Since I Fell for You by Bella Andre


  She curled up on the seat, rubbing her feet and yawning. "I've got a six thirty a.m. meeting tomorrow, so I'll be heading out an hour before."

  "Do you always move this fast?"

  Her eyes had fallen closed and she couldn't muster up the energy to open them as she replied, "You mean sloth speed?"

  She didn't hear his response, or remember the rest of the taxi ride. Only that she woke up to Roman's hand on her arm. "We're home."

  Years ago, she had learned how to catnap during a nonstop day. She'd obviously just done that in the taxi. It always took her a good sixty seconds to come fully awake again, so she was really glad Roman was there to help her out of the taxi and into the lobby of her building, his hand on the small of her back to make sure she stayed on course in her sleepy state.

  It was a little weird coming home with Roman like this. Not like being walked in by a date. But not as if he was just someone working for her either. In any case, she was too tired to make sense of her feelings right now.

  As they rode the elevator up to her floor, she said, "Having you around today wasn't as bad as I thought it would be." Clearly, she was also too tired to keep her mouth shut.

  The deep resonance of his unexpected laughter moved through her body like a sip of good red wine. Like he had the night before, he did a quick search of her apartment. But unlike last night, she wasn't irritated with him. Instead, a part of her wished he would stay a little longer.

  "Good night, Suzanne." The way his voice wrapped around her name made her feel the same way his laughter had--warm all over. "I'll be waiting here in the morning."

  "Are you sure five thirty isn't too early for you?"

  "Any time you need me, I'll be here."

  She understood that as her bodyguard he had to say that. But a secret little part of her couldn't help but wish he meant it as something more. Her family had always been there for her no matter what, but none of the guys she'd dated had ever wanted to step up like that.

  He waited in the hall outside her door until she was inside. After putting her bag on her kitchen island and dropping her heels on the floor, she headed straight for her living room couch. The bed was too far tonight.

  She'd fallen asleep in the taxi, but only because she knew Roman wouldn't let anything happen to her under his watch. Now, as she lay sprawled on the couch still wearing her purple dress, her brain slid back to that moment in the pizza place when they'd been close enough that she could feel his warmth radiating through to her.

  When she'd touched his face, his eyes had gone so dark. So sexy. So intense. She would have bet money on his kissing her then--he'd seemed to want to devour her mouth as much as she wanted him to do it. But his control had been too good, too solid, and the moment had slipped away.

  She'd lost her chance to see her plan through to its final conclusion tonight. But it was losing her chance to find out how Roman's lips would feel brushing over hers that she regretted most of all.

  Had she been less tired, that realization would have shaken her to the core. It should have shaken her awake so that she could make even better plans to ensure that he'd resign soon. Because what she was feeling for Roman was crazy. And Suzanne didn't do crazy emotions with men. After all, look what had happened between her parents when they'd let crazy emotions get the best of them. Her mother had killed herself and her father had become a recluse.

  But with all of Suzanne's defenses currently down tonight, she didn't have more energy to think clearly about how to protect herself from falling for a man who made her feel so many confusing, heated, conflicting things. All she could do was drift off to sleep dreaming of his kisses.

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  "Good morning, Suzanne."

  She'd awakened more than a little horrified by the dreams she'd had about Roman. Just as sweaty and acrobatic as her dreams had been the night before...but also emotional now. In her dreams, they hadn't just been having a one-night stand. They'd been having a relationship.

  Now, all it took was hearing the low rumble of her name on his lips for that familiar warmth to move through her.

  Mustering up the energy for day two of her master plan to get him to resign as her bodyguard had been even more difficult than she'd anticipated. It wasn't the long hours she'd put in yesterday. She was used to keeping that kind of schedule.

  No, it was the fact that she wasn't at all looking forward to trying to play the seductress again today. She was used to being herself, not pretending. Which was why she had barely been able to force herself to put on another sexy outfit this morning, when her T-shirts and oh-so-comfortable flats were calling to her.

  Still, even if the off-white dress with the red pinstripes was neither as body-skimming nor as short as yesterday's dress, she had a strong enough will to make herself wear red heels. In flats, she would have been dashing around the way she normally did, without a single thought for sex appeal. In heels, she'd at least have some swing to her hips as she walked.

  And she needed to stick to her plan, damn it. No matter how much she liked seeing Roman first thing in the morning...and last thing at night.

  Knowing that cranky and grumpy wouldn't get her any closer to completing her plan, she made herself smile as they stepped into the elevator. "Are you a morning person?"

  "No."

  His concise and rather heartfelt response made her laugh. Honestly, it was a relief just to let it flow through her. Maybe, she told herself, if she let herself relax a bit this morning, it might help her get things moving in the direction she needed them to go. Because she did still need to get him to step over the line with a kiss...

  "You could have fooled me," she replied, laughter still in her voice. "Alec always stomps around in a pissy mood for a couple of hours if you wake him up early. Whereas you're quite pleasant this morning."

  "I've never heard anyone refer to Alec Sullivan as pissy before," Roman commented dryly as the elevator doors opened and they headed through the lobby to catch a cab to her office. "Never heard anyone live to tell about it, at least."

