As they reached the ground floor and the elevator opened onto the luxurious reception area, Alanis smiled coolly, her back straight.
“Of course, I relax,” she said. “Often.”
“Wow, did I saw a smile?” Brody said looking at her and smiled back.
Since she avoided looking back and didn’t answer his laconic remark, Brody kept going.
“When?” he challenged quietly.
This time, Alanis stared up at him as he brought her to a halt by turning her to face him, his large hands under her elbows.
“When do you relax?” he asked patiently, his voice soft. “I mean really relax, Alanis.”
“I… All the time.”
“Red it is, then.” When another waiter handed her the menu, she was immensely thankful to see that it was printed in German, French, and English, although even so most of the dishes were unknown to her. “If I may… I would recommend you the lobster and avocado salad,” he spoke after she had been eyeing the list for a few moments, his voice casual as he kept his eyes on his own menu. “That sounds wonderful.” Alanis nodded her approval, and as Brody spoke swiftly to the waiter in rapid German, the wine waiter came back, his face wreathed in smiles as he poured a small amount of what was clearly a very expensive wine for Brody to taste. Once they were alone again, Alanis forced herself to speak lightly as Brody settled back comfortably in his chair, his strange silver-grey eyes narrowe
“I didn't say that.” ‘Oh, hell! Why can I keep my big mouth shut?’ Alanis thought despairingly. She was going to look like an idiot however this conversation went.“I see... So, you were just enquiring about my ego’s level for the sake of the conversation?” Brody drawled mockingly. “Your own special type of after-dinner conversation, I presume?”“Well… I-I… It…” Alanis had been right. She was looking like the biggest idiot in the Universe. It was time to calm down, bring her stammering voice under control, and straighten her back against the leather seat.“Mr. McLean…”“Seriously, Alanis? Again with this Mr. McLean thing?”
Brody’s voice was grave and Alanis didn't dare glance at his face, keeping her eyes shut as she settled into the car seat, pretending to be very tired. The truth was she had never been more awake in her entire life. Every nerve, every muscle was screaming for release. She kept absolutely still for several minutes until Brody spoke again, his voice silky and cool in the darkness.“Cows I can take, and even the fact that I've put the car in a ditch in the middle of nowhere… I can even get over the fact that there's an important call coming through from Japan to the hotel at midnight, that I won’t be able to take. But what drives me out of my mind is the fact that you're near me, and you’re as rigid as an ironing board. What the hell do you think I might do to you? I thought I'd reassured you earlier that rape isn't my thing!”&
A doctor, returning from an emergency call to an elderly patient, found them just after two, and by three, Alanis was back in her hotel room, lying in the warm, scented darkness, trying to force her mind back into the numbing void she had felt in the car. But it was no good... She watched as dawn began to weave streamers of gold and pink into the night sky, and then rose impatiently, padding through to the luxurious bathroom and standing under the shower for a full ten minutes while she struggled to come to terms with her shattered emotions. As the warm water splashed a velvety path over her face and body, Alanis gave herself a mental scolding that was all logic and full of sense… and didn't help at all. Her brain knew that Brody McLean was a brief hiccup in her life. She also knew that the devastating kiss and embrace in the
The silver eyes narrowed suddenly, but gave no indication of what he was really thinking.“Do you like boats, Alanis?” he asked quietly.“I haven't had much to do with any,” she replied, forcing a bright smile. “Only a little rowing boat when I was younger, which wasn't quite in the same league as the McLean cruisers!”“I never thought about you and a rowing boat in the same sentence… Quite interesting.” He straightened slightly in his seat, his voice interested but casual.“Was it yours?” She blinked slightly, suddenly aware that she didn't want to continue the conversation but unable to think of a way to deflect him from this trip into her sad past.“No, it was my dad's,” Alanis replied carefully. “He liked
The dark voice was deep and husky and unmistakably Brody's.“I-I… How did you know it was me?” Alanis asked weakly as a little shiver snaked down her spine.“I could ask you the same thing, Alanis…” he drawled slowly. “But to answer your question, what other woman would still be working at 9 pm on a Friday? Anyway, I already phoned your apartment and there was no reply… Only the answering machine.”Well… I could’ve been out,” Alanis answered quickly as the shiver was replaced by anger at the fact that he assumed she had nowhere else to go other than home or the office.“Yes, you were out alright... You were at work,” Brody replied calmly. “And don't get on your high horse, Miss Roswell. It was you who told me that your cat and your work filled your days and nights.”“I certainly did not.&rd
‘Stop it, Alanis!’ She shut her eyes tightly for a second in an attempt to block out her thoughts. But there was something about him, a dark, menacing kind of masculinity, that chewed her mind to the physical in spite of herself, and she found it all the more difficult to cope with because nothing of that kind had ever bothered her before. But with Brody McLean… She just couldn't ignore it, she conceded helplessly.“I know you live in Edgewater, but a few directions would be useful.” The deep voice cut into her tortured thoughts, and when she glanced out of the window, she realized she was nearly home, the Mercedes having eaten up the miles with flawless ease.“Of course. Sorry, I was daydreaming,” Alanis said hastily.“That does my ego a huge world
“You sure love your house very much. It’s a very pleasant place. Extremely welcoming,” Brody said quietly, after devouring a sandwich in a couple of bites, his gaze lingering on a painting on the far wall. “Wow… That's a Kimler, isn't it?” he asked softly as he turned back to her. “Yes, it is.” Alanis tried to hide her surprise, which hadn't been very well-received when he'd unexpectedly revealed that he liked cats. Matthew Kimler had only just arrived on the Chicago scene, and although he was an excellent artist and a very pleasant person, he wasn’t well-known and had no influential patrons to smooth his way. “You like his work?” “I know a little about him and his work, but my aunt does. She's followed his progress over the last few years, and she was quite thrilled when he left Seattle and moved to Chicago. By the way, I noticed one of his paintings in that art gallery you promoted. Am I to assu