A Very Exclusive Engagement(5)

By: Andrea Laurence

Now he was stressed out, hungry and irritated about being trapped in the elevator. She was glad she could make him smile, even if just for a moment. It made up for her behavior this morning. Maybe. She made a mental note to try to be more cordial in the future. He was being reasonable and there was no point in making things harder than they had to be.

“Cake for breakfast sounds awesome. As do summers in Italy. After high school I got to spend a week in Rome, but that’s it. I didn’t get around to seeing much more than the big sites like the Colosseum and the Parthenon.” He looked down at the two packages in her hand. “I’ll take the granola bar since you prefer the cookies. Thank you for sharing.”

Francesca shrugged. “It’s better than listening to your stomach growl for an hour.” She tossed him the granola bar and opened the bottle of water to take a conservative sip.

Liam ripped into the packaging. His snack was gone before Francesca had even gotten the first cookie in her mouth. She chuckled as she ate a few, noting him eyeing her like a hungry tiger. Popping another into her mouth, she gently slung the open bag to him. “Here,” she said. “I can’t take you watching me like that.”

“Are you sure?” he said, eyeing the cookies that were now in his hand.

“Yes. But when we get out of this elevator, you

owe me.”

“Agreed,” he said, shoveling the first of several cookies into his mouth.

Francesca imagined it took a lot of food to keep a man Liam’s size satisfied. He was big like her nonno had been. Her grandfather had died when she was only a few years old, but her nonna had told her about how much she had to cook for him after he worked a long shift. Like Nonno, Liam was more than six feet tall, solidly built but on the leaner side, as though he were a runner. A lot of people jogged around the National Mall in D.C. Or so she’d heard. She could imagine him down there with the others. Jogging shorts. No shirt. Sweat running down the hard muscles of his chest. It made her think maybe she should go down there every now and then, if just for the view.

She, however, didn’t like to sweat. Running during the humid summers in Virginia was out of the question. As was running during the frigid, icy winters. So she just didn’t. She watched what she ate, indulged when she really wanted to and walked as much as her heels would allow. That kept her at a trim but curvy weight that pleased her.

Speaking of sweating…she could feel the beads of sweat in her hairline, ready and waiting to start racing down the back of her neck. She already felt sticky, but there wasn’t much else to take off unless she planned to get far closer to Liam than she ever intended.

Although that wouldn’t be all bad.

It had been a while since Francesca had dated anyone. Her career had kept her busy, but she always kept her eyes open to the possibilities. Nothing of substance had popped up in a long time. But recently all of her friends seemed to be settling down. One by one, and she worried she might be the last.

Not that Liam Crowe was settling-down material. He was just sexy, fling material. She typically didn’t indulge in pleasure without potential. But seeing those broad shoulders pulling against the confines of his shirt, she realized that he might be just what she needed. Something to release the pressure and give her the strength to hold out for “the one.”

Francesca reached into her bag and pulled out a hair clip. She gathered up the thick, dark strands of her hair and twisted them up, securing them with the claw. It helped but only for a moment. Her tight-fitting pencil skirt was like a heavy, wet blanket thrown over her legs. And her camisole, while seemingly flimsy, was starting to get damp and cling to her skin.

If they didn’t get out of this elevator soon, something had to come off. Taking another sip of water, she leaned her head back against the wall and counted herself lucky that if nothing else, she’d worn pretty, matching underwear today. She had the feeling that Liam would appreciate that.


“Sweet mercy, it’s hot!” Liam exclaimed, standing up. He felt as if he was being smothered by his crisp, starched dress shirt. He unfastened the buttons down the front and whipped it off with a sigh of relief. “I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, but I’ve got to do it.”

Francesca was sitting quietly in the corner and barely acknowledged him, although he did catch her opening her eyes slightly to catch a glimpse of him without his shirt on. She looked away a moment later, but it was enough to let him know she was curious. That was interesting.

He’d gotten a different insight into his feisty executive vice president of Community Outreach in the past two hours. He had a better understanding of her and what was important to her. Hopefully once they got out of this elevator they could work together without the animosity. And maybe they could be a little more than friendly. Once she had stopped yelling, he liked her. More than he probably should, considering that she worked for him.