  "My brother works really hard at projecting that intimidating image," she said, "but the truth is that underneath it all, he's a pussycat."

  "Pussycat?" She could tell Roman was trying not to laugh. "If you say so."

  "Trust me, Alec might do the tough player act to perfection, but when he finally falls in love one day, he's going to turn to absolute mush. And it's going to be awesome to watch his downfall."

  Roman finally let his own grin loose. "I know plenty of people who would pay good money to see that."

  He was so handsome when he smiled that just sitting next to him in the taxi made all her girl parts flip around inside. Honestly, if he hadn't been a bodyguard foisted on her against her will, she'd be jumping him six ways to Sunday. Especially given her extremely long dry spell. A woman had needs, after all. A couple of times in the past she'd hooked up with a guy she knew from another company at a conference for a quick fix. Today, the thought of it made her scrunch up her nose. She didn't want anyone else. She wanted Ro--

  God. No.

  Soon, if she played her cards right, Roman would be resigning his position with her. And then she would be all alone again, with no one to wait outside her front door every morning. No one to laugh with about her brothers. No one with muscles to sneak glimpses of throughout the day. No one to tease by wearing the sexy dresses and heels her cousins had filled her closets with over the years. No one to tell her to grab some dinner instead of heading straight into her next meeting. No one to go running with her when she needed to shake off a morning of intense work. No one to put his arms around her when she needed just that.

  Okay, so maybe his leaving didn't sound quite as good when she looked at things in that light. Nonetheless, she already knew all the reasons she needed to soldier on. Not only because she didn't need a bodyguard and couldn't let her brothers win, but also because Suzanne made it a point to keep her relationships with men neat and tidy, nice and calm--the polar o
pposite of her parents' destructive relationship.

  But Roman pushed buttons in Suzanne that no other man had pushed before. He made her feel things she'd never felt before. So she couldn't let him stay. Couldn't take the risk of losing control of her emotions the way her mother and father had with each other. Which meant it was time to gear up for her seductress act again.

  When it came to brainstorming software or new digital security plans, she couldn't turn her brain off. But trying to figure out what to say or do to be "sexy" made her mind go completely blank.

  She would have laughed at herself if she hadn't been so irritated by her own ineptitude. But before she could either laugh--or groan--her phone rang. She pulled it out of her bag, and though she didn't recognize the number, she picked up anyway. There was no response on the other end.

  She already knew how this was going to play out for the next several hours, damn it. One call would turn into a hundred or more. No one would ever be on the other end, and there wouldn't be any messages either. Unfortunately, even her fastest tracer software hadn't yet had any success, because the numbers were generated from all over the world. Once she had a few more business items checked off of her to-do list, she'd definitely be putting more effort into digging into the junk calls and server attacks.

  But though she already had turned the phone from ringtone to vibrate, she couldn't put it away or turn it off. Not when someone at her company--or one of her family members--might legitimately be trying to reach her at the same time that the barrage of fake calls was coming in.

  "This is what your brothers were talking about, isn't it?" Roman said in a dark voice.

  She'd been so hopeful that this wouldn't happen while he was still around. But since her phone was currently buzzing like crazy, she simply told him, "It's irritating, but it isn't dangerous." She knew she sounded defensive, but she didn't want him to think a bunch of phone calls all coming one after another from random numbers meant she needed a bodyguard.

  "Stalking often starts out as an irritation before it escalates." There was no hint of laughter left in his voice from their earlier conversation. "Especially when the target doesn't respond the way the stalker wants her to."

  She didn't bother to hold back an eye roll. "I don't have a stalker. I told you, my business is highly competitive. And not everyone plays by the same rules."

  "You would never play by these rules."

  "No," she agreed. "And it's not just because I'm a woman."

  "I never said anything about your gender. I'm talking about the fact that you've created a company that's the envy of everyone in the tech world. I'm talking about who you are."

  The way he said that made her pause. It sounded as though he thought he'd already figured her out. And she liked the thought of Roman understanding her--the real her--way too much.

  "Just because I walk the straight and narrow with my business doesn't mean I'm naive about the ones who like to skirt the line between right and wrong. They don't frighten me. Their tactics are just another challenge to work through."

  "How are you working through this one?"

  She didn't love the answer she was about to give, but because it was the honest one, she gave it anyway. "I've been so busy with the new product that I haven't given it much attention yet."

  "And now that the product launch is rolling along?"

  "If it becomes a bigger problem, I'll make it a priority."

  "How big a problem does it need to become to get on your priority list, Suzanne?"

  His words were deceptively calm and soft-spoken. But she knew better, had learned a long time ago, while growing up as the only female in a house full of males, how to read between a man's lines.

  "I know your job is to look around every corner for the worst," she said in just as deceptively placid a voice, when in truth she was bristling, "but until I find some evidence that I'm in personal danger, I'm going to keep my priorities where they are."

  "What if the evidence of a problem comes in the form of a knife or a bullet?"

