Since I Fell for You by Bella Andre

  Not once in her life had she used her feminine wiles to get something. Her brain had always been her best tool. But drastic times called for drastic measures. As drastic as making the bodyguard she'd never wanted in the first place so uncomfortable with the sexual pull between them that he'd have no choice but to quit.

  Once Roman was gone, she had no concerns whatsoever about being able to make any replacement bodyguards her brothers sent in run with their tails between their legs within hours of meeting her. Very few people could have pulled off what Roman had last night, when he'd got to her with his speech about how her brothers cared so much about her.

  Feeling much better now that she had a workable game plan, Suzanne stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around herself, and opened her closet. She wasn't particularly into clothes, but when her cousins Lori and Mia came to visit from San Francisco and Seattle, they always dragged her away from the office and into the city's best boutiques. It wasn't enough for her to keep them company while they shopped, however. They also insisted that she try on and buy the expensive dresses and heels they handpicked for her. Early on, she'd learned that it was easier to humor them than to bother insisting she didn't need the new clothes. Despite the fact that her standard work outfit consisted of dark jeans and T-shirts, because of her cousins, she had a lot of really nice outfits when she needed them. And the truth was that the pretty dresses and shoes that they'd browbeaten her into purchasing had come in handy many times during the past five years at all the family weddings and baby showers.

  But she wasn't looking for pretty today. She was aiming for straight-up sexy. Borderline inappropriate would be even better.

  She knew exactly which outfit would fit the bill.

  Still, she found herself hesitating as she reached for the formfitting, light purple dress that Lori had insisted she buy even though Suzanne knew she'd never wear it outside of the boutique's dressing room. Though she shouldn't feel guilty about thwarting her brothers' annoying sister-sitting plans, a part of her did anyway. Roman had been right when he'd said they only wanted the best for her, even if their way of showing it was sorely misguided.

  Suzanne forced herself to shake off the guilt. This was her life and she'd live it exactly the way she wanted to. Especially since she knew how poorly her brothers would take it if she ever tried to do something like this to one of them. They'd brush off her concern the way they would a fly buzzing through the air. Men.

  Sliding the dress off its hanger, she braced herself to be brave enough to slip it on, along with the nude heels Mia had insisted she buy with it. Turning to the full-length mirror, Suzanne nearly gasped aloud.

  She'd forgotten that the silk was so fine it clung to her curves like plastic wrap. On top of that, it was short enough that she'd have to be careful not to flash everyone her underwear when she sat down. Suzanne didn't deliberately try to hide her figure, but she rarely put it on display like this. Simply taking the elevator from her apartment or walking down the sidewalk was going to feel strange.

  But hopefully, if she played her fake-seduction cards right, Roman would break before she did. Especially given that walking for any prolonged amount of time in these heels was going to hobble her.

  Carefully, she made her way over to the drawer in which she kept her rarely used makeup and hair dryer. Though she usually tied her hair back into a ponytail and couldn't be bothered with blush or mascara, she never went into a plan half-cocked. Either she did this right, or she didn't do it at all.

  By the time she was done blow-drying and making herself up, she barely recognized herself. When she walked into the Sullivan Security headquarters in an hour, her employees were going to take one look at her and wonder if she had a screw loose.

  But it would all be worth it if she achieved her goal of getting Roman so hot and bothered that he freaked out about betraying his friendship with her brothers--and left her the hell alone.

  Strangely, by the time she'd finished eating breakfast and transferred her laptop from her faded computer bag into a sleek leather bag that had been a gift from one of her cousins in Maine, she was almost looking forward to coming face-to-face with Roman again.

  Would he be a worthy opponent? Or would he crumble at the first sign of trouble?

  Instinct told her to lay odds on worthy.


  One silent curse after another streamed through Roman's brain as Suzanne walked out of her apartment and he breathed in her delicious scent.

  Damn it. He needed to stop noticing how good she smelled. And he sure as hell needed to stop being bowled over by her beauty.

  She'd been a stunner last night in black jeans and boots, and he'd done enough security in the tech world to guess that she must have come straight to the gallery from her office. But maybe he'd been wrong, because this morning she'd poured herself into a purple scrap of fabric that had his eyes bugging from his head like a cartoon character's.

  He didn't know where to look. Or where not to let himself look.

  Tall and curvy, Suzanne definitely wasn't some scrawny computer geek. If he'd been asked to define the looks of his perfect woman, she'd be standing right here in front of him.

  Her long, dark hair fell like silk down her back and over her chest. His mouth watered and he swallowed hard as he averted his eyes from her gorgeous breasts...only to be hit with a view of tanned, toned legs that were a mile long.

  "Good morning." The two words drawled from her lips in a way that reminded him of her brothers' innate confidence. Brothers who would tear him into a million little pieces if they knew he was having sexual thoughts about their sister.

  When he finally managed to drag his gaze back to hers, one corner of her mouth was slightly lifted, as if she knew exactly what he was thinking despite his attempts not to.

  "Ready to go?"

  Her tone was surprisingly cheerful. But she couldn't have flipped to her brothers' viewpoint this quickly. Not after how furious she'd been last night. Unfortunately, his brain was addled enough simply from being this close to her that he couldn't work out her motives this morning.

