Up next side

Cherished -- Lexi Blake

Out Now
A View to a Thrill -- Lexi Blake

Steal the Night   -- Lexi Blake

twitterfacebook onlyPintrest

Join Newsletter

 

 

books

The Dom Who Loved Me -- Lexi Blake

Read Reviews
Read excerpt below

The Dom Who Loved Me -- Out now!

Sent to steal her secrets, he was unprepared for her submission.

A routine mission…

Sean Taggart is hunting a deadly terrorist, and his only lead is the lovely Grace Hawthorne. She's the executive assistant for an employment agency Sean suspects is a front for illegal activities. To get the truth, he is going to have to get very close to Grace, a task he is all too eager to undertake when he discovers her deliciously submissive nature.

…turns into a dangerous seduction

Soon, Grace Hawthorne is living a double life. By day, she is the widowed mother of two college-aged sons. By night, she submits to Sean's every dark desire. She's living out her wildest fantasies of pleasure—intimate acts of trust she's only read about. As passion engulfs her, a murderer strikes, and Grace learns that Sean has a deeply hidden agenda. Will Sean choose his mission and break her heart or be the Master of her dreams?

BUY:

eBook: Amazon | Google | Nook | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords | All Romance

Print Book: Amazon | B&N

reviews

Winner crown award

Such a fun read filled with lovable characters that made me laugh, cry, smile and yell at them~plus a lot of kinky hot sex scenes!! LOVED LOVED LOVED the ending and can't wait for Adam and Jake's book next!! Great start to the series. Definitely a keeper to be reread. 5 out of 5 rating! ~Mariann, Belle's Book Bag, bellesbookbag.blogspot.com

excerpt

Chapter One

(The following excerpt is for adults only!)
Sean Taggart watched the quiet one. Of the three men sitting across from his team in the cool, ultra-modern conference room, the dark-haired man who hadn’t spoken once snared his attention. He was perfectly silent, listening in what appeared to be a submissive fashion. That was only right and proper since he was supposed to be a lowly assistant. Except that he was a lowly assistant wearing thousand dollar shoes. Sean had been in the covert business long enough to know that the little details usually gave a person away.

“The bastard has hit three of my facilities in the last year.” Peter Lincoln, the head of a lumber consortium, slapped at the heavy wooden table.

Sean hid a small smile as he risked a glance at his brother. Ian’s right eyebrow was practically in outer space.

Anyone who knew Ian Taggart would have backed off, but the CEO just kept on. His fist came down on the table again. “That son of a bitch isn’t costing me another dime, I tell you.”

Oh, but he would if Lincoln hired McKay/Taggart Security Services. That bastard, as Lincoln called him, would be costing his lumber company far more than a dime. Sean looked briefly at the men and woman who formed the core of the very selective security team. Ian sat at the head of the table, with his partner Alexander McKay at the other end. McKay looked vaguely amused at Ian’s annoyance. Liam O’Donnell sat to Sean’s left. O’Donnell’s eyes were red. He’d almost certainly been on another bender. They happened more and more often. It wouldn’t affect his work, and that was all that mattered. Eve St. James, resident tough chick, took a long drag off her ever-present latte and drummed her perfect fingernails on the table. Only Jake and Adam had been permitted to miss this little mess of a meeting.

“Perhaps you would like to explain exactly what you need, Mr. Lincoln.” Ian’s voice sent a wash of icy disdain across the room. Big brother was not in a good mood. Sean saw that his brother was also looking at the tall man in the expensive suit. The man was pretending to stare at his notes, his eyes surreptitiously glancing around the room, taking in everything. Sean exchanged a glance with Liam. The Irishman rolled his eyes and shook his head. Sean knew just what he was thinking. Government bureaucrats couldn’t do undercover to save their lives.

Lincoln waved a hand at the second man he’d brought with him. It was the arrogant command of a boss to his lackey. The lackey smiled good-naturedly and passed out folders. “Hello, everyone, I’m Gene, Mr. Lincoln’s personal assistant. I have dossiers on both of the Wright brothers. Matthew is the younger of the two. He’s the one we’re asking you to investigate, though obviously we’re trying to get to Patrick.”