  She couldn't contain her shock. "You're kidding, right?"

  "I wish I was."

  "My servers and phone are the only things that have been attacked. Why on earth do you think someone would come after me personally when that's not how these guys work?"

  "You tell me. After all, you're the one who is building one of the world's best digital security companies. I'm just doing the same thing here from my end. Doing whatever I can to make sure you stay physically safe and sound, no matter what."

  It was way too early in the morning for this conversation, especially when she hadn't had nearly enough sleep last night. Because she'd been having sexy and romantic dreams about Roman. Thankfully, the taxi pulled up to her office building a moment later.

  Still, as they walked inside in silence, she couldn't deny that his pointed questioning had gotten under her skin in a way her brothers' constant nagging over the issue hadn't. With Alec, Harry, and Drake, she'd been able to reason that they were being hypersensitive because they felt they needed to look after her.

  But though they'd filled Roman's head with their worries, he did protect people for a living. And did it well, if Alec had been willing to trust him with her. Which meant that Roman must have a finely tuned radar for danger.

  Danger that he seemed to think was real.

  She shook her head, forcing the annoying thoughts away. She didn't have time for this today. Or any day, frankly. Thank God for her six thirty meeting and all the other work she had to do until that evening, so that she couldn't stew.

  One thing was for sure, she couldn't pull off the whole be-sexy-to-tempt-Roman-into-resigning act right now. Nope, today it was going to take all of her energy to ignore the doubts he'd planted in her head.

  And to forget the feelings about Roman she had begun to have, whether she wanted to or not, especially while he was standing guard over her not ten feet away all day long.

  *

  Roman knew Suzanne was upset with him for making her look at the hard truth of her situation. She was one of the most innately positive people he'd ever met. He hated to chip away at her faith in human nature. But he also couldn't let her keep her head in the sand. Not if it meant she might end up getting hurt.

  Her morning was a repeat of the day before, with one meeting bleeding into the next. The only difference was the way her phone continued to buzz. She gave it to her assistant and asked Jeannie to monitor the calls in case something important came up amid the junk calls.

  Five hours later, her phone finally stopped ringing. And that was right when his started--with a string of text messages from one of the underground personal investigators he'd contacted last night.

  Instead of going to bed after taking Suzanne home the previous evening, Roman had put out feelers to get backgrounds on the people he'd met at the Sullivan Security offices and at Rosa and Drake's place. He'd also looked up Suzanne's top competitors and had sent their names to his contacts, as well.

  Pulling out his phone, he read the texts not once, but twice.

  Damn it. Why hadn't Suzanne told him about this?

  He knew she didn't want him there, but she'd seemed so genuine. He understood that women lied, but after spending time with her, he'd wanted to believe she was different.

  His jaw clenched tighter and tighter as he waited for her to conclude her current meeting. As soon as she was off the conference call and Jeannie popped in to let her know that she was going to hold any further calls until mid-afternoon so that Suzanne could get some lunch, Roman moved out of his position in the back corner of her office.

  "I'd like to speak with you about something I just learned."

  Her hand was on the back of her neck, working to rub out the kinks from doing so many back-to-back meetings. He had to shove away the urge to rub it for her as she said, "What now?"

  For the past five hours, she'd been unfailingly polite to everyone she worked with, even when a few people weren't delivering the resu
lts she was looking for. She had a knack for being encouraging, yet firm, without the temper tantrums some CEOs were famous for. But he knew he was pushing all her buttons simply by being here.

  Too bad for her that he was going to be pushing those buttons even harder after what he'd found out.

  "Seems you left out an important piece of information this morning when we were talking about why someone might go after you personally."

  She looked so confused it was almost comical. Except that nothing about her situation was funny. Not if she was in danger.

  "Left something out?" She spun her chair around so that she was facing him. "What are you talking about?"

  "Craig Boylan."

  Her eyes grew big, a beat before her face colored slightly. Obviously, she knew why he was asking her about that guy specifically. A beat behind surprise came anger. "You're snooping into my personal life now?"

  "I'm not snooping," he clarified. "Doing backgrounds on the people you work with is part of my job."

  "A job I never asked you to do."

  Though he couldn't argue that point, he still needed to know more. "Tell me about your association with Mr. Boylan."

  "Craig is harmless," she said with a wave of her hand.

  Roman moved another step closer. "Craig is the co-founder of CP Systems, one of Sullivan Security's top competitors." He paused to make sure she understood just how bad it was that she had deliberately kept this information from him. "And an ex."

  But she didn't look even the slightest bit guilty. In fact, all he got from her was another eye roll. "I wouldn't call someone I only slept with a couple of times an ex."

  Jealousy slapped him upside the head before he was prepared to slap it back. "He might not agree."

  "Of course he does. It didn't mean any more to him than it did to me. We were at a conference. We had a little too much to drink. One thing led to another. In the morning, we went our separate ways."

  She was so off the cuff about it, as if she hadn't given the interlude another thought since it happened. Whereas Roman knew the guy had to be still pining for her. Who wouldn't be?

  "You were together more than once."

 
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