Jane Harper couldn't help but feel she was being setup. When her boss had come into her office and given her this listing to broker, she'd readily agreed. Though the real estate market hadn't been great, houses in this affluent neighborhood had always sold well, even in the recession. Getting this property was a coup.
Until she'd spied the address, but by then it had been too late. Her boss had gone back to his office, and she was left staring at the address of the home. A home she knew all too well.
845 Wolf River Drive. The residence of her ex-boyfriend, Dr. Dick Anderson.
Her teeth sank into her bottom lip as she stared up at the white house with black trim. Rather than studying it for curb appeal, her mind was firmly on the man inside. Constant jokes about their names aside, their three-month relationship had been comfortable at best. Bland at worst.
The night he'd asked her to move in to this very house, she'd refused then she'd broken things off. Dick was a nice guy. He deserved someone who more than liked him, who was more than just content with him.
And Jane wanted sparks and fire and a man who made her shiver at the thought of sex. Commitment was optional.
Butterflies kamikazed around her belly as she reached for the door handle. She'd wanted to feel something like this whenever she considered being with him. Heady excitement. Anticipation.
At the moment, it was merely nerves.
Stepping from her car, she paused a moment to steady herself on her navy high heels then grabbed her case from the backseat. Swallowing, her mouth suddenly dry, she smoothed the skirt of her tailored blue suit. Her lace-trimmed white blouse and the satin trim on the jacket's pockets were the outfit's only nod to femininity. The somewhat sexless armor was a defense against men who seemed to think getting it on with their realtor was more than an urban legend. It would be an asset today against Dick. Being alone for the past four months made her vulnerable to nostalgia.
The sex wouldn't have been that bad. Better than none.
Mentally berating herself to stop, she headed for the front door. Heaven forbid he think she was afraid of him. He'd always been so nice. It wasn't until that evening when she'd told him just that--that he was too nice a man--that she'd seen a glimpse of the sort of commanding guy she wanted. But that had been too late. And he'd just been angry, anyway. That powerful presence hadn't been real.
The click of her heels on the cement reminded her of the part of the feminine outfit she couldn't resist. Right now, she wished she'd worn flats. Dick had a bit of a shoe fetish. Despite being epically dull, he'd had a thing for her shoes, and she'd often glimpsed him staring speculatively at them. If only he'd acted on the fire she'd seen in his eyes. She'd always suspected he held something back. She'd never pushed. Maybe something had held him back.
She didn't need neuroses. She'd had her share of that in boyfriends before Dick.
He opened the door as she raised her hand to knock. Caught in his deep blue gaze, she could only stare. Dick was the most beautiful man she'd ever met. That's why they'd lasted three, sexless months. Looking at him made her all hot and wet, but looks weren't something on which to build a relationship.
A bit of his curling, dark-brown hair fell over his forehead to flop over his brow while his full lips curved into a faint smile. Though she couldn't pull away from his eyes, she'd had a momentary flash of his white oxford, open at the neck, and well-worn jeans. Though she didn't look, it was likely he wore brown loafers. This was his standard casual outfit. Being a well-made man, he wore it to perfection.
Dick was neither overly muscular nor lanky. Rather, he was fit without excess fat or bulging muscles, though he did lean to the latter rather than the former. She'd appreciated that, enjoying a strong man beside her who didn't frighten her with his hulking mass.
"Jane," he simply said. Her middle shuddered with excitement--what the hell was this? Why now?
"Dick," she replied. Neither said another word as time fell away, and the moment spun a web around them. Her fingers tightened on her briefcase as a tingle of awareness washed through her chest.
She swallowed again.
This appointment was going to be hell.
Finally, he pushed the door further open. "Come on in."
Said the spider to the fly.
With a slight nod, she slipped past him and into the dimly lit foyer. None of the house was particularly bright considering the huge windows and the late spring sun burning over Northern Michigan that day.
The butterflies in her belly moved into formation, beginning a coil. Oh no...
Dick had drawn the blinds, turning them so only the faintest slits of light came through. He hadn't turned on any lights. Overhead fans pushed the cooled air back toward the floor, but as her knees wobbled, she felt prickly warmth creeping up her back.
"Where would you like to start?" he asked.
In the living room then maybe the bedroom or your pool or that massive tub in the master bath...
"The kitchen," she murmured. "We can start with paperwork then you can do whatever while I wander around taking pictures for the listing."
One side of his smile deepened, and he nodded.
"This way then," he said, brushing past her and leading the way--as if she didn't know. And why the hell did he still need to wear that cologne? She loved the scent, and he knew it.
Because he likes it, Jane. Don't go making this personal.
It stopped being personal when she'd broken up with him. Four months ago. He was in her past. She couldn't go having second thoughts now about what she'd been so sure of then.
The kitchen was at the back of the first floor, overlooking a large patio and pool. The blue water appealed to her, an unhealthy lure at the moment as the heat continued to flow through her. A quick dip would be delightful, but she'd have to settle for a cool shower at home in her tiny apartment.
She tore her gaze from the pool and looked at him, realizing suddenly that he'd been speaking to her.
"Yes?" she asked. "I was just thinking that the pool is a nice selling point."
His head tilted up slightly as he gave a disbelieving nod.
She chose to ignore his look. "What were you saying?"