“And Patrick Wright is a member of the Earth League.” Ian’s statement was made without a hint of question behind it.

Gene responded with an apologetic shrug. “My research isn’t perfect. That’s why we felt it was important to bring your firm in. As far as I can tell, Patrick Wright is the head of the Earth League. The group sprang up about ten years ago. They started out benignly enough, protesting pharmaceutical companies, lumber companies, big real estate developments, and SUV manufacturers. Then Patrick Wright joined up and took over. You have to understand, this guy changes names and identities as often as the rest of us change underwear. The police have questioned his followers, and the name of the group’s leader always changes. He’s probably had plastic surgery as well.”

Lincoln’s voice filled the room. “That son of a bitch! Fucking monkeywrenching cost me five million in the last three years alone, and now he’s threatening to bomb my goddamn house.”

The businessman continued to rant. Sean could see Ian‘s patience was wearing thin. It would be nice to see big bro toss this asshole out on his rear. The last thing Sean wanted to do was sit outside this jerk’s house trying to catch some “Save the Earth” whackadoodle. He had better things to do with his time, like perfecting his gnocchi recipe. It was almost there. It just needed a little more oomph to put it over the top. Sean forced himself to focus on the job at hand rather than his hobby. Despite the fact that he couldn’t stand executive types, they did pay well. And he was curious about the government man sitting so still across from him.

He turned to Liam. “Monkeywrenching?”

Liam spoke softly, but Sean could hear him even over the moans and complaints of Lincoln. “It’s a term for the way ecoterrorists mess with big business. They spike trees marked for cross cutting. It destroys very expensive saw blades. Often they destroy machinery. And sometimes they flat out torch places. E.L. is known for getting into places the timber industry thinks are secure and lighting it up. They’re branching out a bit though. Other types of businesses are getting hit.”

Sean nodded at Liam and settled back in his chair to glance through the myriad of photos Gene had collected. There was an old photo of Patrick Wright. He was a large guy in a band uniform. Sean chuckled to himself. If they were using his high school yearbook photo, this Wright guy was damn good at keeping off the radar.

There were several pictures of Matt Wright. He was thirty-nine, a well-dressed businessman. He was blandly good looking, in an all-American-apple-pie fashion. The photos were obviously taken when the subject didn’t know he was being photographed. PI, Sean figured. His hand stopped on one of the pictures. It was Matt Wright walking out of his office building. A woman walked behind him, her head down. She looked a bit plump, soft. Of course, Sean couldn’t tell for certain, given the bulky clothes she wore. Everything she wore was dark, from her slacks to the voluminous sweater that hid every curve. Her eyes were covered with sunglasses, and she carried a nondescript briefcase. The one bit of color on the woman’s body was the bright yellow of the stilettos peeking out from her sensible trousers.

Fuck me shoes. Damn. Any woman who wore those shoes had a streak of the unexpected. He wondered what her underwear looked like. Something delicate and lovely?

Suddenly interested in the case, Sean sat up, flipping through the file looking for any pertinent information. It was well put together, filled with carefully thought out analysis. It almost certainly hadn’t come from that prick Lincoln. “Matt Wright runs a temp agency?”

Lincoln was guzzling down coffee. It gave Gene a chance to respond. “Yes, one of the largest in Texas. His base is in Fort Worth, but his people work all over the state, as well as Louisiana and Arkansas. A couple of years back, he started brokering deals with temp agencies in India for information technology services. He’s branched out to include everything from temporary white collar workers to janitorial services. He’s been very successful.”

“Who is this?” Sean slid the photo of the woman in stilletos Gene’s way.

A smile tugged at Gene’s thin lips. He pointed to the woman in question. “Grace Hawthorne, Matt Wright’s admin. She’s worked for him for six years.”

“Nice shoes.” Liam’s accent sounded flat and Midwestern.

Sean stared at him for a moment. Liam wouldn’t want to give the U.S. government a damn thing to tie him back to Ireland. Only a select group of people got to hear his native lilt.

