A small beam of light came on and she blinked.
Archer had a penlight between his teeth and was buttoning his trousers. From within his pocket, his phone was vibrating, as it had been on and off for a while now.
Not in any apparent hurry, he set the still-lit penlight on the table where he’d just given her the best orgasms—plural!—of her life.
She’d never look at the table the same way again.
Her gaze drifted to the love seat next. Following her gaze, he laughed. “I’ll get it out of here for you,” he said.
“No, that’s okay.” It was Friday night, the courtyard would be a hotbed of action in spite of the storm. She didn’t need everyone to see him carrying it out, speculating about what had happened. Although in this case, the truth was probably crazier than anything anyone could make up. “Luis will get it for me.”
Archer lifted his head and studied her. His eyes softened and a small smile crossed his mouth. He stepped into her, pushed the hair off her hot and sweaty forehead, and brushed his mouth over her temple. “You okay?”
A low laugh huffed out of her. “I think you know that I am. I didn’t expect that to be so . . .” She shook her head, at a loss for words.
He let out a slow exhale. “I did.”
She met his gaze and at the look on his face something inside her clutched hard. He regretted what they’d just done. The best time of her life and he regretted it. “Are you about to piss me off again, Archer?” she managed to ask.
“We both know I can do that without trying.”
Not exactly an answer. She laughed mirthlessly. “Yeah, well if your next few words are anything along the lines of ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘that was a mistake’ or ‘I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you,’ then it’s a definitely.”
He just held her gaze and her heart stopped. “Wow.” That she was right gave her no satisfaction at all. “You know what?” She gestured to the door. “I want you to go now”—she pointed at his mouth when he opened it—“without saying another word so that I can still stand the sight of you.”
“Let me drive you home first—”
“No, I’m good, thanks. Oh and, Archer?” She waited until he looked at her. “Stay the hell away from me.” And then, although she wanted to turn away from him as he walked out her door, she forced herself to watch him go.
Archer prowled the length of his office and back. Two minutes ago he’d been kicked out of Elle’s office. One minute ago a big case he and his guys had been working on broke wide open and everyone was coming into work.
He had maybe three more minutes to himself and all he could think was that something had just changed in his world and he was pretty sure he knew what.
Or at least who.
He’d known a year ago that by leading Elle here to the Pacific Pier Building as general manager for Spence things would change. But for most of that year he’d managed to keep his distance, both mentally and physically.
It hadn’t been until he’d had a taste of her that night they’d been camping that his world had stopped spinning.
And he’d been a little off his axis ever since.
After what had just happened in her office, he’d lost all balance whatsoever. The funny thing was that a year ago he’d have said his world worked just as it was. That he had everything he needed. He had a home he loved and a business he’d built from the ground floor up that was both successful and also satisfied him.
But something had happened to that satisfaction over time. He’d felt less fulfilled and more . . . restless and unsettled.
But unable to pinpoint why, he’d ignored it.
Then she’d come into his life and for the first time he’d been out of his league. With her, he was never sure of anything.
Maybe it was because her smile lit up his world. So did the way she cared so fiercely for those in her life, even him, which made him one lucky son of a bitch. When he made her laugh, he felt like Superman. And when he made her melt . . . God. He could still see how she’d looked in her office, trembling for his touch.
And when he’d given in to it, his foundation had cracked. He could tell himself that what had happened had been a mutual explosion of pent-up need and frustration and that was it. But that was a lie.
It wasn’t over and it wasn’t done. Ever since that kiss on the mountain, he’d been telling himself that was it. That he wouldn’t give into further temptation, he wouldn’t play with her, never her.
But the thing was, he wasn’t playing at all. He was dead serious.
And suddenly that no longer scared him or had any sort of power over him. He didn’t want it to be over or done. Truthfully, she was the best thing in his life and he was a complete idiot if he let her walk away from him.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the guys piled into his office at that moment and they were off and running the job for a high-profile criminal attorney involving a missing witness and a cover-up. It spilled over into the weekend and through much of the week, it was Thursday morning before he had a moment to breathe or think of anything outside of the job.
He’d texted Elle several times and had gotten no response. It was early, too early to catch her in her office because he’d disturb her while she was in class. So he went into his office, trying to make a dent in the ever growing paperwork, his mind playing Friday night in Elle’s office on repeat.
Christ, he’d screwed up all year, keeping his distance like he had. But then Elle had upped the ante, offering him emotional support at every turn like . . . like they were something to each other. And he realized she was right. They were something to each other. They were everything.
Stay the hell away from me . . .
He’d long ago promised himself he’d never hurt her. He’d die first. But with Friday night flashing through his mind—the crazy storm, the feel of Elle’s sweet, curvy body against his, the sound of her soft sighs in his ear, how she’d reached for him as she’d come, his name on her lips . . .
He wasn’t going to be able to stay the hell away from her.
He’d given her time this week only because he’d had no choice, but the job was over now and he wanted, needed, to see her. Something had changed for him, in a big way. And he was over watching her from afar. Over worrying about their past and whether she might be with him now because of gratitude or a sense of debt.