Authors: Elizabeth Reyes
Just as the elevator came to a complete stop and the doors began to open, everything went black
, making Regina gasp. Except for the early and cloudy morning’s dim sunlight that streamed in through the small crevice of the barely opened doors, they stood there in near pitch darkness.
She felt Sergeant Billings move forward and block the only light th
ey had as he tried to push the doors open. “It’s just a power outage,” he explained as he grunted, trying in vain to push the doors open. “It should be temporary.”
Regina knew all about the power outages. They were necessary when working on parts of the co
nstruction near or around dangerously high-voltage areas. She also knew they saved the longer power outages for the early morning or late evenings when it was less inconvenient to those working in the buildings.
This shouldn’t even surprise her sorry ass. It made perfect sense that she’d get stuck in an elevator with of all people
Sensing her resentment the moment he walked into the elevator, Brandon had actually been amused by it. Now h
e wasn’t sure what he was sensing from her. When the lights had gone off, he thought for sure it was alarm. Judging from the tears he’d seen last night, he’d already pegged her as an emotional one. Emotional equaled weak as far as he was concerned, so when he heard her gasp, he’d been sure he’d have his hands full, trying to calm her ass down. Instead, from what little he could make out in the darkened elevator, she was now leaning against the wall, seemingly undaunted.
. Brady, by the way.”
Brandon looked up in her direction, barely able to make out the silhouette of the business suit that hugged her body. He saw her phone light up as she pulled it out of her purse. The moment the light illuminated her face, his eyes were on her lips. He reme
mbered now even as he’d walked through the first-class cabin where she’d been sitting in her seat already enjoying a Bloody Mary how his eyes had been drawn to those lips then too.
On the plane, he’d watched as her lips wrapped around the celery stick that
came in her drink. He hadn’t quite been able to shake the visual almost the whole flight. Just like last night when she’d pressed her lips together because he’d pissed the princess off, she looked like she was pouting, but he could tell her extra full lips just made it appear as if she were. Since he’d first seen her here, she’d worn her hair up in that same twist and wore her glasses. Today was the first time since seeing her at the airport that her hair was down and the glasses were gone.
Before he could
respond to her clarification, she was on her phone. “Antonio, I’m stuck in the elevator. Can you please have them turn the power back on so I can get out of here?”
Seeing those lips curve into a smirk should’ve had him fighting his own lips from doing the
same. Even when she’d lifted that sweet chin and given him the cold shoulder earlier it had him fighting a smile. Instead her smile irritated him now.
“You did?” she said, her smile going even more playful—brighter. “Oh, wow. All the more reason to get me
out of here as soon as possible. Now I really can’t wait to get to my office. Thank you, sweetie.”
Brandon finally pulled his eyes away from her lips, annoyed at himself for getting caught up in them. She was probably used to having guys like
and all the other saps she worked with wrapped around her finger. Years of having Daddy wrapped made for good practice, no doubt. Any guy who’d never been around her type didn’t stand a chance.
He noticed her putting her phone away, and he turned back
to her. “Did he say how long it would be?”
“Few minutes,” she said without looking up at him, but he did notice the bright smile had gone flat.
With the sun shining in the crack a little brighter now, he could even see her delicate eyebrow arch significantly as she sipped her coffee, scrolling through her phone, very noticeably avoiding eye contact. This time he did fight the urge to smile. Was the princess still pissed he hadn’t fallen for that smile last night and given into her as she’d likely been certain he would?
The lights went on and the doors opened. Brandon was tempted for a weak moment to tell
. Brady to have a good day. Then he thought better of it. She might actually be
full of herself to think the only reason he’d not given into her last night was because he’d assumed she was married. Happy that he caught the almost slip-up, he walked out of the elevator, saying nothing more to her or even looking her way as he began down the hall.
He heard her step out behind him, and if he weren’t mist
aken, the tapping of her heels against the floor was a little louder than normal.
Curious and mildly pleased to hear her say his name, he stopped and turned to look at her. Seeing her once again in the light, he ignored the fact that she looked better every goddamned time he saw her. “Yeah?”
She took a few steps toward him. “Aside from the airport in Washington D.C., have we met before?” Her expression was visibly annoyed. “Or do you
you know me from somewhere else?”
tting out a dry chuckle, Brandon shook his head. He’d hit it right on the nose. She really was struggling to figure out why he hadn’t fallen all over himself to charm her from the moment he first laid eyes on her. Obviously, it’s what she was used to. What a piece of work!
He was grateful for this added confirmation that she
a self-entitled little princess, because he needed it now that his eyes locked onto hers and they were even bigger and darker than he remembered. As she took a few steps closer and he got an even longer look at the fine details of those big brown inquisitive eyes, he had to focus on what he’d just confirmed. He suddenly needed the knowledge that he’d been right about her all along as a safeguard. It helped with the dislike he knew he needed to continue feeling for her. “No, Ms. Brady, fortunately, we’ve never met.”
Her eyebrows spiked. Just like last night when he first ran into her and the hurt in her tearful eyes was so palpable, there was no hiding what she was feeling now. Utter a
nnoyance. This time he pressed his lips together to refrain from smiling. Why the
did her annoyance with him amuse him so much?
“What exactly does that mean?
? You’ve obviously made some kind of assessment about me, yet you know
“That’s right. I don’t. And I’m sorry that my lack of desire to know more upsets you.”
It pissed him off that even with his years of training in discipline he was incapable of keeping his eyes off those lips, especially when her mouth fell open as it did just then. Glancing back up at her eyes instead, he saw that little eyebrow lift again. “It doesn’t upset me,” she said. “It’s just that. . .” She glanced around flustered. “I’ve just never—”
“I know you’ve
, Ms. Brady.” He walked away, thinking he should be feeling smugger that she may as well have admitted she wasn’t used to men not being interested. Instead, he felt somewhat disappointed he’d been spot on about her.
