Streaks of violet, crimson, and sapphire bounced off me from lights suspended from the ceiling, while the pulsating beat of electronic music resonated through my bar stool. I swiped through my phone's touch screen until I located the entry in my calendar—"8:00 PM: Date with Cliff @ Dance Ardor." Yep, there it was. The clock in the corner of the screen told me the time was now 8:30 PM.
I balanced atop a skyscraper stool, wearing a sort-of-new dress with my brand-new stiletto heels dangling high off the floor, and all for nothing. The jerk had stood me up.
Located smack dab in Chicago's trendy West Loop district, Dance Ardor was an underground club notorious for its…uninhibited atmosphere. According to my online research, this club was the place to go if you wanted a wild night to remember.
I glanced over my shoulder, past the dance floor and the tables arrayed around it, to a wall half the height of the vaulted ceiling. From my vantage, I couldn't see the purple-curtained private booths behind the wall, but the club's website assured me they existed. This was my last hurrah. I wanted more than dinner and flowers tonight.
A man in a hip-hugging tartan kilt strolled past, accompanied by a woman draped in a matching plaid that crisscrossed her breasts and wrapped her hips mini-skirt style. Yep, I got stood up on Midsummer Kilt Night at a raunchy club. Lucky me.
I shoved my phone back in my purse. For all I knew, Cliff was here watching me. My skin crawled at the idea. Though my dating profile included a photo, his hadn't. But when a girl trolled a dating site dedicated to semi-anonymous flings, she had to accept the unknown. The thrill I'd enjoyed when I scheduled this date had long since dissolved into unease. Ditch the worry, remember the mantra. I smoothed my dress, sitting up straight, and mentally recited my mantra. Take a risk, have an adventure, be wild.
This could be my last chance. No longer a boring accountant, I'd transformed into Erica Teague, wild woman. Ugh. Wild? That was one thing no one had ever called me. I scratched the back of my hand, chewing the inside of my cheek. I could do this. Really, I could.
Out on the dance floor, couples writhed in fervid hunger, grinding their bodies against each other yet keeping their eyes shut, each lost in a different world. My problem in a nutshell. I allowed my partner to hypnotize me while he pulled moves I couldn't see with my blinded eyes. Presley Cichon tricked me, sure, but I enabled him.
Yanking my phone out, I checked the time again—8:36. I clapped the phone down on the bar. My stool quivered from the abrupt motion. Just my luck, I picked a stool with a wobbly leg.
The song changed. Unnatural instruments screeched and thumped a tuneless rhythm. I rubbed my temples. Maybe the club hadn't been such a good idea after all.
A drunk guy stumbled into me, knocking my stool off kilter. I seized the edge of the bar.
"Sorry," the guy slurred. His bleary gaze swept over my body. His tongue poked out to moisten his lips. "Whoa, yer hot. But I like bigger tits on my honeys."
I hugged my bare arms. Addendum to the mantra—take a risk, but not with a drunk.
The bartender shooed away my admirer, flashing me an apologetic smile. My shoulders rose and fell on a sigh. "Could I get an apricot brandy?"
A moment later, the bartender plunked a snifter in front of me. I wrapped my hands around the pear-shaped glass. The drunk guy had moved on, his arm locked around a buxom brunette in a designer mini dress with a psychedelic, bright-pink pattern. It draped over her slender figure, an elegant and outrageously expensive garment. Despite the zilch I knew about designer clothes, even I recognized the couture pedigree of her outfit.
My shoulders slumped as my gaze fell to the cherry red dress I wore, which I'd bought yesterday. It was vintage, meaning bought at Goodwill, and its pedigree was more discount outlet than haute couture. Safety pins concealed in the fabric converted a modest neckline into a sexy plunge that highlighted my cleavage. The safety-pinned hem flounced around the tops of my knees when I stood, but sitting down it rode up to reveal a wanton swathe of my thighs.
