Charlie descended the wall too quickly and scraped the sides of her palms. It was either slow way down, or endure more scrapes. Finally, she dropped the last ten feet to the ground. The lights from the fire trucks spun wildly against the buildings through the tiny vertical view, and she had no idea how close they would come to her location between the buildings.
She’d thrown her backpack down first, before climbing out the window, and now stooped to pick it up. She barely straightened, intent on slipping through the puzzle-pieced walkways to emerge far away from the scene without calling attention to herself.
Then she realized she wasn’t alone.
Thick arms circled her waist as she tried to run and someone knocked her to the ground. He angled his shoulder and kept her from hitting too hard, taking her weight as she fell.
His big body landed half on top of her legs and held her still, one hand covering her mouth. A hand that smelled of pencils, not of smoke and sulfur. Not that she would have screamed. Better one witness to lose than a passel of them come to her rescue.
She bit hard on the finger that rested against her lips, then rolled sideways, trying to wriggle away. Who the hell would be back here anyway? Though the sun had yet to peel away the inky darkness, she could see the man’s face easily. The black arched brows, thick ebony hair…face full of accusation. Vaiden.
“Ow! What the hell did you do that for?” He shook his hand and then sucked the finger she’d chomped.
He backed up, still on the ground, but she grabbed his arm, pulling him closer to the wall and out of range of the lights. Her determination to get away unseen dissolved into irritation. First he had her tailed, and now this?
“You followed me?” She whispered harshly and pressed him against one wall.
“Had you followed. But you managed to ditch your tail when you got on campus. When I saw the fire trucks I figured you had to be in the middle of it. Trouble follows you.” His hands rested on her waist, so easily. Too natural. She inched away before her body did what it wanted and leaned in against his strength. She had to fight this damned attraction. She’d end up hurting him if she didn’t stop.
He followed, taking a step closer, never taking his hands from her waist. “What are you doing, Charlie?”
“I needed something from my father’s journals. They’re kept in the records room. And, no, it couldn’t wait.” She wished she could see him, but when she’d pulled him against the building, she’d lost that advantage. The night filled the passage, and except for his hands, gentle on her hips now, she wouldn’t have known where he stood, much less what he was doing with his face.
“So you admit you were breaking and entering?”
“I wouldn’t call it ‘breaking’. It’s not as if I broke any locks.”
He sighed. “Charlie you scaled a wall and went in through a window. I think that’s pretty classic B and E.”
His scent swept past her nostrils and she closed her eyes. His mouth grazed her cheekbone and she held her breath.
“You smell like smoke.”
She exhaled. “Yeah, well, I had company. A little firebug.” She puffed a bit of air from her nose in anger. When she got a hold of—
“This isn’t funny. You could go to jail.” His fingers tightened on her side and held the material of her shirt to keep her from getting away.
The jackass thought she set the fire?
She placed her palms on his chest and heaved. Like trying to move a wall of stone. “Why would I destroy my own father’s materials?” She almost screeched, but was careful to keep her voice down. Most likely the firemen were making enough of their own noise and wouldn’t hear them far way between the buildings, but she didn’t want to take a chance.
He spoke against her ear. “I don’t know, but I assure you I intend to find out.”
He actually thought she’d broken in to do harm. She wanted to kick him in the shin, but knew from experience that there were better ways to get a man to release her, and in the process shock him long enough to get away. She closed her eyes, sure that she would regret what she had to do. She opened her mouth and extended her tongue, making contact with Vaiden’s neck just below his ear. Then moaned his name.
He stiffened, then clenched her tighter as she kissed his throat. “Charlie, stop.”
The pulse that beat erratically beneath her lips reminded her that Vaiden was all man, and he did want her. Power was a heady feeling, but she hated this abuse of it. He’d be angry later when he realized she’d tricked him.
At last she kissed him full on the mouth, feeling empty triumph when he returned the kiss. She had no need to fake her desire for him. He made her smolder with only a look. Maybe the dark did have its advantages after all.
Her hands sought his loosened tie and jerked it from his collar. Her skin sizzled as his hands slid beneath her shirt. She feigned a struggle with the buttons of his oxford to get him to remove his hands from her. When he did, she mouthed an apology he would never see, tightened her hold on her pack, and ran from him. As fast as her feet could carry her.
Vaiden sagged against the wall and grinned at Charlie’s fading footsteps. She might think she’d gotten away with something. Two could play that game.
He’d wondered how he’d get the tracking device on her. Her little kissing game had provided the perfect opportunity. Though he’d enjoyed her ruse, and in fact almost forgot to stick the tiny metal disk in her backpack, her sudden assault on his neck had set warning bells clanging louder than the fire truck sirens.
Seeing her shimmying down the side of the building had stopped his heart. If she’d fallen…
But she hadn’t. She’d moved like a pro, which meant she’d done this before.