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Sweet Surrender s-1, Page 2

Maya Banks

  He quirked one corner of his mouth up in a semblance of a grin, and she relaxed.

  “You weren’t satisfied either,” she accused.

  His smile turned into a rueful grin. “I guess I won’t get into trouble for saying no then.”

  She flopped back onto the bed and let out a giggle. “Don’t we make a good pair. Lying here naked after sex, breaking up.”

  He leaned over her, his expression serious. “You’re a terrific woman, Faith. I’d hoped for more between us, and I admire the guts it took for you to tell me what you wanted.”

  “So you don’t think I’m a perverted sicko?”

  “No, but I want you to promise me you’ll be careful. A lot of men out there would take advantage of the type of situation you want. They wouldn’t have your pleasure or best interests at heart.”

  “Thanks, John,” she said softly as she reached up to touch his face.

  He bent and kissed her cheek before sliding out of bed to get dressed.

  Faith sat behind her desk at Malone and Sons Security and nibbled absently at her pencil. The office was quiet today. Pop and the others were out on a job bid with the new guy, and she was left to ponder alone. Never a good thing.

  John had left the night before instead of staying over as he usually would. But then breaking up had a way of pushing a man out of bed. She could console herself with the fact that apparently, he’d been as unsatisfied with her as she had with him, so she doubted he was suffering a broken heart.

  She, on the other hand, was well on her way to major funkdom. Maybe she had been too subtle. Too afraid. Too ashamed of her needs and desires. It certainly wasn’t something she’d ever discuss with her girlfriends, not that she had many. They’d probably vote to kick her out of the league of women upon hearing just what it was Faith wanted in a man.

  Last night had been the first time she’d actually voiced the dark desires floating around in her head. Not that she’d gone into any great detail. Just the brief mention had made her cheeks burn with embarrassment.

  But that had to end. Now.

  Subtlety was not her friend. It wasn’t getting her anywhere with the men she’d been involved with. Hinting and hoping wasn’t the way. No, she had to be more proactive. More forceful. If she didn’t make it clear what she wanted, then how could she ever expect to get it?

  The ringing phone interrupted her melancholy train of thought, and she reached gratefully for it.

  “Malone and Sons,” she greeted.

  “Hi sweetie, it’s Mom.”

  Faith’s heart plummeted. A sick curl began swelling in her stomach, and she had to physically restrain the urge to hang the phone back up. God, it had been a year since she’d heard from her mother. A year of no hysterics, no martyr acts, no lame excuses.

  “Mom,” she said faintly. “How are you?” Stupid question. Her mother was never all right. Always some crisis.

  “I’m in trouble, Faith. I need your help.”

  Faith closed her eyes and bit down on her lip. Through the receiver, she heard a sound like cars passing on a highway. Was her mother at a pay phone? It wasn’t likely Celia could afford a cell phone.

  Don’t ask, Faith. No questions. You don’t want to know anyway.

  “Faith, are you there?”

  “I’m here,” Faith whispered. If only she hadn’t answered the phone.

  “I need to borrow some money, baby. Just a little to tide me over until I get another job and a place to live.”

  Faith swallowed back the stark disappointment and closed her eyes to call back the sting of tears. As dumb as it was to hope that one day Celia Martin would get her act together, Faith clung to it nonetheless.

  Why couldn’t she have a mother? A real mother. Someone not so bent on screwing up everything in her path who could have a real relationship with her daughter.

  “Faith, I really need it this time, honey. I’ll pay you back, of course.”

  Of course. What a laugh. Faith’s hand squeezed the receiver of the phone until a sharp pain snaked up her arm.

  “Not this time, Mom,” Faith said, surprising herself with her refusal.

  The long, silent pause that settled over the line told Faith that her mother was just as surprised.

  “But honey, I need the money to get by.” Desperation edged Celia’s voice. She became more forceful. “I told you I’d pay you back. I have to find a place to live, buy gas and food. As soon as I get settled and find another job, I’ll be okay.”

