psychotic killer trying to end any chance Kate Sikes had of ever dating again into a night of the hottest, down and dirty best sex she’d ever had in her very young adult life. Kate was only twenty-two, and anyone would remind her she still had a lot of living and learning yet to do, but there were days she felt as if she’d lived a lifetime of bad choices, considering, when it came to men, she always picked the wrong guys.
Although Walker knew how to fuck and had driven Kate wild with a night of the kind of sex she’d never dreamed of having, he was the same as every other man she’d dated. Correction—she hadn’t dated Walker, she’d fucked him, and he’d have been the first to correct her. It was sex, so she shouldn’t call it anything other than what it really was.
Walker had been the detective on duty when a crazed woman had driven her car through the window of the restaurant where Kate and her date had met. The woman had headed right for her with every intention of taking her out, then had broken into her apartment to write in bright red lipstick on her wall, all because of a guy she’d met online, who, as she looked back now, hadn’t been one of her better choices. No, Walker had taken her home to his place to protect her but had ended up fucking her in ways that still made her wake from a dead sleep, sweating and wanting, craving. God, how she hated him now.
It had been a month since Walker had dropped Kate off at home after her tumble down his stairs, nursing a sprained wrist, a cut to the neck, and bumps and bruises. He’d waited only long enough for her to open the door, then pulled away.
That had been the last time she saw him.
She’d expected him to call, even just to retrieve his T-shirt, which she’d worn home. It was currently washed and folded, stuffed into a drawer with her other shirts, but she pulled it out and slipped it on when she was feeling particularly lonely. Sometimes, though she’d never tell anyone, she even slept in it.
“Kate, didn’t you hear me?” Keith, the front desk manager, tossed a stack of brochures on the front desk counter, behind which Kate stood in front of her computer. Her boss was a short dark-haired man with heavy brows, a round face, and a prickly attitude, and she jumped because she couldn’t help feeling as if she’d been caught doing something she shouldn’t have been doing. Then again, daydreaming fell under that category. Her cheeks burned.
“Yes, Keith, sorry, what do you need?” She didn’t look up, instead bringing up the current check-ins and the room inventory on her screen. It was quick thinking, and she wanted to pat herself on the back, as it had kept her from landing in hot water time and again, especially as of late.
“You were staring off into space again. You need to focus on the job while you’re here. Save your slacking off for when you punch out,” he said in the same condescending tone he always used with her, a tone she could only put down to his need to make sure she knew her place as the assistant, not the boss. No, he was the boss, the person who could make her life easy or difficult.
She took a breath and opened her mouth to say something smart. As she looked up and across the lobby, that was when she saw him.
The panic hit her first, pulsing through her, sucking her breath out. She almost wheezed. How could she have forgotten how forbidden the man looked? He had the same short red hair and rugged shoulders, shoulders that had pinned her legs up as he rammed into her over and over, shoulders and arms she knew the feel of all too well: skin to skin in the most intimate of places.
Walker Pruett was standing not more than twenty feet from her in the lobby by the pale sofas, talking with two men, corrections cops, and damn, did he look good. She could see his badge fastened to the belt of his jeans, and his white T-shirt had her curling her fingers, as she wanted nothing more than to slide her hands over those arms, feeling the muscles flex, feeling his strength.
“Kate, are you listening to me?” Keith tapped the counter with his finger, and she felt like an idiot. At the same time, she wanted to run and hide from Walker. Of all times for Keith to be an asshole!
“Yes, Keith, I’m listening.” She turned to face him, hoping he wouldn’t embarrass her. He dropped another pile of brochures and papers on the counter.
“I need you to make up these kits for sales. They’re short staffed today, and Shelley has calls scheduled with a group on Friday.”
She couldn’t believe he was passing this off on her, the grunt work he usually passed on to the front desk clerks when sales were really backed up. “Isn’t this Andrea’s job?” she said, reaching for the brochures and papers as the phone started to ring. She reached for it and answered. The caller wanted reservations, so she transferred it on, and Keith was still there. Maybe he was waiting for her to mess something up. As a boss, he was the worst, always focusing on what people could and would do wrong. He thrived on it. She hated that.
