She stood up, leaving her meal mostly uneaten, her drink untouched. Arley had invited Molly and T.J. to join them, but Molly had called to say she had a touch of the flu and needed T.J. to help. That left Gwyneth and Arley, as unlikely a pair of crusaders as you could ask for, to carry on the fight. Gwyn had done her best. She’d bought Molly some time, and now she was fought out. “I’m sorry. I have to go.”
“What? Wait. No. We’re celebrating.”
She was too frazzled, too emotionally depleted, to explain. She turned and walked out of Hooligan’s, the well-known and popular pub she’d always planned to visit. Her car was two blocks away. The evening air was cool and damp in that unique way that reminded her how much she loved this city.
Arley followed after her. “Gwyneth, what’s going on? Something’s wrong. I’ve felt it ever since you arrived at the hearing. Are you okay?”
She ignored his questions. Even one mention of the turmoil in her head would open a floodgate she might never be able to close. “It’s personal.”
His hand landed on her shoulder. “Screw personal.”
Anger–her emotional safety net–made her pivot to face him. “No. Screw you. My life is my own. It doesn’t involve you. You’re a client. I’m your legal advisor and representative in court. We’re not friends or buddies or pals. Now, excuse me, but I have to be somewhere.”
Screw you? Arley’s arms dropped to his side in complete and utter shock. Had anyone ever said that to him before? He doubted it. There might have been a time in his life when he would have been angered or upset by her dismissal, but this was Gwyneth–a cool, composed professional. For her to lose her temper so completely she’d risk alienating him–and the money he brought to her company–meant something bad–something very bad–was going on.
“We might not be friends, but there’s a good chance we’re soul mates,” he said, blocking her escape.
Her eyes widened with obvious incredulousness. “The office gossip was right. You are nuts.”
“I prefer eccentric.”
“Tough. I’m out of here.”
“Sorry. I can’t let you go. Not until I’m confident that you’re okay to drive.”
“I didn’t even touch my Cosmopolitan.”
“I noticed, but you’re upset. You can pretend that you’re upset with me, but we both know–”
She sliced the air between them with her free hand. “What part of ‘It’s personal’ don’t you get?”
He closed the gap between them in one step and put his arms around her.
He’d meant to hug her, only. Offer a little human compassion. But the moment his lips brushed hers, he knew a hug would never be enough between them.
He expected her to struggle, to push him away. She didn’t. She didn’t react in any way for a second or two then she gave a small cry and leaned into him. An instant later, he heard her briefcase hit the pavement and her arms returned his embrace.
Her scent, the taste of her lipstick, the wet heat of her mouth pushed him outside his comfort zone. He hadn’t grown up in a family that expressed their emotions casually or in public. But this wasn’t about a friendly touch–the need coursing through his brain quickly turned to pure desire. And more.
He was afraid to stop kissing her on the chance the chilly persona she showed to the world would return. As long as they were locked in each other’s arms they could avoid that nasty thing called reality.
He knew that sound.
He jerked back, and spun around, roughly shoving Gwyneth behind him.
Click. Click. Click. Even digital cameras make a sound that a private person like Arley dreaded.
“Evening, Mr. McNamara. Ms. Jacobi. Congrats on the win today. Give my best to the pig.”
A pig? Yes, there’s pot-belly pig named Cuddles. (Keep your shoes well away from your e-reader.) If you’d like to read the rest of this sweet novella for free, you’re in luck because it’s part of a 40+-author giveaway and contest:
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