Tony left the building as he’d arrived—through alleys, side streets, and many blocks between it and where he’d parked. Massage clients waited.
He passed the morning working absentmindedly, longing for the day when he could put this undercover assignment behind him. Most of his clientele were rich, pasty white, and overweight. The only bright spot in this whole business had been Blythe, and she had been from the start. His problem now was how to hang on to her once his work here was done.
More guilt tweaked him. He was using her now to get to the Cambridges, and he sure didn’t feel good about that. Plus, once the Cambridges were behind bars, she’d be out of a job. He didn’t feel good about that either and knew he definitely wouldn’t be one of her favorite people after that happened. Hell, she didn’t even know his real name. Somehow he had to find a way to tell her what was going on. Trent would have a fit, thinking he’d compromised the investigation. But Tony’s instincts told him he could trust Blythe. With her close connection to the Cambridges, she might be able to help. That also meant putting her at risk, so she had the right to be fully informed.
Tony kneaded a roll of fat on the middle-aged woman before him. She grunted like a pig. With every day that passed, he hated this work more and more. Trent wasn’t the only one who was impatient for results. Right now, the only woman he wanted to lay hands on in any manner was Blythe.
“Okay, Mrs. Powell, all done for today.” He wiped his hands on a length of toweling while he gave her wide berth.
She tucked the sheet around her. “So soon? Feels like you just started.”
Felt like hours to him. Tony forced a smile he didn’t feel. “I know what you mean. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
A little before noon.
Just enough time to get to Stephanie’s office building before Blythe left. If he hurried. He reached the place with no time to spare. Watching from the far side of the parking lot, his breath caught when Blythe walked out. A raging hard-on shot to life seconds later. Blythe was dressed in hot pink capri pants with a matching floral camp shirt. White sandals graced her slender feet. Sunglasses covered her eyes.
He shifted in his seat as he palmed his erection, trying to find a more comfortable position that simply didn’t exist. Blythe always had that effect on him. In the months before, he’d been able to handle it. But now that he’d had her? Misery. It was all he could do to stay in the truck and not rush her.
The image of him dragging her to the truck, throwing her in the backseat, and fucking her until the struts cracked under the pressure was sweet. Something to put on their to-do list—when it was dark and not in a public place. Although forbidden sex and the danger of being caught would certainly make things hotter. He bet he wouldn’t have to do much talking to convince Blythe.
He pulled his wandering thoughts to a screeching halt and tried to focus on the job.
After a quick look in both directions, she crossed the street. Now all he had to do was get past the security guard, who was what had made entering at night impossible. Blythe’s presence during the day had hindered Tony’s chance to search Stephanie’s office.
He waited until he saw Blythe’s cherry-red Sentra turn the corner, then strode into the building like he did every weekday—ready to give Stephanie her daily massage. The guard never challenged him, and building security didn’t require anyone to sign in. It was almost as if the guard was there for show, a visual deterrent to anyone coming in who shouldn’t. Tony nodded a greeting the man’s way and continued on.
So far, so good.
The hallway was deserted. Like all the other times he’d been here. In less time than it took to think about it, he had the lock picked and was in.
Tony stowed his table and bag near the door. Where in the hell should he start? He had one hour to hit pay dirt. A sign on Blythe’s desk invited customers to ring the bell because she was in back.
He glanced that way. Light from an open closet door caught his eye. He edged toward it, scanning piles of papers, files, and samples as he went. Nothing looked promising.
He pushed the door open wider and smiled. It wasn’t a closet after all. It was a huge workroom cluttered with furniture in various stages of upholstery. Rolling steel doors covered the delivery entrance. It wasn’t the safest place to hide diamonds, but Stephanie sure didn’t lack for niches to do so.
Tony aimed for the workbench against the wall. His foot hit something hard in his haste. Metal skittered across the tile—a tack hammer. He glanced around and saw a black Naugahyde sofa. Each seam was edged in sparkling gems.
It’s too simple. Too obvious.
And perfect. No one would ever guess they were diamonds. The smuggled gems were supposed to be rough. There was nothing to say they hadn’t been polished. Stephanie did have acquaintances in the jewelry business. Someone could be convinced to do her a favor, for the right amount of money.
He retrieved a jeweler’s loupe from his duffel bag of tricks, then hurried back for a closer look. Damn. Rhinestones, every single one of them. Even the ones in the bowl holding the supply.
Back to square one, and time was running out.
* * * *
Blythe pushed her lettuce around her plate. She’d been unable to concentrate for most of the morning. At least at the office she could mindlessly do finish work on the Caplin sofa while every other thought focused on Tony.
She missed him, couldn’t wait to see him again, craved him more than the richest chocolate. Silly, when they’d only been involved less than a day. After watching him all these months, trying to avoid him now was useless. He was every fantasy come true and then some.
Fling, my ass.
She was already stuck on the guy. For all she knew, she had been all along.
Blythe cursed herself a thousand times over. He wasn’t what she wanted. Yet the idea of ending it tore her in two. She didn’t know what the hell to do.
“I swear you haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”
She looked Eileen Cronkite’s way. A frown had pulled her perfectly arched eyebrows together. Frustration darkened her blue eyes as she flicked back a wayward strand on her long, black hair. They went to lunch once a month, jabbering the hour away. Eileen sure got a raw deal this time.
