He told me how much he craved the way I sound when I come.

And even when I did, gasping and clutching his shoulders through his suit, all I could think was that I wanted to touch him too. That I wanted to hear him get lost in me the same way. And it terrified me.

He withdrew his fingers, sweeping across my sensitive clit when he did, and eliciting an involuntary shudder.

“Sorry, sorry,” he whispered in response, kissing my jaw, my chin, my—

“Don’t.” I said, turning my mouth away from his. The sudden intimacy he offered, on top of everything else today, was too bewildering, too much.

His forehead rested against mine for a few beats before he nodded, once. It wrecked me, suddenly, realizing that I’d always assumed he held the power and I held none, but in this moment I knew that I could have as much power over him as I wanted. I just had to be brave enough to take it.

“I’ll be leaving town this weekend. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.”

“Well, then get back to work while you’re here, Miss Mills.”

When Thursday morning dawned, I knew we needed to have some sort of discussion. I would be away from the office all day Friday, so today was our last day together before she left town. She’d been meeting with her advisor all morning, and I felt myself getting more and more anxious about . . . everything. I was pretty sure the interaction in my office the day before revealed to us both that she was slowly taking more and more of me. I wanted to be with her almost all of the time, and not just naked and wild. I just wanted to be near her, and my own need for self-preservation had been plaguing me all week.

What had she said? I don’t want to want this. This isn’t good for me. Only when Mina discovered us had I truly understood what Chloe meant. I’d hated my desire for her because it was the first time in my life I was unable to push something out of my head and focus on work, but no one—not even my family—would really blame me for being attracted to Chloe. In contrast, she would forever be tainted with the reputation of being the woman who slept her way to the top. For someone as brilliant and driven as she was, that association would be a constant—and painful—thorn in her side.

She was right to put distance between us. This pull we felt when we were together was entirely unhealthy. Nothing good could come from it, and I decided once again to use our time apart to regain my focus. When I entered my office after lunch I was surprised to find her seated at her desk busily working on the computer.

“I didn’t know you would be in this afternoon,” I said, trying to keep any emotion from my voice.

“Yes, I had some last-minute arrangements to handle for San Diego, and I still needed to discuss my absence with you,” she said, never looking up from her computer monitor.

“Would you like to step into my office, then?”

“No,” she said quickly. “I think we can handle this out here.” Peeking up at me with a sly look she motioned to the chair opposite her. “Would you like to have a seat, Mr. Ryan?”

Ahhh, home-court advantage. I sat down across from her.

“I know you’ll be out tomorrow, so there’s no reason for me to be here. I realize you don’t like having an assistant, but I’ve arranged for you to have a temp while I’m gone for two weeks, and I’ve already given Sara a detailed list of your schedule and the things you’ll need. I doubt there will be any problems, but just in case, she’s promised to keep an eye on you.” She raised a brow in challenge and I rolled my eyes in return.

She continued, “You have my numbers, including the number of my father’s home in Bismarck, if you need anything.” She began going through a list in front of her, and I noticed how cool and efficient she was. It’s not that I wasn’t already aware of these things, but somehow it seemed a bit more apparent to me right now. Our eyes met and she continued, “I’ll get into California a few hours before you, so I’ll just plan on picking you up at the airport.”

We continued to stare at each other for a few moments, and I was almost positive that our thoughts were the same: San Diego would be a colossal test.

The atmosphere in the room began to shift slowly, the silence saying more than words ever could. I clenched my jaw tightly as I noticed that her breathing had picked up. It took every bit of willpower I had to not walk around the desk and kiss her.

“Have a nice trip, Miss Mills,” I said, pleased that my voice betrayed none of my inner turmoil. I stood and lingered for a moment, adding, “So, I’ll meet you in San Diego then.”

I nodded and walked into my office, shutting the door behind me. I didn’t see her for the rest of the day and our terse good-bye for once felt completely wrong.

All weekend I thought about what it would be like to have her gone for two weeks. On the one hand, it would be nice to enjoy a full day at work without the distraction. On the other, I wondered if it would feel odd not having her there. She’d been a near constant in my life for almost a year, and regardless of our differences, it had become comforting to have her around.

Sara entered my office on Monday at nine o’clock sharp, smiling brightly as she approached me. She was followed by an attractive, twenty-something brunette who was introduced as Kelsey, my new temporary assistant. She looked up at me with a somewhat timid smile, and I saw Sara place a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

I decided that I would use this as an opportunity. I would prove to everyone that my reputation was simply a result of working with someone as headstrong as Miss Mills.