CHAPTER ONE

White. Everywhere. Startling white sunlight blasted her eyes open. More white surrounded her. She blinked, then ducked her head under the cloud of bedding.

This isn’t my bed.

Only hotels had bed sheets bleached this white. Alexa’s heart jumped. Where was she? London? That was a month ago. A stopover in New York. A weekend in Vegas. Oklahoma for Christmas.

Dallas. Last night. The slamming New Year’s party.

What time is it?

The vodka-induced pounding of her head muddled her mind. She had no clue where her dress was—or her underwear. A heavy ache anchored her legs, and her stomach roiled.

Alexa hadn’t allowed herself to get that drunk in years. The hangovers. The stupid decision making. The calories.

Melissa, her New Year’s Eve accomplice, probably wondered where she was. They had a lunch appointment with good-luck black-eyed peas and collard greens. She could use some luck to pull her year out of the ditch. She was sputtering already, and it was only day one.

First, she had to leave the warm bed, find her clothes, and get the hell out of…wherever she was.

“Mornin’, sweetheart.”

A masculine, sleep-rasped voice snatched her breath. Alexa snapped upright then yanked the duvet up over her bare chest.

There he was—smiling, naked, and awake in more ways than one.

His eyes were half open, sleepy, and wanton under a fringe of golden brown lashes.  Her eyes slid down the lean stretch of muscle and tanned skin next to her on top of the covers.

“Why can’t you disappear in a puff of smoke?”

Her heart thundered as if she’d finished an hour of wind sprints. Somehow, the words that sprang up in her head had come out of her mouth.

* * *

Graham woke up steeped in the satisfaction of his New Year’s Eve success. The details blurred, but he could practically feel the firm ass in his hand, soft lips on his, and the tight squeeze on his cock. An easy, pleased-with-himself grin spread across his face.

She stirred, rustling in the cocoon of bedding.

“Mornin’, sweetheart.”

She shot up. He caught a luscious view of dark-tipped breasts before she clutched the comforter up to her chin. Ginger ale eyes widened at him. She pressed her lips tight, beguiling dimples appearing in her cheeks.

Graham wanted to banish Miss Prim and bring back the woman who’d bucked and clawed astride his lap a few hours before. She threw her face into her palms.

“Why can’t you disappear in a puff of smoke?”

“That’s not the magic act I do, but drop the sheet, and I’ll show you another trick.”

“Then I’ll disappear.”

She swung away from him, fighting the bed sheets to get her feet on the floor.

“Don’t go. Come on.”

He touched her back, and she arched away and jumped out of bed. Graham got a fantastic view—long, naked curves of creamy café au lait skin.

“No. I’m not…no.”

She scrambled to snatch her dress, handbag, and lace underthings off the floor, then raced into the bathroom. The door snapped shut.

Graham leaned out of bed to grab his cell phone out of his pants pocket and reorient himself with the world while she attended to herself for several minutes.

The muffled rush of water filled the room—first from the sink and then the shower. A clang of objects against the hard countertop surprised him. How much could she have in that tiny purse?

And what would she look like in the shower? Rivulets of water streaming down the curves of her naked body. Her back would arch, pushing her breasts forward and up.

His hand roved down to his twitching groin, but then he slapped his thigh and thought about football. The Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo. Defensive line woes.

He couldn’t have her walk out and see him tugging on himself like horny teenager who’d just seen his first boob. Plus, he still hoped to convince her to stay. He’d need that hard-on.

Then, the door flung open as purposefully as it had been slammed shut. Somehow, she looked polished and bright—even in last night’s spangly mini-dress.

“I have to go.”

“Why?”

“I have plans. I’m probably already late. What time is it?”

Her dispassionate tone sliced off each word flung in his direction. Graham sat up and turned the clock on the nightstand toward her.

“10:22”

“Shit.” She flipped her gaze around the room, dark curly hair bouncing, then found her shoes tumbled over in the corner. Balancing like a dancer on one leg at a time, she strapped the spiked heels to her feet. “I have to get back to my hotel.”

“Give me two minutes. I’ll drive you.”

“No. I’ll manage.” She strode toward the door. Another second, and she’d be gone.

