Since I Fell for You by Bella Andre

  What the hell was he doing?

  The question whiplashed through his brain as he finally came back to his senses. Close enough to sanity to realize that not only was he kissing Suzanne, but he'd also stripped off her clothes outdoors, right outside a massive celebrity wedding where anyone could walk by and find them.

  He'd told her brothers, She's safe with me. He'd said, I won't let anything happen to her. But he'd just made a complete mockery of those promises.

  He'd vowed to protect her.

  He'd nearly ruined her instead.


  Best. Kiss. Ever.

  Suzanne had never felt so good. So alive. She almost pinched herself to make sure it wasn't just another sexy dream.

  She'd thought kissing Roman would be good. But the reality was a whole lot closer to mind-blowing. Although even that wasn't strong enough for the way his kisses were making her feel.

  It had all happened so fast. First they were yelling at each other. Then he was saying all those amazing things about how much he wanted her. Then one kiss was spinning out into a dozen across her face and neck and shoulders. Then her dress was off...and he was doing the most incredible things with his hands and mouth.

  He kissed her, touched her, with pure, unadulterated desperation. She wanted him as badly. Craved him more with every touch, every kiss. She wanted Roman sweet. She wanted him rough. She wanted him slow. She wanted him fast.

  She wanted him any and every way she could get him.

  "Suzanne, we shouldn't be doing this here."

  She wouldn't have been at all averse to making love right where they were, but he was right. It would be smarter to find somewhere more private. A room they wouldn't have to leave for hours and hours.

  "I know a place," she told him. "There's a cabin near my father's house that no one ever uses."

  She was about to take his hand and lead him there when she belatedly realized her dress was lying on the ground. That was how much his kisses had spun her out of the real world--she hadn't even realized she was wearing only her underwear.

  "I should probably put this back on first," she said with a laugh as she bent to pick up the dress. She felt giddy, as though she would never be sad again, never stop smiling.

  He silently helped her into the dress, holding the fabric out so that she didn't accidentally catch it with a heel. She loved how gentle his hands were as he slid the dress up over her naked skin, then zipped it into place.

  Desperate to kiss him again, she wound her arms around his neck and was closing her eyes and leaning in when she felt his hands grip her forearms.

  "Suzanne, stop."

  Her mouth grazed his as the words came out. But it wasn't so much what he'd said that gave her pause--it was the way he was touching her. For the past few minutes, he'd been doing anything he could to pull her closer.

  Suddenly, it felt as if he was trying to push her away instead.

  "No." She wouldn't let him do this again. "You're not going to tell me this is all a big mistake." But by the set of his jaw, she could see that was exactly what he was about to say.

  "I shouldn't have talked to you like that. Shouldn't have kissed you like that." His teeth clenched tightly before he unlocked them enough to grind out, "Shouldn't have unzipped your dress and touched you like that. Shouldn't have been about to get on my knees so that I could--" He cut himself off with a curse.

  Earlier, when he'd pulled away on the dance floor, she'd assumed it must be because she wasn't pretty enough, wasn't sexy enough, wasn't feminine enough for him. But now she knew for sure that none of those were the true reasons.

  Roman wanted her. Wanted her with a depth of passion that took her breath away. And not because she'd somehow managed to seduce him into crossing professional lines the way she'd originally planned.

  The attraction, the heat between them was real. Unavoidable. Undeniable.

  "I lost control with you," he said, guilt underpinning his every word.

  "I loved it when you lost control." How could she get him to see that they were two adults who could break whatever rules they wanted to? That just because he'd come into her life as her bodyguard didn't mean they had to hold to any kind of professional relationship now. "I loved kissing you. I loved everything we were doing." She'd never been this bold with a lover before, but she needed him to know. "I want to do more." She wouldn't let herself back away now. "I want to do everything. With you. Tonight."


  Roman battled viciously with the desire that was swamping every cell in his body. He needed to force himself to do the right thing, rather than wishing he could keep kissing Suzanne. He needed to stop fantasizing about stripping her dress away again so that they could finish what they'd started beneath a moonlit sky and a thousand silver branches.

