Unbreakable Hearts, page 13part #2 of CEP Series
Now since he’d talked to Alicia, he knew he had to get the laptop. And although he didn’t like doing the grunt work on this, there really was no one else he trusted. He had assistants but since Zim, someone he’d trusted for years, had turned on him and the others, he’d resurrected his old motto, Credere et nulli—Trust no one. His father had taught it to him when he was younger, but life had been pretty damned easy and he hadn’t needed the saying. Now he did.
As he passed the Maxwell woman’s house, he could see a light on somewhere in the back, and he wondered if she was home. Wondered if she’d be up for some play time. He’d done some digging and found out that she was single and lived alone, and that’d made her so much more intriguing. Since he was having to waste his time in doing a low-level deed such as this, he may as well get something out of it.
In a bold move, he drove to the next street, parking two blocks away as he had two nights prior then jogged to her block. He figured that even if she happened to be home now, it’d be just like the other night. He’d go in, take her laptop and be gone unless the urge hit him for other things. He’d have to wait and see how it all played out.
He walked across the front of her lawn, which triggered a light over her porch to come on. Fuck! He froze for a second, looking around to see if anyone was nearby then waited for any movement inside the house, but when nothing happened, he continued on around to the side. At her back door, another fucking light came on, making him pause again. She’d had motion sensors installed, the bitch. When again no one stirred inside, he went to her window and tried prying it open as he had before, but she’d replaced the lock.
“Goddamn it!” he hissed out. He didn’t like surprises, he liked being in charge and her added security shit just pissed him off. Grabbing a handkerchief out of his pocket and wrapping it around his hand, he punched the window and broke the glass then reached up and turned the lock. After raising the window, he climbed in and waited. Several seconds later when no one came, he went to her studio, found her laptop and grabbed the fucker.
Still irritated that she’d fixed the lock and he’d had to break the window, he felt he was owed something, so he left the room and headed to the stairway planning to make her pay. If she wasn’t there, he’d leave some kind of calling card to scare the cunt, like pull down her bedspread or something to let her know he’d been there. What he really wanted to do was ejaculate all over her bed, but modern science with its DNA bullshit kept him from that. The minute he put his foot on the bottom step, in a repeat of the first night he’d broken in, he heard a noise but this time it was police sirens.
“Goddamn it,” he muttered. “She’s gotta be the luckiest fucking bitch.” Not wanting to risk finding out if the sirens were for him, he turned to leave. Going through the kitchen, he undid the several locks on the back door, slipping out then jogging around the house, triggering the lights again, which made him curse. He kept up his jog to the end of the block, but when he saw the cop car with lights flashing speeding his way, he slowed to a walk, holding the laptop underneath his arm, just someone out for an evening stroll.
Once he got in his car, out of curiosity, he drove back by her house to see if his break-in was what had summoned the authorities, and lo and behold, three police units were there, lights blazing. He saw several officers with guns drawn moving around the house.
Well, fuck. He hadn’t even thought to check to see if she’d invested in a security system. He chuckled as he drove by knowing he’d barely escaped. Damn. What a rush. Exactly the kind of thing he got off on.
He headed back to his office where he’d left a thumb drive with a password cracker on it he’d gotten from one of his techs. Once there, he’d plug the thing in, get into the laptop and find the online storage provider she used for her photos then delete them all, which he believed should take care of everything which left him a little maudlin knowing the game with Ms. Maxwell would be over after that.
He called Alicia as he drove. “Need to see you,” he said when she answered.
“Baby, you come on over right now. I’ll be waiting.”
He’d pump her for more information because there was still a little niggling in the back of his head that told him he was too late, that the Maxwell woman may have already sent her photos. Alicia would know the ins and outs of it all.
A thrill raced through him at the thought that if there was any chance the picture was still out there, an up-close-and-personal visit with his little photographer was in order the next time.
