Tara rubbed the back of her neck and sighed. Christ, I could be here for another six hours and not feel like I’ve made any progress.
She wanted to head home and crawl into bed, but she had work to finish and now a visitor. Someone who she would be fine shooting for the pain he had inflicted on her older sister.
The knock came and she set down the gold pen. “Come on in.”
“Don’t stay too long now, Ms. Monroe,” Marcus the security guard said.
She lifted her head and gave him a smile. “You know me, Marcus. Here until the job is done.”
As she sliced her gaze to the left of the kind man, ice formed in her veins, and while the smile on her face never slipped an inch, she had no doubt the warmth in her eyes had vanished.
She and Marcus made some small talk before he left her alone in the room with Grant. Silence stretched between them and she would have been content to let it go on. However she truly longed for a hot bath, wine and bed.
“What are you doing here, Mr. Harrison?”
“Looking for your sister. She wasn’t at the hospital nor her place.”
And now that you want her, it’s pissing you off that you can’t find her.
Tara reclined in her chair, steepled her fingers and exhaled sharply with irritation. “Let me get this straight, make sure I have all the facts. You were supposed to come be with her over Christmas, yet instead of being a man about it, you ran out of the country and didn’t call her until after you’d landed in Uruguay. During which point there wasn’t really anything further for you to say, aside from how sorry you were.” She leaned forward, hands clasped on her smooth desktop, fingers laced. “What the hell makes you think I would help you find her and not have you thrown in jail?”
Can I just punch him in the face?
He drew back a slight bit, eyebrows converging and a slight concern in his expression. “Jail? For what?”
“Whatever charge I want to trump up on you.” She spread her hands over the desk. “You hurt my sister. Made her cry. I don’t like you.”
“I know what I did was wrong. May I sit?” He waited a few seconds before taking a chair, even though she never gave her agreement. “I was a pussy and I hid from my feelings. I want to explain this to her and move on.”
“You expected her to what? Just wait for you to come to your senses? In case you haven’t noticed, Doctor, my sister is a damn fine catch. It’s not like there aren’t other men who would be happy to have her in their life. Besides, she’s moved on from you.”
She had to give him credit—he didn’t flinch, not once, at her words. Perhaps she’d underestimated him.
Tara didn’t let up. “In fact, for all I know, she’s in bed with someone right now, enjoying his—”
“I get it.” The words rolled from his mouth on a growl.
She smirked, enjoying his immense discomfort. “Do you? Really? She’s not going to take you back.”
“Yes.” The single word was uttered with a sharp undertone and his expression reminded her of someone who’d swallowed something foul. “I get your point. She could be with someone else.”
She reached for her gold pen and twirled it in her fingers before pointing it in his direction. “And happy. She could be happy. Don’t forget that. That is extremely important for you to remember. Her happiness.”
“I get it.” His tone got sharper and he frowned again. “Why won’t she take me back?”
She quirked an eyebrow, unfazed by his attitude and surliness. “Wanted to make sure you understood. I don’t like you, Grant. You hurt my sister. Had her believing in you and how you were going to treat her right. She had fallen in love with you and you, what did you do? You broke her heart. Now that would be enough of a reason, but there’s more.”
His head snapped up, hope alive in his gaze. “She loves me?”
She waved a hand. “I said she’d fallen in love with you, not that she still was in love with you. Not that it matters, she won’t allow you back in.”
“Where is she, Tara?”
“I’m sure you think that doctor tone will get you what you want and for some it may. Trouble is, I have a sister who’s a doctor, and I’m used to the tone. Plus, I have one who teaches for a living and she is a master at that no-nonsense tone, so stuff it away, you don’t intimidate me.”
His hands clenched into fists and he took several deep breaths. “I have no desire to intimidate you. I want to know where Eva is, so I can talk to her.”
This is actually fun. Tara leaned back and watched him. “I want you to understand the only reason I’m telling you anything about her is because I saw how hurt she was when you blew her off.”
“I didn’t blow her off.”
Tara snapped upright, hands landing on the desk with a loud slap. “Bullshit. You could have told her you were leaving the country well before you did, not calling once you were there. That’s blowing her off and not truly pertinent to this discussion. I’m talking to you, and if you’re smart, you will be listening.”
Grant ground his jaw but remained silent. He held up his hands then gestured for her to continue.
“She’s down in Orlando.”
“Does it matter?” Condemnation lined her tone.
