I'm switching gears this week and diving into a paperback I picked up at a local thrift store...Never Too Much by Lori Foster. I've never read anything by this author I haven't enjoyed, so I have high hopes for a great read!
Daniel Ross held the metal frame steady as Drew attempted to line it up with the footboard. It should’ve been easy, but for some reason the damn thing wouldn’t go into the slot.
“Want me to get it?” Justin asked, trying and failing to contain his amusement.
Drew paused long enough to shoot Justin a dirty look, then went back to what he was doing. “Can you hold it a little more to the right? I think I see the issue.”
Daniel did as Drew requested and watched as the metal hovered over the wooden slot for the first time.
“Need some help?” Kim’s voice caused all three of them to glance toward the doorway.
Another grin tugged at Justin’s lips, as he looked her over from head to toe. “I think we’ve almost got it.”
With one last push, Drew forced the metal into the slot. He straightened and rolled his shoulders. “That was more challenging than I thought it would be.”
“It was sticking when we took it apart the other day,” Justin said.
Stretching out his own back, Daniel tried to ignore the way his muscles protested. As much as he hated to admit it, he wasn’t as young as he used to be. At fifty-five, he was twenty years older than everyone else in the room. “Hopefully, you won’t be needing to take it apart again for a very long time.”
Kim sent a coy look in Justin’s direction as she skimmed her fingers over the bed. “I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.”
Grabbing her hips, Justin pulled her against him. “Damn straight.”
Daniel was only half paying attention to the couple. Ali was grinning, happy for her best friend, but there was something off about her today. He didn’t know what it was, but he was going to find out.
Kim let out a sigh that said more than words ever could, and he knew it was time for them to make their exit. Daniel cleared his throat. “And with that, I think it’s time we said goodbye.”
“You don’t have to run off—”
“Yes, they do,” Justin said.
Everyone chuckled, even Ali, although, again, it felt half-hearted.
Daniel helped Ali with her coat, relishing being able to touch her, even if it was in the most innocent of ways. He waited as she said her goodbyes to Kim and Justin, then escorted her to her car.
They were almost to their vehicles when he noticed her stifling a yawn. “Everything all right?”
She glanced up at him. Her normally bright blue eyes appeared duller than usual, her exhaustion showing. “I’m fine. Just a little tired.”
“Why?” he demanded, stopping his progress.
Ali wasn’t a party girl. He knew she hadn’t been out late the night before. She’d left the private BDSM club where they were both members at eleven o’clock, and she’d gone straight home. He knew this because that’s what she’d told him she was going to do and Ali wouldn’t have lied to him.
She lowered her eyes to the ground before meeting his gaze once more. He could almost see her mind working behind her eyes. “I’ve got new neighbors.”
“They’re keeping you up?”
Ali nodded and tried to hide yet another yawn.
He felt his irritation rising. “Did you report them to your complex management?”
Her shoulders sagged. “I can’t.”
He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “If they’re making noise at all hours of the night, you should report them.”
She scraped her teeth over her bottom lip, and he knew from experience what that meant. “It’s not...”
“What?” He wasn’t letting her leave until he knew what was going on.
After glancing around, she sighed and met his gaze. “They have very loud sex.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow.
“She’s very vocal and he’s...well, he’s not quiet either.” Her face turned pink as she averted her eyes to look over his shoulder. “I can’t exactly call management and report my neighbors for having sex.”
His first instinct was to insist that she could do exactly that. He would have. But this wasn’t him. It was Ali, and in truth, he couldn’t see her marching into her management office and demand they tell her neighbors to quiet down when having sex. “When’s your lease up?”
Ali met his gaze again, the blush slowly leaving her cheeks. “Not for another six months.” She rubbed her forehead. “It’ll get better.”
He had his doubts about that. Her neighbors either didn’t know or didn’t care about the noise they were making. Daniel had thought she looked tired last night, but he’d let it go. Tonight, he wasn’t letting it go. He wrapped his fingers around her elbow and guided her the rest of the way to her car. “I’ll follow you home.”
She stared up at him. “Why?”
“Because you’re going to pack a bag and come home with me.”
The weary look she’d had before morphed into what could only be wide-eyed disbelief. Her mouth dropped open, and he knew she was moments away from coming up with some excuse.
He didn’t give her the opportunity. “Just for a night. I’m sure I can find you something tomorrow.”
“But what about my lease? I can’t afford to pay rent on two places.”
Her paying rent was the last thing he was worried about. If need be, he’d pay whatever was needed. It wasn’t as if money was an issue. “Don’t worry about it.” Opening the car door, he motioned for her to get in. “I’ll figure something out.”
