Blurring the Lines (Men of the Zodiac) (4 page)

BOOK: Blurring the Lines (Men of the Zodiac)
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“Oh, sir. I didn’t—”

He let out a small chuckle. “I’m messing with you.”

“Not funny.” But Kira hid her smile. No sense letting him know she liked his teasing.

He placed a hand over his heart but continued walking. “My apologies.”

When he stopped in front of a door marked with his name, she noticed the large, L-shaped desk guarding said door.

“Nice digs. Is this where I’ll be?”

“Yes. Make yourself at home.”

“At work.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll make myself at work. Since, you know, this isn’t my home.”

He chuckled, but Kira couldn’t tell if he thought her quip was amusing or if he was just laughing at her. “I’ll give you ten minutes to get Coconut settled, and then let’s meet in my office.”

“Okay.” Ten minutes to poke around and make a list of the potential questions and supplies she’d need. “Ten minutes. Do I knock or is there an intercom system?”

“Just walk in. Like you did yesterday.”

If only that sounded as welcoming as she wanted it to be.

Chapter Five

F
rom where he sat, Blake could glimpse Kira as she clipped Coconut into her leash and wound it around the foot of the desk. Though he couldn’t make out what she said to the dog, her tone sounded soothing.

He snorted. What kind of woman would bring a dog to work on her first day and think it would be acceptable? The kind he tricked into hiring, obviously. As he tried to avoid noting the distractingly enticing curve of her calf, he couldn’t shake the feeling that things might get complicated.

The phone rang, and several things happened at once to prove his concern. As Kira scooted out from under the desk, her dress lifted to reveal a thin strip of electric blue lace barely covering her ass, and when she lifted the phone and answered, “Blake Whitman’s office. How may I help you?” the phone continued to ring. She turned to face him, a bewildered expression on her face as she brushed back dark hair that had tumbled loose from her braid, and he knew he’d been caught staring at her with a slack jaw. He didn’t care.

Still, that image of her would take days to shake off. Dark hair mussed, face flushed, and that thong. He couldn’t look her in the eye, even from across the room. He’d spent a lifetime brushing off silly females wanting something from him, and now he’d put in his way the one female who sparked his interest, who he couldn’t have because he’d offered her a position guaranteed to keep her off limits to him. He’d never considered himself a masochist.

Damn he was in trouble.

Grabbing the phone, he barked, “Keith, I’m in the middle of something.”
Losing my common sense.
“So this better be urgent.”

His brother’s jovial tone irritated him more than usual. “When are you not in the middle of something? Anyway, I just wanted to confirm the rumor that you hired a hot secretary.”

Hot. Kira was definitely hot. The comment rattled Blake’s nerves and he lied, “She’s not hot.”

She was breathtakingly beautiful. His body had been on high alert since he’d stood next to her in the elevator, and he didn’t think he’d ever needed to exert so much energy on not noticing a woman before.

In the space of several heartbeats
,
he could concoct a whole slew of reasons to call this whole farce off, but in the center of his silent debate were Kira’s soft brown eyes begging him to save her mom’s building.
Really
? Since when had he gone soft? But he hadn’t offered her the job because of pity.

No. He’d offered because he’d been bored.

She’d come at him through all his senses, at the right time and saying the right things, and in the week since he’d last seen her, he hadn’t second-guessed himself once. Now, staring at the sharp length of her heels, he could think of a million things he’d rather have her do than work for him for a year.

The line went dead and Blake frowned, on the verge of calling back his brother when he eyed Kira standing in his doorway. The woman was downright distracting.

She held her hands behind her, and his gaze landed on her chest. He closed his eyes. Maybe because they’d met under unusual circumstances, he had difficulty classifying her as an employee. His secretary.

With a shy but playful grin, she said, “Sorry to interrupt, but you said to just walk in.”

He looked at the receiver, couldn’t remember whom he was trying to call, and replaced it in the cradle. After clearing his throat, he gestured for her to take the chair opposite his desk. “Yes. Of course.”

As she advanced into the room, she unbuttoned her blazer. “I’m a little warm. Mind if I take this off so I don’t get hot?”
Hot.
Had she heard what he’d said to his brother? If she was trying to get a reaction out of him, it wouldn’t work. Over the years, he’d perfected the poker face
.
He shrugged. “Whatever makes you comfortable.”

“Thank you.”