Liam wrinkled his nose, obviously dismissing the photo. “The rest of her is a bit boring, but it looks like she’s got nice breasts. Is anybody going to have to pork the assistant? She’s older than my usual.”

“Asshole.” Sean stopped just short of punching him. The Irishman wouldn’t know a real woman if she slapped him across the face, and given his predilections, that had probably happened numerous times. Sean enjoyed Liam’s company, but he was a jerk when it came to women. If a woman wasn’t barely eighteen and serving hot wings in shorts that rode up her ass, she wasn’t really female to Liam. Sean far preferred women over girls. If Liam wasn’t eager to take Grace to bed, Sean would be more than happy to.

There was a lot of boring back-and-forth. He ignored it and stared at the picture. Later, he would read Grace’s bio, all the little numbers, facts, and dates that made up her life, yet told him nothing about who she was as a woman. He wished there was a picture of her without the sunglasses. He’d like to know what color her eyes were. Green, he bet, or hazel. Her skin looked very fair, almost luminous. She’d pulled her darkish hair back in a pony tail. In the picture, her style appeared somewhat nondescript, just like everything about the woman. Except those shoes.

“You suspect that Wright is laundering money for his brother’s group?” Liam’s question brought Sean out of his thoughts and reminded him there was a job at hand. He flipped the file closed.

“Suspect is all they can do,” Ian murmured. “Otherwise they wouldn’t be here.” He turned his icy blue eyes to the elephant in the room. “And what does the CIA want with Mr. Patrick Wright?”

Lincoln gasped, but managed to hold on to his coffee cup. Sean turned his attention blatantly to the “lowly assistant” in the expensive shoes. Now that Sean really looked at him, he noticed the man’s watch was a Rolex. Another tell.

The man in question flushed deeply. “I should have changed my shoes.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered. You look like a spook.” Ian spit the words, as if that was the worst thing a person could be.

“He’s not a spook.” Liam yawned as though the entire conversation bored him. “He’s a paper pusher.”

The man in question sighed and leaned forward. “Look, you guys are all ex-military or ex-agency. You know the drill. You’ve worked for us in a quiet capacity before. Feel free to refer to me as Mr. Black.”

“Original.” Sean had known several Mr. Blacks over the course of his military career, and he’d learned not to trust a single one. The CIA always protected the identities of its agents, even from the military personnel who did their dirty work.

This particular Mr. Black seemed unfazed by Sean’s disdain. “I’ll leave a cell phone number in case you need to contact me. I’m not officially here, and if anyone asks, I’ll disavow any and all knowledge of this operation.”

“Yeah, you types are good at that.” Sean heard the bitterness in his own voice. He knew what it felt like to have his own CO stand in front of a military judge and flatly lie about the men he was charged to lead.

The spook ignored him. “The CIA is interested in certain connections Patrick Wright potentially made on a trip to Chile a few years back.”

“Drug cartels?” Liam asked. He seemed much more interested now.

“Jihadist groups. They’re popping up all over South America, and it seems they have mutual interests with our homegrown terrorists. I can’t prove anything, but I believe Wright is potentially acting as a go-between to facilitate meetings between the South American groups and the Earth League.”

“That’s a pretty big leap,” Ian frowned as he studied the man in front of him.

Mr. Black sighed and seemed a little weary. “You’re not the only one who thinks that. No one believes me. Until I have concrete proof, I can’t do anything. Because my proof is more than likely here on American soil…”

Sean knew this drill well. “You need someone without the strictures of the Agency. Why not the FBI?”

“And deal with all the interagency crap? No. Mr. Lincoln is amenable to bankrolling this whole op if it gets the Earth League off his back.”

Sean chuckled. “You get the proof you need for a much wider op, and he gets to continue to rape the planet without interference.”

“Fuck you.” Lincoln looked like he was going to come over the top of the table.

“Sir.” Gene tried to contain his boss.

“I wouldn’t if I were you, Lincoln.” The spook’s voice seemed to make the CEO think twice. “That man you’re about to assault is Sean Taggart. He’s a former Green Beret. His brother is the gentleman at the end of the table. You read the file on both of them. I doubt he would kill you here, though you might wish he had.”

