Crossing The Line

March 24, 2020 – Wilde Ways, Book 7

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Partners…with benefits.

Your partner knows your secrets. Your partner watches your back. Your partner…is the star of your fantasies?

Linc Dalton knows that he is supposed to keep his hands off his partner…well, unless he is protecting Blair Kincaid’s gorgeous body. She’s his partner at an elite security and protection firm. Their job is to guard the wealthy, to take out the bad guys, and to generally kick butt. He trusts Blair completely. He admires her strength and courage. And he wants her desperately. Not that he ever intends to let her know that fun fact. Instead, he keeps up a fake persona where he offers her jokes and flippant comments.

Blair is straight-laced. By-the-book. Always by-the-book. Linc likes things a bit wilder. Control isn’t his strong suit, but, with a massive effort, he’s kept his control in place around Blair. With Blair, he’s on his best behavior…

Until he isn’t. Until they get a new case. Until they have to go undercover as lovers.

And, suddenly, Linc has to put his hands on Blair’s delectable form. He has to stay very close to her. Has to whisper sweet promises to her. Has to share the same bed with Blair. It’s just a cover story. He’s not really in love with her…except, one night, they cross the line. Stop being pretend lovers and become the real thing. Once Linc has Blair, there is no turning back. Giving her up isn’t an option.

She broke the rules, and for once, Blair doesn’t care.

She shouldn’t have done it. Blair knows she shouldn’t have let the desire she feels for Linc sweep her away. Yet she did, and now, everything has changed. She wants him more than ever before, and, surely, they can do this, right? They can be lovers and partners and still get the job done. As long as emotions don’t get involved, everything is fine.

Until it isn’t. Until Blair and Linc are targeted as prey. Until all of their emotions are out of control.

When their cover is blown, Blair and Linc find themselves being hunted. It’s a race for survival, and Blair knows that Linc has her back. Just as she has his. Prepare yourself…things are about to get wild.

The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, and Linc and Blair are about to turn things red-hot. Molten level. Watch out…you just might get burned.

Author’s Note: These partners have been on a slow-burn path, but their desire is about to ignite into an inferno they can’t control. You ready to steam up the pages? We’ve got action, thrills, romance…and a hero who is funny, sexy, and willing to do anything to claim his lady. CROSSING THE LINE is a complete, stand-alone novel. Guaranteed happily-ever-after (though reaching that ending will sure be fun…and a wee bit dangerous). Enjoy!

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Chapter One

“If his hand moves any closer to your ass, I will happily break his fingers,” Linc Dalton rasped as he lifted his drink to his lips. He didn’t actually drink the whiskey—the movement was designed to hide the fact that he was talking. He knew his mic link had picked up his words when, at the end of the bar, his partner gave a slow, negative shake of her head.

“I’ve got this,” Blair Kincaid said, her voice sliding directly into Linc’s ear even though she was a good fifteen feet away from him. But, hell, the tech at Wilde Securities was top notch. Super tiny, super sensitive, and, of course, super expensive. That was the only way Linc’s boss rolled.

Linc lowered his glass back to the scarred bar top as he tried not to let his gaze linger on his partner. Sure enough, Blair had this. She caught the wandering fingers of the jerk next to her. Lifted them off her person and put the fellow’s hand on the bar top.

The tall, hair-too-styled, beard-too-trimmed guy frowned at the movement, and he leaned in way too close to her.

Back off, jackass. You’re in her personal space.

Linc locked his back teeth. Blair was supposed to get close to the creep. The fellow was taking the bait like he was freaking starving and she was the best feast he’d ever seen. Sure, Blair looked great that night. She always looked great. But the skin-tight dress she wore showed off every curve of her body, and the neckline dipped damn low. Her hair was down—that thick, dark mane slid over her shoulders—and she’d painted her bow-shaped lips a slick red.

“What do you have, sweet thing?” the dick asked, obviously confused by her words.

“I’ve got my drink. That’s what I was talking about. You don’t have to buy me one. I can take care of myself.”

Yeah, yeah, I get it. That last bit is aimed at me. But…a partner was supposed to have your back. He was just watching out for her.