She slid out of the blazer, and though the sundress certainly could be considered modest at the neckline, her bare shoulders covered with thin spaghetti straps caught his attention. She gave the jacket a gentle shake then folded it, and he breathed in a whiff of sweet perfume. The temperature in the room rose a thousand degrees, and he resisted the urge to loosen his tie. Other employees had tried to distract him, but none had ever succeeded. In a matter of minutes, Kira had managed to wiggle her way into the front of his thoughts. It stunned him.

He just had to keep reminding himself she was here because she wanted something from him, so she really was no different than any other woman who had breezed through his life.

He went on the offensive to ground himself. “I noticed you had difficulty answering the phone. I’ll ask Darcy, my brother’s assistant, to train you. I know the multiple lines might seem complicated, but I’m sure you won’t have any trouble once you grasp the basics.”

H
er boss thought she was an idiot.

As if overhearing him say she wasn’t hot hadn’t been enough of a blow to her ego, the sincerity in his expression about having someone train her on how to use a phone hit the point home. It seemed like he really meant it when he said multiple lines might be complicated, and if she hadn’t been embarrassed about having her skirt catch on the under-desk drawer earlier, she probably would have hit the right line and answered correctly the first time. But she’d felt the breeze, and as soon as she saw his face, she knew she’d flashed him.

“I’m sure I can figure it out.”

“Someone from IT should be by in about an hour to show you our computer system. Maybe that’s a good time for Darcy to train you on the phones and email. She can also take you to the inventory room for supplies. I don’t suppose you brought a notepad and pen in here with you?”
Kira opened her mouth, but the phone rang again. Without hesitating, she hopped up and skipped around to Blake’s side of the desk. This time she pushed the flashing button before she said, “Blake Whitman’s office. How may I assist you?”

“This is Keith. Is this Kira?”

“Yes, Keith. Would you like to hold for Blake?” She turned to him, and her thoughts stalled when she saw how close to him she actually stood, and how his gaze seemed to be riveted on her feet. She sidestepped and his head moved just slightly. Yup. The guy was a shoe man.

“Sir?” She wiggled the phone in front of him. “Keith is on the line for you.”

“My brother. I’ll introduce you.” He took the phone. “I thought you’d be in here by now.” Then he hung up and pointed to the open door. “Wait for it.”

She continued to stand on his side of the desk and looked out into the open space. The door at the opposite end of the large office area opened and a man exited, making a beeline toward Blake’s office.

“This is my brother, Keith. He’s the VP.”

Keith entered, a huge smile on his face.“I’m pleased to meet you. I hope you’ll find it rewarding to work here at Whitman-Madison.”

She stepped around the desk and shook his outstretched hand. “I’m looking forward to it.”

“Has Blake reviewed the employee contract with you yet?”

She chewed on her lower lip and then released it. Bad habit, but one she’d been trying to break. “Not yet.”

“Well, it’s pretty standard.” To Blake he said, “I’ll send Darcy over. She can walk Kira around. Show her downstairs, too.”

“And phones,” Kira couldn’t help saying as she shot her boss an innocent smile. “I think I need Darcy to train me on answering phones.”

K
ira hated how her body reacted to Blake. It was quarter to six, and she’d decided to stay put until Blake returned from a three o’clock meeting on the third floor. She’d spent the day arranging her desk, feeding Coconut, and setting up her email account
.

Finally he was back, and they were alone in his office. She sat across the desk from him, and her gaze lingered on his chest as he removed his jacket and rolled his shirtsleeves. She opened her notebook and rattled off the first of twelve messages, stopping to appreciate the way he loosened his tie and unbuttoned his top button. She stared at his forearms, corded with muscle and a faint smattering of dark hair, and despite her desire to appear competent and focused, she couldn’t rip her gaze from his strong hands.

“Kira?”

His tone broke through her haze of hormones
,
and she blinked down at her notes. “Bobby called regarding a barbecue restaurant, and he said it’s not a problem if you call him after hours.” She placed a neat check mark in the margin and handed him a file folder. “I hope you don’t mind, but I searched your files and pulled this for your reference. There’s a sticky note on the page he wants to discuss
.

He took the folder. “Not a problem.”

She nodded. “Good. I was worried you’d think I was snooping.”

“For doing your job? Not at all.” He placed the folder to the side. “Next?”

“Michelle Paul called to confirm lunch tomorrow, and she prefers the Seed to Table place over the, and I quote, last joint you chose.”

Blake laughed, drawing her attention to his jaw, where she could see the evening stubble. How any man could capture her attention so completely baffled her, and she really hoped it was the novelty of their situation that intrigued her. She wanted to stand there and stare at the man all day, maybe even taste him…

He rubbed the back of his neck. “What else?”