  But as she stood in front of him in her wrinkled dress, her hair tangled from his hands, her mouth swollen from his kisses, she was... God, she was stunning. Just looking at her made him ache. And now that he knew how she felt in his arms? Now that he knew her taste? Now that he'd heard her sounds of pleasure?

  No. He couldn't let himself spin out on any of that. What he needed to do was keep his mouth and hands to himself from here on out, and then go confess everything to her brothers.

  Pain speared him right in the center of his chest from the sure knowledge that tonight was going to be the last night he ever spent with her.

  Ever since he'd become an adult, Roman had always done what needed to be done, no matter how difficult. But nothing in his life had ever felt as hard as saying, "I need to take you back to your house and confirm that your father can stay with you. And then I'm going to find your brothers."

  She shook her head, hard enough that her long hair moved as if in a wild breeze over her shoulders. "Don't."

  "I have to."

  "They'll insist you quit."

  The twisting in his gut tightened down. "They will."

  "And you'll go, won't you? You'll just walk out of my life as fast as you walked in. Here one day, gone the next, as if nothing that happened between us mattered at all."

  "Suzanne." He couldn't hold back the emotion in his voice. Could barely keep himself from reaching for her as he said, "It mattered. You matter."

  Renewed hope flashed in her eyes. "Then you'll stay."

  Lord, how he wished he could. "We both know that's a bad idea."

  "You want to hear about bad ideas? The clothes I've been wearing, the skin-tight dresses and heels? They aren't me. But I had a plan the first couple of days to try to seduce"--she put the word in air quotes--"you into kissing me so that you'd have to resign."

  Before he could say anything in response to her admission--one that finally had everyone's reactions to her outfits making perfect sense--she said, "I know, it was stupid. And wearing heels this high and pointy all day sucks, by the way, although the dresses aren't so bad. But I was so frustrated by the way my brothers had forced a bodyguard on me, and by how stubborn you were about taking the job, that I couldn't see any other way out of it. Only, now that you've kissed me, I don't want out of it anymore. Even before you kissed me, I didn't want you to leave. And I don't think you do either, no matter how many times you've tried to act like you do whenever we start getting close."


  But she wouldn't let him get a word in. "Don't you see, we don't know if we're a good idea or a bad one yet. And if we do things your way, if we do things my brothers' way, and you resign tonight just because we kissed, we're never going to have a chance to find out. I've spent nearly my entire life writing code, and you know what I've learned a million times over? That if I give up every time something doesn't work, it will never work. I've always fought like hell for the things that matter most." Her eyes flashed in the moonlight. "For the people who matter most."

  The words had barely left her lips when she spun around and went flying through the forest in her dress and heels, back in the direction of the wedding reception.


  With everything Suzanne had said spinning around inside his brain--inside his heart--Roman was slower than usual as he pursued her through the trees.

  "Where are you going?" He knew, of course, but maybe a miracle would happen and she'd give him a different answer than the one he was expecting.

  "To talk with my brothers before you do." She whipped him a warning look over her shoulder. "And don't try to stop me. This is my life, not theirs, and it's long past time the three of them understood that."

  Roman saw where she was coming from, and he couldn't say he didn't agree. At the same time, Suzanne's standing up for herself with her family didn't change what he had to do. She needed another bodyguard, someone one hundred percent professional who wouldn't constantly be distracted by attraction and jealousy. Someone who would do his job, rather than spend all his time trying to learn the inner workings of her heart.

  She knew exactly where to find her brothers--two of them, at least. Alec and Harry were sitting on the end of a boat dock halfway between the Inn downtown and their father's home, beers in hand. Roman could easily imagine the four Sullivan siblings together on this dock over the years.

  "You're lucky to have them, you know."

