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By:Cherry Adair

Right now she didn’t look anything like the president and CEO of Blush Cosmetics, with more money than anyone could spend in a lifetime, and hundreds of thousands of employees under her thumb. She looked sexy, innocent, and drop-dead gorgeous.

Cruz swiped his palm over the prickle on the back of his rain-damp neck. A warning. Even more alert now, he stopped in his tracks, looking beyond the dark night reflected in the window to see if he’d been followed. He knew he hadn’t. He was no amateur. Yet that warning itch persisted.

Something was . . . off.

Not her behavior. She was just a chick who thought she was dancing unobserved. No—his gut was sending him signals he couldn’t interpret. A first.

Remaining motionless in the rain-drenched darkness, he gave his instincts a moment to analyze as he sifted through what he knew. Compared it to what he was watching. Sorted. Catalogued. Evaluated.

As he dispassionately observed his target, she suddenly broke into song, loudly and off-key, punching the air with her fists to the chorus as she twirled around the kitchen. “. . . hap-ppyy. Like a room without a roof . . .”

He winced. She sang with gusto, and god-awfully flat.

He was misinterpreting the warning itch. Last job. Wanted to do it right. Nothing more than that. No one had followed him. She was the correct target. He earned what he earned because he never made mistakes. Ever.

He did one more circuit of the house, noted the boarded-up front door, with a sign directing deliveries to the back door. He returned to the side facing the black waters of the bayou, this time not muffling his footsteps as he crossed the porch. The doorbell didn’t work, so he knocked. Three hard raps to indicate a friendly neighbor. He liked to see the whites of their eyes as he told them why, just before he killed them.

The sky opened, and it began to pour. The singing abruptly stopped, leaving the night filled with the sound of rain pelting the tin roof overhead and the lone bullfrog croaking somewhere nearby. A large plop of water across his cheek indicated that the porch roof leaked.

Despite the downpour, Cruz heard the sharp staccato of her heels on the wood floor as she approached the front door. The door swung open with the ominous creak of a haunted house.

For a moment they stared at each other. She was prettier, softer up close and personal. The thigh-length, deep-wine-colored silk robe clung to her sleek body, leaving no doubt that she was naked beneath it. The slope of her unfettered breasts showcased her nipple’s response to the cooler air outside. Glossy dark, layered hair was tucked behind one ear. Holding onto the door with white-knuckled anticipation, she smiled.

Elegant bone structure, dark wings of eyebrows, piercing blue eyes, a soft, plump mouth. For a cosmetic heiress, she was surprisingly free of cosmetics. She didn’t need them. Her skin was flawless. He wanted her. Wanted all that elegance mussed up as he fucked her. Wanted to feel that creamy skin flush against his as she cried out. Wanted to be on top, thrusting inside her when he told her she was about to die.

But fantasies like that would distract him from his main goal.

Sharp blue eyes tracked him from head to boots and back again, coolly sizing him up. Her gaze was intelligent, unafraid, and seemed to see directly into his skull. “You’re early. Don’t say anything,” she instructed. Her voice, low and naturally husky, went straight to his groin, bypassing his brain completely. Jesus. His heart quickened and his dick stirred.

Get a fucking grip. He was here to work. Not play. His dick had no say in this.

Pulling the door open, she stepped back, giving him a better view of her long, taut legs and arched instep, sexy as sin in nosebleed-high leopard-spot heels. Wrapped like a second skin in silk, she showed a velvety valley of pale cleavage and miles of sleek leg. His lungs stopped working, but he managed to raise a brow at her commanding tone.

The lady was used to people scurrying to do her bidding. Since she couldn’t possibly know who he was, or why the fuck he was there, he wordlessly stepped inside and followed her down the brightly lit hallway with its peeling red flocked wallpaper and water stains and Home Depot “crystal” chandelier. The place smelled of hot, fresh cookies, of damp, and, faintly, of roses. Uncarpeted stairs rose off to one side of the wide hall. At the other end he noted the boarded-up front door and more paint cans.

“You’re remodeling?” Judging from the amount of paint cans, drop cloths, and boxes of wallpaper, she planned to be around a long time. Too bad he was about to cut her decorating project tragically short. Nice of her to supply the ladder.

“I like three minutes of nipple stimulation,” she told him crisply without responding to the rhetorical question. The staccato tap of her heels on the scuffed wood floor matched her words. “No less, no more. Then penetration until climax. Your money is in the kitchen—I’ll show you where—and you can come down and get it when we’re done. No lingering afterward, no cuddling, no kissing. The back door will lock automatically behind you when you leave.”