Shaun collapsed against the back wall of the elevator. She could still feel the furnace-like heat of Cole’s eyes traveling the length of her body as the doors closed. Not yet, but soon. She tried to ignore the stir those words coaxed awake within her. The pursuit of anything more than business with Robert’s nephew was out of the question, and would most likely end in disaster anyway. At least, that was exactly what she intended to keep reminding herself.
The car began its descent and Shaun paced the small enclosed rectangle. She recalled the moment Cole walked into the conference room, his deep brown hair a just-rolled-out-of-bed hot and a shadow of stubble dusting the sharp line of his jaw. Raw and masculine. His piercing gaze locked onto her and she froze, right there in front of her colleague and employees while going over the proposal Cole sketched up. Panic set in and she somehow needed a way to hide his effect on her, especially with Robert studying her every move lately. The sole reason for her drawing attention to his tardiness, not to be an asshole like he assumed. Self preservation in a fish bowl full of sharks.
Why did she even care what Cole thought? Never once had she encountered such issues in a professional setting, but there was something about him that always managed to start her blood flowing, palms sweating. The way he looked at her. The way he spoke. His unbridled talent.
The elevator stopped and Shaun exited, going straight for her office. There was a huge meeting to think about today. Arguably one of the most important since acquiring partner. Apart from powerful ties to the business community, Jasper just happened to be a very close friend of her father’s. As close as the male enigma would allow. So, all the more reason for her to remain focused on the task at hand and not on wild mustang recently introduced to the ranch.
I miss you. Shaun put down the receiver of her office phone and snorted at the incoming text on her mobile from Liv. She knew better than to delude herself into to thinking there stood actual feelings behind those words. Liv didn’t miss her. Her opportunist ex missed the parties, the exclusive designer collections and the luxurious trips every other weekend. Shaun only wished she realized such before she invested actual feelings of her own into their relationship.
Closing her eyes with sigh, she shoved her mobile sideways with the back of her hand. One day she intended on answering Liv, but today was not that day. When she looked up, Cole appeared, stalking towards his office across the way. Shaun bolted up from her seat and crossed the short distance, remaining just outside his door. He seemed agitated, circling and collecting his belongings while she watched on. “Cole, what’s wrong?”
He stopped and stared intensely at her for a moment before grabbing a chestnut-brown leather bag and shoving a notebook inside. “Nothing you need to worry about, Ms. Wright,” emphasizing his formal address.
She regarded his handsome features, now darkened and troubled, for any clue. “Please,” she smiled, or at least tried to. “Call me, Shaun.” She fought a responding eye roll at how lame she sounded.
“Things are better off the way they are.” He dropped his bag on the desk. “You need to stay away from me, Shaun.”
“What are you talking about?” She stepped inside and closed his office door. Henry would be back shortly and she thought it best to delay the interruption, or better yet know when it was coming. “Considering I’m your boss, I’m not sure how that is even possible.”
“Right… boss.” He groaned and shook his head, falling into his chair.
“Did Robert take his anger at me out on you?” She moved towards his desk.
“And if he did, what would you do, Shaun?” He stood and straightened. Closing the distance she left between them.
Shaun took a small step backwards, but not nearly enough. “I…” She couldn’t find her words. He was close. So close. She could feel the heat of his body against her skin regardless of the fact that they both remained fully clothed.
“I can take care of my own problems, Ms. Wright. I don’t need you to come to my rescue.” He gripped his bag and started past her.
“Wait… Cole,” she clutched his arm and spun to face him, voice desperate. “We have the client meeting.” She let go just as fast, palm seemingly singed by the feel of his tense muscle beneath his suit jacket and shirt.
He let out a humorless laugh. “Right. Business.” He tossed the leather satchel back onto the desk, not at all affected by her touch. “What time?”
She swallowed, giving her voice a chance to even out while her breath conceded the race with her heartbeat. “12 o’clock. I figured we could do lunch. I made reservations a few minutes ago.”
He nodded and placed his hands into his pants pockets. She caught Henry walking towards the office door out the corner of her eye. Not once had she hated the non-tintable glass walls of this floor as much as she did right now. A knock followed and both her and Cole spoke in unison. “Come in.”
“Sorry,” she whispered, forgetting whose office they actually occupied.
Henry entered, gaze moving from her to Cole and back to her. “Uh… Mr. Jacobson wanted me to tell you he would be taking off the rest of the day. Something came up.”
She nodded. “Very well.” She turned to Cole. “So Becco’s at noon? It’s just two blocks west from here on 14th Street. Can’t miss it. I have some phone calls to make upstairs since Robert left, so I’ll see you there then?”
“Yeah. Sure.” Cole returned to his desk and sat, pulling out his notebook.
Shaun looked at Henry who remained waiting, and stepped out into the hall with him. Lunch would not be for another two hours, but she found it hard to focus on something other then Cole’s cryptic exchange just now, and all the implications. What did Robert say to him? And why the hell did her partner bolt before she had a chance to ask?