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What you need, p.17
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       What You Need, p.17

         Part #1 of Need You series by Lorelei James
 

  After he finished, he sent Tawny in with aftercare instructions and he disappeared into the back room.

  And it was done.

  The whole thing was a little anticlimactic, really.

  I paid and put my shirt and suit jacket back on while I waited in the reception area for Lennox to finish up. With the aftercare booklet was a photocopy of Zorn’s design with a color key for each section.

  “Is that your tat?” Lennox asked, peering over my arm.

  “Yes.”

  “What is it?”

  “The Jensen family crest and the Lund corporate logo melded into one image. I sent Zorn the two images and he combined them into one design.”

  “Brady. That is really cool.”

  I pushed a flyaway hank of her hair behind her ear. “You approve?”

  “Yes.” She stood on tiptoe and kissed me. “It means something to you, so now I believe you won’t have regrets.” She smirked. “At least until your high-society family freaks that the prodigal son got a tattoo.”

  “I’ve got a plan for that.” I kissed her nose. “Blame you.”

  “If that’s the case, then I’m skipping the family deal this weekend.”

  I tugged her against me. “I was joking.”

  “So we’re still on for dinner?”

  “It’s almost nine thirty.”

  “So?”

  I happened to glance out the window and in the streetlight’s glow I saw it had started snowing. “The Maybach isn’t good in this weather.”

  “Did you do this on purpose?”

  “What? Make it snow?”

  She rolled her eyes. “Take the fancy car, knowing the weather was going to turn. And then you’ll be all like, ‘Maybe you should just stay at my place tonight, Lennox.’ Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.”

  “And that idea is appalling to you?”

  “It’s manipulative. You said you’d take me to dinner. Now you’re trying to turn it into something else. So you know what? Forget it. I’ll just take a cab home.”

  Lennox acted possessive in public, but when it came time for the two of us to spend time alone . . . she balked? That made no sense. And since the snow was coming down harder, I didn’t have time to wait around while she waged an internal war with herself.

  “If that’s what you want,” I said to her. “Thanks for coming along. I’ll see you at the office.” I popped the collar of my jacket and hustled outside to my car.

  *

  Lennox

  My arm had started to sting from my tattoo touch-up.

  At least that’s what I’d told myself when I poured bourbon into my hot tea.

  I’d needed a shot of alcohol to calm me down. I hadn’t retreated from Brady because I was afraid of how the night would end. I’d retreated from Brady because I’d known exactly how it would end.

  The entire scene had played out in my head on fast-forward. We’d arrive at his trendy apartment. We’d crack open a bottle of wine. We’d have the requisite amount of small talk before we’d start to make out. Things would get hot and heavy. We’d adjourn to his bedroom and slowly peel off each other’s clothes. Then we’d make love. It would all be very . . . nice.

  But I didn’t want nice. I wanted his heat and passion. I wanted the man I’d tangoed with Saturday night.

  So yes, I’d retreated—for Brady’s own good.

  Although Brady had stepped outside his comfort zone and into a tattoo shop, he’d micromanaged every detail beforehand. While I wasn’t an advocate of showing up drunk and having some hack tattoo artist ink a lame Chinese symbol onto a random body part, I also knew he didn’t understand spontaneity.

  I wasn’t sure if that was something I could teach him. Or, more to the point, if that was something he wanted to learn. He’d told me that all the crazy physical challenges he’d done with his brothers and his cousins hadn’t been his thing. He wanted to find his own track, off the beaten path. I could take him only so far; he had to take that first step, and no way was I making it easy on him. He wanted to be wild? I wasn’t falling into his bed when he didn’t have another, better plan.

  The front door opened. Clothing rustled and then Kiley appeared in the doorway, big chunks of snow covering her black hair. “Hey, girl. It’s getting crappy out there.”

  “I know. I don’t think my cabbie knew how to drive on snow.”

  “Why does it seem like all the cab companies in the Twin Cities are hiring Somolian immigrants? There’s no snow in Somolia! Of course these guys don’t have a clue how to drive on snow and ice.” Her brown eyes narrowed. “Why did you take a cab home? Something wrong with your car?”

