Henley, the head of cyber security at Blaine Technologies, is a man no one crosses. He watches employees constantly using his network of cameras and enforces his rules by any means possible. Rumors of his violent past, his scarred hands and huge size have resulted in him being feared by everyone… almost everyone.
Katalina, the new intern, worries about the revelation of her most painful secret much more than she fears her sexy boss’s wrath. She sees the loneliness in his dark eyes, feels the gentleness in his marred fingers, tastes the need in his kisses, and she knows he watches her. His silly rules about not stripping for the cameras and no sex at the office are destined to be broken.
Kat likes to be watched. Henley can’t look away. Will this beauty be able to tame her beastly boss?
No one in this coffee shop knows who I am. I stand in the line, waiting to place my order. They don’t know about my past. They don’t know my last name. I tap my lavender heels against the floor, drumming an up-tempo tune into the tan-colored tile. They won’t remind me why I shouldn’t be happy.
I need to be happy. I need to laugh, to have fun, to focus on this fresh start. If I don’t, I’ll cry, and I promised my father I wouldn’t cry. I plaster a silly smile across my face and I tap my heels harder against the floor. These two actions lighten my mood, allowing me to cope with my emotions.
The bleary-eyed woman swaying in front of me yawns, adding vocals to my beat. For LA locals, it’s six in the morning. For a recently displaced New York native such as myself, it feels like nine o’clock. I’m eager to start my new job and my new life on the West Coast.
I’m two hours early. The internship orientation session at Blaine Technologies is scheduled for eight o’clock sharp, not one minute before and not one minute after. Although caffeine is the last thing I need, standing in line at this coffee shop gives me something to do and someone to watch.
I slide my gaze to the fascinating someone waiting at the front counter. The biggest man I’ve ever seen in my entire life looms over the cash register, his feet braced apart as though he’s preparing for battle. His ebony hair is cropped close to his head, hiding nothing, and he’s dressed completely in black like a villain from a 1970s spy movie.
I survey my behemoth’s broad shoulders. It’s all him under his jacket, not a hint of padding disturbing the cut. His suit is bespoke, custom made especially for his big body, and I suspect the designer was English. My mystery man is wearing Barker Blacks, his leather shoes as large as the rest of him. Even his matching dress shirt is well made, the collar and cuffs stiff and crisp.
He glances over his right shoulder, meets my gaze, and I inhale sharply. His eyes are as dark as his ensemble, his nose flattened and his chin square. Everything about him screams power, strength, vitality, and the woman in me responds, my nipples tightening, my breasts pressing against the blazer of my favorite lavender suit.
My behemoth returns his gaze to the frazzled barista and I exhale, my head spinning. It has been years since I’ve allowed myself to notice a man, to think about what I want, what I need. My fingers tremble as I smooth my flared skirt. I want this stranger desperately, more than I’ve ever wanted anyone in my life.
This is a problem, as I have no idea how to snag his attention. My last date took place when I was seventeen, and I suspect flashing my breasts at a pep rally won’t land me this sophisticated man. I chew on the inside of my cheek, having no other clever ideas.
I ponder my next steps, and my stranger moves away from the front counter, clasping a cup of coffee with his thick fingers. He ordered plain black coffee, no cream, no sugar, no whipped cream, and hell no to the chocolate sprinkles. My father likes his coffee the same way.
My mystery man stops at the lid and stir stick island and a stout man wearing mismatched jacket and pants rushes to the counter, barking his order at the disheveled barista. The rest of us shuffle forward in line. The tall skinny brunette behind me pleads into her sparkly pink phone, begging her boyfriend to give her one more chance. She’ll be the girl he needs, she promises. She’ll lose those last five pounds.
I don’t know where she’ll lose those five pounds. She’s already as thin as a yard of fine silk ribbon. I look down at my more ample bosom, my breasts wrapped snugly in the blazer.
“No, please.” The brunette sobs. “Derek! Derek!” She glances at her phone’s small screen and her face crumples. My heart aches for her. She doesn’t know how to hide her sorrow, not like I do. I can help her with this.
I touch the girl’s bare arm, diverting her attention away from her phone. “Who did your pedicure?” I feign an interest in her perfect pink toes. Although her beige sandals are adorably strappy, my goal is to distract her from her grief. “I have to know,” I insist.
The brunette wipes away her tears with the back of her hand. “I—I—I—”
I glance around us fervently as though I’m afraid someone will overhear us. The behemoth is watching me, his dark eyes glinting with intelligence. Some people think big men are dumb. Some people also think blond women are stupid and no one should wear pink at a funeral. I learned long ago to ignore some people.
“Look at what happened to me on the flight here.” I slip my right foot out of my lavender pumps and wiggle my big toe. A huge chip of coral polish has flaked off, revealing raw nail. “I rushed for a flight, banged into a baggage cart, and that was it. My pedicure was ruined.”
The brunette’s red-rimmed eyes widen. “That’s terrible.”
“It’s a disaster.” I ignore the behemoth’s shaking shoulders. He doesn’t understand. My mystery man has the strength to deal with loss directly. He doesn’t need to pretend, to use trivial distractions as a means to cope. He would never travel across an entire country seeking to escape his sadness.
“I’m in a strange city,” I explain. “I have so many cute sandals and I can’t wear them.” I shove my foot back into my shoe, hiding the offending toe.
As we exchange information and bad salon stories, the behemoth leaves. I watch his broad shoulders disappear into the LA sunshine and feel as though I’ve lost a piece of my soul, a part of my future.
Cynthia Sax lives in a world where demons aren’t all bad, angels aren’t all good, and magic happens every single day. Although her heroes may not always say, “I love you”, they will do anything for the women they love. They live passionately. They fight fiercely. They love the same women forever.
Cynthia has loved the same wonderful man forever. Her supportive hubby offers himself up to the joys and pains of research, while they travel the world together, meeting fascinating people and finding inspiration in exotic places such as Istanbul, Bali, and Chicago.