  “That’s what you say every time,” Faith said quietly. “Only it never ends. I can’t continue to bail you out. It’s time you took some responsibility for yourself.”

  Before Celia could respond, Faith gently replaced the phone on the receiver. Her hands shook as she pushed away from the desk.

  “Is everything okay?”

  She jerked her head up as she heard the strange voice. Leaning on the doorframe of her office door was a man. And not just any man. He took up the entire doorway.

  “C-can I help you?”

  He stood upright and walked the remaining distance to her desk. He stuck out his hand to her. “Gray Montgomery. The new guy.”

  Her mouth rounded to an O. She slid her hand into his and instead of shaking it, he merely held on and squeezed gently.

  “I’m Faith Malone.”

  He smiled, and his blue eyes twinkled at her. “I know.”

  She blew out her breath. “Of course, you know. I’m the only woman who works here, so I couldn’t be anyone else.”

  “Am I interrupting anything?” he asked as he let go of her hand and gestured to the phone. “You seemed upset.”

  She shook her head and continued to stare up at him. Lordy, but he was an intimidating sort. “It was nothing. Was there something you wanted?”

  The phone rang, and she jumped about a foot. The sick feeling in her stomach returned with a vengeance. It was probably her mother. She continued to stare at the phone, unwilling to pick it up, not wanting to deal with an overwrought mother who manipulated her at every turn.

  A large hand covered the receiver and yanked it up.

  “Malone’s,” Gray bit out. There was a long pause, and he looked up at Faith with that searing gaze. “I’m sorry, but she stepped out for a moment. Can I take a message?”

  Please, please don’t leave a message. She couldn’t take some hysterical spiel from her mother. Not to a complete stranger.

  Gray put the phone back down.

  “Thank you,” she said quietly.

  “No problem. Are you okay? I got the impression you definitely didn’t want to talk to whoever was on the phone before.”

  She shivered as he continued to stare at her with those intense blue eyes. “I’m fine. Really. Now, was there something you wanted?” she asked again.

  The corners of his mouth quirked up in an amused smile. “You trying to get rid of me?”

  She flushed. “Sorry, of course not. I’m very glad to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you from Pop and Connor. Are you settling in well? I haven’t seen you around the office.”

  Shut up, Faith. She wanted to drop her head on her desk. She sounded like a complete airhead.

  He cleared his throat. “I’m glad to meet you as well. I’ve also heard a lot about you from Pop and Connor. I’m moved into the apartment just fine, and this is my first time in to the office.”

  His eyes twinkled as he continued to regard her with a smile. Beautiful eyes too. Deep, rich blue. He wore his hair short, spiked slightly on top. Probably didn’t have to do much more than rub a towel over it, wave a comb in the general direction and go.

  “I was hoping you could direct me to my office?”

  She blinked and yanked herself from her slow perusal of his attributes. She stood up, knocking her knee against the desk. Pain shot up her thigh, and she grimaced.

  He raised a brow but didn’t comment. She opened her top desk drawer and rummaged around a few seconds before pulling out a set of keys.

  “These are the keys to your office and to the building. I’m sure Pop has given you all the security codes, but if not, I’ll write them down for you.”

  She thrust them toward him, and his hand closed around hers once more. A warm tingle skittered across her skin as his thumb brushed across her knuckles. She yanked her hand back and walked around the desk toward the door. When she reached the hallway, she turned back to see him still watching her. She was pretty sure he’d been eyeballing her ass, but as soon as she’d turned around, his gaze shot upward.

  “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you your office.”

  He pushed off from where he’d leaned his butt on her desk and started toward her. She swiveled back around and walked three doors down to the vacant office that had been assigned to him.

  She opened the door but didn’t go in. She gestured inside with her hand. “Here you are. If you need anything, let me know.”

