Posted by ravenstpierre
Just a few things before you check out the first chapter of the book down below 🙂
With the release of “Delivered” just around the corner, I’ve decided to share the first chapter with you this morning! I’ll be releasing this chapter *and* the second through my email newsletter, so if you’re interested in reading more after this, just subscribe here to receive Chapter 2 this coming Monday, November 24th!
❤ For those who haven’t heard yet, DLIVERED: Angel and Kai (Free Falling, #4) is a standalone within my AMBW romance series, featuring secondary characters from the saga. Book one, Gravity, is still *FREE*, so go grab a copy today! ❤
Oh! And don’t forget, the cover/trailer reveal will be December 1st, so make sure you come back to check it out 🙂
There were three simple rules:
Don’t fall in love.
They followed them all… except one.
Kai carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, always putting the needs of others before his own. Angel is almost thirty and finds herself starting over in more ways than one. Both sought an outlet, a no-strings-attached arrangement to escape reality, but what happens when that fantasy becomes the realest thing they’ve ever felt?
*** DELIVERED is a standalone romance within the Free Falling Series and features secondary characters from the saga. This book can be read out of sequence of the series***
An unfamiliar number flashed across my phone and I sent the caller straight to voicemail… again. Although, there was no name to confirm, I was positive it was the blind date I stood up—the third in the last two months. Maybe now my friends’ wives, girlfriends, and whoever else, would stop trying to pair me up with any and all single women they knew.
The tall buildings and busy streets synonymous with New York City, along with the haze of colorful lights, became almost hypnotic. Swiveling the drink in my hand, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the living room window. I stood there, still clad in the white dress shirt and gray slacks I’d worn to work. I had to ask myself if this—skipping dates, working way too many hours, closing myself off—was some form of self-sabotage. Instead of meeting up with a woman who’d been described to me as “everything I could ever possibly want,” I stayed at the office until ten o’ clock tonight, working on things that could’ve honestly waited until tomorrow.
Part of what kept me after hours—or at least the excuse I let myself use—was the arrival of my new assistant in the morning. I was sure she wouldn’t be able to handle some of the harder tasks I would have otherwise handed over, so I did them myself to keep from falling behind.
With my former assistant, Carla, suddenly confined to the house, I had to scramble for a replacement. Her doctor wanted her out for the remainder of her pregnancy, followed by a three-month stint of maternity leave afterward. I admittedly had very little confidence in the newcomer. For one, everything worked out just a little too conveniently. There was a very real possibility that this woman, Angel, being a relative of my boss’ wife, might not even be qualified. How could I be sure she didn’t just get this job because she had connections?
She and I actually had a chance to meet a couple weeks ago, purely by coincidence. I stopped off to grab paperwork from my boss’ place before heading out of town on business. Little did I know, the beautiful woman who momentarily stole my focus, the one who had my palms sweating like an adolescent boy, was actually her—Angel.
There was a family gathering at the house and she happened to answer when I showed up. Had I known then the role she’d play, I wouldn’t have stared as long as I did… as intensely as I did. My eyes were all over her right up until we were introduced and I realized who she was. The last thing I wanted was for her to get the wrong idea about me or our arrangement. It didn’t matter how attractive I found her to be, didn’t matter what wayward thoughts entered my head; our relationship would never be anything but professional. Hopefully the first impression I left hadn’t skewed that.
I sipped the strong liquor in my glass again and tried to accept tomorrow’s changes. There was no time in my schedule to hold someone’s hand until they learned the ropes. Nor would I apologize for liking things done a certain way or expecting them to be done right the first time. My hours in the office, already being limited, meant efficiency was not a luxury; it was a requirement.
In the middle of my thoughts, a stray image of Angel echoed inside my head and I pushed it aside, focusing my attention on the day to come. It’d be her first and, most likely, I’d just give her busy work to keep her out of my hair. The things I called on Carla for were difficult and more often than not, she knew what I needed before I even asked. That type of intuitiveness was priceless and I was sure I wouldn’t find that anywhere else.
