Dance With Me
Author:Hayden Braeburn

chapter FOUR



She needed to step up her game. That little ballerina was with her Mason, and she needed to take care of her. Permanently.

She toyed with the letter opener on her desk. A perfect replica of Romeo's dagger, she longed to plunge it into Mason's whore. Priscilla could picture it in her mind, the blood flowing to the floor, the life draining from the dancer's eyes. Instead, she put it down. She couldn't be so close, she couldn't be implicated and she couldn't do it herself, no matter how much she wished she could. She clenched and unclenched her hands, the bite of her nails digging into her palms calming. The pain was welcome, soothing, grounding. She couldn't fantasize about killing—she had to bring the fantasy to life.

She paced her office, mentally running down her contacts. She wasn't calling Brandon again, no matter that he could help her—she didn't want to speak to him again as long as she lived. He was a brute and didn't understand true love. She could call any number of men to do any number of things, but she didn't know an assassin. She stomped her feet. Dammit! The longer she let Mason think he could marry someone else, the further away her children were. Time was running out.

~*~

Carter's office had called a security and protection firm, requesting assistance protecting Kat and securing Mason's home and the surrounding acreage. True to the lawyer's word, shortly after Mason's freakout with Kat in the window, Alec Cartwright and Sean O'Dell from Trent, McKenna and Buchanan arrived. Carter assured him the two men were the best of the best, but Mason wasn't sure what to think about the operatives he'd allowed into his house. One was four or five inches taller than himself, with an obvious military haircut; the other was a couple inches shorter and less overbearing in appearance. Each carried a pistol under his left arm, and Mason was sure there was another somewhere else he couldn't detect. After introductions had been made, the four of them sat down to discuss what he hoped was superfluous—protecting Kat's life.

If she hadn't been completely in love with Mason, she would have been more than impressed with her bodyguards. Both incredibly attractive men, Sean O'Dell had to be nearing six and a half feet tall, his black hair still cut like the Marine he had been for years, his eyes a startling emerald green. Alec Cartwright was a few inches shorter but no less impressive, his sandy hair a bit longer and his eyes a warm moss. Fleetingly, she thought of calling her girlfriends to come over and ogle the hard-bodied men before the reason for their company hit her full force. These men were here to keep someone from killing her.

“So, how does this work, exactly?” Kat asked, a tremble in her voice.

“One of us will be with you at all times,” Sean started to explain, only to be cut off by a growl from Mason.

“Not all times,” Mason stated.

“One of us will be around at all times, most likely both of us.” Sean shot a look at Mason that clearly said, 'I'm not interested in your woman,' as he went on, “We will not only secure the house, but the perimeter, installing cameras and motion detectors. If you feel your life is in danger, Miss Nemecek, we will insure your safety.”

“Do you really think Priscilla will try and kill me?” She knew she'd asked the question before, but before these men set up camp in Mason's home, she wanted to be sure.

“Jamieson filled us in on the details and the set-up,” Alec answered. “If you were my woman, I'd be protecting you from the likes of her.”

Well, shit. If the professionals thought she was in danger, she really couldn't argue with Mason about it. “So, what do we need to do?”

~*~

“Drew, can you take care of one more thing for me?” Priscilla asked her assistant.

Drew went through his checklist for the day, marking off everything he'd managed to do in nine hours time. Priscilla McClaren was nothing if not demanding. “What do you need?”

“You're a hunter, aren't you?” she asked.

“Deer, mostly,” he answered, thrown by a question in no way related to his workday.

“I need you to hunt something else for me.”

He thought through the calendar, coming up with September gamebird season. “Do you need a goose?”

She laughed. A goose indeed. “No, I need you to take care of a Kat.”

“A cat? If you have a stray or feral cat on your property, you need to call the ASPCA, not a hunter, Priscilla.” Did his boss really just ask him to kill a pet? “I only hunt for food, and only during the correct season,” he added for emphasis.

Priscilla poked out her bottom lip. “C'mon, Drew, you don't think I'd really ask you to kill a furry little animal, do you?” She stood then, putting a little extra swing in her step as she walked toward her young assistant. “I need you to take care a problem for me, but it's not an animal.”

He felt the need to run out of the office, but held his ground, hoping she wasn't asking what he was afraid she was asking. “I'm flattered, Ms. McClaren, and you're a beautiful woman, but I've got a girlfriend.”

