It made her long for what she couldn't have. It made her more and more aware that he slept down the hall from her. She'd tasted his loving once, had experienced him with all the carnal pleasures a woman could want, and the knowledge made her feel like a high-strung thoroughbred champing at the bit.

If that evening in Hong Kong, those few hours were incredible, what would an entire night bring?

Stop, she mentally screamed at herself. Sex isn't everything and he'd turn his back on you the instant he discovered you're CIA.

It made her want to get out before either of them got hurt.

She knew Bryce thought avoidance was the answer, but for Ciara, just being on the same planet with that man was difficult. She had to leave. Now. Before it was too late. All she needed was one word from her supervisor about Mark Faraday that he'd been caught and she'd be off again, either testifying against Faraday as a witness to his crime or fulfilling a new assignment.

She left the nursery and went to her room. If Carolina could adapt easily to her, a stranger, she could do the same with anyone, right?

Ciara plopped onto the bed, and opened the mini laptop, typing in the codes. Although she'd covered all the bases, disappeared without a trace as she'd done a hundred times before, there was that thread of risk to Carolina and Bryce she couldn't shake. She routed the computer phone line over the Internet and through four countries before she connected the phone to the computer and dialed. Ciara glanced at the door, then slid the small laptop under a pillow as a precaution. Katherine Davenport picked up instantly. They said hello, then Ciara got down to business.

"You need to replace me."

"What's wrong?"

"I can't do this to them."

"Honey, you have to talk to me more than that."

"It's him, Kat."

"Him? Who him?"

"Hong Kong," was all Ciara needed to supply.

"Oh Lordy, the one-night, no-name man of mystery you refused to give me any details about except a secret smile?"

Inwardly Ciara groaned. "Yes."

"Bryce Ashland was your one-night fling?" Apparently the one time she mentioned it after years of no contact—was coming back to gloat.

"Do I have to repeat myself? I know you're smarter than that."

"Oh, testy, huh?"

"You try to be around this man and see if he doesn't set your hormones jumping in five directions."

"Feeling vulnerable?" Sadistic pleasure rippled through those words.

"I can't afford to feel vulnerable," Ciara muttered. It was all she could do not to go to Bryce and demand he make her feel like a woman again. Demand that he make love to her instead of just have wild sex. That very thought made her see how much trouble she was in already. Love was the last thing she needed now. In no more than three days of living in his house, of sleeping just down the hall from him, she was slipping out of her element. Too quickly. And she was afraid she'd never get back to her career. And she wanted to be back, if anything to see her former partner Mark Faraday go down for his betrayal.

"I can't stay here," she said, trying to convince herself as well as Kat. "His daughter is too adorable and she deserves someone better than me. Someone who'll stick around. Someone who can really be a mother to her. You have to get me out of this. I have to leave."

"I guess I can find—" Kat started to say.

The phone was snatched from Ciara's hand.

Her head jerked up and she found Bryce hovering over her.

"No," he said into the receiver.

Jumping to her feet, Ciara reached for the phone. "Bryce! This is a private conversation."

"Too bad. I heard."

He kept the phone from her and Ciara had the urge to take him to the ground like one of the hundreds of suspects she'd left incapacitated in the past. But that would reveal the secret she needed to keep.

He put the phone to his ear. "She's not leaving, so whoever this is, forget it."

"This is Katherine Davenport and Ciara feels the need to leave and was calling for a replacement."

"I don't need one and we have a contract."

Katherine's voice sharpened. "You have one with my company, Mr. Ashland, not with my employee."

Bryce felt cornered. "She's not leaving." He shut off the phone and tossed it on the bed.

Ciara contained her temper for all of two seconds, then with a low growl, she planted her hands on his chest and shoved. "How dare you! That was my private call. It was none of your business!" She advanced until she was in his face, full of fury.

"It is, if it concerns my daughter."

"Liar! This has nothing to do with Carolina." She jabbed a finger at his chest. "This is you invading my privacy. Dammit, Bryce. I thought I could at least trust you this far." Copyright 2016 - 2023