Mia Briggs is a smart woman who did a stupid, stupid thing. At 22 years old, she’s fresh out of college, and on the run from a dangerous man for a crime she committed out of desperation. She travels to New York City, where she hopes she can lie low for long enough to figure a way out of the mess she’s made.
Everything goes according to plan. Then Mia gets in a bind, and Caleb Simmons comes to her rescue.
A billionaire with a mysterious history of his own, Caleb is sexy, kind, and way out of Mia’s league – or so she thinks. They share one amazing night together that unexpectedly turns into so much more.
Even though Caleb knows Mia is hiding something from him, he offers her shelter and safety. He’s determined to protect her at all costs, even though he doesn’t know who or what he’s protecting her from.
When Mia’s dirty little secrets come to light, she and Caleb show each other what it means to do anything for love.
“You look so hot in that dress. I just want to put my mouth all over you.”
The voice comes from behind me, and is too close to my ear for its owner to be talking to anyone but me. I steady myself for the reveal, because I know that when I turn around to let this guy off easy, I’m going to be looking into the face of a disgusting, smarmy barfly who thinks that’s the kind of compliment that’s going to get me to go home with him.
No “Hello, nice to meet you.” No “Let me buy you a drink.” He just goes straight for the kill, which I suppose is a blessing. At least I know what he wants from me right away.
I shift uncomfortably in my seat in the middle of the not-so-crowded hotel bar, and turn to face the man who just spoke to me. He reeks of booze, even though happy hour is still in its infancy. He’s disheveled and greasy, and he’s looking at me like I’m some kind of dessert. My gaze drifts over his shoulder, looking around to see if I notice anyone suspicious. He could be some kind of a decoy to distract me, for all I know.
I don’t get any bad vibes from anyone in the room, apart from this guy, and there’s no way I’m giving him the time of day. That’s bad news for him, because I’m probably the most desperate woman he’ll find in this bar tonight. Hell, I might just be the most desperate woman in the city. I’m on the run from a dangerous man who probably wants me dead. I’m low on cash, and scared I’ll run out before I figure a way out of the mess I’ve managed to get myself into, and I don’t know where I’ll be staying after tomorrow night.
Despite all that, even I’m not desperate enough to go home with this guy, even if it will buy me a few hours of oblivion and a little bit of safety.
With the toe of my shoe, I shift my bag beneath my barstool, making sure it’s still there. I’ve got one of its straps wrapped around my ankle, so I’ll know if anyone tries to take it. I’m hyper-vigilant about theft of my belongings anyway, but everything I managed to pack before I hastily left my apartment in Chicago is in this bag.
It’s all I’ve got for now, so I’ve got to keep a close eye on it. If I lose it, I might as well turn myself over to the man who is looking for me. His name is Andre Privya, and it’s not a question of if he’ll find me, it’s when. I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to come up with a way to get myself out of his crosshairs before that inevitable moment comes.
“Did you hear what I said?” Douchebag asks.
I left Chicago three days ago under the cloak of night, and I’ve been here in Manhattan ever since. In that time, I think my fight-or-flight response has served me well. This guy doesn’t exactly scream “hitman” to me, but I know I should steer clear of him if only because he seems like a gross, terrible person.
“I did,” I reply, stirring my drink. I’ve got to keep a close eye on that, and make sure he doesn’t slip me something. He seems like the type who would. “I’m flattered, but I’m not interested.”
Douchebag looks annoyed, like I expected he would, but he isn’t willing to back down just yet. “Let me buy you a drink and see if I can change your mind.”
I look him right in the eyes and say, “No.”
He’s got this smirk on his stupid, smarmy face, and I know he thinks that I’m playing hard to get. He thinks this is game, and he’s sure he’s going to win. “Bartender,” he says, raising his hand.
I shake my head. “No. I don’t want a drink.”
“She said no.” A hand claps down hard on Douchebag’s shoulder, right before he is whirled around to face what has to be one of the handsomest men I’ve ever seen in my life. Handsome and full of righteous anger, which I’m finding incredibly attractive, I’m not ashamed to admit. “Do you understand what ‘no’ means?”
Douchebag nods shakily. “Y-yes.”
“Then why are you still standing here?”
Just like that, Douchebag hightails it out of the bar, and into the hotel’s lobby.
“Is everything okay?” This gorgeous man is looking at me with such concern in his soulful green eyes, and I can’t seem to find my voice.
All I can do is nod slowly, taking in the view before me. He is really, incredibly tall. And from the looks of it, he’s broad and muscular, but unfortunately his well-tailored suit is hiding a lot of the aforementioned muscles, just giving me the slightest hint of what is waiting below in the way it hugs his body. He has a head full of light brown hair with a few highlights mixed in, like he has just spent some time out in the sun. His eyes are friendly, and way too easy to get lost in.
I shouldn’t be getting lost in anyone’s eyes right now; it could be dangerous. Strangely, though, I don’t feel like I’m in danger with him.
“Yes,” I finally manage to say. “I’m fine. Thank you for that.”
