Of course he had been intoxicated. He usually started drinking around noon, sometimes a little before. It was just the way it was in the Trent household. Allison wished Liam wasn’t hearing about her relatives. It was embarrassing to be related to such vulgar people. She reminded herself that their behavior didn’t reflect on her, but she wasn’t very convincing. "I’m sure he was drunk or on his way there, and I’m sorry you had to deal with them. I know how difficult they can be."

"Now that you know what they look like, don’t ever let them inside, and if they try to force their way in, call the police," Liam ordered.

"I’ll alert the other doormen. There’re three of us in all," he told Liam. "I lock up at ten each night, and tenants have to use their keys to get inside the front door until six in the morning."

Great. Now outsiders were getting involved in the fiasco. The more Allison tried to avoid her aunt and uncle, the more belligerent they became. "I’m so sorry they were a bother," she apologized.

Liam heard the mortification in Allison’s voice and immediately felt his protective instincts rising again. "You aren’t responsible," he said, putting his arm around her.

Was he comforting her or feeling sorry for her? Allison couldn’t tell. She tried to gently shrug his arm away as she headed toward the elevator, but it didn’t budge. Instead, Liam walked into the elevator with her and pushed the button for her floor.

As the elevator ascended, Liam’s emotions and his good judgment were in a raging battle. It was killing him not to take charge of her aunt and uncle, to tell Allison he would make certain they left her alone. He could be a real badass when he needed to. Allison wouldn’t let him, though. She would think he was interfering, and in fact that was exactly what he would be doing. He knew she could handle herself. The way she stood up to Phillips had proven that she could hold her own, but knowing what she had endured growing up in that whacked-out household made him want to shield her from more heartache. She wouldn’t like that, either. So he would let her take the lead, and if he needed to get involved, he would make certain she didn’t know about it. 

The elevator doors parted, and Liam deliberately slowed the pace as they approached her apartment. A strange feeling was taking over, one he didn’t know how to handle. He was always so sure of himself and could make the right call when the situation demanded, but this was different. He had set out to solve a problem for the agency. Mission accomplished, right? On to the next step. That was the way these operations worked. Then what was the reason for his reluctance to end this phase of the job?

The reason was obvious. It was Allison. Something inside him didn’t want to let go, and he was intentionally drawing out his time with her. He knew he should treat her like any other asset: thank her for her contribution, wish her well, and walk away. But she wasn’t just any asset. The memory of how good she had tasted when he’d kissed her kept gnawing at him.

At her door Allison rummaged through her purse for her house key, but she struggled to concentrate on the task. Liam was standing so close, her whole body tensed and her hands shook.

"I’m assuming I won’t be seeing you again. Since I no longer work for you, we’re pretty much done. Right? Of course we are," she rambled on with a nod, not daring to look up. "Best of luck to you." Best of luck? She couldn’t come up with anything better? She felt like such a nitwit.

"How come you’re in such a hurry to get rid of me?" he asked, a smile in his voice.

"I’m not. I’m just trying to keep this relationship professional. I don’t want to . . ." She could barely breathe. She knew she should get away from him as soon as possible, before she made a complete fool of herself and ripped his clothes off.

He took the key from her, unlocked the door, and followed her inside. He was waiting for her to finish her thought, and when she didn’t, he prodded, "You don’t want to what?"

She couldn’t admit her lascivious thoughts. "Never mind."

She made the mistake of looking into his eyes. She felt like sighing. Or jumping his bones. He was such a strong, muscular man, and with his sun-streaked blond hair and clear green eyes, he was nearly irresistible. It was impossible to pretend to be immune to his charms any longer.

She had prided herself on her self-control. In fact, she had bragged about it to Liam, but what happened next was beyond her control. At least that was the lie she told herself. She leaned into him, put her hands on his shoulders, and kissed the daylights out of him. The kiss was hot, carnal, demanding a response. She poured her heart into that kiss, and if he pushed her away, she didn’t know what she would do. She wanted him to feel the passion she felt and to want her as much as she wanted him. Her mouth was open and her tongue rubbed against his. She heard him growl low in his throat and tried to get even closer to him. Being the aggressor was new to her, but she found she liked it . . . with him. She trusted him-which in her mind was a rare and beautiful thing-and that was why she could throw caution to the wind and go a little crazy.