“Where do you have to be in such a hurry on New Year’s Day? I figured we could relax. Go have breakfast. Or order room service.”

She turned to face him. With the morning light dancing off the silver sequins of her dress, she looked like an angelic go-go dancer. His body stiffened again, which he made no attempt to hide from his guest.

Her eyes darted to his erection and then locked back on his.

“I told you. I have plans. And I need to go back to my hotel and change.”

“Let me drive you. It’s the least I can do.”

Her hand flew to her hip in a fist. “Since I did you the favor of having sex with you?”

Shit, she was a beast. His interest wavered even as she threw her sparkling hip to the side. “I’m attempting to be nice.”

She huffed. “Fine. Are you going to shower or something?”

“Yeah. Two minutes.”

Game on. So what if she was a little bitchy? Her body was killer, and he’d love another turn.

Graham bounded to his feet and into the bathroom, not bothering to close the door. He threw on the shower and stepped inside. As soon as he closed the shower curtain, he heard the heavy thud of the hotel room door.

Damn. He didn’t even remember her name.

* * *

Alexa strutted across the posh lobby of the Ritz Carlton as if taking a turn on a fashion runway—not a walk of shame.

She needed a ride and a coffee and a toothbrush.

When she hit the valet stand, the shining sunlight blinded her. A headache split her skull like an ax, and her stomach did another pirouette.

“Do you need a cab, ma’am?”

“No. I have a ride on the way.” Alexa glanced at her phone, checking the progress of her Uber. “Two minutes.”

She held the phone up to indicate that she was on top of the situation.

“Quite the party last night.” The valet gestured toward the lobby bar.

“Apparently.”

Alexa scoured her memory for details of her New Year’s Eve. She and Mr. Mystery hadn’t gone to the bar. They left the house party around one a.m. and checked into a room at the Ritz. Or maybe he already had the room? No. He’d stopped at the front desk. Slips of details surfaced like old receipts in her purse.

What was his name? She knew he’d told her. Ryan something? As far as Possibly Ryan knew, her name was Lola. She and Melissa argued about her using her fake name while inching through the line for the bathroom.

“How are you going to connect with the guy if he doesn’t know who you are?”

“He’s only looking for a party. A party doesn’t require a name.”

Melissa had pressed up to her tiptoes to shout into Alexa’s ear. “That guy is smoking hot. And he’s into you. You could do better than a one-night stand.”

“I’m not going to have a one-night stand. We’re just dancing.”

The bathroom door had opened, and Melissa headed inside. “Whatever. Let’s get more of those fruity shots. Those are really good.”

Alexa’s stomach wrenched at the memory of the sweet, alcohol-laden mini glasses of hangover. As soon as she got back to Austin, she was doing a cleanse.

She fell into the back seat of the ordered car and willed herself not to throw up. Alexa had a stellar rider score, and she intended to keep it that way.

CHAPTER TWO

Rather than stew over the skid marks Lola scorched into the hotel carpet, Graham called his best friend, Jonah, to check on his sorry ass.

Jonah’s girlfriend was pregnant, and he wasn’t sure the baby was his. Pretty sorry business if you asked Graham, but his friend was in love—crazy, turn-down-a-New-Year’s-screw-with-a-hot-girl love.

Jonah had stormed out of the New Year’s Eve party in a shitty mood, and Graham figured he could at least make sure the guy hadn’t done something stupid—like drunk dial the woman or go all John Cusack in Say Anything.

Graham and Jonah agreed to meet for a late lunch at a greasy diner near downtown. Maybe the fat would soak up the alcohol that left Graham’s mouth dry and his head with a low-pulsing pound.

Jonah was already seated in a bright red, vinyl booth, with water and coffee. Red, white, and grey tile covered nearly every surface of the restaurant, no doubt because it would be easy to scrub the place clean in the event they decided to do so.

The lingering smell of fried everything hung in the air, and Graham’s nose scrunched. “Nice pick.”

“Look at this.” Jonah pointed to the menu. “Hash browns covered in nacho cheese and bacon. That’s New Year’s Day food.”

Graham slipped into the booth. “If you say so. How’re you doing this morning?”

