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Bared for Me

By:Natalie Anderson



Chapter One





“WHERE DO YOU think you’re going?”

Danielle Hughes almost skidded in the slush, shocked he was the one who’d been sent to find her. There she’d been thinking her week couldn’t get worse.

So wrong.

She’d finally grown the courage to get out of home for good. After the nightmare of her parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary party, she’d not returned to varsity but flown to Manhattan instead. She’d landed last night and gone straight to Logan’s apartment. She’d hoped her black-sheep brother would be supportive of her desire to escape their father’s controlling grip.

So wrong. Again.

She blinked, refusing to remember the mocking words her brother had flung at her only fifteen minutes earlier. She’d run away from his place too.

Now she didn’t look at the guy who’d caught up with her. Instead she kept moving along the crowded, slippery sidewalk. She wasn’t going to be scooped up and sent home like a recalcitrant child.

Not by him.

“Danielle.”

It wasn’t a bark of irritated authority. She’d expect that from her father or brothers. No, this was a tantalizing whisper right in her ear, his voice all wicked invitation. Unintentionally of course. Her brother’s best friend would never dream of acting anywhere near sexy with her. But there was no escaping it. Rocco St Clair embodied sex. As far as her body was concerned, he was the ultimate alpha male love god.

“Dani.”

Only her brothers shortened her name. Which said everything about Rocco’s view of their relationship.

She’d been fifteen when he’d first enthralled her. Silent, he’d looked at her with those deep, dark eyes and kept her secret. He’d kept her heart since too. Not that he knew it. Nearly five years later, his effect on her had only heightened.

Dani briefly closed her eyes, trying to fight the flush that had begun in her lower belly and was now burning it’s way up to the tips of her ears.

Morti-fricking-fying.

That she thought she was all adult when she still harbored a crush like this? She was a fool.

“Answer me,” he said in that husky, rough way. “Where are you going?”

She stole another micro-second to seize control of herself before turning to face him.

He stood beside her. Too close. And with just one look, she was as breathless as if she’d raced up the Empire State stairs in less than sixty seconds. Tall, dark, and yeah, panty-melting handsome. In his dark wool coat, and black jeans combo, Rocco St Clair was the epitome of urban winter style. But it wasn’t the clothes and the built body they fitted so well that heated Dani’s blood. It was his eyes. She could lose herself for days in the promise of intensity and effort that lurked in those eyes. She knew Rocco wasn’t one for doing things by halves. And when he smiled?

Oh lord, so not happening. She was never letting him know how much she wanted him. The only thing to do was to push back, then run.

“What’s it to you?” she challenged.

Too shrill. Bratty. The spoilt princess he expected her to be. She hated living up to the label she loathed, but how else to handle this moment of hideosity?

She’d just been ripped apart and rejected by Logan, the one person in her family she’d thought she might count on. And now she had to deal with the man she saw once a year at best, yet who’d ruined her for every other guy wanting to get it on with her.

“You have to ask?” Rocco looked mildly amused. “Your brother wants to know.”

Yeah and Rocco saw himself as another brother to her. He’d never see her as anything other than an annoying kid sister.

“I don’t need Logan to send his minion out after me,” she snapped and turned away.

Logan didn’t want to let her stay with him, but felt guilty enough to send someone to ensure she didn’t get into trouble? Too bad.

Rocco seized her upper arm and turned her right back towards him. Even through the layers of denim and merino, his grip burned.

She froze, glaring up at him, refusing to let her mind run round in giddy circles just because he had his hand on her.

“Let me go,” she barely breathed.

It was the first time he’d touched her. Not exactly the realization of an erotic fantasy. But his hand was big, strong and his fingers only tightened the more she tried to tug free. Her blood heated.

Too much.

Screw assertiveness, aggression was the only way she was getting away from him. “I don’t need you.”

She didn’t need his help or his pity or his ‘brotherly’ concern. What she really needed from him was the one thing he’d never give her. It wouldn’t ever cross his mind.