“No, it doesn’t.”
Tara picked up a sheet of paper and wrote something down then slid it over the desk to him. “I hear you hurt her again and I swear I will make you pay.”
“An assistant district attorney making idle threats?”
Her eyebrow jacked up and she began to rise and nail him to the seat with nothing more than a glare. “Trust me, this is no idle threat. Yes, I’m an ADA but first and foremost, I’m a sister and I hate the fact you’ve hurt my sister.”
“Everything okay here, Ms. Monroe?”
Grant turned even though she didn’t move from her position.
“We’re fine, Marcus,” she replied. “He was just leaving.”
Snapping up the paper, he didn’t even bother looking at it, just got to his feet and shoved it into his pocket. “Thank you.”
“Thank me by doing the right thing. Leave her alone after you say whatever you have to get off your chest. Let her get on with her life.” She dropped her gaze to the papers in front of her, making it very clear that he was no longer wanted in the office.
The door closed behind them and she sighed with frustration. Reaching for the phone, she debated calling Eva to give her a heads-up on what she’d just done.
If I do that, she’ll find a way to hide from him and she needs to resolve her issues before she can allow herself to move on with her life. Tara snorted.
“Because I’m a fine one to tell anyone about facing your past to allow yourself to move on with the future.” She scrubbed a hand down her face. “I’m such a fraud.”
Phone in hand, she punched a familiar number.
“What’s wrong?” Shai asked, answering on the first ring.
“Harrison was just here in my office.”
“Fuck,” she snapped. “What happened? Did you throw him in jail?”
She smiled and chuckled. “I thought about it, but no, I didn’t. I gave him Eva’s information on where she is in Orlando.”
Shai didn’t say a word and Tara rolled her lower lip in her teeth as she waited.
“Probably for the best.” Shai’s comment came after a moment’s pause. “She still loves him.”
Tara couldn’t explain the relief that filled her at her sister’s support. “Thank God you feel that way too. I mean, I made him sweat a bit, but I did give it to him and I’m not calling her.”
“Good. She’d just find a way to disappear.”
“Exactly what I was thinking.” She rubbed her neck. “Thank you, Shai. I mean, I love her and she’s our sister, but she has to face him, face her past. She can’t keep running from him.”
“I’m glad you think you shouldn’t be running from your past.”
All the air sucked from her body in the space of time it took that sentence to register in her head.
“Shit,” she whispered.
“Tara? You okay?” Shai’s question rang in her ear.
She looked at the man who’d just entered her office as if he had the right to be there. A dark gray suit that had been tailored just for him. His close-cropped beard didn’t even have a hair out of place. It never did. This man didn’t know how to be messy or anything less than one hundred percent together.
His lapis-blue eyes locked on her and her hand trembled, actually trembled, as she tried not to drop the phone.
“Tara Lynne, talk to me or I’m calling the cops.”
“Hang up the phone, Tara.” He tugged once on the cuff of his suit coat.
“I’m fine, Shai. I have to go, there’s someone in my office.”
“Who? Who’s there?”
She put the phone back on the cradle. Licking her lips, she allowed her gaze to run over him once more. Damn, he’s just as fine as the day I up and left him.
“What the hell are you doing back here in my life, Coleman?”
Baron Andrew Coleman stared at his little spitfire of a wife. Five years and not a goddamn word from her. She had never once reached out to him for money, for help, or even to ask for a divorce. Not that it would have mattered—he wasn’t going to divorce her. She was his wife and it was time for her to act like it.
“That’s not exactly the proper greeting for husband and wife.” He moved closer, taking in the woman before him sitting at the large desk, papers all over it. Skimming his gaze over the name plaque there—‘Tara Monroe, Assistant District Attorney’. It matched the ‘ADA’ on the door.
It gnawed at him she wasn’t using his name, but that was a fight for him to address later. He reached out and touched her pink bangs. She didn’t move, neither closer nor back to him. She just watched.
“This is new.”
Her expression cooled and grew calculating. The phone beside her rang and she picked it up.
“I’m fine, Shai. I’ll explain everything later tonight. Yes, I’ll come over as soon as I get him out of my office. I promise.”
Tara never looked away from him the entire time she spoke to Shai. One of her sisters, if he remembered correct. Who am I kidding? I know everything about her. And he did. When she’d left him, he had taken great pains to find out everything he could about her and her family, just in case she needed him.