  That stopped Suzanne at the edge of the dock. "I know I am." She turned to him, and the moonlight illuminated the beauty and fierce intelligence that rocked his world every time he looked at her. "They've always taken care of me, the same way I've taken care of them. But being loved by someone doesn't give them license to walk all over you."

  Her words hit home in a big way. Roman's father had always said he was pushing Roman to fight more, to win more, to play for the bigger purses, because he loved him. Because he was looking out for his son. Because he wanted Roman to have a better future than he did working at the factory. It had taken Roman a lot of years to understand that his father hadn't been lying--it was the best way Tommy Huson could parent after being raised by a father who had always spoken with his fists. Unfortunately, it had turned out that what Tommy thought was best for his son was the worst. Spending every night as a teenager in the boxing ring hadn't made Roman happy. Especially when he could never make up for the damage he'd done to some of the other guys he'd fought.

  Alec heard them first, turning with a smile. "We were wondering where you and Roman were." His grin fell away damned quick, however, as he took in Suzanne's wrinkled dress, messy hair, and fierce expression.

  "Something happened." Alec jumped up from his perch at the end of the dock, Harry springing up beside him. "Are you okay, Suz?"

  "I'm fine." When one of her heels caught between two planks of wood, she kicked them off. Being barefoot and at least half a foot shorter than her brothers didn't make her any less impressive, however, as she walked up to them. "I asked Roman to kiss me." She paused as if for impact. "He did. And I kissed him back."

  A feral growl emerged from Alec's throat as he leaped past Suzanne to get to Roman. He wouldn't normally have let the other man's hands grip his neck, but it was no less than he deserved for doing exactly what he shouldn't have with the one woman on the planet who was completely off-limits.

  Harry and Suzanne were both working to pull Alec off as he roared, "We hired you to protect our sister." His fury reverberated through the night sky. "Not to take advantage of her!"

  "He didn't take advantage of me," Suzanne said as she finally pushed between them, making Alec's fingers slide from Roman's neck. "I already told you, I'm the one who asked him to kiss me."

  If anything, Alec grew angrier. "He's your goddamned bodyguard, Suz! Not some guy we set you up with on a blind date."

  "Roman is a great bodyguard. I don't want one, and I still have to admit that. But he isn't just a great bodyguard. He's intelligent. And sweet. And easy to talk to. And--" She shook her head. "I don't have to explain anything to you. Neither of us do. If we want to kiss again, then we'll kiss again whether you like it or not."

  Jesus, she was a fireball. A gorgeous fireball whom Roman hadn't been able to figure out how to keep his mouth--or hands--away from.

  "Like hell you will." Alec shot Roman another furious look. "You're fired, you bastard. And if you come anywhere near my sister again, I'm going to absolutely destroy you."

  "Alec." Harrison's voice was loud. Firm. As firm as the push he gave his brother in the opposite direction of Roman and Suzanne. "Tempers are too high right now. We should let everything settle and come back to discuss things later when everyone is feeling more rational."

  "I'm feeling perfectly rational," Suzanne insisted.

  Roman wished he could say the same thing. But the truth was that he hadn't felt rational since the second he'd set eyes on Suzanne.

  She turned away from her brother to face him. "I know you came here to resign, and I know that's what I've said I wanted all along, but now I want you to stay."

  "You've changed your mind about wanting a bodyguard?"

  "You make me feel safe. And like I said before, I have more thinking to do about things before I can make any definite decisions." She held his gaze in the moonlight. "But I don't want you to go. Not yet."

  "If you think I'm going to let this guy work for you anymore--"

  She spun back to Alec. "I didn't come here so that you could tell me what to do! I came here because I love you enough to tell you I've made up my mind, and you're not going to change it." Again, she turned to Roman. "Stay."

  He'd never wanted anything more. But just because he wanted it didn't mean it was right. "You need someone who can be totally professional."

  "Someone who doesn't care about me as anything but a job, you mean?"

  Damn it, when she put it like that...

