Twenty minutes after I’ve hung up with Mirabelle, her words are still rooted in my head, clinging to my conscience like mold on spoiled fruit. I can’t concentrate on anything else. I’ve read the same email from Stuart Reed three times now and still haven’t gotten anything from it. When I notice he’s copied Norma, I give up on it. If it’s important, she’ll fill me in on our flight.
Thinking of my flight…I should tell Alayna that I’m leaving town. I pick up my cell phone and begin a text. Then I delete it. I can’t even seem to say something as simple as By the way, I’ll be in L.A. through the weekend. She’ll want to know more—she deserves to know more—and once again, I can’t give it.
Instead, I text Jordan. Checking in, how’s Alayna today?
He responds quickly. What do you mean? Isn’t she with you?
I’m alarmed enough by this response to call him directly. “Why would she be with me?”
Jordan sounds genuinely confused. “I dropped her off about twenty minutes ago. She said she was going to surprise you.”
It would have been a nice surprise. “Well, she’s not here.”
“She’s somewhere in the building,” Jordan insists. “I’ve been sitting out front this whole time.”
There are other exits out of Pierce Industries, but they’d be difficult for her to get to. It’s possible that she gave Jordan the slip, but for some reason, I don’t think that’s her plan. “Stay on the line while I check the loft.”
Maybe she did plan to surprise me. Naked in my bed upstairs. I can hope, anyway.
While I take the private elevator up to my quarters, I question Jordan further. “You’re supposed to report whenever she goes anywhere. Why didn’t you tell me when you got here?”
“She asked me to give her a few minutes. After that, I figured you would have already worked it out.” Jordan sounds as anxious as I feel. “Do you want me to come up?”
“No. Stay out there. Watch the doors.” I’m in the loft now. Even without checking the bedroom and the bath, I know she’s not here. The room feels too ordinary. I’d sense her if she were here.
God, I’m beginning to sound like Mirabelle.
“She’s not here,” I tell Jordan. And now I’m fully concerned. “I’m checking the live camera feeds. Contact security and have them review the last half hour’s tapes. See if we can trace her.”
I end the call and head back down the elevator. After checking to make sure my secretary hasn’t seen her, I return to my office. The closet in the far corner houses a private media cabinet. Here, I have a system set up to duplicate all the camera feeds from the main security desk. These don’t record anything except for the cameras around my office. A quick scan through all the feeds of the main hallways and elevators turns up no sight of her. Not expecting to find anything on the recordings—she’d be here if she came to my floor, after all—I rewind frame by frame anyway.
Then I see her. Getting off the elevator outside my office. Instead of coming in, though, she darts down the hallway, away from me, and toward—
My phone rings. It’s Jordan. “We found her on your floor,” he says. “It seems she went to another office. Uh, getting the name now. It’s—”
“—Norma Anders,” I finish for him. I shouldn’t be surprised. Actually, I’m not really. I’m also kind of proud. And a whole lot irritated. “Is she still there?”
“There’s no sign that she left.”
“Thank you, Jordan. I’ll take care of it from here.” I pocket my phone and chew over this new development as I walk out to the hallway. What on earth does Alayna expect to gain from Norma? I trust Norma—she won’t spill any secrets about our upcoming deal. But Alayna doesn’t know that. Is she trying to find out about GlamPlay and Werner Media? No, she can’t even know enough to ask. Then is she here for something about Gwenyth? Or is she still jealous of my relationship with my right-hand financial manager?
Goddammit, why can’t Alayna just trust me?
So what if her trust isn’t warranted. I want it all the same. Especially when my secrets are mostly to protect her.
And sneaking around to talk to my staff members is not the way to help our relationship. It’s backhanded, which may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but I know that two wrongs do not make a right. She shouldn’t be here. She needs to quit pushing, always pushing.
By the time she turns into my hallway, I’m boiling. She tiptoes along the way to the elevator, her eyes fixed on my office. Okay, it’s adorable. My fury eases a notch. Or several.
She doesn’t notice me even when she’s nearly upon me, so she jumps when I say, “Alayna.”
She looks up at me with her doe-eyes, and there it is—the light that I love, beaming back at me with the affection and desire that I’ve grown accustomed to seeing in her gaze.
Is it crazy that in the midst of my frustration, all I want to do is fall down at the feet of this woman and worship her very existence? My life without her has been so dark, so dismal. She’s not just my light; she’s my sun. My world revolves around her.
But right now, she’s in trouble. And I’m about to let her know.
I wrap my arm around her, her skin warming me through my suit. “Let’s talk in private, shall we?” I lead her to my office. I tell Patricia to hold my calls. Then I shut and lock the door behind us.
Locking the door wasn’t actually necessary. I’m not sure if I do it to frighten her or tempt myself.
Alayna’s certainly not scared. She’s almost flirtatious as she greets me. “Well, hello, H.”
My c**k is already stiffening. I release her arm. “What are you doing here, Alayna?”
“What am I doing here in your office? You dragged me in here, remember?” She walks away from me with a swagger that makes me want to bend her over my knee.
I bite back a smile that I don’t want to give way to. “Don’t be cute. I meant in the building.”
She peers back at me over her shoulder, and I swear to God her expression is screaming Fuck Me. “Maybe I came to see you. I tend to stalk when I feel dismissed by a man.”
Feisty Alayna is quite a turn-on. It’s very inconvenient.
I sigh. “You didn’t come to see me. You arrived on this floor over half an hour ago and are just now coming by my office.”