Up in Flames
She looked in the mirror on the wall opposite her desk, and couldn’t help the smile that covered her full lips. What she saw was what everyone who entered White Enterprises saw—a somewhat attractive woman in her thirties, dressed conservatively in a professional suit, with matching gray heels. She bit down on her bottom lip to stop from laughing aloud. She was even wearing pearls! Black-rimmed reading glasses sat on the tip of her nose, and with her long blonde hair piled up in a loose bun, she eluded a cool professional that was barely worth noticing.
It was her fault for having to dress this way. Three years earlier, she had been desperate for a job, and rejection after rejection had gotten the best of her. Finally, someone in the know had taken pity on her and given her some advice on what most employers were looking for in the specialized, high-end job she was searching for. And it wasn’t a distraction. They wanted a well-educated, professional-looking, unthreatening secretary who was all work and no play. Rachel had to do more than just change her wardrobe—she had to change her persona.
Less than a week later, the new Rachel Masters was hired. And it wasn’t for just any position, but for one of the most coveted receptionist’s positions in one of the most prestigious architectural firms in the city. She had always intended to go back to her normal self, but time had gotten away from her and after a while, she got use to her alter ego. One benefit of dressing older and less attractive was that it kept the men from bothering her. She was thankful for that.
As she freshened up her lipstick she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye, and she turned to see the CEO of White Enterprises walking towards the door. Oh, crap! She quickly lowered her arm and dropped the tube into her top desk drawer. A warm flush spread over her at the thought that he may have seen her. The last thing she wanted was for him to think she was primping for his benefit, although she would do a lot more than put lipstick on if she thought for one minute that she would get an hour of his time.
In a word, James White was super-hot, and sexy! Six foot plus of lean, solid muscle poured into the casual clothes, he favored. He traveled a lot and she rarely saw him in a suit. Today he was wearing gray slacks that outlined his solid thighs and pulled tight across the bulge of his cock. His white shirt was open, exposing his thick neck, and the long sleeves rolled up to his elbows revealed powerful forearms. His dark hair was thick and unruly. However, it was the steel blue of his eyes and his sensual mouth that did it for Rachel. She could barely look at him without wanting to eat him up.
She sensed more than heard the door open, and glanced up out of habit. “Hello, Mr. White.”
He nodded. “Rachel.”
His gaze seemed to take her in all at once. When slight humor glinted in his eyes, she looked down and sifted through some papers. Did he sense her interest in him?
“Any messages left for me?”
Yes, from his current girlfriend, the witch! She had stormed into the foyer early that morning, swearing, angry and demanding to see him. It had taken Rachel nearly ten minutes to calm her down, and then another five to write James a note. The woman would have been beautiful had anger not contorted her over-tanned, botoxed features.
She reached for the envelope on top of her inbox and handed it to him. “Miss Thomas left you a note.” She met his gaze briefly.
Rachel watched his sensual mouth turn down as he ripped the envelope open and scanned over the message. She seriously doubted it was a love note. A heavy sign escaped James when he was done, and he crumbled the paper in his hand and jammed it into his pants pocket. The action caused Rachel to glance at the front of his slacks. Lord, how many times had she dreamt of lowering that zipper and reaching inside for what she determined must be a sizable love tool? She laughed to herself at her description of it.
Rachel reluctantly glanced up, the heat of embarrassment crawling up her neck. She met his eyes over the rim of her glasses. “Yes, sir?” Had she missed something?
“I asked if you would do me a favor.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Of course, Mr. White. What is it?” Rachel held her breath when he suddenly reached forward. Her eyes rounded and she leaned away. But all he did was pull the pencil out of her bun. She had slid it in there earlier that morning.
“Relax, sweetheart. I just want to write down a number and address.”
Sweetheart? His soft tone, even though it was all business, awakened Rachel’s senses to endless possibilities, of fantasies she had been harboring since meeting him. She thought about her upcoming date, wondering if she could work out some of her sexual frustrations on him. It had been a while since she’d had a good romp.
“I want you to order three dozen Calla Lilies and have them sent to this address,” he told her as he wrote.
“Any note?” Rachel nervously pushed her glasses up her nose and offered a small smile.
“No note. She’ll understand when she receives the flowers.”
He handed Rachel the paper and pencil as he straightened up. “Thank you.”
Without another word or backwards glance, he pivoted from her desk and walked towards the elevators.