“Something’s on your mind. Give it up.”
They’d known each other since high school and had always shared their darkest secrets and desires. Why should this be any different?
Blythe set her fork aside. It was different. It felt too private, too special to share. “All right. I’ve met someone. No. I’ve met the
someone. We are absolutely, positively sexually compatible in every single way. He’s charming, considerate, funny, great looking.”
God love her, at least Eileen didn’t cheer. “He’s lacking on the career issue.”
They waited while the waiter cleared their plates.
“He sounds like everything you’ve ever wanted.” Eileen’s voice was low, for Blythe’s ears only.
She nodded. The memory of him set her body thrumming for attention, and not just for the sex. Their camaraderie over breakfast kept tugging at her heart.
“Is his job so important?” Eileen’s question was softly spoken.
Blythe had been asking herself the same question all morning. She laughed lightly. “I guess I wanted someone with a little more ambition.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s a masseur. Door-to-door. Like a salesman.”
Eileen shrugged. “Doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any ambition. They can make good money. His way means little overhead. Maybe it’s what makes him happy. Isn’t a happy sex god more important than a self-centered, power-hungry maniac?”
She had a point. “I’m afraid, Eileen.”
“Of what? Of falling in love?”
She nodded. “Of being hurt. Of making a mistake. Of having a broken heart. You name it.”
“Of living?” Eileen stirred her straw through her iced tea. “You’ve never mentioned any man before. Obviously, this is someone you’ve just met. Aren’t you jumping to conclusions?”
“I’ve known him for about six months. I’ve just avoided him.”
“Yeah. I caved. I couldn’t help it. I was like a time bomb ready to explode. And he…” Blythe couldn’t put it into words.
“Tell me about him.” Eileen flicked her long fingers through the air. “Besides the sex stuff.”
Blythe had always admired her friend’s hands—smooth, long fingers with perfect nails. Eileen took care of them too, sometimes to obsession, changing the polish every day or several times in one day. Even during tax season, when she worked hellacious hours.
Blythe pulled in a breath as she struggled for the words to explain Tony. How she wasn’t afraid in his arms. The comfort and warmth she felt curled beside him at night. How thoughtful he was to have coffee ready. His consideration and respect in not rushing out, in wanting to date. She was offering free sex, and he wasn’t biting. Damn it, Tony seemed to want more. But the only thing she could tell Eileen was, “His kisses make me want to melt.”
Eileen rolled her blue eyes. “Oh boy, you’ve got it bad.”
“I told him I don’t want him to kiss me anymore.”
Eileen laughed so hard heads turned their way. “And you think that’s going to help?”
Blythe covered her eyes with one hand. It sounded ridiculous, even to her ears, even knowing how one kiss destroyed her senses. “What am I going to do?”
“Why try to analyze it? Why not take what comes? Enjoy the great sex, the princess treatment I assume he’s offering you, and let nature take care of the rest.”
Easier said than done. It wasn’t Eileen’s heart they were talking about here.
“It could also be that you’re so horny, anything will get you going. It’s been forever since you’ve gotten any.”
Blythe removed her hand and shrugged. “No one’s caught my interest.”
“Well, I’d say you’re plenty caught right now. Take advantage of it before the next long dry spell. If there is one.”
Sound advice. Maybe she was overanalyzing this. It was just that Tony was so different from what she’d expected. She’d seriously misjudged the man. Every bad thing she thought about him was wrong. He was caring, funny, charming, attentive, and right now, she sorely regretted having blown him off for lunch.
Blythe laughed to herself. There’s an image for you.
She should have “blown him off” for lunch. It sounded much more intriguing than picking apart a relationship that might or might not exist. This was new, fun, exciting. He was everything sexual she craved in a man and had never found. And here she was, missing out on a great nooner to complain to Eileen.
With any luck, she might just be able to catch him before his next client. Surely Stephanie had his phone number somewhere.
She tossed some bills on the table. “Sorry, Eileen, gotta run.”
“I bet I can guess what you’re about to do.”
She smiled. “I’ll leave that to your imagination.” Luck was with her. Every light was green on the way back to the office. Excitement pushed the accelerator just beyond the speed limit. Once she arrived, it was all Blythe could do to keep from running into the building. She nodded a greeting to the guard and hurried down the hallway.
Please, let him be available.
She shoved the key into the lock, ducked inside, and froze. His massage table and bag were propped against the wall.
HE WAS caught. He glanced at his watch. She was back way early. He had to think of something fast.
Tony grabbed a length of drapery tassel. “I’m in the back. Are you alone?”
He looped the ends over brackets in the wall, then twisted his wrists through the silken cord and waited for her like a sacrifice.
“I am. How did you—”
Blythe stopped short of the door. Her smile was quick as she raked her gaze over him. “I’m liking this.”
“I stopped by on the off chance you might’ve changed your mind. The door was unlocked.”
“Really? Odd. I’ll be right back. I need to make sure that door is locked this time.”
By the time she returned, Tony’s hard-on pulsed for freedom.
Smiling, she knotted his wrists to the brackets. A flick of her fingers opened the button on his jeans and sliced his zipper down.
“Now, Mr. Blake, about that blowjob. You are about to have the best one of your life.”