Falling Under
Page 14

 Lauren Dane

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It would be a lie for Duke to claim he hadn’t looked before. In fact, it was just last year when he’d been out watering the strawberries on his deck. He turned and caught sight of her through a gap in the curtains.
Her skirt had been tossed up over her ass as a guy fucked her from behind.
Her hands gripped the same counter she cleaned just then. That moment, the look on her face, the pale skin on her thighs where it had met stockings, had never left his brain.
He hadn’t been able to see her face when she came. Her hair had tumbled free, obscuring her features. But he hadn’t needed to see her face because her back had arched and she’d pounded the counter with her fist.
He hadn’t ever told anyone about it.
But Duke knew without a doubt that was when he’d begun to crave Carmella Rossi in earnest.
He wanted to be the man fucking her from behind. And it didn’t matter that there were fifty reasons not to.
Her music was turned up loud as she worked. She did not have a lovely singing voice, though her body made up for it as she danced while cleaning.
He wasn’t sure what made him hotter, the cleaning or the body. Which was so weird. It wasn’t like he’d gotten wood when he saw anyone else clean things. But whatever it was, when Carmella did it, it drove him out of his mind.
He found himself making sure to go to his office through hers just in case she was wiping something down or organizing something. Lottie had run the place like, well, like her personality. Fast and loose. Stuff got done on time mainly and all, but Carmella was different.
Carmella kept them all in line and everyone allowed it. The guys didn’t complain when she put something back into one of their in-boxes asking for it to be corrected. They did it.
Duke wasn’t entirely sure what her superpower truly was, but certainly, she kept the beasts he and Asa employed obedient. And then money arrived faster, also a plus. Bills were paid quickly, also a plus.
Everyone in their community knew her, which was also helpful, including twice when he’d been running all over for a part and she found it in three phone calls.
“I shouldn’t do this. I should get up and get on my bike and ride over to Asa’s. Maybe see if Mick wants to hang out. There are more suitable women out there.” He said this out loud as if his dick had any plans to obey.
Duke looked down at his phone. He could call Asa and ask his friend to talk him down. Except now that Asa was in love, he seemed to think Duke should do things like romance their office manager.
Really, it was all Asa’s fault.
He got up and headed next door.
*     *     *
Carmella answered her door to find Duke standing on her porch with a six-pack and some chips.
He held them aloft. “I was thinking we could hang out and have a beer and some snacks.”
She smiled, even as she looked down at herself. “Uh. I’m sort of messy. I was cleaning the kitchen.”
He walked in without saying anything else, but once he got to her kitchen, he turned back. “You look fantastic.”
Ginger had already abandoned her nap at the sound of Duke’s voice and deposited herself at his feet.
“So easy,” she murmured to the dog as she joined them in the kitchen.
“Glasses or the bottle okay?” He indicated the beer with a tip of his chin.
“Bottle is fine. There’s an opener in that drawer there.” She pointed. “If you’re hungrier than just chips and dip, there’s leftover baked ziti. I was just thinking about some dinner.”
“Leftover ziti? How is that even possible? Was everyone sick? I promise if you made me baked ziti, I’d eat every last bit.” He cocked his head and looked extra hot.
She put a hand on her hip. He was so totally full of it. “Actually, I made a smaller one for myself and took two to a big family dinner. It’s my uncle’s favorite. But I brought home coconut cake and some other stuff.”
Carmella bent to look in her fridge because he was standing so very close and she was getting giddy. Giddy was bad. Giddy ended up being the last time she slept with her ex. Though to be fair, it had been fantastic.
This man was a giddy nuclear reactor and it made her girl parts want to be so stupid.
And then he bent to peer into the fridge at her side. “Jesus Christ. Carmella. Baby, this is the most organized refrigerator I’ve seen in my entire life. I’m in awe.”
She was so surprised and weirdly flattered, Carmella turned to look at him and ended up whacking her forehead to his so hard she saw stars against her closed eyes.
Firm hands took her by the upper arms and helped her stand though she wobbled a little. “Honey, are you all right?”
“Ouch,” Carmella managed. “Sorry. I got you pretty hard.”
Duke laughed as he moved the hand she’d had over her forehead and replaced it with a bag of frozen berries. “My go-to is corn usually, but you don’t have any. That should help. I’m okay. I have a very hard head. That’s totally true so stop it with that look of yours.”
“You have a go-to remedy for head bumping?” Carmella sat at one of the stools at the island. “And what look do you mean?”
“Works for busted knuckles, black eyes, the usual sort of lifestyle-related injuries.”
Carmella winced when she raised her brow at him. “Lifestyle-related?”
Duke shrugged. “What can I say? Ass kicking and fisticuffs seem to be a regular part of my life. And the look I meant is the one you’re wearing right now. The one you give that makes everyone feel like a wayward boy who craves your approval.”