The timer on Seph’s phone gave a soft jingle. Saved by the friggin’ bell!
She stood to indicate the session had come to an end. “I’m sorry, Bradley, but we’re out of time for today. We can talk more about this at our next session. All right?”
Bradley jumped to his feet, immediately pushing into her personal space. Seph took a step back and picked up her appointment book to create a visible boundary. “I’ll go ahead and put you down at the regular time. Will that work for you?”
“Of course. You’ve always got first priority on my calendar, Persephone.” Bradley smiled that same wide, creepy grin.
Seph reached for the handle of the door leading to the reception room. “All right then. You have a good week.”
“I’m really feeling like I need a hug,” Bradley pressed.
Seph strode past him through the doorway. “And I’ve told you many times that I don’t hug clients, Bradley. This is a purely professional relationship and meant to create a therapeutic environment for you to feel safe enough to face your issues.”
Bradley exhaled raggedly. “I know, but it was worth a try.” He turned and immediately focused on a man leaning casually against the wall just a few feet away.
Seph caught her breath, trying not to show Bradley how rattled she suddenly was. What the hell was Cade Sorenson doing in her office? The slick private investigator was the go-to guy for Boston’s elite families whenever they wanted to dig up dirt on one another. In Seph’s opinion, he was a total bottom feeder.
Too bad that doesn’t stop him from being the hottest guy on the planet.
Cade was slender the way jungle cats were slender. Athletically built, he stood just a shade less than six feet tall, which made him tower over her five-and-a-half-foot frame. His hair was startlingly pale. Not just blond but almost white. The sides were short, the top longer with a hank that seemed to continually fall across his forehead. His eyes were blue, and his face was chiseled with the kind of handsome looks that come more from character than the run-of-the-mill pretty-boy factor. His cheekbones were sharp, complementing the blade of his nose and the strong cleft in his chin. Everything about him was angular and powerful. Cade looked as though he’d escaped from a Viking-era painting at the museum. All he lacked was a horned helmet and a battle-ax of some kind. At the moment he was staring insolently at Seph with a smirk on his rugged face.
“Hello there, stranger.” Cade’s voice was smooth and sexy enough to make her panties wet.
Seph squirmed, trying to usher Bradley out of her office without actually touching him. “Mr. Sorenson, I’ll be with you in a moment. Please feel free to wait in my office.”
“Is he a client?” Bradley craned his neck around to watch Cade casually saunter toward her office. “He doesn’t look like any of your clients that I’ve seen.”
“I don’t discuss my clients, Bradley. We’ve talked about this.” Seph opened the exterior door leading from her office to the second-floor hallway. “I’ll see you at your next appointment.”
“Is he your boyfriend?” Bradley demanded. “I didn’t think you were in a relationship. Do you love him?” He was practically foaming at the mouth. “I could make you happier, you know. I’m sure I could.”
“Bradley.” Seph utilized her firmest tone. “I do not discuss my private life or my clients. We’ve had this discussion before. Remember? I will see you at your next appointment. Have a good day.”
She shut the door behind Bradley and leaned against it, ready to collapse. Of all the nasty coincidences that could have possibly happened, this was the worst. Now she’d have to spend three to four sessions with Bradley getting him grounded in reality.
“You sure see some wackos, Seph.” Cade stood in the doorway to her office with his arms crossed over his chest.
And then there’s Cade.
Seph wanted to scream. She was over him. Totally over him. It’d only been a brief fling anyway. Maybe two weeks, or three. Well, more like four if she counted the week she’d spent trying to convince herself that their relationship was a dead end while still being unable to stop sleeping with him.
Cade was her brand of crack. The guy could play her body like his personal instrument. Even the memory of his touch made her hot. The way it felt when he kissed her breasts and teased her nipples into hard little points before he used his teeth to make her scream.
Damn it! I’m not supposed to be thinking about that.
“Why are you here?” she demanded. Yeah, much better. Unleash the inner bitch.
“Come on, Seph.” Cade placed his hand over his heart. “It wounds me that you assume I’d only come to see you because I want something.”
“Really? Because I sort of remember that being why you slept with me before.” She fanned the flames of her irritation. Anything to avoid feeling a different sort of heat. “You wanted information on my clients, and you tried to fuck
it out of me.”
His eyes glittered like shards of ice. “We’ve been over this a thousand times. It started that way, but I never slept with you to get information on your clients.” He closed the distance between them in two strides. “I slept with you because I wanted to.”
He was so near. She could’ve reached out and slipped her fingers beneath the hem of his snug black T-shirt to feel the heat of his skin. The urge was there no matter how much she denied it. Electricity snapped between them, and she felt light-headed from the rush of blood to her extremities.
Cade lifted his hand and brushed his fingertips along her jawline. “I’ve missed you.”
Seph’s tummy did a somersault right before everything south of her navel melted into a puddle of desire. Her hands itched to touch him. To score his skin with her nails and demand he spread her legs to bury his cock deep inside her body.
Stop. There has to be a reason he’s suddenly shown up at my door.
“What do you want, Cade?” Seph took a deliberate step back and crossed her arms. “And cut the bullshit.”
“Maybe I need therapy.”
She snorted. “There’s no maybe about it.”
“What? Can’t a guy visit a sexy therapist for a nice long chat every once in a while? Your last client seemed to think he could.”
“Don’t even go there.” She was so done with the smart remarks. They were neither flattering nor funny. Really, they weren’t.
He considered her for a long moment before he crossed his arms and mirrored her pose. “Are you seeing Isabel Adams-Channing and Lucas Dade?”
