Since I Fell for You by Bella Andre

  Where Suzanne's lobby was bright and welcoming in its simplicity, this one was trying too hard to impress, with dark marble everywhere. Clearly, this guy was making up for deficiencies elsewhere.

  And yet, Suzanne had still slept with him.

  She wasn't Roman's. She would never be his. But that didn't make the thought of her sleeping with someone else sting any less.

  "I need to see Craig Boylan," he told the woman behind the reception desk. "Now."

  Flustered by his curt demand, the young woman opened and closed her mouth a couple of times before any sound came out. "I'm sorry, could you please tell me your name?"

  "Roman Huson. I work for Suzanne Sullivan. Which floor is Mr. Boylan on?"

  "If you will give me a moment to call his assistant--"

  But Roman was already pushing past the security gate and walking into the elevator. The receptionist came running up right as the door closed in her face. Roman figured Craig would be on the top floor. Ornate headquarters and penthouse offices went hand in hand. Along with being bitter enough over losing Suzanne to attack her, tech style. To begin with, at least.

  The main-floor receptionist had obviously put a call through to Craig's office by the time the elevator door opened on the top floor. But Roman wasn't about to be stopped by a man wearing a black security guard's uniform who said, "I'm going to have to escort you back downstairs, Mr. Huson."

  One quick glance told Roman that the guy wasn't private security. He was strictly a nine-to-fiver who had the easy and likely extremely boring job of making sure that none of the employees stole anything.

  Roman walked past the guy and headed for a stern middle-aged woman who he guessed was Craig's personal assistant. "Mr. Boylan is not expecting me, but I work for Suzanne Sullivan, and I need to discuss her safety with him."

  "Has something happened to Miss Sullivan?" She sounded genuinely concerned. "Is she all right?"

  "She is, and as her personal security detail, I plan to make sure she stays that way." Deciding he'd given Craig's assistant enough time to alert her boss to his presence, he headed toward the closed double doors a short distance from her desk.

  "Craig." There were three men in the office, but Roman instantly deduced who his target was. Unfortunately, it wasn't the skinny guy or the short guy. It was the one most women would have referred to as tall, dark and handsome. "I'm here for our meeting."

  Boylan barely hesitated before saying to the other men with a faint Irish accent, "If you'll excuse me, I'd appreciate it if we could continue our meeting later this afternoon."

  Soon they were alone, the double doors closed behind them. "I understand you work for Suzanne Sullivan." He actually had the nerve to look as if he didn't know why Roman was there. "Is there a reason she didn't come to me personally to discuss whatever the problem might be?"

  Roman took a deliberately menacing step closer. "I'm here to give you a warning, one I hope you're smart enough to heed." There was a time when he'd regularly used his size and strength to bully people. To hurt them. But though he'd worked like hell to be a different and better person who fought only when necessary--at times like this, he was more than happy to physically intimidate. And he wouldn't hesitate to beat the hell out of this guy, if it came to that.

  "A warning?" Craig's frown deepened even as he had the presence of mind to look a little scared.

  "Keep your distance from Suzanne. Don't call her. Don't even think about her. And keep your dirty hands off her company."

  Craig stared at him in shock. "I can see that you're angry. I just don't know why." He shook his head. "I haven't done anything to Suzanne."

  Roman got in the guy's face so quick he didn't have any choice but to stare up at him as Roman growled, "We both know what you did to her. You don't deserve to touch a hair on her head. She might have made the mistake of sleeping with you, but I won't let you keep making her pay for cutting you loose."

  The guy's face went ruddy under his perfectly clipped beard. "You're here because we had sex a couple of times? I thought you said you're her new security detail--not her new boyfriend."

  Roman's blood was pumping so fast with jealousy--and he was so invested in shutting down any and all threats to Suzanne--that he had the guy up against the wall in a heartbeat. "You're going to promise me right now that you'll leave her alone."

  "I have," Craig choked out. "I am."