  “I’ll do that,” he said in a low voice as he walked by her.

  Gray felt her gaze, knew she was watching him as he moved inside the doorway. They’d both done their share of looking. When Mick had given him details on Faith Malone, Gray hadn’t expected her to be so beautiful. Or so innocent looking.

  “I, uhm, I’ll get back to my office now. I’ll see you around. If you need anything, just holler.”

  He turned to see her back from his office and hightail it down the hall. He shook his head and smiled to himself. He made her nervous. She’d been on edge ever since he walked into her office.

  Once he was sure she was gone, he backtracked to shut the door then pulled out his cell phone to call Mick.

  “I finally met Faith Malone,” he said as soon as Mick answered.


  “Not what I expected,” Gray confessed.

  “What do you mean?”

  Gray paused and once again conjured up the image of her sitting in her office, her face a mask of upset. Her distress bothered him more than he wanted to admit.

  “She’s young. Pretty. Seems nice. Very wholesome looking. According to Pop she’s extremely intelligent and as good-hearted as they come.”

  He heard Mick’s sigh of impatience. “Have you gotten anywhere with the phone taps? Do you know if her mother’s called?”

  “I only just got access to the office today. I’ll tap her phone here and at her apartment as soon as I can get in to do it. And I think her mother may have called today.”

  Mick’s breathing ratcheted up, echoing over the phone line. “Are you sure? What was said?”

  “I have no idea. I came in when she was on the phone, and she said very little. But she was visibly upset. She hung up at one point, and when the phone rang again, she refused to answer it. I picked it up, and a woman asked for her by name but refused to leave a message when I told her Faith wasn’t available.”

  “Why the hell didn’t you put Faith on?” Mick asked in exasperation.

  “Because she wouldn’t have done it,” Gray replied. “Be patient, Mick. I’ll get to the bottom of this. I promise. Give me a few days to get the taps in place. These guys aren’t slouches. I’m going to have to be careful.”

  “Let me know when you find out something,” Mick said.

  “I will.”

  They rang off, and Gray shoved the phone back into his pocket. He stood there for a moment, pondering all that he needed to do. To his surprise, a sense of guilt nagged at him. Chewed on his ass like a pit bull.

  He liked Pop. Liked the job, even if it was gained under false pretenses. He fit in well with Pop’s team. Connor, Micah and Nathan were all his age, and they all had a lot in common. For the first time, he wondered if going back to the police force was really what he wanted. It wouldn’t be the same without Alex.


  The one word that filtered across his mind brought a surge of pain, one he’d tried to block ever since the funeral, but lately he’d been unsuccessful.

  Gray closed his eyes. The idea of Alex’s killer out there. Free. Escaping from justice. Gray had seen enough of the bad guys winning in the sorry-ass neighborhood he’d grown up in. He wasn’t going to let it happen again. This time it was personal.

  “Uh, Gray?”

  He looked up to see Faith standing in the doorway of his office. His gaze flickered down her long legs sheathed in tight-fitting jeans. The thin turtleneck she wore clung to her curves in all the right places.

  He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, and he chased images of her body from his mind.

  “What’s up?” he asked, hoping he sounded casual enough.

  “Pop called. He and Connor, Nathan and Micah are going to eat and want you to meet them for lunch at Cattleman’s.”

  Gray shoved his hand in his pocket, reaching for his keys. “Thanks. I’ll head over now. Want me to bring you something back?”

  She shook her head and looked away, her cheeks stained pink. God, she looked so soft and feminine. He was half-tempted to reach out and touch a strand of her long blond hair. See if it was as silky as it looked. As silky as her skin must be.

  He forced himself to look away, but then he heard her walk out of his office, and he glanced up to watch her shapely ass bob down the hallway.

  He was attracted to her. Hell, what red-blooded man wouldn’t be? But she was wrong in so many different ways he couldn’t even stop to count. She sure as hell wasn’t a girl a man played with. No, she had keeper written all over her, and he wasn’t in a position to walk into that kind of situation. He’d scare her silly anyway.

