“Whoa there, darlin’. Where ya goin’ in such a hurry?”
The man keeping her flustered ass from hitting the floor along with her jaw flashed a megawatt smile and lowered his eyes. When he brought them to hers again, the smile became a grin. A Trust me. I’m not the bad guy who can fulfill your fantasies. I’m the bad guy who can fulfill fantasies you don’t even know you have
grin. Throw in the smooth Southern drawl coming out of those sculpted lips and…
Seriously? Do not ogle, Alex. This is not the man to ogle.
Ooohhh, but he was.
No picture could do Sabin Timonen justice. No words in a file could describe the vitality in his eyes, the seduction in his voice, or the cool elegance in his movements.
The guy had it
, and all parts feminine responded.
Sabin raised an eyebrow at her blatant perusal, and a quadruple shot of lust hit her, taking her completely by surprise. She’d never felt an instant attraction to a man.
No. This was beyond attraction. This was…electromagnetism.
Really, Alex? Electromagnetism. Time to stop hanging with the science geeks.
Silence quickly fell between them. Their eyes met and stayed locked. She didn’t realize her mouth had fallen open until his gaze dropped to stare at it.
“Oh, my God. I’m so sorry, I—”
“No harm done, darlin’.” Sabin cocooned her in his arms, guiding her attention to the feel of her body—her smaller, softer body—pressed tight against the hard planes of his much larger one, and whispered against her ear, “Take a deep breath.”
Instead of bristling at being cradled like a child, Alessandra inhaled. A hint of cologne and the more secretive spice of his skin lured her to burrow closer.
God, his smell was… Well, it was like when you’ve been away for a very long time, and you come home to find a huge pot of your father’s meatballs simmering on the stove, and you’re really, really hungry, and you run into the kitchen as if your life depended on it and plunge a fork into all that tomatoey goodness, and…
Tomatoey goodness? What the hell are you thinking, Alex? Sabin Timonen is not a meatball. He is not delicious. And he certainly is not home!
Her fingers flexed over the caps of Sabin’s shoulders—his very broad, very solid shoulders—all hard and hunky beneath the silken fabric of a perfectly fitted jacket. Meatballs aside, there was something delicious about a guy in a suit.
Especially one who feels like this.
His golden mane was pulled into a low ponytail, and a waterfall of blond hair cascaded over his lapel to his pocket square, but the long hair did nothing to detract from his rugged masculinity. Sabin carried off the meticulous suit-and-tie combo to perfection, but this cowboy would look equally great donning tight jeans, a plaid shirt, and well-worn boots.
Or even better, nothing at all.
Say something. Say anything!
“Um, Mr. Timonen, can you let go of me? Please.” Those words certainly wouldn’t knock him on his ass. The breathy voice was pleading, but not for him to let go.
“I can, pretty lady, but I don’t want to and I know
you don’t want me to,” he purred as a hand swept along her spine, stopping just above the curve of her bottom, and pulled her closer.
Her body melted into his like gelato on hot pavement.
“But I suppose, I must.” He sighed with a put-upon air and released his arms.
Sans the aphrodisiac that was Sabin Timonen, Alex Girardi would have looked him straight in the eye, given him a firm handshake, and introduced herself. Instead, her eyes shot to the papers strewn at her feet. Before she knew it, she was on her knees, trying to make some order out of the chaos on the floor. Not to mention the chaos in her mind.
What is wrong with me? I’m not some trollop who can be swept off her feet by a pretty face and a whiff of cologne. And what am I doing on my knees? Get up!
But there Alessandra stayed, all hot and bothered, on her knees, and unable to speak a syllable. She didn’t glance up to see if Sabin was looking at her, but she was positive he was. She could feel his gaze on her back like a hot brand. The sensation was weird but cool too. She tried not to revel in it, but there was no denying that a small, vain part of her was tickled that he was intrigued enough to stare.
Sabin cleared his throat before crouching down to help pick up the flurry of her legal work. She refused to look at him.
“We might be able to save the files, but I think the laptop’s a goner,” he teased, then leaned into her personal space to make her see his smile. A soft, warm smile that said, It’s okay to be vulnerable with me.
As if compelled, Alessandra held his gaze and smiled back. The feminist in her was screaming bloody murder, but when Sabin held out his hand, Alessandra rested hers in it. He guided her off her knees, never breaking eye contact.
“Oh my, Ms. Girardi. Let me help you with that.” The sound of the receptionist’s voice shattered the haze as she hurried out of the conference room and grabbed the shuffle of papers. “I’ll reassemble these files. You go on in. I’ll bring them to you.” She tilted her head toward the conference room.
Alessandra didn’t have to see the panicked look to register the unspoken warning: The boss is waiting. Tick, tock, tick, tock.
Feeling more herself, Alessandra extended her hand. Before she could speak, Sabin took it and said, “Ms. Girardi,” emphasizing the Ms
. and raising an eyebrow.