I swigged my brandy. A flash of fruity sweetness raced over my tongue, chased by a tangy burn. Why was I waiting for a man who didn't have the courtesy to call and cancel? Enough of this. I leaped off the stool onto my five-inch heels and tottered, mirroring my stool's motion. What the hell had I been thinking, wearing stilettos for the first time in my life?
Strong hands grasped my upper arms. "Easy there."
I craned my neck to behold my would-be savior. My heart thudded.
A giant of a man peered down into my eyes, his body towering several inches above me. Whoa, mama. The heels elevated my five-four to five-ten, which must've made him well over six feet tall. Thick muscles in his impossibly broad shoulders flexed as he maintained his hold on me. The lights glistened on his short, dark hair, casting it in unearthly hues. The sensation of his fingers on my skin and the proximity of his body flooded me with heat and my mouth watered at the sight of acres of hard, defined muscles straining his skintight black T-shirt. His powerful thighs vanished under a kilt, its plaid woven in pastel shades of green and blue with orange lines threaded through them. The blue in the fabric echoed his pale eyes, which studied me with electrifying interest. Black combat boots covered his feet but somehow, combined with his angular features, they lent him a rugged appeal.
I raked my gaze over his body, drinking in every inch of him, until our gazes intersected.
Recognition lit his face. "It's you. Erica."
"And it's you." Who the hell was he? The guy seemed to know me but—Ohhhh. This must be Cliff. I shook off his hands, whipped out my phone, and tapped the clock on its screen, tipping it so he could see. "It's eight thirty-nine."
His full lips quirked. "Quite the timekeeper, eh?"
That deep voice, spiced with an enticing Scottish brogue, flowed over the words like warm molasses. Forget his yummy accent. You're a wild woman and wild women don't wait around for late-comers. I shook off his hands. "I've been here for thirty-nine minutes. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
"Not really." His attentive gaze browsed over me. "Except your bum's oot the windae."
He was speaking gibberish. Great, I'd arranged a sex date with a lunatic.
"Buckled, are you?"
I spread my arms. "Do you see any buckles or belts on this dress?"
He chuckled—with no derision, simply amusement. "I meant are you drunk, lass?"
"Me?" I snorted, waving a dismissive hand. "No. Never."
Besides, I'd had just one sip of brandy.
He leaned in to stare straight into my eyes. His glacial blue irises sparkled in the light glinting off them. I caught a whiff of his rich, dark cologne and underneath, an earthy spice all his own. My senses came alive at the exotic scent of him, and the flecks of darker blue in those striking eyes mesmerized me. I swallowed. Hard.
"Your eyes look all right," he announced, and pulled away.
"Pupils get dilated when a person's drunk. Yours look normal and your breath is fine, so I'm assuming you aren't buckled after all."
"Gee, thanks. Why—"
"Let me buy you a drink." He gestured to the bartender. "In the name of neighborliness and all."
Neighborliness? A totally nutso part of me, "buckled" on hormones, urged me to forget any and all flaws this hot Scot might reveal. Take a risk. I'd already enacted that part of the mantra, by asking out a guy I met online. Next, I needed to engage in an adventure, aka one night of mind-blowing sex as a send-off before my freedom was snatched away from me. Part three urged me to be wild whenever the opportunity arose.
And arise it had. In the form of one tantalizing man in a kilt.
Danger, danger, a warning siren screamed in my brain. I smashed the blasted thing to shreds. It was a remnant of the old me, the boring, organized accountant who never had any real fun.
Cliff picked up my half-empty glass and swished the liquid inside. He scrunched his nose in mock disgust. "Brandy? That's a bairn's drink." He deposited the glass on the bar. "You're in a club. Have a real drink with me."
Be wild. I leaned against the bar, shoulders rolled back, and flicked my hair. "Sure. What did you have in mind?"
Cliff smiled and all my inhibitions melted into a puddle at my feet. Screw global warming. A smile that sizzling could annihilate the arctic ice sheet in two seconds flat.
