"Everyone down on the floor!"
Matt O'Connor always knew there was a reason he hated banks, but it wasn't until this exact moment that he figured out why: Money made people go insane. And a building full of it? Well, apparently that made people turn into idiots.
Yup, idiots. That was the only word he could use to describe the three morons who bounded into the lobby of San Diego Savings and Loans with pantyhose covering their faces. They wore ill-fitting camo outfits that they'd probably picked up at a discount army surplus store, and the way two of them held their older-model handguns revealed that handling weapons wasn't their strong suit. The third guy, whose long black hair stuck out from beneath his ridiculous pantyhose mask, held his 9mm with ease, but aside from the fact that he knew how to grip a gun, he was as inept as the others.
Several female patrons in the brightly lit lobby shrieked at the sight of the robbers, immediately face-planting themselves on the beige tiled floor. An older gentleman took his time lowering himself down, while a couple of others just stood frozen in place as if they couldn't figure out if this was for real or if they were being punk'd.
"This is a bank robbery!" Black Hair shouted.
Matt rolled his eyes. First of all, no shit. Secondly, didn't robbers say something like "this is a hold-up?" Who used the words bank robbery during a bank robbery?
"You! Yeah, you, shaved head!"
Huh. They were talking to him, Matt realized. He turned slowly to find the barrel of a gun pointed at his face, this one wielded by a guy with a huge hooked nose that the hose couldn't hide. "I said down on the ground."
With a sigh, Matt bent to his knees. Then, when the gun waved in front of his eyes, he reluctantly lay on his stomach. He could probably have taken down this trio of morons in less than ten seconds, but didn't want to do anything rash, not until he got a better feel for these guys. Chances were, their weapons weren't even loaded, but he still decided to let it play out. He was tired from the grueling workout he'd just put his body through on the SEAL obstacle course back on base, and besides, he was kinda curious to see how these robbers planned to carry out their heist.
Hook Nose moved away from Matt and situated himself at the door, pointing his gun at the overweight security guard whose only attempt at stopping this robbery had been squeaking "I'm a security guard!" when the three men barreled into the bank. The robber in the bright red sneakers paced the lobby, watching the patrons lying on the floor, while Black Hair headed for the nearest teller and said, "Where's the manager?"
Matt heard tentative footsteps from behind the counter and then a woman with a faint Indian accent said, "I'm the manager."
"Listen here," Black Hair yelled.
"Okay, we can all hear you," an annoyed female voice mumbled to Matt's immediate left. "No need to keep yelling."
He shifted his head, surprised when he noticed the blonde hottie lying on her stomach a couple of feet from him. He hadn't noticed her when he'd come in, and since he could describe each and every last detail about each and every last person in this bank, he deduced that Blondie must have come in when he was talking to the teller. Because he definitely would've remembered seeing her. He could tell she was tall, judging by the long, lithe body stretched out on the floor, and her hair was the palest shade of yellow, falling into a pair of big gray eyes. The most distinct thing about her, though, was that she didn't seem frightened, upset or panicked in the least. If anything, she looked bored by this entire situation.
Spotting him peeking over at her, Blondie rolled her eyes and whispered, "Do you think they bought Bank Robbing for Dummies to prepare for this caper?"
"Nobody is going to get hurt!" Black Hair was shouting at the bank manager. "We just want the money."
There was the sound of paper crumpling, and when Matt tilted his head, he saw Black Hair handing the teller a brown paper bag. Oh for Pete's sake.
"They couldn't even spring for a duffel bag?" he muttered under his breath.
Beside him, Blondie coughed to smother a snort.
A register dinged open, followed by four others, as Black Hair moved to each teller's wicket to collect his hard-earned cash. When he finished, he tossed the bag over to Red Shoes, then turned back to the manager and ordered, "Now we go to the big safe."
A beat of silence. "You mean the vault?" the woman asked cautiously.
"Yes, the vault, bitch."
"Oooh, someone's getting upset," Blondie whispered.
Matt choked back a laugh.
"Nobody here has the combination to the safe," the manager said. "Only the branch manager can access it."
"You said you were the manager," Black Hair snapped, sounding irritated.
"I'm the assistant manager," came the meek reply.
"Uh-oh," Matt's new favorite person muttered. "This sure is a conundrum."
"How will they ever open the big safe now?" he whispered back.
