“What happened to that rock of yours?”
It took me longer than it should have to realize that Damon Patrick—lofty seventh year associate at the historic law firm of Granger & Knox, renowned litigator, and San Francisco’s favorite sex symbol—was speaking directly to me, his sexy growl of a voice loud in the confines of the otherwise empty elevator.
Directly to me, a very lowly first year associate barely a year out of law school, who’d been sent along on this deposition—I was well aware—to do little more than sort the great man’s documents and keep his coffee mug filled the way he liked it.
Black enough to kill with one sugar to sweeten the blow, in case you wondered.
I was thrilled to be assigned to him even though I knew celebrated lawyers on a meteoric rise toward an inevitable partnership like Damon didn’t usually speak to green little first-years like me, unless it was to issue orders. And Damon himself had never, in the months I’d worked in the same firm as him and only occasionally on his cases, addressed a single personal remark to me. Not one.
I would have remembered. Hell, I would have built a shrine to the memory.
Because I might have been a supposedly engaged woman until approximately an hour and a half ago, but I’d never been blind. Damon was so hot it hurt. All of that lean, chiseled, black-haired and blue-eyed male beauty. That raspy voice of his that made even thorny contract issues sound impossibly hot. And his high expectations that the support staff around him, including junior lawyers like me, should read his brilliant mind at a glance and do as he wanted without his having to ask for it.
“Um,” I said belatedly, which wasn’t the way to impress him. Then again, neither was the awful, betraying blush I could feel roll over me, from my hairline down the length of my neck, and then on to all the private places beneath the suit I wore until I nearly squirmed where I stood. I felt lit up and wild, suddenly, and it scared me almost as much as he always had on a basic, feminine level I’d never cared to acknowledge. “What?”
I’d been pretty good at my job—even a little bit impressive, if I said so myself, with the mind-reading and all—until today. Because this particular Friday morning in September was the day I’d stopped kidding myself. I’d ordered Alexander to move out. I’d thrown his ring in his face to underscore that request. I’d finally realized what every single other person in Northern California had realized a long time ago, according to my best friend Holly: Alexander was not “figuring out his issues with intimacy.”
Alexander was having sex. Lots of sex, with lots of people who weren’t me.
While I was engaged and chaste against my will and still a goddamn virgin at twenty-six.
Oh, and I was also a fucking idiot.
So it wasn’t really my fault that instead of answering Damon Patrick, resident god and technically my boss, I just stared back at him. A little bit angrily, I can admit. As if, because he was a male of the species like Alexander, he was partially to blame for my six year charade of a relationship.
It wasn’t really my fault—but it wasn’t smart, either.
Damon’s dark brows edged up his clever forehead and I felt it like a very physical touch, when I hadn’t been touched in what felt like a thousand years. A disconcerting electricity shuddered through me when he fixed those dark blue eyes of his on me, sharp and intense, as if he could see straight through me to the mess inside. As if he could burn straight through me that easily. I felt singed.
And then I felt something else. It clenched hard and deep inside of me, then made me feel terrifyingly soft and wet and fluttery. Breathless.
“Did you not hear the question?” he asked, almost softly.
I may have heard it, but I’d already forgotten it. That’s how blue his eyes were.
“Um,” I said again, dazed.
A too-familiar look of impatience flashed over his remarkable face, making his eyes look bluer and his black hair even darker. He didn’t like to repeat himself. That was only one of the things I knew about Damon Patrick.
Some other things I knew, the way everybody in the office and probably the whole city knew: he was too hot to look at directly, much like the sun. He made even fourth and fifth year associates, supposedly well-seasoned lawyers in their own right, stammer and flush and pray for death rather than the sharp edge of his tongue. Speaking of his tongue, he was rumored to have sexual appetites so intense no one woman could satisfy them—though we all liked to speculate about the possibility of attempting to satisfy even one or two of them at length and with creative flourish. He was darkly intelligent, often brusque and dismissive in the way only confident and powerful men could be with such impunity, and he wasn’t one to suffer fools. Ever.
And he was also fucking beautiful.
“How eloquent,” he said in that smirky way of his. I didn’t like all that focused, too-smart attention on me. It made me feel… restless. Achey. As if I didn’t know myself, suddenly. Or as if my pussy was doing my thinking for me, for a change. It might have been a relief if it had been anyone else. “Harvard Law, was it?”
“Yale,” I bit out, afraid that I’d betray myself further if I let myself speak normally.
His mouth did something wicked and dismissive at once. “You must be the shining star of the program. Clearly.”
It was only then that it dawned on me that he’d originally been looking at my left hand where, until this morning when I’d chucked it at his head, I’d worn Alexander’s ring. Which had certainly not been a rock. More like an apologetic pebble.
I didn’t stop to think about how weird it was that Damon Patrick had noticed anything about me.
“Oh,” I said, as if the previous interchange hadn’t happened and he hadn’t actually insulted me, my law school, and the storied history of Yale University at once. “You mean my ring.”
“I did mean your ring. Now I’m bored.”
The thing was, I was fed up with men. Inconsiderate men who thought only of themselves and never the people around them. Horrible, lying men who strung people along for years and years—
“What you are is remarkably rude,” I said, because I had a death wish.
Everything went very, very still in that elevator. Terrifyingly still.
