Demola Adenuga stood in the middle of the lodge, watching the giant-screen television with the crowd of fifty or so people who’d gathered around for the big event. On screen four women, all tall, all pretty.
The Angels were at it again.
Demola shifted his gaze from the giant picture to the small family that stood directly in front of the screen. At least there was a halfway decent reason behind this madness. Like most of the other stunts the Angels women had performed in the last three years, this one was a fund-raiser. The recipient was the ten-year-old boy sitting in the wheelchair front and center, flanked protectively by his parents. He needed a bone marrow transplant and his family had no insurance to cover the cost.
Demola studied the boy. He was small for his age, pale and looked as if they couldn’t start the procedure any time soon. But he was a cute kid with a killer smile and there was a sparkle in his eyes that said he was living this minute for all it was worth.
He shifted his attention back to the screen. In total surround sound, the whir of the chopper’s blades filled the room and vibrated beneath their feet. The scream of the wind howled in their ears. It was probably quieter in the damned helicopter. But even over the steady thump in the floor, he could feel his heart pounding, hear it over the roar of the helicopter blades.
At the helicopter’s open door, Tomilola Adeyemi. Or as she knew herself, Tomilola Daniels, the woman he’d come to bring home came down from the helicopter. She looked back at the camera, her sensuous lips smiling widely, her light brown eyes sparkling with excitement and her long curly black hair blowing in the wind.
His breath caught in his throat and the same sensation he’d gotten the first time he’d seen her picture, not twenty-four hours ago, hit him hard. It was a feeling not unlike one of his wild mustangs delivering a hard kick to the gut. But this sensation was lower, harder and twice as powerful. He wanted her. Like a stallion scenting a mare, he wanted her. Irrational and startling. But undeniable.
And equally unwelcome.
Because Wale Adeyemi, just before he’d died, had made Demola promise he’d not only bring Tomilola back to her father’s estate, but he’d make sure she had everything that was good and wonderful and bright. And no matter how you saddled that horse, an ex-con didn’t fit into any of those categories.
Fresh powder still clinging to her suit, Tomilola gave the boy in the wheelchair a giant hug. “Hey, boy what do you think?” She’d just come in off the mountain, and excitement and adrenaline poured through her system. The young boy beamed at her, his smile reaching from ear to ear. “Wonderful ma’am, i want to do this some day.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what, you get your new bone marrow, spend a year getting strong and you’d get anything you want, okay?”
The boy nodded. “I will.”
Smiling, she turned and started through the noisy crowd on her way to the bar.
She turned, searching for the caller. She spotted the lodge’s owner, she waited for him to reach her side, then pitched her voice above the crowd. “What’s up Segz?”
“A man’s looking for you.”
She cocked a brow. “Yeah, who?”
The burly owner hooked a thumb toward the lodge’s big picture windows.
A lone man stood in front of the giant glass, a man whose brown-eyed gaze watched her from the across the room with electrifying intensity. Heat and pure feminine awareness slid through her. His sheer size and power and strength dwarfed the mountains behind him. But it was the man’s clothes, and the way he wore them, that caught her imagination. A dark blue, western, Saturday-night-let’s-go-dancing shirt, covered his broad shoulders and accented his narrow waist. A black Stetson with a snakeskin band dangled from one hand. And lastly, a pair of worn but spotlessly clean shining shoes covered his strong legs.
Man, oh, man.
Her pulse flattered, her heart throbbed. She swallowed hard, drew a steadying breath and took hold of her runway pulse. It didn’t matter how gorgeous the man was. Or that every nerve in her body clanged like a four-alarm fire bell. She had cleared a personal moratorium on men. She’d declared it three years ago when she’d found herself living in an apartment she hated and working a job she didn’t like any better, all for the sake of a man. A man she’d discovered was sleeping with her on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – and his other girlfriend the rest of the week. She’d decided right then she needed to figure out who she was and what she wanted in life. And she obviously needed to do that without having a man around to muddy the waters.
And until this very minute she hadn’t regretted that decision. But if she didn’t find our that what the man wanted and send him right back to where he belongs, that resolution could be in serious jeopardy. She drew another deep breath. “Okay, Segz, I get it.” Squaring her shoulders, she strengthened her resolve and strode toward the guy, ruthlessly ignoring the humming of her nerves as his gaze followed her every move. She stopped a good three feet in front of him. . .plenty close enough. . .and tipped her chin up.
An easy smile turned his lips, accenting the fine lines around the corner of his eyes. “Hi, pretty.” The words were wrapped in a deep drawl, smooth as silk and Sekxy as hell. She chuckled softly, ruefully. “What can i do for you? Segun said you wanted to talk to me.” The teasing light left his eyes, his expression suddenly serious. “I do. And it’s important. Is there somewhere quieter we can talk? Somewhere more private?”
A little shiver ran through her. Somewhere quieter? More private? Her room maybe? No way. Besides, she didn’t know this man from Adam. So someplace private but close to the crowd would be a wiser choice. She looked around, her eye falling on the closed door next to the bar. She turned back to the man standing next to her. “How about Segun’s office? I’m sure he won’t mind.”
“This way.” She strode toward the back of the room, dodging the celebrants as she went. She didn’t turn around to make sure the man didn’t get lost in the crowd. She could feel him behind her. His heat, his intensity, his gaze following her every step.
As she approached the bar, she caught Segun’s eye, pointed to his office door and cocked a brow, asking silent permission to use the room. He nodded and went back to pouring drinks. She pushed through a small group of children that congratulated her and clapped them on the back. She thanked them for coming, for pledging their hard earned money and then quickly excused herself and escaped into Segun’s office.
The man followed her in and closed the door behind him, shutting the party’s noise out. . .and them in.
She backed away from the big stranger, trying to find a space with a little more oxygen. She didn’t remember Segun’s office being this small, this close. But it certainly seemed to be now. She took another step back, unzipping the front of her suit. It was warmer in here than she remembered, too. Way warmer. “So Mr. . . .I’m sorry, i didn’t get your name.”
The stranger’s gaze snapped up from her waist, the end of her zipper’s trek. “Adenuga.” His voice was rough, tight. He cleared his throat, starting again. “Demola Adenuga.” He held out his hand. She stared at the big, work-roughened hand with its long, strong fingers and calloused palms. No way was she shaking that hand. She didn’t want to know just how warm his touch would be. Just how electric. The woman in her was already far too aware of the man’s masculine appeal. She turned away and strode to the other side of Segun’s desk. “So what can I do for you, Mr. Adenuga?”
When she turned back to him, a hint of a smile lifted his lips. Just enough of a smile to tell her she hadn’t fooled him. He knew she’d seen his hand and knew why she hadn’t shaken it. But that smile quickly disappeared, his brown-eyed gaze turning serious. “I’m not sure how to start this except to say your father sent me.”
To Be Continued…