by Tonya Ramagos
eBook ISBN: 1-62241-643-1
Megan Pontius hungers for a dark side of sex and Drake Allen is her man. She’s kept her distance from him, knowing one kiss could be dangerous to her body and heart. But when he’s accused of murder, she finds herself wondering if she’s submitting to the domination of a killer.
Desire rode on a hot tide of imagined pleasure as Megan Pontius peered through the office glass of the M.P. Colton Aquarium. Visitors swarmed the lobby below, excitement evident on their faces. But one body stood out in the crowd.
Drake Allen. Her heart rate climbed with her gaze as she started at his bare feet and worked her way up his black, skin-tight wetsuit. Strongly defined calves led her gaze to the backs of his powerful thighs. Her attention paused on his delectable ass, and desire looped through her, tightening its hold on her like a satin ribbon. Wetness slickened her pussy lips as she continued her upward assessment to his narrow waist, broad shoulders, and ebony hair. No doubt about it, the man was pure temptation wrapped in a six-foot-one package of sheer sex appeal, and she wanted him. Oh, how she wanted him.
“He’s still single.”
Megan startled at the statement and quickly averted her gaze from the glass to find Paul Colton standing beside her, a world of knowledge and amusement swirling in his otherwise troubled eyes.
Paul rested an aging hand on the windowsill, the corners of his lips twitching, causing the wrinkles around his mouth to stand out. “And, unless something has changed since I saw you last, you are, too.”
No, nothing had changed. She had been living the single life for nearly a year now. It was partly by choice and, though she hated to admit it, partly because of the man below now disappearing through the employee doors at the back of the lobby.
“You should go talk to him, ask him on a date. Isn’t it socially acceptable these days for the woman to make the first move?”
Megan gave a half laugh as she turned from the glass and leaned against the windowsill. “I thought you frowned upon your employees socializing while they’re on the clock.”
“I do. So wait until he is off the clock.” Paul sighed and raked a hand over his balding, gray head. “Although, at the rate things are looking today, that may not be until sometime tomorrow.”
Megan lifted a brow. “Working your employees around the clock now? That’s not like you. Want to tell me what’s going on?”
Paul shook his head and walked to his desk. He snagged a cigarette out of the pack on the desktop, lit it, and took a deep drag.
Megan folded her arms beneath her breasts and studied her old friend and former boss. She had noticed he wasn’t looking too hot when she had first entered the office. The confidant, ambitious, determined man she had always admired seemed to be surrendering to stress and depression. But why?
“Weren’t you supposed to quit smoking over a year ago?”
“Let’s just say that backfired.”
“And increased,” she pointed out mildly. “That’s your third one since I walked into this office less than a half hour ago. When I add that to your current mood, I would say quitting smoking isn’t the only thing that has backfired on you.”
Paul flicked ashes in a nearby ashtray as he rounded his desk and settled in the swivel chair behind it. “And you would be right. This whole damn place is going wrong on me.”
Megan shot a quick glance behind her, noting once again the crowded lobby below. “Business looks good.” She hadn’t been to the aquarium in a while, but she couldn’t remember ever seeing so many people here at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon.
Paul frowned. “It’s not good enough. I’m struggling everyday to keep this place open, Megan.”
Megan angled her head and drew her brows together. “I would have thought all the tourist action this area sees these days would’ve increased business by a truckload. I know the casinos are the biggest draw to the Biloxi strip, but people don’t gamble the entire time they’re here.”
“Those damn casinos are the bane of my existence. It’s not enough to have a facility centered around the marine life anymore. People want all the flash and glam to go along with it. They want bigger and better.” He adjusted his face to one an excited patron might make and raised his voice a full octave, adding his best girly imitation to it. “Oh, that shark just swims around a tank? Show me how vicious he can be. I want to watch him bite someone in half.”
Megan laughed. “Come on, Paul. You know that’s not what people want to see.”