  “No. I left it in the parking garage since Brady and I had plans after work.”

  Kiley placed her hands on her hips and cocked her head at me. “You telling me that man didn’t drive you home after your damn date?”

  “Simmer down, mama bear.” I sipped my tea. “We spent time together, and when it started to snow, he was more concerned about getting his fancy car back home than he was about anything else. It rubbed me the wrong way. So I told him I’d take a cab.”

  “Lemme get a toddy and I’ll be back to discuss this in detail.”

  There was one drawback to having a counselor as a roommate: Everything was subject to an in-depth conversation. And this time, when I needed some advice, I couldn’t tell her what was really going on without breaking Brady’s confidence.

  Kiley had slipped on a pair of flannel pajama pants and her slippers when she shuffled back into the living room with a mug of tea. “You know, this flowery shit ain’t half bad with booze in it.”

  “How’d your meeting go tonight?”

  She scowled. “No luck in finding a permanent venue. And with the weather like this, I can’t continue to meet with the kids outside. So I won’t need your help this Saturday. But I do have hopes that there will be good news at next week’s meeting since we have three leads on other places.”

  “I’ll help in whatever way I can.”

  “I appreciate that. Now recap the evening’s events for me.”

  “There’s nothing else to add. Wait, he did plan on taking me to dinner. But we got done late . . . and then he made that stupid comment about needing to get his car home because it wasn’t made for snow or something like that.”

  “He was talking about that sweet Beemer he was driving on Saturday?”

  “No. It was a different car.”

  “What kind of car?” she prompted.

  “I don’t know. I tune out when guys start talking car stuff.” I thought back. “It’s a . . . May something or other.”

  “A Maybach?”

  “Yeah, that’s it.”

  “Well, that makes sense he’d be freaking the hell out about getting that car inside.”

  “It’s a car, Kiley.”

  “It’s a car that costs upwards of a million dollars, Lennox,” she chided.

  I choked on my tea. “What?”

  “Every Maybach is custom ordered and custom built. So if he took you out in that car, he was seriously trying to impress you.”

  “But that’s the thing! I don’t know cars, I don’t care about them, and if Brady knew anything about me at all he’d know that wouldn’t impress me.” I exhaled. “And yeah, now I get why he wanted to get the million-dollar baby out of the elements, but I couldn’t help but feel I’d already served my purpose to him. That’s why I took a cab home.”

  Kiley ran her finger around the rim of her cup. “So if Brady would’ve said, ‘Tough crap, get in the car and after I switch it out I’ll take you home in something more weather appropriate and then I’m feeding you at my favorite restaurant’ . . .”

  “I would’ve done what he asked.” I hated admitting that.

  “Well, well. My roomie has a submissive streak.”

  “What? No! No way.”

  “You like it when Brady gets all bossy and decisive. You’re not mad about the car; you’re mad he let you go without a fight.”
r />   Okay. Although I hadn’t given Kiley all the details, she had gotten some things right.

  I did like it when Brady took control. That was what had made me so hot for him Saturday night. He’d touched me, kissed me, even danced with me the way he’d wanted.

  That had been powerful stuff.

  “Lennox?”

  I looked at Kiley. “I dislike it intensely when you’re right.”

  She grinned. She despised the word “hate” and had stricken it from her vocabulary and banned the use of it in her house. “So send the man a text and see if he made it home all right.”

  “We didn’t exchange numbers.”

  “Why not?”

  “I don’t know. I guess maybe he knows he can get ahold of me at work.”

  “Think he’ll do that tomorrow?”

  I shook my head. “I have a dental appointment, so I’m taking the entire day off as a personal day.”

  “Nice. They’re predicting snow tomorrow and Saturday, but promise me you won’t sit around and mope all weekend.”

  “I don’t mope.” I finished my tea. “Where will you be?”

  “Since I don’t have a place for my kids Saturday, I signed up for a seminar in St. Cloud. I leave in the morning and won’t be back until Sunday night.”

  The prospect of a long weekend by myself didn’t fill me with the usual elation.