  Giving her a strictly professional smile, he gestured to the elevator. "After you."

  Too late, he realized he should have rethought the smile. Because when she smiled back at him, for the first time in his life he lost his breath just from standing in a hallway. He could scale a mountain without so much as breaking a sweat, but her smile was that blindingly beautiful.

  Distance. He needed to try to keep some distance between himself and his new client. But that was the very opposite of what he'd been hired to do. Where Suzanne went, Roman would go too. No matter how much being close to her messed with him.

  When the elevator came and they stepped inside, he was palpably aware of what a small space it was. She didn't just smell good--she smelled downright amazing.

  Another string of silent curses let loose inside his head. Enough. He was a professional. It was time to start acting like one again.

  In a normal bodyguard/client situation, they would already have sat down together so that she could detail the threats against her. But in this case, since she'd made it clear last night that she didn't want him around, he decided it was wiser to wait until she was more receptive to his being there before he pushed for the information.

  "Did you sleep well?" he asked, an innocuous enough conversation starter.

  "I had some work to take care of for a few hours, but I finally found my way to bed." She nearly purred the word bed, which made his brain short-circuit again. "By the time I woke up this morning, I had a great idea for how to achieve one of my biggest goals."

  Though it was taking most of his focus to corral his brain--and body--away from thoughts of Suzanne slipping naked between her sheets, he said, "Sounds like you're off to a good start."

  "Oh yes," she said in a slightly husky tone that went through him like a shot of the finest Scottish whisky. "I have a really good feeling about how things are going to go today." She lick
ed her lower lip, leaving it looking just kissed. "On all fronts."

  Working like hell to force all thoughts of kissing away, he said, "I'd appreciate it if you could take me through your plans for the day."

  They walked out of the elevator, through the lobby, and onto the sidewalk, where she raised her arm to hail a cab. He found it interesting that a woman as successful as Suzanne leased an apartment from her cousin and took a taxi to work. Anyone else in her financial position would own a multimillion-dollar home with staff to cook and clean, and have a full-time driver who jumped at her every whim. It was almost as if those trappings of wealth and power didn't mean anything to her, and she was happy just to put her focus into her work instead. If that were actually the case, she would be the most unique woman he'd ever known--he'd never met a woman whose head wasn't turned by money and power.

  "I have a meeting with my investors this morning, and then I'm going to try a couple of different things with the new software I've been working on."

  The taxi skidded to a stop in front of them, and a few moments later she was sliding into the backseat. Only a monk would have been able to keep from noticing the way her barely there dress tightened over her hips, then rode up her thighs when she sat. He was gritting his teeth hard enough to break a molar when he got in beside her.

  If only she'd pull the dress down. But she didn't seem to notice that she was displaying nearly as much skin as she would have in a pair of short shorts.

  If this was what she wore to the office, what the hell would she wear out on a date? He prayed she wouldn't have too many hot nights out planned while he was working for her. He didn't want to rip the throats out of too many guys for daring to touch her.

  Thinking about all the guys he'd likely have to restrain himself from tearing apart over the next weeks--or months--that he worked as her bodyguard made it difficult to keep the growl out of his voice. "After that, will you play the rest of your day by ear?"

  She nodded. "If there are fires to put out with my employees or customers, I'll put them out. And then I have a meeting with Rosa Bouchard and the staff of her new nonprofit tonight at eight."

  Roman was impressed that Suzanne was running such a big, powerful company at only thirty-one. Investors, employees, customers--she had so many people to keep happy. Sullivan Security was one of the hottest tech firms in the world.

  No wonder she was a target.

  "Although," she continued, "if everything is cooking along well, maybe I'll try to squeeze in a run through the park at some point during the afternoon." She paused, and from the look on her face, it almost seemed as if she had suddenly remembered something important. A moment later, she turned her gaze back to him, then ran it slowly from his torso down the rest of his body. "You look like you work out a lot."

  Jesus. She hadn't even needed to touch him to send him straight to the edge of losing his mind. He'd worked for a lot of tough clients, but he had no doubt that Suzanne was going to be his toughest yet. He'd take being screamed at and treated like dirt over trying to corral an impossible attraction any day. What's more, most clients didn't ask him questions. Primarily because they didn't give a crap about him. And that was just fine with him. He wasn't interested in opening himself up to his clients. Better to keep his past buried deep where it belonged.

  But since she was obviously waiting for him to reply, he said, "I make sure to keep in shape so that I can do my job."

  She raised an eyebrow, and even that simple movement was sexy. "Your version of keeping in shape seems different from most people's. I've never seen anyone with muscles like yours."

  Her skin flushed, as if she wasn't used to saying anything quite so direct. The innocence of her blush didn't match either the outfit she had on this morning or the way she'd just been looking at him, as though she wanted to eat him up. Suzanne Sullivan was more of a puzzle than he'd thought. A puzzle he was far too interested in solving.

  "When do you even get a chance to go to the gym if you're stuck shadowing your clients all the time?"

  "I don't need a gym to stay in shape. I can do everything I need wherever I am, no weights, no machines, just by using my own body weight for resistance."