“Okay, actually.”

His upbeat tone scared Graham. “Did you talk to Shannon?”

“Not yet. But I will. I want to work things out with her.”

Forgiving a woman for cheating on him? And maybe getting pregnant with another man’s baby? Graham couldn’t do it. Ever. But his friend looked happy. Excited, even.

Telling him to snap out of it lingered on Graham’s tongue.

Jonah sipped his coffee. “Whatever you have to say. Save it. I don’t need advice.”

“If you’re sure…do what you’ve got to do.”

“Thank you.”

“Look, it’s your life. I hope it works out.”

Graham knew when a cause was lost.

Jonah grinned. “Thanks, man.”

Graham saw the waitress heading over with another glass of water. “Let me figure out what I’m going to eat.”

After they ordered their breakfasts of cholesterol and sodium, Jonah pressed Graham for the details of his evening. Graham recounted what he could remember with the tone of a kid who had eaten his favorite cookie, but was mad he couldn’t have another.

“All in all, it was a good evening, I guess. She was smokin’ hot.”

“Did you get any details?”

“I was trying to remember. I think she said her name was Lola.”

Jonah laughed himself breathless. “Really? Lola?”

Graham shrugged. “That’s what she said.”

“Glad you had a good time with Lola.” Jonah capped off his snide tone with air quotes around the name.

“That I did. Even if she’s was kind of a witch this morning. Jesus, she was hot.” Graham pounded his fists lightly on the table.

“You mentioned that.” His friend’s words were as parched as Graham’s throat.

He took a long sip of ice water. “I wonder how she got her invite?”

Someone must know who she was. He could probably find her on Facebook. Pictures from the party were already filling up his newsfeed.

“Who cares?”

“No one. I’m just curious. Maybe you’re right. Maybe her name isn’t Lola.”

“Of course it isn’t. No one’s been named Lola since the 1920s. Was she eighty?” Jonah snickered.

“Screw you. I’m being the good guy. All supportive and shit, and you’re busting my balls.”

“Sounds like that already happened this morning. Did she take them with her in her purse?”

Graham nearly popped back that Jonah was one to talk, but didn’t want to needle his friend. Jonah’s situation was serious, but his wasn’t.

“I have to admit. I wouldn’t mind getting another taste of that.”

“Dude, it doesn’t sound like she’s interested in a repeat.”

“You didn’t hear her moaning all night.”

Jonah faked a gagging reflex. “Thank God. I don’t need images of you humping in my brain.”

“You might learn something.”

“Doubtful. You going to track her down or what?”

“Not necessarily. I may see if she’s on Facebook.”

The faux casual high pitch in his own voice made him cringe—as did the smug, mocking look in Jonah’s eyes.

He didn’t necessarily care if he saw “Lola” again, but if he could track her down, he’d take another run at her. The night was fun. She was Maxim Hot 100 hot. And he knew he could make her wish she’d stayed for room-service breakfast and bloody Marys.

Graham sniffed again at the pungent odor of hot grease permeating the diner.

He already wished she had.

* * *

“How was the party last night?” Alexa’s cousin, Taryn, ladled black-eyed peas into Alexa’s bowl and then Melissa’s. They sat in bar stools at Taryn’s kitchen counter.

Alexa made it back to her hotel and changed clothes while her friend dragged herself out of bed and got ready. She refused to answer any of Melissa’s questions so she wouldn’t have to repeat the tale for Taryn. The less she talked about it, the better.

“Fun. What I remember of it. I started doing shots, which was a massive mistake. Slamming booze doesn’t agree with me.”

Melissa reached over and lifted a piece of cornbread out of the pan on the counter. “How many vodka sodas with lime can you drink?”

“It’s the cleanest drink I can have. You get your zero-calorie hydration along with your booze. Ask for extra limes to get some vitamins. Sip slowly.”

Taryn added collard greens to their peas. “You don’t sound like you were sipping slowly last night.”

“Those sugary drinks always do me in. This food will do me good. I need greens, too. Even if it’s all swimming in pork fat.”

“Pork fat is the signature part of the dish.” Taryn topped each bowl with a square of bread and slid them toward her guests. “Other than the drinks, what else? Were there any single guys there?”