With how complicated my job and my personal life could get, I needed someone in place who moved when I moved, knew how to read me without me having to say a word. Carla had worked for me for almost seven years, even followed me over from my previous company. So, to say that I was dreading the upcoming transition was a huge understatement.
Just six months and it’ll all be over.
Feeling a swell of tension spread across my shoulders, I took a seat on the piano bench and continued to stare outside, gazing at the view just beyond my apartment. It was late and I should’ve been getting into bed, but my thoughts went back to the blind date I didn’t even think enough of to call and cancel with. This woman, whoever she may be, was probably better off not getting pulled into my life anyway. She couldn’t possibly know this, but by standing her up, I’d just done her a huge favor, given her an easy out. There wasn’t a woman alive who’d willingly shoulder what I brought to the table.
Not a single one.
My father’s voice was not the first I wanted to hear this morning, but I knew he’d keep calling until I gave in and picked up. However, about five minutes into this call, it was clear he just wanted to give me a hard time about taking this job. In his mind, I should’ve been working with him years ago. After all, he was the one who inspired me to pursue a career in accounting in the first place. The plan was to finish school and then train under him until I was experienced enough to take on clients of my own. Well… that sounded good on paper, but I’d long since finished school and still wasn’t sure if the rest of that plan held the same appeal it once had.
My father was clearly having a hard time accepting that.
“Well, okay, Dad. Love you to pieces, but I can’t do this right now. The cab just dropped me off and I’m on my way in. Gonna have to chat later.”
He sighed into the receiver, letting me know he didn’t appreciate me dismissing him. Brushing shoulders with other pedestrians, I envisioned the scowl I knew had to be set on his mouth. I tried not to laugh.
“Love you,” I repeated to soften him up.
“Mmm hmm. I love you, too,” he finally grumbled. “I’ll be expecting that call from you later on.”
Of course he would. “I know, but aren’t you gonna wish me good luck, though?”
As much as I know he didn’t want to, he appeased me with a flat, “Good luck,” but then his attention went to my mother as she spoke in the background. When his voice came back, it was to say that Mom wanted to get a word in before he hung up.
I couldn’t help the eye roll that came with the realization that she, too, probably wanted to give me a hard time this morning. About what, I wasn’t sure exactly.
“Okay, put her on.” A brief pause on the other end gave me a moment to inhale a sharp breath as the crosswalk signal changed and I stepped off the curb.
“Morning, honey. I know you’re on your way to work, but I wanted to chat with you for a few,” she said, sounding incredibly chipper.
I gazed up at the tall building I stood in front of and nodded as if she could see me. “I’m actually here already, so I won’t be able to talk long.”
“That’s fine. I’m just checking in to see if you got that number from Sam yet.”
My stomach sank at my mother’s words. I should’ve known this was the reason she was so eager to get the phone from my father. Nearly every time we talked lately it was to bug me about getting the number for the therapist my cousin saw years ago when she faced something tragic. I didn’t need the number for Sam’s doctor, but my mother couldn’t seem to accept that answer the twenty-‘leven times she’d mentioned it before now.
“Angel Corrine Hawthorne, you are not fine,” she cut in, knowing what I was about to say. “And if you don’t get that number, I promise I’ll make the appointment myself.”
How is it that my mother could still make me feel like a kid and I’m damn near thirty? She meant well; trust me I was aware of this, but I’m a grown woman who’s been handling her own business for quite some time now.
Had things been rough after my break up with Lamar? Yes, absolutely. You don’t spend three years with a man and just bounce back when it ends. To me, I should’ve been allowed to cope in my own way, though. I chose to fill the void my ex left in my life by keeping busy, which was my reason for volunteering at a local youth center a couple times a week. Some women like to talk about their feelings, share their experience with anyone who’ll listen, but that’s not me. It was hard enough living through the breakup once, so rehashing it every time someone asked what happened just didn’t appeal to me. So, for that reason, I didn’t bother with giving people the details. All anyone needed to know was that Lamar wasn’t in the picture anymore.