For the briefest moment, his gaze collided with hers and her pulse quickened. Could he tell she basically wanted to recant her earlier animosity against him? After all, what girl could resist the guy giving her everything she wanted?

She’d read a memo in his email that he’d sent himself on the urban design for historic areas, which had prompted her to research the benefits of walkable towns and green space. He’d also asked her to provide a list of possible charities for him to support, demonstrating he hadn’t forgotten his offer to give her an allowance from his personal funds.

She’d been so elated she could have kissed him, if he’d been around, and it was probably a good thing that he hadn’t been.

“I saw the email you sent earlier. I wanted to thank you, for allowing me the opportunity to really make a difference with your money.”

His eyes crinkled in a smile. “You’re not the first woman to offer to spend my money, but at least I know you’ll spend it wisely.”

Good, old-fashioned curiosity had her wondering what other women he was talking about and how many? She hoped he didn’t think she was using him, but they’d been clear from the start. Secretary. Building. She needed to get it together.

“You also have a note regarding my contract,” she reminded him.

“Yes.” He dug through his desk drawer and then held out a slim folder. “Why don’t you pull over a chair, and we’ll go through it. Of course, you should take it home and review it at your leisure, but I’d like to address the main points together, if you have time.”

They spent the next hour reviewing the twelve-page document detailing her employment conditions. Wages, confidentiality agreement, non-compete clause, social media usage, and benefits. She didn’t have an issue with any of it. The terms were standard, and she wouldn’t have a problem complying with any of the clauses.

She didn’t need to take it home. She signed. He signed. They closed the contract, and then he moved away from her.

He cleared his throat. “This is going to sound awkward, but it’s better if we clarify this from the beginning.”

She glanced toward his office door, a sinking feeling in her stomach. He was going to tell her Coconut couldn’t come back, and she’d have to hate him. Stuck in another office for a year
,
unable to foster any animals. Maybe if she showed him a journal article discussing the merits of animals and lower blood pressure…

He lowered his voice. “Privacy laws restrict an employer from prohibiting employee relationships, but it’s best to be clear that I stand against workplace dating.”

Against. Workplace. Dating. It took her brain a full minute to digest that he wasn’t kicking out her foster. She’d already said she didn’t want to sleep with him. “So I can keep Coconut?”

He raised his brows. “The dog is fine. Did you hear what I said?”

She could hug him for letting her keep Coconut. She uncrossed her legs and slowly rose. “We had the”—she made air quotes—“‘are you attracted to me?’ discussion before you offered me the position. I assure you, you have nothing to worry about where I’m concerned.”

He scrubbed his hair back from his forehead, even as he glanced at her shoes. “That’s a relief.”

Even though it was what they both wanted, his reaction bothered her.

After a glance at the clock, he opened his wallet and extracted a couple bills. “Hungry? How about we raid the vending machine? I’ll show you where it is.”

As he followed her out of his office, she dropped the messages on her desk and poked her head underneath to check on Coconut. The dog, clearly in the middle of an active dream, didn’t even acknowledge her presence.

“Stairs?” Kira pushed through the door before Blake could hit the elevator button, and as he brushed by her, she inhaled an intoxicating amount of male. Even after a long day, he smelled fresh and warm and delicious.

Against workplace dating.

That’s what he’d said, and it was what she needed to remember.

His cell phone rang, echoing loudly in the stairwell. She tried to not listen, but the woman on the other end spoke with crystal clarity. His neck flushed
,
and he looked like he was one step away from slamming the phone against the wall.

The way his body moved, prowled down the stairs, really, had her fantasizing about him whirling on her and pressing her against the wall.

Wow. Since when did she daydream sexual fantasies? Here she was, acting as a secretary and pretending to not want to jump her boss after hours. If only her classmates could see her now. They’d joked about how she’d be the CEO before any of them, considering her connections and her six-figure salary straight out of graduate school.

Blake’s reiteration of the unwritten no-fraternization clause was a good reminder that she was here only for a year. For the Bromwell and for the community. No matter how hot her boss was, there was no crossing that line or the entire historic area would be torn down and replaced with sleek high rises and modern shopping malls devoid of charm, catering to the stream of high
-
end tourists. She’d seen long-time residents forced from their neighborhoods all over this area of Florida and refused to let it happen here. As much as she entertained the idea of a fling, the man wasn’t worth it.

BOOK: Blurring the Lines (Men of the Zodiac)
4.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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