“We should get out of here,” the jerk with her suddenly announced. His words transmitted easily into Linc’s ear piece.

Linc’s eyes narrowed. What about your wife, asshole? What about her?

“And where would we go?” Blair asked.

Linc stiffened. Her voice was all low and sexy and not at all Blair’s normal tone.

Once more, the guy’s fingers slid down the curve of Blair’s back. Got way too close to her ass. The dude was just begging for those fingers to get broken.

“We’ll go where we won’t be bothered,” the idiot said smoothly. “Where I can take this dress off you…”

Linc shot to his feet.

The bartender frowned at him. “Everything okay, buddy?”

Blair had laughed and slid off her barstool. She stood in her sexy red heels, and Linc saw her remove the tiny transmitter she wore with a casual flick of her hand—a flick the jerk with her would never notice. Then she turned and strolled out with the idiot who appeared to be a walking GQ ad. Except for that scraggily-ass beard.

The bartender followed Linc’s gaze. Gave a commiserating laugh. “I know, some assholes have all the luck, right?”

Tonight, his luck is changing. And he needed to fucking stop touching Blair. Linc tossed down some money for the bartender and slid through the crowd. He took out his own transmitter and listening device and shoved the tech in his pocket. Blair was clearly indicating that the case was over, and it was time to move in. He wanted to get to his partner’s side, ASAP.

He didn’t stop when a sexy blonde slipped into his path. Just gave her a nod and kept going. His partner needed him. He sure as hell wasn’t about to be distracted.

Linc shoved open the door and headed out into the already humid Atlanta night. Sure, it was early spring, but Atlanta never got the message when it came to the seasons. But as someone who’d been born and raised there, he loved the heat. He loved the vibe of the city. The energy. He loved his home.

His gaze swung to the left. To the right and—

He has her pinned against the wall.

Linc lunged forward. The dick had trapped Blair between his body and the brick wall of the club, and the fool was going in hard for a kiss.

I don’t think so.

Linc grabbed his shoulder. “That’s my girl.” He yanked the fellow around. “You keep your hands off her.”

The guy’s eyes widened. Jonah Alexander McInnis Shaw the third stared at Linc with the bleary gaze of a drunk man. “Who the hell are you?”

Do not punch him in the face. Do not punch him in the face. That wasn’t part of the plan. But the SOB putting his sloppy lips and his grabby hands all over Blair wasn’t part of the plan, either. So… “I’m the man who’s about to kick your ass because you were trying to make out with my girlfriend.”

Now fear entered the bulging gaze of Jonah Alexander McInnis Shaw the third. His stare swung from Linc—who had several inches and a whole lot of muscle on the jackass—back to Blair.

“Y-you didn’t mention a boyfriend!”

“You didn’t ask,” Blair responded dryly. “And besides, we’re broken up.”

“Are not,” Linc fired back without looking at her. “A break is not a break up. Everyone knows that is not the same thing at all.” Hadn’t Friends settled that years ago?

Jonah stumbled away. “This is a mistake.”

Yeah, buddy, tell it to your wife.

“I-I need to go.” But Jonah’s gaze dipped down Blair’s body once more. A long, slow linger. “Or, um, maybe…if you’re broken up…?”

“Just how drunk are you?” Linc demanded as he moved to stand toe-to-toe with the fellow. “Do you really think I’m going to let you have her? Because I will kick your ass before you even have the chance to swing at me.”

Jonah wilted. Turned and scampered away.

“And your beard looks like shit,” Linc called after him. “Dude, let it grow or shave it totally. It’s like…baby hair on your chin right now.”

The man scampered faster.

Linc tried to relax the tense muscles in his body. They didn’t want to relax. In his mind, he kept seeing that jerk’s hand on Blair. Kept seeing him pinning her against the brick wall. Kept seeing him being barely an inch away from her mouth with his freaky beard and thin lips. With his jaw clenched, Linc growled, “Tell me you got it.”

Silence.

He spun toward her. “B, tell me that—”

She held up her right hand. The light was damn dim out there, but he could clearly see the flash drive in her hand. “How many times do I have to remind you?” She sauntered toward him. Her heels clicked over the concrete. “When it comes to pickpocketing, I am the master.” She slapped her hand against his chest. The flash drive hit his t-shirt. Her hand lingered, pushing that flash drive against him. “I had the drive from him two seconds after he walked up to me at the bar.”

