When Gabriela Parson starts her new job she also finds her true love from her past. But an anonymous letter sends her searching for the truth.
Unfortunately, she may be too late to discover that her search for innocence has taken her face-to-face with the kind of evil many refuse to believe exists, and which in the end could cost her, her life.
With clammy hands Gabriela straightened her skirt and then her hair before stepping into Landon’s office—acts that drew a smile from Dianne.
Fire seemed to pour through Gabriela’s core, and her heart hammered fast and hard against her ribs as her unease grew. A nagging feeling settled in the pit of her stomach.
Get a hold of yourself, she silently encouraged herself.
With her hand on the door handle she sucked in a deep breath and put on her false confidence, ready to go in.
The door opened forcefully and unexpectedly sending her flying in Landon’s arms.
Strong arms wound around her waist as she squealed in surprize. Her body was completely pressed against a hard, flat stomach, her ample cleavage pushed up against a lean, muscular chest, and her wide green eyes were completely lost in the most incredible set of grey eyes she’d ever seen.
As she nervously yanked her gaze from his, he pulled her towards him holding her tight and before she could react, he spun and pinned her against the wall pressing his body on hers.
Using the weight of his pelvis to hold her there, he let her feel one facet of his desire, intending to make her understand the extent of it. With a finger he cupped her chin lightly raising it until she looked at him.
She placed her palm on his chest in protest but he crushed her lips with his, silencing her.
Her body stiffened shocked by a jolt of awareness as she felt his heat penetrating through the thickness of their clothes.
She had never been struck by lightning, but she imagined it felt a lot like this – the scorching heat at the point of contact, the aftershocks in every far corner of her body, the dizzy spin beneath her feet. Far beyond her control now, her body began to issue a series of demands. Her mouth wanted to kiss him, her tongue to suck and her teeth to bite. Her fingers clenched with the urge to run through his silky dark hair as sanity intruded.
When he loosened his grip she pushed him away and dragged in a deep breath fighting to regain control. Gasping, she tried to think, to regulate her heartbeat.
Long seconds passed and the connection between them remained, unbroken and brighter than ever.
Choked with desire, she couldn’t speak.
“What are you doing?” She managed a strangled phrase.
He wasn’t doing much better. A shudder racked his body as he placed his palms on the wall on each side of her head, still pinning her, he waged an obvious struggle with his control.
A smile clung to his lips when he found his voice. “If you have to ask, I must be doing it wrong.”
She stared at him perplexed by his nerve. “Excuse me?”
He looked straight into her eyes. “You really don’t remember me, do you?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Two years ago? …Roxy’s? …ring a bell?”
Suddenly the room tipped and turned and spun upside down, as the air laid heavy on her like a forced stillness. She bit her lip as tears started welling up in her eyes.
Of course she remembered. How could she forget? He was the guy who’d colored her fantasies for the past two years. Though she was very drunk, and his face remained a blur, she could never forget that night. Or him.
Everyone makes mistakes. Right?
Gabriela glared at the door of Landon’s private office and bit the inside of her lower lip.
More precisely every woman makes mistakes, but what are the chances that the woman will have to be reminded of her not so brilliant actions because her mistake has hired her and is now polluting her environment with clouds of testosterone.
Of course, mistake didn’t quite describe what she’d done with Landon. No tiny lapse in judgment there.
When Gabriela Parson had decided to throw common sense out the window, she didn’t mess around. She went all the way.
Her cheeks blazed at the memory.
Insanity was the only explanation for her behavior. If temporary insanity was a legal defense in criminal court, shouldn’t she also be able to escape punishment for her lapse in judgment? Or to use the technical word – stupidity?
It had started as a fun night out to help her bounce from the slight psychological impact of a cheating boyfriend, when she’d noticed a very handsome young man – him – checking her out. Typical male behaviour, zeroing in on her butt and chest area.
After she had muttered the word “Asshole,” the corners of his mouth curved into a crooked smile, and although Gabriela was fully clothed, she never in her life had felt more naked.
She had decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to face him with all the defiance she could muster and before she knew it, a word came out tumbling.
His smile grew bigger as he’d approached her.
“You look like a girl deep in thought.” His smile had revealed a set of white teeth and a lot of charm.
“What if I am?” Her eyes had strayed away somewhat ashamed of her behaviour, as he’d taken the seat next to her.
“Care to share some of those thoughts?” His voice was drenched in wit and charm.
“God made thoughts quiet for a reason, don’t you think?” She’d responded catching him off guard.
Name exchange, a few laughs and quite a few more drinks had followed, and the night had ended in a room…with him. That night she had done things to this man, sexual things, which she had never done to any other man.