Rachel released her breath, and reached up to undo the top few buttons to her blouse. God, she was hot, thanks to Mr. Hot! The way that he looked at her only turned the furnace up, and her curiosity. Not about the flowers. It was common knowledge that when James White was done with a woman he sent them three dozen of their favorite flowers. Poor Miss Thomas. She hadn’t lasted as long as some of the others had. And Rachel had met them all at one time or another.
As an unsympathetic smile covered her face. Rachel wished she could see the other woman’s expression when she answered her door to the deliveryman, and realized her status in James White’s life had changed. He and his millions were considered quite a catch. And more than one woman had tried to get him to the altar. Rachel decided he must like variety because most women didn’t make it past the third month. After all, it was the spice of life, wasn’t it? The only thing she knew was that she would like to have a go at him.
Sighing, she glanced at the clock again. Fifteen more minutes. She got up from her desk and went to the front glass door, locking it. Now that no one could come in, she picked up several large manila envelopes off her desk and headed for the elevator. It wasn’t necessary, as there was a mail clerk who delivered the mail several times a day, but it would make the last few minutes go by faster. Besides, James White had one addressed to him.
Punching the button to the tenth floor, she decided to start there and work her way down. When she stepped out of the elevator, it was eerily quiet. Most of the lights were off. It was Friday, and many people had already left for the long holiday weekend. She intended on leaving James’ mail on his secretary’s desk, located right outside his open door.
“Someone out there?”
It was obvious he had heard the elevator ring when she reached the floor. “It’s just me delivering mail, Mr. White.”
“If it’s for me please bring it in.”
Rachel picked it back up and went into his office. Like the man, it was highly masculine, from the wall-to-wall bookcase to the bar set up in one corner. The furniture was dark, the leather sofa and chairs showing their age. He glanced up when she entered. His gaze immediately dropped to the front of her open blouse, and Rachel’s body responded in a big way. A pleasant tingling in her nipples warned her they were turning hard. She was thankful she still had on her suit jacket. Yet by the hard gleam in his eyes, she wondered if he could see through her clothes. She resisted the urge to reach up and see if she had undone too many buttons.
When James’s gaze finally lifted to hers, she recognized the sharp awareness turning his eyes darker. She stared at him over the rim of her glasses, waiting for him to take the envelope from her hand.
“I notice that most of the time you seem to be looking over the top of your glasses, Miss Masters. Do you even need them?”
His comment caught Rachel by surprise. She returned his smile. “I only need them for reading. If I take them off I’ll lose them.” He looked younger when he was relaxed, more approachable, and not the cool, standoffish, successful man he was.
Why did he have to be so damned hot? Rachel wasn’t sure how much longer she could stand there under his scrutiny without breaking out in a sweat. He had to know how he affected women. If those blue, gotta-have-you-now-eyes raked over her one more time, she was going to do something that would get her fired. She couldn’t help it. Unless she was crazy, there was more than just a little interest in his gaze.
“Are you okay?” He started to walk around his desk toward her. “You look a little flustered.”
She wondered what he would do if she were to tell him the truth. That all she could think about was locking his office door and seducing him into fucking her.
“I’m a little, ah, hot.” She might as well be honest with him. “Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?” Rachel was proud of how cool and impersonal her tone sounded, when she was melting like a hot candle inside. She turned as he moved closer to her, thinking he meant to leave.
“No but if you’ll wait I’ll take the elevator down with you.”
She tried to ignore that he was right behind her. The seductress in her put a little extra bounce in her step. Rachel knew her legs looked good in nylons and heels that were a little too high. They waited for the elevator in silence and it was during those tense moments that she realized James was so close she could smell his expensive cologne. Without being obvious, she inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with the clean, citrus fragrance of Clive Christian. It was very arousing, and his favorite. The only reason she knew that was because everyone had chipped in to get him a bottle for Christmas. And why not? He’d been very good to them at bonus time.
The elevator door finally opened and she stepped in, walking to the far corner before turning around to face the door. James was turning too, but not before Rachel saw the knowing smile spread across his handsome face. Oh, god! I am attracted to him and he knows it. It must amuse him! As the elevator started down Rachel forgot all about stopping on the seventh or eighth floors to drop off the other mail in her hands. She was too aware of James and being alone with him in the suddenly small elevator. The silence was unnerving.
Rachel stared up at the numbers indicating which floor they were on and then suddenly the unthinkable happened. The elevator jerked to a sudden halt. She caught her breath and grabbed the side rail to steady herself. According to the light, they were halfway between five and six.
She was claustrophobic!