This short story takes place after the events in Ransom.
Elle Roberts stepped out of her favorite Mexican restaurant in the heart of Soho and breathed in the unique fragrance of a London summer. As usual, the theatre district was packed with people. The many restaurants overflowed with chattering patrons, and the scent of different cuisines battled for supremacy in the warm night air. A person could get lost in the crowds of Soho. Elle had spent years doing just that.
“Do you want us to walk you to the underground?” Megan said as she came out of the doors behind Elle.
“No, I’m fine.”
“A woman shouldn’t walk alone in the dark in London,” Dimitri said as he threw an arm around Megan’s shoulders.
“Ignore him,” Megan said. “He’s almost as much of a Neanderthal as my brother-in-law.”
“I’m not a Neanderthal, I’m using commonsense. I’ve seen Elle during self-defense training. It aint pretty. She’s the most helpless member of our team. Hell, baby, she can’t even fire a gun.”
Megan rolled her eyes at Elle. “Bet that makes you feel so much better. Anyway, she doesn’t need a gun. She can hit an attacker over the head with her laptop.”
That made Dimitri groan. He’d been teasing her all evening about bringing her laptop out for dinner with them. Elle had calmly informed him that her laptop was her date—if only that weren’t so close to the mark.
“You two go see your show.” They were off to watch a risqué late-night cabaret in the heart of Soho. “And I’ll take myself home. Trust me, I’m fine. I walk alone all the time. And look around you, there are more people here than there usually are on the streets when I walk home after work.”
“I don’t like that either. I’m going to talk to the guys. We need to set up a schedule of people to escort you home when you work late.” Dimitri frowned, and Elle knew he was seconds away from insisting they act as her bodyguards until she got to the subway.
“Megan,” Elle said on a sigh. “Can you deal with him, please?”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” Her blonde friend looked up with wide blue eyes and a loving smile at the man she adored. “Come with me now, or I will shoot you somewhere painful, but non-essential.”
His eyebrows shot up his forehead. “You have a gun on you?”
She shrugged. “You don’t?”
Dimitri looked like his head was going to explode, and that was Elle’s cue to make a getaway. It seemed that even though Megan was now an official security team member instead of a trainee, Dimitri still thought he was the boss of their partnership. Elle was pretty sure Megan never got the memo about the hierarchy.
“I’m leaving now. Have a great time at the show.” She gave them a cheerful wave and walked away as their raised voices wafted after her. They were too busy arguing to even notice she’d gone.
The evening showing of Harry Potter had ended, and the Palace theatre crowd streamed out into the street in front of her. Their excited chatter made her grin as she cut through on her way to Chinatown. The nearest underground station was a straight walk down Charing Cross Road, but Elle wasn’t in the mood to go home to an empty flat. She wanted to wander, hang out with the crowds and spend an hour feeling like she was part of something bigger than herself.
A large group of tourists stopped in front of her to stare up at the buildings, blocking her path. With a shake of her head, Elle skirted around them. As she passed a small side alley, an arm snaked around her waist from behind, and a hand clamped over her mouth. Strong arms held her tight as she was rushed into the dark, narrow alley. She was being abducted. In the middle of London. Surrounded by people who didn’t even notice. Shock had her frozen for a beat, and then adrenalin kicked in.
But before she could strike out, she felt her attacker’s mouth close to her ear. “Did you miss me, gorgeous?”
She slumped against him. And then she got furious. What the hell was he doing? Trying to scare her to death?
She kicked back at him and had the satisfaction of feeling her heel hit his shin. She was planning her next move when suddenly she was turned and pressed against a wall. The tall, lean, muscled body of the man she obsessed over, leaned into her until he was flush against her softness.
“I should knee you in the balls for almost giving me a heart attack,” she told him.
“Ellie, we both know that’s the last thing you want to do with that part of my anatomy.”
His brown hair was longer than the last time she’d seen him, several months earlier in Scotland. Which reminded her. “You left me handcuffed to a bed! With pink, fluffy cuffs!”
His smile made her internal organs liquify and pool low in her body. “I told you to stop searching for me, but you didn’t listen, did you?”
“I thought it was more of a suggestion than an order.” Not that she would have obeyed any order he gave, anyway.
“You’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest, Ellie.” A flash of cold steel appeared in his eyes before disappearing, and he went back to looking at her with warmth. “I’m going to tell you again, and this time it is an order.” He paused as he twirled some of her shoulder-length, pale blue hair around his finger. “Stop searching for information about my identity. If you don’t, you’re going to bring down a heap of trouble on your head, and on the heads of your friends and workmates.”