Pulling out one of the chairs, he looked at it before lowering himself to the leather. She narrowed her eyes at him as she hung up the phone.
“I hardly see how my hair color is of any relevance. What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to bring my wife home.”
He stared at her, hoping for some kind of expression, but was disappointed that there wasn’t even a flare of heat.
If anything, her gaze grew colder. “I’m not going anywhere with you. However, you are more than welcome to head out this door and never come back.”
Hell, just being back in her presence fueled his blood. He’d missed her every second they’d been apart. I was an idiot to let this go on so long.
“Do you really think I am going to let you continue to ignore the fact we are married?”
She shrugged as if she didn’t give a damn one way or the other.
“You are a Baroness and should be living with your husband.”
Her left eye twitched. A sign he’d learned meant she was struggling to remain in control of her temper. On a personal level, he loved when she lost it. Tara Coleman was a wildcat and he loved being at the receiving end of her fire. Especially when it pertained to time in the bedroom. Or wherever he had the privilege of being sunk all the way within her heat.
“That title came as a repercussion of the marriage vows. It will be attached to me whether or not we are living in the same place. As I stated when we first started this asinine argument of how you want me at home all the time to be ready to fuck you whenever you decide, that’s not my life. It won’t be my life and you’re wasting both our time if you think for one moment that I’ve changed my mind about that. So, I’m happy to divorce you and relieve myself of that title, or you can turn your ass around, head back to Switzerland or wherever you’re living at now and leave me the fuck alone to continue what I love doing. Being with family and my job.”
“There won’t be any divorce and you’ll come home.”
There. He stated it with complete calm.
“Just because you have a title doesn’t mean you get to ignore what you don’t want to hear. Marriage doesn’t mean I obey blindly. It’s called the twenty-first century and women are allowed to say no to men, even their husbands, regardless of how some may feel.”
Frustration welled up within him. This wasn’t supposed to take any time. She was supposed to agree and they would be back on his plane. Andrew stroked his chin and rested one foot on his knee.
“You don’t need to work, I am more than capable of taking care of you and providing anything you want. However, I grow tired of having to jack off every night because you are not there with me. You are my wife, Tara, and you should be at your husband’s side.”
“I happen to like working. I love my job and I’m not giving it up for you. Definitely not because you are tired of jacking off. I don’t give a damn. Do it, don’t do it, makes no difference to me.” She slammed the file on her desk closed and pushed to her feet. “Or pay someone to do it. Again, I don’t care.”
He rose out of manners without thought. Andrew followed her gaze to her jacket and was there to help her put it on. He let her comment go, hearing the edge in her words when she said to allow another’s touch on him. That wouldn’t be happening, because he couldn’t stomach the thought, and he knew damn sure that, were the situations reversed, he would kill another man for touching her.
“Thank you,” she whispered as he released the woolen material to settle upon her shoulders.
His eyelids drifted closed as her soft scent wafted to his nose. Cherry blossom and a hint of white sandalwood. The only reason he knew it was because he’d had it made up for her specially when they had been on their honeymoon. When they’d gotten back, he’d given her all the information to get more if she wanted—since he smelled it now, he knew she had. And like it had then, now, it stirred his groin.
He followed her out of the door and waited as she shut it then double-checked the lock.
“We need to talk about this, Tara.”
“We don’t, actually. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have things to do and people to see.” She skimmed him with her gaze and at last he found some heat in her expression. However quick it was, he saw it. “It was good to see you.”
She headed off down the hall, her heels clicking with each confident stride. Andrew stood there and watched, again, as his wife walked away from him, determined to keep him out of her life.
Not happening again, Tara.
A man walked into view at the end of the hall and she stopped to talk to him. Jealousy churned in his gut when she tipped back her head and laughed. He lengthened his stride and made it to her in time to hear her conversation with the guard.
“This man will need to be escorted out, Marcus. I’m leaving and I’m pretty sure he’s not here to see anyone else.”
“Yes, Ms. Monroe. I will see you tomorrow—have a good night.”
She reached out and squeezed his arm. “I will, heading off to spend some time with my sister. Give my best to your wife.”
Tara didn’t even allow him the satisfaction of another glance, just walked off down the hall. When he made to follow her, the guard named Marcus got in his way and gestured to the elevator.
He angled back in time to see her vanish around the corner. The guard cleared his throat and used his head to encourage Andrew to get into the waiting car.
She was in for a huge surprise if she thought this was over.