Protecting Lulu

By: J.M. Jeffries

Yeah, Noah called that right, the kid already had a crush on her. “She’s not your buddy.”

“She’s not the enemy either,” Dante shot back.

No, just a damn inconvenient, spoiled pain in the ass. “What did she say to Roman in the office?” Dante had a gift for languages and he was fluent in French.

Dante blushed, but didn’t answer.

“Come on, spill it.”

Damn! What kind of voodoo did this woman have on his men who’d only met her a couple hours ago? “She said he had the face of an angel.”

That startled him. “What?”

“He does,” Dante said in a defensive tone.

Noah leaned back on his heels. “Is there something you want to share with me?”

“Roman is a good looking man.” Dante held up his hands in supplication. “I’m secure enough in my heterosexuality to admit to that.” He touched his chest with his fingertips. “If I wasn’t such a hottie myself, I’d be doing good getting his leftovers.”

Looking at Roman, a person would never guess he could slit a guy’s throat and then sit down to eat his couscous. Noah had seen him do it. Noah made a mental note not to ask questions he really didn’t want to know the answers to. “I really shouldn’t have asked.”

Dante shrugged. “Dude, you seem a little twisted about this gig. What’s up?”

Noah scrubbed his face with his hands. “I’m tired. Mexico took a lot out of me.” He could have done that job in his sleep.

A knock sounded at the door and a voice announced that dinner was being served.

Noah and his team had never had dinner with one of their clients before. He watched the entire scene, feeling strange. By the time the cheesecake and coffee had been served, Lulu Bennington had everyone’s life story except for his, but not for her lack of trying. She’d hinted, poked, and pried. Noah had firmly rejected her intrusive questioning, even as he watched her interacting with his team as if they had all been friends for years. He’d even learned a few things about his people he didn’t know. She was a skilled interrogator. If she’d worked for the government, not one spy would be able to keep a secret from her. She didn’t even have to use force. She just smiled or giggled or batted those big Bambi brown eyes at a person and they would open a vein and be grateful. Who the hell would want to kill her? She was nice.

Noah couldn’t sleep. He’d rarely had that problem. When his body was tired his brain shut down and his body rested, but not tonight. Maybe the bed was too comfortable. He’d never had a mattress that molded to his body as if it were made for him. Maybe he should try the floor, that’s what he was used to.

His old man had forced him to sleep on the floor plenty of times. Once he even burned his mattress in the backyard in a drunken rage, after he’d given Noah a couple of cracked ribs. He’d slept that night, more because he passed out then for any other reason.

Fuck this. He wasn’t going to think of the past. It accomplished nothing. He lived in the now. The past was painful. He’d already lived it and didn’t need to relive it. Rolling off the bed he grabbed his jeans and put them on. He found his shirt and shoes. He’d take a stroll around the house, do a bit of recon and start working on perimeter defense. That should calm his restless mind.

He had exceptional night vision so he didn’t turn on any lights. As he descended the back stairs, he heard the sound of water boiling and someone moving about in the kitchen. Thinking he’d find Dante raiding the fridge, he eased silently down the last few steps, put his hand flat against the kitchen door and pushed it open. This museum of a house was extremely well maintained. Nothing squeaked or creaked.

The door opened and he spotted Lulu standing at the stove, a silk kimono type robe wrapped around her luscious curves showing each one to advantage. Damn! Who named a classy woman like her ‘Lulu’? The name was ridiculous.

The tea kettle whistled, steam rising in the air. Lulu opened the refrigerator door and leaned in. Noah let the door slowly fall back intending to leave her alone. The last thing he wanted was for her to think he was spying on her—even though he was being paid a king’s ransom to do exactly that.

“Come in, Mr. Callahan,” Lulu said in a brisk tone, “I was about to make myself a midnight snack.”

Noah froze. How had she heard him?

She closed the refrigerator door and turned to him holding a large peach in her hand.

“Ms. Bennington, I didn’t mean--”

“Stop making excuses. Please join me.” She smiled. “I don’t like to eat alone.”

She gave him a seductive come-hither look that melted his resolve. She was vamping him. Truth be told, he kinda liked it. “Thank you.” He stepped into the kitchen, half intending to ask her how she knew he was there, but he didn’t.

She reopened the fridge and grabbed another peach. “Tea?”

Noah shook his head. “No thank you.”

She laughed. “It won’t hurt your testosterone. I promise.”

Now he was embarrassed. “I don’t like tea.”

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