“It might as well be.” Paul sighed. “I would like to give them what they want. Well, not the whole shark-biting-a person-in-half part, but the bigger and better shows. I know how to make this facility compete with the best aquariums across the country. Having the finances to make it happen, however, is the problem.”
“And the partners aren’t willing to invest what is necessary to make the improvements.” Megan understood now. Paul was the majority owner of the M.P. Colton Aquarium, but he had three partners with smaller investments in the company as well. She didn’t know much about Brandon Easley, Walter Samuels, or Joan Baxter, but the little she had gathered about them over the years had told her the aquarium meant far more to Paul than Walter or Joan. She put Brandon in a close second.
“Just the opposite. They want to sell it.”
Megan straightened, utterly shocked. “Sell it? You’re kidding, right?”
Paul huffed a breath. “I wish I was. We’ve been offered a sizeable amount for this place.”
Paul waved a frustrated hand in the air. “Some highfalutin suits from Vegas. They don’t want the aquarium. They want the land.”
“So they can tear down the facility and build another casino.” With the legalization of gambling in Biloxi, land on the main strip had become a hot commodity. Flashy neon lights and pristine architecture now decorated much of the city, stealing what had once been a beautiful Southern belle town.
“I’m wiped out, Megan. I’m in personal debt to my eyebrows. There is no way I can come up with the money to save this place without help from Brandon, Joan, and Walter.”
Surprise rendered Megan speechless. Paul had always been a fighter, adamant about making his dreams come true. Was he telling her those dreams were now crumbling around him? Surely he had enough fight left in him to keep that from happening?
Paul picked up a sheet of paper from the desktop, scowled at it, then put it back down. “Then I’ve got employees doing their damnedest to sabotage the main attractions I have left.”
Surely he didn’t mean Drake. The man was a class-A aquarist and cage diver with the degrees to back him up. As far as Megan knew, he was the most qualified employee Paul had on staff to tend to the marine life kept in the tanks.
“Who are you talking about?”
Paul opened his mouth to answer, but shut it again when someone knocked on the closed office door. The door opened slowly, and his nephew, Robert Warren, peeked his head inside.
“You wanted to see me, Uncle Paul?”
“Get in here.” The change in Paul was instantaneous. Anger pumped off the man in waves, hitting Megan with an almost tangible force.
Oh, Robert. What have you done this time? Megan sighed inwardly as she watched Robert shuffle his clown-sized feet forward until he stood just inside the doorway. Paul had broken his personal rule when he hired Robert, allowing the young man to work for him despite the fact that he was family. Of course, Paul had broken the rule years before when he had hired Megan, too. She wasn’t family, but Paul’s devoted friendship with her parents for most of her life made her close enough to family that few people would argue.
“What’s up?” Robert asked.
The way he was fidgeting with the zipper of his wetsuit told Megan he had a good indication of what was up, but had decided to play it dumb. Not a good move, dude. The man had potential. At twenty-four with a biology degree under his belt and an uncle in the perfect position to turn that degree into a real career, the man could have reached for the deepest seas and floated right back to the surface. Unfortunately for Robert, and Paul, Robert rarely took anything seriously. She knew he had gotten that degree by the proverbial skin of his teeth and, if it weren’t for Paul’s wife, Marie, he wouldn’t have the job at the M.P. Colton Aquarium. A job Megan was strongly starting to believe to be in jeopardy.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Robert,” Paul said through gritted teeth. “You know exactly why I called you in here. You’re fucking irresponsible. You’ve always been irresponsible. But this time, you’re fucking with my life, and I’m not going to let you get away with it.”
Oh, shit. He is pissed. Megan had seen Paul angry before, but never to the point that he practically had steam coming out of his ears. She watched as he smashed out the cigarette still in his hand and reached for another, not bothering to shake her head. Her attention was riveted on Robert. She had to hand it to the man, his ability to appear oblivious to his screwups got better every time she witnessed it.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, you don’t, huh,” Paul snarled, swiftly straightening his necktie. His eyebrows arched upward. “Then you’re more worthless than I thought. When was the last time you checked the water temperature in the shark tank?”