The following morning she’d slowly opened her eyes and looked around. She was naked on a flood of wonderfully soft pillows in a huge four-poster bed – not her bed – which was richly hand-carved.
She had moved her toes to see if she was alive.
When she’d turned her gaze to the side, beside her, peacefully sleeping was a young man – indeed a very satisfied with himself and the world, young man – also very naked.
A pounding headache had forced her to close her eyes and images of the wildest night of her life had come rushing through her head, images of passion and lust still yearning the last movements of their bodies.
Through bleary eyes, her head pounding like a solo drum, she’d finally saw her clothes in a pile next to the bed. She’d breathed a sigh of relief.
She’d looked at her hand, which was shaking. She hadn’t known if she was shaking because of the situation or because of the effects of the hangover.
She’d gotten dressed, and then realized that she had no idea where her purse was.
Panic had started anew in her throat. By then, she was beginning to understand that this particular suite was gorgeous and distinctively classic. She remembered thinking that the guy had taste. Just then she’d heard her ring tone across the room, and she’d darted over to her purse immediately silencing the loud phone.
She’d crept out the door, shutting it gently behind her.
In the cab on the way home, she’d tried to piece it all back together.
She couldn’t remember much about him, in fact she didn’t think she could pick him out of a lineup at that point.
Back in the moment – body and mind – blood started to boil through her veins, steadily building up anger.
A while back she had promised God never to speak another profanity, but this situation was a good excuse to go back on her promise.
She was angry not only at the way her body was still responding to Landon two years later, but she was angry at Landon. How dared he hire her knowing that…
“Are you freaking kidding me? You hired me because you thought I’m a slut. Didn’t you?!” She exploded.
“Wow! Calm down, will you? Where did you get that idea?”
“I should’ve known that you didn’t hire me on the spot based on my limitless experience! You are a pig, like the rest of the male world,” she regretted saying it as soon as it came out of her mouth but it was too late.
The words just spouted out and she was aware that their working relationship might have been forever ruined but anger did strange things to her tongue sometimes. Especially where sexy fantasy men were concerned. She swallowed hard. That was so not like her. Temper tantrums were for two year olds. After all, she had been an equal partner in crime, so to say. That night was as much her fault as it was his. Still, she wasn’t looking for a carrier as the boss’ slut.
“That’s a little harsh and judgemental, don’t you think?”
“Is it?” she looked at him challenging him to explain himself, but then changed her mind and headed for the door. “I think we’re done here.”
“Okay, okay. Please sit down and let me explain.”
“Oh, pahleese, don’t let me interrupt you.” She stopped and turned around, her words dripping with sarcasm. No matter how hard she tried, she didn’t seem to be able to control her anger.
“Look. I can’t say that I don’t wish for a repeat of that night, because I do,” he said, a smile tugging at his lips. He wasn’t lying. From the moment he saw her that night at the bar, he was sure of one thing – he wanted her to be his, and just now, that good–girl side made her all the more appealing.
The man had nerve to spare. And he had at least as much sex appeal as nerve. No wonder she’d run in opposite direction last time. If she had any sense right now, she’d do the exact same thing.
“Oh! I bet you do! See, I knew it!”
“Wait. Let me finish.
She waved him on, urging him to go right ahead and finish.
Landon had hoped that that night was special for her since every detail of it was saved and stored in his own memory. But when she’d left while he was sleeping, never to be heard from again, in all honesty, the sting of her disappearance still ached two years later.
“I hired you because I checked your credentials before I interviewed you. Before I even knew that you were…you. I know you’ve finished at the top of your class. However, since that night I could never stop thinking about you, and I would’ve been crazy to let you go once again, before getting to know you.”
“W-what the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Why did you leave me there that morning? Why did you leave before I woke up? I thought we had a good time,” he said, ignoring her question.
“I-I don’t know. I thought that that is the protocol for one night stands.”
“Protocol? How many one night stands have you had in order to establish a protocol?”
She didn’t know if it was the smirk or the simmering humor beneath his words, but her temper went from zero to ninety in a millisecond.
Her eyes narrowed. Her spine stiffened, and she drew herself erect. She stepped closer to her new boss and came out verbally swinging.
“Just who the hell do you think you are, talking about me as if you know me?”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I just thought we had a good time.”
Too good, she thought, but didn’t say anything.
“And how did you know it was a one night stand?” Landon asked.
“Well, you left before we found out.”
“If you think back to that night, you’ll recall that you were just as evasive about us seeing one another again, as I was. It seemed a mutual decision not to let each other get too close.”
“Do you have any idea how many times I tried to track you down?” He’d kicked himself for not finding out more about her, but the attraction had been so strong, so fast, they hadn’t talked much beyond the preliminaries. After a short pause he asked: “So, now what?”