She’d had it that long? “Then why the hell did you come outside with him? Why did you let him put his hands all over you?”

Her brows rose. “Jealous much?”

He—shit. Linc snapped his mouth closed. Tried to think. But her scent was wrapping around him. Blair always liked to rub on this candy apple body cream. He knew it was her favorite because he’d seen her buy it in bulk once. And, yes, the scent was pretty mouth-watering.

Then again, so was she.

“You were glaring at me all night. Way to not be low key, Linc.” Her hand started to slide away.

His whipped up. Caught her wrist. Held her hand against him. “I was looking out for you.”

Their gazes locked. Time seemed to slow down.

“I can handle him.” Blair’s long lashes flickered.

“I know.” He did. She was the most capable partner he’d ever had. And he should shut his mouth. Keep it closed but… “Sure let him get handsy with you.”

Her delicate nostrils flared. “That was part of the deal, remember? I didn’t want to scare him away—”

“Oh, he wasn’t scared. Probably more turned on than he has ever been in his whole life, but definitely not scared. At least, not until I was about to give him an ass kicking—”

“Hey!”

Linc’s head snapped to the left. The asshole in question—that beard was really bad—was rushing back toward them. He was also frantically patting the pockets of his fancy suit.

Uh, oh. Someone realized that his flash drive was missing.

“Hey, I think I dropped something!” Jonah yelled as he rushed closer.

Linc pocketed the flash drive in a quick, practiced move. “Was it your pride?”

Jonah stopped. Frowned. “No. It was…um, a…a drive.”

The drive that you’re supposed to sell to the highest bidder later tonight?

“I had it in the bar,” Jonah muttered. “Had it…Have to find it. It’s the only copy. Have to find it—

“Yeah, well, good luck finding whatever the hell you’ve lost.” Linc twined his fingers with Blair’s. He led her away from Jonah and to the motorcycle that waited at the curb. Blair hated motorcycles, but for their cover tonight, they needed the ride. He slid on first, and she hopped on behind him.

Jonah stopped patting his pockets and his gaze slid over Blair.

Right. When she’d hopped on the bike, her dress must have hiked way up.

Linc reached back, caught the edge of her dress. His hand lingered for just a moment on her thigh.

He felt Blair tense behind him.

Then he yanked the dress down. “For the record, asshole,” he snapped to the bastard who needed to stop gawking at Blair. “She’s a million times out of your league.” He gunned the motorcycle and got them the hell out of there before he did something dumb. Like…

Breaking the bastard’s fingers for fun.

***

Her thighs were still vibrating. The motorcycle had finally stopped—she hated riding on those, especially with Linc because she was ninety-nine percent sure he had a death wish—but Blair’s body still trembled. They were back at the main Wilde Securities building in Atlanta, and Linc had just parked in the cavernous garage. The motorcycle’s growling engine died, but the echo lingered a moment in the air.

She was plastered against Linc. Holding way too tightly so Blair shoved against him. Hopped off. Didn’t even stagger in her heels because yes, she was that good at controlling her body and not letting any weaknesses show.

Linc moved much slower. He was always like that. All slow-moving, as if he had all the time in the world. Well, unless he was attacking someone. In that situation, he moved crazy fast.

She turned away while he did his turtle routine, and Blair marched for the elevator. The sound of his steps followed her as she jabbed her index finger into the elevator’s button.

“So…you’ve got to tell me, Blair…”

The elevator doors opened. She headed inside.

Linc sauntered in, too.

The doors closed. He lifted the flash drive. “Do you think it’s a sex video?”

Her eyes narrowed on him.

He nodded. “The client was paying big bucks to get this thing back. So my money is on a sex video. Or pictures. Could just be pics and no video. Client is probably a celebrity, and I’m betting the jerk tonight wanted to sell the footage to a tabloid in order to get—”

“Everything is not about sex.” Jeez. She sounded prim.

His full lips curved. “A lot of things are.”