She slid behind the wheel but continued to gaze up at him. “Daniel, you don’t need to. I’ll be fine.”
Leaning over, he braced one arm on the hood of her car above the doorframe and met her gaze. “You are not fine. Your eyes are bloodshot and you’re slouching. You never slouch.”
Ali pulled her shoulders back and sat up straight in her seat.
He went on. “That’s not to even mention how many times you’ve yawned since we’ve been here.” He paused, then stood to his full height. “Do you feel awake enough to drive?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
Giving her a curt nod, he took a step back. “If that changes, pull over. Understand?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
He closed her car door before making his way to his SUV and climbing inside. Backing out of Justin’s driveway, he waited for her to do the same.
The drive to her apartment complex was a measure in patience. Twice she’d crossed the white line onto the shoulder before correcting herself. He was tempted to put her over his knee, but he was afraid if he did, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from doing more. Just thinking about her spread out across his lap, her ass in the air, had his cock twitching.
Luckily, they pulled into her complex a few minutes later and he released the tight grip he had on the steering wheel. He was striding toward her before she’d gotten out of her vehicle. “Do you want some help?”
“No. I’ll only be a few minutes.”
He waited patiently for her to return and took the time to reflect on the situation. Ali would be in his home. Even if it was only one night, she’d be in his space, her scent mingling with his.
Closing his eyes, he took several deep breaths to calm himself. Ali was a beautiful woman. Any fool could see that. But she was thirty-two years old. She was young enough to be his daughter. Hell, his oldest was only five years younger than Ali.
The door to Ali’s apartment opened, and he made his way over to her as she locked her door. “I’ll take your bags for you.”
She turned and met his gaze before allowing him to take her duffle bag and suitcase.
He walked to his vehicle, opened the back, and placed her things inside.
Knowing what she was going to say before she said it, he cut off her protest. “I’ll bring you back to your car later. Right now, you’re not alert enough to be driving.”
She pressed her lips together, giving him a hint of that spunk he knew she had but held such a tight rein on. “I made it home, didn’t I?”
“Do you really want to stand here and argue about your driving?”
She released an audible sigh and let him open the passenger’s door for her. Once she was tucked safely inside, he made his way around the car to the driver’s side.
Daniel started the vehicle and glanced over at her. “Are you comfortable?” The evening had become chilly, so he’d turned the seat warmer on for her.
He grinned at her response and turned on some music. The soothing sounds of one of his favorite cellists filled the small space as he maneuvered onto the road. Before they made it to the highway, she was asleep.
Relaxing into his seat, he concentrated on the road. It was Sunday evening, so traffic wasn’t bad. They should be at his house soon and he could get her settled into one of his spare bedrooms for the night.
Daniel was trying not to think about anything other than her getting the rest she needed, but it was difficult to ignore the way his body reacted to her—had always reacted to her. He could have seen her home and left. Ali wasn’t his responsibility. She wasn’t his submissive. They were friends. He looked out for her at the club, made sure her needs were met, but that was it. That’s where their relationship ended.
Ali sighed, drawing his attention, and he looked over to see a smile pull at her lips. Warmth spread through his chest, the urge to brush his fingers along the side of her cheek almost impossible to resist.
He flexed his fingers on the steering wheel and reprimanded himself before returning his attention to the road. “Control yourself, old man.”
Once again, his mind drifted to his daughter, and he felt a chill run through him. What would he think if a man his age thought about his little girl the way he did about Ali?
Shaking his head, Daniel pushed those thoughts out of his mind. He turned into his driveway. As the gate opened, he glanced at his passenger, who was still sound asleep, then followed the winding driveway to his house. The sun was going down, creating an orange glow through the trees.
Pulling into his garage, Daniel turned off the engine and he climbed out. He tucked his keys into his pocket and walked around to the passenger’s side. Ali’s head was resting against the glass, and he didn’t want to startle her.
Easing the door open, he crouched down to her level. Her head fell forward, but she didn’t wake. The urge to touch her surged to the surface once more, but again he resisted. It was something he had a lot of practice with as he’d been doing it for the last two years.
“Ali? Wake up. We’re here.”
She didn’t move, so he chanced giving her arm a little shake.
Her eyelids fluttered open, and her brow furrowed with confusion for a moment as she focused on him. “Daniel?”
He smiled, hoping to put her at ease. She’d been sleeping for the last twenty minutes. “We’re here. I’ll show you to your room, then you can crawl into bed.”