She stopped inches from touching him. This was not going as she envisioned. Dammit. She'd have to convince someone else to help her, Drew had too much integrity anyway. “I'm sorry, Drew. Please just go home. I'll lock up.”

He left as quickly as possible, not quite running, but coming close to setting a speed-walking world record. She sighed. She'd be willing to bet his resignation would be on her desk in the morning. Dammit. He was a great assistant, too.

She waited until she heard the door slam behind him before throwing everything on her desk at the wall. She had chosen Drew because she knew he could shoot, had been prepared to convince him by any means necessary, but she wasn't a monster. She just needed to fix her problem and bring Mason home. Was that really asking too much?

~*~

Kat had never been more bored in her life. She was stuck inside on what the weather report promised would be a beautiful day made to stay away from windows. A woman could only watch so many cooking shows and repeated primetime dramas. Lordy, she needed to dance. Making the decision, she gathered her shoes and made her way downstairs. The living room had hardwood floors and fewer windows than the kitchen. She cursed Mason's good taste when he built the house. Windows and French doors were beautiful, but they weren't safe when one was trying to avoid being shot.

“Hey, Gorgeous,” Mason greeted as she descended the polished staircase.

She smiled at the love of her life, never slowing from her mission. “I need to dance.” She moved toward the couch, grabbing one side. “Help me move the furniture.”

“Wait. There are three men in the house. You don't need to do that.” Mason replaced her at the end of the leather couch, Alec appearing on the other. She marveled at the bodyguard's ability to disappear into shadow. She hadn't even noticed him in the room when she'd come down the stairs, yet he couldn't have been far from her direct view.

They made quick work of clearing the room, pushing all the furniture to the windowed side, providing as much a barrier as possible. Alec was sure the perimeter was secure, but they were unable to protect against long-range snipers short of holing her up underground. The idea wasn't off the table, but given the intel from Jamieson and Everett regarding Priscilla McClaren, an attempt on Katerina was more likely to be personal than professional.

Kat threw herself into the dance, her nervousness and restlessness coming out in the steps. What had started as a need to move became more and more cathartic as she flew across the floor. Just a few days ago she had almost given up on her studio, on Mason, on life in general. Yesterday had begun behind bars, and today she had two men in the house paid to keep her alive. In her dance, she let it all fall away, let the music move through her. When the final notes played, she was panting with exertion and oblivious to the clapping in the room.

God, she was sexy. Unable to stand the other men watching her, clapping for her, he strode across the room and swept her into his arms. She was his, and no one and nothing would keep her from him. He cupped her chin and brought his mouth down on hers fiercely.

She lost herself in his kiss, in the feel of his tongue against hers. Before she registered what was happening, she found herself backed into Mason's office.

She tore her mouth from his to ask, “Why are we here?”

“The door locks,” he answered before kissing her stupid again. No further explanation was necessary.

~*~

He devoured her, one hand in her hair, the other on her hip. Miraculously, they made it to the desk without injury, focused as they were on each other. He wanted to give her pretty words of love and encouragement, and he promised himself he would. Later.

Kat had no intention of making Mason jealous when she'd come downstairs to dance. Every day she danced in front of an audience, and he had never reacted like this. Oh, she knew she should be outraged at his obvious show of jealousy and possession, but it was just the opposite. She loved it, and couldn't wait to see what happened next.

She was his, and he had to have her. Now. He turned her, bending her over his desk as he pulled her dress up to expose her luscious ass. His erection went impossibly harder when he found the scrap of lace barely covering her visibly wet. Without further hesitation, he tore the lace from her, released his aching cock, and plunged in.

Possessed. She was beyond full and utterly possessed by Mason and it was perfect. She grabbed the edge of the desk and held on as he rode her relentlessly, filling and retreating in an almost frantic rhythm. She knew he needed to control, to dominate, to own her if only for this moment, and gave herself over to him.

He knew he should slow down, should be more gentle, but he was too consumed by need. He slammed into her, loving the sounds falling from her mouth, the clasp of her muscles around him. When she clamped down on him, milking him, he released deep within her.

~*~

Priscilla shook sawdust from her heel, hating how low Mason had made her stoop. A bar in the backwoods of Maryland was not her idea of a good time. She suppressed a shudder. She was here on a mission, nothing less, and she would buck up and take care of business. For Mason, she could endure anything. She took a deep breath to brace herself and immediately regretted it. Stale smoke, beer and body odor filled her nostrils and turned her stomach. Pretending she was unaffected, she turned to the scarred bar with an ancient biker behind it. “I'm looking for Dylan Black. He's expecting me.”

