COMING JUNE 28TH
To say that Hope was impressed with the new digs would be an understatement. The new hub, as Abel called it, was about thirty minutes away from the clinic, but it hadn’t been an issue since they were using Lex’s old truck. Hope peeked at her watch, noting she had a couple of hours before she needed to be at the clinic. That gave her time to poke around the fully furnished place, and grab a small bite to eat. Turning in a circle and taking in the modern place, Hope froze when she got a glimpse of the bed stuffed in the corner.
Placing her small suitcase down, she stared at the queen-sized bed in a bit of shock. She thought he was getting a two-bedroom place. “Is this a loft?” she asked Abel, who was busy setting up his surveillance equipment.
Moving closer to the hall opposite the bed, Hope peered down the narrow walkway, expecting to see another bedroom. At the end of the hall, one door sat ajar, and Hope could see the room had a three-piece bathroom set. The narrow hall led to a small balcony on the other side, and that was it.
Turning, Hope made her way to the middle of the room, and just as she was about to ask Abel to find them a place in which his half-naked, toned torso wouldn’t cause her sex dreams at night, he spoke.
“This is all I could get on such short notice.” He knelt, fidgeting with what looked like a tiny camera. “I called in a favor and I have thirty days before I have to start paying rent here.”
Once again, she took in the loft and its exposed brick walls, sleek, black and white modern kitchen, stainless steel appliances, and beautiful hardwood floors. Hope swallowed hard at the idea of having to pay to live here.
Clutching the bottom of her shirt, she asked, “And how much would that cost?” Born and raised in New York, Hope was used to prices that would knock your socks off. Something like this would run at least two grand in the city, and it wasn’t even as big as her boss’s old apartment, which had cost even more due to its prime location in Manhattan.
Abel stood and made his way to the door. “About six a month.”
Hope gasped and nearly choked on her words. “Six grand?”
Abel eyed her as if she’d suddenly grown two heads. “Six hundred,” he corrected.
Hope blushed. “Oh, yeah. I forget I’m not still in New York.”
He scoffed. “I don’t know how you could ever forget that in this small-ass town.”
She released the hem of her shirt, now that her heart wasn’t in her throat. Still, she understood that while she could afford this place, there would come a time when Mark would grow tired of playing his games and come after her. There was no point in signing a lease she knew she wouldn’t keep.
Hope watched as Abel rigged the door with his hidden camera. As they’d left her place, he made sure to mention the broken glass outside of her door. He’d warned it wouldn’t work as a deterrent, and it was hazardous to her health if she would have ever needed to flee her place in a hurry. Hope hadn’t said a word. She’d sat there thinking about what she would do when Abel was no longer around and she didn’t have his little gadgets to keep her a step ahead of Mark.
“This here”—he pointed to the camera—“will trigger whenever there is movement, or when I send a signal from . . .” Abel pulled a small device, similar to a kindle, from his bag. Swiping his hand across the screen, he used his thumbprint to unlock it. “This handheld device.”
Hope bent forward. “Nifty gadget.” She watched as the screen brought up a video of the hallway.
“This is better than your average security camera. I use government grade CCTV cameras. This one here records sixty frames per second, resulting in a feed that looks like we’re watching live TV.” He tapped a button on the screen. The empty hall disappeared and in its place, a wide view of the elevators appeared. Again he clicked, and the traffic in front of the building popped up. A few people milled about as cars passed by.
“Holy shit. It’s such a clear picture.” Hope moved closer to Abel, his warmth spreading around her like a protective blanket. She ignored the gooseflesh that rose on her skin; but harder to ignore was the insane need growing in her belly. What in the hell was going on with her libido? Since the night before, she’d thought of nothing other than Abel’s expansive chest, and his deep, soul-searching eyes.
She shook her head clear. There was no time for that, and he’d all but turned her down last night—even after admitting that sleeping with a client hadn't been off the table in the past.
Abel placed the device down and turned to face her. As he moved, the bare skin of his forearm brushed against hers, spreading heat throughout her body. Hope trembled, and Abel—extreme gentleman that he was—took her reaction the wrong way. Apologizing, he stepped back. And then, as if thinking about it further, he took another step back for good measure.
Hope resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She was not some simpering victim who would never allow another man to touch her again. She was, however, a very horny adult who needed to get her libido in check.
When she looked in the mirror, she saw a different woman. One that Mark had molded and trained, but that wasn’t what she felt like inside. She still felt like Hope, and Hope needed others to see that as well. It would take some time, but she was healing. Thea and Lex had aided in a way they would never understand, and Hope prayed that men wouldn’t always treat her the way Abel was now.