The sharp yell came from Red Shoes, whose pacing had brought him to their vicinity. Matt didn't even flinch as the gun barrel jammed into the nape of his neck. Right, because this idiot was really going to shoot him. These guys couldn't be older than twenty, twenty-one tops, and they obviously had no clue what they were doing. Matt's shoulders tensed as he debated whether to wrench the gun from this imbecile's hands. His muscles relaxed. Naah, no point causing trouble. His interference might make these guys trigger-happy and Matt had no desire to see anyone get hurt. This heist couldn't last much longer, and no doubt these losers would be arrested the second they exited the bank.
And anyway, this was just starting to get fun.
As Matt and the blonde fell silent, Red Shoes clucked his tongue in approval, lifted his gun, and paced off. At the counter, Black Hair was forcing the manager to dial the branch manager's home phone number.
"Speakerphone!" he barked.
Matt really wished he could see what was going on above him, but he had to settle for just hearing it. The assistant manager's cell phone resonated a loud busy tone.
"I guess the branch manager is too cheap to invest in call waiting," Blondie murmured.
"Maybe he can't multi-task when it comes to communication," Matt pointed out, fighting a grin.
"Quiet!" Red Shoes barked at them.
"Call his cell phone," Black Hair ordered.
This time they got a dial tone, only to be replaced with a booming male voice that announced, "Lewis Templeton, San Diego Savings and Loans. Leave a message."
Obviously Black Hair and his crew of misfits had no idea what to do now that they'd been barred access to the big safe. Across the room, a woman whimpered.
"You're lying," Black Hair finally said, anger in his voice. "You do know the combination to the vault, don't you?"
"I really don't," the manager protested.
"I changed my mind," Blondie whispered. "I thought they had the IQ of first-graders, but I've demoted that down to kindergarten."
Matt laughed, only to receive another harsh reprimand from Red Shoes, who was beginning to look frazzled by this entire mess. He kept glancing at the enormous window, then at the confused people standing outside the bank door wondering why they couldn't get in.
"Someone's using their cell phone out there!" Red Shoes said, sounding frantic. "I think they're calling the cops, Billy! We should split!"
Billy, the robber formerly known as Black Hair, spun around in fury. "What did I tell you about using our real names, you fucking idiot? Stick to the codes."
"I bet one of them is eagle," Matt murmured.
"Sorry, Eagle." Red Shoes sounded humbled. "But we need to split, like, now!"
From the corner of his eye, Matt saw the red sneakers making their way to the wicket. The two robbers huddled together, mumbling to each other about their next move.
A streak of impatience shot through Matt, and a little alarm went off in his head. All right. This had gone too far. The guys were panicking now, and idiots plus panic plus guns could only equal trouble. Someone could actually get hurt here.
He glanced at Blondie. "Stay down," he said in a low voice.
Her gray eyes widened, her mouth parting to protest, but he was already on his feet and springing to action. It took two seconds to disarm Billy and Red Shoes, and two more to land an uppercut on Billy's jaw that had the guy slumping unconscious onto the floor. Without even breaking a sweat, Matt wrenched Red Shoes's arms behind his skinny back, getting him in an iron hold that had the guy gasping in pain. Then he raised one of the guns he'd confiscated from the robbers and pointed it at Hook Nose, who looked like a deer caught in headlights over by the door.
"Drop your weapon, or this idiot dies," Matt called cheerfully.
Hook Nose hesitated for all of a second, and then his handgun clattered to the floor and landed next to the foot of the security guard. "Now get on the ground, hands on your head," Matt ordered, and the guy dropped down like a bowling pin, just as the wail of sirens filled the air.
Matt glanced over at the security guard, who was staring at him with shocked and grateful eyes, and said, "You're welcome."
The cops didn't keep the patrons in the bank for long. After slapping cuffs on the idiot robbers and carting them into the waiting police cruisers out front, the three officers gathered everyone's statements and collected contact information should they be called in as witnesses for the moronic trio's trials. The officer who questioned Matt looked about nineteen, and listened in awe as Matt described how he'd taken out the robbers. He explained he was a Navy SEAL, which got him another dose of awe and a bunch of questions about the Navy, but Matt was only half paying attention to the conversation. Ten feet away, Blondie was speaking to a female police officer who was scrawling things down in a little black notebook.
Now that he had a better view, he realized Blondie was even hotter than he'd thought. Tall, as he'd suspected, but with the figure of a centerfold. Tiny hips, big tits, and the roundest, perkiest ass he'd ever seen. His mouth watered just from looking at her, and a burst of irritation went off inside him when he noticed the officer close her notebook and gesture that Blondie could leave.
