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What you need, p.11
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       What You Need, p.11

         Part #1 of Need You series by Lorelei James

  cracked open and ready for her hard-playing man.”

  My eyes narrowed.

  His grin widened. “Fine. Come here and give me a hug, woman.”

  It registered that I had a can of spray paint in my hand. I took a half step back and held it up. “Keep your hot, sweaty body right there.”

  “Or what? You’ll spray paint me?”

  He’d taken another step closer, forcing me to take one back. “Don’t push your luck, Brady.”

  “So you’ll set a bad example for these kids and start an all-out paint fight just to avoid giving me a hug? Come on, baby,” he said in a husky tone. “Give it to me.”

  “All-out paint fight? From what I see, I’m the one with the can of paint, not you, so you’d better just stop right there.”

  “You wouldn’t dare.”

  Not a good thing to dare me—I’ve never been able to resist one. So I started to shake the can. “Okay, if we’re playing truth or dare, I’ll pick . . . dare.”

  Brady immediately backed up. “Lennox. I was joking. Having fun with this.”

  I stepped toward him. “And now I’m having fun with it.”

  Then he stopped and threw his arms open. “Okay, wild thing. If you’re going to do it, make it count.”

  I pressed my finger on the sprayer head and aimed at his chest. I made one long neon green line down the right side, and then a shorter line above the waistband of his boxers.

  His mouth dropped open and he stared at the beautiful L I’d painted on his chest.

  But I didn’t have time to bask in my derring-do.

  Brady snatched the can from me. Keeping a tight grip on my wrist, he aimed the nozzle at himself and turned the L into a lopsided B. Then he wrapped his arms around me, plastering our chests together.

  And the man was so damn strong, he’d picked me up off my feet and held me in place with no effort whatsoever.

  I squirmed, intending to smear the paint all over him, and he laughed. I looked up at him, my glare ready to fry his retinas, but the happiness I saw shining in his eyes stole my breath away.

  “I’ll never doubt your ability to refuse a dare ever again, wild thing.”

  “Put me down.”

  “I will.” He smirked. “As soon as the paint is dry. But while we’re waiting, tell me what time I’m picking you up for our date tonight?”

  “When did I agree to a date?”

  “Last night at the bar. I saved your pretty neck, remember? I said I’d be in touch, but since we’re both here and it’s a Saturday night, I don’t see any reason to wait.”

  “What if I have plans tonight?”

  A fierce light entered his eyes. “Break them.”

  And I was done arguing just for the sake of arguing. I wanted to see if he was a lousy date, and there was only one way to find out. “Okay. One date.”

  “A first date,” he corrected.

  “If you two are done playing grab-ass, I could use some help,” Kiley said behind me.

  Brady set me down.

  I smirked at the paint smeared on his upper torso. It’d be a bitch to get out of his chest hair. And if he asked me nicely, I might just help him remove it.

  For the next two hours we worked on covering the graffiti. Again, Brady’s demeanor was different than I expected. At work he’d always acted more blatantly self-assured than quietly confident. Here he was more laid-back than I’d ever seen him.

  During our lunch break, Juice said, “Hey, Brady. Whatcha do for a job, man?”

  “I’m an accountant.”

  I nearly choked on my water.

  “No shit? I suck at math.”

  “I’m sure you don’t,” Brady said.

  “Then why am I getting a D-minus in algebra?” Juice demanded.

  “Are you doing the homework problems?”

  “Nah, I don’t get how to do ’em. And they’re pointless anyway, ’cause ain’t no one uses algebra in the real world.” He tore into his bologna sandwich. “Why’d you say I don’t suck at math? You some do-gooder who thinks I just oughta apply myself?”

  Brady took a drink of water. “Math is like basketball—if you don’t practice it, you won’t get any better. That means doing the math homework every night. It’s a cop-out when people say they suck at math. Numbers make sense. There’s an order and a structure to them. If you add seven to four, you get eleven, every damn time. With English, answers are subjective. So yeah, I think most people make math harder than it has to be.”

  “Maybe you should prove that it’s so damn easy by tutoring me,” Juice challenged.

  “Then prove to me you want to beat your math phobia.”


