This was no boy. His creamy brown eyes, his gaze, spoke of a man's experience and need. His lean, muscular frame betrayed those years he had toiled in construction before hitting it big in real estate development.
Despite that wealth, Tess could see that he wasn't at all corporate uptight, not like still-yakking Alan. Josh's choice in clothing was confident and casualâdark beige chinos and a white shirt worn open at the collar with the sleeves folded back to mid-forearm.
That skin was bronzed by the sun, that flesh sculpted by labor.
His gaze was still on her, watching, waiting, while his dark brows were lifting in approval, or was it surprise?
Tess wondered if his surprise was as pleasant as her own. Although she had seen photographs of him in Internet business articles, she never would have believed that he could be even better-looking in person. Or that his male beauty in a business setting could so easily match those bad boy photos in
which was strewn all over this office, even his desk.
Tess warned herself not to look at the tabloid, and certainly not to linger on it, but couldn't resist.
Wow. That cover may have been unauthorized, but it was still amazingânearly artistic as it showed three large photos of Josh with each building on the last, telling a sensual tale.
In the first, he was emerging naked from his pool. Light danced over the water streaming down his broad, muscular back and that luscious tattoo that ran the length of his shoulders.
Tess suspected he had gotten tattooed during his construction days. It was a geometric pattern, possibly Celticâtribal, bold, virile. It made her skin tingle.
In the second photo, his ass was finally bared with that flesh as hard and well-toned as the rest of him.
In the third, he was fully out of the pool, his strong legs exposed, his hands lifted to his head as he smoothed back his damp hair, his torso turned to the side as if he finally sensed someone behind him. The muscles in his thighs were powerful and taut, the right side of his chest was exposed showing that hard pec and that dark, silky underarm hair.
He looked like a modern-day
. Even the artist Michelangelo would have been impressed.
No wonder he needed protection.
For the first time since Tess had convinced her father that she should come hereâdespite his vigorous objectionsâ she was honestly glad. And not at all embarrassed by the way Josh was politely clearing his throat to get her attention.
She was behaving unprofessionally, no one had to tell her that, but there were worse things in life than a woman admiring photos of such a beautiful man.
Tess finished moistening her lips, and flicked her gaze to Alan. His expression was as pissy as that greeting.
Ignoring him, she looked at Josh.
In that moment he forgot what he had planned to say. His gaze dipped to her lush mouth, those freshly moistened lips, before returning to her eyes. A wave of desire so completely consumed Josh that he was unable to tell Alan to shut up.
As the attorney went on and on Josh saw that need again flaring in her eyes. They were hazel, a warm, golden color, as exotic as the rest ofâ
“Very well, miss,” Alan said in his most condescending tone, “you leave me no choice but to warn you.”
What the hell? Josh gave him a frown.
Alan ignored that as he continued to address her. “If you're here to throw yourself at Mr. Wyatt so you can turn around and slap him with a lawsuit, it won't do you any good. I'm an attorney and I know the law.”
Good God. Josh glared at the man, then looked at her.
A faint blush stained her smooth cheeks, though that had nothing to do with embarrassment as she finally looked at Alan. A moment passed and then another as she took in the attorney's full length, before lifting her gaze. It was as cool as her voice. “Is that right?”
Josh's brows arched. Even the most macho of men would have gone limp in all the wrong places at that dismissive tone.
Not Alan. “Exceedingly so.”
“Then you must also know what constitutes slander.”
He frowned. Josh smiled. Damn, but he liked her. Her manner was confident, her voice surprisingly musical, lilting, conjuring up images of sheer island wear, sultry nights, and moist flesh.
When her gaze touched his, liquid heat poured through Josh, again.
“I believe you misunderstand,” Alan said.
She swung her gaze back to him. “No, I don't think I do.”
His voice hardened. “You're trespassing.”
“There you go again,” she said.
“Now, now, play nice you two,” Peg said. “Especially you, Alan. I invited her inside.”
Josh smiled. “Thanks.”
The young woman seemed momentarily surprised by that response, then returned his smile.
It was so lovely and approving Josh couldn't help but grin.
Oddly enough, that killed the magic. All at once, her expression changed from approving to no-nonsenseâwatch it, buddy.
Josh fully intended to watch all of it. Didn't she know that?
Her arched right brow said that she did.
Losing his grin, Josh moved around his desk.
“You invited her in here?” Alan asked Peg.
“Yup,” Josh said as he bypassed the attorney and went straight to her, not stopping until he was close enough to capture her fragrance.
It was soft and powdery, reminding him of spring air in colder climes; that first hint of warmth scented by delicate flowers.
Her cheeks flushed again.
That and her softening gaze had Josh damned near giddy. “Hi.” He offered his hand.
Her gaze remained on his as she slipped her own inside.
Her fingers were slender and warm, her skin deliciously soft, but her grip was as firm as any guy's.
She was no pushover; that was for damned sure, which aroused Josh all the more. An easy woman had never been his style. This woman had all the makings of a challenge, out of bed and in.
His cock continued to thicken as he imagined her naked flesh on top of his as he plunged deeply inside her sweet, wet heat. Not that Josh was about to let that arousal creep into his voice, at least not yet. “Josh Wyatt, missâ”
“Tess Franklin,” Peg said.
“Tess,” Josh said, his gaze still on her.
That faint blush deepened until it was nearly as dark as her silky peach suit. “Mr. Wyatt.”
“Josh,” he corrected, in an easy, welcoming tone. “What can I do for you?” Please, God, let it be something good.
“Ah, Josh,” Peg said, “it's not what you can do for Tess. It's what she can do for you.”
Even better. Josh nodded as if he understood, while his fingers gently caressed hers. “And what can you do for me, Tess?”