The CEO sat back, the arrogance on his face fading for the moment. “I just want you to catch the bastard.”

Ian’s fingers steepled as they often did when he was thinking. “I can’t promise you anything, Mr. Lincoln, but if Matthew Wright is involved with his brother’s activities, we’ll do our best to bring them both down.”

* * * *

Two hours later, Sean sat looking at the file.

“I’m sending you in, Sean.” Ian stood over his desk, his shadow long, but Sean was used to being in his big brother’s shadow. Though he was thirty-two years old, six foot three, and weighed two hundred twenty pounds, everyone on the team still called him Little Tag. Ian was Big Tag.

Sean tapped the photo he’d been staring at for an hour. Something about the set of her mouth fascinated him. He’d learned she was forty and a widow. She’d raised two boys and seemed to have no life outside her family and her job. According to the file, some of her co-workers whispered that she was sleeping with her boss. “She’s the key, you know.”

Ian leaned his big body over the desk. “Of course she is. You get to her, you find out everything about the place. An admin knows everything about her boss. It’s why I don’t have one.”

Something made him hesitate. She looked almost sad in the photo. “Maybe you should send in Jake and Adam. Their pretend gay act always wins the women’s trust.”

Ian burst into a rare fit of laughter. “I’ll be sure to let them know you appreciate their undercover efforts. As it happens, Jake and Adam will be your backup. If you can’t manage to get close to the woman, perhaps they can. A lot of women like to be in between those two.”

“I’ll handle it.” No way was he letting those two get close to Grace. There was something about her. “I’ll get what you need.” Let that be it. Walk away now, big brother.

“You need to think about dating.” Ian’s voice grated like broken glass underfoot.

 “Fuck me.” Sean’s head hit the top of his desk.

“Yes, that would be the point. It’s been a year since you last took a sub.”

Sean groaned. “Would it work if I told you this is absolutely none of your business?”

Ian shrugged. “Probably not. I just don’t understand. Rona was a lovely sub.”

Rona had been a clingy, whiny painslut who didn’t want the heavy burden of anything so difficult as choosing her own clothes for the day, much less having an actual job or ambitions. “I’m not like you, Ian. I don’t want a slave.”

“You don’t want the responsibility.” Coming from Ian, it sounded like an accusation.

Sean felt his eyes narrow. His brother just didn’t understand. Not everyone was as utterly hard-core as Ian. “I love taking care of a woman, you know that. I’m just not attracted to the clingy ones who need me to do everything for them. I want her to need me, but not need me for everything, know what I mean? I want a smart, independent woman who just happens to enjoy submitting to me sexually. Is that too much to ask?”

There was a snort, and then his brother’s sarcasm came spilling out. “It can be your eHarmony ad, bro. Wanted: smart, independent woman to play at D/s. Must like handcuffs, spankings, and anal sex.”

Sean fought the urge to growl. “Don’t make fun of me. At least I haven’t run through every submissive at the club.”

Ian’s easy shrug let Sean know he wasn’t getting to him. “Some of them twice. Unlike you, I have realistic expectations about how a relationship is going to go. It’s best to keep things short and sweet, with a contract in place, so everyone knows how to behave.”

Yes, Ian would think that way. Of course, he hadn’t always thought like that. Ian had been engaged once. No one talked about Holly anymore, not if they wanted to keep their head attached to their body. “Just stay out of my love life.”

“As you don’t seem to have one, I think that will be easy.” Ian stood up. His blue eyes were not unkind as they looked at Sean. “I’m going to head out to the club. I’m meeting the rest of the team there. Why don’t you come with us? You don’t need to start this tonight. Your meeting with Wright won’t be for another few weeks or so. You’ll be in deep cover. I talked to a friend in Chicago, and you’re all set. You’re going in as a man negotiating a contract for labor services. You’ll need to work at Kelvin Incorporated for a few weeks to make it look good.”

Yes, a couple of weeks as a corporate drone sounded very exciting. He should go to the club with Ian. He could pick up a sub for the night and spend a few hours forgetting the fact that the next several weeks would be dull as dirt. Of course, the last couple of years had been long, tedious jobs punctuated with the occasional person who tried to kill him. He was used to boredom. His hand found the file, and the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. “No, I want to read over this.”