  "I'd like to learn how to do that. I'm in my office more often than I'm not. And I usually can't get away." She half smiled. "Okay, I probably could get away, but I don't want to, especially when things start clicking with my code. Which I'm always convinced is going to happen any second if I only keep at it for another five minutes."

  Her half smile shifted into another brilliantly beautiful grin. Though he tried to brace for impact, it didn't do any good. Every time she looked at him like that, his heart raced as though he'd just sprinted around a track at full speed.

  "If there were things I could do to get my heart rate up while I'm waiting for my code to compile or thinking through a bug fix, that would be awesome."

  "I can show you."

  Wait. What the hell was he saying? The last thing he needed to do was offer to get sweaty with her. It was her smile. It messed with his head so much that he couldn't think straight.

  Before he could take it back, she said, "Great!" Her grin turned the sunshine up another notch inside the dirty taxi.

  "So your brothers were right when they said you work around the clock?"

  At his mention of her brothers, her smile fell away. "I'd appreciate it if you could leave them off our list of discussion topics. I still haven't forgiven them for their underhanded, low-down, ridiculous--" She stopped, paused, breathed. "Sorry, you were asking about my work schedule. I do work a lot, but it's because I really love what I do. I love knowing that my digital security software helps people. I always feel like I have a purpose. As long as I have my work, I'm not going to just float away one day, not going to feel lost."

  In his line of work, Roman made sure to pay close attention to absolutely every cue--both from his clients and the strangers around him. He couldn't miss the passion in Suzanne's voice when she spoke about her company and about having purpose. Her word choices were interesting as well, considering that he couldn't imagine her ever floating away or being lost. And yet, those seemed to be concerns for her.

  "My brothers are all workaholics too," she said, temporarily forgetting that she'd banned them from the conversation. "I'm pretty sure we get it from my dad. I'm assuming you know who he is?"

  Roman never took on a job without researching his prospective clients. Due to the jobs he'd taken with Alec's company, he already knew the public information about the Sullivans. "Your father is a famous painter."

  "He was. Until my mom--" She inhaled a breath that shook slightly in her chest. "You've been friends with Alec and Harry for long enough that you probably also know what happened to her, don't you?"

  Her brothers didn't talk much about their past--none of them did, which Roman appreciated, since he didn't plan on sharing the past he'd put behind him with anyone. But Suzanne's past wasn't something that could be hidden, not when her father had once been such a worldwide sensation in his field that he'd ended up on the cover of Time magazine.

  Neither Roman nor Suzanne had grown up with mothers. But where Roman's father had kicked his mother out for lying and cheating, Roman had learned on Wikipedia that Suzanne's mother had taken her own life when Suzanne was only a toddler.

  "I'm sorry for your loss, Suzanne."

  "It was a long time ago. I barely even knew her when she left." The driver came to a stop in front of a skyscraper, and he could see the clear relief on her face that she could now drop the subject. "We're here."

  He paid the cabbie before she could, and when he got out of the car, it was instinct to reach out. He didn't realize the miscalculation until she pressed her palm against his. Still, it might have been nothing but a split-second shock of electricity if one of her high heels hadn't caught on the uneven curb.

  She tumbled into him, and the press of her curves against his hard muscles was almost enough to make him forget.

orget how to do anything but stare into her eyes.

  Forget that she was the very definition of off-limits.

  Forget that he didn't have it in him to do more than take a woman to bed and then leave her in the morning.

  Forget everything except how much he wanted her. More than he could ever remember wanting anyone or anything before.


  It was only through sheer force of will, honed by years of training himself to turn the heat at his core to ice, that Roman was not only able to remove his hands from Suzanne's hips, but also to put a good foot of space between them.

  Suzanne didn't move away immediately, however. Instead, she stared at him as though she were seeing him for the very first time. The little flecks of gold and amber in her eyes mesmerized him for just long enough that several moments passed before he could get his mouth--and brain--to cooperate.

  "What floor are we headed to?"

  "Floor?" She blinked as if her brain was having just as many problems. Then, with a shake of her head, she said, "My office is on the tenth floor."

  He had assumed she'd be on the top, like most founders and CEOs, not in the middle of the building. It was a good reminder that he shouldn't make the mistake of assuming anything where Suzanne Sullivan was concerned.

  As she headed toward the glass entry doors to the building, the heels she was wearing seemed to trip her up a bit. Yet again, he wondered why she was dressed in such markedly different clothes than she'd been wearing at the gallery. Was there a guy she was interested in? His gut had absolutely no business tightening in jealousy.

  He'd been in high-tech workspaces before, and the lobby, hallways, and break rooms of Sullivan Security were just as bright and engaging as he would have expected after meeting the company's founder. But though he wasn't surprised by the workspace, he was surprised that when they passed one of the Ping-Pong tables and an employee asked her to play, Suzanne instantly put down her bag and jumped into the game.

  She laughed as she hit the first ball into the net, then cheered when she scored a point. Roman expected her employees to throw the game. After all, she was the big boss and held their careers in the palm of her hand. But no one seemed afraid of her, even though the net worth of her company had a hell of a lot of zeros.

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