The stare Paul leveled on Robert was stony enough to make Megan squirm.
“A couple of hours ago, right on schedule,” Robert answered. A frown etched itself between thin brows covering a set of dark eyes now clouded with suspicion. “Why?”
“So you’re telling me you just left the tiger shark and all the others to die?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about your job. What’s the proper temperature for the tank, Mr. Shark Expert?” Paul demanded hotly.
“Between sixty and eighty degrees,” Robert answered without a second’s hesitation. A satisfied, confident grin spread across his crooked lips.
He was right. Growing up in a family of marine biologist and working alongside Paul herself before she left for the police academy had given Megan the same knowledge.
“Sixty and eighty, huh? And you checked it a couple of hours ago?” Paul’s stare turned so hot it could have turned ice to water. “Then why in the hell was it below forty degrees when it was brought to my attention less than an hour ago?”
All color drained from Robert’s face. His eyes grew wide and his Adam’s apple bobbed in a visible gulp before he finally said, “I—I don’t know.”
Oh, shit. Tiger sharks were known to be able to adapt to cooler waters of the oceans, but they lived best in the more tropical temperatures. Megan knew the tiger shark kept at the M.P. Colton Aquarium had been held in captivity all its life. Could it adapt to the more fridged temperature without suffering ill effects?
“You want to know why you don’t know?” Paul bellowed at Robert, his tone full of sarcasm. “Because, as usual, you haven’t been doing what you were hired to do.” He stabbed a shaking finger in the air toward Robert. “You’re supposed to be with those sharks every minute you’re on duty. That is the only responsibility you have in this place. I’ve had to pull Drake off his regular job to monitor the temperature and make sure those poor fish don’t keel over on us. And why did I have to put that responsibility on Drake?” He answered his own question before Robert got the chance. “Because you were fucking nowhere to be found!”
Well, that explained where Drake was headed when she saw him in the lobby a few minutes ago.
“I was—” Robert started, but Paul shook his head in an obvious refusal to listen.
“Spare me the babbling bullshit. I’m sick of your excuses.”
“And I’m sick of being blamed for everything that goes wrong around here,” Robert countered, his own temper obviously rising. “Who brought it to your attention? Who’s the little snitch?” He planted his hands on his hips and waited for an answer.
Paul coughed, and kept coughing. Megan took a half step forward, fear for her friend surging through her veins. He smoked too much for a man who had let himself get so out of shape. She watched as he flattened a hand on his chest and worried he was about to have a heart attack.
“Drake,” Paul finally growled between coughs. “The one employee I can count on around here.”
Robert scoffed. “I should’ve known, the brownnosing, butt-kissing job stealer.” He threw his hands to the ceiling. “What a tattletale! He’s always going behind my back. He watches me like a hawk, like he’s waiting for me to screw up.” He jabbed a stiff finger at his own chest. “If the temperature is wrong, it’s not because of me. Something is wrong with the thermostat, and I bet you haven’t called anyone about it, either.”
“There is nothing wrong with the thermostat on the tank,” Paul argued, his coughing fit apparently now under control.
Megan relaxed, albeit marginally. Her focus landed on Robert as he took a full step toward Paul’s desk.
“Then I suggest you and your little buddy, Drake, keep your grubby fingers off the controls,” Robert sneered. “I wouldn’t put it passed you to lower the temperature in that tank yourself.”
“And why in the Sam Hill would I do that?”
“So you can pin it on me. You want me gone, and you’re just looking for an excuse to make it happen.”
“You’re damn right I want you gone. I want you out of my office and out of my aquarium. You’re fired.”
Robert smiled ruefully. “You can’t fire me.”
“You want to bet, you son of a bitch?” Paul’s eyebrows shot up. “I’ll say it again. You’re fired, and if I ever see you step foot on this property again, I’ll have you arrested for trespassing.”