“You were an Army Ranger?” Tilly asked, wide-eyed, looking at John over her glass.
“Yep. Got the tatt and the scars to prove it too.”
After arriving at the restaurant, they’d been seated, ordered some fabulous wine then placed their orders and were now in the middle of their meal, learning about each other’s pasts.
Her eyes stayed fixed on him, still big, but more at her musings than at what he’d said. God, but she’d like to see that tattoo. She shivered at the thought.
The night had gone perfectly so far, with John being as intriguing as she’d always thought he was. And as handsome too. God, he looked good, his broad shoulders filling out his jacket so masculinely, his jeans that fit perfectly over his muscular thighs, not to mention his nice butt, and then there was the goatee that just added to it all. He smelled wonderful too, some sort of spicy scent that she could tell wasn’t cheap. Oh, she could definitely fall for John Osby. And that scared the crap out of her.
“Scars?” she asked carefully.
He smiled. “Yeah. Damn near had my arm blown off.”
She frowned. “Oh, my gosh. How?”
He took a drink of his wine but before he could continue Tilly reached across the table, putting her hand on top of his and added, “If it’s too much for you to talk about, I understand, John.”
He turned his hand over, grasping hers in his much larger one before she could pull it away, giving it a squeeze then not letting go as he explained. “No, it’s okay. My military therapist told me it was good for me to talk about it.” He chuckled as he set down his glass then scratched at his goatee as if he was embarrassed.
Oh, no. He was in therapy? Offffff course he was. Just her luck, she’d find him again and he’d be a mental mess.
As if he’d read her mind, he added, “That was years ago, Tilly. Before I got out. PTSD and all that. I’m good now.” He gave her a crooked smile that made her stomach do a flip. “Humvee hit an IED and killed two of my friends,” he said, his handsome face now growing somber as he explained. He looked at their conjoined hands for a few seconds before looking back up at her. “I don’t remember a lot about it, but the physical therapy afterward was a bitch.” He huffed out a laugh.
Oh, God. He was so brave. And he was too much. Too good to be true. She wasn’t going to make it, she knew, as she stared at him, so perfect sitting across from her. Too perfect. He truly scared her. Or was it that she scared herself knowing she could so totally open up to him, could let him in. And that wasn’t good. Nope. Not good at all. Actually, it was very bad. So, so bad. If anyone was capable of actually getting to her, it was John Osby. And to repeat, that wasn’t good.
She knew herself well enough that when it got to be too much she’d run. She always did. It’d just be better to end this now before she got more invested in him.
A sadness overcame her as she looked down and saw that he was still holding her hand. With his much larger hand. Taking a drink of wine she suddenly choked on it when she pictured Quinn waggling her eyebrows and saying, “Tilly! Huge hands mean huge cocks!” Oh, lord. She pulled her hand from his and held the cloth napkin to her mouth as she coughed into it. Jeez. When she was finished, she apologized, asking him to go on. As she listened that soft spot she always had for him, which was what really made him dangerous to her, ached, making her all melty inside and she found herself looking for an escape route.
She saw him eye her as if he knew just what she was t
“And what about the tattoo?” she blurted then bit her lips as she blushed like crazy. So much for escaping. Ugh.
He grinned at her, his straight, white teeth flashing beautifully at her. “I’d show you, but we might have to be in a few compromising positions for you to see it.” His grin grew even bigger, she was sure, at the look of shock on her face.
Dear God. Was it hot in here? And what the hell was going on with her? She should be making an excuse to leave now, telling him she had cramps or something, because every woman knew that mentioning female problems to a man made him want to gouge his eyes out with a rusty fork, and she knew he’d go to any length to avoid talking about that stuff which meant their night would be over.