  Kiley stood. “My last bit of advice, roomie. Don’t be stubborn. You knew going into this thing with Brady that he has the mind of a CFO, not a lothario. Work with him. Be forgiving of his slipups. And bear in mind you’re not perfect either.”

  *

  The next afternoon I’d changed into sweatpants after returning from the dentist. I had my laptop out and I’d finished my weekly bookkeeping when two loud raps vibrated against the door.

  Probably the UPS man.

  I’d grab the package later.

  Two more raps. Louder.

  I set my computer aside and headed down the stairs. I flipped the locks and opened the door as far as the chain would allow. I started to say, “Just leave it,” when I noticed it wasn’t the UPS man.

  Brady stood there, peering at me through the crack.

  “Let me in.”

  “What are you doing here?”

  “I’ll tell you if you let me in. It’s cold as balls out here.”

  I closed the door in his face and allowed myself a quick, happy grin before I resumed a blank expression and reopened the door.

  He stomped the snow off his shoes on the outside mat before he came in. “I didn’t see you at work today—”

  “I had a dental appointment and I cleared it with my supervisor so it’s not like I called in sick—”

  Brady placed his mouth over mine. His lips were cold, as were his cheeks, but his tongue was warm. He kissed me for a good long time. When he eased back, my fingers were clutching the edges of his coat and I’d pressed myself against his body—for warmth, since we’d left the front door wide open.

  I reached around him and slammed the door shut.

  Then he kissed me again. “I didn’t embellish this,” he muttered against my mouth.

  No, he hadn’t. In fact, I think I hadn’t given enough credit to how physically compatible we were.

  “Why are you here?”

  “I didn’t like how things ended between us last night.” He rested his forehead to mine. “Christ. I let you take a fucking cab home. I should’ve tossed you in my car and made you come with me.”

  “Yes, you should have.”

  “So that’s why I’m not giving you a choice this time.” He stepped back and tapped my ass. “Get packed. You’ll want a bunch of cold-weather clothing. Pajamas. Anything else you’ll need the next two nights.”

  “What are you talking about? I can’t just leave.”

  “Why not? You have other plans for this weekend?”

  “No, but—”

  His thick fingers covered my lips. “You told me being impulsive was the key to getting wild. So the advice you gave me isn’t the same advice you’d take yourself?”

  Dammit.

  “Ah. It’s true.” He paused and his eyes searched mine. “Were you dancing on the bar that night because you needed a reminder that you used to be spontaneous? Is that why you agreed to help me in my quest to find my wild side?”

  I raised my chin. “Projecting much?”

  He laughed. “Defensive much?”

  “So if I decide to go on this crazy quest with you, where would we be going?”

  “You ask too many questions. You’re either in or you’re out.”

  “If I say out . . . ?”

  “Then I’d cluck like a chicken at you before I left for my fun-filled weekend. But I’d be back on Sunday morning to pick you up for the football game.”

  “It’d almost be worth it to hear your imitation of a chicken.”

  Brady smiled. “Come on. Be daring.”

  “Fine. But this place we’re going better have coffee. Because I’m not a nice person until I’ve had at least two cups of joe in the morning.”

  “I can promise you coffee. Now are you coming with me? Or am I going alone?”

  “I’ll come with you.” I started up the stairs. “But fair warning—I’m a notoriously slow packer.”

  “I’ve got nothing but time to wait for you, baby.”

  Chapter Thirteen

  Lennox

  ‡

  Brady carried my duffel to the back of his Land Rover. After he climbed in the driver’s side, he said, “This vehicle is a much better choice than the Maybach.”

  “You’re a car guy.”

  “Unapologetically a car guy. The bottom half of my warehouse is dedicated to my car collection.”

  “You live in a warehouse?”

  “Yes, in the Old Mill District. You know where that is?”

  “That’s a cool part of town. One of the most recent areas to get urban-renewal funds.”

  “Which was a good idea in theory, but it lacked execution.”

  His mind fascinated me. “How so?”

  “Four of the six board members on the restoration committee board were Realtors. So they almost had the city convinced to condemn the entire area rather than restore. Then they could’ve put in housing units at least six stories tall, on the river, with retail spaces between the residences and little to no green space.
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