Authors: Marisa Cleveland
“What do you think?”
I think you’re gorgeous. I think I’d like to wrap my arms around you.
She’d like to push him back into the chair and straddle him, nuzzle the side of his face and see if the intoxicating scent was from his aftershave. “I think you’re being extraordinarily generous.”
A flush crept up his neck. “No big deal.”
She’d never met anyone like her boss. For him, it might be nothing, but for her…what seemed insignificant to Blake meant the world to Kira.
t’s not working,” Kira groaned, stepping out of her stilettos and dropping her purse to the floor. She’d survived another week, and while most people loved Fridays, to the contrary, leaving the office—leaving Blake—saddened her.
Her roommate made a beeline for the kitchen, returning with two spoons and an open carton of cookies and cream ice cream. “What’s not working?”
She tried to hide her frown. “Picturing my boss as a circus clown.” Anything to remind her he was off limits. Despite the interest she was certain he had for her, he meant what he said about not mixing business with pleasure.
Against workplace dating.
Tish jabbed her utensil in Kira’s direction. “Why on earth would you picture Blake as a clown? Picture him naked if you have to imagine him at all.”
She had. Oh, had she ever perfected undressing that man with her eyes. “It’s the damn dog.”
“I thought you liked Brutus.”
She did. She loved Brutus. Unfortunately, she also found herself admiring his rescuer. Saint Blake.
How on earth was she going to survive a year with a hopeless crush on her boss? She groaned. Working for him had sounded like a decent plan when he’d first thrown the idea at her. Why hadn’t she asked for more time to make a rational decision? Why had she let emotions get in the way? Save her mom’s building, bulk up her bank account, and oh yeah, don’t sleep with him.
She had eyeballs. Blake Whitman was super hot, mega rich, and could get any girl he wanted. So why did he suddenly seem like the only guy she wanted to date?
“I do like Brutus. I don’t want to like Blake.” She admitted her fear. “But that doesn’t stop me from creating these elaborate office fantasies.”
The corny, over-the-top kind where he would be reviewing a report and she’d saunter in, close the door, and hop onto his desk…
“You need sex. But not with him.”
She swiped the carton away from Tish and slapped a giant gob of ice cream into her mouth. Too bad her hot boss was the one guy she wanted to have sex with. “You’re probably right.”
Tish repossessed the cookies and cream. “When’s the last time you went on a date?”
She shrugged. It had been a bunch of months—maybe half a year?—since she’d last gone out with anyone. Her previous boyfriend had been an avid runner, and they’d met while planning a 5K fundraiser. Great stamina. Too bad he’d also been keen on meeting her dad for career opportunities. “Too long, apparently.”
Her friend waved her spoon between the two of them. “We’re young. We should be out having fun.”
“It might have been easier if we’d just met at a bar. Then maybe we could’ve hooked up.”
“Are you talking about Blake again?”
Tish tossed the spoon in the sink and closed the lid. “No more. But a bar is a great idea!”
“What?” She glanced down at her wrinkled blouse and bare feet.
“It’s Friday night. Let’s go out.”
“To a bar?” Where she’d have to stuff her toes back into pointy heels for the sake of fashion. She scoffed at her dumb brain. Actually, since she’d started working at the office, she’d neglected her own personal party time, and that bothered her more than she wanted to admit. Damn job already had her acting like she was a fuddy duddy.
“Not just any bar. We’re going to Tommy Bahamas.”
Tish shoved the carton back in the freezer, took the spoon from Kira’s hand, and pushed her toward her bedroom. Tommy’s did sound fun, and she could count on the bartender to give her a full pour. She recalled seeing Tommy’s on Blake’s calendar for an early dinner, so even though he might already be gone by the time she got there, excitement mingled with anxiety at potentially running into him.
What exactly should she wear to a casual bar on a Friday night in hopes of possibly running into her boss she didn’t want to
lake stopped listening to Keith as soon as the glass shattered by the bar area. His gaze zeroed in on the back of a pair of long and lean legs leading to a sexy ass, narrow waist, and cascade of dark wavy hair. She balanced on insanely high heels and giggled as she danced back away from the fallen drink. The bartender flushed and sputtered an apology, but Blake barely registered anything but the way his body tightened with desire.
He looked at his brother and saw an amused smirk in place. With more bark than intended, he snapped, “What?”
“It’s not nothing.” What the hell had they been discussing? Something about Keith’s latest personal property investment. He liked to keep on the pulse of the market.
“About what? The way I closed the med center deal or wrangled the changes in the mall contract?” Although the way his brother’s gaze never left Kira, perused her a little too slowly, he knew exactly what the man was talking about. And didn’t like it one bit.