Instead, her heart rate sped up as did her breathing as she stared at his mouth. Well, damn. Screw escaping. Her focus was now on how much she wanted that gorgeous mouth of his on her. She didn’t care where. She may even have thought of a couple positions she wouldn’t mind being in with him so that he could give her a grand showing of that tattoo. She licked her lips and suddenly heard him mutter, “Jesus,” which brought her out of the spell she’d been under. She looked up to see him staring back at her, his amber eyes focused on her own lips, the look in them one that made her stomach do flips again. Wow. When his eyes flicked up to hers, she drew in a breath at the intensity in them as they blazed heatedly into hers. She felt a rush of wetness between her legs as she imagined him looking down at her with those eyes gleaming that way while he moved inside her, filling her fully as his strong body covered hers.
Oh, yeah. John Osby was definitely dangerous, and in spite of her fear, she found herself doing something she never thought she’d do—changing her mind and letting the walls she had up around her heart crumble to the ground. God help her, but she really wanted to see just how far she’d let herself go with him.
Earlier, Doug had sat outside Tilly’s watching first as her bitch of a friend let herself in then when some huge guy got out of a cab and went to the door pulling out his wallet to show the friend something.
“Probably paying them both to fuck him,” Doug mumbled, clenching his teeth as he jealously glared at the guy’s monstrously wide back.
The man had finally gone inside and Doug sat waiting, playing some inane game on his phone. Yeah, he’d lowered himself to stalking Tilly, but he had to know what she was doing since she wasn’t “doing” him.
When he saw her come outside with the guy holding his hand, he hissed out, “Fucking liar!” He knew she was dating someone! No way would she have broken up with him if she wasn’t seeing someone new. He banged his fist against his side window. “Should’ve given her a good horse fucking, made her know what a good fucking is before letting her off the hook. Then she’d come crawling back to me wanting more,” he muttered watching the guy being a huge pussy by holding the door for her to get inside the cab.
He’d planned to follow them, but seeing as they were dressed up, he assumed they were going out but would be back. That’s when he’d take action and confront them both, so he stayed where he was.
A few hours later (man, he needed to get a life), he was on his phone looking at proofs he’d taken when he saw a man walking down the sidewalk toward Tilly’s house. It was dark, but he could see the guy’s silhouette then saw him more clearly when he triggered a light above her porch to come on when he cut across her front lawn. Since when had she gotten a motion sensor?
“What the fuck?” he mumbled, watching as the man went to the side of Tilly’s house and disappeared.
Eight minutes later (he’d checked the time), the man reappeared, walking from her house and holding something under his arm. Doug got out his camera and clicked away, zooming in to take multiple pictures of him in mere seconds. The guy had already made it down the block near where Doug was parked when three police cars came zooming up and cops with guns drawn were suddenly everywhere.
“Jesus,” Doug muttered as he watched for a bit then started his car and drove away.
He wondered what the guy had taken. Then he wondered if he might be able to gain something by identifying the man in his pictures, either by blackmailing him or turning in the pictures to the police. Nah. He’d rather contact the guy personally and make some money off him. He’d only be helping Tilly if he gave the photos to the cops. “Fuck that bitch,” he muttered.
He snickered as he headed back to his mom’s hoping he could make a business transaction out of this. The guy was probably some flunkie who worked for another photographer, so maybe he could wind up getting a deal out of the whole thing by being given a gig or two to keep his mouth shut. Yeah, he could so work with that.
Damn. Oz knew Tilly was hot, he just hadn’t realized how hot. And it wasn’t anything blatant. It was subtle. Understated. And he loved it. He knew that when he drew that passion of hers out, it’d mean so much more. Had meant so much more just then, as he watched her teal eyes darken with thoughts unknown. And, oh, how he wished he could get inside that head of hers to see what she’d been thinking. Hell, wished he could get inside of her.
He was just about to ask if she wanted to get out of there when his cell phone rang. His eyes remained on hers as he reached inside his jacket for it when suddenly her phone made a beeping noise as she received a text. He answered his phone then watched as she pulled hers out of her purse, checking it and frowning.