He smiles, and that smile is too easy to get lost in, as well. Why did this stupidly beautiful man have to show up here, now, when I absolutely cannot afford to let myself get swept off of my feet? Why couldn’t I have met someone like him in Chicago? If I hadn’t left town, if I hadn’t done such an idiotic, dangerous thing…
“You have nothing to thank me for,” he replies. “I hate that we live in a world where my ‘no’ carries more weight than yours does.”
Oh, he’s good. It’s a little difficult to get a read on him, but I don’t think he’s feeding me a line here. I want to believe him, that much is true.
“I’m going to grab a drink. Can I get you anything?”
“No,” I reply, tapping my glass. “I’m good, thank you.”
“Would you like some company, or-”
“Yes,” I reply without even a moment’s hesitation. “I’d love some company.” He’s handsome and friendly, and I suppose it’s better to be safe than sorry, just in case the guy who was just hitting on me decides to come back. I’d also like to be in this man’s presence for a little while longer, strange as that seems. I’m just not ready for him to leave yet.
“What’s your name?” he asks.
“Mia.” Immediately I wonder if I should’ve given him a fake name. That probably would’ve been the smart thing to do, but it’s too late now.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mia,” he says, offering me his hand. I reach out and take it, feeling a little thrill shoot through me when we touch. “I’m Caleb.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“I’ll be right back,” he tells me, his hand lingering in mine until he absolutely has to pull away.
My stomach swoops as he walks away, and I’m in trouble, I know it. It’s not the kind of trouble I’ve been running away from for the past three days, though; it’s the kind of trouble that makes me want to run toward it, full speed, even though I know it’s probably a terrible idea.
While Caleb walks over to the other side of the bar, he watches me out of the corner of his eye. I’m not sure if he’s doing it because he thinks I’m going to get up and walk away, or because he wants to make sure the guy who was hitting on me doesn’t return. Either way, I feel comforted in a way that I haven’t since I figured out that Privya and his goons were onto me, and I needed to get out of Chicago as soon as possible.
Caleb glances my way from the bar, and he smiles at me. It’s not the sweet, helpful smile that he gave me earlier, when he was dispatching the douchebag. No, this smile has heat behind it; it makes the hairs on my arms stand on end with anticipation. This smile makes me want him. Badly.
Despite my body’s apparent desire to get completely swept up by this man’s charms and looks, my mind keeps replaying this niggling thought that this could be some kind of trap. Maybe I’m not as on top of Privya and his whereabouts as I think I am. My computer skills are stellar—which is how I got myself into this mess in the first place—but there’s the slightest chance that I’m wrong about where he is. I’ve been planting false trails around Chicago to fool him into thinking that I haven’t left town. What if he’s doing the same?
I’m reasonably sure that Privya wouldn’t go so far as to have one of his men hit on me in a bar. If he has enough intel on me to know I’m staying in this hotel, then he’d just show up at my door and kidnap me or something. Men like him don’t have much finesse, they just see their objective and take aim. Besides, any professional criminal would never leave me alone, giving me the chance to escape, while he went to the bar to get himself some scotch.
No, this is just a handsome man with a good streak in him. I shouldn’t look into it any more than that.
I catch Caleb’s eye while he’s in the middle of a conversation with the bartender that I can tell he desperately wants to get out of. I attempt a seductive slide off of my barstool, if such a thing is even possible, then reach down and grab my bag. Caleb’s face brightens when he sees me heading his way, and I can feel him watching me. It’s not the look of a man who is after me for things that I’ve done, it’s the look of a man who wants to do things to me. Filthy, wonderful things. The look is…it’s too much. It sends a jolt of anticipatory panic through my veins, and like a coward, I take a detour and head left.
Right into the ladies’ room.
There isn’t anyone in here, thankfully, and I take a second to stare at my reflection in the mirror. With chocolate brown hair, hazel eyes, and my head held high, no one would take me for a coward. No one would take me for a criminal, either, though I’m definitely one of those now. Even though I stole from a terrible person for noble reasons, I’m still a thief, aren’t I?
An impulsive, cowardly thief.
I have a man who is looking at me like he wants to devour me, and I walk into the bathroom? How I’ve ever managed to get laid is beyond me.
I want to go back to the bar and talk to Caleb. I want to see where this thing between us goes. I need this. I need the stress relief. I want it, too. I want to lose myself in the arms of a handsome stranger, even if it is just for one night.
Running my fingers through my hair, I take a deep, cleansing breath. What do I have to lose if I spend one night with him?
As long as he’s not one some kind of a decoy, absolutely nothing.
No, he’s not a decoy. He’s not. I know it in my bones.
I readjust my bag on my shoulder before I make my way back into the bar. I don’t see Caleb at first, but then I feel his fingertips slide along the crook inside my elbow. The touch is light, but full of intent. He wants me to turn around, but he doesn’t want to force it.
I stop—of course I stop—and he moves in, like he’s going to tell me a secret.
Whatever it is he has to say, I have never wanted to hear something so badly in my entire life.
“Don’t walk away from me, Mia,” he whispers. His voice is low and firm, but there’s an undercurrent of pleading in it.
I couldn’t walk away if I tried.