Lila stared at the door Shane Ellis had closed behind him. The thick carpet had absorbed the sound of his departure, only a small creak on the stairs below betraying his progress away from her door. She stared at the door, willing him to come back and complicate her life further. If he would just pull her up against him, slip his hand up under her skirt, and…
“Oh girl, as if you don’t have enough problems!” she shook her head, fighting to get her hormones under control.
She was wide awake and certainly not ready for bed. The bourbon had taken the edge off and her jumpiness had vanished. It had left her with this delicious fire in her belly, one that would easily have been ignited further if hunky “Call me Shane” hadn’t left so abruptly. How she wished he had stayed, even as she was relieved that he had not. Her bruises from last Friday were still livid and angry marks on her pale skin.
This summer I really must get a decent tan. If my skin gets any whiter I’ll look more like a vampire than anything else.
She stared around her, drinking in the details.
Her curiosity led her to explore the room further. Shane had described the property as a safe house, which brought images of crummy, low-rent motel rooms to mind. Lila may have watched a few too many crime shows, but this room with its plush carpets, heavy ornate furniture, and Victorian-era knickknacks sang a different tune. It was more like staying in a private home, more personal than a bed and breakfast or upper-end hotel room. This house had class.
The room hovered between two distinct eras, however. There was a strong Seventies vibe in the rough brown-black timbers that cut across the ceiling. The heavy iron accents and glass sconces added to that. The windows were simple, a crank at each angled the glass outward instead of up, and the molding along the base of the walls was simple, spare. The stonework of the large fireplace firmly centered on one wall, paired with the rough timbers, iron, and glass gave an almost a church-like feel to the room. She eyed it, and thought briefly of her grandmother, now long-gone, and her attempts to bring Lila with her to Sunday services. Perhaps it was the dour congregation, or the preacher who threatened hellfire and damnation if his parishioners were foolish enough to choose rock music, alcohol, or a host of other Satan-centric activities – after nearly two years of regular church attendance, Lila had begged off.
Granny had been going through chemo by then and didn’t pursue it. Thankfully, Mom had never been interested or religiously-inclined for that matter, and Lila had been happy to never return.
The other era was positively Victorian, with antiques like the four-poster bed, its headboard carved with cherubs, and delicate, spindle-legged tables scattered through the room among ferns, cloth-bound books, and other bric-a-brac.
There was a built-in dresser in one corner of the room, another sharp trip forward in time to the 70s, accompanied by a large plain mirror. Next to it was the open door to the bathroom. She explored it further, noticing that in addition to the clawfoot bathtub, there was an odd tiled open shower of sorts. It was enormous and large enough for two people, possibly more, as evidenced by the multiple shower heads.
She licked her lips, imagining sharing it with the hot pecan pie and molasses guy who had just left her room. She could still feel the heat of his touch.
“Hell, he’s probably some misogynistic prick beneath all that hotness and muscles. No one can look that good and be a nice guy.” Lila said out loud to the empty room.
The room didn’t answer of course, and suddenly Shane’s suggestion of a nice, hot bath, sounded more appealing than anything else she could think of.
She let the water run in the tub until it was hot and steaming. Just stepping into it, and slipping underneath the hot water was heaven. The heat melted into the tight muscles of her damaged arm and shoulder and she slid deeper into the water, her entire body immersed up to her earlobes. She loved her modern new flat but found herself wishing for a huge bathtub like this. As if she could fit one in the tiny bathroom. It would have been impossible. There was barely room for the tiny shower.
There were three small dark blue glass bottles on the tub tray. The labels were in French, and she smiled as she quickly recognized what each bottle was for.,
“Shampooing, conditionneur, well those are both obvious. And let’s see, sels de bain,” she tapped her lip for a moment, “Ah, yes, sels is salt and bain means bath, so that must be bath salt.”
She took some time to add the bath salts and relaxed, her hair up and out of the water, her eyes closed as she breathed in the floral scents of raspberry and vanilla. “A safe house, huh, this feels more like a spa.”
Steam billowed, creeping along the low ceiling, obscuring the long mirror above the double sink and the window on the opposite side with a thick opaque layer.
Her thoughts turned to Shane. The man was dead-sexy. So much for caramel pecan pie being a toad in person. Instead, he was ooh la la attractive, confident, and a man of action. If he hadn’t have been there when those two gunmen came through, she would have been…Lila shuddered.
She hated thinking of it. It was terrifying and she felt a knot form in her guts. What did they want with her? And why? It had to be a mistake.
She sank lower into the water and willed her mind to think of anything other than the bullets and blood and the fear she had felt. She thought again of Shane, turning away from the fear to the memory of how he had looked at her there in the kitchen, or in the car, or the stairwell. His hands, warm against her, checking to be sure she hadn’t been shot or hurt. He’d given her a look that, despite having only a few lovers, Lila could count the men she had gone to bed with on one hand and fingers to spare, she could read clearly. He had been attracted to her, was attracted to her.
It had been like some electric current running between them – the lightest touch of his fingertips touching hers when he handed her the glass – she had felt their desire meet and sizzle like fire between them.
He didn’t make a move, though. Why? It probably went against that Code of his.
Code or not, it was a shame he hadn’t stepped closer. After all she had seen tonight, a man like Shane would have made her forget those terrifying moments in the office. Just the thought of him touching her, the heat of his body…
A sigh escaped her lips at the thought of what it would feel like.
