Protecting Lulu

By: J.M. Jeffries

She busied herself getting plates, a knife, and turning off the kettle. Her movements were economical, but strangely sexy. He watched the red silky material of her kimono swish around her legs and it surprised him that she was barefooted. She seemed like the high heeled slipper type. The kind with the feathers.

She poured boiling water into a tea pot and set the pot on the table. She sat down and quickly cut the peaches into slices, arranging them on the two plates and handing him one.

She daintily lifted up one of the slices and took a bite. For a second a look of total ecstasy covered her face and she moaned. A bolt of need fired right down to his groin and he gritted his teeth. Then she sighed. The kind of sigh that was sensual and filled with need. She began to chew, her eyes closed and she sighed. Noah watched her as she chewed, swearing to God she damn near came. Hell, he just about came himself.

She swallowed. “There’s nothing better in the world then a succulent peach.” She wiped a bit of juice from the corner of her mouth with a napkin.

Noah couldn’t speak. He couldn’t breathe. He just wanted to sit there watching her eat and jack off. Damn, damn, damn! When had he become such a freak? He had to get his mind off of her eating. “How did you know it was me standing outside?” He let his curiosity got the better of him.

“I recognized your scent.”

God, he hoped he didn’t smell bad and resisted the urge to check his armpits. “You smelled me?”

“You have a very unique scent—woodsy with a hint of musk. It’s very pleasant.”

Back in the day they’d go native to blend in and not smell like Americans, but this was the first time he heard of a civilian doing the same. “How did you learn to tell the difference between people’s smells?”

She smiled at him. “Next year, I’m launching my perfume. When I decided to create my own perfume, I hired a nose to teach me the business. I’m not good enough to break down the entire process, but I’m not bad.”

“A nose?” He had the image of a disembodied nose floating through the air.

“People who have super sensitive scenting abilities. They are like human blood hounds. The perfume business is very complicated. It was quite an education.”

“I can imagine.” Who knew people hired out their noses?

She poured tea into a delicate china cup. “What’s your story Mr. Callahan?” Pursing her full lips she blew on the hot liquid and then took a dainty sip.

Noah couldn’t take his eyes from her luscious mouth. For a couple of seconds he imagined those lips on his skin. “I don’t have one.”

She gave a very unladylike snort. “Of course you do. Everybody does.”

Noah lifted an eyebrow and hoped the look he gave her would make her stop prying into his life. “Why is having a story important?” Why the hell did she need to know it?

She shrugged. “I just like to know these things. Beside I have to reveal all my secrets. I think it’s only fair I know a bit about you.”

Noah shook his head marveling at her persistence. “Knowing your story means I keep you alive. You knowing my story is a waste of time.”

She put her cup down with barely a sound. “Then tell me why you don’t like me? Have I done something to offend you?”

For a second he was stunned at her bluntness. “I don’t know you.”

“Nor do you really want to know me.”

She’d hit that nail on the head. He didn’t want to like her. He wanted to see her as a job and nothing else. Keeping things on a business level made everything simple. Once the job was over, they’d go their separate ways. When they found the person stalking her, they’d catch him, and be gone the next hour, never to see each other again. “This is business, Ms. Bennington. I like keeping things simple and easy.”

“You are not eating your peach.” She raised her cup and took a sip of tea.

Even her scolding him sounded like an invitation to … stop going there. He picked up a slice and shoved it into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. He barely tasted it, but it did earn him an indulgent smile and for a moment he felt as if he’d slain a dragon for her.

“Why?” she asked, her head tilted at him, a query in her sable eyes.

More questions. “Why do you want to know?”

She shrugged. “Occupational hazard. Wilder always tells me I’m nosy.”

On one level he was flattered by her interest. Women like her didn’t even know men like him existed. “No comment.”

“Just so you know answering a question with a question isn’t going to stop me. I’ve cracked my share of tough nuts.”

She’d won. “Remaining detached allows me and my people to keep the focus on the job which is keeping you safe.”

Now she raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow. “That precludes us from being on friendly terms?”

“Are you friends with everyone who works for you?” Noah shot back.

She gave him a little laugh. “If I don’t like you, you don’t work for me.”

He considered her words and realized the same was true for him. This was the first time in his entire working life that everyone he worked with he considered a friend. In the military a person got stuck with whoever they got stuck with. “That works for you?”

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