Robert moved close enough to the desk to put his fisted knuckles on the top and leaned forward.
Megan took a step closer, too, silently cursing herself for going by her apartment before coming here today after she ended her shift at the department. She had stopped off to change and put her sidearm in her lockbox. Now, she wished she had kept her gun on her.
“You shouldn’t be throwing out threats like that,” Robert told Paul, his tone low and more dangerous than Megan had ever heard him speak. “You’re the one that’s going to regret this, Uncle Paul.” He straightened and started to back out of the office, but he stopped at the doorway and leveled a glare on Paul that was full of promise and anger. “I’ll make sure you regret this.” He turned and walked out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
The door opened again almost immediately, and Brandon Easley walked in, an amused smile tilting his lips.
“Another family squabble?” His gaze flicked to Megan, and his smile widened. “Well, hello there. I haven’t seen you around here in a while.”
“Brandon.” Megan nodded once and returned his smile. Of Paul’s three partners, she knew Brandon the best, though that still wasn’t saying much. He spent the most time around the aquarium and seemed to care about the facility on a deeper level almost as much as Paul. “How have you been?”
“Pretty good. Pretty good. I wish I could say the same for our old friend here.” Brandon averted his attention to Paul, the amusement back in his smile. “I wondered if you and Robert would make it a full day without butting heads. I guess not.”
“We’ll make it every day from now on.” Paul loosened his tie as he moved from behind the desk. “I just fired the cocksucker.”
Brandon’s eyes widened, and he let out a disbelieving chuckle. “You fired him? Damn, Paul. Aren’t you making rash decisions today?”
Megan didn’t see it as a rash decision. Still, she couldn’t help but wonder if it had been a smart one. When it came to the wellbeing of the aquarium, yes, from the scene she had witnessed, it had been a very smart move. When it came to Paul dealing with his wife, however, Megan knew he was going to have hell to pay when Marie got wind of him firing her nephew.
“If you had heard the whole conversation, you would know the decision I made was not rash by any means.” Paul walked to the door, stopped, and turned to Megan. “Are you coming?”
Megan glanced at her wristwatch, surprised a full hour had passed already since she arrived. The aquarium would be closing at six o’clock. She didn’t have any plans for the evening beyond going home and soaking in a long, hot bath, so she shrugged and followed Paul out of the office, sensing Brandon at her heels.
“I heard the whole conversation,” Brandon continued on another half laugh. “Hell, Paul. Half the aquarium heard you yelling at that poor boy this time. You know we all sit around placing bets on when the next spat between you and Robert will happen.” He settled into step beside Megan and patted the right back pocket of his khaki slacks. “I think I’ve made damn near twenty bucks over the past six weeks betting on him and Robert,” he whispered to her, then raised his voice again. “If you were attempting to be discreet, Paul, you failed miserably.”
Paul breezed past the scattering of employees and tourists in the hallway, leading them to the unisex locker room and the changing area inside. He went to a locker in the far corner and pulled out his wetsuit.
Megan started to back out of the room, but he disappeared into one of the stalls to change, so she stayed.
“I wasn’t attempting to be discreet,” Paul said through the stall door. “I don’t give a rat’s ass if the President of the United States heard me. That poor boy, as you referred to him, deserved every bit of it and then some. He’s lucky I allowed him to walk out of this place in one piece.”
“Maybe so.” Brandon sighed. “Look, I agree he needed to be fired. Heaven knows after all the stunts he’s pulled around here, he got what he deserved. It just doesn’t seem to me like now would be the most opportune time to throw more fuel on the home fire.”
“What’s going on at home?” Megan didn’t mean to put voice to the question. She didn’t want to pry, but her concern for Paul overruled her sensible thought.