“What about us?”
“There is no us. You are my boss.”
“It’s nothing illegal about that. I checked.” He smiled allowing a dimple to form in his cheek.
“Why not? We don’t have a policy against dating coworkers.”
“I do…and you haven’t even asked me if I’m available.”
“I know you are. I checked that too.”
She raised an eyebrow, “…of course you did,” she looked away and flailed her arms in the air. “How many different ways can I say ‘no’?”
Frantically, she brainstormed strategies for keeping away from him. Just a few minutes ago she was fine. And now, after two years, he was back, stirring up a bunch of messy feelings she did not have patience for. Damn him!
She couldn’t take her eyes off his face. There were specks of dark blue dancing in his grey eyes and he was flashing his dimple, which she had the most ridiculous urge to kiss.
Okay. It was simple. She obviously couldn’t risk being alone with him. Not because of what he might do, but because of what she might do. She didn’t trust herself not to throw herself at him and demand he finish the interrupted kiss, with the hope that it would lead to something else.
Still, the attraction between them was there, interfering with their working relationship. And to her annoyance, none of her silent lectures about the stupidity of office romances stopped her from having wild, erotic dreams about the man, in and out of the office, awake and in her sleep.
She’d wake up in bed, her skin prickly and her body overheated knowing that she’d been imagining herself making love to him. Impossible to get back to sleep – not after those steamy dreams – she’d come to work rumpled and bleary–eyed.
Sometimes Landon would look the same way, and she’d wonder if he were awake at night for the same reason.
Her rational brain frantically struggled and sent logical waves to her verbal gismo.
“Is there any chance for me to work here without being reminded of a one night that I spent with my boss when I didn’t know he was going to be my boss?”
Landon’s rational brain seemed stuck somewhere way below his waistline. “That sounds so sexy but you seem so uptight, Miss Parson. I liked the Gabriela from that night better. Live a little. How long has it been since you were…you know…with a guy?”
Angered by his insensitivity she retorted. “That’s very rude, and so not your business.”
It had been several months since she had her last meaningless date, and it was two years since she was with a guy…for real.
Her sexual life was not exactly an award winner. She had managed to lose her virginity in college to a guy she thought she was in love with.
The night she’d met Landon was the night she’d thrown a heavy glass vase at her boyfriend’s head. She’d thrown that vase at his head because she’d decided to skip a few classes and surprise him at his frat house. He’d ended up surprising her, by being in the middle of “consoling” a distraught-over-the-loss-of-her-cat girl. Consoling had been his version. So, he’d shattered her heart and she’d shattered his favorite vase. As the pain of betrayal had started fading, anger had swept right into place and she’d ended up at Roxy’s where alcohol and anger had sent her in Landon’s arms that night – a night which she never truly regretted. But then, she was sure she was never going to see him again.
After Landon, she only had a few failed attempts to forget her night with Landon. But of course, she wasn’t going to get into all that with Landon.
“Will you at least have dinner with me? Catch up on old times.” He flashed his teeth like a lion who smelled a gazelle nearby.
What old times? We had one night of wild sex. Yes, I want to catch up on that, but you are my boss.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said aloud.
“We can go to Roxy’s. They have awesome steaks there.”
“Oh, so you want to return to the crime scene?”
“Crime scene? Where do you come up with that shit?” He smiled. “C’mon. I don’t bite. I promise.”
Her heart galloped, the past melding into the present. Remembering not to encourage him she shot him an angry look.
“It’s not funny. If I am to work here, we need to stay away from each other.”
He grinned certain that she must’ve felt the same way about him or else she wouldn’t be so defensive. God, she was beautiful. It had been two years since his hands had tangled in those kinky, sun-streaked curls.
“Don’t you trust me?”
Trust him? Those two words cooled her hot blood more effectively than ice cubes. No, she didn’t trust him. And she didn’t trust herself.
“Yeah, about as far as I could throw you.”
“What’s the matter? Is the truth too hard to swallow? C’mon now. Is nothing wrong with two consenting adults having dinner together.”
She didn’t like the way he said ‘consenting adults’. “We need to set boundaries, Mr. Godchild. I mean it,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“I can do boundaries. I promise to be a good boy.”
Technically speaking, she didn’t want him to be a good boy. In fact she wanted him to be as bad as he had been that night. If only he wasn’t her boss. But the fact that he was, changed everything and she had to ensure that their relationship remained at a professional level. She hated how the easy humor in his voice nearly undid her each and every time.
“Absolutely not. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do,” she whirled around and left the room, before giving Landon a chance to respond.