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Liam grabbed her arm before she could take off. Exasperated, he said, "Didn’t we decide that was a bad idea?"

"No, you and Noah decided it was a bad idea. I didn’t."

There was a small alcove near the bell captain’s desk, and without any explanation, Liam pulled her toward it and told her to stay put.

"What do you mean, ‘stay put’? And will you stop dragging me around!" She was about to go into a full-blown lecture on the merits of good manners and suggest he might want to get some until she noticed he wasn’t paying any attention to her. Standing directly in front of her, he was looking across the lobby as he unbuttoned his jacket and unsnapped the leather holster securing his gun.

Liam knew Brett hadn’t seen them, but Fred Stiles and the guard hired to protect the door from unwanted guests during their presentation had seen them. They were coming at them, and coming fast. The thick-shouldered guard with squinty eyes reached them first. Standing just a foot away, he looked up at Liam and said, "You don’t intimidate me. Get out of my way. I want to talk to that bitch hiding behind you."

Liam didn’t move. In a voice Allison had never heard before, he said, "Get the hell out of here."

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"That troublemaker cost me a lot of money tonight. I was supposed to get a bonus if everything went smooth. She’s the reason it all fell apart, so she owes me." He tried to push Liam out of his way, but Liam didn’t budge. Then the man tried to shove him in his chest next. Liam had had enough of pretending to be a nice guy. He grabbed the man’s hand and twisted his fingers back as he turned him and half lifted him, slamming him into the wall.

Stiles looked appalled by the guard’s behavior. Liam knew his outrage was all a pretense.

People coming and going through the doors of the hotel didn’t notice the guard, who had dropped to the floor inside the alcove. When he slowly sat up and rubbed the side of his head, he looked dazed.

Allison was amazed by Liam’s strength. She knew he was muscular. She should have known, for she had kissed and caressed every part of him. Still, to twist a man’s fingers, lift him, and slam his head into the wall took remarkable strength. And a temper. She was shocked by that revelation. Liam had always been so calm and easygoing with everyone . . . until now.

Unfortunately, the confrontation didn’t end with the guard. Stiles tried to walk around Liam to get to Allison, but Liam wasn’t about to let that happen, either. He quickly blocked Stiles.

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"I want to talk to her," Stiles protested.

"No," Liam said. "Now get out of here."

"I guess I’ll have to get my attorneys involved, then," he threatened, glaring at her before abruptly turning and storming away. The guard, finally regaining his feet, staggered behind him.

Allison had been silent long enough. "I’d love it if you did," she called after them.

She’d sounded so thrilled by the possibility Liam laughed. It took all the discipline he possessed not to pull her into his arms and kiss her the way he’d been thinking about all day. It suddenly occurred to him he’d been fighting an impossible war. He couldn’t stay away from her. Then again, he didn’t want to.

"Are you ready to get out of here?" His voice was gruff.

Allison waited until they were back in her apartment to lecture him. "You didn’t need to use such force with that guard. You could have-"

He cut her off. "He called you a bitch. I didn’t like it."

"You can’t go around slamming heads into walls just because you don’t like the names they call me." 

"Apparently, I can," he replied. "Because I just did."

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She kicked off her shoes and picked them up. She stopped at her bedroom door and turned. Frowning, she asked, "Is this a pattern? Do you punch all men who insult your assets?"

"No, just the ones who insult you."

She opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. He was walking toward the door, and she couldn’t let him leave without answering a question for her. She’d wanted to ask him for days and so far hadn’t been able to get up the courage. Now or never, she thought.

"Liam, wait. I want to ask you something, and I want you to be completely honest with me. I need to know . . . if this makes you uncomfortable . . ." Her voice was whisper soft and apologetic.

He couldn’t imagine what was going on inside that brilliant but decidedly confused mind of hers. He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like the question and told himself that, no matter what she asked, he would not get angry. Unless, of course, she wanted another favor for Will. Then he’d probably end up yelling at her.

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