Although she had come fully prepared to answer that question, and many others, at the moment words escaped her.
He had really beautiful brown eyes that were as dark as his brows and a shadow of beard, which made his hair seem that much lighter. His eyes were also bright with intelligence that was softened with patience and respect. A potent combination in any man. Male was in every part of him, even his clean, masculine scent. It reminded Tess of leather, tobacco, and torrid summer nights when all caution was lost. It drove even more of her good sense away.
At least, until Alan impatiently cleared his throat.
As Josh shot him a look of warning, Tess figured she should pull herself together.
It wasn't like her to behave so foolishly; she had never done such a thing before, especially with a man. Early on, Tess had been determined to be the equal of any guy.
For some reason, Josh Wyatt made her forget everything she had believed was important, while also making her feel more female than she ever had.
His heat, touch, the sound of his deep, rich voice, the power of his male presence was even more intoxicating than the photographs.
Of course, those photographs were the only reason she had come here today. It probably would be best if she remembered that.
“It's all in here,” she said, easing her hand from his.
As Josh looked down at that, then to the envelope she was pulling from her shoulder bag, Alan spoke up.
“Don't touch that,” he ordered Josh, then frowned at her. “I should have guessed. You're a process server and that'sâ”
“More slander,” Tess interrupted, “or at the very least, another preposterous assumption.” She looked at Josh. “I'm a bodyguard.”
No shit? His gaze immediately trickled down her, lingering on her heels. They were the same peach color as her suit with a cut out area to expose her toes.
Her nails were polished in a pinkish tint that was so adorable and arousing Josh had an insane urge to drop to one knee so that he could stroke, then lick those lovely toes. A bodyguard's toes.
That brought him back to reality fast as his gaze inched back up her. To his guesstimate, she was probably five-seven or eight, weighed no more than one hundred and twenty-five pounds, though she wasn't skinnyâoh, no. Her flesh was ripe, toned, tanned, and looked raring to go.
Even soâa bodyguard?
Josh smiled, unable to help himself, as his gaze settled on the deep V of her suit jacket. “Since when?”
The edges of that jacket moved slightly with her very deep, very pissed breath.
Uh-oh. Josh lifted his gaze and wasn't a bit surprised that her slender brows were drawn together. After clearing his throat, he used his most professional voice. “How long have you been a bodyguard?”
“Since I left the force.”
His eyes widened. “What force?”
“The. Police. Force.”
She had said that very slowly, as if he was unbelievably dense or an incredibly bad, bad boy.
“You're a cop?”
had cops that looked as good as this.
“You carry a gun?”
“All the time.”
Josh struggled for a moment, then let his gaze trickle back down her. Where in the world could she have concealed a weapon in that outfit? The suit fit her nearly as well as skin. As far as Josh could tell, the only thing pushing against that fabric were curves that were supposed to be there.
At last, he glanced at her thighs. Was it possible that she was sporting a gun in a frilly garter? Did bodyguards do that? Did ex-cops?
His brows lifted as he considered that. Maybe that's why she had that slit on the side of her skirt, instead of in the back. Maybe she reached beneath that slit to pull a weapon out when she needed it.
Amazing, but nice. Josh figured even the most hardened criminal would definitely notice that frilly garter and her sleek, tanned thigh, whether she was pointing a fucking cannon at him or not.
“And you have credentials to prove this?” Alan asked.
“Prove what?” Josh asked. Hell, had he spoken his thoughts aloud?
“It's all in here,” Tess said. She waved the envelope in her hand as she went to Alan.
Her gaze noted that, before she looked at him.
Josh looked right back.
Tess's brows lifted before she turned to Alan.
Once the envelope was in his hand, the attorney gingerly pulled papers from it as if they might be hooked to a bomb. After he glanced at the first, he actually smiled. “Ah, well this explains everything.”
Josh craned his neck to see whatever had amused Alan. The man rarely smiled, so this was a problem. Already Josh liked Tess far too much to be disappointed by whatever she had brought.
“Your resume,” Alan finally added. “How fortuitous that you thought to bring it.”
“You know it really is,” she said in a surprisingly agreeable voice. “Until I get coverage in a tabloid, I'll just have to rely on my resume, now won't I?”
Joss laughed. Tess looked at him.
He cleared his throat. “Give me that,” he said to Alan.
As Josh bent his head to her resume, he again caught her powdery scent. It was on these papers and that envelope; it filled this room.
Inhaling deeply, he forced himself to concentrate. After a moment and some quick math using her dates of employment, he figured she was twenty-eight.
The resume didn't indicate whether she was involved with anyone. Of course, she wasn't married, Josh had already checked for a wedding ring.
“If you'll look at the second page,” Tess said, “you'll see I've successfully completed FBI training programs.”
No shit? Josh looked at her, then right back down, really reading her resume this time.
It was surprisingly impressive.
She had been a police officer for six years prior to working for Privacy Dynamics, Inc., a firm offering celebrity and VIP protection, private investigations, background checks, and a whole slew of other services, including witness protection and relocation.
Damn. Josh hoped this tabloid thing didn't come to that.
He glanced at her employer's brochure, seeing that the firm had recently been launched and was headed by a man named Fred Franklin.
Josh's gaze jumped up.
Tess's gaze was on his chest. She was moistening her lips again.
Okay, so Fred probably wasn't a current or ex-husband, not with the way she was looking at his chest, and how she had previously looked at his tabloid photos. Could be this Fred was an uncle or her dad.
Josh wondered how the man had known he needed a bodyguard, unless Fred just figured he'd give it a shot by sending his lovely daughter or niece over here to sell him a contract.