  “Do your homework every night next week. Bring your completed assignments and your textbook the next time and I’ll take a look at it all.”

  “What do you want for helpin’ me?”

  Brady looked at me, then at Juice. “Advice. See, I’ve got this hot blond girlfriend I want to take out and show off tonight. I’ve been out of the club scene for a few years, so where should I take her to impress her?”

  “Flurry,” Juice and Tonto said simultaneously. “That is a wicked fun club. Five dance levels. The sound system cost millions. Lots of neon and chicks dancing in cages. But it’s freakin’ hard to get in. There’s always a line. They pick the hot babes first, then hot dudes. Some rich guy owns the club. I heard the VIP section is sick.”

  “How do you know all of that?” Kiley asked Juice.

  “My cousin got in one night.”

  Everyone started asking Juice questions, as if he were a celebrity who’d actually gotten into the club, and he ate it up. I looked over at Brady. He seemed lost in thought.

  “Looks like you’d better track down some slutty club wear for tonight,” Kiley whispered.

  I went to bars—and not even all that much anymore to be honest—not clubs. But I wouldn’t waste brain cells worrying about what to wear. My more immediate concern was how I’d keep my hands, mouth and other body parts off my date.

  When Brady’s heated gaze met mine, my heart raced. We were combustible.

  “All right. Let’s get this stuff picked up and you can go on your merry ways,” Kiley said to her charges. “I appreciate all of you coming today. We’ll do it here again next week—weather permitting.” She pointed at me and Brady. “Let’s give a shout-out to Lennox and Brady for helping out today.”

  After loading everything in the SUV, the kids went off in different directions, all of them at least paired up so they weren’t walking alone in this sketchy part of town. Over the past couple of hours I’d noticed groups of three or four guys wandering around the perimeter of the playground checking us out. They never approached us, so we must’ve looked nonthreatening. Or maybe too threatening, as a group.

  Kiley looked around the empty parking lot. “Where’d you park, Brady?”

  “At the Walker.”

  “That’s five miles from here,” I said.

  “Better place to leave my car.” He shrugged. “I needed to run today anyway.”

  He ran five miles and then played basketball for two hours? And he wasn’t exhausted?

  Obviously the man had great stamina.

  Makes you wonder what kind of staying power he has during other physical activities, doesn’t it?

  “No,” I said aloud.

  Both Kiley and Brady stared at me.

  “Sorry. Thinking about something else.”

  “Well, if I drop you off at your car, can you take Lennox home?” Kiley asked Brady. “All these supplies belong to the center and I have to return them today.”

  What was she doing?

  “Besides, you need to know where we live before your date tonight anyway.”

  “True.” Brady smiled at me and drained his bottle of water. “A ride would be great.”

  I called shotgun like a fifteen-year-old boy.

  Kiley was preoccupied on the drive, and I didn’t press her to talk, because cha
nces were she couldn’t tell me anyway if it involved her kids.

  Ten minutes after we left the park, we pulled into the parking lot. “Which car is yours?” she asked.

  “The black BMW in the corner.”

  “Sweet ride.”


  “Thank you for showing up today.”

  “Truly my pleasure, Kiley.” Brady exited the car.

  I started to get out, but Kiley put her hand on my thigh. “If Mr. Tall, Dark and Smolderingly Sexy doesn’t demand you grab your stuff and start the date with him right away? Wear your leather skirt tonight.”


  “Because you are smokin’ hot in that skirt and you’ll have every man in that fancy club panting after you. Oh—and pair it with that shirt. The one with the chains. Girl, you look fine in that and I never see you wear it.”

  “Any suggestions on shoes?” I asked sarcastically.

  “Patent leather spike-heeled pumps. And wear your hair up.” She patted my leg. “I won’t barge in tomorrow morning and demand details, just in case you’re not alone.”

  “I’m not sleeping with him on the first date, Kiley. Geez.” With that, I got out of the car.

  I knocked on the nearly black window on the passenger side of Brady’s car. The locking mechanism clicked and I slid inside.

  The interior was gray and molded around me as if I’d strapped into a rocket ship. “Whoa.”

  “Like it?”

  “It’s . . . space-age. Does it go fast?”