“And now we get back to the key point of the evening.” Melissa rubbed her hands together, her ebony, chin-length bob swinging as she twisted excitedly in her seat. “You left the party with that guy, and I want details.”

“You left with a guy?” Taryn screeched.

Alexa picked up her fork and launched into the story. “I was dancing with this guy and doing shots. He had nice moves and a sexy smile. He smelled like bergamot. Really clean.”

“Clean?”

“His smell. He was shorter than I am, but that might have been the heels. He had nice forearms.”

Melissa slapped her forehead. “Forearms?”

“This is what I remember. I liked his forearms, and he had strong fingers. Then, it was midnight. Everyone was counting down, and he slipped his hand behind my neck and laid one on me.”

Alexa paused, remembering the kiss—not a simple New Year’s peck. His lips were soft and strong. The kiss was gentle, but intense. And it went on and on. She cleared her throat and continued. “After Auld Lang Syne, another song came on, something kind of slow. And we danced.”

“You were into him.” Taryn jabbed her fork at her.

“He was hot. I’m not gonna lie. We danced, and then, it was getting later. He asked if I wanted to get a room. I said yes.”

Alexa shrugged. A tiny twist of a smile crept onto her face.

“What’s his name? Who is he?”

“Ryan? I don’t remember. And he said something about construction, I think. But he can’t be a construction worker. Possibly Ryan’s hands were well-kept.”

“That’s what you’re calling him, huh?” Taryn laughed.

Melissa shook her head. “This morning, you could have gotten his number. Did you even ask? Maybe he would have taken you to breakfast.”

“I didn’t ask for his number, and he offered breakfast—even mentioned room service.” Alexa winced. “But I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.”

“Why?” Taryn probed.

“I may have woken up and told him that I wished he would disappear in a puff of smoke.”

Melissa’s cackle nearly knocked her off her stool. Taryn stared, mouth agape.

“How could you say that out loud?”

“I didn’t mean to!”

“Was that before or after the breakfast invite?”

“Before.”

Melissa howled. “Then you still could have gotten his number. Was the sex bad or something?”

“No. It wasn’t.”

Possibly Ryan had known what he was doing in the bedroom—how to touch her, how to kiss her. And he’d been so sure of himself, confident, but not cocky. If all sex were like sex with him, she might never leave the house.

Taryn tapped her index finger on the counter in front of Alexa’s bowl. “You know, you could still find out who he was. Do you remember the room number? Call the hotel. Leave him a message.”

“No. These moments pass for a reason.”

“That’s what you said about Mr. London. These moments pass because you make no attempt to hold onto them.”

Over Thanksgiving, Alexa ventured to England to visit a friend going through a difficult divorce. While trying to set Carrie up on a dating app, she’d found a match herself—a sexy, but intense, Brit named Adam Gadsby. They had a brief, memorable fling, and now he called her occasionally.

Alexa indulged his flirtations, figuring they would go nowhere with the two of them on different continents. She put him off each time he pledged to visit. Adam kept wanting to jumpstart something serious, which nearly gave Alexa a rash.

Hell, at least Possibly Ryan seemed pretty light-hearted about the whole thing.

“I’m not looking for that right now.”

Taryn groaned. “Then when? Will you ever?”

“I don’t know. If it happens, it happens.”

Alexa’s cousin was not one to wait around for what she wanted. She locked in. That’s how she’d ended up with her husband, Jeff. They met. She liked him, so she started seeing him exclusively. Soon enough, she knew he was the one. Lock and load.

Alexa assumed one day, she’d meet the guy who’d make her feel like settling down. At some point. In the future. Eventually.

Taryn continued to chastise her. “You have to know that’s what you want because there’s always going to be someone new.”

“If he’s the right guy, then the thought of someone new won’t thrill me.”

Melissa sighed. “But you have to open yourself up to the possibility. You have to give a guy a chance.”

“What was I supposed to do?” Alexa dropped her fork and waited. Taryn stepped in with an answer.

“Give the guy your number. Get his number. Go to breakfast. Make arrangements to see him when you come back up to Dallas. The list goes on for ways to take the next step.”

