She would always take his breath away; something fiercely animal, wild and untamed about her forced him to squelch his rising libido. That kind of instant chemical reaction could be dangerous, especially in this situation. The statuesque female stood on his doorstep dressed in a navy, custom cut business suit, snug-fitting and slim to match the curves of her womanly shape, even if she looked more like a Sunday school teacher than the Michelle Monroe he knew. No high necked blouse and knee-length skirt could hide what smoldered behind the pearls, the white clutch purse, the demure make-up-a trace of blush, rosy lips, sensible mascara to accentuate her eyes. When she bowed her head, she looked like the personification of womanly modesty and good manners. What kind of farce was this?
If it weren't for the subtle glint in her eye and the shrewd half-smile, he'd be left to wonder if she had actually changed since they were last together two years before.
Daniel wanted to laugh.
"You coming in, or should we do this on the porch?"
As she stepped through the doorway of his old Georgetown house, he could see her tremble and her lips part. He sensed her racing heart, her anxious breath. She could barely meet his eyes with hers and was tempted to study his friend, Marcus, who stood nearby just to observe. Neither man provided any comfort in their cool expressions; their hardened eyes were keenly studying her. The air crackled. Nerves were drawn to the bitter edge. Under the bright spotlight of their concentrated efforts, what poise she displayed on his doorstep turned brittle and began to crack at the seams. With it, her carefully fabricated façade began to splinter.
Daniel's front door slammed behind her and she jumped.
"Daniel, really," she rushed in. "I just need a moment of your time-"
"On your knees, whore!" he cut her off with his curt command splitting the air.
She gazed at him dazed, shaken, hesitating a moment too long.
"I said, on your knees, whore." He came at her like a beast, eyes flashing as he smacked her cheek with the palm of his hand. She reeled back, defenseless, confused. Off balance, she teetered in her high heels then collapsed to the marble floor, on her knees, at his feet. She looked up, praying for mercy.
But there was none from the man hovering above her, angry and bullish. And no explanation.
She blanched in horror, anxiously gazing upward from one man to the other, from the man in the business suit to the Texas mercenary Daniel Broc who she'd come to see. Once her eyes caught Daniel's, they wouldn't waver. The rugged face, the square cut jaw, the cool blue eyes would always hold her enthralled. The man was a rock. A force of nature. A cowboy, a maverick-muscled body, barrel-chested, fit, hard-boiled and as cynical as the life he led. He would have been better suited to an earlier century when men were men and women knew their place...that sort of thing.
Seeing little response from the terrified woman, he snatched a four-foot whip from the hall table and snapped it against her nyloned thigh. She flinched, but panic struck, she didn't budge until he snapped the whip against her arm, then her thigh and back and forth, until she began to back further away with each strike. "Strip, slut!" Her clothes protected her from the pain that would have seared the flesh had he hit bare skin, but nothing could protect her from the furious emotion that fueled the man's attack.
She tried the buttons on her coat but her fingers refused to work. "Daniel, please!"
The whip lashed out again and she backed up another six inches. "Please, nothing, bitch. I said strip!" He delivered the message for the third time with another slash across her thighs-still sufficiently protected by her slim skirt.
He glared at her, she glared at him. "Stop with the fucking whip and I'