Damon’s head tilted slightly to one side, and he stared at me, a dangerous sort of astonishment on his gorgeous face. I couldn’t tell the difference between the plummeting sensation in my stomach and the elevator that was still dropping us toward the lobby where a car waited out in front of the building to drive us north to today’s deposition in Napa.
I wished it would drop me into the center of the earth, never to be heard from again.
“Mr. Patrick,” I stammered out, self-preservation washing over me a little too late, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean—”
“Quiet,” he ordered me. His wicked mouth crooked slightly in one corner when I obeyed him out of habit—or maybe something a little more intense than mere habit—and I told myself the bright heat that rolled over and stretched out inside of me was from embarrassment, nothing more. “You’re right. That was rude. I apologize.”
I couldn’t bear the tension between us, or the way he was looking at me as if he’d never seen me before. As if he wanted to close the few feet between us and peel me down, layer by layer, with his hands and his teeth and his—
What the hell? Did breaking off my engagement mean I’d gone completely insane? When Alexander had suggested exactly that, cheating asshole that he was, I’d dismissed it. But now I wondered.
“No,” I said firmly. “I was out of line.”
He looked as if he wanted to say something else, and I didn’t know why I really, really wanted him to say it. I leaned in slightly in anticipation, but the elevator reached the bottom floor with a soft thud.
The elevator doors slid open and it was like being jolted awake by my obnoxious morning alarm. I blinked, and pretended I didn’t see the curious, considering look he leveled at me, his hands thrust into the pockets of his trousers in a loose sort of way that whispered of a certain readiness it wasn’t healthy for me to contemplate. Not when the man in question was my boss. Sort of. I bolted across the marble lobby, and would have raced outside toward the waiting town car but he caught me by the elbow.
Damon Patrick was touching me.
I couldn’t allow myself to think about that. Much less how it felt. It might kill me where I stood.
“Tell me,” he said, ushering me toward the big revolving doors as if it was perfectly normal to touch me and make me modify the way I was walking to match his long, lazy stride. “What’s your name?”
That shouldn’t have made me feel what it did—simultaneously furious that he didn’t know it and chastened, because of course he didn’t. Why would he?
“Scottie? Like one of those yippy little dogs?”
“I don’t believe I was named after a dog, no.” I tried to keep my voice cool, while ignoring the heat of him so close to me, his fingers like a bright brand just above my elbow, making my heart shudder in my chest. “Would you like me to call my mother and ask her?”
Knowing my mother, she’d blame it on my father and then use the call as an opportunity to complain about their divorce. Again. All these years later.
“That’s a ridiculous, incredibly unserious name.”
“Because Damon is so run-of-the-mill and staid? The John Smith of our time?”
He grinned and I felt it like a brilliant punch between my legs, even as I registered that yet again, I was talking to him disrespectfully—and this time I was so much closer to him while I did it. His hand on my elbow kept me right there next to that stunning body of his that was clearly put on this earth to stop people around him, to make them all gape and sigh and perform exaggerated double takes as he strode across the lobby of our building. None of which he appeared to notice.
He was like something out of a fairy tale, glimmering and glorious, and I was on a fast track to getting myself fired. Somehow, while he was touching me, that didn’t seem to matter as much as it should.
“I like spirit, Scottie,” he said, sounding hot and lazy and the kind of amused that made my breasts feel much too tight against the bra I wore. I would have sworn he knew it. There was something dark in his gaze, something predatory and much too pleased. “I reward it.”
I didn’t dare ask how.
Damon took to his phone on the car ride out of the city, barking out orders and conferring with his co-counsel on other cases. I surreptitiously checked mine, not surprised that I had to scroll through a series of texts from Alexander, begging me to change my mind the way I always had before. I deleted them, wishing I could delete him and our pointless history with the same ease.
Threw him out AT LAST, I texted Holly. As my best friend, she’d been agitating for exactly this outcome since approximately my third, sexless date with Alexander back in college. Have celebrated by making an ass of myself in front of Damon Patrick.
HALLELUJAH!! she texted back almost immediately. Screw Alexander.
Then, before I could reply with the obvious answer, that I’d been attempting to do that for six years to no avail because he liked to give long speeches about “romantically saving ourselves” while banging everything that moved, she texted again.
Do you mean hot Damon Patrick, subject of a million fantasies, including many of mine? Including the one with the wild horses and the barbarian throne?
I was careful not to laugh out loud and draw Damon’s attention back to me. A quick glance assured me that he was making a series of assenting noises into his phone and frowning out his window from the seat beside me, so I thought it was safe to text back.
The very same.
Fuck HIM, she ordered me. I mean that literally.
Sure, I wrote. I’ll get right on that.
I’m serious. I could see Holly’s face as if she was sitting in the car with me, frowning at me because I never took her advice and she thought my entire life would turn into nothing but rainbows and cartwheels if just once, I did. Trouble was, her version of advice was always completely insane. Could there be a better rebound in all the land?
Right, I texted back, rolling my eyes as I did it. Because nothing would make up for wasting YEARS OF MY LIFE on a lying, cheating douchebag more than handing over MY VIRGINITY to the hottest, supposedly dirtiest man in San Francisco, who also happens to be MY BOSS!
“I don’t know that it would make up for anything,” Damon murmured silkily from beside me, making my blood run cold and then burst into bright, hot flame that I thought might kill me where I sat. “But it would be fun.”
End of Excerpt