He had his shoulders pressed against the wall of the elevator. He wore a black t-shirt that stretched over his muscled chest and loose jeans that encased his long legs. His dark hair was tousled—it was always tousled—and his dark gaze held hers. Stubble covered his jaw. A sexy five o’clock shadow thing that he often rocked.

Oh, God. Did I just think his five o’clock shadow was sexy? The day obviously had been far too long.

She cleared her throat and tried to keep on sounding prim as she told him, “Our job wasn’t to find out what was on the drive. Our job was to just recover it. Other agents made certain it was the only copy. All we had to do was take it. We did.” Done. They were going to turn the drive in to the big boss and, hopefully, no other cases would pop up before she started her vacation.

His gaze slid down her body.

Lingered in a few spaces.

Blair stiffened. “What are you doing?”

His stare rose. “It’s a new dress.”

“It’s one that Wilde gave me. Not my style at all.” Too short, too tight, too plunging with the neck line.

“You look beautiful.”

What? Her lips parted.

Ding. The elevator doors opened.

She practically ran out. And, yes, she could run in heels. A skill she’d practiced. She headed straight for Eric Wilde’s office. Didn’t stop at his assistant’s desk. What was the point? It was late, and the assistant was long gone. She gave a quick rap at the door, barely paused to hear Eric say, “Come in,” before she threw the door open.

Eric was behind his desk, fingers poised over his keyboard. Handsome, smart, and savvy, her boss was one of the richest men in the United States. He’d started Wilde Securities and turned it into the best security agency in the world. Okay, sure, some people said it was the best on the East Coast, but Blair tended to be a bigger picture kind of woman. She thought it was the best in the world. After all, she worked there, didn’t she? And she only worked for the best.

Their clients were high end. Celebrities. Royalty. The rich and famous. But at Wilde, they also took jobs that fell below the radar. Jobs for the government. Jobs that would never be on the books.

Those jobs were Blair’s favorites.

“That was fast.” Eric glanced at his watch. “Thought it would take at least another hour.”

Linc did his slow stroll in the office. “Nah. Blair wore her sexy dress, the mark took one look at her and started salivating, and she had the drive two seconds later.” He put the drive on Eric’s desk but turned his head toward Blair. “That is what you said, wasn’t it? Two seconds?”

She nodded.

“Yeah. The dude looked like the two-second type to me.” Linc’s voice was totally deadpan. “Definitely need to stay away from that kind of guy in the future, Blair. Offering some life advice here. A man like him just leads to disappointment.”

Eric took the drive. A few moments later, he’d accessed the file—a file that he did not show to Blair and Linc. He nodded at whatever appeared on his screen.

Then promptly deleted the file.

“Excellent job,” Eric told them. “The client will be pleased.”

“Was it a sex video?” Linc asked.

Eric’s brows rose.

“That’s what my money is on.” After his annoucement, Linc waited.

Eric didn’t reply.

“I love our talks,” Linc finally told him. “They are always so deep. Meaningful, you know?”

Blair glanced down. Her lips were trying to twitch, and she didn’t want Linc—or Eric—to catch her smiling. Her smile would just encourage Linc, and the man was already encouraged enough as it was.

“There is nothing on the drive,” Eric announced.

“Well, yes,” Linc replied, “nothing now. That’s because your fingers just tap-tap-tapped across the keyboard and you deleted it, but a few minutes before, something was there, and I’m just wondering what it—”

“Need to know,” Eric cut in.

Uh, oh. Eric’s voice was starting to get an edge. Blair stepped forward. Grabbed Linc’s arm.

“Need to know what?” Linc demanded.

“He means that we don’t need to know,” Blair told him crisply. “I don’t think that drive was for some celeb. I think it was for Uncle Sam, and I’m pretty sure Uncle Sam will be handling Jonah Alexander McInnis Shaw the third.” She tugged Linc toward the door. “We’re done. Let’s go.”

“I was working for Uncle Sam?” He let her tug him. “And I didn’t know? Eric, boss, buddy, where is the trust?”

She saw Eric rise. He flattened his hands on the desk. “Good job, agents.”

“It was a killer job,” Linc agreed. “Blair was wearing a killer dress, and I was basically just standing there, but we were one hell of a team.”