“Ma, I love you dearly, but this really isn’t the time.” I bit my tongue to keep from adding, ‘And this really isn’t your business.’
My mother fell silent on the other end of the line and I knew it wouldn’t last long. The cushion of time I left myself to get into the office and get settled before things got too crazy was slowly slipping away.
“You don’t think it’s a little strange that you haven’t talked to anyone about what happened with Lamar? I mean, one day you two are talking marriage, the next he’s gone and you won’t tell anyone why?”
‘No! It’s not strange! This is my life and I’m not about to tell you every detail of it,” I wanted to say, but I didn’t feel like having to apologize for it later. So, instead, I spoke gently to my mother.
“I just don’t want to talk about it. Don’t see the point in talking about it,” I clarified.
I knew what people thought. With how abruptly Lamar was out of my life, the women closest to me—my mother, and my cousin, Sam—assumed it was another woman. Time and time again I assured them that wasn’t the case, but I believe they still held on to that theory in the back of their minds.
Now my day was off to a sucky start. Thanks, Mom.
A polite older gentleman held the heavy, brass-framed door for me as I entered the building, mouthing a silent ‘thank you’ right after.
“I’ll stop pushing,” was my mother’s next statement. Did I believe her? Hell no; it wasn’t in her nature not to push, but I’d take it for now. I was already nervous about today and didn’t need the extra stress.
“I know it’s only because you love me,” I replied. “But I really am okay.”
An unconvinced-sounding “Mmm hmm,” was her response, and shortly after that she let me end the call like I so desperately wanted.
Veering left toward a coffee kiosk just inside the lobby, I did my best to clear my head of both conversations I had with each of my parents—about my decision to take this job and all the talk about Lamar. All that stuff was old news. It was time to try some new things, time to take steps in a new direction.
Standing in line, my stomach churned when I considered grabbing something to go with the cup of tea I planned to order. My eyes drifted toward a cheese danish in the glass display and I felt queasy again. Yeah… eating was definitely not an option, not with these nerves going haywire like they were.
While I waited to be helped, I watched the men and women pass by in their expensive suits, also noticing their equally expensive handbags and briefcases as they entered the building. While I should’ve been at ease because of the familial connection I had here—this branch of the company being run by my cousin-in-law, AJ—I felt uptight about it, actually. Being honest, I’d been second-guessing this decision almost from the beginning. Yeah, the pay was good, but so was the pay at my other job. I’d basically walked away from stability, from certainty, to take this short-term position. I couldn’t help myself, though. For months, I’d been itching for a change, which was why Sam thought of me as soon as she found out about the opening.
So many things that used to fit, things that used to make sense in my life, just stopped feeling right. It was like I woke up one day and just felt like I was in the wrong skin. Now I was anxious all the time, like I should be doing something else with my life, like I should be somewhere else, only there’s nowhere else to go.
One thing I liked about this new position was that it wouldn’t be the same thing day in and day out and I needed a little unpredictability in my life—even if this was the only way I could get it. From what I understood, the hours were kinda odd. Apparently my new boss, Kai, was in and out at crazy times of the day and night, and I had to work around that. I was okay with the schedule, but based on how rigid I heard he was, I hadn’t yet decided if we would mesh well. If not, another good thing about this job was that it’s temporary. I wouldn’t be here for more than six months.
Deciding against even the cup of tea, my eyes glanced over toward the security guards as I passed them on my left. Forcing myself to take another deep breath, I headed for the elevator. Seven floors up, I was supposed to check in with AJ and then I’d be at Kai’s mercy. I sighed at the thought of it. According to what Sam told me, I should expect him to be all business with little room for much else. I even got the impression he was skeptical about anyone other than his recent assistant being able to handle this job. I’m professional. I’m teachable, but accounting is my niche. This was all new to me, so I guess I was a bit skeptical myself.