Alexa screwed her mouth sideways. Next step? Meh. The thought thrashed her stomach as much as lemon drop shots. She had the warm memories of Possibly Ryan and Mr. London, and that was enough.

CHAPTER THREE

With her New Year’s adventure behind her, Alexa slid back into her committed relationship with work. She walked into her gym three weeks later early enough to get in a workout before heading to her office.

She attacked the rowing machine, the treadmill, and the shower. Then, she stopped at the front desk and greeted her receptionist, Holly Lawrence, with an endorphin-fueled smile.

“Let me know when the guy from Bass and Carmichael gets here.”

Holly looked up from her computer screen and tucked a lock of bright, bottle-red hair behind her ear. “Ten a.m., right?”

“Yes. Some guy named Graham Ryan. He’s one of the partners.”

“I’m going to miss Michael. I can’t believe he sold the building so quick. Did you even know it was for sale?”

“No. He didn’t even warn any of us. Before Christmas, he sent all the tenants an email saying he’d sold out to this other real estate company. I just hope the new owners don’t screw up our expansion. Michael assures me that the new company can handle anything, but already, they’ve ignored some electrical things we need.”

Alexa and Melissa partnered up for more than parties. Together, they were turning Starlight Fitness into Starlight Fitness & Spa—leasing and transforming the space next to Alexa’s gym. Melissa, a massage therapist, would run the massage and aesthetician services while Alexa managed the fitness and personal training business.

“You’d think a big developer like that would be able to handle something that basic.”

The lack of response from her new landlord threaded her tone with exasperation. She hoped the ownership change wouldn’t stall their plans for grand opening on July 1.

“Anyway, I’ll be in my office waiting.”

“I’ll buzz you as soon as he gets here.”

Alexa strode past the rows of emptying cardio equipment. Her customers arrived in predictable tides. The five a.m. crowd rolled out as the six a.m. clients flooded in. Now, at just past seven, the gym population dropped until the smaller wave of stay-at-home parents came in after dropping kids off at school.

She pushed open the door to her small office and put her gym bag on the credenza sitting between two narrow windows in the corners. Planted at her desk for the next couple hours, she reviewed the week’s personnel schedule and other regular tasks, keeping an eye the clock.

By ten fifteen, Alexa wondered if the guy would show. She rang Holly.

“Still a no show, Alexa. I swear, as soon as he gets here…Oh,” Holly’s voice dropped, “there’s a guy coming in. Wow. He’s hot. Gotta go.”

Alexa didn’t care how hot the guy was. She prayed for competent and amenable.

Bubbles of laughter floated down the hall, and Holly strolled in with a man trailing behind her. Alexa couldn’t see him, but the receptionist stopped in the doorway and wiggled her eyebrows.

Alexa jumped up and walked to the door, preparing her most congenial smile.

“This is Graham Ryan. The new landlord. Mr. Ryan, this is the owner, Alexa Stevens.” Holly’s tone was bright as she stepped aside.

Dear God. Possibly Ryan.

Flames of embarrassment licked at Alexa’s face, but didn’t melt her frozen smile. “Thanks for bringing him back, Holly. If you could get back to the front…”

The desk clerk backed away, leaving them to stare at each other.

Alexa’s X-ray imagination saw “Mr. Ryan” as he was on New Year’s Day—sensual cords of muscle and a saluting cock. Her surging pulse beat in her ears and in her core.

She blinked away the vision of him naked and focused on his luxe-labelled, but unremarkable, blue oxford shirt and navy slacks.

Never mind the wavy chestnut hair, the gold-brown eyes, the strong cheekbones, and the square jaw. Never mind he looked as if he’d been drawn in a comic book. Never mind the slanted smile that had once hovered between her thighs.

“You found your way home. Good.” Graham punctuated his words with a verbal jab.

Her throat seized, and Alexa forced a breath to speak. “Yes. I did.”

She returned to her desk, but didn’t sit down.

“I was a little worried.”

“For two weeks?”

“Closer to three, and anyway, I wondered. Never thought I’d see you again. You live here in Austin, then?”

She nodded. “I guess you do, too?”