The music crescendoed just as Cliff rattled off our order to the bartender. I couldn't catch what he said. Then the music wound down to segue into a quieter song with a lulling melody. I rocked my hips to the tempo of the music, my shoulders swaying too, the fabric of my dress rushing over my skin like a lover's touch.
Cliff's lips parted, his eyes devouring my movements and glazing over with…desire. For me? I lifted a hand to my throat, feeling my pulse racing beneath my skin.
The bartender brought us two small glasses, each holding a mere inch of amber liquid. Cliff downed his in one gulp.
I lifted the glass to my lips. It felt cool against my skin. I inhaled the pungent, earthy aroma. What the hell. I sucked in a breath and tossed back the drink. Fire seared my throat. I sputtered, coughed, wheezed, but the fire burned in my gut now. Slippery warmth flared through my veins. My legs wilted, but I locked my knees to stay upright. My thoughts fuzzed, every worry fading into the background. Me like this.
"Another," I shouted to the bartender. Within seconds, I snatched my next glass of amber ecstasy, tossed it back, and slapped my glass on the bar. "Another."
Cliff waved the bartender away. "The lady's done for the night."
The bartender, halfway to us, wandered away.
I frowned at my date. "What'd you do that for?"
He plucked the glass from my hand. "Don't drink much, do you?"
Cliff grasped my upper arms, his skin hot on mine. "Best take it easy then. Whiskey's potent and one glass has clearly done a number on you."
"I drank whiskey?"
"Aye, and that's whisky spelled the Scottish way, without the E." Humor glimmered in his eyes and dimpled his cheeks. "You Americans don't know how to spell."
"Well, you Scots don't know how to pronounce anything." Numbed by the booze, I slanted toward him and pitched my head back to see his face. "Are you a Highlander?"
"Matter of fact, I am."
"Got a big sword?"
He captured my chin with his thumb and forefinger, bending his head. His mouth hovered deliciously close to mine. His voice dripped with sensuality. "Matter of fact, I do."
My attention flicked down to his kilt. "Don't see it."
"Maybe I'll show you later. At home."
An idea of what his "sword" might look like flashed through my mind, igniting an ember deep down. I swung my gaze up. "What do Highlanders wear under their kilts?"
Oh shit. Had I said that out loud?
His breath whispered over my lips, tickling me down to my core. "I think the whisky's getting to you."
"Feel fine." To prove my point, I twirled on my high heels without teetering. The glow of the whisky was fading, too soon. I longed for another shot of it, to drown my warning siren in its fiery depths. More than whisky, I thirsted for…Cliff.
I scuffled backward a step and bumped into the bar. How on earth could I want a man I didn't know, a man I met over the Internet? A man named Cliff. Really? My body hummed for a guy named Cliff. Well, I came here for a one-nighter. Might as well take the Highlander by the sword.
Cliff braced one elbow on the bar, crossed his ankles, and roved his eyes over my body. My skin tingled wherever his gaze flitted over me. Have an adventure. Be wild. I sidled up to the bar in front of him. Thanks to his cocked hip, his kilt had shifted and tightened over a bulge underneath the fabric. An impulse exploded through me, the need to slide my hand under the kilt and grasp him was almost irresistible.
A blush scorched my cheeks.
Come on, do something. I hoisted up onto my tiptoes and tilted my chin up. Our mouths were a hair's breadth apart.
"Sure ye didn't have a pint or two before I got here?" His voice quavered ever so slightly and his pupils had dilated, though I doubted from the whisky. This gorgeous man wanted me.
My pulse rocketed into the stratosphere. My breaths quickened. Seize the moment.
His mouth was wide, his lips full and a dusky pink. I grazed my teeth over my bottom lip. What would this man taste like? Whisky, for sure. But what else? I burned to know, to experience his lips, his tongue—
Cliff bent toward me, just a touch, his eyes glossy.