Apparently, this girl who was in my position before was freakin’ Superwoman or something. So, not only did I have to learn this job at lightning speed, I had some pretty big shoes to fill, too.
No pressure, right?
“Perfect.” Reading the ‘out of service’ sign posted between the two elevators, my shoulders slumped. Six-inch heels and seven flights of stairs just seemed fitting, considering how wonderfully my day had already been going. “You have got to be freakin’ kidding me. Both elevators? Really?”
I’d just raked my nails over my scalp, feeling strands of my hair between my fingers, when the words, “Don’t sweat it. It should be fixed by lunchtime,” pulled me from my thoughts. The voice was very deep, equally smooth.
The statement had been spoken off to my right, so I turned that way, dropping my hand back down to my side. A set of dark, sloping eyes gazed right back at me.
A barely-there smile softened his otherwise demure expression.
To break up the long, inappropriate stare I cast his way when I first laid eyes on him, I blinked. Kai stepped closer, wearing the hell out of a single-breasted suit, one that complimented his complexion in French-blue. I didn’t speak, drinking in every detail as we stood there—from the way his low-trimmed stubble accentuated his mouth, to the way his bronzy, sun-kissed skin contrasted the jet-black tone of his hair—freshly cut, might I add. The tailored attire hugged his torso and arms just enough, emphasizing the unmistakable divots and curvature of trained muscle beneath the sleeves. However, despite the slight bulk of his frame, his height made him appear slimmer in stature as my eyes crept up every inch of him.
Kai. I thought his name to myself again, feeling it roll off my tongue, although, I only uttered it inside my head. He struck me as the quiet, broody type—didn’t smile much either time we met, but when he did it was dim, reserved. That intrigued me.
His eyes gave away his Asian heritage and I detected a general… I don’t know… sexiness about him. I couldn’t put it to words, but it was there.
He extended his hand. “I’m not sure if you remember me, but I’m Kai. We met a couple—”
“I remember,” I cut in, offering my hand in return. How unfortunate that he, this beautiful, sexy man, was my new boss; the one Sam had warned me would be particularly hard to work for. ‘A stickler for detail and a perfectionist’ were the words she used to describe him.
The corners of his mouth lifted into a smile. Albeit a tight, hesitant one, it was a smile nonetheless.
“Angel, right?” he asked, letting my name drip from his lips. His deep voice entwined with each syllable and I couldn’t remember it ever sounding so good. Who would’ve thought hearing my own damn name would be such a turn-on?
I nodded in response, but didn’t speak.
“It uh…” He paused and ran a hand across his chin before continuing, letting his palm and fingertips graze over the dark, neatly-trimmed stubble there. “It went out late yesterday evening,” he went on, gesturing toward the sign. “Apparently, both elevators are on the same circuit or something, so when one went, the other did, too. Maintenance is usually pretty good about these sorts of things, though.”
Realizing I hadn’t yet broken my gaze, I nodded and offered a weak smile. “Oh, okay… good to know.”
“The stairs are right this way.” I zeroed in on his tanned skin and the expensive, gold watch on his wrist when his hand motioned toward the double doors at the far wall of the lobby. We were obviously headed the same way, to the same floor, so naturally we ended up walking together.
I did my best not to look Kai’s way when he held the door for me and I tried to keep that up even as we ascended the steps, but that didn’t last long because he decided to strike up a conversation.
“Nervous about today?” he asked. I got the feeling he meant for the question to come across lighthearted, easy, but it was anything but. There was a hint of tension in his voice that only added to what I was already feeling.
My eyes went his way and I started to tell him I was fine, but the honest answer slipped out instead. “Very nervous.”
He laughed quietly, which surprised me.
“Don’t be. Hahn speaks highly of you,” he said, referring to my cousin-in-law, AJ. “And despite what you might’ve heard,” Kai went on, “I’m not a bad guy.”
Sam’s description of Kai as a boss definitely contradicted that statement, but I found myself hoping this was true.