“Mr. Maxwell? This is HSI. I’m calling to see if everything’s okay?” a tech asked him.
“This is John Osby of Citadel Executive Protection, but my number is on the account. What’s happened?” Oz asked back.
“I’ll make a note of your name, sir. Your alarm has been activated at your residence, sir,” the tech informed him.
Tilly stared at him as he spoke to the security rep. When he hung up, he said, “We need to get to your house.” He stood up and pulled his wallet out of his coat.
She nodded, standing up also, knocking her glass over in the process. “Oh!” she exclaimed as she righted the glass then took her napkin and blotted the tablecloth with it.
Oz threw three one-hundred dollar bills on the table then returned his wallet inside his coat. “Tilly?” he asked as she continued wiping the stained cloth. “Tilly,” he tried getting her attention again.
She looked up at him as she continued moving the napkin on the table, seeming confused, which he recognized as her probably being in a mild state of shock at getting the text about her alarm going off, making thoughts of the prior break-in fresh in her mind, he was sure.
He walked to her side and took her hand, making her release the napkin. He leaned down and said in a soothing tone, “Baby, we need to get to your house.” He picked up her purse, handing it to her then wrapped an arm around her waist, leading her to the coat check area. He helped her put her coat on then led her outside where he hailed a cab.
In the cab, Tilly sat in a stupor staring straight ahead as he kept an arm around her, rubbing his thumb softly on her arm. His phone rang again, Jeff calling to make sure he’d gotten the message, telling him that there actually had been a break-in. Oz told him they were on their way and Jeff said he’d see them there.
Halfway to her house, Tilly finally “woke up.”
“Did I just read what I think I read?” she whispered.
He pulled her closer to him and nodded. “Someone tried breaking into your house again,” he said softly.
She pulled away, looking at him saying, “My text said my alarm had been activated, but I’m finding it hard to believe. Maybe something went wrong with the wiring?” She looked at him hopefully.
“That was Jeff, Tilly. There’s been an actual break-in.”
And now she lost it. “
He pulled her close to him, pissed that whoever was doing this to her was getting away with it, and pressed his lips against the side of her head. “Shhhh. It’s okay. It’ll be okay.”
She’d told him about her suspicions of Doug earlier. He figured she was probably right, his being the spurned boyfriend and all. Well, he’d definitely be making a visit to the little prick to set some things straight.
Her breath caught. “How? How can it be okay when someone’s getting into my house?” she whispered. With one hand she grabbed his shirt, burying her face in his neck as she gave in to her tears.
“Baby, it’s gonna be fine. We’ll get things sorted and find out who’s doing this,” he mumbled into her hair that smelled subtly of raspberries.
Damn it. This shit had to stop. He needed to find the fucker who was behind this and use him for target practice.
They arrived at her house to see three police cruisers out front. Jeff met them just as they got out of the cab.
“They broke the back window to get in,” Jeff said. “Then strolled out the fuckin’ back door.” He looked at Tilly seeing that she’d been crying and pulled her into his arms. “Hey, Till, it’s okay,” he whispered. “We’ll get the bastard.” After several seconds, he looked down at her. “You good?”
“I’m… I’m okay,” she pulled back and told him. “I have to be.”
Oz gave a small smile as he saw her tough side coming out. Thatta girl.
“Gimme your keys,” Jeff said. “We’ll go in and look around.”
She frowned then dug her keys out of her purse handing them to him. Then she and Oz stood back, watching as Jeff talked to several of the other officers then they moved to various positions on the porch and around the house as Jeff unlocked the door, gun drawn. She gasped as she watched him take the lead, the others following him inside. Oz wrapped an arm around her pulling her into him, her front to his side. She grabbed his coat sleeve and buried her face against his arm trying not to think about her dad and Uncle Tim. When Jeff finally came to the door motioning them inside and telling them it was all clear, she realized she’d been holding her breath the entire time.
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