“Andrea is busy, and since you have all this free time to daydream and stand there looking out the window, you can put them together. It’s your job when I tell you it’s your job—”
She turned her head as Walker approached the front desk, glancing from her to Keith. She was positive her boss got off on grinding her nose into the dirt, belittling her every chance he got. Had Walker seen, heard? Of course he had. Everyone within ten feet would have picked up on Keith doing his best to make a point to Kate that he was, in fact, in charge and could make her life at work a living hell. That was a detail he had, as of late, pointed out to her on a daily basis.
“Hi, can I help you?” she said, wishing Keith would lose interest like any normal person and walk away.
Walker gave her an odd look. The way he quirked his brow, the humor or something in his expression, had her wanting to ball up her fist and ram it into his gut. So he’d fucked her and walked away, and now she was supposed to pretend…what?
She said nothing else as he tapped the counter and rested his forearm on the pale tile, his shirt doing little to hide the amazing chest she knew was waiting underneath for her touch. Stop it!
She squeezed her hand, fighting the unsettled feeling she knew all too well Walker could stoke inside her, making her crazy under him. She remembered what it felt like. Of course her eyes went right to that arm, seeing the shape and strength, how he had held her legs apart…
“Sir, can I help you with something?” Keith added. Kate felt her cheeks burn. She stared at her fingers, cleared her throat roughly, and tapped some keys. The screen went blank. Shit.
When she glanced up, Walker was looking down at her. His eyes, those amazing green eyes, were no longer smiling.
“Thanks, but I’m here to speak with Kate. Police business.” His fingers tapped the badge fastened to his belt. She’d never seen him in jeans before. Maybe there wasn’t a thing he didn’t look good in: hot, sexy—asshole, because now Keith would be on her, thinking she’d done something illegal.
She pasted a smile to her lips, the one she reserved for guests she was anything but happy to deal with.
“Oh, I see,” Keith said. “Has Kate done something I should be aware of?” He turned from her to Walker, and, of course, he was still standing there, giving her the impression he had no plans to move any time soon.
“I don’t know, has she?” Walker said in a voice that made him sound so much like a man in charge. It was something she had known all too well under him, riding him, pressed against the wall or wherever he’d wanted her.
“You know what, Keith? I’ve got this. I’ll have all the kits put together before I go today. Is there anything else?” She glanced over to Keith, and the way he watched Walker and then looked over to her, she knew he was going to pile the questions on after, maybe make her life miserable for a while. Right now, she wanted him gone so she could give Walker directions to the door.
“Sure, don’t be long. You still have another two hours before you’re off.”
She would have rolled her eyes, but Walker was right in front of her, and she’d had enough of both these guys. “And you will have every second of my time,” she added, but the moment it was out of her mouth, she realized Keith was likely to add it to his list of her shortcomings. She didn’t have to look over to know, as he walked away, back into his office behind her, that he would be leaving the door open so he could hear every word spoken between her and Walker.
“I’m busy. Is there something I can help you with?” She wondered whether she could make her voice sound any more icy. She’d have loved to flip him the bird, and maybe it was the thought of doing so that added an ease to her forced smile.
“Your security footage from the cameras in the lobby and the bar for the last seven days.” He gestured toward the cameras, and his expression was one she recognized: all cop. Asshole, not even a “How are you?” or some fucking excuse for why you did the dump and run. Had he lost her phone number? Had he suffered a head injury and been stuck in the hospital in a coma for the past month? She had to fight to uncurl her fingers from where her nails were digging into her palms.
“I see,” she said. “Well, you would need to speak with Hollis McPhail, head of security.” She lifted the phone and punched in his extension, staring down at the receiver, feeling Walker’s gaze burning into her.
“Security,” he answered, sounding as he always did: distracted, busy, as if answering the phone was a chore.
“Hollis, it’s Kate at the front desk. I have a Detective Pruett out here who says he needs to see some security footage. What would you like me to tell him?” She was hoping he’d say something like “Until he has a warrant, he can go fuck himself.” She would have been more than happy to relay that message.