  "Damn right you are. She's wasted enough time and energy on your attacks."

  "Attacks?" The other man coughed the word out. "What attacks?"

  When Roman was growing up, he'd been taught by his father to throw punches first and not stop until his opponent was completely out of commission. Over the past two decades, he'd always made sure to stop and think clearly before using his fists, especially while on the job. But he was so invested in Suzanne that he hadn't been thinking clearly at all. Hadn't wanted to see that throughout his entire interrogation, Craig had looked more bewildered and confused than like he was trying to hide something.

  Abruptly lowering his hands, Roman moved back. "You really don't know anything about what's been happening to her, do you?"

  Putting a hand over his throat, Craig shook his head. "I really don't. But I can see it must be pretty serious stuff if you thought you needed to attack me in my own office. What's going on?"

  "I can't tell you that. But I will apologize for my behavior. I see now that I made the wrong assumption based on your previous relationship with Suzanne."

  "I'm not going to lie to you--there was a time when I did want something more from her than just a couple of nights together. A hell of a lot more. So I get why you're here." The other man walked behind his desk and sat down, impressively composed and in control again. "But whatever's happening to her, I'm not behind it." He pointed to the framed pictures of himself with his arm around a pretty blonde, pictures Roman should have noticed before now.

  Jesus. He'd really screwed this one up. Suzanne had already been furious with him before he'd left her office. When he went back and told her where he'd been, she was going to be absolutely livid. So much for convincing her that having him work as her bodyguard wouldn't interfere with her life.

  He pulled out a card and laid it on Craig's desk. "If you can think of anyone who might not have her best interests at heart, I'd appreciate the name."

  Right then, another man pushed through the door. Where Craig had a slightly rugged look to him, this man was polished, from the top of his head to the tips of his shiny thousand-dollar shoes. "Craig, is there a problem? Eloise said you had an unexpected visitor."

  Roman could hear the hint of an Irish accent in this man's voice as well. From the backgrounds he'd done on Suzanne's competitors, he recalled that the men had met at school in Ireland before coming to America to make their fortunes in high tech. Not only did they make digital security software, but they had also ventured very successfully into home automation systems. Their units were in most of the high end homes in the city.

  "Roman," Craig said, "this is my partner, Patrick O'Conner. Patrick, Roman works for Suzanne Sullivan. He had some questions for me about a couple of conferences Suzanne and I both attended last year."

  Patrick looked at Roman suspiciously, obviously wanting to ask more questions. But when his cell rang, whoever was calling was obviously important enough for him to leave to take the call.

  As Roman turned to see himself out, he was surprised to hear Craig say, "Hey, Roman. If I ever find myself needing someone to watch out for my soon-to-be wife, I'm going to give you a call. Despite the bruises I'm bound to have tomorrow, I appreciate the fact that you'll do whatever it takes to protect your client."

  Craig was right. Roman would do whatever it took to protect Suzanne. And not just because she was his client.

  But because, despite knowing better, he had started to care.


  Suzanne knew it must be Roman knocking on her office door by the sound of it--solid, steady, firm, sexy. Okay,
so maybe a knock couldn't sound sexy, but somehow he managed the impossible.

  A part of her wanted to tell him to go away. The other part wanted to fling open the door and kiss him with all the pent-up passion she'd been trying so ineffectively to shove away.

  God. For the first time in her life, she was an utter mess over a guy.

  She took a deep breath to try to ground herself, but it was no use. And she couldn't leave him standing outside for much longer, or Harry would wonder what was going on between the two of them. As it was, she was afraid she had already said too much over lunch.

  "Come in."

  Her office was large and spacious. But the moment Roman stepped inside and closed the door behind him, he dominated the room. And all of her attention.

  "I apologize for needing to step out," Roman said to both of them before turning to Harry. "Thank you for staying with Suzanne until I returned."

