Run the Risk Page 1

Author: Lori Foster

Series: Love Undercover #1

Genres: Romance

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CHAPTER ONE

PEPPER YATES FELT the intense scrutiny stroking over her as she made her way to her apartment building. She’d been feeling it for over two weeks now, ever since her new neighbor had moved in, but she’d never get used to it.

Dangerous anticipation crawled up her spine.

She didn’t acknowledge the man leaning over his balcony, muscular arms folded along the railing, shirtless, smiling—tracking her every move.

She didn’t, in any way, encourage him. He was out of her league in a big way. His attention made her tense, more so with every incident.

Uncertainty gave her a faltering step, causing her cheap canvas slip-on sneakers to make an obnoxious shuffling sound. Her long skirt kicked around her shins. Her chest constricted.

Keeping her head down, her paper bags of groceries held securely in her arms, she pretended not to notice him.

She should win an Oscar for her performance, because seriously, who wouldn’t notice him? If she had to guess, she’d say women came to him easily. He had that type of raw, cocky presence.

The kind of presence that left her on edge.

It probably ate him up that she ignored him. That was the only explanation for his continued attention. But what else could she do?

The hot August sun beat down on her head. She would dearly love a cool swim right about now. But not with him around.

Actually…not ever.

It seemed her carefree days of swimming were well behind her. It made her sad to think of all that had been lost, all that she’d had to forfeit, in the name of survival.

But thanks to her brother, she had survived, she reminded herself. And that’s what mattered most.

It was also the number one reason she couldn’t be drawn in by the new neighbor’s lure.

He should have a big D for danger on his oft-naked chest.

As she hastened her steps in, Pepper dropped her head so far that her chin nearly touched her chest.

Of course he called out to her. He always called out to her. It made no sense, but her rebuffs hadn’t dissuaded him at all.

The man had a rock-solid ego.

“Evening, Ms. Meeks.”

When she’d taken the alias, it hadn’t been a big deal, because she wasn’t a big deal. Few ever spoke to her. None ever called out to her.

But he did.

She drew a fortifying breath, peeked up at him and gave a subdued nod. “Evening.”

He disappeared off the balcony and she just knew he was coming inside to corral her in the narrow hallway.

Why wouldn’t he leave her alone?

The apartment building was…unpleasant. Peeling paint from the walls, mold in the corners, carpet with stains she didn’t want to investigate too closely…

She knew why she was there.

Why was he?

Dreading every foot that brought her closer to him, she went up the squeaking steps to her second-floor apartment, and…there he was.

Knowing he waited for her, she stalled.

He lounged back against his door, which was right next to hers, arms crossed over his bare chest, his brown hair disheveled, five o’clock shadow on his jaw. He wore only wrinkled khaki shorts that hung low on his lean hips—and he took her breath away.

Seeing him again had the same impact it’d had the first time she’d laid eyes on him. He was so sinfully appealing that it staggered her senses.

What did he want?

Not the usual, not with how he looked, and how…she looked. So then, why did he so relentlessly pursue her?

The long walk to the grocery and back again—something she usually enjoyed—left her hot, damp with perspiration and in no mood for playing games.

At least, not these games.

She had to avoid his gaze or—humiliating thought—he just might see everything she felt, everything she thought.

About him. About the incredible body that he insisted on displaying.

And how she’d like to rub her body all over his…

“Hey.”

Before she could figure out a way to dodge him, he pushed away from the wall, his smile welcoming, his dark eyes warm. She swallowed her sigh. “Hello.”

“Here, let me help you with that.”

Like she couldn’t handle a few bags of groceries? Why was he bothering her like this? Flustered, talking too fast, Pepper said, “That’s okay, really. I’ve got—”

He scooped the bags away from her and gestured for her to precede him to her apartment.

“—it.” Left empty-armed and unnerved, she kept her shoulders slumped and did her best to bank her reaction to him. “Really, Mr. Stark, I don’t—”

“We’re neighbors, so call me Logan.”

She didn’t want to call him anything and tried to convey that with a show of umbrage. “Really, Mr. Stark, I don’t need any help.”

His grin widened. Teasing. Flirting. “You are so prickly.”

How could he make that sound like a compliment? “I am not—”

He snatched her keys from her, too, and short of grabbing for them, which would only make her look foolish, she had no choice but to follow him.

“—prickly,” she muttered—probably in a really prickly way. While he unlocked her door, she stared at his broad back. He was tanned, his sleek skin almost as damp as her own.

Her fingers twitched with the need to touch him, to coast her palms over his heated skin and taut muscles.

He turned toward her, and she got the up close and personal view of his chest. It shocked her, but she noticed his small brown ni**les, how soft chest hair half hid them…

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