Interrupting his own officer mid-sentence, he said, "Can I go now? I've kind of got somewhere to be."
The young cop looked down at the notes he'd made. "Yeah, you're free to go. We'll contact you if there's anything further."
"Good. Great." Matt was already heading toward the double doors, which his sassy blonde had just waltzed through.
He caught up to her just as she reached the small parking lot next to the bank.
"Hey!" he called.
She stopped, glanced over her shoulder, and a wide smile spread across her lips. "Oh, it's you. The big hero."
"Don't bother hiding it. We both know you were impressed with what I did back there," he said with a cocky grin.
Those gray eyes twinkled. "Yeah. I guess that was pretty impressive. What are you, a superhero?"
He shrugged. "I'm a Navy SEAL."
"Oooh, a soldier," she teased, running a manicured hand through her long, blonde hair. "I guess I'm lucky I decided to cash my check today. And to think we never would have met if I did it yesterday." She tilted her head. "Then again, if I did it yesterday, I wouldn't be late for work right now. Good thing I'm my own boss, because I don't think 'I was caught in a bank hold-up' would fly as an excuse for being late."
He grinned at the sarcastic note to her voice. "Yeah, I don't think my team commander would accept it either." He paused. "I'm Matt, by the way."
"Savannah," she replied, sticking out her hand.
He shook it, and a tremor of heat went through him the moment their palms touched. This woman was extremely hot, and definitely amusing. He had a date tonight, with a waitress he'd met last night at a club, but suddenly he had no desire to hook up with the voluptuous brunette. He was far more interested in this leggy blonde in front of him.
"Savannah," he echoed, hearing his southern drawl rear its head. Damn accent always seemed to get stronger when he was flirting. "Your parents like the South or something?"
"No, they like eco-systems."
He blinked. "Huh?"
"My dad is a geography professor at Stanford. He's a big fan of grasslands."
For the life of him, Matt couldn't figure out if she was joking.
"I'm not joking," she said, as if reading his mind. "He teaches an entire unit on the tropical savannahs of Northern Australia."
"Oh. Wow. I honestly don't know what to say to that."
"Yeah, most people don't." She tossed her hair over her shoulder, then lifted an electronic car remote and clicked a button. Two sharp honks came from the shiny red Toyota parked a few spots away. Savannah took a few steps toward it. "Okay, gotta run. Thanks for saving us from the bank robbers."
"Wait," he cut in.
She stopped. "What?"
He suddenly felt awkward. He wasn't used to women being completely indifferent to his charms. Though in his defense, he hadn't been giving her his A-game. That eco-system thing had thrown him off.
"Do you want to get together sometime?"
She seemed to think it over.
To think it over.
Since when did women need to mull over the idea of a date with him? The other members of his SEAL team, including his best friend Ryan, were either married, engaged or in serious relationships, but Matt was still carrying on the tradition of hot hook-ups and no-strings flings. He loved women, and he had no desire to settle down with just one. Where was the fun in that? There were so many gorgeous females out there, and he'd spent the better part of ten years sampling each and every one. He was twenty-eight years old and he always got what he wanted in the sex department--and right now, he wanted Savannah.
"Naah, I think I'll pass," she finally said, then had the nerve to give him a sympathetic smile.
He returned the smile, but his was loaded with heat. "Are you sure? You were just caught up in very dangerous situation--I think you might need some comforting."
She gave an unladylike snort. "Comfort sex? Seriously, you're offering me comfort sex?"
Matt faltered. Again. This woman was totally throwing him off his game here.
He pushed aside the disconcerting thought, gathering up every ounce of charm and confidence he possessed. "I think you might need it," he said solemnly.
She just raised one dark-blonde eyebrow. "I think I need to get to work, actually." She took off walking again.
Matt hurried after her, catching up as she reached for the door handle of the Toyota.
Ah, a challenge. Okay. If she wanted to play hard to get, he was all for it. But he knew this attraction definitely wasn't one-sided. He had plenty of experience with the ladies, and he knew when one liked him.
"Take it easy, Matt," she added as she opened the car door and slid into the driver's seat.
"I know a great Italian place," he persisted. "Just me, you, a bottle of wine..."
"Yeah, Italian's not really my thing," she said, cutting him off. Then she leaned out of the car and pointed to the sky. "Hey, I think the Bat-signal's calling you."
He fell for it. And when he turned back, she had reversed out of her parking space, giving him a sassy wave of the hand before she peeled off.