“Well… as long as you’re okay with me asking a ton of questions while I’m learning, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
Kai didn’t respond, didn’t say a word after that. Not one, leaving me to wonder if he preferred that I didn’t bother him.
We went up a few flights of stairs in silence. It was awkward enough that, more than once, I considered stopping off, using the excuse that I needed to make a quick stop in the lady’s room just so I could get away from him. Being the talkative person that I am, it always left me feeling incredibly uncomfortable when people shut down on me. And that’s exactly what Kai had done. The moment I mentioned that I might need to come to him frequently for help, he froze up. His former assistant was awesome—I got it—but did that mean he wouldn’t even give me a chance?
I recalled the vibe I felt from him the first day we met, the vibe that dissipated the moment we found out we’d be working together. Was that what this was about? The reason I detected this chill toward me? Maybe he wanted to make sure I was aware of what our boundaries were? If that was the case, he had nothing to worry about. I mean, yeah, I know I didn’t imagine the mutual attraction between us at first glance, but he wasn’t the only one who shied away from it after we were formally introduced. I had no interest whatsoever in getting involved with a man who was now “technically” my boss.
Kai stepped to the door first when we reached our floor and held it for me.
“Thank you,” I said politely as I passed through. Kai responded with nothing more than a nod.
A narrow hallway led us to a pair of frosted, glass doors that read ‘Arata’ across both in bold letters. The brief exchange with Kai on the way up here did nothing but make me even more apprehensive about this, but it was too late to turn back now. Besides, I refused to throw in the towel on this. This change could only lead to good things. Despite my nerves, I could feel it. So, taking a deep breath, I stepped into the office.
Things were still quiet and I noted that several cubicles were empty as we passed. Kai must’ve noticed the inquisitive look on my face because he explained right after.
“Most of the employees don’t arrive until nine. I just prefer to start my day early when I can. I hope that’s not a problem.”
Staying poised as I followed his steps, I shook my head. “No. This is fine. I’m an early riser anyway,” I replied. “There’s no problem.”
Another nod from the man of few words.
While he led the way, I stared at the back of his head, at the dark, silky strands he styled neatly with a little bit of product. His shoulders moved in synch with his gait and I eyed his trim frame again, immediately chastising myself for doing so.
Kai’s steps slowed and I stopped beside him, clutching my handbag. His light touch to my elbow made goosebumps prickle on my arms despite there being no actual skin-on-skin contact between us; the long sleeve of my blouse prevented it. Still, the gentleness of the gesture was a stark contrast to his otherwise stoic demeanor.
“Hahn’s office is the second door on the left,” he said, referring to my cousin-in-law by his last name again. “Come see me when you’re done,” Kai added, gesturing toward another door, the one that apparently led to his own office.
His words trailed off and his fingers slipped away from the material of my top, but I swore I still felt them lingering for a moment. He’d gone his own way, casually easing one hand into the pocket of his suit pants while the other clutched the handle of a brown, leather briefcase. He was smooth, dapper, sexy, but I wouldn’t dare let any of those things cloud my judgement.
‘Find AJ,’ I said in my head, reminding myself what I was supposed to be doing. I’d been here once after hours with Sam, so even without Kai’s help, I would’ve found my way quickly. Giving a soft knock, I was invited in by a familiar voice, one that erased a bit of the morning’s anxiety.
“Mornin’.” AJ greeted me with a smile. I entered and I barely returned the gesture as I took a seat.
Already, I got the feeling Kai and I would clash. We were very different, possibly too different to work together effectively, but it was early yet. I required an open line of communication with whomever I worked with or for. Kai, on the other hand? Definitely a lone wolf. He made it clear that he wasn’t too keen on me popping in throughout the day to get help—even though I’m hella new here.
“So… you ready to get started?” AJ asked.
A long breath left my mouth and I thought about that.
