Copyright © 2012 Cassi Carver
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Kara glanced at the unfamiliar area code and frowned. “Hello?”
“Hello…Miss Reed?” a deep, masculine voice answered. “This is Gavin. I wanted to let you know I’m in the lobby, waiting.”
Kara scrunched her face, glancing at the phone as if the man had spoken a foreign language. “Waiting for…?”
“Our eight o’clock appointment. It’s eight thirty.”
“Oh, crap.” She grabbed her purse and ran to the kitchen, glancing at the level of food in Mr. Pibb’s half-full dish on the way to the door. “I’m late.” She was planning to get to work early tonight to talk to her boss about more regular hours. She still had time if she walked fast.
“That’s all right. No problem.” For whatever reason, the man sounded appeased by her panic.
She glanced at the phone again as she went out the front door and made her way to the elevator. “Who are you?”
“Gavin. Gavin Cross.” He sighed into the phone. “Your new tenant. We had an appointment at eight for me to pick up the keys to my apartment.”
Kara blew out an incredulous breath, realizing this was the man who’d been on a waiting list for a tenth-floor apartment with a view. Three days ago, newspapers had starting arriving on the doorstep of the vacant unit next to hers—and she was enjoying reading them. “Yes, Mr. Cross—eight this morning. And you never showed. Who does business at eight o’clock at night?”
Kara lived on the top floor of her building, and the stairs didn’t bother her, but even witches didn’t enjoy hiking ten flights in high-heeled boots. She jammed her finger impatiently against the elevator’s button and jumped in before the doors fully opened.
“I thought it was scheduled for tonight,” he protested. “I told you I work during the day.”
The floors wouldn’t count down fast enough. She was already late, and now some bonehead thought he could convince her she had the time wrong. She tried to keep firm boundaries with the tenants or they walked all over her. And even so, she still got the occasional call in the middle of the night because someone’s window was sticking or a strange smell was coming from a drain.
“Yes you did, but I didn’t agree to meet in the evening.” Even apartment managers have lives, buddy. “I’m sorry, but I’m busy tonight. I thought you’d decided to take an hour off work this morning.”
When the doors opened, she shot off the elevator and ran smack into a man’s brawny chest. Her phone slid from her grip and clattered to her feet.
“Sorry!” With a phone in one hand, the man reached out to steady her with the other. “Are you okay?”
Kara sucked in a breath, staring straight into the heart-stopping eyes of the towering man before her. He was stunning. Dark blond hair, hazel-green eyes framed by thick, dark lashes and an incredibly large, muscular frame wrapped in a slick charcoal suit and tie.
“Gavin Cross?” she confirmed, her palms pressing against his chest as a tremor ran through her body. She’d never met a man who could make her salivate at first glance, but he looked like he’d taste better than a slice of cherry cheesecake after a month of tofu.
“Miss Reed?” His eyebrows shot up and his eyes widened as he took in her attire. “You really were in a hurry, weren’t you? Going clubbing, I see.”
“Not exactly. I mean, yes. The Hoolecha Inn. It’s a club, but I work there.”
“And I’m making you late for work?”
“Late for being early.” She scanned him up and down and bit her lip. “It’s fine. Really. It’s just down the block on the corner of 6th and F.”
Gavin shook his head. “I’m such an ass. Sorry about the misunderstanding. You must think I’m an idiot.” He glanced down at her hands on his jacket but made no move to back away. She might have been imagining it, but it felt as if he actually leaned closer.
“Gavin…” she began. “Can I call you Gavin?” Kara trailed her hand from his chest and placed it on his arm. He smelled like musk and soap. She wanted to slather herself in him. “It’s completely my fault. I’ll grab the keys and show you to your apartment. It’s the one next to mine.”
When Gavin placed his own phone in his jacket pocket, then knelt to pick up hers, Kara’s breath hitched. His head was only inches away from the juncture of her thighs. What was wrong with her damn libido lately?
Balanced on the balls of his feet with her phone in hand, he stopped and looked into Kara’s eyes. His head angled slightly toward Kara’s short skirt, and his nostrils flared. She could have sworn she heard a low rumble rise in his chest. Her body responded with a flood of moisture and a pounding throb between her legs.
She knew logically she couldn’t screw him right here in the lobby. She wasn’t even that type of girl, regardless of what it looked like when she and Abbey went hunting.
“Your phone.” He placed it in Kara’s palm, grazing his hand along hers.
“Thanks.” She was so breathless she could barely get the word out.
When Gavin stood, Kara didn’t have the sense to stifle her surprised gasp. His slacks were stretched to bursting with an impossibly huge erection straining against his zipper. He followed her eyes to his groin. “I guess I owe you another apology.”
“Don’t worry, I get that a lot,” she joked, trying to hide her fierce reaction to him behind a smile.
His gaze swept slowly from her head to the tips of her boots, lingering on her large breasts and rounded hips. “I’m sure you do.”
“Come on, I’ll show you up.” Kara turned and gestured for him to follow her into the elevator. Just being in the enclosed space with him made every nerve ending in her body tingle. The night air under her skirt had never felt so sensuous…teasing her, tickling her thighs, suggesting she hike her skirt up even farther and bare herself to this man.
Damn it, this wasn’t like her.
Even so, as she stopped at her apartment and unlocked the door, she heard herself asking, “Do you want to come in?” The breathy sigh in her voice offered more than her simple words.
“Come in?” he echoed. “Would your roommate mind?”
She could barely pull her eyes away from his groin. “It’s only me. I live alone.” But I don’t want to be alone tonight. “Will you come inside, Gavin?”
It seemed for a moment as if he stopped breathing, but then his lungs finally expanded again. “Thank you, but no.”
She wasn’t sure how those four little words of rejection could cut so deep coming from a man she’d met only minutes before, but something about him felt so right. His essence was like warm sunsets and French kisses on the beach. She swallowed hard as her cheeks warmed. “Sure. Just let me grab the keys.”
She opened the door and reached a hand to the key organizer by the entryway. Only one set was ready and waiting, so it wasn’t hard to find. She would have willed the earth to open up and swallow her whole if not for a quick, final glance at Gavin’s burgeoning interest. His mouth might say no, but his body disagreed.
Kara swallowed her pride and took one last chance. Curving her mortified lips into a small smile, she dropped the keys in his hand. “If you change your mind, you know where to find me.”