  "My pleasure." Harry immediately rose from the couch. "Thanks for lunch, sis." After she stood too, he hugged her good-bye. "Your ideas on how to approach my new research were excellent, just like I knew they would be. I swear, you could almost guest teach my classes at this point."

  "I'd be happy to take you up on that sometime." She always liked a new challenge, and after reading so many of Harry's books and papers about medieval history over the years, she was nearly as fascinated by the subject as he was. Though she knew Roman was listening, she refused to monitor what she said because of it. "Remember when I was a little girl, how I used to want to do whatever you and Alec did?"

  He smiled at her exactly the way he used to when she was constantly trailing behind them with her hair bursting out of pigtails and dirt beneath her fingernails. "You were our little shadow."

  "Just imagine if I'd stuck with that plan. I'd either be sending people off on fancy planes like Alec or teaching them medieval battle plans like you." She grinned. "Actually, both of those things sound like fun."

  "Alec's clients would drive you crazy," Harry pointed out, "and my students probably would too."

  He was right. She had little patience for the filthy rich men and women who used Alec's private planes. So many of them thought the world should be handed to them on a diamond-encrusted platter. And she would have been a terrible professor. Teaching had never been her gift. She was so impatient to see results that she had a bad habit of accidentally steamrolling past people who didn't understand what she was talking about.

  "Call me if you need anything," Harry said, and then with a nod to Roman, he was gone, leaving the two of them alone in her office.

  There were a dozen things she needed to work on this afternoon, but as she looked up and found Roman staring at her with his dark, intense gaze, she honestly couldn't remember a single item on her to-do list. All she could do was heat up, inside and out.

  And want.

  "I just spoke with Craig."

  Roman's unexpected statement jarred her brain out of its blank state. Her body, however, stayed stubbornly in want, even as she said, "You called him while Harry and I were having lunch?"

  "I went to his office and confronted him, face-to-face."

  "You went to see him?" Shock that he'd acted so quickly after their conversation made her brain feel rusty, as if the gears inside her head needed to be oiled. "Why would you do that?"

  "After what you told me about your previous relationship with him, it seemed obvious to me that he must be involved in the attacks on your servers and your phone."

  She didn't realize she was moving toward Roman until she was standing chest to chest with him. "Are you crazy?" She didn't normally get this emotional in her office. Yes, she was passionate about what she did, but she knew better than to let anger take over on the job. Only, when Roman pushed her buttons over and over again, in a way no one else ever had, all those lessons kept falling away. "I told you he wouldn't do something like that just because we slept together a couple of times. Why wouldn't you listen to me?"

  "Do you have any idea what sleeping with a woman like you does to a guy?" Roman's words were low. Raw. "Do you have any idea what your beauty does to a man? The way your laughter reaches all the way inside his chest? The way he can't stop breathing in your scent? How he's constantly marveling at how damned smart you are and just wants for one second to be able to see the world the way you see it? Because you're the brightest, most beautiful woman he's ever known." He erased the distance between them as he moved forward to close the final gap. "Any guy who's lucky enough to be with you isn't going to want to lose you. Unless he's a complete fool, he's going to do whatever he can to convince you to come back. And to stay."

  She opened her mouth to respond, but no words came. Not when every one of Roman's passionate words were reverberating through her.

  No one had ever told her that her laughter, her scent, or her brain affected them this way. And no one had ever looked at her this way either. As though he wanted to kiss her more than he wanted to take his next breath.

  When Roman's gaze dropped from her eyes to her mouth, she could almost taste his kiss from that look alone. Could almost feel the heated sizzle of his skin against hers.

  She had never wanted anything more than she wanted to feel his arms around her, the tangle of his hands in her hair, the press of his muscles all along hers as he finally--

  "Damn it."

  His curse came a beat before he stepped back from her. Coolness from the air conditioning rushed to fill the space between them...but it wasn't nearly enough to douse the flames inside her.

  "I overstepped, Suzanne." Each word sounded as if it came from between clenched teeth. "I shouldn't have said that. Any of that."