His tone was soft and seductive, completely at odds with his harsh words. But there was also something else in there. Something he wasn’t saying. Something that set alarm bells ringing.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
His eyes softened. “I can take care of myself.”
That didn’t answer the question, and all that heat pooling low in her stomach suddenly felt like concrete starting to set. “I caused trouble for you.” And she suspected it was the kind of trouble they couldn’t laugh about. Suddenly, her search for him seemed far more serious than she’d thought it would be, and for the first time since starting, she wondered exactly what kind of mess she was digging into.
For a micro-second, his jaw clenched before it relaxed again. But the small tell gave her all the information she needed. He was in danger. Because of her.
She flattened her palm against his chest, over the soft thudding of his heart, and felt his heat sear her fingers. “Benson Security can help you.”
His smile was mysterious. “I don’t need any help. Everything is fine.”
“Do you have to lie to me?”
“Ellie, you think I’m a spy. Why would you expect me to tell the truth?”
He had a point. “I won’t search for you anymore, on one condition.”
“I like how you think you can negotiate with me. It’s cute.”
Elle rolled her eyes. They both knew she would eventually dig up every piece of information there was on him. It was just a matter of time. “If you promise to contact Benson Security, and let us help you if things get too hot to handle, I’ll stop searching.”
He leaned forward, pressing their bodies together until all she could feel was his heat at her front and the cool hard wall at her back. His nose trailed up her throat until his lips were at her ear. “Your logic is off, Ellie. You know I’m a liar, so why would you believe any promise I give you?”
Elle wasn’t sure why she knew he’d keep his word to her, maybe it was just imagination and wishful thinking, but she was certain he would. “Give me your word.”
“Fine.” He breathed out over the shell of her ear, making her shiver. “You have my word. If I need help, I’ll contact Benson Security.”
“You’ll contact me.” She wanted to make that clear.
He tugged at her earlobe with his teeth. “I’ll contact you,” he whispered.
And somehow the words felt like a promise to do far more than simply get in touch.
“Then I’ll stop searching.” At least she would try her best, because he was her obsession now, and it wouldn’t be easy to quit doing something that consumed her.
“Tell me something,” he said as he leaned back to look at her. “Do you still dream about me?”
“That night was an anomaly.” As was every single night since then. The man had invaded her dreams. And each one was hotter than the last. She burned for him now. And there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it. Not unless he decided to stop running from her, because she was convinced that was exactly what he was doing.
“So, you still dream about me.” He sounded entirely too smug for her liking, but before she could tell him he was fooling himself, he kept talking. “I like this color.” He stroked her hair. “It goes with your eyes. I like this pink dress too. You look like a fifties pin-up girl. A glamorous housewife. You should be in a kitchen somewhere, with a lace-edged apron, baking cookies for an army of kids, before your husband comes home and sweeps you off your feet.”
“Interesting fantasy you have there.” Elle’s eyes strayed to his lips as she remembered the kiss they’d shared, the same night he’d cuffed her to the bed. “A tad sexist and archaic for me though.”
“Really?” His eyebrow cocked, and his smile stole the air from her lungs. “You don’t like role play? I’ll have to change your mind on that.”
Yes, please! She blinked at him. “How about you play the stay-at-home husband? You can bake me some cookies, and when I’m done working, I’ll sweep you off your feet.”
He closed the distance between them until his lips were a hair’s breadth from hers. “That works for me too.”
“You drive me crazy,” she whispered.
“Oh, you have no idea just how crazy I could make you.” And then his lips were on hers.
The kiss was slow and sensual, stealing her sense of self-preservation with each delicious taste of him. She curled her fingers into his black tee and held on while her world spun out of control. This was what she remembered, what she dreamed about, what she longed for. When he slowly pulled away from her, her lips chased after his until she was on tiptoe before him.
“Later, beautiful girl.” He swept her hair from her face. “That is a promise.”
And then he was gone, moving fast, blending into the night as he was swallowed up by the crowd. Leaving Elle, dazed and alone in the alley. With a trembling hand, she pressed her fingers to her lips. Who knew what trouble he was in, or when she’d see him again. And now, she didn’t even have her searches for him to keep her occupied until his return. If he returned this time. Because every instinct she had screamed to her that he was in way more trouble than he’d let on. Stubborn, infuriating man-of-mystery. Too damned macho to ask for help.
With a huff of irritation, she yanked her bag onto her shoulder and stilled.
Her laptop was gone.
He’d stolen her life.
Her eyes narrowed as she stared into the darkness where he’d vanished. How could he? This was the ultimate betrayal. One for which he would pay. As far as she was concerned, their tenuous deal was off. There was no way she’d stop searching for him now.
You’ll find snippets of David and Elle throughout the Benson Security books. Their story is coming – one day! 🙂