Ian shrugged. “All right, little brother. Jake and Adam are heading to Fort Worth tomorrow. I’ve already gotten them interviews. Luckily, Wright is always looking for sales staff. Liam is going down to do recon and set up a little base of operations. They’ll make contact when you get there. We can go over it tomorrow. Don’t stay here all night.”

Sean huffed to let his brother know he didn’t need the parenting. One by one his co-workers came by and offered to keep him company. They said goodnight when he turned them down. Sean smiled and went back to his research. She was the key. Grace Hawthorne would break the case; Grace with her sad mouth and those intriguing yellow shoes.

It was a long time before he left his desk.

Chapter Two

“Hello.”

The deep masculine voice brought Grace’s attention up from her work. She lifted her head up, and up, and up. Wow. The man was huge. She couldn’t help but stare. He was dressed in an impeccably-cut dark suit. His snowy white dress shirt stood out against the black of the suit and emphasized the brilliant blue of his silk tie. His shoulders were so broad, she would bet he’d had the suit cut specifically for him. His shoulders tapered down to a lean waist and hips that flowed into legs that she bet were powerfully muscled. All of that she could handle, but then she got to his face.

His jaw was perfectly cut, as though someone had sculpted him from granite, chiseling away all the unneeded bits to leave him with a stark, masculine perfection. His blue eyes were icy, though not cold. As he stood looking down at her, he ran a big hand through his blonde hair. It was slicked back, though some of it fell over his brow giving him a boyish charm to go with the utterly male sexuality he exuded. He shouldn’t be in a suit. He should be wearing one of those helmets with horns on it, wielding a sword while he raided villages. He was a Viking god, and his lips quirked up faintly as she looked up at him. It emphasized the unbearably cute cleft in his chin.

“Hi.” It was all that would come out of her mouth. Several other greetings leapt to mind. Please take me roughly was one of them. She decided a simple hello might be the best way to go. She’d been reading far too many romances. She needed to cool down.

“Hello.” The Viking god had a slow, Southern accent. “I have a lunch appointment with Mr. Wright.”

Grace laughed. She couldn’t help it. Grace had learned long ago that she wasn’t very good at social deception. She glanced down at her calendar. “Of course you do. You must be Sean Johansson. I’ll let Mr. Wright know you’re here.”

His hand shot out as she was reaching for the phone. A grin played on his unbelievably sensual lips. Men shouldn’t have lips like that. “I have to know. What’s so funny? Is the suit bad? I admit I can have terrible taste in clothing. I usually wear jeans and T-shirts. My mother once accused me of buying all my clothes at concerts.”

She shook her head and tried not to think about how her skin tingled where he’d touched her. She sighed. Men were needy creatures. She decided to treat the Viking god like she did every other male in her life, with an amused nonchalance. “The suit is more than fine, and I think you know that. Your eyes appear to function, Mr. Johansson. Tell me, did the girls at reception faint when you walked in?”

A slight flush stained his high cheekbones. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was perfectly nice to them.”

“I bet you’re nice to all the girls.” She winked as she said it. It was a little fun flirtation. It livened up her day. She’d discovered men liked to flirt with a woman who had absolutely no expectations of them.

His expression took a serious turn. Those light blue eyes pinned her, and for the briefest of moments, Grace felt like a rabbit in the company of a hungry wolf. “I prefer women.”

She swallowed once and then was saved by the door to her boss’s office opening suddenly. The sound cracked through the air. Grace hadn’t realized just how quiet it had been before. Evan Parnell strode out of the office, his boots making angry contact with the hardwood floors. Matthew Wright followed him.

“Damn it. We need to talk about this.” Matt’s voice held an edge of desperation.

Evan stopped and held out a hand as though to stop Matt from speaking. Matt’s mouth closed. Grace could feel the tension between the men. She got out of her chair and started to walk toward them, hoping to calm the situation, but Sean Johansson was suddenly in her way. His big body was a wall between her and the arguing men. He’d moved fast. One minute he was in front of the desk, and then next he was a bulwark between her and whatever he apparently feared was about to happen. Grace tried to push her way around him. He turned to her, and the command was there, written plainly on his handsome face.