“Fishing for something, is he?” Hollis said. She could hear noise in the background, a pen or pencil tapping on his desk. He let out a sigh of frustration.
“What would you like me to tell him?” She looked straight at Walker, who didn’t seem rattled in the least. In fact, the way he watched her and then dropped his gaze to her breasts had her wanting to reach out and slap him.
“I’ll be right there. Tell him to wait.”
She replaced the receiver. “Hollis will be right out to speak with you.”
Now what was she supposed to do? Awkward was all she could think when Walker still hadn’t moved but seemed to be settling in. Why wouldn’t the phone ring or a guest appear so she could ignore this man who’d turned her world upside down with a night of the best sex she’d ever had? Not that she’d tell him as much. No, this smug bastard probably made a habit of bedding women and tossing them away, and she was just another notch on his bedpost. She couldn’t remember if she’d actually looked at his bedpost and counted the scratches.
“You’re welcome to wait over there.” She gestured with the flat of her hand to the sofas in the lobby that faced the fireplace. At least then she wouldn’t have to keep up the smile that was beginning to ache from how hard she was forcing it in place.
“So how have you been?”
Are you kidding me? “Great, actually. You?” What the hell was she supposed to say, that she’d spent nights sitting at home, not going out, because she’d thought he’d call? How about the number of times she’d picked up the phone just to make sure there was a dial tone? She’d had to stop herself from calling him at least thirty or forty times, because she wasn’t one of those girls. She’d never, ever pine away for a guy, chase him down and leave endless messages for him to call her when it was clear he wasn’t interested.
“Pretty good.” He was nodding, his gaze dipping again to her breasts.
She reached for the edge of her black sports jacket and pulled it over her breasts. Even though her white blouse was decent and far from low cut, it didn’t hide the size of her generous bust. No, she was proud of what she had, and she didn’t skimp on bras, choosing ones that added extra lift and more cleavage. He smiled as if he knew what she was doing, but he didn’t stop his ogling. The man was positively a dirty dog.
“Well, Detective Pruett who’s pretty good, if you don’t mind, I have work to do, so if you’d like to wait over there, I’m sure Hollis will be right out.” She gestured again rather sharply, and this time she didn’t smile. The fact was that she didn’t want to.
He didn’t move. In fact, he rested his other arm on the counter, taking in all of her as if he had every right. He was a man who wouldn’t accept the brush off. He was infuriating.
“What is it with you…?”
“Detective Pruett.” Hollis approached and tapped the counter before she could finish, and again Kate felt her cheeks burn. She was rattled.
“You must be Hollis,” Walker said, still leaning on the counter as if he had no intention of moving. He didn’t take the hand Hollis held out but instead looked and turned his head, so much the man in control, toward Kate. He winked. “Take care, Kate.”
Then somehow he had his hand on Hollis’s back and was walking away, far enough that she had to strain to hear. Hollis had his back to Kate, but Walker was facing her, his attention on the head of security, who was dressed in the same black jacket Kate wore, the uniform reserved for all management. He was on the overweight side, considering he spent most days glued to a desk. Whenever she saw him, he was shoveling a sandwich, donut, or whatever he had sitting on his desk beside him into his mouth.
How was it that Walker could face her from across the room and talk with Hollis, who was nodding to whatever he was saying, and Kate couldn’t hear one word? She was staring at him now as he gave all his attention to Hollis.
“Kate!” Keith barked from behind her, and she jumped. “Stop daydreaming and get back to work.”
When she looked back up, Hollis was walking away, and Walker was staring at her, so she picked up the brochures and papers and started sorting. When she looked up again, Walker was gone.
She is frequently a Top 100 bestselling author in multiple genres, such as romance, western, military and mystery/suspense. She has written multiple series, including The Outsider, Walk the Right Road, The Wilde Brothers, Saved, The Friessens, and her two newest additions, Married in Montana, and her high-stakes suspense and sizzling, red-hot romance series, Kate and Walker, Deadly, Dangerous and Desired.
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