  He flashed me a boyish grin. “Oh, yeah. Scared myself the first time I floored it. But it hasn’t stopped me from doing it again and again.”

  I laughed.

  “What’s your address?” he asked and started poking buttons on the center console.

  I gave it to him and he punched it into the GPS.

  We weren’t talkative as we cruised along, and for the first time the silence between us was awkward.

  “I was really surprised to see you this morning,” he said.

  “More surprised than when you saw me last night?”

  Brady seemed at a loss for words. He muttered something.

  “What did you say?”

  “Juice said he sucks at math? I suck at this.”

  I frowned. “I’m not following you. You suck at what?”

  His hands tightened on the steering wheel. “Making small talk.”

  “You did great with those kids today.”

  “I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about this.” He gestured between us. “I won’t force you to go on a date with me, Lennox, if you’d rather not. I’ve already had one woman—although calling her that is a bit of a stretch—ditch me mid-date. Granted, it was more of a favor than a date, but I fear that maybe you’ll see this as an obligation, and that’s almost worse.”

  I couldn’t have said what made me happier: Brady admitting a previous date had ditched him or that he wasn’t confident when it came to dating. Seeing that imperfection in Mr. Perfect . . . it made him even more perfect in my eyes. I set my hand on his forearm. “You’re not an obligation.”

  “Good to know.”

  “Set the scene for tonight. Tell me how you see it playing out.”

  He blushed. Omigod he was so freakin’ cute when he blushed. “I pick you up, we’d have dinner at the Korean-French restaurant on Marquette. Then, if we’re feeling energetic, we hit the club, we dance, we have a drink or two, we stay there for a while after we find the only quiet corner where we can talk, but don’t close the place down. Then I take you home, you invite me in, we tear each other’s clothes off and go at it right there on the staircase.”

  I swiveled around to gape at him.

  Brady laughed. “Just seeing if you were paying attention.”

  “I am. But my mind got stuck on fusion food.”

  “Not your favorite?”

  “I don’t like my food mixed up.”

  “Guess I won’t be making my famous tater tot casserole for you.”

  I laughed.

  “Christ, you have a sexy laugh,” Brady said. “That’s how I first noticed you.”

  “What do you mean? Last week was the first time you’ve ever spoken to me.”

  He shot me a quick grin. “Exactly. But it wasn’t the first time I noticed you. That was months ago. I wasn’t sure which department you worked in when I saw you down the hallway from the break room. But you were with that redhead from your office and you were laughing. There was just something about your laugh . . .”

  Brady seemed embarrassed again and I don’t know why I rushed to reassure him. “I’m happy to hear you liked my laugh rather than you telling me I sounded like a snorting donkey or something and that’s why you noticed me.”

  “Never.” He pulled up in front of my house and put the car in park. “What time should I pick you up?”

  I faced him and discovered he’d moved closer. So that gorgeous face with the vibrant blue eyes and full lips was right there. If I leaned back, he’d take it the wrong way. Heck, I’d take it the wrong way. More than anything, I wanted to angle forward and have a taste of him.

  Fortunately, my head controlled the situation, not my mouth. “I have a list of things to do today that I’ve been putting off.” Not a total lie. “And if you’re serious about trying to get into that club, I’d rather not go dancing after eating a heavy meal.”

  “Good point. We’ll break this up into two dates. Clubbing tonight, dinner another night. And never fear, dancing queen, I’ll get us into the club.”

  No doubt a few phone calls from him and we’d be in. It’d be best to remember that the Lund family name wielded results. “Fine. Pick me up at nine?”

  “Perfect.” He smiled and his gaze dropped to my mouth. “Feel free to wear the lip ring,” he murmured. “It might actually be sexier than your laugh.”

  Holy crap. When he turned on his sexual charisma, he cranked it to high.

  Just to be ornery, I moved in and angled my head so I could rub that gold hoop across his bottom lip.

  Brady inhaled sharply but he didn’t move.

  I said, “See you at nine,” and got out of his car.

  Chapter Ten



  I had to work after I dropped Lennox off. I knew if I went home I’d obsess for hours about our upcoming date. Focusing on numbers would keep my mind off her.

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