“I do. I was in Dallas just for New Year’s.”

“Same here. So, that explains that.” Alexa paused to take a long breath. “Look, if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to keep things professional. We have business to discuss.”

Graham flinched. She longed to sit down and start the meeting, but didn’t want to crane her neck up at the broad-shouldered man who suddenly seemed too big for her office.

“You’re dismissive.”

“What?”

“You decided you were done with me on New Year’s Day and just left. You’ve decided to ignore what happened and just declare that I will, too. What if I have feelings for you?”

“After one night?”

“You’ve never heard of love at first sight?”

“I’ve heard of it, but I think it’s bullshit.”

“Now, that’s not language that keeps things professional.”

The broad grin accompanying his quip straightened her spine. She leaned over, gripping the edge of her desk, before moderating an even, indisputable tone. “You are not in love with me, so don’t play with me. We had an evening together, but that’s over, and I would like to move on. Whatever you may think, I take my business seriously, and I’d like to discuss what I’ll need from you.”

Snide humor raised the pitch of his voice. “You need me.”

Alexa folded her arms. “As a landlord. I’m expanding Starlight Fitness, and we’re in the middle of construction. Can’t we behave like adults?”

His amber eyes widened, and he put up a surrendering hand. “Sure. Of course. I apologize. It’s just a shock seeing you.”

“Likewise. Now, feel free to have a seat. Do you want anything to drink? We have coffee, tea, and water in the office, or I can get you some fresh juice from next door. We have a good relationship with the smoothie place.”

They sat down opposite one another, and Graham tapped his hands on her desk. “No, thanks. I just met with them, and they treated me to some fresh-pressed juice. I’m very hydrated. So, what do you need?”

“There are some changes to the structure that I worked out with my previous landlord. We had a separate written agreement, and it’s not clear to me how the change in ownership is going to affect our timeline.”

“All legal agreements that were made with the tenants have to be honored, so if there was construction promised and deadlines set, we’ll follow through.”

Graham waved his hand as if Alexa’s concerns weren’t an issue.

“You say that, but in the past two weeks, there was electrical work that was supposed to be done, and my contractors are having trouble getting access to what they need in the building.”

Graham pulled out his business card and slid it across the desk. “Send me an email with the specific issues, and I’ll personally make sure you get what you need.”

Alexa’s shoulders unwound a little. “Thank you.”

“Any other issues?”

His wide brown eyes bored into her, and her breath had to crawl out of her chest. “Not at the moment.”

With their business wrapped up, Alexa could get him out of her office. The anticipation of it made her knee shake.

“Good. I’m having these tenant meetings so we can introduce ourselves and put faces to names.”

“Done. I have a face for the name. Graham Ryan.”

Alexa didn’t know why she thought he’d said his name was Ryan. She must have misheard him. It had been loud at the party.

“And Alexa Stevens. Not Lola. That’s what you said, right?”

“I don’t know what made you think my name was Lola.” Alexa forced her lie, light and dismissive, through her tightened throat.

“Regardless, it’s good to see you again. Maybe we can have dinner.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Ah, keeping it professional.”

“I think that’s best.”

“There are professional business dinners.”

“Is that what you want? To get together and talk business?”

Graham’s fixation on her face flipped her stomach. ”Why don’t you give me a tour of your facility?”

“Uh, sure.”

* * *

Graham followed Alexa out of the employee area and into the gym itself.

His “Lola” was Alexa. Alexa Stevens. A tenant.

Small, small world.

The sway of her hips jerked his eyes to her ass like the gravitational pull of the sun, and being back in her orbit gave him a charge.

And judging from her reaction, she wasn’t nearly as immune to him as she wanted to be. Shock wasn’t the only thing widening her velvety eyes and making her jumpier than frog on meth.

Alexa would pretend they were all business, but he knew better.

She walked with purpose—her back ramrod straight—and barely looked at him as she began his tour in a crisp tone.

He’d let her do her “business” thing. For now.

“The space isn’t as large as many national chains, but we have top-notch cardio equipment.”

She pointed out the two rows of machines—six treadmills, three ellipticals, and three exercise bikes. A rowing machine sat in one corner next to an area of cabled weight machines, a pull-up station, and free weights with benches.