The water rolled slowly through the bathtub, soothing, the heat digging as deep into her muscles as if she were under the competent hands of a masseuse. Lila sighed again and her left hand slipped down between her legs, fingers stroking the nub of her clit, her mind imagining what it would feel like to have his mouth on her, his tongue licking and teasing her. She closed her eyes and imagined his strong hands sliding along the side of her body, his lips on her neck, seducing her, claiming her body beneath his. Just imagining what he looked like under that tight-fitting shirt was enough to send her over the edge. Lila propped one leg up out of the sudsy water, her finger sliding back and forth, her neck stretched back. The wave of sensation crashed over her, her mouth open in an ‘o’ of pleasure as her finger danced and wrung out wave after wave of pleasure.
After the waves had subsided and she had slipped into a somnolent state, edging closer and closer toward the dark yet welcoming blanket of sleep, she sat up. Lila poured a generous dollop of the shampoo into her hand, breathing in the heady, clean scent of lemongrass as she lathered her long hair, sliding under the water to rinse the shampoo away. She relaxed every part of her body, letting the hot water dig deep into her sore muscles. It was marvelous, this bath. She stayed, unwilling to leave until she could feel the water beginning to cool.
Lila pulled the plug then and reached for a soft, richly fluffy towel, and wrapped herself in it. Standing on the bathmat, water running in rivulets off of her warm, relaxed body, she stared at the clouds of steam that floated through the air, turning, rolling. The heat of the water had turned her muscles to mush and her eyelids were heavy with exhaustion.
Padding out of the bathroom she walked barefoot, her toes sinking into the plush carpet, and pulled the heavy down comforter back from the bed, slipped in between the silky bedsheets. The bed was warm, luxurious, and she felt her body sink into it as if she had crawled into a pile of downy comfort. She didn’t bother to turn off any of the small lights that dotted the room, her eyes already heavy and her mind slipping into sleep. The day had been full of stress, and pleasure, and within minutes later, Lila had fallen deeply into a dream.
The house was silent.
On the opposite side of the house, in the west wing at just past 2 a.m., a red light flashing in the top left corner of his room went unnoticed. Shane was deeply asleep, but the sharp buzz of his cell phone woke him instantly. He sat up, his sight blurred and then cleared as he checked the status of the compound on the app.
A door was open on the property. All vestiges of sleep gone and his 9mm Ruger in his hand, and his feet in motion the second they hit the thick carpet. No time for clothes, this was a breach, a sliding door off of the kitchen according to the alert that scrolled on his phone.
He was on high alert, the dream he had been enjoying mere seconds before was a distant memory as he ran down the dark hallway, down the half flight of stairs, and through the kitchen. The curtains billowed slightly, a cool evening breeze sucking them out to the deck outside the sliding glass door. The deck outside was partially lit by a bright moon playing hide and seek behind dark clouds that slowly rolled across the night sky.
He saw her feet bare on the deck before anything else and immediately lowered his weapon. Lila was clad in nothing but a blanket, her hair dark, and still slightly damp from her bath. She smiled at him, raising her eyebrows as she took in the handgun he held in his right hand.
“Don’t shoot, I’m unarmed.”
“Silent alarm,” he explained, “It went off the second you opened the door.”
“Sorry about that,” Lila pulled the blanket closer to her body. It was unseasonably warm for late fall, but nonetheless, there was a nip to the air. “I looked out the window, saw the river and the lights and just had to take in the view. Is that Parkville over there?”
Shane stepped closer to her, followed her finger, “Yes, and also Park University right there. Over to the left, that’s the airport.” She smelled of lemons. It combined with her own unique, sweet musky scent, and he caught himself leaning closer and reaching for her with his other hand. The dream of her was still lingering in his animal hindbrain – and he suppressed a flash of desire. The things he wanted to do to her, had been doing to her in that dream that was so maddeningly interrupted. He placed his free hand on the railing and forced himself to look off into the night sky.
“The view is incredible!” She breathed, her attention absorbed by the stunning skyline. The lights shimmered off of the water, the wide river undulating and twisting, the black water occasionally showing a frothy wake as it moved over sandbars, heading inevitably toward the Gulf of Mexico hundreds of miles away.
“A judge had it custom-built back in 1970. The total acreage at that time was 20 acres, but he sold five of the acres to the city of Kansas City, Kansas so they could build a water treatment plant. It is remote, yet accessible, so it works quite well for our needs.” Shane explained.
“Does Benton Security Services own this place?” Lila asked, her eyes on the distant glow of lights from Parkville’s pride and joy, Park University, which sat on a hilltop, a collection of turn-of-the-century brick buildings. Even in the middle of the night, the lights clearly lit up the main building.
“Well, Mr. Benton owns it, and he owns Benton Security Services.” Shane answered.
“Jack Benton, a multi-millionaire who owns a private security firm,” Lila said, shivering in her blanket, “There has to be a story behind that.”
“Undoubtedly, but it isn’t my story to tell.”
“But you know it.”
Lila laughed softly, “A circumspect bodyguard. How interesting.”
Shane didn’t respond. In his line of work, there were many times when silence was the more prudent answer.
Silence followed, interrupted only by the steady low thrum of the plant in the near distance. Lights lit up the plant at intervals and Shane could see a lone security guard making the rounds before disappearing back inside through a side door. They watched a plane take off into the air, lights blinking steadily, as it slowly ascended into the night sky and disappeared into the clouds.
Lila shivered again.
“You’re cold. Come on, let me get you inside and get you warmed up.” Shane guided her back to the open door, acutely aware that he was rather under dressed to be outside in late fall wearing only boxer briefs. Lila’s eyes traveled over him and he could smell the lemongrass shampoo in her hair as she passed close to him, heading into the house.
“Can I get you a drink?” He asked once they stepped through the door. It felt wonderful inside after the chilly breeze on the back deck. Shane slid the lock into place.
“Yes please,” Lila stared down the hall into the sunken living room.
“Sit down, I’ll get you something.”