Home > The Dangerous One

The Dangerous One
Author: Lori Foster




   YEARS, THAT’S HOW long it had been since the sight of a woman stopped him in his tracks, but... Wow. He’d feel bad about staring at her, except that this woman was noticed by everyone who happened to be out and about on this sunny, early-June Saturday, male and female alike. Triple Creek, Colorado, was small, but they were in the center of town, with a grocery, restaurant, barbershop and bank on one side, and a gas station, post office and car dealership on the other.

   Plenty of people around to watch her with interest, so he wasn’t alone in that.

   It wasn’t just about her looks either. Petite, trim and with a long ponytail swishing between her shoulder blades, she looked better than fine. That long tail of hair, a light brown highlighted with blonder streaks, seemed to point to cutoff shorts that hugged an incredible little ass and displayed slim thighs. Didn’t matter that she also wore black lace-up boots over gray socks. Even they looked cute on her.

   Yet it was about more.

   She kept her narrow back straight, her legs braced apart and her hips slightly forward as she stood at the back of a gigantic stand-on commercial lawn mower. From business to business, she’d cleared the grassy areas, steering around landscaping and walkways effortlessly and in record time. Every so often, she paused to do trim work and use a blower to clean up.

   Not staring at her had been almost impossible, she was such a mighty distraction. Hunter Osborn had tried, but no one else seemed to put up much effort.

   Figured she’d be wrapping up at the car dealership...which put her very nearby.

   To many, she might seem oblivious to the attention she drew. Not to Hunter.

   Just as noticeable as her appearance—at least to him—was her charged awareness. She hid her eyes behind reflective sunglasses and gave the impression of focusing on her job, but he knew better. He felt her keen awareness of her surroundings, of every person in view and maybe even of things not visible.

   “What a sight,” the guy next to him murmured with a lot of innuendo.

   That immediately drew Hunter’s attention away from her. Disgusted with himself, he asked, “New landscaper?”

   “First time here.” Worth Linlow gave a sleazy smile. “Can’t look away, though. Wish I’d known she was replacing Trent. I’d have cleared my calendar.”

   Like Worth would have a shot? Not likely. In his midsixties and with one of the more lucrative businesses around, Worth should have been more responsible, definitely more respectable. Instead, he was the opposite. He made inappropriate jokes constantly, lorded his position over others and tried to cheat everyone.

   Currently he was trying to cheat Hunter.

   “This isn’t the price we agreed on.” With Worth’s ’73 Corvette still on the trailer, Hunter folded his arms.

   “Sure it is,” Worth said, while lewdly gawking at the landscaper.

   It took all Hunter’s concentration not to look as well, especially when the sound of the mower drew closer. “You’re short.”

   Worth spared him a quick, impatient glance. “That’s the amount we discussed.”

   “No, it isn’t.” The buzzing sound of the mower died so that Hunter could almost hear the collective breath-holding of the twenty or so people still in the commercial area.

   When Worth’s faded blue eyes widened, Hunter couldn’t resist glancing back.

   As if she owned the town and even the mountains around it, the woman strode forward. Never mind that she couldn’t be more than a few inches over five feet tall, she kept her chin elevated. Shoulders back. Her mouth deliberately void of a smile.

   She stepped up to them, saying nothing as she pulled off thick utility gloves and tucked them partially in her back pocket.

   Hunter breathed in the scents of sun-warmed peachy skin and subtle flowery shampoo.

   When everyone stayed mum, she tipped her head toward Hunter. “Well?”

   He saw himself reflected in the lenses of her sunglasses. “Well what?”

   “You settled your business with him yet or are you still working on that, because I have one more job before I finish for the day and it’s hot as Hades out here. I’d like to get to it but I don’t want to be rude by jumping in line.”

   Amused, especially by Worth’s surprise, and maybe a little entranced by her forthright manner, Hunter gestured. “Be my guest.”

   “Thanks. That’s big of ya.” She pushed the sunglasses to the top of her head, taking wisps of damp hair back, too, then pinned Worth to the spot with a direct stare of her light hazel eyes.

   Worth’s jaw loosened. Understandable. Hell, those eyes were pretty enough, but paired with that lethal directness? She might be petite, but she could level just about anyone with that gaze.

   “So,” she said. “Job’s done.”

   “Yes,” Worth breathed, his attention drifting to places it shouldn’t travel. He even smoothed back his hair. For his age, Worth still had a very thick head of graying blond hair.

   Hunter waited, curious about how she’d react to the rudeness.

   When Worth said nothing else, she asked, “Ya got my money? Everyone else paid up front.”

   Jowls moving, Worth struggled and finally managed a smarmy smile. “Of course I do.” He held out his hand. “I’m Worth Linlow, owner of the—”

   “I know who you are.” She pulled a folded paper from her front right pocket, shook it out and thrust it into his extended hand. “Your share of the contracted amount?”

   Floundering, Worth glanced at the paper. “Right. Of course.” Expression strained, he pulled out his wallet, freed some cash and offered it to her.

   “You’re short,” she said without bothering to count it. “I need the full amount.”

   “Short?” Falling into his confused routine meant to cheat, Worth pretended to read the paper more closely. “Oh, there’s some misunderstanding. I never agreed to—”

   “Yeah,” she said, “you did, though I was warned you wouldn’t want to pay.”

   The smile slipped. “Who warned you?”

   “Who didn’t?” Cocking out a hip, her expression bored, she heaved a sigh. “Ticktock, time’s a wastin’ and I have other places to be.”

   No longer quite so friendly, Worth asked, “Who did you say you are?”

   “Didn’t, but it’s there on the contract that you signed, along with your agreed-upon amount.”

   Worth skimmed down the contract. “Jodi Bentley,” he said in a suggestive purr. “I have to say, Jodi, you’re a sight prettier than Trent.”

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