  Still, he made himself say, in as gentle a voice as possible, "I'll make some calls first thing tomorrow and find you--"

  "No. It's you or no one. And you know I'm not bluffing. I'll chew up and spit out any other bodyguard you assign to me."

  "What's going on?" None of them had noticed Drake walking up the dock. "I came to let you guys know Smith and Valentina are heading out soon, so you can say good-bye. You guys look like you're about to throw punches at each other."

  "Roman and I kissed," Suzanne informed her youngest brother. "And now he thinks he needs to resign, even though us kissing in no way diminishes how good he is at his job. Even if I'm still not sure I need a bodyguard, he's the best. And if we want to kiss, we're going to kiss, no matter what you or Harry or Alec think, or say, or do."

  Drake looked from Suzanne to Roman to his brothers, then back at his sister. "I'll admit we were pretty heavy-handed about hiring Roman, but if you two have crossed a line--"

  "Crossed a line?" She poked Drake's chest. "I've supported you every step of the way with Rosa. I freaking love that woman, but even if I didn't, I would have sucked it up and gotten behind you both. How dare you even think about questioning what I'm feeling for Roman?"

  She felt something for him.

  Roman's heart swelled. It didn't matter that he knew better, knew she was completely off-limits, knew he could never be with her in a million years. It still meant something hearing that his feelings weren't one-way. Meant something big. Because a woman like Suzanne wouldn't feel something for a guy who was completely worthless, would she?

  No one had ever stepped up for him the way she was tonight. No one had faced down a firing squad for him. No one had put her relationship with her family on the line for him. Roman wished she could know how much it meant to him. But at the same time, he'd never forgive himself if he put a wedge between her and her family.

  "I'm not worth it, Suzanne. Not worth fighting over."

  "Maybe you are, maybe you aren't," she retorted. "But I'm not letting you walk out of my life until I know for sure one way or the other. And," she said as she glared at each of her brothers, "I'm not letting any of you force Roman out of my life either."

  "Suz," Harry said, "this isn't like you."

  Though tensions were about as h
igh as they could get, Harry wasn't yelling. Roman had noticed over the past couple of years that when the academic spoke, people always listened. Likely because he never raised his voice. And also because he was a good guy on every level. Someone who would never cross the kind of line Roman had tonight.

  "There's no question that Alec needs to cool down before he opens his mouth again, and Drake probably should too." Harry shot serious looks at both his brothers to make sure they understood. "But in the morning, Suz, I'm sure you'll understand why Roman needs to resign and find you a new bodyguard."

  "No, you need to understand something. All of you need to understand it. I'm done being the peacekeeper. I'm done being the one to make nice between everyone and keep my own thoughts and hopes and desires at bay to try to make sure everyone else gets what they want and stays happy. I'm finally going to be the one making some waves. And all of you are going to have to deal with it." She glared at her brothers. "I forgave you for going behind my back and hiring Roman in the first place. But don't test me on this one." She ran her hands over her hair and then her dress. "And now that I've finally said what's needed to be said for a very long time, I'm going back to the wedding so that I can say good-bye to Smith and Valentina. If Roman wants to follow me back, fine. But the rest of you had better keep your distance right now." With that, she stalked back down the dock, only slowing to pick up her shoes.

  Of course Roman was going to follow her. And not only because it was his job. Inside of a week, she'd become the most important person in the world to him. But first he needed to say a few things to her brothers.

  "I owe all of you an apology for what I've done," he said in a grave tone, "and I want you to know I won't be taking any money from you. I never intended for this to happen."

  "Damn straight kissing our sister shouldn't have happened," Alec snarled, his rage not having lessened. "We hired you to protect Suzanne, not take advantage of her."

  Roman knew he was in the wrong--he shouldn't have touched Suzanne, plain and simple. But that didn't mean he could let her brother get away with being an idiot where she was concerned. "If you actually think someone could trick your sister into kissing him, then you don't know her as well as you think you do. Suzanne is too smart and too tough to be taken advantage of by anyone, no matter how beautiful she is."

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