They were almost at the door. Freedom waited.

“Be here bright and early tomorrow,” Eric directed.

His words stopped her. Surely, he hadn’t said…early?

“There’s a new assignment. I need you both packed and ready to go.”

Blair dropped her hold on Linc. She spun to face Eric. “I have a vacation starting tomorrow!” She had plans. Plans for the beach. And a bikini. And she had a dolphin cruise booked.

Eric winced. “Sorry. I need you on this one.”

Dammit.

His gaze tracked to Linc. “But I suppose I could send you with a new partner. I mean, Linc’s not as required on this one as you—”

“Wherever Blair goes, I go,” Linc said. His arm brushed against hers. “We’re a package deal. Everyone knows that.”

Now Eric’s lips twitched. “How did I know you were going to say that?”

“I had a new bikini,” Blair muttered. Yes, she was whining. A soon-to-be-canceled vacation entitled her to some whining. “I had sunscreen. I had sunglasses. And a really big, floppy beach hat.”

“Good.” Eric smiled. He seemed way too pleased. “Bring it all. You’ll need everything you’ve mentioned.”

Um…

“We’ll be here bright and early.” Linc nodded firmly. “Count on it.” Then he tugged Blair out of the office.

The door shut behind them with a soft click.

Blair stared at the door. Just stared. Maybe glared.

“So…what does the new bikini look like?”

She slanted her angry gaze Linc’s way.

“Because you know, maybe I should buy swim trunks that match.” He tapped his chin. His dark and deep gaze turned thoughtful. “Or maybe a speedo? Do you think I’d look awesome in a speedo?”

“I’m going home.”

“Is that a yes or a no? Because, seriously, I’ve got abs.”

She knew that. They often worked out together and she knew the man had freaking abs for days. Abs that she’d been ogling when she should not have been looking. And, now, great, he was going to be wearing a swim suit with her? Just what was this assignment?

She turned on her heel and strode very, very quickly for her office. She paused there only long enough to ditch her high heels and grab her tennis shoes. As soon as she slipped them on…

Sweet bliss.

Then she headed for the elevator.

Linc had beaten her there. He held the doors open for her.

A low, appreciative whistle filled the air.

Love the dress. Sexy AF,” Cole Vincent called out as he hurried toward the elevator. Another Wilde agent, he was dressed much like Linc. T-shirt, jeans. But he also had on a loose coat, and the holster from his weapon bulged a bit beneath it. “Hey, man, thanks for holding the elevator for me. Nice.” He slapped Linc on the shoulder.

Linc glowered. “I was holding the elevator for my partner.

Blair shoved her finger on the ground floor button. “I can’t believe my vacation just got canceled.”

“I can’t believe you were going on vacation without telling me!” Linc seemed all affronted.

And, yes, she had kept her vacation plans quiet because…they needed space. Or rather, she did. From him.

“So…where were you going?” Linc fired his questions quickly. “And were you going there alone? Because you didn’t start dating that banker guy again, did you? I told you, he is boring. Being near him makes me want to fall asleep so I can’t imagine why you would—”

She lifted one brow.

“Overstepping,” Cole muttered from the corner of the elevator. “Man, you are so—”

Blair huffed out a breath. “I was going to Seaside, Florida, and I was going to wear my tiniest bikini, and if I felt like hooking up with someone, I was going to do just that.” So there.

Linc’s mouth dropped open.

“But now my plans are on hold, and it looks like I’ll be spending more quality time with you.” Not the best situation because…

Linc was making her feel…nervous lately. She never got nervous. Except with him. Except when his hot, dark eyes locked with hers. Except when she found herself laughing at his jokes and leaning in a little too close.

They needed space. Some serious space. Or at least…she did.

Because last night, oh, God, she’d had a sex dream about Linc. About her partner. How wrong was that?

Her cheeks flushed as the dream filled her head once more. He’d ripped off her clothes. She’d torn open his shirt. He’d put his hands all over her and licked her—

“God, it’s hot in here.” She jabbed at the button again. Was the elevator not moving?

“Blair…” Linc’s voice was stilted. “Look, I’m—”

The doors opened. She pretty much rushed out. Didn’t look back. She needed to get away from Linc because with that dream playing in her head and him being too close—

“Blair!”

