Savanna headed for a stationary bike and started hitting buttons on the computer panel between the handlebars. “First floor, apartment 3,” she said. “She’s in her seventies and is hard of hearing, but likes to swim before lunchtime. She should be out of here by now, but just in case.”
He definitely didn’t need to surprise an elderly woman in the shower or scar his own retinas with that image. “Thanks for the heads-up.”
As instructed, he made sure to warn anyone inside the women’s locker room before he entered. Both it and the men’s were empty.
The security check was quick, but by the time he returned, Savanna had already worked up a sweat on the bike. She was spinning like a mad woman, total focus on the screen in front of her as she climbed some digitalized version of a hilly landscape.
Trace hung back in one corner where he could watch. The door was locked, the entire wing empty. Beatrice had already contacted the building manager about upgrading security at the service doors, and she was lining up a couple of Rock Star guards to help him out tonight at the studio. He’d showered and changed before they’d left the office, popping in new contacts, and shaving. He was ready for the next twenty-four hours, and for a minute, he could drop his hypervigilence and breathe.
The spinning of the bike’s wheels was hypnotic. The movement of Savanna’s long, sculpted legs mesmerizing. Her ass stood out like a neon sign with the bright pink spandex stretched over it, her back leaning forward as she gripped the handlebars. Once again, Trace’s mind went to fantasyland where she was naked, leaning over her bed for him.
Or maybe the back of her couch, or hell, maybe braced against the wall of the elevator while he took her right there.
God, he hadn’t fucked anyone in so long, his mind was on overload. A bulge the size of Kansas appeared down below.
All she had to do was look up and catch him gawking at her in the mirrors and…
He started to force his gaze away but too late. She lifted her head, her gaze zeroing right in on him.
Jerking his focus away, he discreetly crossed his hands in front of the bulge and acted like he was inspecting the stair master machine next to him.
“So we’re at a dead end with Parker?” she said over the whir of the bike.
“Not yet. Her aliases haven’t been used recently, but that means she’s using a different one we don’t know about. Smart, if you think about it. We’re probably not the only ones looking for her and she doesn’t know who she can trust.”
“Or she’s been kidnapped by the president and is being held somewhere.”
“Think about it,” Trace told her. “The president wants you to drop the Westmeyer investigation and he’s willing to go to extremes to do it, but he’s never once threatened you with Parker.”
“What do mean?”
He wanted to tell her that Parker was running around free, but he couldn’t. Not without divulging too much about himself. Still, he couldn’t stand the idea of Savanna continuing to worry that her sister was dead or, at the very least, held captive. “If he had Parker, why wouldn’t he use her to blackmail you into canceling the show tonight?”
He saw the light dawn behind her eyes. “So maybe he doesn’t have her. But then, where is she?”
That he couldn’t say. Parker had been on his trail at Witcher, but hopefully, his trail was still cold and she would have as difficult a time discovering his whereabouts as Norman.
If Parker had seen the news about Savanna’s car accident, surely she’d make contact soon if she could to make sure Savanna was okay. Unless… “I think a more likely scenario is that President Norman is threatening to harm you if she doesn’t do what he wants and that’s why she’s disappeared. She’s on a mission for him and that entails staying away from you.”
“You’re a dangerous person who could do a lot of damage to his future, Savanna, and you’re fearless. Parker knows something the president doesn’t want you to know, so he’s keeping her away from you.”
Her expression hardened. “He can’t keep her away from me forever.”
“Do you and Parker have any secret code words or nicknames for each other? Or a secret hand gesture you do when you’re on air that only she understands?”
“You mean like that Carol Burnett thing where she would tug on her earlobe at the end of every show as a secret ‘I love you’ to her family?”
“Yeah. Like that.”
She slowed the spinning. “When we were growing up and my parents threw parties, we had a secret code to help each other out. If I was stuck with one of my father’s cronies who was talking philosophy or something else equally boring, I would tap the top of my head or play with my necklace. Parker would intercede and say she needed me for something. If she was stuck in a group of my mother’s friends and needed a break, she would do something with her hair. If it was up, she’d let it down, or if it was down for the party, she’d pull it up in a ponytail. I’d pretend to feel sick or say the dog ran away or whatever, and we’d take off. It was our own little SOS system that only broke down if we were both caught in a group we couldn’t break away from.”
“Tonight on your show, try it. Tap your head at the end or play with your necklace. See if it gets her to break her silence.”
“You think she’s watching me?”
“Worth a try.”
Brow furrowed, Savanna didn’t speak or break pace for the next twenty minutes. After the bike ride, she grabbed a yoga mat and a towel and made a space in front of one of the mirrors.
He couldn’t help it, her slow, graceful moves as she went through a sun salutation drew his attention and kept it. Gone was the TV reporter and in its place was simply a beautiful woman stretching her body.
She was fluidity in motion, arms and legs moving to their own inner rhythm, her body folding and stretching and balancing in a dance that left his pants even more constricted. Several times, her gaze flowed to his and away as if she expected his voyeurism and it didn’t bother her in the least. She wanted him to watch.
Such a fucking turn-on.
It probably didn’t bother her for him to watch. At one time, she’d been on stage, performing as an athlete in front of thousands of spectators. A world stage. While he’d always hung in the shadows performing his job, she’d been on display for the whole world to see. Still was. A part of him envied her confidence, her willingness to be seen.
“Would you like to join me?” she said, catching him off guard as she flowed through a warrior pose sequence.
Join her? He’d like to take her to the floor and strip off that spandex. Explore every inch of her with his mouth and his tongue. “No, thank you.”