The sound of her heels clicking once again quickly and with conviction agains
t the floor made him smile. But he wiped the smile the moment she came around him and stood in front of him, forcing him to stop. She stood so close that the subtle scent he’d picked up in the elevator overwhelmed his senses now. Whatever she used to wash those thick tresses was distracting as hell. “You don’t know
about me, Mr. Billings—”
“Sergeant Billings,” he corrected her immediately rewarded with a very annoyed pucker of her lips.
Refraining from smiling, he considered for a moment that pissing her off might be a new amusing pastime. It’d certainly keep things safe if she disliked him as much as he wanted to dislike her. Unfortunately, it amused him a bit too much, so it was dangerous. He stared at her straight-faced as she took a deep breath.
“You don’t know anything about me,
Billings. So whatever preconceived notion you
you’ve figured out about me is completely unfair, but you know what? I don’t give a shit. As a matter of a fact—”
The lights went out again, and she glanced ar
ound for a second. Then their eyes locked once again in the dim hallway. Shaking her head, she didn’t finish what she was going to say and started around him, but he moved in front of her, stopping her. It took her by such surprise her hand lifted, pressing against his chest. “As a matter of fact, what?” he asked, gulping as he stared in those startled brown eyes.
She held his gaze for a moment as her hand stayed put against his chest. Infuriating images of having her hands in other places assaulted him, an
d as much as he knew he should move aside and let her through, he couldn’t bring himself to move away.
Clearing her throat, she finally took her hand back but didn’t step back. The anger he’d seen in her eyes moments before the lights went off was gone. Th
e stunned look in her eyes as she stared at him gave a hint of something else. For as much as she was protesting, she
care what he thought of her.
“As a matter fact,” she started, and she was so close he could smell of sweet coffee on her breath. He’d
always hated coffee, but at that moment he’d give anything to taste it. “I don’t even know why I’m wasting my time. Think whatever you want of me.”
She walked around him, and he let her by this time as he stood frozen in place. He had another moment of wea
kness where he considered taking it back—apologizing for prejudging her. But he’d already slipped once by showing even the remote interest in what she had to say. He had to get a grip. He’d only been around this girl a handful of times, and already his will to show complete indifference had been weakened more than once. Even seeing her cry last night had done something to him. Thankfully, he’d handled that as he should.
Today he’d nearly blown it.
Most days Brandon had glimpses of Ms. Brady either headi
ng out to lunch or in the break room buying a soda or just like last night when he’d run into her as he was leaving. Today either Ms. Brady had gone out of her way to avoid Brandon or it’d been just coincidental that he hadn’t seen her at all after their morning’s insightful exchange. If it was the former, he should be glad.
In case her plan and admittedly his as well to avoid each other faltered and he did run into her again, he had every intention of going back to the way it was before that morning’s inci
dent. He wouldn’t be exchanging so much as a smile with her. It just wasn’t safe. Every time she’d smiled at him—the morning Sergeant Carter showed him to his office and last night when she’d smiled at him despite the tears still her eyes—he’d felt more than the only thing he should be feeling, annoyance. It was all he should feel just as he had at the airport. But since he’d arrived here, the annoyance of what that sweet smile did to him was being subdued by something else, something that felt dangerously wrong. And this morning, he’d confirmed it.
This was too close to what might lead to him to the temptation of breaking his number-one rule—no attachments.
. He’d done so well for so long he wasn’t about to blow it now. Even the sexual encounters he’d had in the last several years he made absolutely sure were completely meaningless. He’d even figured out a way to keep the act itself especially cold while making the women he was with think it was all part of the performance. He never even slept with the same woman twice much less engage in the usual protocol of dating such as calling her again or even asking her out for another round. It was too risky.
His best bet was to hope he’d pissed her off enough she now hated him. That would eliminate any more of t
hose sweet pouty-lipped smiles, smiles he wanted so much to hate. Today was proof he was losing that battle. The bad thing was Brandon wasn’t even sure now what was worse, the smiles or her obvious contempt for him. For some reason, that seemed to amuse him almost as much as the smiles were beginning to soften him.
The thought of losing battles reminded him of something else and made him groan inwardly. He hadn’t even been here a week yet, and already his anti-social ass had to go hangout with some of his f
ellow workers that night after work. He’d been warned before he even transferred that a few of the other sergeants had mentioned taking him out when he got here, kind of a welcome-to-the-team type of deal. That meant tonight he’d put on his social mask.
was glad that for once the overly inquisitive and talkative personality of his office roommate Sergeant Evans had come in handy. He’d asked Brandon if he had any big plans for the weekend as soon as he walked in that morning, forcing Brandon to mention the trip he was making up to Los Angeles tomorrow. Later when Rodriguez arrived, letting Brandon know they’d be taking him out for drinks, his I-can’t-be-out-late excuse that would get him out early tonight held far more weight.
He wasn’t meeting his former
drill instructor until late in the afternoon tomorrow, but they didn’t have to know that. Tonight they’d be under the impression he had to be in L.A tomorrow
, which meant he’d have a few drinks and be done with this
Rodriguez said, standing up. “Either of you guys get a load of that sexy little thing working with the engineers?”
Brandon didn’t even turn to look at him. He didn’t have to ask who Rodriguez was talking about, because he already knew. Normally Rodriguez’s
banter about women and his admitting he was always horny were amusing. The guy could be funny. But Brandon had begun to worry about one thing. Ever since the day he realized Ms. Brady would be working in such close proximity to him, nothing about what he was feeling for her was normal. Hearing Rodriguez speak of her now, the way he did, was anything but amusing.