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When Rex Renaud, the CEO of Mercier Shipping, is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, he knows he’ll need a miracle to clear his name … and sassy lawyer Charlotte Andreko is the perfect woman for the job. Charlotte has built her career defending pro bono clients against womanizers like Rex Renaud, and she’d much rather let him sweat it out in a jail cell than defend him in court. Yet Rex swears he’s been set up, and when he offers her a shocking sum of money in exchange for her legal counsel, the financial security is too tempting to resist. The court dubs Rex a serious flight risk—how many people have their own jet?—and he’s released on one condition: Charlotte’s his new jailer, and he’s stuck with her until his arraignment. But when a bomb threat sends Rex and Charlotte on the run, neither is prepared for the explosive chemistry and red-hot passion that flare between them as they hunt for the truth about his arrest.
Center City District Police Headquarters
Monday, September 29
In her fifteen years as an attorney Charlotte had never let anyone throw her off her game, and she wasn’t about to let it happen now.
So why was she shaking in her Louboutins?
“Put your briefcase and purse on the belt, keys in the tray, and step through,” the officer said, waving her into the metal detector.
She complied, cold washing through her as the gate behind her clanged shut. She glanced over her shoulder, thinking how much better she liked it when her interpretation of bar remained singular.
“Name . . . ?” asked the other cop at the desk.
He ran down the list, checking her off, then held out his hand, waggling it. “Photo ID and attorney card.”
She grabbed her purse from the other side of the metal detector and dug into it, producing both. After the officer examined them he sat back with a smirk. “So you’re here for that Frenchie dude, huh? What’s he—some kinda big deal?”
She eyed him coolly, hefting her briefcase from the belt. “They’re all just clients to me.”
“That so.” He dropped his gaze, fingering her IDs. “How come he don’t have to sit in a cell? Why’d he get a private room?”
Why are you scoping my legs, you big douche? “It’s your jail. Why’d you give him one?”
He cocked a brow. “You’re pretty sassy, ain’t you?”
“And you’re wasting my time,” she said, swiping back her IDs. God, times like these I really hate men. “Are you going to let me through or what?”
He didn’t answer. He just leered at her with that simpering grin as he handed her a visitor’s badge, reaching back to open the next gate. “Thank you.” She clipped it on, following the other cop to one more door at the other side of a vestibule.
“It’s late,” the officer said, pressing a code into a keypad, “so we can’t give you much time.”
“I won’t need much.” After all, how long would it take to say, No fucking way.
“Then just ring the buzzer by the door when you’re ready to leave.” When he opened it and she stepped in, her breath immediately caught at the sight of the man behind it. She clutched her briefcase, so tightly she could feel the blood rushing from her fingers.
“Bonsoir, Mademoiselle Andreko,” Rex Renaud said.
Even with his large body cramped behind a metal table, the Mercier Shipping COO never looked more imposing, and in spite of his circumstances, never more elegant. The last time they met it’d been in Boston, negotiating the separation terms of his company’s lone female captain, Dani Lloyd, who had recently become Marcel Mercier’s wife. But with his cashmere Kiton bespoke now replaced by Gucci black tie, he struck an odd contrast in that concrete room, yet still exuding a coiled and barely contained strength. He folded his arms across his chest as his black eyes fixed on hers, Charlotte getting the distinct impression he more or less regarded her as cornered prey.
All at once the door behind her slammed shut and her heart beat so violently she nearly called the officer back. Instead she planted her heels and forced herself to focus, staring the Frenchman down. “All right, I’m here,” she said en français. “Not that I know why.”
“J’ai oublié que tu avez parlé ma langue,” he said. “But we’ll keep to English so there’s no mistaking my meaning.” His immaculate patent-leather shoe nudged the chair opposite. “Have a seat, s’il vous plaît.” He tsked. “I mean—please,” he added, smiling brilliantly.
If there was anything she remembered about Rex Renaud—which was nearly everything because he wasn’t easy to forget—it was how lethally he wielded his physicality. How he worked those inky eyes, jet-black hair, and Greek-statue handsomeness into a kind of immobilizing presence, leaving her weak in the knees every time his gaze locked on hers. Which meant she needed to work twice as hard to keep her wits sharp enough to match his, as no way would she allow him the upper hand. Yet even though he was in jail, even with him jammed behind that metal table, and herself looming over him, it was still a battle. Because with every advantage on her side he still dominated the room, the situation, the very airspace between them, so much so that Charlotte had to curl her hand around the back of the chair to steady herself.
Too much coffee today, she reasoned. That’s all it is. Even though she knew that didn’t even figure.
He nudged the chair again, his collar opened where his bow tie had been, his only concession to the situation. “Please sit. You heard the flic. We haven’t much time.”
“We haven’t any time at all.” She steeled herself. “It’s not like we have anything to discuss.”
“Non?” His gaze offered her a challenge. “Then why did you come?”
She smiled, with delicious, malicious intent. She waited a long time to wound him—and all men like him who dismissed women so easily—and as swiftly and as deeply as she could. “Maybe for the pleasure of seeing you behind bars.”
“Really,” he said, his eyes darkening as he drew closer. “Though the idea of pleasuring you does hold a certain appeal.”
Heat streaked through her as she slammed her briefcase atop the table. “Then take a good look, because my watching you rot in here is about as close as you’ll ever be to getting me off.”
He sat back, amused. “The lady finds her bliss in the strangest places. Though if watching people in pain is your thing, I am acquainted with a few gentlemen who’d pay you a nice piece of change to put all that aggression to use.” He cast her a glance that near stripped the clothes from her body. “I believe all you’ll need is a good deal of leather and some rather kinky boots.”
Her jaw dropped. “Are you—you—”
She waved her hand in front of her.
“Me? Why non. I do like a bit of spark in my women, but I always prefer it on top.” His eyes hooded. “Metaphorically speaking, that is.”
“You bastard piece of shit,” she uttered, pressing her knuckles to the worn steel. “I had to be out of my mind to come here when it’s clear you’re guilty of everything you’re accused of.”
“And what’s that?” he said, rising. “I’d love to hear it out of your mouth.”
“Of sexual assault,” she spit out. “Of everything vile and sick and violent that men and their disgusting appetites are capable.”
“Oh, how right you are, mon amie. How truly loathsome we are. Repulsive animals.” He leaned in, so closely she could feel his breath on her cheek, his eyes malevolent and cold. “Men are indeed beasts, always stooping to the lowest common denominator. Using brutality to get what they want, pugnacious and vicious to the end. Unlike women, who’ve crawled out of the swamp and up the evolutionary ladder to become so much more ruthlessly efficient. Who needs fists when you have feminine wiles?” He leaned in even closer. “Why shed blood when you can suck out a man’s soul.”
“What do you want from me?” she said, backing away. “Why would you ask me to defend you, knowing what I think of men like you?”
“Because I believe you’ll want to,” he said, his eyes bleeding candor and reason and some indefinable quality she found, God help her, unable to resist. “After you hear what I have to say.”