She looked around and he saw her eyes widen a little. Ali had never been to his house before. No one at the club had. And no one besides Katrina and her P.I. who ran background checks for her knew how much money he had. Her gaze scanned his four-car garage. “Where are we?
“This is my home.” He paused. “Well, my garage.”
He stood and extended his hand to help her out.
Ali hesitated for a moment, then unbuckled her seat belt and took his offered hand. Tingles shot up his arm when she placed her hand in his, and once she was on her feet, he released her. While she was in his home, he was going to have to be mindful of not touching her. As much as he tried, Daniel couldn’t control his reaction to her.
He went to get her bags from the back of his SUV and she followed him. Ali reached for the duffle bag, but he was quicker. “I’ve got it.”
“I can carry it.”
“I know you can, but you don’t need to.” He shut the door and headed for the house.
Ali followed. She didn’t argue with him, but she rarely did. Daniel knew he overstepped a lot, but he couldn’t help it. She may not be his, but there was something that made him want to care for her.
Daniel led her into the house, through the living room and kitchen, and down a long hallway to one of his guest rooms—he had four in this wing of the house. The room he’d chosen was the farthest from his. He figured it was safer that way.
Placing her bag and suitcase beside the dresser along the far wall, he turned to face her. She was a foot inside the room with her arms crossed as if she were protecting herself. He frowned. “What’s wrong?”
She shook her head. “Nothing. I’m just...taking it all in.”
It was a lot, he supposed. “There’s a bathroom through that door with a shower, or you can use the one across the hall. It has a bathtub.” She didn’t say anything, and it occurred to him that she might be hungry. It had been a few hours since they’d last eaten. “Are you hungry, or would you rather go back to sleep?”
“I probably shouldn’t go to sleep this early. I’ll end up waking up in the middle of the night.”
Daniel nodded. “Then come with me and I’ll see what I can throw together.” He didn’t wait for her to agree before heading toward the kitchen, but he heard her footsteps behind him on the hardwood floors.
The kitchen was why he’d bought the house. He loved to cook. On the rare occasions when his children did visit, they would spend hours in the kitchen cooking and catching up. Some of his best memories with his kids happened in that room.
Going directly to the refrigerator, he pulled out sausages and some leftover pasta sauce. It may not be fancy, but it would be filling.
Ali hovered on the other side of the large island, so he nodded toward the stools.
“Have a seat. Dinner will be ready soon.”
She lowered herself onto the stool. He could feel her gaze on him as he cooked the sausages, boiled the pasta, and warmed the sauce. She didn’t say anything, only watched, following his movements as he tended to the food.
After draining the pasta, he removed two plates from the cabinet and piled a healthy portion of noodles on top, along with the sausages and sauce. Belatedly, he thought he should have made some garlic bread to go with it, but it was too late.
He walked around the island to where she sat and set one of the plates and a fork in front of her.
“Thank you.” She smiled and picked up the fork. “It smells good.”
Daniel took a seat at the island as well but made sure to keep a stool between them.
Ali pursed her lips and blew on the steaming pasta before bringing the fork to her mouth. He couldn’t pull his gaze away from her lips as they wrapped around the fork. Then, she moaned, and all the work he’d done earlier to calm his attraction to her was moot.
He cleared his throat and forced himself to look away. “Eat up, and then you can turn in early. I want you to get plenty of rest tonight.”
“The nap in the car helped.” She twirled some more of the pasta onto her fork. “This is good.”
“I’m glad you like it.” He chanced a glance at her again, making sure to keep his gaze away from her mouth this time. “I assume you have to work tomorrow?”
“Yes, I do.”
Daniel nodded. “What time?”
“What?” she asked.
Her forehead wrinkled and her nose scrunched up a little in the cutest way. Damn, he had to stop thinking about her like that. He looked away, gathering more food onto his fork.
“What time do you need to be at work?”
“Seven thirty.” She paused. “But I need to get my car first.”
Again, he nodded. “We’ll leave around six thirty. That should give you plenty of time.”
They ate the rest of the meal in silence. When she was finished, he gathered their plates and took them to the sink. By the time he faced her again, her eyes were already half closed.
She looked up when he approached.
“Did you need anything before you turn in?”
Ali blinked. “I don’t think so.”
“I’ll be here or in my room.” He indicated a hallway off the kitchen. “Should you need anything.” He prayed she didn’t come looking for him in the middle of the night.
Daniel waited, but she didn’t move. He raised an eyebrow, indicating he expected some sort of response from her.
She slid off the stool and began walking toward her room. Then she stopped, turned, and met his gaze. “Daniel?”
“Thank you for letting me stay here. You didn’t have to.”