Stay where you are.

Grace thought briefly about arguing. Johansson’s eyes narrowed, and she backed down. She tried not to think about what the dominant look on his face did to her. Yep, she was going to stop reading romances. She was seeing things that weren’t there. Johansson was simply a gentleman who didn’t want to see her get hurt.

Evan’s muddy brown eyes swept across the room. Grace had never understood why Matt had hired Parnell in the first place. He was rude, difficult to deal with, and far too intense for Grace’s tastes. His face was always flat, as though the world was never enough for him, and he found not an ounce of joy in it.

“We’ll talk about it later. But I mean to have my way in this, Mr. Wright. You won’t like the consequences of backing out of our deal.” Parnell’s voice was dark, like molasses running over concrete. He turned to Grace. “Grace, I’ll take my check now.”

She looked to her boss. “But…”

“Just get the check, Grace.” Matt’s entire body was tight.

She wanted to argue that Parnell wasn’t due a check until the fifteenth, but something about her boss’s body language sent her to the locked drawer of her desk. The minute she sat down, the Viking eased up. He leaned casually against the side of her desk.

While Grace wrote out the check, Matt seemed to figure out that they weren’t alone in his elegant office. He straightened his suit as he checked out Sean Johansson.

“I’m sorry. Is Grace helping you?”

Parnell moved to the door, waiting. He didn’t look back, merely stood there, his arms crossed over his chest. He was a thin man, but strong. He wasn’t dressed in anything like a suit, but that didn’t surprise Grace. He always showed up in jeans, a flannel shirt, and a trucker hat. She supposed that was why he had to use Wright Temps to contract his janitorial services. He wasn’t a very professional man.

“Grace has been very helpful.” The Viking’s tone was smooth and calming. Grace knew it was a trick of her own libido, but she thought she could hear approval in his voice.

Grace tore the check out of the ledger. She stood up. “Matt, this is Sean Johansson. He’s your lunch appointment.”

Matt shook his head as though clearing it. His hand shot out toward the big Viking. “Of course. Please forgive me. You’re with Kelvin, right?”

“I am. I’m here to get the best deal possible out of you.”

Grace moved to get around Mr. Johansson. He looked down at her and, without asking, took the check out of her hand. He crossed the office in two strides. Parnell’s eyebrows arched, but he took the check. He wasted no time in leaving the office.

Johansson turned and smiled at Matt. “Now, I seem to remember we had a lunch appointment. I made reservations at Blue Moon. I find negotiations go so much smoother with a good margarita, don’t you?”

Matt let out a long breath, the previous tension leaving his body, and in its place was the charming man Grace knew so well. “Absolutely. I can tell we’re going to get along, Mr. Johansson.”

“Sean, please.”

“Of course, and I’m Matt. We should probably be on a first name basis since we’ll be calling each other bastard and asshole by the end of the month.”

Sean threw back his head. His booming laugh did things to Grace’s insides. She was deeply surprised because she was pretty sure she’d buried the sensual parts of her with her husband. She turned away from the sight of Sean. He was just a kid. He looked to be roughly thirty years old. He was only a few years older than her sons.

“Come on into my office, Sean. We can talk for a minute before we get to those margaritas.” Matt held open the door, and the Viking walked through. Grace felt the absence of his presence immediately. Matt’s well-coiffed head poked back out. He grinned at her. “Gracie, can you clear the rest of my appointments, babe?”

“Of course.” She glanced down at the calendar she kept on her desk. There was only one appointment, and she could foist that off on a manager or take it herself. Matt gave her a thumbs up and disappeared.

Grace laughed. It was utterly ridiculous, but she could breathe again. She quickly called one of the more competent managers. He was more than happy to take the meeting for Matt. It would be nice to have a quiet office for the afternoon. She thought of all the things she could catch up on. There were any number of projects she need to work on, so why did she find herself sitting at her desk, staring into space, listening for the sound of Sean Johansson’s voice?