He caught her arm. Spun her around. Okay, now he’d moved fast. His gaze searched her face. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

His fingers slid down her arm, moved to her wrist. Was it her imagination or had he just caressed her, right over her racing pulse point?

His eyes glinted. “You can tell me if there’s a problem. You know I’ll do anything for you.”

She did know that.

“Sorry if I stepped out of line earlier.” He let her go. “I can’t stand handsy, entitled assholes.”

She swallowed. “If he’d touched my ass, would you have really broken his fingers?” Of course, he wouldn’t have. Linc had just been bluffing, and she shouldn’t have even asked the question.

But he nodded. “In an instant, I would have. That ass of yours is world class, and jackasses don’t get to touch it.”

Blair sucked in a sharp breath.

“Shit. Was that the wrong thing to say? I mean, it’s not like a broken finger or two would be the end of the world. The guy would have recovered in about six weeks.” A shrug. “Give or take.”

She could only shake her head. Sometimes, even she couldn’t tell when he was serious. That was the thing about Linc. He was always ready with a joke or a one-liner. And she…liked that. Linc could make her smile, no matter what was happening in her life. “Good night, Linc.”

For a moment, his expression seemed to soften. “Good night, B. See you bright and early in the morning.”

***

“You’re watching her walk away,” Cole Vincent stage-whispered to Linc.

He didn’t look away from Blair.

“I mean, isn’t this taking the old line of ‘watching your partner’s ass’ to the extreme?”

“I’m not staring at her ass. I’m making sure she gets to her vehicle safely.”

And she was at her vehicle. He kept watching as she cranked it up. And drove away.

Then he turned to look at Cole.

Cole gave him a faint smile. “Better now?”

Not even close. “You trying to drive me crazy?”

“Bro, I am trying to help you. You need to watch yourself more around her.”

He laughed. “Why would I need to watch myself around my partner? I trust her completely. Blair would never do anything to hurt me—”

“I’m talking about the way you look at her lately.”

He stopped laughing. “You’re mistaken.”

“You were gonna break some guy’s fingers…because he was touching her?”

Linc shrugged.

“You think that’s normal?”

“Fine.” Linc huffed. “If a guy touches your ass, I’ll break his fingers, too. Happy?”

“Good to know. Thanks for that.” Cole shook his head. “Trying to warn you, man. A train is coming at you. It’s going to slam straight into you if you don’t get off the tracks.” He sauntered away.

Linc stared after him. “I don’t think I get it. Why am I on the tracks in the first place?”

Cole flipped him off.

“Is Blair the train? Because she’s not going to like you calling her a train. That shit is not cool.”

Cole climbed onto his motorcycle. The same one that Linc had used for the case earlier. He revved the engine.

Roared away.

Linc swallowed and rolled back his shoulders. In the empty garage, Cole’s words seemed to echo around Linc.

I’m talking about the way you look at her lately.

Linc raked a hand through his hair. “That shit is not cool,” he repeated. Cole had noticed?

Hell. He was screwed.

***

Someone was knocking at her door.

Blair hit the pause button on her remote and grabbed her phone. She used the security app on it to see outside her front door. It was after midnight, and no way should she have a visitor who—

Linc.

Linc was on her doorstep.

Of course, he was. She swiped her hands over her cheeks, hopped to her feet, and pulled the belt of her robe tighter around her body. She hurried to the door and yanked it open. “Do you have any idea what—”

“You’re crying.” His expression hardened. “Why in the hell are you crying?”

She wasn’t. “You know I don’t cry.” Her hand slid over her cheek again. Dammit. She hadn’t wiped everything away. “I was sweating. Working out.”

His gaze took in her robe. Darted over her shoulder. His lips—sensual, strong lips—quirked. “Were you watching those movies again?”

Those movies. He’d caught her watching holiday movies one time—okay, twice—and he’d found out that maybe they made her tear up.

“Christmas has come and gone, Blair. Come and gone.”

Her chin notched up. “Holiday movies are good any time of the year, Linc.”

