...“Go to bed,” Jarrett said. “There’s no reason you have to stay up for this.”
“We haven’t finished going through the second list yet.” The sheer number of people who hung out on Eli’s forum boggled him. They’d finished the first run, only to realize that not only had some people’s location might have changed in the last four years, but Chicago was a too narrow geographical focus. They couldn’t even limit it to Illinois, since Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin were all within a reasonable driving distance. So far, their short list consisted of eleven people, none of whom Eli claimed to know in real life. His online contact, however, was another story.
“You haven’t even looked at your laptop in the last half hour.”
“I was thinking.”
“Think while you’re dreaming. Maybe you’ll come up with some creative solution to all this neither one of us have thought of yet.”
“You could use some sleep, too.”
Eli’s crooked smile teased his earlier fantasies to come out and play again. “I’m used to this. You’re not.”
“You’re the one who has to face Yager and Baptiste in the morning. And you’ll do better with them if you don’t look like you’ve stepped out of Slacker Monthly. Trust me. My job is all about making the most of appearances.”
Hesitation was a good sign. Eli glanced down at his laptop, blunt fingers drumming silently along its edge. After several moments, he shrugged and typed something in.
“Sleep won’t hurt.” Closing his computer, he set it onto the coffee table and clenched his hands into tight fists. The knuckles cracked. They cracked again when he opened them quickly and spread the fingers wide. “Do you mind if I take a shower before I crash?”
A flash of that sleek body standing under the spray filled Jarrett’s thoughts, sharp enough to drive him to his feet in a sudden burst of adrenaline. “Go right ahead. Use whatever you find.”
As he headed for the kitchen to tidy up, he caught Eli’s frown out of the corner of his eye. He was gone before Eli had time to voice whatever he was thinking, and kept his back to the doorway and temptation as he cleaned out the coffeepot.
The sound of the bathroom door opening and closing was a relief, though the muffled shower was even better. Jarrett rolled his neck, working out the kinks, and threw himself into the mundane task of washing up. This entire day had been surreal. Sleep would be heaven, and then, tomorrow, he’d hook Eli up with an attorney, hand him over to Yager and Baptiste, and get back to his real life. He wasn’t worried Eli would end up charged with anything. He hadn’t done anything wrong. His taste in acquaintances was certainly suspicious, but if everybody went to jail for picking the wrong friends, there’d be nobody left on the streets.
The water quit before he was done, an absence of sound he wished he wasn’t so aware of. When the door opened, the urge to glance back was too hard to resist.
Then, he was the one who was hard.
All Eli had on was a towel, slung low around his slim hips. Golden skin glistened with a fine sheen of moisture, stray drops speckling the tops of his shoulders, and his bleached hair stuck up in every direction. His padlock tattoo wasn’t his only one. The Lockeford Files logo etched around his side, drawing Jarrett’s gaze downward as it trailed beneath the towel.
When he managed to tear his eyes away, he was startled by the warm focus of Eli’s on him, a wistful smile curving his lips.
“I left my pack out here,” Eli said, nodding toward the abandoned duffle next to the couch.
“Oh.” Scolding himself for a fool, Jarrett took long strides to reach it as quickly as possible, crossing back to hand it over. The scent of his body wash wafted out of the bathroom from behind Eli, though he couldn’t remember it ever smelling as it good as it did emanating from Eli’s skin. He handed over the bag as smoothly as he could, then retreated a step, unable to make it more than that. “Anything else?”
Eli’s smile didn’t waver. “You wear Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme.”
The non sequitur knocked him for a loop. “Is that a problem?”
“No. Just that now I know what’s been driving me crazy since you walked into the Checkerboard.”
Jarrett was left standing there, speechless, as Eli turned on his heel and went back into the bathroom.
Eli was flirting with him. Yes, their banter at the diner before Yager had called had been light, and he’d made more than one comment on what he thought of Jarrett’s appearance, but this went beyond that, almost straight into an invitation to join him in the bathroom. And Jarrett’s body was more than interested. He was wildly curious whether or not Eli would be as adventurous in bed, and more than half convinced sex with him would be as fun and entertaining as it was to hang out with him, but the reasons not to get involved were just as strong as they had been before. Off limits. Trouble with the FBI.
The arguments not to cave to the temptation held firm. Jarrett was the one who was wavering...