Ellerie sits across from me with those glowing green enchantresses eyes, watching me cautiously while she sips her cinnamon latte, as if I'm a ticking time bomb that might go off any second..
I fucking hate myself for making her feel that way.. But I'm not the guy for her..
Ellerie Devereux is like sunshine personified.. She is this bright neon star that pulls people in with a captivating gravitational force and once there, you feel her sweet and genuine warmth, that makes you never want to be without her again..
Which is exactly why I refuse to allow myself to be pulled in again.. I had, in a moment of weakness, succumbed to my desire for her and just that small taste of perfection was enough for me to see the madness in going down that road.. Not again..
If I allowed myself to go there with her, I don't know that I could survive without her... And that fear would eat me up every day..
I know that because I've been there before..
Alpha's second in command and a old marine buddy of mine, Patrick O'connor, sits beside her, munching on a plate of waffles like a starved beast, acting like there isn't a tension in the air so thick you could cut it with a knife..
He's usually more the type of guy to point out an awkward situation and make it worse, but ever since meeting Yevette Feilds - the director of Spectre's charity outreach program and his now fiancé - he has no-doubtedly become a lot more empathetic and much less of a smart ass. A welcome improvement.
"You got anythin' new on that identity thief, Devereux?"
He throws me a look as if he expects me to engage in the conversation more, and I ignore it completely.. Ellerie sits up straighter as if energised by the idea of discussing her work.. Of course she is, she is an incredible analyst with a mind like no other..
The way she sees patterns and predicts behaviours, it's honestly kind of spooky how often she gets things right..
I don't think she even realises how fantastic she is.. She certainly wouldn't realise that I think so, since the way I've behaved has most likely indicted the opposite.. Because let's be honest, if she hates me, it'll be a hell of a lot easier for me to stay away from her..
"Oh, yes! I managed to link all the activity to a particular credit card used to make an online purchase.. I tracked the parcel to a Postal Box registered to one Dean Yeats.. Believe it or not, Mr Yeats son, Calvin, is currently on parole after serving 6 months for identity fraud.."
She buzzes with a intense energy as she fills us in, bouncing slightly in her seat and I have to work overtime to keeping my gaze from falling to the soft curves of her full chest that jiggles temptingly with each bounce..
I try, but I fail..
Patrick grins at me.. I don't know if he caught me checking her out, or if there's something else I've missed.. Because I'm a shithead who can't even focus on a simple job when she's around... "Calvin Yeats.. You hear that Ford?"
I nod.. Getting a little tired of O'connor's piss-weak attempts to bridge-build.. I know she can see through them as much as I can and it really doesn't seem to be helping her to feel any more at ease.. Still I get where he's coming from, none of the Alpha men want to lose Ellerie from the team.. She's too important, so I throw the guy a bone..
"Excellent work Ellerie. We can send in Zeta team to pick him up.."
She nods, giving me that brilliant smile of hers and I have to avert my eyes like an asshole in order to keep from giving myself away.. .. After all, I've been practically staring at her.. Drooling, since we sat down.. "Great!"
"West is gunna' be cheerin' when he hears the news, El! Iris too.. We should all head out tonight an celebrate the win!" Patrick offers..
She begins to pick at the sweet pastry on the plate in front of her, her smile turning nervous.. I notice the subtle but definitive change in her demeanour.. O'connor doesn't seem to.. "I'd love to O'connor, but I've got some stuff I need to take care of after work.."
He shrugs a shoulder.. "Ah, Nex'time.."
I'm more than relieved.. I don't know if I can spend the entire night trying to pretend I don't want to be around her..
Because I do.. A little too much for comfort..
We've been sitting in this cafe all of twenty minutes and my mind has already begun to wander back to the last night that I took her bed..
Her silky alabaster skin, sweeter than peaches and cream, and the way her smooth shapely curves fit perfectly in my grip, as she hovered above me.. Riding me like a insatiable, carefree cowgirl..
The way she whispered my name still echos in my ears..
Her touch, seared on my skin, and the sight burned into my memory..
"Actually, Patrick.. I've been meaning to ask you.. That lawyer friend of yours.. What was her name again?" She asks softly..
And just like that I'm snapped back to reality, away from my dirty thoughts.. Patrick cocks his head to one side and I just stare at her, a little dumbfounded by her question..
Why is she asking about Kirby Carter?
What does she need a lawyer for?
"You mean Kirby Carter?" Rather than interrupting to demand answers like I want to, I continue to let O'connor lead the conversation, after all, he's asking all the right questions and my interest is officially piqued.. Kirby has a reputation for being one of the toughest there is and the kind of lawyer a woman can trust.. Exactly the kind of lawyer a someone like Ellerie would want..
The question is, what the hell for?
"Do you think you could put me in touch?" Her jade eyes go to mine briefly and for a second I can see the guilt in them, almost too easily.. Like she's not even trying to hide it.. I stare back trying to figure out what is going on..
What the hell did I miss?
As soon as Patrick speaks, the honest moment between us is shattered and she turns back to him..
"Definitely.. I'll send you her details, n' tell her to expect your call, love.. Everythin' alrite?" I know Patrick tries to make that last part sound casual but it still comes off as a little too concerned.. I wince, knowing any chance at any further information is shit to shit..
That's what Ellerie does when you corner her.. Typically non-confrontational, she evades.. Or worse, she runs away..
The countdown in my head begins as I watch her, waiting for the reaction I know is coming..
Three.. Two.. One..
She moves like the professional she is, glancing at her shiny rose-gold watch and jumping to her feet..
"Yeah, of course! Everything is fine... Sorry you guys, I didn't realise the time, I've got a meeting with Iris.. Thanks for the coffee!"
We barely have time to reply before she waves us off and rushes out the door heading off up the street, back towards Specter's headquarters..
I turn to O'connor.. A scowl on my face.. "What the fuck was that?"
He just grins and shakes his head, picking his fork back up and scooping in another mouthful, chewing thoughtfully, before he replies..
"Mysterious one, innt' she?"
Mysterious didn't begin to describe her.. One minute, I think I have her figured out, the next, she's got me completely turned around, confused and playing catch up..
It's not a feeling that I'm used to..
And the scary thing is, I don't hate it.. The way she challenges me and calls my bullshit.. Truthfully, it excites me in ways it shouldn't..
That spark of excitement alone, is enough to trigger a tsunami of guilt.. A guilt I deserve to feel.. Because I already got lucky once.. I found the love of my life..
Dahlia West had been my everything.. we were supposed to get out of the military together, get married, and leave that life of violence behind.. But I couldn't keep her safe.. I couldn't keep her alive, so we never got the chance.. She never got the chance.. Iwon't make the same mistakes with Ellerie.. And I will keep her alive..
Even if she hates me for it..
"You're going to find out from Kirby what the hell is going on.." I grind out the firm request through gritted teeth..
He drops the fork on the now empty plate and holds up his hands defensively.. "Uh-uh.. Nooo way brother.."
He laughs now, pointing a finger at me, his tone taunting.. "Here's an idea... Why don' you jus' ask her bout' it ye'self?"
Yep.. I'm officially done with this conversation.. I stand up and throw a couple of twenties down on the table.. "No.."