“What is your problem?” I repeated my earlier question.
He didn’t waste any time getting to the point. “Did you want to go for a drink with him, Grace?”
“He was standing awfully close.”
“And I was trying to step back when you showed up. In fact, I would have told him off before you rushed into save the day.”
“He kept looking at you during the meeting.”
I hadn’t noticed. All my attention was on Jaxson. “He can look all he wants. I’m not interested.”
He drummed his long fingers on the desk. I tried not to stare at them.
“It’s your outfit,” he announced.
“What the hell is wrong with my outfit?”
“It’s too damn sexy.”
I gaped at him. “It’s pants. I’m wearing pants, for god sake.”
“Your blouse. It’s indecent.”
I glanced down. Nothing was showing, my collarbone barely visible. The neckline was modest, the sleeves long, and I was wearing a shawl.
“You are being ridiculous. The lawyer, that Sabrina woman who came in here this morning, was showing more skin than I am.”
“Do not compare yourself to her.”
An irrational flash of jealousy hit me. “I’m out her league is what you’re saying?”
He glared. “Don’t push it.”
I threw up my hands. “I give up. Why don’t you write me a list of what I can wear, who I can talk to, and what I should think, Jaxson?”
“Don’t be stupid.”
“Stupid? This from the man who thinks wearing pants is overtly sexy.”
“They are,” he insisted.
“Don’t be an ass,” I hissed before I could stop myself. “You’re acting like an idiot.”
“You’re pushing my buttons.”
“Your buttons? You’re the one with the over the top reaction here. You’re being a jackass—again.”
“Fond of that word, are you?”
“It suits you.”
“Shrew,” he replied.
“What did you call me?”
“You heard me. You’re a shrew. I was trying to help you earlier.”
I was done with this insanity. The man was clearly deranged.
I stood. “For the record, he came over to me. I said no—twice. If you hadn’t shown up, I would have walked away or if I had to, pushed him away. I can take care of myself, Jaxson. My father taught me how to throw a punch if required, so I don’t need you to rescue me and I don’t appreciate your over reactions. My outfit is perfectly acceptable, and you are, in fact, a jackass.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes.” I drew in a deep breath. “In fact, if this is your way of talking, you can stuff it, Mr. Richards.”
I turned and headed to the door.
The next thing I knew, Jaxson was behind me, spinning me around and crowding me against the wall, his body hot and unyielding.
“Jesus,” he spat. “Gracie, you drive me crazy.”
“What?” I asked confused.
“I keep fucking this up.” He hung his head. “You get close and I lose all common sense. I do things I would never do—say things I shouldn’t.”
I stayed silent letting him ramble. I liked the way it felt with him pressed up against me. I could feel his strength and his anger. Both were addictive somehow and I wasn’t afraid of either. The irritation I had been feeling started to be replaced with a different sort of buzz. One of longing.
“Jesus,” he uttered. “I keep doing this. Last week spending time with you outside the office. Yesterday—kissing you in the car. Holding your hand. As your boss, I shouldn’t do any of that. Or pass judgment on your life. I didn’t intend that to happen. And today.” He groaned. “Seeing him beside you, chatting you up. I wanted to punch him in the face. What is it about you that messes up my head?”
I frowned. “I don’t understand.”
His intense blue eyes met mine. “I didn’t mean to start an argument, Grace—yesterday or today. You’re right, there is nothing wrong with your outfit. You’re beautiful. And yesterday my words were born of hating to think of you living in fear—of anything. I wanted to help. But I know it didn’t come across that way.”
His confession disarmed me.
“I apologize for both—my rudeness and my inappropriateness in the car yesterday.”
We were so close, I could feel every solid inch of him. His scent filled my head—citrusy, musky—heady. He was tense, his muscles bunching, his jaw working as our eyes locked and held.
“I liked the car,” I whispered, the words torn from me before I could stop them.
He rested his forehead to mine with a low groan. “Don’t tell me that, Gracie.”
His breath washed over me. Mint and coffee. I could taste it. Taste him. I wanted to taste more.
“I liked the way you told him off today. You made me feel protected.”
“Fuck,” he mumbled, his eyes locked on my mouth.
“I like how you feel this close to me.”
He groaned again, the sound low and desperate.
Exactly the way I was feeling.
“Jaxson,” I murmured.
“What are you doing to me?” he replied, sliding his hand along my shoulder and up my neck, cupping my cheek. “You make me want things I can’t have.”
“Like feeling your lips underneath mine. Tasting your mouth. Knowing if the heat of it is as addictive as I think it would be.”
“Find out then.”
He crashed his lips to mine.
And I was lost.
New York Times/USA Today bestselling author Melanie Moreland, lives a happy and content life in a quiet area of Ontario with her beloved husband of twenty-seven-plus years and their rescue cat, Amber. Nothing means more to her than her friends and family, and she cherishes every moment spent with them.
While seriously addicted to coffee, and highly challenged with all things computer-related and technical, she relishes baking, cooking, and trying new recipes for people to sample. She loves to throw dinner parties, and also enjoys traveling, here and abroad, but finds coming home is always the best part of any trip.
Melanie loves stories, especially paired with a good wine, and enjoys skydiving (free falling over a fleck of dust) extreme snowboarding (falling down stairs) and piloting her own helicopter (tripping over her own feet.) She’s learned happily ever afters, even bumpy ones, are all in how you tell the story.
Melanie is represented by Flavia Viotti at Bookcase Literary Agency. For any questions regarding subsidiary or translation rights please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org