“Yoga isn’t a real sport, is that it? You’re such a buff guy, you don’t need yoga?”
For him, yoga
a sport. It was more. A means to keep his body in shape and his mind from dark thoughts while inside Witcher. “I’m afraid doing asanas in a suit would be difficult.”
Her eyes cut to his as she performed a side bend. “You get points for using the term but I doubt the clothes are what’s holding you back. I bet your hamstrings are so tight, you can’t touch your toes.”
She was throwing down a challenge.
And damn if he didn’t want to accept it.
Pinching his lips together to keep from smiling, he shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it on the nearby machine. Loosening his tie, he undid the top button of his shirt and untucked the tails.
Savanna slowed her routine, watching him with wide eyes. It appeared that although he wouldn’t be surprising old lady Zukaski today, he might be surprising someone entirely more important.
AVANNA TRIED NOT
And failed miserably.
With his suit coat on, Coldplay appeared broad and beefy. Without it, she saw, he was pure muscle.
The tailored white shirt was strained to capacity as he tugged off his tie and rolled the sleeves. A corded neck showed from the V at the top of the shirt where he’d unbuttoned one button.
She licked her lips, checking the side of her mouth for drool. The action caught Coldplay’s attention and he stopped mid-roll, his eyes locking on her mouth.
“Who are you going to invite for coffee?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant while heat bloomed low in her belly. She wanted him. She couldn’t deny it.
Sick. She was sick. The man was trying to protect her from danger and all she could think about were his eyes, so guarded and scared. Not scared he couldn’t keep her safe. Scared he might actually like her.
He was an expert at his job, but he sucked at hiding his desire for her. She could use that to her advantage.
He’d been watching her nonstop and it had become a game to her to see how far she could push him. The bike ride had done its job to reduce her anxiety over the accident and warm her muscles for a good yoga stretch. The bonus had been watching him watch her.
Now she wanted more. She wanted him close, wanted him to tell her something, anything about himself.
She wanted more than his eyes on her.
He could make her forget, if only for a little while, this mess she was in.
“Coffee?” he said. “You lost me.”
“Back at the office. You were talking to Beatrice about inviting someone for coffee. I was going to suggest The Steam. It’s a new cafe a few blocks from here. Everything they do is organic, fair-trade, etcetera, and the place has a sophisticated Parisian flair. Excellent chocolates and cakes. Nice, quaint. Perfect for a first date or whatever.”
He’d finished rolling his sleeves and ducked his head, one corner of his mouth quirking as he kicked off his shoes. “I’m not inviting anyone out for coffee, or on a first date, but thanks for the suggestion.”
“Oh, sorry. You’re probably already in a relationship.”
His face came up, the quirk now a full smile. “Are we doing this or what?”
Real smooth, Savanna
. Her fishing expedition into his relationship status had failed. He truly wasn’t giving anything away.
Except the bulge in his pants was still there, and, oh my, what a nice bulge it was. Yoga was all about living in the moment, and it was time she did just that.
She stood in mountain pose, trying not to stare at his body in the mirror, and started to direct him how to breathe when he stopped her.
“If you’re going to challenge me to a showdown,” he said, “you better put your money where your mouth is.”
A bet? “You’re already costing me my future beach house in the Bahamas, but since I’m sure I’m going to win this ‘showdown’ as you call it, fine. You do all the poses I show you and I’ll buy you coffee at The Steam. If you don’t, I get to ask one personal question and you have to answer truthfully. And not tell Beatrice.”
He chuckled. “If you win, I’ll answer your question and keep it a secret from Beatrice. If I win, you’ll cancel tonight’s show.”
“What? No way. I already told you I can’t, and won’t, back down from Linc Norman’s demands.”
“What are you worried about?” The grin on his face was pure smirk. His tone, teasing. “You just stated you were going to win this showdown.”
The cocky confidence sent up a warning flag. Did he seriously know yoga? She’d soon find out. “I’m doing tonight’s show. That’s not on the table.”
The smirk turned into a genuine smile that about knocked her off her feet. “I admire your determination, and I accept your original bet. You win and I’ll tell you anything you want to know. I win, you buy me a coffee.”
It was said softly but with such conviction, she knew he wasn’t lying. She had to win the bet. One question wasn’t nearly enough—she had so many—but she had to win so she could at least find out his name.
“We’ll start with a sun salutation to get you warmed up. I wouldn’t want you to pull a muscle or anything.”
He faced the mirror so they were side by side. “Let’s do it.”
Ten minutes later, she had taken him through multiple salutations, downward facing dogs, planks, warrior one, two, and three, and even crow pose. His muscular arms held his body with no problem. His big leg muscles handled tree pose and crane without issue.
Who is this guy?
She was winded and sweating, searching her brain for a pose he couldn’t do. He looked like he’d stepped out of a Men’s Health fashion shoot and was ready for anything she could throw at him.
“Where did you learn to do this?” she huffed as she took him into wheel pose.
He met her upside down gaze in the mirror. “I don’t believe you’ve won the bet yet, Ms. Jeffries.”
“Besides,” he continued, not out of breath at all. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
She breathed through her nose and tried to relax into the backbend. He was a competitive guy, if secretive, but she was an expert at her job. “I’ve heard about every unbelievable story you can imagine. You can’t shock or surprise me.”
He let himself down from his backbend and leaned across the mat to place his hand on her mid-back, supporting her spine so her stomach could rise higher. “My last residence, I had a neighbor who was raised in India. His mother had studied under some of the most well-known yogis and he went along. Picked up a lot of stuff that made him a strong, centered guy. In turn, he taught me a few things.”