My stomach fluttered. Now or never, wild woman. I leaned in, hoisting my heels up off the floor. My breasts skimmed his chest, and oh my, even that faint touch had me struggling for air.
His hands settled on my elbows, his fingers splayed over my bare skin. "Erica, you are exquisite, like a rare orchid plucked from a field of heather."
The blaring music, the odor of sweaty bodies, the clinking of glasses…All of it vanished. Enveloped in our own bubble, we edged closer to each other. His eyes blazed, my heart pounded. Closer. His chin brushed mine. Closer.
I pressed my lips to a stranger's. The lush softness of his mouth yielded to mine, the seductive hint of whisky teased my senses. I exhaled a soft moan.
He went rigid. I know he stopped breathing, because his breaths no longer tickled my skin. I flattened a hand on his hard chest and explored the lines of his muscles through his shirt. My every heartbeat resounded in my ears, my every nerve awakened. I molded my mouth to his, my breasts grazing his chest. Tight muscles slackened throughout his body and then, at last, his lips softened.
My mouth went dry. What was I doing?
Being wild. Shedding my skin. Transforming into a woman who embraced freedom and life with everything she had.
I slipped my tongue between his lips. His breath hitched, but his teeth blocked me from stealing deeper inside.
A resigned groan rumbled through his chest. He took charge of the kiss, his lips raking over mine, his jaw relaxing. I flung my arms around his neck, my heels well off the floor, my body suspended from his. He nibbled at my lower lip with a gentle playfulness, then sucked it into his mouth for a heartbeat before claiming my mouth again. My nipples peaked, sensitized in an instant. I plowed my hand into his silky hair, hauling him in for a tongue-thrusting kiss, more intoxicating than any alcohol. His velvety strokes explored my mouth, and I plunged my tongue deeper, deeper, deeper. The bump under his kilt swelled.
He pulled away, lips parted, eyes hooded.
Panting, I gaped at him.
Cliff curved an arm around my waist and drew me snug against his aroused body. His accent thickened, his voice raspy. "Are ye sure ye know what yer doing, lass?"
Hot man, hot mess, danger ahead.
My stomach lurched. I shook my head, my hair flinging around my face, and staggered backward. I lifted my hand to my mouth, swore I spotted dark stains on my fingertips, and scrubbed them on my dress. A memory flickered before my eyes, of a stern policeman squashing my fingers into an ink pad and pressing them onto a card one by one. After three weeks, no traces of ink remained, except in my mind. If Cliff knew the truth about me, he'd run. Stupid, stupid mantra.
Cliff reached for my hand. "Erica, are ye all right?"
Too much, all too much. I bolted.
My heart hammered. The music and the lights blurred into a surreal movie playing out around me as I hurtled through the doors and out into the night. By the time I slammed my car door and twisted the key in the ignition, I was shaking from head to toe. One night of hot sex. What on earth had I been thinking? One fact consoled me.
At least I'd never have to see Cliff again.
The next morning, I woke with a headache cinched across my forehead—not from a hangover, because I hadn't drunk enough for that, but from gritting my teeth all night while I slept. Memories of last night besieged me. Cliff's hot body. His soft, supple lips. The brief taste I'd stolen when he opened his mouth to me. I'd wanted so much more. So naturally, I freaked out and ran away.
I flopped onto my back, arms crossed over my eyes, and cursed myself. My satin nightie caught under my butt, stretching tight over my breasts. I wriggled to free the fabric. Sunlight streamed through the crack between the blackout curtains on the window and leaked through the gap between my arms. I squashed my arms together to block the glare.
Somewhere in the middle of my mostly sleepless night, I'd figured out why I bolted. The game plan had been solid, but my resolve wavered. One night with a stranger, one incredible fantasy brought to life, sounded good. I'd craved it out of desperation I might never get the chance again. Faced with the reality of giving myself to a man I knew only from his brief profile on a dating site, the real me reared her head. I was no man-eater, prowling raunchy clubs for fresh meat. I couldn't go through with it. But oh, I had enjoyed that kiss. Maybe I succeeded after all in being wild.