He nodded. “Sure, they are. Especially if they make you feel better.” A pause. “The tears are because you’re happy, right? Because if you’re sad, if someone made you sad, then I’m going to—”

“Break someone’s fingers?”

He glanced down.

Her gaze stayed on his face. Linc was handsome in a rough, untamed kind of way. Tanned skin. Thick, slightly wild hair. And deep, dark eyes that could stare straight into a person’s soul.

Some women totally went for that.

She knew, she’d seen them tripping over each other as they tried to get his attention. Good thing she never tripped.

“I stepped over the line with that, huh? Sorry. But when it comes to you, I’m not always the most controlled person.” His gaze lifted. Held hers. “I’m working on that.”

A lump rose in her throat because his focus sure seemed intense. She choked down the lump. “What are you doing here? You do know it’s after midnight, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but you looked stressed when you left and when you’re stressed, I know you like…” He pulled his left hand from behind his back. She hadn’t even realized he was holding his hand back there until— “Ta da. Cookies and cream. I also know the ice cream shop you like stays open late on the weekend—actually, until midnight—so I was able to sneak in and get you a pick-me-up.”

She took the ice cream. “I hate when you do nice things for me.”

He frowned. “Why?”

“Because then it makes me like you more.”

His smile came, slow and warm, lighting up his eyes. “Then my work is done for the night.” He saluted her. “Sweet dreams, Blair.”

He turned and walked away.

“Aren’t you coming in?” Oh, how she wished that she could take that question back.

He stopped. Turned to face her.

“That’s part of our routine, isn’t it?” And it was. This wasn’t the first time he’d shown up on her doorstep with ice cream. “We end the case. You get the ice cream. We do a recap on my couch.” Their routine. But…

“Do you want me to come in?”

His voice seemed different. He stood just beyond the light of her porch, and with the shadows covering him, Blair couldn’t see his face clearly. “It’s not a big deal. I’ll finish the show and eat my ice cream.” Then go to bed. And not have sex dreams about him.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“You are pushing my buttons.” He always did. “Good night, Linc.”

Before she could shut the door, he bounded toward her. “Obviously, you desperately want me to come inside and watch your movie with you. And even though it is not Christmas, I will make the sacrifice.”

She wouldn’t smile.

“By the way, B, there are two spoons in that bag. In case you feel like sharing.”

Of course, there were two spoons. Her hand flew out and locked on his t-shirt as she hauled him over the threshold and into her house. “Get in here.”

He laughed and shut the door. Soon they were on her couch, slumped together, eating ice cream. She was relaxed, comfortable, and all of her worries slipped away.

They recapped the case. Sleep pulled at her, and maybe her head started to sag a little bit. On his shoulder.

Crap.

She snapped to attention.

“So what kind of case do you think we’ll be working tomorrow?”

Tomorrow. Right. She should go to bed so she’d be ready for whatever was waiting. “I’m sure it will be something dangerous.” Her head turned.

He was…his mouth was only an inch or two away from hers. She’d gotten way close when she’d been sleepy.

“Um, dangerous.” Was his gaze on her mouth? God, it was. “I do like dangerous,” he allowed in his deep, raspy voice.

“Yes, you do. Because you’re an adrenaline junkie.” She put her hand on his chest and pushed up. She could actually feel the heat of his body through the thin fabric of his shirt.

“Good thing I have you to keep me in check.”

She didn’t feel in check. The comfort and relaxed air of a moment before was gone. Vanished in a blink. She was…nervous. And looking at his mouth again, dammit. “That’s what partners are for.” Her voice came out too loud. What is wrong with me? Blair jumped to her feet. “Thanks for coming by.”

He stared up at her. “Anything for you.”

She could have sworn she felt the impact of those words slide through her. They were rough and dark and held the faintest of sensual promises.

No, no, they did not. She was just tired. It was way late. She was imagining things.

He stood. Stretched. “See you in the morning, partner.”

She walked him out. Was about to shut the door—

“Don’t forget the bikini,” Linc reminded her.

“And be sure to pack your speedo,” she threw right back.

He smiled at her.

She slammed the door.

And really, really hoped that her partner did not star in her fantasies again that night.

***

Two hours later, she woke up moaning his name.