“As if I’d tell you whether or not I am.” She shot him a withering glare and stepped around him to go into her office.
She tried to look at her desk without being obvious about it. She’d left the Dade/Adams-Channing file sitting on top of the pile before Bradley’s session. Had Cade just gone into her office when she’d asked, he probably would’ve noticed it and saved them both this pointless conversation.
“I already saw the file,” he told her flatly. “I wasn’t going to paw through it without even speaking to you.”
“I can’t tell you anything anyway.” Seph picked up a stack of manila folders and shoved them into her top right desk drawer. “Client confidentiality rules and all that inconvenient privacy crap.”
Cade moved nonchalantly into her office and shut the door. Every nerve in her body went on high alert. He gazed at the picture hanging on the wall. She wondered how he would describe it. People always had different reactions to the depiction of an empty dirt road between two towering rows of trees with their branches tangled overhead. It was a great way to get a read on someone’s outlook. Not that she cared what Cade thought. Nope. Not at all.
He sauntered toward her bookcase. Glancing at the titles on the shelves, he twisted his neck to get a better view of her minimal collection of knickknacks. Her office was a study in neutral. Her olive-green sofa complemented the dark wood end tables and the sand-colored walls. The overstuffed chair where she sat during sessions was mustard yellow and well-worn. She loved her chair. For that matter, she loved her office. It was cozy and comfy, and she spent a hell of a lot of hours in it.
“A few days ago, Roland Adams-Channing”—Cade tossed a look over one shoulder—“I’ll assume you’re going to pretend not to have a clue who he is even though we both know better. Anyway, he showed up at my office and demanded that I find out what’s going on in his daughter’s premarital counseling sessions.”
“Sounds like a boundary issue.” Seph offered Cade a patronizing smile. “Do you often let spoiled society people push you around? Oh, I forgot. That’s totally in your job description.”
“Do your clients find your sarcasm therapeutic?” Cade chuckled. “As it happens, I probably would have told Roland Adams-Channing to go engage in some anatomically impossible activities. However, I have a certain amount of interest in Isabel, so I opted to let him keep talking.”
“An interest in Isabel?” Jealousy sank its claws into Seph with a ferocity that left her almost breathless with fury.
Isabel Adams-Channing was so repressed she could barely make a single decision on her own. What the fuck did Cade see in her? Other than her tall, willowy body, perfect blonde tresses, and cornflower-blue eyes, of course.
It burned Seph to no end that she’d gotten the short end of the beauty stick. She was barely five-foot-five and had an awful lot of junk in her trunk. She’d never been classically beautiful. She was too full-figured for that. Her wardrobe was full of pencil skirts in slimming black and fitted blazers that helped her get a little closer to modern notions of the stick-figure ideal. Plus, she’d always felt as if her hair was a dull shade of brown that matched her equally plain eyes.
“Down, girl,” Cade murmured, obviously amused. “It’s nothing like that. I was hired to follow her and Lars Aasen a few months back. Their mothers wanted to know what was keeping them from getting married. Turned out Lars was already involved in a committed relationship with another man and a woman.”
“Interesting.” Seph prayed she sounded blasé. It wouldn’t do to have Cade realize she was soaking up all this good intel on her client. Trying to get Isabel to talk in session was an exercise in futility. Seph had just learned more from Cade in five minutes than she’d learned from Isabel in fifty, which sucked because Seph actually liked
Isabel. Seph felt like the poor woman had too many people in her life trying to tie her in knots.
“Yeah, let’s just say Mama Adams-Channing was pissed when it all came out. As I understood it, there was an embarrassing scene in a public place, and she fired my ass the next morning.” He wrinkled his nose, managing to look both mouthwateringly hot and mischievous at the same time. “I sure as hell didn’t care, but I was concerned for Isabel.”
Seph’s mouth snapped shut, but not in time to stop the question. “Why?”
Cade’s look of triumph gave her stomach cramps. “Because she’s a cutter, and I was afraid this little episode would send her spiraling back down into the self-harm cycle.”
Seph was stunned. How had she missed that
detail? Obviously she’d asked questions about self-harm and suicidal ideation during her intake interview, but Isabel had never said a word about it. Not to mention the fact that her new fiancé, Lucas, was apparently in the dark about his future bride’s preferred coping methods.
“Seph?” Cade’s expression grew troubled. “I don’t think anybody knows. I only do because I caught her at it.”
Seph gripped the back of her chair until her nails were digging into the leather. Obviously, she could only help clients deal with the issues they actually brought into the room, but that didn’t make her feel better to have missed something so serious.
“That’s why I’m here.” Cade moved closer, approaching slowly as if he were afraid she’d lash out at him. “She needs help, but you can’t help if you don’t know.”
The complexity of the situation made Seph’s head spin. Still, she couldn’t help Isabel if the girl didn’t want to open up. It galled Seph to admit it, but Cade was usually right when it came to people’s secrets. What made it doubly irritating was that this information could only change the lens that Seph used to view Isabel’s responses. Seph wouldn’t be able to mention her suspicions without admitting she’d been standing here in her office with Cade Sorenson, breaking confidentiality about a client. The fucker.
Seph scrambled for a response. “So you’re still working for the Adams-Channing family?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“Then get out.” Seph pointed at the door. “I’m not going to tell you a damn thing.”
He made a low noise of frustration. “I’m not asking you for anything, Seph.”
She walked around the chair, intent on pushing him out the door or kicking him or something. Except she fisted his T-shirt in her hands and dragged him down for a thorough kiss instead.