“Uh… I think so,” I replied, the sound of which made him laugh. He’d known me for nearly a decade—long enough to distinguish a lie from the truth. Before asking anything else, he stood to close the door and then came back to sit after adjusting the jacket of his black suit.
“All right. Now, what’s really up?” he asked. “It’s just us.”
My eyes went to the picture at the corner of his desk when he finished speaking, the one of my cousin, Sam, and their handsome son who was all smiles as usual. It was then that I realized… yeah, I’d essentially be working for Kai, but I was among family here as well.
One eyebrow lifted as he waited for me to answer; however, I decided against sharing my feelings, kept the fact that I was intimidated as hell by this job to myself.
“You know what? Nothing. I’ll be fine,” I said, standing from the comfy seat.
“You sure?” he asked as I moved toward the door.
I nodded, momentarily missing the simplicity of having my old job down to a science. This job was new territory, but I decided to woman-up and stop assuming I’d fail before even getting started.
Even if I was beginning to think that’s exactly what Kai expected… failure.
“Well… good luck,” AJ added. “And if you need anything, don’t hesitate to stop in.”
I gave a nod, keeping his words in mind, and then closed his door behind me. It was time to face Kai again. When I reached his office, I lifted my hand to knock, but hesitated when I heard him speaking low.
“All right. I Love you, too,” he said to the caller on the other end.
I’d looked him over pretty well when I first laid eyes on him at Sam and AJ’s door—who the hell could blame me—and then again today on our way up here, so I knew he wasn’t wearing a wedding band. However, that didn’t eliminate the possibility of there being a girlfriend. This conversation didn’t confirm that he belonged to someone, but that was automatically where my thoughts led me… not that he was a prospect before that.
Once I heard him cradle the phone in its base, I waited another few seconds before knocking. I stepped inside when I was invited to do so. Kai’s eyes were glued to a document in his hands as I moved toward his desk. He finally looked up and I forced myself to pretend he was just an average-looking guy who wasn’t dressed to the nine, who didn’t smell like he soaked in bathwater laced with pheromones sent down directly from the heavens this morning. Nope… I had to try to think of him as just some regular guy. The fact that he intimidated the hell out of me made it a little easier, though.
Touching a finger to my hairline, I fought the urge to fan myself. Damn…who was I kidding? This man definitely wasn’t average.
“Well, I guess we’re ready to get this show on the road,” he started. “I’ll take you to your work area first, so you can put your things down.”
When he finished speaking, I nodded and then followed him back out into the main area of the office as he led the way with a relaxed saunter. We stopped at a small cubicle not too far from his door where I’d be stationed for convenience.
“There’s a cabinet right there that locks if you’d like to keep your purse or other personal belongings there,” he said, gesturing off to the left.
I nodded and accepted the key from his hand, taking advantage of the opportunity to double-check that ring finger. It was like I thought; empty.
I smiled casually and went ahead and locked up my purse. Next, Kai aimed a finger toward the cubicle beside mine. “That’s Reese’s area, Hahn’s assistant,” he said with the slightest bit of irritation in his tone. “She’s out of the office for the day, but she’s a talker. My advice: don’t let her suck you into her conversation. You’ll never get any work done that way. If she’s a problem, let me know. I’ll handle her.”
I got the impression he didn’t think very highly of this Reese, whoever she was. He was definitely all business.
“The copy room is right this way,” he said next, and I followed him again. “Oh, and I’m fine with you having access to your cell while you’re working,” he added, glancing down at his watch when the conversation paused. “You know, so you’re easily accessible if anyone needs to get in touch with you—husband, kids, whoever.”
The timing of that comment struck me as odd. If I didn’t know better, I might think he was fishing for information about me. That couldn’t have been it, though, so I dismissed the thought and replied, keeping up with the pace of his steps. “Don’t have either of those. Just lil’ old me.”
Kai’s eyes found mine when he glanced back, peering over his shoulder while we walked. Our gazes locked for a second before he turned away, but not before the brief exchange aroused a fluttery feeling in my gut.