Keith shot him an uncharacteristic grin. “Your secretary. She’s managed to impress me.”
He conjured the image of Kira waving goodbye to him earlier that evening and telling him she hoped he had a nice weekend. “Her
impresses me, too
” he said as a reminder to both of them that her competence was what they needed to focus on—and not her other…assets. He whipped his head back to observe the brunette with the long legs. That giggle. So unique as it danced through the autumn air, into their booth. And into his brain. So much for ignoring her other enchantments.
“And I’m pretty sure she’s sitting at the bar with Tish.”
“So she is.” He had to work to keep his response nonchalant. Funny how he could recognize her from across a crowded restaurant. He glanced at his watch. He needed to get out of there before he approached Kira and— “It’s late. I have to get back to the office.”
Keith choked on his whiskey. “It’s eight. Besides, I think Tish just spotted me. It would be rude to leave without saying hi.” He slid some bills in the bill plate, and the two men approached the bar. Blake listened again for her signature laugh. Even with her hair down and her back to him, his body still reacted. How did she draw him in without even trying?
Tish’s eyes widened. “What are you two doing here?”
Blake laughed at her surprise. “Getting a drink, like you, I suppose.” He glanced past her to Kira. “Ladies.”
His brother sidled up to her side of the bar. “Hey.”
Tish picked up her martini glass and slid off the stool. “I see another friend of mine. Keith, want to meet a model?” Then, with her glass raised above the crowd, they snaked their way to the opposite side of the U-shaped bar.
Kira wiggled into the abandoned seat and crossed her legs, her skirt hitching to mid-thigh. “What kind of drink?”
“Excuse me?” It was difficult to remember he didn’t mix business with pleasure when she crossed her legs like that. If he touched her skin, would it be as soft and smooth as he imagined?
Her big brown eyes blinked at him with innocent inquiry. “You said you were here for a drink, which makes sense, since it’s a bar, but what do you drink? Anything
She said fun like she was challenging him, and he agreed. “I suppose Scotch wouldn’t be considered fun.”
She shot the bartender a disgusted look. Dramatically rolled her eyes and refocused on him. “Oh, ugh. Borrrrinnnggg.”
He snorted, hating how much he enjoyed her teasing. He guessed he deserved it, so instead of acting all offended, he laughed and countered, “There’s nothing wrong with traditional.”
She gripped his arm—his bicep—and electric shocks coursed over his shoulder and tightened in his cheek. “Scotch is like for eighty-year-old men. Not some thirty-year-old CEO.”
Stepping closer, inhaling her tropical scent, he lowered his voice, “How do you know how old I am?”
She leaned forward, treating him to a magnificent view of her pink lace bra just beneath the deep
of her top. “Hello Google? Really, I asked Tish.”
He straightened. “Funny.”
She lifted her glass to her lips. “What is?”
He shouldn’t admit it. He should keep his mouth shut. But he wanted to see her reaction, and he hoped it would open up the conversation for further discussion. “I thought about doing the same thing.”
She curved her lips upward in an enticing smirk. “You thought about asking Tish how old you were?”
He laughed. Witty and gorgeous. “About you.” Too much more time with her and he’d be tempted to take her home. Hell, he was already tempted. Had been tempted since the first day, really. Something in the way she’d reprimanded him over three espresso shots stuck in his mind and wouldn’t let go.
She took a long sip of her sticky sweet Mai Tai and gave him a closed-mouth smile. The deep
of her top drew his attention to her breasts, and he nearly groaned when he noticed the outline of her hardened nipples through the fabric. But it wasn’t a crime to admire a beautiful woman. Just one who happened to work for him.
He shouldn’t have come over here. Not at the end of a long week with Kira occupying so many of his thoughts. “So, would you like to tell me your age?”
She re-crossed her legs, drawing his attention to her smooth, bare skin. “It would be more fun if you guessed.”
He shook his head. No way would he dig himself into that hole. “Guessing has never worked in my favor.”
She pouted. He waited. She caved. “Fine. Twenty-five.”
“I would’ve guessed younger,” he admitted.
Her nose wrinkled. “My early twenties weren’t good years for me.”
Interesting. “Why not?”
She held up her empty glass. “No goals. A spontaneous and very bad haircut.” She smirked. “I was going through a…transition.”
His gaze landed on her hair, and for the briefest moment he had the wild instinct to tuck a piece behind her ear, to use that action to cup the back of her neck and feel if the dark strands were as soft as they were shiny. “And now you’re not?”
The vigilant bartender took her empty and handed her a full one. She said thanks and looked at Blake over the rim as she took her first sip. “Oh, I’m still transitioning, but at least I have a job, a goal, and my hair is longer.”
