Trouble in a Tight Dress(7)

By: Lori Sjoberg

After filling her mug a little more than halfway, she dumped in a ton of cream and sugar. Technically, it probably didn’t qualify as coffee with that much stuff in it, but it was the only way she could handle the flavor while getting enough caffeine to jump-start her system. Maybe she should switch to those energy drinks that Ty seemed to like so much.

She glanced back at Wade. “If you need me, I’ll be in my office.”

Her computer was fully powered up by the time she got there, and she checked her messages while she sipped from her mug. For the past week, she’d been the only cyber expert in the office, and she was looking forward to Larissa coming back from vacation. Not that she’d been ridiculously overloaded or anything, but it would be nice to have a little help shouldering the load.

But more important, she’d missed the woman known as Fossa in the hacker community. Larissa was her boss and mentor, but she was also her friend, and they’d grown close since Nina started working for Six Points a little more than a year ago.

The front door chimed, and her pulse tripped again at the sound of Austin’s sexy voice. He was talking with Ty, and in true guy fashion, they were giving each other shit about something.

“I’m telling you, the Dolphins are gonna win it all,” Ty said, and Austin laughed.

“Yeah, like I’m going to listen to the guy who can’t even pick the winner in a Rocky movie.”

“Whatever. Fifty bucks says it happens.”

“You’re on, sucker. Now get your ass to work. We’re meeting with Acevedo at eleven.”

Footsteps sounded in the hall, getting closer and closer until Austin appeared in the doorway. He looked mouthwatering as always, in a pair of midnight-blue slacks and a red polo shirt with the Six Points logo embroidered on the left breast. His strong, square jaw was freshly shaved, and a pair of dark sunglasses perched on top of his thick black hair.

“Morning.” His smooth, deep voice poured over her like sun-warmed honey. He braced one muscled arm against the doorframe, and when his gorgeous eyes met hers, she found it difficult to breathe. “I wanted to thank you again for your help this weekend. We couldn’t have gotten that part on Trask’s tablet without you.”

She shrugged, a little uncomfortable. Growing up, she’d never gotten much in the way of praise, and she wasn’t accustomed to receiving it. Alexei had been the smart one, Ivan was athletic, while Dasha had been pretty and poised. As for Nina…well, she’d been the one who faded into the woodwork. In a way it was good, because it allowed her the freedom to do what she wanted, like learn how to write computer code. “No problem. That’s what I get the big bucks for, right?”

The corners of his mouth tipped up at her weak attempt at humor, and the nerves fluttering in her stomach eased a fraction. But then his face got all kinds of serious as he stepped into her office and closed the door behind him, and the fluttering came back with a vengeance. “Listen, about what happened the other night—”

“Nope, not going there.” She cut him off with one hand raised in a stopping gesture. “We’re going to pretend that never happened.”

He frowned, his eyebrows drawn close together. In three long strides, he crossed to her desk and braced his hands against the dark wood. He leaned slightly toward her, and the clean, crisp scent of his aftershave filled her senses.

“We can’t just pretend, because it did, and it was good. And I wouldn’t mind doing it again. But we can’t because you’re my employee and it would be wrong.” He dragged a hand through his hair, something she’d noticed he did a lot whenever he was stressed out. “So look, I’m sorry, all right? I was way out of line. It won’t happen again. You have my word.”

She wasn’t quite sure how she felt about that. Relieved? Yeah, she supposed, in a way. Getting involved with Austin could make things messy, especially if their relationship didn’t work out. And even if it did, he’d eventually want to know about her past, and that was something she wasn’t willing to share.

But another part of her couldn’t forget about the kiss, about how electric his mouth had felt against hers. About how alive he’d made her feel. And that part couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if they took things further.

She gave herself a mental slap upside the head to clear away the inappropriate thoughts. Like it or not, Austin was right. He was her boss, plain and simple, and that made getting involved a major no-no. After years of searching, she’d finally found a place where she felt she truly belonged, and the last thing she wanted was to screw it up by letting her hormones override common sense.

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