Claws clicked on the wood floor, accompanied by panting. A weight landed on the bed, depressing the mattress at my feet and bouncing me. I dropped my arms to my sides. My golden retriever, Casey, wagged his tail. It thumped on the blanket.
After a self-pitying moan, I heaved my torso off the bed to lean over and pat my companion on the head. "Morning, Casey-wasey."
He lunged forward to slap a wet kiss on my mouth. I spluttered and wiped my mouth, then shoved the dog off the bed. "No tongue, remember? I'm not that kind of girl."
Not for canines, anyway. I'd thrust my tongue into Cliff's mouth without hesitation and permitted him to plunder mine in return. A hot shiver rippled through me as I flashed back to my body plastered to his and the faint pressure of something stirring under his kilt. Stop thinking about him.
A tiny thread of regret came loose inside me. Poor Cliff. I wound him up and left him hanging. Maybe I'd send him one last message and apologize for fleeing.
Casey rested his chin on the bed's edge, tail wagging, and whimpered.
"I know, I know, it's breakfast time." I swung my legs over the edge and my feet struck the chilly wood floor. With a yawn, I launched myself off the bed.
Twenty minutes later, I'd consumed two bowlfuls of chocolate Cheerios and downed a mug of steaming-hot green tea. Casey settled for chicken gizzards in addition to his dry dog food. Mmm, I loved the stench of raw gizzards in the morning. Refreshed, in spite of the chicken parts, I clasped Casey's collar around his neck, clipped the leash onto it, and pulled the front door open.
I yelped. My heart thrashed against my ribs.
Cliff smiled. "Morning, neighbor."
Stonewashed blue jeans hugged his hips and another tight T-shirt, this time jade green, stretched over his chiseled chest. The leash fell from my hand.
Casey flung his front paws onto Cliff's thighs. The man I'd kissed last night scratched my dog behind the ears. Casey, ebullient at the attention, licked Cliff's arm.
My fantasy Highlander's smile faltered. "Aren't you happy to see me?"
Happy? Seriously? I snagged Casey's collar and dragged him away from Cliff. "Are you stalking me?"
"Stalking?" He scratched his cheek. "I thought to follow you last night to make sure you were all right, but you took off so bloody fast. Might not believe it, but I am an honorable man."
A panicked laugh hiccupped out of me. "Honorable? Stalking is a crime, buddy."
My terrifying guard dog hopped up and down on his front feet, his tongue lolling.
"Erica." Cliff raised his hands, palms out. "I'm trying to be friendly."
"Go creep out some other random girl you hunted down online." I pushed Casey out of the doorway with my foot and pulled the door halfway closed. "Leave me alone, Cliff."
I slammed the door. Casey whined.
"Forget it." I wagged a finger at him. "Stalkers bad. Dog bite stalkers. Got it? No licking."
My Highlander's voice resounded through the door. "Who the bloody hell is Cliff?"
A chill trickled through me. I stared at the door, unable to budge a muscle. How could he not know his own name? The truth reeled through me and the room spun once. I never spoke his name last night. When a stranger acted like he knew me, I'd assumed he was Cliff. But if the Highlander wasn't Cliff, then who in heaven's name was he?
One way to find out. I fastened the security chain and eased the door open a few inches.
The Scot lifted one brow. "Cliff?"
"Who are you?"
He offered me his hand. "Lachlan MacTaggart. I moved in next door yesterday. Housesitting for my friend, Gil Friedman, as an excuse for a holiday in America. Gil told me about you—your name and how much he and his new bride like you."
I stared at his hand, blinking slowly. He claimed to know Gil, so…I clasped his hand. Warm fingers closed around mine in a firm grip. I managed to say, "Erica Teague. But you know that already."
"Pleasure to meet you, Erica. Officially."