Her hair, loose and flowing, tempted him as much as her bare legs. He could play this a dozen different ways. They both needed to relax. She’d banked almost as many hours as him since she started, and not once had she protested. They worked so well together. In fact, he couldn’t recall ever having such a compatible secretary. But rather than risk saying what he really wanted to say, he said, “You do have a job. And long hair.”
Her grimace betrayed her confusion. “Was that almost a compliment?”
“I—” He paused. She looked so young and fresh and eager. It was too easy to forget that he never dated employees. “Do you like working at Whitman-Madison?”
She cocked her head to the side and as if reading his imaginings from moments before, tucked her hair behind her ear. “I’m adjusting to office life. How’s Brutus?”
“I returned him to the vet. They found his owner.”
She leaned forward and placed her hand on his forearm. With a smile that drew his attention to her mouth and all the ways he’d like to taste her, she said, “I’m so glad he’s going home.”
. He wondered what her place looked like. He shouldn’t care, but he was curious.
Tish and Keith returned, and Blake tossed back the rest of his drink and settled both their tabs.
“Thanks for the drink.”
“Really? Anytime for a drink? Because we might take you up on that.”
Drinks again with Kira? Bad idea. If he needed further proof just how terrible an idea it was, he got it when she slid off the stool, landing so close to him he could feel her heat.
She gripped his bicep. “Don’t worry. We won’t hold you to that. Unless you want us to.”
Hell yeah, how he did. He wanted her to hold him to all sorts of things.
ira gripped Tish’s hand and dragged her out the back door of the restaurant. “No. No, no, no. This is so wrong. I can’t have a crush on my boss. I can’t.”
Her roommate collapsed in the car. “You want my advice?”
Kira started the engine and backed out of the lot. “Only if you’re going to talk me off the ledge.”
“Nope. I’m going to tell you to jump.”
Every fiber in her body wanted to run back inside and drag Blake home with her. He’d helped her reach so many goals, and not just because of the money. Unlike when she’d been working for her dad, working with Blake allowed her to continue fostering. She didn’t even mind the long hours, because now she had more funds to contribute toward the community. Maybe parts of the job weren’t exciting, but she’d enjoyed going over the contracts and offering teasing hints that there was more to her than she’d admitted. She’d have to pick up a few more packages of pink sticky notes… But that was exactly why she didn’t want to ruin things. She needed to remember who she was and why she was working for him in the first place.
“Ever since I met you, you’ve been focused on finding out what direction to take your career, and now that you have a chance to just have fun and enjoy a great guy, you’re hesitating. Get him out of your system.”
It wasn’t that easy; it wasn’t like she could just go up to Blake and be all like, Okay, please give me some of your magic. She snorted.
When a popular song came on the radio, Kira upped the volume. “We both know what happens to the employees who get too close. And even if he’d have me, I don’t want to be a drunken Friday one-night stand.”
“Ooooh. You’re so right.” Tish hummed along for a couple beats and then said, “We don’t need men.”
“You’re focused on your career. That’s admirable. You’ll find someone when you least expect it.”
Finding Blake had definitely been unexpected, and she bet her favorite sundress that no one like him existed.
Tish slouched low in the bucket seat. “Guys don’t like me.”
“You’re perfect just the way you are.”
Her friend climbed out after they’d parked and followed the path to their front entrance. “Easy for you to say. I bet you two end up having fabulous office sex.”
She envisioned Blake sprawling her over his desk. “Yum.” Then she frowned. “No. Bad image. Stop it. He’s my boss, and we both know what happens to secretaries who want more.”
Tish collapsed on the sofa and closed her eyes. “Ask Keith about a job in the legal department. Then Blake wouldn’t be your boss…”
“What? No. This job isn’t a stepping stone. I promised one year in exchange for a seat at the table when the new architectural plans arrive. This year will help me narrow down an organization I can really focus my efforts on.” She wanted to be part of so much, but with limited funds and not enough time, she knew better than to overextend herself.
Tish nodded. “I think your interest in the community is fantastic.”
That was how Kira felt and now that she’d made the leap, she could feel the excitement at being a part of the revitalization for an area that meant so much to her. “Once you start working, you’re pretty much working for the rest of your life. I just want to make it mean something.”
“I never knew you felt that way.”
She shrugged. “You just thought I wanted the big paycheck that came with the dual degree?”
Tish giggled. “It’s nice being able to buy designer.”
“I know, but it’s also nice knowing that because of me, our downtown might be revitalized as something to preserve history that also attracts tourists.”
It took her a quarter of a century to find her purpose. No way would she let the broad chest and bedroom eyes of her boss stop her now.