“Is he now?” The bartender asked, his lips covered by a thick, gray handlebar mustache. She waited as he gave her a slow perusal, his eyes almost black in the dim light. “You sure you're here to see Dylan?” he asked.

“That's who I asked for, isn't it?” she snapped.

With a shrug he said, “Ol' Dylan is moving up in the world.” At her impatient gesture, he gave her a raspy chuckle. “In the back,” he directed with a jerk of his head.

She pulled her spine straight, squared her shoulders, and picked her way through sawdust, crumbs, and peanut shells to a table in a dark corner. She couldn't imagine what else was on the floor she couldn't see, but chose to ignore it. Never before had she been in a place like this, and she vowed she never would again after tonight.

“Mister Black?” she asked as she slid into the rickety chair across from him. Her initial assessment was a good one. A bear of a man, he had a craggy, furred face and a large muscular body to go with it.

“Depends who's askin'.” He studied the woman, so out of place here in her pretty suit and sparkling diamonds. She was a delicate thing, small and blonde. Why would a woman like this come looking for him?

She cleared her throat, as if the words she wanted to say were stuck. Finally, she said, “I am in need of your services.”

A wide grin broke through the fur. “What kind of services are you in need of, little lady?”

“I need you to take care of someone for me.”

He chewed on that for a moment, not liking the implications. “I ain't a babysitter.”

“A babysitter?” She shook her head. Was this man deliberately misunderstanding her, or was she on a wild good chase? “I need someone eliminated.”

He stood up, leaned across the table. “I don't know who gave you my name, lady, but they ain't a friend of either of us. I ain't a killer.”

That bastard. Why had she trusted Brandon? After that episode in the parlor the other day, she'd known better than to call him, but she'd had no choice. She stomped her foot. “So, what do you do?” If that asshole ex-stepbrother of hers had set her up, and she had just propositioned a cop, she'd kill him herself.

“I'm a skip tracer,” he answered easily. He tipped his head toward her, daring her to ask him what that meant.

“A bounty hunter? I asked him for an assassin and he sends me a bounty hunter?” she shrieked.

Dylan made a production of rubbing his ears. “Jesus, woman.”

“I need someone killed, not captured.”

“I gathered that.” He looked her up and down. “It's a bad idea, darlin'. You don't want to get caught up in all that.”

“He doesn't belong to her!” she exploded.

He held up his hands. “Whoa, there.”

“He ruined all my plans,” she muttered, a defeated look on her face.

This woman was all over the place. Hating himself for being curious, he asked, “You lookin' to off him or her?”

“Her! Always her.” Her expression softened from harpy to school girl as she went on, “He's mine.”

Dylan had a feeling the man in question didn't believe himself to be hers. He wished he could help the couple this woman wanted to have killed. “I can't help you there.”

“Surely somewhere in this hellhole of a bar is someone who can help me.”

That was very likely, but he wasn't about to agree. “Lady, this is a bad idea. Give it up.”

“What do you suggest I do?” she asked, her voice rising again. “Let her take him from me? Let her take my children from me? I can't! She was arrested for dealing drugs just this week!” He didn't need to know she had set all that up, it sounded compelling and she was in need. She watched his expression change from annoyed to intrigued and gave herself a mental pat on the back.

“Your children are in danger?”

In danger of not being born, but that wasn't important. “Yes. He won't let me have them, and she's in the way.” The truth. She told him nothing but the truth.

His golden eyes softened a bit. “I'm not killing anyone, but I want to help your kids. What are their names?”

She had thought about this for so long, the answer came easily. “Christian Michael and Catherine Melissa.”

“Twins?”

“I have to save them,” she sidestepped. “How do we save them?”

“She's endangering them?”

“I'll never have them if she's in the way.”

He gave her a confused look. “You'll never have them?”

“Back. I'll never have them back,” she quickly amended.

He noticed her stumble, but chose to ignore it. “I'm not killing anyone.” Never again. Never, never again.

“Understood.” She nodded. “But you'll help me?”

“I want to help save your kids.” He'd never turn his back on a child, no matter how off-kilter their mother. He'd help her save her children, if they needed saving.

Check and mate. She managed a couple grateful tears. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”