Home > Any Time, Any Place (Billionaire Builders #2)(15)

Any Time, Any Place (Billionaire Builders #2)(15)
Author: Jennifer Probst

She’d be more confident in her abilities to handle Dalton Pierce if he hadn’t done the worst thing possible and touched her.

A shiver raced down her spine. The moment their skin had met, a jolt of pure feeling shook her body. She wished she could compare it to the unpleasant sensation of being shocked when her fur glove hit metal, but it was deeper than that. A hungry need pushed through her blood and burrowed into her gut, urging her to move closer to him, screaming for her to let the touch linger.

Hell no.

Instead, she’d jumped back and run away. Raven didn’t even care if she looked like a coward, she only knew it was key to her survival that she get far away from him.

But today, there’d be no touching. She was ready, dressed in armor, and focused on gaining information without being vulnerable.

She drove to the pub, unlocking the doors and flipping on the lights. The vast space was quiet and hummed with the energy of people endlessly rushing in and out, now ghostly on this Tuesday. Brewing a pot of coffee, she got ready, making sure she’d moved everything off and away from the bar. Setting up her workstation at a table midway back, she sorted inventory files and made her agenda for the day.

The warm breeze blew in as the door opened. She looked up.

Damn him for being so hot.

There was something about men who worked with their hands that had always turned her on. She had a tendency to attract the starving artist types or bad boy rockers, but Dalton’s craft was just as swoonworthy. The simple white T-shirt molded to his carved chest, and the jeans were faded and worn to cup his ass in exactly the right places. His golden hair was tied back in a short ponytail. He looked like Matthew McConaughey, one of her fave celebrity crushes. The longish nose and deep voice that dripped sex. The powerful aura and big hands that gripped tool cases and beams of wood. Even the work boots made her drool. Yep, large feet, too. Why was she surprised?

“Morning.” He set down the materials and gave her a smile. “Got a lot of stuff to bring in.”

“Need help?”

“No, ma’am. Part of the contract. I take care of everything.”

He dropped his gaze to her breasts, sweeping lower, then back up. Her skin tingled. She cleared her throat, hating how virginal she was acting around him. For God’s sake, she’d been around the proverbial block or two! She deliberately headed toward the bar. “Good. I made coffee. Want some?”

He chewed at his lip, looking a bit fearful. “Don’t know. Did you use the whole coffee tree this time?”

“I like my coffee strong.”

“Like your men?”

This time, she tossed him a careless smile. “Nope. I like my men one way only: committed.”

She appreciated his deep laugh. She could handle a lot of missing qualities in men, but a guy without a sense of humor left her cold. “I can do committed.”

Raven crossed her arms and tilted her head. “For the night?”

That slow, wicked grin hit all the right places in her girly bits. “The night, the weekend, the month. For as long as we’re happy. Isn’t that what life is about?”

“For you, maybe. For me, not so much. I can’t wait to start buying bridal magazines and talking about dresses and favors and cakes.”

He actually blanched, causing her to almost break the farce and giggle. She wasn’t wedding crazy, but it was the perfect weapon to use on him. “You sound like my future sister-in-law,” he grumbled, shaking his head. “Even my brother is caught up in wedding chaos. Building a house and planning a wedding in the same year isn’t a smart move, but hell, no one listened to me.”

“Morgan, right? She designed the Rosenthals’ estate. Can’t believe a pair of Hollywood celebrities live right in our midst.” The Academy Award–nominated super couple had bought property in Harrington while shooting a film, then decided to stay. Morgan had been all over the news regarding her talent in building the perfect house for celebrity clients, and was now highly sought after by Tinseltown. Raven considered her a casual friend, since she frequented the bar regularly, though her relationship with Cal made Raven keep up her defenses.

“That’s her. The house Morgan and Cal are building to live in will be better. She’s finally able to see her own personal vision come to life instead of designing around everyone else’s tastes.” He paused, regarding her intently. “Maybe you need the same freedom.”

“How so?”

“Society tells us marriage is the only way to prove a relationship is real. Don’t you think you may be bowing down to these constrictions in order to fit in?” His eyes suddenly blazed like a brilliant blue sky. “Wouldn’t you rather have something real and good for a little while, rather than fake for eternity?”

Again, that connection between them rose up and practically strangled her with intensity. Oh, this man was a true master. He had every line memorized, and knew exactly how to charm a woman out of her panties. She turned her back on him, reaching for a mug and pouring him a cup of coffee. “I don’t intend to choose, Slick.” She slid it across the stripped bar with a flick of her wrist, not spilling a drop. “But maybe one day, you’ll have to.”

His slow grin gained her respect. He took her jabs with a sense of play, proving he’d be an interesting companion. Accepting the challenge, he took a healthy swallow of the bitter brew, shuddered, and put the mug down like he’d tossed back a one-hundred-proof whiskey shot. “This coffee doesn’t get any better with time, does it?”

She laughed as he made his way back outside to bring in the rest of his supplies. He organized the setup with a ruthless precision that surprised her. For some reason, she’d pictured him as a sloppy worker, but he examined every piece of his equipment, from brushes to sander, and created a kind of assembly line. She scooped up her coffee and headed toward her table.

“Gonna hang out with me today?” he asked.

“If that’s not a problem, yes. I have a ton of work to do and won’t get in your way.”

“I’d love company. Just one problem.”

She prepped for a flirty, meaning-laden comment. “What’s that?”

“I need music.”

“Oh. Well, that’s okay, I can put on the jukebox or Pandora radio.”

“No, you don’t understand.” Why was his face turning a light shade of pink? “I have particular music I like listening to while I work, and not everyone appreciates it.”

She tilted her head in consideration. “Is it, like, blackmail material?”

“My brother Cal would say so, but he’s always lacked true taste.”

A smile tugged at her lips. “Do your worst. I won’t say a word.”

“You swear?”

“Yes, I swear.”

He considered her words, then nodded. “You’re now in the circle of trust. Once you’re in, you can never be released.”

“Kind of like marriage?”

“Smart-ass.”

She laughed again and sat down. He took his phone out, swiped at the screen, and the strains of NSync belted out in high-energy, poppy form. Her eyes widened in surprise, but Raven didn’t say a word. He cut her one warning glance, then focused on his work.

Raven decided to do the same.

Problem was, she couldn’t.

A strange thing happened during the Backstreet Boys’ greatest hits—had they really actually had enough songs to do a greatest hits album? Her attention kept getting tugged away from inventory and upcoming work shifts and toward Dalton Pierce’s ass.

He leaned over the bar, denim stretched tight, powerful hands stroking the wood like a lover. Fascinated, she watched him walk slowly down the length of the massive mahogany front, palms coasting, lips moving in a whisper of sound she couldn’t hear, as if he was speaking to the wood. Face set in concentration, he seemed in another world, a look of blissful peace radiating from his eyes. At one point, she let herself stare, wondering why he seemed like more of a puzzle than she’d originally thought. Each movement was coordinated with grace and an odd sort of poetry, whether he was sanding down the surface, scraping and chiseling out the bumps, or soothing the wood with soft strokes.

   
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