By: Laurann Dohner

“It’s your place. Be comfortable.”

She sat on his couch. That was another thing about New Species she’d heard from the team. Most of them hated to wear shoes, preferred to go barefoot, since they’d never worn them inside their cells. She knew firsthand the females weren’t overly fond of underclothes either. She wondered if it were the same with the males and it caused her to smile. Is Justice commando under those jeans? Say something, she ordered her mouth, to get her mind away from that topic.

“I’m not real fond of shoes either. When I’m home, I kick them off the second I walk in the door and I don’t put them on again until I leave.”

Justice sat a few feet away and removed his shoes. He tore open the Velcro closures, jerked them off and Jessie grinned at seeing his large, bare feet. He must hate socks too since he didn’t wear them. Chances were he was naked under those jeans. She’d almost bet on it.

Her attention focused on his lap when he stood but she couldn’t tell one way or the other. Her gaze lifted up his body and she blushed slightly. He stared at her with narrowed eyes, obviously catching her eyeing the front of his pants.

“You were staring at me. Did I forget to zip the fly of my jeans?” He reached down to brush his hand over the front of them.

She shook her head, more embarrassed. "No. You didn’t forget."

He blinked. "What were you staring at? Is there a stain? Did I drop something on my lap when I had lunch?" He bent forward a little, glanced down, before straightening.

“I don’t see anything.”

She hesitated. New Species liked bluntness. That was one thing she knew about them with certainty. They appreciated honesty. “You don’t like shoes or wear socks. I know your females hate underclothing and I was inappropriately wondering if the men felt the same. I was trying to judge if you wore something under your jeans or not. I can’t tell. I’m sorry. It was extremely rude of me.”

Jessie expected him to be offended or perhaps grow angry. Instead his eyes crinkled and a deep laugh erupted from his throat. It was a nice surprise that he was amused.

“I see. I do wear them. I find jeans are a little harsh on sensitive skin and they can pinch too. I enjoy wearing thick, soft cotton between jeans and my skin.”

Jessie wondered how sensitive his skin was where ”the thick, soft cotton” covered it. Is he a boxers or briefs man? Maybe a Speedos guy? She hoped not. The later were her ex-husband’s underwear choice and she would hate to discover Justice had anything in common with Conner.

A doorbell chimed that distracted both of them. Justice walked to the door, his graceful, long legs carrying him there quickly. “That will be our dinner. I don’t have a dining table but would you mind eating with me on the coffee table?”

An image flashed of him sprawled out on his back, hopefully naked and her eating food off his muscular body. She shoved it back . Damn it, stop! He’s the boss of my boss.

Thoughts like those will get me canned. Stop fantasizing about Justice! Concentrate on something else and answer him.

He was so thoughtful and polite. It surprised her more than a little, considering the way he’d been raised in the testing facility. “It’s perfect. I never use my dining room table at home.” She laughed. “I’m one of those people who watch TV while I eat at my coffee table. I know it’s a really bad habit to have but I live alone. It beats watching something rather than staring into space.”

Jessie couldn’t see who Justice spoke softly to but it was a short conversation. Her host pulled a silver cart into the room and closed the door. The cart had four covered plates on top and on the shelf under it were half a dozen various sodas and four small covered containers. Justice pushed the cart across the carpet to the edge of the coffee table.

“You may choose whatever you like. I ordered things I enjoy so I’ll eat anything that’s left.” Justice lifted off lids and tossed them on an overstuffed chair nearby. He had a great aim when each lid landed perfectly on target.

Jessie peered at the four dishes. One plate contained pasta in a white sauce with shrimp and a side of garlic bread. Good. There was probably the largest piece of prime rib she’s ever seen on the next one with side dishes of a baked potato and some veggies.

The third dish almost made her flinch. It was a whole cooked fish, possibly trout and she had flashbacks of her past at the mere sight of it. Her ex ate them constantly and she’d grown to hate the smell. The fourth plate was a stuffed, baked chicken with gravy.

“It all looks good except the fish.” She smiled. “You pick.”