Paul stepped out of the stall, put the suit he had been wearing in his locker, and turned to Megan, sadness and what she could only define as guilt clear in his eyes. “I fucked up with Marie. Our marriage hasn’t been a great one in years. You know that. But I, well”—he raked a hand over his balding head—“did something that definitely didn’t make it any better.” He sighed and shifted his attention to Brandon. “Despite that, nothing I do lately is making my home life any better. This place is all I’ve got, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Robert fuck it up any worse. If Drake hadn’t gone behind him this afternoon and checked the gauges on the tanks, every one of those sharks could be dead right now.”
“They’ve been in captivity too long,” Megan said, thinking aloud. “They don’t adapt as well to colder temperatures as ones that live in the open ocean, especially the tiger shark.”
“Exactly.” Paul nodded and walked out of the door, holding it open for them to follow. “As it stands, they may be in danger anyway. I have no way of knowing for sure until countless hours are spent monitoring them, countless hours that could be better spent on other tasks.”
“Where are you going now?” Brandon asked, shuffling to keep up with Paul. “Would you stop for a minute so we don’t have to keep talking to your back?”
“I don’t have time, and this conversation will get us nowhere anyway.” Paul continued down the hall to the employee entrance of the shark tank. “I’m going diving with the sharks. Like Megan said, that tiger shark is my biggest concern. There’s too much money invested in that baby to let it keel over. Drake’s a well-trained young man and a hell of a lot more qualified than Robert, but I’ll feel better once I spend some time with it myself.”
“Fine, then I’m going with you.”
Paul turned, the first real smile of amusement tilting his lips since he had teased Megan about Drake back in his office. “Oh, I can’t wait to see this one.” He laughed and started up the flight of stairs to the tank room. “You in that shark tank ought to be a sight. Don’t you think you should have changed first though, old buddy? Kind of hard to swim in a business suit.”
Megan coughed to disguise her own giggle, but knew she failed when Brandon shot her a sideways look.
“I didn’t mean I’m going diving. This conversation is not over.”
“I wasn’t aware we were having a conversation to begin with. I thought you were blowing off steam like you usually do and I was supposed to be listening until I had my fill.”
“What are we going to do now that you let him go? No one else is going to do the job for the pennies we were paying him, and we can’t afford to pay some hotshot expert more.”
Paul topped the stairs, turned, and shook his head. “Think about it, Brandon. With Robert gone, I can give Drake the position he deserves, give him a raise, and in the end we’ll still be forking out less than we were with Robert here. I just saved us money. Isn’t that what you, Joan, and Walter want?”
“Saving a little here and there isn’t going to help in the grand scheme of things. You know that. Joan and Walter want to take the offer we’ve been given. They want to sell this place.”
And, if Paul didn’t agree, Megan suspected Joan and Walter would pull out. Then he and Brandon would be forced to sell or they would lose everything. God, she’d had no idea the aquarium was in such danger.
Paul tipped his head back and closed his eyes, his shoulders rising and falling in a deep breath. Megan knew what he was doing. She found herself doing it, too, pausing to listen to the soothing hum of the giant filters and the water sloshing against the side of the tank. She inhaled deeply, closing her own eyes as the smell of the salt water moved through her system. There was something tranquil in the sounds and the scent, something that always seemed to sooth her when nothing else would. She knew Paul felt the same.
Maybe it simply came from a life lived on the water. Maybe it came from sharing a love for marine life with those so close to her. She might have decided to go her own way with her career in law enforcement, but she had never lost that feeling for the water, never lost the bone-deep need and appreciation that drove her to places where she could visit the wonders of the ocean time and again.
“And you?” Paul finally asked, turning to level an intense glare on Brandon. “What is it you want, Brandon?”
Brandon looked at the ceiling and pushed an audible breath from his lungs. “I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
“Figures,” Paul mumbled and stepped onto the steel grating that circled the top of the tiger shark tank.
Megan stepped to the edge of the tank, her gaze falling instantly on the long, lean figure swimming alongside the fourteen-foot tiger shark. The corded muscles of Drake’s shoulders and biceps flexed as he stroked through the water, his attention focused on the shark. She couldn’t tear her gaze away from his broad shoulders and big, strong hands that were obviously made to hold a woman as he brought her to orgasm after orgasm.
