Keep Me Closer

By: Rhyannon Byrd

1


AS ALEX HUDSON WAITED IN THE SHADOWS OF THE CAR-FILLED MULTISTORY parking structure, smoking a cigarette, he silently cursed his brother for putting him in this ridiculous situation. He was a fucking private investigator, not a babysitter. He didn’t, for a single moment, think there was any validity to Ben and Reese’s claims that Brit Cramer’s life was in danger. This was just his brother and new sister-in-law’s irritating idea of playing matchmaker. The two had gotten it into their heads last summer that he and the therapist would be good together, and had done their best to make his life a living hell ever since.

It was already hard enough, having to spend so much time around the woman, without putting him through this shit. He was forced to deal with Brit’s dimpled smiles and natural, in-your-face sexuality every time they were invited to the same dinners, parties, and weekend barbecues at his middle brother’s beachfront home. Now that it was late spring and the weather was warming on southern Florida’s gulf coast, the number of beach get-togethers was increasing, while the clothing Brit and the other women wore became practically nonexistent. The past few weeks had been absolute hell, thanks to the amount of smooth, creamy skin she’d started putting on display, and his mood was foul. Last damn thing he needed was this, being forced to watch her every night as she finally dragged herself away from her office and made it home to the two-story house she lived in alone.

And since she had no idea Ben had put him on this assignment, Alex had spent the last two evenings slinking around the parking structure attached to the medical complex where she worked like a goddamn stalker. It made him feel like the very thing he was supposedly there to protect her against, and it sucked.

It was also a serious waste of his time.

Yeah, Alex had looked over the harassment complaint Brit had filed against university student Clay Shepherd the week before, after the twenty-two-year-old had tried to force his way into her office, and he agreed with Ben that her former patient was unstable. But that didn’t mean there was any credence to Ben’s belief that Shepherd could prove violent. His brother might be the county sheriff here in Moss Beach, but he wasn’t a fucking mind reader. No, ever since his wedding, Ben had turned into a nosey, meddling matchmaker, and a serious pain in the ass. Alex knew only too well that this was Ben’s way of forcing him to pay attention to the woman he’d been trying so damn hard to avoid.

Not that avoiding her was possible. The last time they’d been invited to the same get-together, this one at Scott Ryder’s house—Ryder was a friend of the family and one of Ben’s deputies—Alex had tried to look right through Brit, only to nearly swallow his tongue when he saw how the dress she was wearing hugged her curves. The woman was built like a fucking pinup model from the forties, lush and tall and so damn overtly sensual he’d have wanted to eat her alive if he hadn’t become a sworn woman-hater. Or at least a woman-avoider. But he’d finally accepted that it was physically impossible for him to ignore a woman who looked like Dr. Brit Cramer, so he’d reverted to the ol’ tried and true crutch of being a dick to her.

Pathetic? Oh, yeah. Big-time. But when a guy was desperate he sometimes had to scrape the bottom of the emotional barrel. And Alex had done a stellar job of it. He still couldn’t recall exactly what he’d said to her that particular night, when he’d found himself standing alone on Ryder’s back patio with Brit, anger and frustration taking control of his mouth while his pulse had roared in his ears, blocking out the sound of his own voice—but it had earned him a slap across the face from the gorgeous redhead.

That had been a few weeks ago, and it was the last time he’d spoken to her.

And now he was here, pissed at his brother for pulling this crap on him, and trying hard to ignore how much he was looking forward to getting a glimpse of the doc as she walked to her car. Jesus, he really did sound like a psychotic stalker. When Ben got back from the Bahamas, where he was vacationing with Reese, Alex was kicking the guy’s ass for sticking him with this assignment. He could only be thankful the woman had a quality home alarm system, or he knew his brother would have had him camping out with her, and there was no way in hell he was going there, even if she was Ben and Reese’s best friend. If it came to that, their little brother Mike would have to step in.

The thought instantly made him scowl.

Knowing Mike’s wild reputation, he and the doc would be screwing like rabbits within an hour of him setting foot in her house. There was no way Mike wouldn’t put the moves on her, even though he’d been trying to push Alex into asking her out for months now. It was just in his baby brother’s DNA. Mike might be closing in on twenty-nine, a kick-ass agent with the DEA, respected for his sharp mind and dedication to the job, but when it came to killer curves and a beautiful face, his dick could not be trusted. It was as simple as that.

The sudden vibration in Alex’s front pocket told him he had an incoming call, and he grimaced when he read the name on the screen. Speak of the devil. Mike’s ears must have been burning. His baby brother was recently proving to be just as big a pain in his backside as Ben, the two of them making it clear they believed Alex had wasted enough time stewing in anger after the eventful end of his marriage five years ago. Little did they know his pissy attitude these days had almost nothing to do with his bitch of an ex-wife, and everything to do with the fact that he couldn’t get a particular redheaded therapist out of his thoughts.