Dani Moore barely escaped her abusive marriage. Six years later, she just wants to raise her little girl in peace. When she learns that her ex-husband is out on early parole, she goes into hiding, adopting a new name and starting a new life far away from the man who tried to kill her.
Detective David Wilde learned the hard way that romance and police work don’t mix, at least not for him. Since his divorce, he’s kept his heart closed off and his focus on the job. For Dave, being a cop isn’t only a career, it’s a way of life that defines every choice he makes…until he meets Dani.
Hired as the new cook at his family’s bar and grill, Dani’s a sweet and sexy package that brings light and color back into Dave’s life. When that light is threatened by Dani’s past, Dave will do whatever it takes to protect what’s his.
Can two battle-scarred hearts find the strength to love again, or will an act of revenge destroy their future before they’ve even begun?
Dave had stopped pretending that he didn’t desire her. There wasn’t any point in continuing to deny it. Refusing to admit something was true didn’t make it any less real, and it was past the time he faced the truth. He wanted Dani.
Now came the hard part, remembering how the hell to open himself up to another human being. Being alone was easier, but from the moment he’d felt the warmth of her touch being alone stopped being an option. At least, it stopped being one he would accept. He’d never failed to achieve a goal once he’d set his mind to it. He wanted Dani and her little girl in his life, so he’d find a way to make it happen.
He cleared the table, then wandered into the kitchen, earning himself the evil eye from the cook for entering her domain. He knew the look well. It was the same one his mother directed at anyone who dared to set foot in her kitchen when she was cooking.
“I know, I’m in the way.” He threw up his hands and grinned at her as he took a step backward. “Could you point me in the direction of the silverware drawer?”
Her eyes widened and she stared at him in bemused silence for a moment before pointing to a drawer to his left. “In there.”
He retrieved cutlery for them both and went to lay the table, only to find her still staring at him. “Something wrong?”
“I’m just not used to anyone offering help. I swear my brother Thomas doesn’t know where the cutlery drawer is in my parents’ house.”
He shrugged and went back to the task at hand. “Mom was determined to instill manners in all of her boys. Since I’m the oldest, I had the strictest upbringing. It sucked, but at least I learned a few useful things, like how to set the table for someone kind enough to cook me dinner.”
“Remind me to thank your mom next time I see her and to find out how she did it. Casey protests every time I try to get her to do something to help around here. Like the dishes all weigh five hundred pounds and she’s physically incapable of putting her shoes away.”
Dave laughed. “I said she was determined. I didn’t say she was entirely successful. Tag’s a total slob, and Benji can’t do laundry to save his life. I’m not much of a cook, and Nicky…let’s just say he’s had some interesting career choices and is probably the main reason Mom’s hair turned gray. At least, that’s the story I’m going with.”
Dani was smiling as she came around the counter, carrying two plates laden with bacon and a perfectly folded omelet. “So that’s why you’ve been around Leo’s so much? You’ve been avoiding cooking for yourself.”
He pulled out her chair for her, summoning up manners he hadn’t used in years. “That’s part of it, yes. Can you blame me? You’re a hell of a chef, Dani.”
He waited for her to sit, then leaned over so that his mouth brushed the shell of her ear and he was breathing in her delicate scent as he finally made his confession. “But then I got to know you and Casey better, and that changed. I’ve been coming to Leo’s to see you, sunshine. It just took me awhile to admit it.”
He hadn’t intended to say anything yet. He certainly hadn’t planned on kissing her, but when Dani turned her head toward him, instinct took over. He claimed her mouth with his, savoring the silken warmth of her lips. He shifted to the side of her chair, cupping her cheek with one hand as he drew her in closer, craving more of her touch.
Her lips parted beneath his and a low moan vibrated against his mouth as she kissed him back. She reached up and twisted her fingers into the collar of his shirt, pulling him even closer. And with that small action, she broke the last of his control. It had been too long since he’d held a woman. Too many nights spent alone. The walls he’d built to keep the world at bay came crashing down, only to be washed away in a flood of carnal need.
He stood, drawing her up with him until he could pull her into his arms and hold her properly, their bodies crushed together and her soft curves molded against him. He kissed her again, slipping his tongue into her mouth to dance with hers. She reached up with her free hand to touch his face, stroking her fingers through his hair.
They clung to each other for one immeasurable moment with their mouths mated and their bodies intertwined. This was heaven, or as close to it as he’d ever been. Her scent surrounded him and her taste was in his mouth, branding his senses. She was as lost to their attraction as he was, her kisses as demanding, her hands moving over him as she explored his body.
By the time he lifted his head, his cock was throbbing in time to his pounding heart. He didn’t move far, just enough to put a few inches of space between their lips. When he looked down at her, she was staring back with eyes still dark with passion.
He opened his mouth to say something. To apologize for kissing her without permission, but before he could say anything, her kiss-swollen lips parted into a smile.
“And here I’d finally convinced myself that you weren’t interested in me,” she murmured, still smiling up at him.
“Surprise,” he said, then grinned back at her. She was so damned beautiful it took his breath away. She was also strong, smart, and brave.