  With a shake of his head, he tossed his keys from one hand to the other and headed out to his truck. He’d need to find a time later when everyone was out of the office so he could tap the main line. If it had been Faith’s mother calling today, she obviously hadn’t gotten whatever it was she wanted. Which meant she’d call back.


  Gray leaned against the brick of the apartment complex and watched as Faith struggled to heave two large grocery bags out of her backseat then nudge the door shut with her hip.

  He started forward, reaching for the bags when he was close enough. Wide, startled green eyes flashed up at him as she took in his presence.

  “Here, let me help you with that,” he said.

  She relinquished them, still staring at him in surprise. Though they both lived here—Pop owned the apartment complex and Connor, Nathan and Micah also lived here—he and Faith hadn’t yet crossed paths since he’d moved in.

  He made his way to her door and turned back, waiting for her to unlock it. She cocked her head to the side.

  “How did you know which apartment was mine?”

  “Your brother told me,” he said with a shrug.

  She frowned. “Connor’s usually so tight-lipped. I’m amazed he’d tell you for fear you’d break in and murder me in my sleep.”

  Gray chuckled. “Is that your way of saying he’s a little protective of you?”

  “No, he’s just cautious,” she said as she slid the key into the lock. “And private. Very, very private. It’s not like him to offer personal information.” She opened the door and gestured for him to go inside.

  “Does it bother you that he told me your apartment number?” he asked as he shouldered by her. “I merely offered to keep an eye out since my unit is so close by.”

  She followed him in and shut the door. “No, it doesn’t bother me.”

  “Well, then, now that we’ve settled that, where do you want the groceries?”

  She pointed toward the kitchen. “On the bar, please. I’ll put them away later.”

  He took his time walking across the living room, glancing around at the interior of her apartment. From the impression he’d formed of her, he’d expected pink, maybe yellow, lighter pastels. Girly colors and decor. Frilly shit draped from one end to the other. He couldn’t have been more mistaken.

  The apartment was decorated in rich, dark earth tones. There was a decidedly masculine feel to the furnishings. Burgundies, dark blue, greens. The couch and love seat were dark brown leather, and they actually looked comfortable, like they were sat in and not used solely for decoration. She was an interesting contradiction. One that intrigued him greatly.

  He set the groceries down and glanced over at the telephone. Looked like a standard land line. Easy enough to tap, only he’d have to get into her apartment when she wasn’t around and make damn sure she never found out about it.

  He’d gleaned enough information from Micah and Nathan to know that she was fairly routine in her comings and goings. Most weeknights she stayed home. Friday and Saturday nights she spent out with the guy she was currently dating, and Sundays she usually went over to Pop’s. She occasionally spent time over at her brother’s or at Nathan’s or Micah’s place, but for the most part, she appeared to be a loner.

  When he turned back around to face her, he found her studying him, her eyes hooded and wary. There was a subtle curiosity in her gaze, despite her reserve. Like she couldn’t quite figure him out. Join the club, babe. He hadn’t exactly been able to figure her out either in the short time they’d been acquainted.

  Her arms were crossed, folded protectively over her midsection. They inadvertently plumped her breasts, pushing them upward until they strained against her shirt. He could just see the outline of her nipples, pressing gently outward.

  “Would you like something to drink?” she asked politely, though her body language told a different story. She wasn’t comfortable with him here. In her space.

  He smiled. “Thanks, but I have to go. I’m meeting Micah for drinks.”

  She pulled a face. “I know what that means.”

  He arched his brow. “Oh?”

  She laughed huskily. “If it’s Micah, it’ll involve lots of gorgeous women, usually brainless gorgeous women, okay, make that half-dressed, brainless, gorgeous women.”

  “Sounds like my kind of guy,” he drawled.