I shoved my hands through my hair and paced a wide circle through the room. Having her come live here was a terrible idea. What the f**k had I been thinking? Darren was a pain in the a*s, but he couldn’t hold a candle to Olivia right now.
“Don’t be mad at me,” she pleaded.
“In what world would I not be mad about this? First, you’re pulling some over-protective bullshit at the gym over Maya, and now I have to deal with them? I spent three years dodging bullets and hoping a roadside bomb didn’t kill me or mangle me beyond hope. Do you really think I need you people hovering? Do you really think you are somehow protecting me at this point in my life? Because if so, you need to realize that my relationship with Maya and any inherent threats that may come with it cannot possibly come close to the dangers I’ve seen and faced. You do not have a f*****g clue, Liv.”
I took a deep breath. Olivia seemed small under the wrath of my words. But her jaw was set firmly, determination still lingering there.
“She’s the reason why you were there,” she said, her voice low.
I clenched my teeth, forcing myself to take a minute so I wouldn’t lash out again. I kept my voice steady but clear. “That’s where you’re wrong. I joined the Army to get the f**k away from them and make a life that wasn’t dependent on every door they opened.”
“We both did.” Darren took a small step forward.
If anyone knew where I was coming from, he did.
I halted my pacing and stood in front of her again. “Listen carefully. The place will not be ready for Christmas. Beyond that and more importantly, I’m not ready. We’ll get together when the time is right, but you deal with them. You made this mess, you fix it. Tell them we have other plans, or whatever. I don’t honestly care what you tell them, but it’s not happening until I’m good and g*****n ready to see them.”
“When will that be? It’s been nearly a year.”
“I’ll let you know.”
MAYA. The week seemed short and long all at once. The days ran into each other. I couldn’t remember being this taxed since maybe finals week in college.
The non-stop work was energizing in its own way though. Working side-by-side with Jia had been eye opening. I may have seen a softer side to her, among others, but when it came to work, she was ruthless. She was appropriately polite, mainly to her peers and the higher ups like Dermott, but she didn’t linger on niceties. She took command over the aspects of the deal that fell into our laps, and as soon as we worked through them, we tackled more and expanded our reach and dominance over what was happening until it became clear that we were both pivotal in its completion.
Dermott’s jerk tendencies had lessened significantly, and I caught knowing looks from Jia from time to time. She must have recognized the change. If she’d planned things to play out this way, she’d done a marvelous job. I still hated him, but he’d become much more tolerable, especially considering how much time we’d spent working together lately.
As thrilling as the new possibilities at work might have been, I was exhausted. Another long day crept into the night. My eyes were fatigued from staring between a computer screen and the spreadsheets for hours, and I would have killed for some fast food. I’d texted Cameron earlier, begging him to bring me some when the group dispersed for dinner.
“Let’s break for dinner,” Dermott finally said.
Jia rose next to me. “Sounds good. You hungry, Maya?”
“Famished, but Cameron was going to swing by. He’s been waiting for me to get a break.”
“Sure. You want us to bring you back anything?”
“No, thanks. He’s bringing me something.”
She leaned down, speaking quietly so only I could hear her. “You can use my office.”
My eyebrows shot up.
“We’ll be gone at least an hour. I’ll make sure of it.” She winked and nodded for the other men to join her as she led the way out of the conference room.
I waited a few minutes until they’d gone before venturing into the reception area. Cameron was reading one of the dull financial magazines they offered. A black V-neck sweater accentuated the firm muscles of his arms and chest, revealing the well above his collarbone. I compulsively wanted to lick it, all the way up his neck and… S**t. I felt the familiar twinge low in my belly. My gaze wandered lower. His jeans strained against his thighs, his long legs outstretched in front of him.
I tore myself away from trying to name all the muscle groups under his clothing and locked in his cool blue stare. My stomach leaped, and I recognized that under the fatigue and the hunger, I really had missed him, every gorgeous inch of him.