Home > Pretend You Want Me (Wilde Ways #13)

Pretend You Want Me (Wilde Ways #13)
Author: Cynthia Eden


Chapter One

“You’re in great hands, Aspen,” Ben Wilde assured her as the elevator doors opened, and he turned to flash her a quick smile. “My brother’s protection firm is the best in the business. You don’t need to worry any longer.”

If only. But she’d been busy worrying for quite some time. Not that Aspen Gray let her worry or her growing nervousness show. She never did. She’d learned long ago that in order to succeed in this world, you always had to project an air of confidence and poise, even when you were so nervous that your knees wanted to knock and it felt as if you might vomit at any moment.

She’d been that nervous the first time she met Ben Wilde. She’d walked into the law school class, surrounded by so many people who were worlds away from the rough life she’d grown up living, and she’d been sure they would realize she was a fraud. The seats in the class had been full…well, except for one chair. The one next to Ben. He’d offered it to her with a wide grin—his trademark smile—and then he’d offered her his friendship.

She was counting on that unwavering friendship to seriously help her out of the rather terrifying situation that she’d found herself facing.

“Complete discretion,” Ben assured her as he held the elevator door. His gold wedding ring gleamed. She’d danced at his wedding. Been thrilled for him and his bride. She and Ben had always only been friends. It was a rule she had. She never wanted sex to get in the way of a good friendship, and Ben was a good friend…so good, in fact, that he’d been willing to help her out, to give her the VIP treatment at his brother’s business, after she’d called him out of the blue.

“Discretion is of the utmost importance,” she agreed, pleased that her voice came out all cool and steady as she and Ben began walking down the lushly carpeted hallway. The main Wilde office was located in Atlanta, in one of the big skyscrapers, and when her gaze darted to the left—to the line of windows there—she could see the killer view. “That’s why, you, ah, mentioned my requirements to your brother?” Aspen asked delicately.

“Don’t worry. You’re certainly not the first client to want undercover protection. The agents here know the drill. They are all about making a good cover story.”

She released a quick breath of relief. Excellent. Because the agent she was hiring today—that individual would need to accompany her back to her home in Pensacola, Florida. And then things would get…tricky.

Be careful what you reveal. Play this game wisely.

Ben walked them past an assistant and straight to a heavy, wooden door. He didn’t pause, just swung it right open with a typical Ben flourish. Her shoulders stiffened, her chin notched up just a bit, and Aspen marched inside to meet the man who would—


She stopped. Her eyes were locked on the man behind the desk. A man who wore a black t-shirt that stretched over the muscled arms that were crossed over his chest. A man who wore ragged jeans and dark boots that he currently had propped up on the edge of the gleaming desk. A man who had green eyes that seemed to blaze with electric energy as they pinned her. His face was all hard angles and planes, and he probably shouldn’t have been handsome. Maybe he wasn’t, technically, but he was sexy. The kind of rough and hard and hot sexy that just poured naturally from men that you knew were going to be trouble.

And he was currently sweeping that hot stare of his slowly over her body.

“I think there is a mistake,” Aspen said immediately. She’d been promised a former soldier. One of those true-blue types who would protect and defend at all costs. She’d specifically requested such a man. Not a guy who seemed like he could easily spend his days hanging at her friend Ramsey’s old bar, a place frequented by some of the most dangerous criminals out there.

I don’t need more trouble in my life. She’d like less, please.

“Yeah, the mistake is that Eric is going to kick your ass for sitting in his chair,” Ben fired as he closed in on the other man. “Gideon, you know better. Eric gets oddly territorial about shit like this.”

Gideon just shrugged his massive shoulders. “Eric got held up. Told me to start the meeting without him.” He uncrossed his arms. Pointed one rather large hand toward Aspen. “She the client?”

No, she was just the woman who’d randomly wandered in from the street. Her eyes narrowed on him. Of course, she was the client. But he was not the man she’d requested. “I think we need to review my requirements.” She sounded prim. Not her intention, but he was throwing her off her game, and when she got thrown off…she tended to get extra icy.

When Ben’s gaze cut her way, she realized that he’d noticed her little, ah, tell. He’d figured it out back in their mock courtroom days.

“Requirements, huh?” Gideon nodded. Then he carefully lowered his feet. Slowly rose. And he was a big one. Maybe six-foot-three. All muscle. All power. If she was looking for someone high on the physical intimidation scale, then he’d be a great fit. But she wasn’t looking for that so much. She needed…

“Blending,” Aspen blurted. “The agent I hire today has to be able to blend into my life. It is imperative that none of my friends or work associates realize that I have hired a Wilde agent.” Because the agent’s job wasn’t just to watch her ass—though that was certainly a bonus. She needed someone to help her find out who the hell was messing with her life. Aspen winced as her stare held Gideon’s. “Sorry, but I don’t think you are going to blend so well.”

His lips hitched into what could have been a smile. “You’d be surprised.”

Doubtful. Few things surprised her these days. Except, perhaps, the not-so-little matter of being stalked by a dead man.

Before she could speak, Aspen heard the door open behind her and fast footsteps entered the office.

“Sorry I’m late,” Eric Wilde began in his deep and rumbling voice. “Minor emergency.”

She turned toward him, wondering what counted as “minor” in his mind.

Eric grinned at her. He’d always been a bigger, rougher, slightly scarier version of Ben. “Aspen! Great to see you again.”

She hurried into his embrace. The Wilde brothers had always been good to her. Maybe too good. If they knew all of her secrets, would they still treat her the same way?

Would anyone?

His arms closed around her. For a moment, she felt safe. Yes, this was what she craved. Safety. Wasn’t that why she’d turned to Ben? Why she’d used her connection to get in and have this meeting with Eric? She was desperate, and safety was what she needed.

“Ahem.” A loud throat cleared. Gideon. “This reunion is touching as hell…” He did not sound as if he meant those words. In fact, he sounded rather annoyed. “But could we get along to the business at hand?”

She backed away from Eric, but held his gaze. “I don’t think he is going to do at all.” Again, she was prim. Dammit.

Eric’s eyebrows rose. “Why not? Gideon checks off all your boxes.” He walked around her and headed for his desk. He frowned at the chair, then cut a suspicious glance toward Gideon.

Gideon smiled. Almost angelically.

Her stomach did what had to be a nervous dip. Because of the situation she was in. Not because of that smile. It had better not be because of that smile. The last thing she needed was to suddenly develop an attraction to this—this—

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