This had to be one of the most idiotic things he'd ever done. Surveillance meant observing, not interacting. He should have stayed away, but the chance to get up close and personal with Allison Brody forced him to ask Lancaster about the best place to rent a tux.
To the right he saw Rory White, the reporter, talking to people with camera in hand.
His cell phone vibrated and he pulled it out to check the caller. Quincy. Jake ignored the call as he'd done with several from Margo and Peter. He couldn't talk to them right now, or wouldn't, until he figured out what the hell was going on.
It wasn't hard to pick out the most beautiful woman in the room. A slinky red off-the-shoulder gown allowed a tantalizing view of perfect breasts. Her mahogany locks were fashioned off to one side and his gaze followed the delicious line of her neck. Gold flecks danced in exotic eyes like fire, beckoning poor souls who dared to look deeply.
Jake straightened as Allison stopped a few inches from him. "Good evening."
"Good evening." He bowed in gentlemanly fashion, keeping careful distance.
"What are you doing here?"
Her bottom lip stuck out in a small pout. He wanted to pull her close and tease it with his tongue. "You're following me?"
"Then what are you doing here, exactly?" She stepped back.
The orchestra began to play a waltz. Holding his right hand out, he asked, "Would you care to dance, Ms. Brody?"
She froze for several seconds. Jake knew she kept distance. Something about touching.
"Certainly." Allison set her goblet on the tray of a passing waiter.
With Allison in his arms, Jake glided across the floor in perfect time with the music. His eyes stayed glued to hers, oblivious to those around them.
The music ended and Allison pushed away and headed toward the terrace doors. He grabbed two flutes of champagne and followed.
Moonlight spilled over the tended garden which was the perfect backdrop. Allison drew the crisp misty air in. Her hands held onto the stone banister almost as if she needed the support.
"You feel it, don't you?" Jake whispered close to her ear.
She didn't respond or face him.
"You skin tingles, your heart races." He moved closer still. "It's chemistry."
"It's more," she breathed, but still wouldn't look at him.
"Body chemistry, pheromones." His arm reached around to hand over the champagne. "We're two consenting adults."
She took the drink. "How do you know I haven't put a hex on you with a magical potion brewed in my cauldron?"
"Not likely since I don't believe in that stuff."
"Do you have an explanation for everything?"
"Yes. Actually, I do. There's always a logical answer. You just have to find and accept it."
Spinning around Allison slapped her free hand against his chest. "Very clinical, Agent Austin," she snipped. "It sounds as though you explain away everything you can't understand." She curled her fingers in his shirt, her mouth a fraction of an inch from his. "Can you do that? Explain me away?"
Sweet Jesus. Jake knew he should walk away. His control slipped a notch. He yanked Allison flush against him. If he could be rough enough, scary enough, maybe she'd stay away from this case and him. Maybe he'd be able to fight the attraction.
He kissed her. How could he not? With one hand, he gathered her thick mane and crushed a frantic, hungry mouth on those soft lips. His tongue swept through tasting sweet wine. Before Allison noticed his blatant hard-on, he broke away.
At that precise moment, Paul Kincaid barged through the doors. "Oh there you are, Allison." He eyed Jake. "I thought you might like to dance."
She stuffed the empty glass into Jake's hand. "I'd love to Paul." She placed her hand on Kincaid's arm. "I was ready to come back in anyway." She dismissed him without a glance, and Jake felt the sting.
Noninvolvement had been a necessary condition in his line of work, a matter of survival. He cursed Allison for getting under his skin and clouding his focus, for filling his head with fantasies. "What the fuck was I thinking?" he mumbled. Stuffing hands into his pockets, Jake stomped down the stairs. For certain the undeniable attraction between them added another wrinkle to this already fucked up case.
Allison’s pulse raced and her heart drummed ferociously around Jake Austin.
The ribbed shirt he'd worn had crisp lines and gold cufflinks winked in the light. The color of his hair stood out in contrast to the white collar it curled around. Tailored trousers hugged his muscular thighs. Her eye followed the satin stripe down the side which showcased a well-built physique and her mouth watered.
Instincts screamed to walk the other way, but she hadn't listened. Something deeper called.
The dance had been incredible. Touching him drained much needed strength and her shields wavered. And that kiss set off warning bells. Her breasts tingled. She was breathless, and stunned. If Paul hadn't come, who knows what she would have allowed Jake to do next.
Extra protection, shields, layers, barriers of any kind were a definite must if she saw Jake again. With that decided Allison grabbed her wrap and waved goodbye to Kat and Sean.
Her meditation and determination shored her defenses. The dreams were not occurring as often. The migraines, however, had tripled. Medicine, cool cloths, and dark rooms did little to ease the effects. She looked a fright. Heavy dark shadows circled her eyes, deep lines around her mouth. Thank God for the wonders of makeup. Paul had suggested time in the hospital so tests could be run. She'd adamantly refused.
Once or twice she'd lower the shields hoping to sense Alex without his awareness. Those experiments failed. Immediately, a dark force latched on and pulled her. Frantic, she'd fought the way back and erected the walls again.
In those brief encounters, Allison felt nothing of the boy she'd once known and loved. She unlocked the car door and started to slide in when she noticed a white florist box on the back seat. Her stomach sank. She carefully lifted the lid. The black rose inside looked like it had been splattered with blood.