Excerpt: Deep in the Night
Book 2: Hot City Nights Series
What if she’s not here? Roman he thought as he made the rounds of the art institute’s smaller studios, finding them mostly unoccupied, and growing more frantic by the second. Summer had promised to stay put while he was at that fucking meeting. What if some nut got a hold of her while he was away?
It would tear him apart if anything happened to her—and not just because of the professional shame of having failed to protect her. He was quite literally ready to die for her, not just to fulfill his duty, but because he couldn’t bear to think of her coming to any harm if he could prevent it. She’d grown on him, with her unique brand of naive worldliness, connected with him in a way he hadn’t expected and never would have predicted, given her freewheeling personality and dubious occupation.
Then there was the fact that she was just about the most smoking hot, wildly sexy woman he’d ever ever met, a woman whose “only real source of entertainment,” as she put it, was tempting and teasing him. Keeping his distance from her was just about the hardest thing he’d ever had to do.
As Roman approached the last door in the hall, he heard Marvin Gaye singing “What’s Going On,” so he knew that studio was occupied. Summer, please be here. He yanked the door open with a shaking hand. Please, God, let her be—
He stilled in the open doorway, dripping rainwater and staring, his hand on the knob. Summer’s friend Lily, standing at an enormous easel with a brush in her hand, turned to look at him. She stabbed a button on one of those little portable speakers, and the music abruptly ceased, replaced with ringing silence. “Roman,” she said uneasily. “Hey.”
The immense canvas on which she was working was all kind of grayish brown except for the outline of a reclining female form rendered in delicate, sepia brushstrokes.
“Roman?” Summer’s voice came from behind the canvas.
Roman stepped around Lily and stood rooted to the spot, staring.
A large wooden platform stood against the back wall, heaped with enormous pillows and draped in velvet, on top of which Summer lounged on her side, facing away from him but looking back over her shoulder. On the other side of her, in front of a red satin curtain that covered most of the wall, was a television. Her right hand, which rested gracefully on her hip, held a remote control.
The reason he couldn’t stop staring, of course, was that she was completely… and magnificently… nude.
♦ ♦ ♦
Summer gasped at Roman as he gaped at her. He was sodden from head to toe, his suit and loosened tie hanging limply, wet tendrils of hair stuck to his forehead. His chest pumped like a bellows; he was as pale as chalk.
“Oh, God, Roman.” Summer sat up, clutching a length of velvet to her chest. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s all my fault, Roman,” Lily said. “I talked her into coming here to pose for me. I…”
He turned and gave Lily a look so fiercely grim that she flinched.
“I think I’ll get some coffee. Anyone want some coffee? No?” Lily plunked her brush in a coffee can full of turpentine and fled through the open door.
Roman leaned back against the wall, as if his legs wouldn’t support him anymore. “I didn’t know where you were,” he said shakily.
“I… I texted you.”
“Without telling me where you went, or using the duress code, or taking the panic button with you. I tried calling you, but you didn’t answer.”
“I didn’t hear it ring. The music…” Remorse galloped through Summer, sudden and sickening. “God, I’m such an idiot.”
“I thought…” He leaned over and rested his hands on his knees. “I didn’t know what to think.”
“I’m sorry, Roman,” she said sincerely, swallowing down the tears that threatened. “I’m so sorry.”
“You damn well should be.” Straightening up, he stalked to the doorway. She thought he was going to storm through it, but he paused with his back to her, raking both trembling hands through his hair. Summer held her breath as he stood there, wondering what he was going to do.
He kicked the door closed. Her heart slammed in her chest.
A drawing table stood nearby. He grabbed it and shoved it against the door, propping it under the knob to lock them in.
He turned and strode toward her, tearing off his jacket and hurling it onto the floor. The wooden platform groaned as he stepped onto it, and then he was over her, pushing her roughly onto her back. He seized the piece of velvet she still held to her chest and flung it aside.