Chase After Me by Cynthia Eden

Chapter One

“Tell me again why you’re naked.”

Chase Durant glowered at his sometimes partner and friend. “Because, Merik, today the role of hot new neighbor is being played by yours truly.”

Merik Stone nodded. “Of course. How could I have overlooked that? Hot neighbor role. Sure. Whatever.” His bright gaze swept over Chase. “But I think I need more scene info to fully understand what’s happening here. I mean, I’m not sure I buy what’s going on. Do people normally move into new places and only wear jogging shorts while they do it? Isn’t that kind of dangerous, you know, with the heavy lifting and what not?”

A long sigh escaped Chase. “Are you trying to piss me off?”

Merik shrugged. “Maybe. I’m a little bored, and it has been a slow day.”

Damn straight it had been. Chase had started the new mission that morning, and they had moved in the temporary apartment very quickly—mostly because Chase wasn’t moving in actual belongings. Just enough for the scene to look real. They’d made short work of the moving part, and he’d been sure that his prey would walk right into his path. It was a Saturday, after all. His target wasn’t at work, and it should have been the perfect time to make her acquaintance.

Only…nothing. Hours had passed, and nothing had happened. Chase knew his target had left the building earlier that morning, but he’d figured she’d be back in a reasonable amount of time. Ha. No such luck. So far, four hours had passed.

“Look, have you considered that she’s not coming home today?” Merik asked.

Not coming back? “She didn’t take anything with her when she left. She was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes.” Yes, he’d been watching. Spying.

His head swiveled toward the only other apartment on the floor. They were on the fourth floor—the top floor—of the building. The place was located on the outskirts of Marietta, Georgia, and the old building had been converted and updated just a few years before. Exposed bricks and gleaming chunks of wood were everywhere, and Chase had the uncomfortable feeling that he might just be in one of those HGTV episodes because it seemed like the designer of the building had checked off every single box—

“If she’s not coming home anytime soon, you could put your shirt back on,” Merik offered.

Chase waved toward his abs. “I work hard for these.”

Merik snorted.

“Moneymakers, that’s what they are,” Chase added, voice serious.

“Are you sure?” Merik appeared doubtful. “I’m not so—”

“They mean I’m strong enough to get the job done, and the ladies like them. Since my target is one lady in particular, I figure I’d start with my best asset and work from there.”

“Okay.” Merik crossed his arms over his chest. When he flexed, the long dragon tattoo on his left arm seemed to slither. “Let me see if I now understand this whole setup correctly. Your strategy on this case is to use your abs to woo your prey?”

“The abs are step one—an ice-breaker, if you will.” Chase hadn’t been kidding when he said he was playing the hot new neighbor role. When he’d been considering undercover personas for this case, it had seemed the easiest one to use. His target was the single woman on the floor—the woman who had not yet returned for their meet and greet. He had to get close to her. Had to sneak past her guard.

Then he had to learn every single secret that she possessed.

Sure, sure, normally, his job was to protect. At Wilde, the protection and security firm that he’d been employed at for quite a while now, they often took jobs where danger was just part of the game. They protected all sorts of clients—even royalty and rock stars—but they also took jobs that were under the radar. As in, way under the radar. Jobs that the government farmed out to them.

Those kinds of jobs were often Chase’s favorites. Undercover missions had always been his specialty.

And Merik knew that—so why was his buddy giving him grief?

“I’m dying to hear step two.” Merik nodded. “Do not leave me in suspense.”

The man must be helluva bored. “Fine, if you must know—”

“I must,” he cut in.

The elevator dinged.

Chase tensed. “Showtime.” His lady had to be arriving. The whole reason he’d been killing time in that hallway with the last box of moving items on the floor between him and Merik? He’d wanted to be in the right place to run into his target.