"I asked if you'd like a drink. A Coke? Water? Iced Tea?"
She shook her head and pulled forms from her briefcase. "No, I should just get down to this."
"And get it over with," he replied quietly.
Her heart lurched a little, but she ignored that, too. What was wrong with her?
"This is the listing agreement," she said as she took a seat and retrieved a pen from her bag. Dick took the seat kitty-corner to her and pulled the paper toward him. "You'll see the basic terms here," she pointed to a spot then turned the page, "and this spells out our commission on the sale. Beneath that is our right to exclusive listing, but it states that we'll be putting it out on multiple databases to have the highest chance of return."
"Okay...whatever," he replied. He sounded somewhat distracted and impatient.
"I'll give you a chance to look this over while I take pictures and come up with recommendations. Do you know the home's current worth and do you have an asking price in mind? We'll of course have an assessment done by one of our associates..."
"No idea," he said.
"No problem. I'll have some recommendations after we finish the walk-through."
She pulled out her camera while she spoke and stood, feeling more comfortable now that business was underway. To her surprise, Dick followed to his feet.
"I'll come with you," he announced.
Jane stared at him, desperately trying to come up with a reason why he shouldn't. It wasn't uncommon for a seller to want to walk through with her. Normally, she wouldn't mind.
"Don't you want to look over the agreement?" she tried. "The sooner it's done, the sooner I'm out of your hair."
With the accuracy of a fiery arrow, his look sizzled straight to her core. "I'm not in any hurry, Jane."
She licked her bottom lip as he silently underlined his intention to make things uncomfortable for her. She wanted to tell him she was in a hurry, but the company behavior code forbade that. Every client received absolute attention.
"I have another showing," she lied anyway, scrabbling for control.
"No, you don't," he replied. "I made certain of that when I asked for you. Come along," he continued, taking her elbow in a steel-like grip. "We can start upstairs and work our way back down."
He'd asked for her? "You...asked for me?" she murmured, repeating her thought. "Why? That doesn't make any sense. Why would you want to have anything to do with me after..."
Dick raised a brow and shook his head. "I'm sure we'll work together just fine."
At the moment, her hormones were saying the same thing. She felt all trembly as her panties dampened. Unacceptable. She'd only be disappointed. Desiring him had never been a problem. Still, her thighs tingled with the desire to feel him there, the abrasion of his manly legs between hers.
"Ladies first," he said at the stairs.
She shook her head, not wanting him eye-level with her ass as she went and nose-level with her unmistakable arousal. "Seller first."
"Now, don't make my mama angry with me for not treating a woman right."
She turned to him, taking one step up the stairs so they were almost face to face. She crossed her arms over her chest, letting the camera dangle from one hand. Time to cut the crap and drop the seller-realtor facade. They both knew damn well he had other intentions here. The determined look in his eyes told her that--where had this man been when they'd dated?
"We both know your mama wouldn't approve of what's going on in your head anyway. So let's drop that line right now."
"There's the Jane I remember," he laughed.
"What's going on here?"
"You're taking pictures." Putting his hands on her shoulders, he turned her then leaned into her ear. His body pressed to her back, sending tremors through her. "Now march upstairs and get to it," he instructed.
She closed her eyes against the warm blanket of belonging falling over her. She didn't belong here--or to him. A job. She was just here to do a job.
Rolling her weight to the balls of her feet and off her spiked heels, she jogged up the steps and away from Dick. She wasn't letting him stare at her butt while they made their way to the second floor--at least not at a leisurely pace.
"You've been working out," he said, as he strolled to the end of the hallway where she was opening the door to one of the four bedrooms. It had been setup as a guest room. The blinds were drawn. She'd have to open them for a good picture, but she didn't want to be in a bedroom with him.
"Really, I can do this on my own," she said.
"I prefer to be here."
"Look, you can trust me," she said in exasperation. "My company does a thorough screening of prospective employees. Criminal background checks and honesty assessments. I'm not going to take anything."
Dick shook his head. "I'm not worried about that, Jane. You've already taken the one thing I value."
She closed her eyes, as tension continued its coil in her middle, sending sparks of arousal to her erogenous zones as he continued his subtle suggestions.
"I'll stay here," he told her, leaning against the doorframe. "Open the blinds and take your picture. I don't have much interest in this room anyway."
Now, what did that mean?
Her brow furrowed, she lighted the area then snapped pictures. The same cat and mouse game continued through the second empty bedroom. She expected him to try something in the master bedroom.
But he didn't. When he did nothing more than stand in the entry and watch her, she decided he was just playing with her. Brushing past him, she headed for the fourth room while Dick hung back.
The knob clunked but didn't give as she tried to open it. Frowning, she tried again.
"It's locked," he said, near her shoulder. Reaching around her, he fitted a small key into the keyhole. Like the other rooms, this area was dark. Pressed to her back, Dick reached for the light switch.
She grabbed the doorframe, lightheaded at the scene he revealed. Her eyes went wide at the sight of shackles, benches, paddles and a plethora of other things she couldn't immediately identify.
His breath was warm as it blew over her ear. "Jane..."
"Yes," she whispered, still stunned and mesmerized.
"I have no intention of selling this house."
Her stomach lurched, and she started to shake uncontrollably. "Then...w-why am I-I here?"
He nudged her forward. "I think you can guess."