"Uh-huh." His hand lingered on mine, his thumb dancing over my knuckles. The feathery touch sizzled through my whole body. I withdrew my hand and folded my arms over my chest. "How did you know what I looked like?"
"I arrived yesterday while you were out. When you came home, you set about tending to your rose bushes."
Not my rose bushes. Mom would kill me if I let them wither. This guy did not need to know the details of my living arrangements. "The roses were here when I moved in."
"You care for them with such tenderness, it's wonderful to watch." Lachlan gave me a guilty smile. "Suppose I did stalk you, by accident. I truly am sorry about last night, though."
"Wasn't your fault." Hey, why was I consoling this guy? "How do I know you're really housesitting for Gil and Jayne?"
"Call him. He's at my place in Scotland and he's got his mobile. Said you knew the number."
Gil had given me his cell number in case of emergency and I gave him mine for the same reason. Despite three years of living next to him, I couldn't say we were besties, but he and Jayne had invited me over for dinner on occasion and I'd cooked for them too. Gil helped me clean up the mess when a storm knocked a tree branch down in my yard and he ran three blocks to catch Casey when the dopey dog took off after a big truck. He and Jayne were the closest thing I had to friends.
"Call Gil," Lachlan said. "And if you want me, I'll be next door."
He strode down the steps and across the adjoining yards to Gil's house. If I wanted him? I wouldn't. No way. My gaze was riveted to his taut ass, accentuated by those second-skin jeans, as the muscles shifted with each of his long strides. The door to Gil's house clicked shut behind Lachlan. I stood there for a moment, one hand on the door knob, gazing out through the gap between the frame and door.
With a wistful sigh, I pried myself away from the view and shut the door. Wistful Erica, that I was. Wimpy Erica too. But wild and wanton Erica? Last night you were.
I grabbed my phone to call Gil. He answered on the fifth ring, sounding way too cheerful for my time zone. While I talked to him, I made coffee. I reserved java for emergencies, and this morning I definitely needed a serious caffeine boost.
"Erica, hey." He gave a surprised little laugh. "Imagine hearing from you. Did my pipes explode or something?"
"Wouldn't your house guest take care of that?"
"Oh." At least he had the gentlemanliness to sound chagrined. "You met Lachlan."
Met. Kissed. Accused of stalking. "Yeah. He, uh, stopped by to say hello. Why didn't you let me know you'd have a house sitter while you're gone?"
"Plum forgot. Lachlan called a week ago saying he wanted a break from Scotland, and me and Jayne had talked about getting a house sitter anyway, so…We decided to turn my business trip into the start of a Scottish honeymoon. We switched houses. Jayne and me are at Lachlan's apartment in Edinburgh this week, then we're heading up to his place in the Highlands. It's stone gorgeous up there."
I felt my brows tighten, crinkling my nose. "How long is Lachlan staying here?"
Twenty-eight days living next to the only man I'd ever kissed without even knowing his name. And he wanted to be friendly. "Is Lachlan married or involved with anybody?"
Gil chortled. "Do I detect a crush?"
"No." I slapped the coffee pod into the single-serve machine and snapped the lid shut. "How do I know the guy living there is really Lachlan? Maybe you should send me a photo of him."
"Cripes, Erica, you are so paranoid." I heard shuffling and then he said, "I'm e-mailing a photo of me and Lachlan. Satisfied?"
Not in the slightest. The mere mention of the Scot's name had my lips burning with a desire to finish what I started last night. "Yes, I'm satisfied. Thank you." I twirled a lock of hair around my finger. "So, does he have a significant other?"
The volume of Gil's laughter overtaxed my receiver's speaker. "You like him, don't you?"
"No." Criminy. That came out a little petulant and a lot unconvincing. "I like to know my neighbors, that's all."
"Well…" He coughed. "If you want to know more about Lachlan, better ask Lachlan."
Uh-oh, wife alert. I grunted as I grabbed a mug from the cabinet. "Thanks for the info. And for the head's up about your house sitter."
