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Book three in the DeMarco Investigations series
NSA code cracker Merri Simmons has a serious crush on scientist Jimmy DeMarco, but her job doesn't leave much time for romance. When her boss forces her to take a long-overdue vacation, Merri drowns her sorrows in alcohol…and winds up on the doorstep of DeMarco Investigations. She never expected Jimmy to open the door. Or take her home. And she never expected to find herself in his bed...

Jimmy DeMarco is a brilliant scientist with a one-track mind—work. He wasn’t looking for love, especially with a woman who spends more time in her office than he does in his lab. Been there, done that. Didn’t end so well. But there’s something about Merri that encourages him to take the chance.

Their passion is as hot as Jimmy’s latest invention. But will it survive beyond the bedroom door?

Jimmy stared at the door to the bathroom, trying like hell to convince himself he didn’t really want her.

She was hurting. He hated to see her hurt. Wanted to wrap his arms around her and pull her close, let her take comfort from him.


Wanted her…


No. That wasn’t it.


You do know you’re lying to yourself, right?


Yeah, he knew.


The first time they’d met, he’d been attracted to Merri. She’d come to visit Mal when he’d first started working for them. Before Jimmy or his brother and sister knew Mal had come to investigate them.


There was something about her that drew him, some spark that lit when he looked at her.


At first, he’d thought it was because they were kindred spirits. Both geeks with way too much brain power to be anything other than outcasts in normal society.


But he knew that spark. He’d been burned by it before. He’d failed Barbara, and Merri, unfortunately, had a lot in common with Barbara. Maybe—


Aw hell. She’d turned off the shower and now he heard her sobbing.


Moving closer to the bathroom door, he had the urge to break it down, grab her in his arms and hold her.


He tried to tell himself it wasn’t because of who she was but what she was—a girl in pain.  He’d held Janey through countless bouts of tears over scraped knees and hurt feelings.


This girl’s tears made his gut clench. He had to know what was going on. Needed to help. Didn’t want to examine that too closely, but there it was.


When the door opened, he wasn’t quick enough to get out of the way and Merri barreled straight into him. He wrapped his arms around her before she could get away, felt her slim shoulders shake and her body tremble. But she didn’t move away. Instead, she surprised the hell out of him by twining her arms around his waist and holding on.


She felt so damn soft. So small and fragile. And in so much pain.


Okay, he could do this. He could comfort her but not get involved. It’d be best for both of them.


They stood there for several minutes. Jimmy smoothed his hands down her back, letting his fingers pet that soft, damp braid, while Merri’s fingers curled into the sides of his shirt as she continued to sob.


Pressed full against him, he was glad he’d worn jeans so he couldn’t feel her bare legs against his. He didn’t even realize for the first few minutes that she wasn’t wearing a bra. Then he quickly forced that thought out of his mind, concentrating instead on the ferocity of her sobs.


She sounded as if her heart was breaking and he had no idea how long it took her to wind down enough to hear him but finally he managed to ask the question.


Bending his head, he spoke softly, close to her ear. “What’s going on, Merri? Tell me. You need someone to talk to and I’m here.”


She took a deep, shuddering breath. For a few seconds, he was pretty sure she wasn’t going to answer. Then she turned her head away from his chest so she could speak.


“I’m going to be fired.”


Jimmy couldn’t help his laugh. “Oh, no way, hon. You’re way too smart. Hell, the NSA wouldn’t let you leave if you wanted to.”


She made a rough sound in the throat and pulled away, though her arms trembled as if she didn’t want to let go. If he was honest, he hadn’t been ready to let her go.


He stuffed his hands in his jeans pockets so he couldn’t reach for her and pull her back to him.


Her head shook as she stared at the floor and took another step back. “I’m glad you think it’s so funny.”


Damn, she had pretty legs. The top of her head didn’t reach his chin, but her legs seemed to go on and on.


And breakfast sounded like a really good idea right now. Before he embarrassed himself. “Listen, why don’t you finish getting dressed then come out into the kitchen and we’ll talk about this. You’ll see. It’s not as bad as you think.”


He waited long enough for her to nod then forced himself to back out of the room and head for the kitchen.


Once there, he wanted to bang his head against the marble countertop a couple times.


It might’ve been awhile since he’d fallen this hard, this fast, for a woman, but he couldn’t mistake it for anything else. And he was old enough to know these feelings would bite him on the ass if he let them.

 

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