I could name at least a hundred ways in which I could screw this up on a normal workday. But today? Tired and suffering the effects of jet lag? Who knew what could happen.
I could practically feel the heavy bags under my eyes, but even so, a jolt of adrenaline surged through my veins. My heart raced when I imagined us working so closely together today, both of us bent over a file on the table, our shoulders side by side and his soft hair falling down over his forehead.
This was going to be a train wreck for sure.
Food was the last thing on my mind, but I needed to bring my A-game today. I ordered room service and was thrilled to hear the little doorbell only minutes after I stepped from the shower.
The scent of breakfast wafted in from the hallway, and any thought of not being hungry flew right out the window. I raced to the door, stopping to double-check the modesty of my robe before I let the waiter in, because it was far too early to find the humor in any accidental wardrobe malfunctions.
I signed the bill and was just closing my door when Niall Stella walked down from the elevators.
Holy hell. He had been to the gym.
Stay cool, Ruby. You’ve got this. “Morning. You’re up early.” I said.
The Number of Times I’d Seen Niall Stella Sweaty: one.
I tried to covertly look him over, but subtlety was a wasted effort. I thought Niall Stella knew how to wear a suit, but he wore T-shirts like it was his life’s calling. I wanted to pray at the altar of his dark, sincerely tight blue shirt. He wore it so unself-consciously. So unironically. Knowing him, he picked it out for some complicated aerodynamic reason. And holy lord did it do wonderful things to his chest.
His posture was straight, stomach flat, and chest defined and bulkier than I’d expected. He wore what looked like soccer shorts and his legs were just as muscular as I imagined. Seeing him like this, I was struck by his height all over again. I was on the tall side and I’d never been around a man who made me feel so tiny and feminine. This close to him, and with the clean scent of his sweat between us, I was starkly aware of my curves, my mouth, and how he towered over me by several inches. Without effort, everything about him was so dramatically masculine.
“Room service delivery of Fritos?” he teased, and motioned to my robe.
I looked down and laughed. “I was planning on wearing this for the rest of the month, hope that works for you.” I tugged on the tie and watched as his eyes followed the movement.
I wanted to reach out and drag him to me, using the neck of his shirt to pull him down on the bed. Or maybe I could wrap the sweaty hem of it around my wrist, use it for leverage while he fucked me from behind . . .
He leaned a broad shoulder against the wall, facing me. “The dress you wore last night was rather lovely. Perhaps you could alternate days?”
My eyes went wide as I processed what he’d said. His cheeks were pink, too, but he held my gaze. Don’t get flustered, Ruby. Don’t get flustered.
“That’s a good idea,” I said, feeling an enormous grin invade my face. I pretended to smooth the skirt of the robe down my thighs. “This might be a bit drafty.”
Nodding, he seemed to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. “I suspect it would be.”
I pointed my thumb behind me. “So . . . I’ll just go put on some actual clothes.”
“All right. Let me shower and I’ll meet you downstairs?” he asked as I turned to go back in my room.
Imaginary Secretary, please add Watching Niall Stella Shower to my bucket list. Move it to the top, if it’s not too much trouble.
He nodded once crisply. “I’ll be fast.”
“No,” I said, too loud, too quickly. I closed my eyes, inhaling a calming breath. “Take your time.”
He paused with his keycard inserted into the door next to mine and looked over his shoulder at me. The tiny smile told me he read every thought on my face before I had a chance to pull it into order.
His eyes twinkled with some mysterious delight. As if he enjoyed my absolute, desperate torment. “Right, then. See you downstairs.”
The elevator ride to the lobby was the longest of my life. I counted down each floor on the screen near the top, my nerves twisting tighter the farther down I went. Niall would be waiting for me and then we’d walk to the temporary office together. Just us. No distractions. Alone. No big deal.
Except that it was a huge deal. This was the start of one of my most exciting professional experiences, and also a day full of the person I was fairly sure was the Most Amazing Man on the Planet.
I smoothed my dress, straightened the collar on my jacket, and double-checked everything: purse, laptop, cell phone, ass and underwear covered. Despite my nerves, I was still tired. My laptop case felt heavier than normal and seemed to weigh down my right shoulder, the combination of fatigue and jitters leaving me feeling slightly speedy.
I checked my reflection again in the gleaming doors, suddenly questioning my outfit. It would be cold out but likely too warm in the office, where the heat would be turned up to compensate for the March chill. I’d chosen knee-length boots with a reasonable heel; they would double as both comfortable to walk in, and warm enough should our day find us venturing out into the city and down into one of the many subway stations we’d be monitoring. I had every file and report I would need printed out. I was ready.