“That’s the area for strength training, obviously.”

Every piece of equipment was spotless and top-flight. Graham probably paid double for the slick, meat-market gym where he had a membership and it wasn’t nearly so well appointed.

He had a feeling this was a direct reflection of the gym’s owner. Alexa liked things in order, which surprised him.

The woman he met on New Year’s Eve had seemed like a free-spirit. This woman? Not so much. But that did explain who she became the minute the sun came up.

She lead Graham through the weights area to peek in on a pilates class.

“We have clients who have been with us for years. They love our classes and our personal fitness and nutritional planning. We have a nutritionist who comes in once a month and does classes. Everything is tailored to each client. We’ve even trained some fitness competitors.”

With her avoiding eye contact and turned toward the studio, Graham got another prime view of her backside. He hovered just a step behind her—the air between them charged and magnetic.

Her curly, dark brown hair clustered in a fluffy, low ponytail, brushing between her shoulder blades. The softness of her electric blue sweater made his fingers tingle. He gripped his hands tight at his sides and followed her form down to her close-fitting, knit black pants.

She could be a fitness competitor herself.

Alexa whipped back around and caught him looking. She smoothed the hem of her pullover, and her mouth pinched.

Graham darted his gaze around the gym to keep from snickering in her face. That wouldn’t help his pursuit. “What’s included in your expansion?”

Her lips parted, pressed shut, then parted again. “We’re putting in a dry sauna and a whirlpool with an extra shower area between the lobby for the spa and the gym. They’ll connect via a hallway.” Alexa gestured toward the wall. “The glass doors will be here.”

“And the spa?”

“We’ll have four massage rooms and two rooms for aestheticians. We toyed with adding a mani-pedi area, but decided against it. There is space in the back of the building to add something like that later. For now, we’ll use the room as extra storage. I can take you over there if you like. It’s not connected yet, so we have to go outside.”

“After you.”

Next door, the surging whine of power tools greeted them. The various rooms were framed, but not finished, and the floors were stark concrete.

“Careful where you step.”

The space was nearly as large as the gym, and she pointed out where everything would go in the lobby and in each unfinished room.

“It’s not much to look at right now. Our drywall can’t go in until they finish the wiring and plumbing. That’s the issue I mentioned earlier. There’s something that has to connect in with the power to the building, and we can’t get into the building’s wiring closet. Or something. I’ll have my contractor detail the problem and email you.”

Graham could see how marketing the businesses together would be a natural fit for her brand—whole-body wellness, catering to the clientele, and personal service.

“This is very ambitious.” He couldn’t keep the chirp of surprise out of his voice.

Alexa smirked. “Thank you?”

He rocked back on his heels. “I mean it as a compliment. I wouldn’t have guessed…I don’t know. Maybe I should shut up now.”

“Let me guess. You wouldn’t have thought I was a responsible adult.”

Sarcasm added heft to her blunt indictment. Maybe for a moment on New Year’s Eve, he’d thought she was an aimless party girl, but he’d suspected that she was more than that by the time the hotel door slammed shut.

“No, actually. I could tell you were a woman in control. Shoulders back. Chin up. Looking me straight in the eye.”

As if taking direction from him, she straightened her back.

“I used to model. Posture was everything. So, any more questions about the expansion or the gym?”

He chuckled. “No. No more business questions. I have some questions about your modeling, but I need to get to my lunch appointment. Maybe another time.”

She was clearly done with him, and he did have places to be.

Alexa walked him back outside, and he stopped on the driver’s side of his Lexus SUV.

“Thank you for the tour. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Will do.”

Alexa extended her hand for a shake, but Graham clasped it between his hands and held it there. He craved the reaction he could get from her.

She gave her hand a yank, and he dropped it.

“You said you have a lunch meeting.”

“I did. I do.” Graham opened the door slid behind the wheel.

“Then, I’ll see you around.” She turned and rounded the front of his massive vehicle to head back to her gym.

Graham shouted after her. “Bye, Lola.”

He laughed. She walked faster, and he couldn’t stop himself from laughing again.