Five minutes with the man, and this was the second time she’d seen that surprised look on his face. He’d expected Alex Girardi to be a man.
Been there. Done that. Like a million times.
But his shock did it. The Alex she knew and loved was back. She squeezed his hand and looked him squarely in the eye.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Timonen.”
Sabin cracked a Cheshire Cat grin that stole the professional mojo she had going. “Oh, darlin’, the pleasure is entirely mine.”
This guy is…well, he’s…um…hateable. Yeah, that’s it.
She hated this guy.
WELL BUTTER MY butt and call me a biscuit. Alex Girardi is a woman.
Didn’t that just promise to make this afternoon a little brighter.
When they entered the conference room, the din quieted and every eye turned in Alex’s direction as fifteen or so suits, all of them on men, got to their feet. No women, other than Alex. Predictable. Unfortunate, but predictable. Sabin could feel, more than see, her reaction. Alex didn’t enjoy the chivalry, not in this setting anyway. He fought the urge to put a protective arm around her shoulder. Snider & Simmons’s young attorney did not want to be distinguished as a woman.
But the petite beauty in front of him was a woman and quite a fine one at that. Without the killer heels, she stood a mere five feet two, maybe three inches tops. Mahogany hair was pulled into a loose bun that rested like a flower on one side of a classically Italian face. Dark almond eyes, olive skin, succulent red lips, and the most adorable button nose he’d ever seen. The body beneath the tailored suit was one hundred and ten percent curvaceous, a perfect Venus de Milo. Delicate shoulders, small waist, full hips.
Got to love a woman who appreciates the merits of a good tailor.
Around her neck sat a choker of pearls, high and tight. Somewhere from the recesses of his lascivious mind came the image of a collar. But getting a woman like Alex Girardi onto her knees would be no easy task, despite her posture moments ago. Her passion radiated from behind the professional armor, but she was headstrong and proud. The submission of a woman like her would be hard won, and the challenge in that thought spurred his inner caveman.
He felt a pang of guilt. The formidable Ms. Girardi would view his reaction to her as no better than any other guy who patronized her because of her gender. She wanted to be treated as an equal in her professional life, that was pretty clear, but her nature was at odds with her ambition.
Was Alex Girardi submissive?
Was he a Dominant from Texas?
Same answer. Hell yeah.
Sabin knew a person could be a hellcat in the boardroom and a kitten in the bedroom; Ms. Girardi on the other hand, did not know this. It took a long time and a hell of a lot of chutzpah to accept yourself as you are, rather than how you feel you should be. Without the support of others in the lifestyle, it was damn near impossible to walk in the vanilla world with confidence; and it was also pretty clear that Ms. Girardi was walking alone.
How did Sabin know all this having met her only moments ago? He didn’t become the second Lord of the Order without having a sixth sense for this kind of thing.
“I see you’ve met Mr. Timonen, Alex,” Vernon said with a disapproving look. He’d wanted to witness their first meeting. “Is that the reason you’re late?”
Nothing like building up the old confidence there, Vernon.
“Yes. I met Mr. Timonen at the elevators,” Alessandra said, trying to make her delay seem intentional.
“We have a receptionist for that, Ms. Girardi. It’s not your job to be the greeter,” Vernon replied sharply.
Alex Girardi might be a woman, but there was a hierarchy in the New York office of Snider & Simmons, and in her boss’s pompous mind, she’d violated it.
“Of course, sir. I apologize for the delay.”
Vernon smiled at her capitulation.
Sabin couldn’t stand the thought of this impressive creature kowtowing to the likes of Vernon Simmons, but he bit back the sharp remark that was sitting on the tip of his tongue. Defending Alex would offend her.
How did she fall in with this lot of dogs?
He didn’t know her well, but he knew she didn’t deserve this. No woman did.
“Come sit by me, Alex,” Blake said with a familiarity that made Sabin’s blood boil.
Alex might be a tough cookie, but that didn’t stop Sabin’s urge to protect her from the danger that Blake Hartnell masked behind his bullshit facade. As she moved to the chair, the steel in her spine told Sabin he needn’t worry. Alex didn’t trust her snake of a client.
Sabin took the seat across from her and almost laughed at the setup. His posse of lawyers and experts sat on one side of the table, Roy Lee and Blake’s on the other. Opponents separated by a paper-strewn, mahogany battlefield. At least the view would lessen the pain of enduring this meeting. Questions about her began firing through his mind as everyone else sat. Damn Rosehill for not getting him that file on time.
How old was she? She didn’t look as if she’d cracked thirty. Where was she from? Did she have a dog?
Sabin wanted to know everything about her, especially how she had risen to her position in the firm. He’d had enough dealings with high-priced lawyers to know that she was sitting in a power position, despite her youth and gender, and that was no small task.
As Alex took control of the meeting, Sabin sat back, intrigued and impressed by the graceful way she asserted herself. She might be on the wrong side of the table, but something in him wanted to see her soar.