“Holy crap, Gracie, did you see that?”

Grace looked up into her best friend’s face. Kayla Green’s mouth was hanging open. Grace was just waiting for the drool to start. There was no question in Grace’s mind that Kayla was talking about Sean Johansson. Grace shushed her. “He’s in Matt’s office.”

“Are you serious? Can I go in?”

“No. Back down, girl. He’s a client. You can’t jump the clients.”

Kayla set her hip against the desk and a saucy smile covered her sweet face. “I bet that one is used to getting jumped. I swear, I thought I was dreaming when he walked in, Grace. He looks like a…I don’t know what he looks like, but that man is sex on a stick.”

“A Viking.” The words were out of her mouth before she could call them back.

Kayla’s brown eyes went wide. “Oh my god, has your libido come back online? Hallelujah! Now, I think the Viking is a little much to start with, but I have some men in mind.”

“Whoa! Don’t you start on that.” If she didn’t put a stop to it, Kayla would have her own version of speed dating going in under five minutes. She would be fielding calls about dates from everyone from Kayla’s deadbeat brother to the UPS guy. Kayla collected single men’s numbers like others collected bobblehead dolls or stamps. “I’m old, not blind, Kay. I’d have to be blind not to notice that young man.”

“He isn’t that young, Grace. And you aren’t old. Forty isn’t old.”

“Forty with two kids in college sure as hell feels old. I doubt that puppy in there has even contemplated having kids. He’s a boy.”

Kayla shook her head. “You were wrong about being blind. That was a man if I ever saw one.” Kayla looked like she wanted to argue further, but simply sighed. “Fine. I get it. You’re willing to read about dirty, nasty sex, but you won’t let yourself have some. One of these days you’re going to wake up and realize that life has passed you by. I’ll be right by your side telling you I told you so.”

“Gee, that sounds lovely, Kay.” And possibly prophetic.
 
“If the boss is busy, what do you say we go to the salad bar for lunch and then get our toes done?”

Grace smiled up at her friend, eager to accept the invitation.

“I’m afraid the pedicure is going to have to wait, ladies.” Sean Johansson stood in the doorway, his big body filling the space to bursting. He leaned negligently against the wall, and Grace had the sudden worry that he’d heard way too much of their conversation. “Grace is going to join us for lunch.”

“I am?” The words croaked out of her throat.

His smile was steady and sure. “You are.”

Sean moved out of the way as Matt walked up behind him.

“Come on, Grace. Sean here thinks we need your brilliant brain to help us poor males out.” He was already pulling off his tie. If this was anything like Matt’s other lunchtime meetings, he wouldn’t come back to the office. Grace really hoped he would be sober at the end of the day. “And Gracie, bring something along to take notes.”

Matt was out the door and waiting by the elevator before Grace could grab her purse.

Sean Johansson waited patiently by her desk. His hand came out gallantly to take the large briefcase she carried just about everywhere. He briefly introduced himself to Kayla, and then his hand came out again to help Grace from her chair. His big hand enveloped her small one as he steadied her. He held her hand for a second or two longer than needed. When he let go, Grace felt the loss of his warmth. He offered her his arm as though they were a lord and lady from another time.

“Shall we?”

No. No. They really shouldn’t. It was a bad idea. Grace shook it off. He was a businessman looking for a good deal. She was the boss’s admin. Every halfway decent corporate executive knew the admin was the lifeline to the boss. Grace plastered a bright smile on her face and gave Kay a wink. She could flirt just as well as Sean Johansson could.

“I believe I could use a margarita, Mr. Johansson.”

“It’s Sean, Grace. I’ve heard this place has the best in North Texas. The drinks better be good because I would hate to disappoint you.” He started to lead her out. “And Grace, nice shoes.”

She looked down at the purple peep toes she’d selected this morning. They were the only color in her outfit. She was wearing a black skirt and gray top. The purple seemed to give her a little personality. Now she wondered what those purple, four-inch heels would look like propped on Sean Johansson’s shoulders.

She was definitely going to need that margarita.

Copyright 2011 Lexi Blake

For the rest of the book, please visit here