She glared up at him, the fury from her fight with Logan nothing on the flash of rage that ripped though her now. She tensed, seized with the urge to lash out.

But Rocco held her tightly. Held her gaze. She saw anger turn the light in his jet-black eyes from a warm tease, to hard. His mouth compressed. There was a moment of seething silence. But he couldn’t be as angry as she?

“What?” she dissed him. “What do you want?”

He didn’t answer right away. He just stood rigid, taller, broader, tougher than ever. And he seemed to see through her. For a horrified moment she wondered if he could read how badly she wanted him. Wanted him to help her burn the ferocious energy that ate her from the inside.

He cocked his head as if shaking off an errant thought. As he blinked, that flat anger faded from his eyes.

“Logan wants you to go back to his place,” he said.

“Logan can go to hell.”

Abruptly Rocco laughed. It lit him up like a flash of lightning—and didn’t make him any less dangerous. “I think he’s already there. Come on. I’ll get you a coffee on the way. You’ll feel better soon.”

Patronising asshole. “I’m not a toddler who needs a pacifier.”

“No?” He laughed again.

“No.” And she wasn’t going back to where she wasn’t wanted or respected. Not to her parents’ place in Summerhill, nor to Logan’s Manhattan apartment.

She squared up, planting her feet slightly wider, trying to maintain assertiveness. She so needed to.

“Rocco, look. I get what you’re doing. Logan’s asked, you’ve jumped. But it’s not necessary.”

She ignored the sudden narrowing of his sooty eyes.

“Newsflash, sunshine,” she played up her inner brat. “I’m nearly twenty. More than capable of taking care of myself. I don’t need you to play surrogate big brother.”

“You can take care of yourself?” He let her go, folding his arms across his chest. With the collar of his coat turned up, the guy was the picture of masculine style, while doubling as a big, brick wall in front of her. “Then there’s no reason not to tell me, where are you going?”

She had no freaking idea. “A hotel.”

“You’ve made a reservation?”

“I’m not afraid to walk into one and just ask for a room.” She rolled her eyes. She’d grown up in a hotel for heaven’s sake. She knew how they operated. Customer pays. Customer is served. Customer is right.

“You have cash on you?” he asked.

Why did she need cash? She glanced up at him. Her heart stopped. No way.

His expression softened infinitesimally. “Logan told me your father has blocked your credit card and reported your other bank card as lost. He did it yesterday.” He watched as she patted her jeans pocket and then unzipped her bag. “You can’t even check right now because you left your cell phone at Logan’s and it’s all out of battery. It’s after five, you’re without funds until tomorrow at the earliest.”

“What?” She patted her pockets again. That would be so right about her phone, she was always forgetting to recharge it.

Humiliation churned up her stomach acid. That her father had done this? How could someone so uncaring, want to be so controlling?

“He can’t do that.” Her account was in credit, she wasn’t burning her way through his millions. “I earned that money. I didn’t spend all my vacations waitressing at that—”

She bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself saying anything more.

“Some dreadful diner?” Rocco teased. “You had an ugly uniform?”

He was trying to make her smile.

She shook her head. “I worked at St Clair’s.”

She watched his smiling expression shut down until it was carefully, controlled. Blank.

Yeah. St Clair’s was the restaurant his mother owned. The mother he hadn’t spoken to in nearly fifteen years. The mother who’d chosen her new man over her first-born son.

“How’d your dad handle you working there?” Rocco asked grimly.

It wasn’t because of his poor treatment of Rocco that her father was at war with Bill, Rocco’s stepfather. It was all about land and assets. St Clair’s was situated on prime real estate in the exclusive ski resort, and her father wanted it. He hated the restaurant’s enduring success.

“The usual. Threats.” That he’d cut her off. Which would be fine as long as she had access to the money she’d earned. And she’d only worked at St Clair’s because her father refused to let her work for his own hotel complex.

She’d been so naive not to open a new account to put her earnings into. But her father had set that account up for her years ago—guaranteeing her lending facility—and she’d just kept on depositing into it.

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