Electric fingers of sensation tickled through her, beading her nipples and slickening her pussy. She watched as he moved one powerful arm and lovingly splayed his hand on the shark’s side next to its dorsal fin. She wanted to feel that hand on her flesh. She wanted to writhe against him as he skimmed that hand down her body, feeling every inch of her heated skin.
“Come on, Paul.” Brandon’s pained sigh snapped Megan from her lustful thoughts. “You know how much I love this place. I don’t want to see it close, but lately, it’s becoming ludicrous to think we can keep it open. I’m busted, man. I don’t have a penny left to sink into it. Profits are barely covering the overhead. There isn’t enough to spare for improvements. If Joan and Walter decide to pull out, we’re screwed.”
Megan watched as Paul kneeled beside the tank and gripped the edge, her mind reeling. There had to be something they could do. But what?
“Walter and Joan are not going to pull out as long as there’s still a chance they can make money,” Paul said, sounding far more confident than he looked.
“No, they won’t,” Brandon agreed. “But they’ve also realized the only way that’s going to happen is if we all agree to sell, and we know you aren’t going to give in.”
“This place is my life, Brandon.” Paul’s voice actually cracked, and a band twisted around Megan’s heart. “I’ll figure something out. I just need some time.”
“Time is something we’re running out of.” Brandon threw a frustrated hand in the air. “Did you think your affair with Joan would change her mind?”
Megan’s jaw dropped. Paul had an affair with Joan Baxter? Holy shit. Paul glanced at her, and she saw the truth and a truckload of guilt in his somber expression.
He kept his gaze on her but, when he spoke, his words were obviously directed at Brandon. “I would have preferred it if you hadn’t made that public knowledge right now.”
Brandon shot her a cursory look and sighed. “I’m sorry, but damn it, Paul, what the hell were you thinking?”
“Believe me, I’ve asked myself that question plenty of times since it happened. What I can tell you is what Joan and I shared had nothing to do with this place. We never talked business.”
“Well, maybe you should have.” Brandon turned to Megan, his posture one of pure irritation and utter defeat. “Can you talk some sense into him? Because no one else can.”
Megan didn’t know what to say. She had stopped by the aquarium for a quick visit and some time with an old friend. What she had gotten were clouds of information that were rumbling in her head in a dangerous storm of confusion.
Water splashed inside the tank next to her, drawing her attention. Drake broke the surface mere feet from where she stood, his sharp blue gaze instantly slamming into hers. His too-kissable lips tilted in a sexy grin that had embers of heat raining through her body.
Confusion over Paul and the aquarium weren’t the only things she had gotten from this visit. A wicked desire had reawakened inside her that she had barely managed to get under control and, as she stared into the ocean of Drake’s eyes, she got the feeling that restraining that craving again would play hell on her.
* * * *
The vision of Megan standing at the side of the shark tank stayed with Drake long after she left. He hadn’t quite understood his infatuation with her at first. Though pretty, she was far from a Penthouse centerfold. Except, okay, from the neck down with her sexy-as-sin curves he suspected would be equally delicious, she could easily grace the cover of the men’s magazine. The neck up, however, painted a different picture. Her long bleach-blonde hair hung in waves around a narrow face with big hazel eyes, high cheekbones, and a nose a smidgen too large.
No, not quite cover model material but, after barely a week of knowing her, he had understood. Her personality drew him to her like a magnet. She was smart, vivacious, ambitious, independent, shared his love for marine life, and he wanted her. The trouble came in not knowing exactly how he wanted her.
Facedown on a dining room table, pinned against a wall, tethered to a bed beneath him…Drake grinned. Yeah, that would work for starters. He wanted her under his control, wanted to shatter that independence with a serious bout of good ole sport fucking. But something told him it wouldn’t end there.
“Am I going to have to bust your chops, too, for getting sidetracked on the job?”