  She wanted to move closer again, wanted to tell him she was glad he'd said it. That he'd made her feel special in a way no man ever had before. Because no one had ever noticed her the way he did. Not only as a brain. Not only as a woman.

  But as both.

  Instead, she said, "Never apologize for being honest with me." Her words were soft, but serious. "If that's what you feel, if that's what you think, I want to hear it."

  "You didn't want to hear it before." He wasn't accusing now, simply pointing out the facts.

  She let out a long, hard breath. "I know I can be stubborn." By the look in his eyes, it was obvious that she needn't have bothered telling him that, since he'd already figured it out. "But I usually come around when something makes sense."

  "So you agree that talking with Craig made sense?"

  She nodded. "I was going to speak to him tonight."

  "With me there?" She couldn't read Roman's expression. Not when his man-of-stone mask was back in place. "Or without?"

  She'd asked him to be honest with her, which meant he deserved the same from her. "Without. Which I now see might also have been the stubborn route. But now you've beat me to it." Her anger mostly gone now, she asked, "What did he say?"

  "He isn't behind any of it."

  She couldn't stop "I told you!" from bursting out.

  "I now believe that he's not the one causing you problems," Roman said again, "but you were wrong that you didn't mean anything to him. He wanted you back, Suzanne. More than he ever let on."

  That gave her pause. "How do you know?"

  "He told me."

  She hadn't seen that coming, hadn't guessed that Craig's feelings for her might have gone beyond a few hours of letting off steam together in the dark. "What did you tell him about the"--she paused to search for the right word--"problems I've been having?"

  "I didn't give him any details. But he was concerned enough to offer to help if we need it."


  The tiny word leaped out at her. Her brothers, her friends, had always been there for her. But she'd never been a we with a man. The thought of being a we with Roman filled her with crazy longing. Even though it was the very last thing she should want.

  "Next time," she made herself say in the midst of her rampantly conflicted thoughts, "I'd like you to tell me what you're p
lanning so that I can either talk you out of it or go with you. I guess your talk with Craig wasn't that big a deal."

  Roman looked uncomfortable. "I was pretty rough with him."

  "Define rough."

  "I shoved him up against the wall." He paused a beat before adding, "By his neck."

  "Why?" She couldn't understand what would have driven Roman to such lengths. "Why would you do that?"

  "I need to protect you."

  "You've got to see by now that I'm not fragile."

  "I know you're not. You're anything but fragile, Suzanne."

  "Then..." It felt like she was trying to pick her way through a minefield to get to the other side. And yet she couldn't stay where she was. Not if there was a chance that reaching the other side would be worth the risk. "Why are you so hellbent on protecting me?"

  Her phone rang in the space where his answer might have come. Standing closest to where the device lay on the corner of her desk, he looked at the screen, likely to assess whether it was another one of the junk calls.

  "It's Smith," he said as he handed it to her.

  Though she was always happy to hear from her cousin--he was so busy with his film projects that she didn't see him nearly often enough--she couldn't help but wish he'd waited another five minutes to call today.

  "Smith, how are you?"

  "Couldn't be better, Suz. Any chance you can come to Summer Lake for a couple of days?"

  Joy jumped inside her as she instantly guessed why he must be calling to ask that question out of the blue like this. "Is Valentina finally going to take you off the market for good?"

  "I've been off the market since the first time I laid eyes on her." Suzanne could hear the love in Smith's voice for his bride-to-be. "And yes, we've finally picked a date. How does Friday at noon sound to you?"

  As it was already Wednesday afternoon, she would have to wrap up anything pressing at the office, pack her bags, and head to the Adirondacks first thing the next morning. She had a multinational corporation to run. She had a massive task list ahead of her for Rosa's foundation. And she was just beginning to accept that the server and phone attacks deserved more of her attention.

  But none of those things was anywhere near as important as celebrating with Smith and Valentina as they made their vows of forever to each other.

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