"Jones." Her last name was murmured into her ear, making the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand up and cheer.
"Peterson." There was no need for Eda to look up. She knew that deep voice. It haunted her dreams every night for two years. "Come to say good-bye?" Today had been her last day at the consulting firm. As of tomorrow, she was a freelancer, her own boss.
"No." His leg brushed hers as he climbed up on the barstool. "What are you drinking?" He motioned to the bartender.
"Long Island Ice Tea." A girly drink take-no-prisoners Peterson would surely scoff at.
"Another Long Island for the lady and a gin and tonic for me." No scoffing, only a hint of humor.
Eda lifted a blonde eyebrow with all the coolness she could muster, pushing away the reality of the moment. She couldn't think about how Sam Peterson, the firm's most dynamic partner, was buying her a drink. Her. Eda Jones.
"You don't usually drink with the staff." One of the rules, partners didn't mingle socially with the consultants.
"I'm not, am I?"
Eda thought about that for a moment. "I guess not." It was late. Her co-workers had already left. Only she remained, lingering. For what, for whom, she didn't know. She looked up into his warm brown eyes, and swallowed. "I left the files on your desk." Business, they had to talk business. Business was safe.
"I don't want to talk about the files, Eda. I don't want to talk about work." He pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. She shivered. "You're no longer an employee. After two willpower testing years, you finally resigned. It took you long enough."
It took her long enough? "You wanted me to leave?" Eda straightened her shoulders to better bear the hurt, tugging her blazer protectively closer.
"Mercy, yes." A short bark of a laugh. "I prayed for it. Every night. Since that first day you walked into my office, all smart mouth and sass, legs and brains."
He prayed for it. For her to leave. "You disliked me that much?" She frowned down at the drink in her hands.
A big hand cupped her chin, tilting it upwards. "I liked you that much." She swallowed. Hard. "You took my breath away."
She took Sam Peterson's breath away. No. Eda shook her head, trying to clear it. It couldn't be. Must be the alcohol. "You growled at me."
"It was expected." He shrugged those wide shoulders. "I growl at everyone, and I couldn't do what I really wanted to do. Not without getting fired."
"What was that?" Did she want to know?
"To find out where that run in your stockings ended." He leaned closer to her. Eda could smell the musk and the man. Sam Peterson's scent. "Where did it end, Eda?"
"Peterson." She placed trembling fingers on her knee.
"Sam," he corrected. A warm palm covered her hand and moved it. "Ah, I see I have another run to wonder about." Her pale skin peeking through the black silk. "How far up does this one go?"
All the way. Their eyes caught and held. He slowly smiled as though he read her mind. He was always doing that, reading her mind. "I see." He tossed his drink back, and threw some bills on the bar top. "Let me drive you home."
"Sam." She slid to her feet, tugging down her pencil line skirt. "I know what you're thinking, what you're expecting, but I'm not that kind of girl." Though she wanted to be, very much. Especially now, as he put his arm around her waist, the warmth from his body reaching out to ensnare her.
"I wouldn't have waited two years for that type of girl, Eda." He twirled his car keys around a finger. "You should know me better than that."
"I thought I did." She wobbled a bit on her heels, the floor spinning. His grip on her tightened. "I didn't know, I mean, you..."
"You did, Eda. You did." He held the door open for her, the night breeze cool on her skin. "The holiday party."
The holiday party. She stopped in the parking lot, looking up at the star filled sky. The holiday party. She closed her eyes for a moment, remembering. The slow dance that never should have happened. Him and her in the dark, surrounded by hundreds of curious coworkers. She almost threw caution to the wind then. Almost.
"Eda." He kissed her, his lips firm and possessive, demanding and gentle, his car keys pressed against her back. She slipped her hands under his navy blue suit to better feel that proud, unbending backbone.
He broke away, too soon for Eda's preference, his semi-smile rueful. "Oh, my Eda." His playful tap on the end of her nose made her blink. "I didn't wait two years to rush things now." He captured her small hand in his, entwining their fingers. "Let me drive you home."
About the Author: Kimber Chin writes contemporary romances set in the world of business. Her first novel, Breach Of Trust, features a dynamic venture capitalist and a strong willed business plan coach. Kimber offers readers a free story every Wednesday at http://businessromance.com/