“Well… it’s still fine to keep it handy… assuming you can even get a call through,” he went on. “Reception’s terrible inside the building, but if you do need to make a personal call, just keep it to a minimum.”
I didn’t say anything, just walked behind him in silence.
Seconds later, we approached a wooden door and Kai opened it. Plain white walls set the tone for the bleakly decorated area. There was nothing inside but three large copy machines, a fax machine, and two long, rectangular tables lined with staplers, small containers of paperclips, and other odds and ends.
“The copy room,” Kai reiterated
I nodded when he finished speaking.
“That’s pretty much it,” he concluded as we exited the small space. On the way back, he pointed out the break room and the restrooms, and then we were once again within the confines of his office.
Slowly, I crossed the room to the chair in front of his desk, and before taking his own seat, Kai removed his suit jacket, making it impossible to forget those incredibly well-defined arms as I stared at them through the light-blue dress shirt he wore.
“Now, on to the good stuff,” he joked. Or at least I think it was a joke. It was hard to tell because he spoke in the same dry tone he said everything else in. I piped up and focused, though, not wanting to miss the details of my position as he explained them—especially seeing as how he preferred that I didn’t ask for clarity later. “So, as you know, you’re replacing my assistant, Carla. Working for me, she wore quite a few hats, so I hope you don’t get overwhelmed.”
Discretely blowing a breath from my lungs, I nodded, acknowledging that I understood.
“Basically, I need you to be an extension of me—my eyes, ears, hands when I’m busy or away from the office. My plate gets kind of full, so sometimes I’ll pass things along to you that don’t require you to know much of the technical side of my job. A large part of what I do involves project management, so I’ll depend heavily on you for things like keeping an eye on budget, resource expenditure, time management. Will that be a problem?” he asked.
My heart was pounding already, but I didn’t want him to see me stressing. “No, that’s fine,” I lied.
“Good. I always leave myself a bit of wiggle room when I quote prices and timelines, but I still prefer to keep things as concise as possible. I’ve got a reputation for delivering on time and giving my clients more than what they expected. I’d like to keep it that way,” he added, attempting to soften the statement with a hard smile.
“When I don’t need you assisting me on projects,” he went on, “I may throw a presentation your way that needs fine-tuning, a proposal that needs to be finalized, but I’ll give you things like that with the details spelled out pretty thoroughly.”
‘As if that’ll help,’ I thought to myself.
“There will be day-to-day issues I’ll need you to troubleshoot so I can focus on what I have going on and there’s a weekly meeting here on Thursdays; I’ll send you my notes in an email every Wednesday. I’d like for you to organize them by subject and email them back to me, attached in document form.”
My head was spinning and I realized I should’ve brought a notebook in with me.
“Am I going too fast?” Kai asked politely.
I didn’t have the courage to tell him yes, so I lied again. “No. I can follow.”
The corner of his mouth hitched upward and he leaned back in his seat. “You’re overwhelmed,” he said, glancing down at his hands folded in his lap. “I told myself not to lay it all on you in one sitting like this; I just got ahead of myself. We’ll stop there for today and I’ll go over the rest tomorrow,” he offered, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I needed him to believe I could handle this job.
“Oh, no, it’s fine. Continue. Please.” Immediately after speaking the words, I wished like hell that he’d see through the façade and spare me, putting the rest off until tomorrow like he’d said.
Slowly, cautiously, Kai went on. “We’re pretty much done, actually. All we have left to discuss is what’ll be expected of you while I’m out of the country.”
From what I gathered, Kai was overseas every other month, sometimes more if necessary. That part had me nervous because, during those times, I’d be working on my own with very little instruction from him.
“Hahn says you already have a home office set up?” Kai asked.
“Yeah… I do.” My fingers went through my hair when I realized he wasn’t speaking right away, maybe giving me a chance to elaborate. “I um… I do some accounting on the side for my father’s firm. That’s what I majored in,” I added.
“Perfect. With a fax machine?” he asked.