"He's a good guy, Erica. Relax." Gil's voice took on a conspiratorial tone. "Bake some of those yummy brownies of yours and take them over to Lachlan. A housewarming gift. He'll love it."
"Housewarming?" I thumped my mug on the counter. "Are you selling him your house?"
"No, I just thought—" He blew out a breath. "Man, you are so suspicious. I love you, kid, but you have got to learn to let people in. All's I'm saying is, make a friend."
"You're my friend." I slid the mug into the coffee maker.
"Erica." He drew my name out with exasperation. "You need more friends than me and Jayne."
Grumbling, I drummed my fingers on the counter. The coffee maker drip-dripped with all the speed of a glacier traversing a continent.
"Come on," Gil chided. "Go over there and practice your social skills. I already told Lachlan you're a real sweetie and you've got a big heart to match your big mouth."
"Excuse me? I do not have a big mouth."
"No, of course not," he said with no sincerity whatsoever.
"I can't believe you told Lachlan I have a big mouth."
Gil tried but failed to restrain a chuckle. "Like he wouldn't figure it out on his own."
"Remind me to never let you write an online dating profile for me."
"Relax, your big mouth is one of your best qualities." Gil gave a long-suffering sigh. "Just give Lachlan a chance. He's a good guy. Besides, you're stuck living next door to him for a month."
I focused on the coffee slowly amassing in my mug. My new neighbor was a scorching Highlander the sight of whom drove me to lose control and lose my mind. Why me?
"You'll do it, right?" Gil asked. "You'll be nice to Lachlan? Cuz frankly, he could use a friend too."
"Why?" I didn't worry about the suspicion in my voice. I had a right to it. "What's wrong with him?"
"Ask Lachlan." A pause, and then Gil added, "He's not a criminal or a pervert. You'll like him, sweetie, so get your butt over there and be as charming as I know you can be. Toodles."
He hung up. Since when did Gil Friedman say toodles?
I had no choice. Like it or not, my almost one-night stand ate, drank, and slept twenty feet away from my quiet sanctuary in suburbia. Maybe I could get away with pretending last night never happened, but I disliked inviting elephants into my home. They tended to trash the furniture.
Gil assured me Lachlan wasn't a criminal. That made one of us.
Casey scampered up to me, his leash still dangling from his collar, and hopped on his front feet.
"Jeez," I whined. "Can I have my coffee before you start pestering me to be nice to Lachlan?"
The dog chuffed his dissent.
A knock resounded from the front door. Mug in hand, I marched to the door and drew it open. My throat constricted. An icy spike rammed straight into my heart. I stammered but couldn't form words.
Presley Cichon smirked. "Hey, babe. Miss me?"
"Get the hell off my property." And out of my life. I clacked my coffee mug down onto the table beside the door. Dark liquid sloshed out. I shielded myself with the door, glaring at Presley through a narrow gap. My legs quivered and I locked my knees for support. My mouth was suddenly parched. "I dumped you, remember? Or have you developed early onset Alzheimer's?"
A sick part of me wished he had, the part hungry for vengeance or at least some kind of punishment.
He leaned against the house, where the bedroom jutted out alongside the door, and hooked a thumb in the pocket of his gray slacks. His coppery brown eyes undressed me with a covetous sweep over my body, then sharpened on my face. The bastard had no right to be so good-looking.
When he angled his head, the sunlight sparked on green flecks in his irises. "I missed you, babe. Is that a crime?"
My jaw clenched. Breaths hissed out my nostrils. "Actually, it kind of is. We're involved in litigation, in case you forgot."
Presley ran a hand through sandy locks that curled around the nape of his neck. His lips curved in a boyish smile, the kind most women swooned over, the kind I had once swooned over—but no more. He cocked his head. "Come on, I'm not a witness or anything. We aren't breaking any laws by talking."
I ground my teeth. "After what you did, you've got a lot of nerve showing your face here. We are not friends."