Drake blinked, his grin fading as he turned and found Paul standing a few feet from him, one brow raised and an expression of part irritation and part amusement on his face.
“We both care for that tiger shark, but she’s never put a grin like that on my lips.”
Drake wiped the water from his face with the towel hanging around his neck. “Sorry, Paul. Did you say something?”
“I’ve always enjoyed seeing young people with such motivation. It’s what this world needs, more people with the drive to go after what they want.” Paul pursed his lips and rocked back on his heels. “Of course, when that go-get-’em attitude isn’t directed in the right direction, how can you expect to get what you want?”
Drake chuckled. “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.” It was a lie. He knew exactly what Paul was talking about. He just didn’t want to discuss the bone-deep lust surging through him for Megan Pontius.
Paul rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you do. I’m talking about Megan. Do you want to try to tell me you weren’t off in la-la land thinking about her just now?”
La-la land, no. His mind had been boarding a fast-sailing ship straight to fuck-her island. “What makes you think that?” He decided to play dumb, if for no other reason than to tease his old friend.
Paul tapped his temple. “The very intelligent brain in my head. I’ve seen the way you look at her, the way you’ve always looked at her. And I’ve seen the way she looks at you, too. She was dating that officer when you first met her but, to the best of my rather extensive knowledge, that’s been over for close to a year.”
Yeah, Drake knew that and damn if that fact hadn’t kept him awake for a night or twenty, taunting him with possibilities. He had often wondered what happened to end her relationship with Jerry Cusack. He considered it likely the other man’s promotion to sergeant had something to do with it. Then again, maybe not. Drake sure as shit wouldn’t have given up a woman like Megan for a higher rank in the police force.
Jealously could be the key. Yeah, Cusack was definitely a jealous man and he didn’t like Drake one iota. The man had practically gone into cardiac arrest when he had caught Megan around Drake. Cusack had hidden it fairly well, from Megan in any case. He damn sure hadn’t hidden it from Drake, though.
Not that he kidded himself into believe he was the reason Megan and Cusack had called it quits. When it came down to it, all he could do was speculate and give her a mental pat on the back because she was no longer with the son of a bitch.
“The temperature in the tanks is close to normal again.” Drake hoped by changing the conversation Paul would get the hint he didn’t want to talk about Megan. He didn’t want to think about her either, but damn if he could seem to stop himself. He knew women. He rarely understood them. What man did? But he could recognize the signs, sense when a woman craved a different kind of satisfaction than what she had allowed herself to explore before. Megan’s hunger was off the charts, but a night or ten under his command wouldn’t curve her appetite. Call it male egotistical confidence or plain stupidity, but he believed she would want more. A whole hell of a lot more, as in the forever kind of more, and he just didn’t know if he was ready for that kind of commitment.
“The sharks seem to be doing fine,” he continued, noting the enjoyment sparkling in Paul’s eyes and ignoring it. Yeah, the old man knew why he was changing the subject. As much as Drake liked to see Paul smiling again, he didn’t care for it being at his own expense. “Another hour or two and everything should be fine.”
Paul nodded. “I still want to monitor them through the night.” The older man lifted a shoulder. “Just as a precaution.”
Drake agreed, knowing Paul’s decision was based as much on his love for the sharks as it was the sharks’ value to the aquarium. “I’ll stick around, stay with them through the night.”
Paul slapped the back of Drake’s shoulder. “We both will. I’ll take over for now. You can see to the rest of your duties and come back when you’re done.”
Drake hesitated, not liking to leave Paul alone with the sharks. He didn’t doubt the other man’s capabilities. If anything, Paul was his greatest mentor. But, despite the too short glimpses of happiness he had seen in Paul’s eyes when the man teased him about Megan, the sadness and stress that had become a routine fixture in the man’s expression lately remained. One wrong move, one stray thought while he was in that tank with the tiger shark could spell danger and, if Drake was across the building when something happened, he would never make it back to Paul in time.