I gave a nod. “Yes, I have that, too.”
He leaned back in his seat and laced his fingers together on the surface of his desk. “Well, when I’m away, I’ll send you odd jobs from time to time and there may be the occasional petty errand I need you to run—like grabbing my dry cleaning, retrieving packages that’ve been delivered to my place, collecting my mail so it doesn’t pile up—things of that nature.”
Those were the easiest of the tasks I’d been charged with. “I can do that,” I answered.
When no words passed between us, Kai smiled and I was pretty sure I was the only one uncomfortable. He was nothing but relaxed now that all my daily tasks had been conveyed.
“Any questions?” he asked, quirking an eyebrow.
Once I got my thoughts together, I shook my head. “Not at the moment, but if anything comes to mind, I’ll…” My sentence trailed off when I remembered how he reacted to me stating in the stairwell that I’d come to him with questions. He didn’t want that, so I amended my statement. “I’ll figure it out.”
A light, easy laugh grabbed my attention, mostly because I had a hard time believing it came from Kai. It had, though. Apparently there was a sense of humor there after all.
“Listen… I didn’t mean to come across as unapproachable this morning, but I think that’s exactly the way I made you feel.”
Not wanting to confirm or deny, I said nothing.
Those piercingly deep, exotic eyes of his flashed my way when he smiled. This time, the harshness and tension wasn’t present behind them. “If you have questions, Angel, ask them. Please. I’m here to help you.”
I nodded, but still had nothing to add.
Kai shifted in his seat, leaning to one side before resting his chin on top of his fist. “This is umm… an adjustment period for me just like I’m sure it is for you. I’ve worked with Carla for years so it’s been a long time since I’ve had to learn to work with someone new.”
I could understand that and it made me feel better that he acknowledged his behavior from earlier.
“I apologize if I made you uncomfortable,” he added.
My heart leapt when his hand shot across his desk. He held it there, waiting for me to take it. “Can we start over?” he asked.
I blinked his way a few times, finding it hard not to stay fixated on that confident smile he stared at me with as if he knew I’d cave. Finally, I accepted his hand and shook it. “Sure.”
“Good. So feel free to pop in whenever you need to,” he added.
Seeing as how I wasn’t sure he really meant any of this, I hoped I still wouldn’t have to come to him about anything. Besides, he was hard to be around. It wasn’t because there was something wrong with him. I mean, yeah, I didn’t quite know how to read his personality, but it was more than that; more than feeling apprehensive in his presence. I was starting to think he wasn’t all bad and that made the good things about him harder to ignore.
He wet his mouth and my eyes were immediately drawn to the motion, observing what I believed to be soft lips.
Whew! Okay… it was definitely time to get my tail out of there.
“Well, thanks for walking me through everything,” I said, quickly standing from my seat.
Kai seemed surprised by my abrupt exit. “Uh… sure. I’ve already emailed you what I need done today, including flight and hotel arrangements that I need you to cancel. I was supposed to fly out to L.A. next week, but Hahn informed me today that it won’t be necessary.”
I nodded, but that was it, so Kai finished his thought, adding, “Your company email address is your first and last name @Arata.”
Without his suit jacket covering him, I had a clear view of his arms flexing with each movement as he folded them over his chest. I inched my way closer to the door. “Perfect. I’ll get on that.”
The next second I was free—free from the lustful hell I had a feeling I’d be in every time I’d be forced to dawn Kai’s office. But nope. Not only was he my boss, but I had my suspicions there might be a girlfriend, too, based on the phone conversation I overheard and I don’t get down like that. However, the sex appeal I thought had dwindled at the discovery that he might have someone in his life had clearly only been playing a cruel game of hide and seek. Now that I’d had a glimpse of a softer side of Kai, it was harder to ignore how drawn I was to him. Just like the first time we met.
That attraction hadn’t gone anywhere. In fact, I had a feeling that the longer I was around him, the worse it would get.
If that was the case, God help me…
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