The Will
Author:Kristen Ashley

Far better.

 

His eyes hit me.

 

My lips (expertly lined, filled and glossed, though some of that was now on my coffee cup) parted and my stomach twisted in a knot.

 

“I have something happening,” Ms. Baginski said into the phone. “It won’t take long. I’ll call you back later.”

 

She said this and I ignored it for I was watching with rapt attention as that man walked into the office. Thus, I was also watching when he came to a stop several feet from the back of the chairs. And thus, I could feel the full force of the fact that the office wasn’t big but we could be in an amphitheater and his overwhelmingly male presence would fill the space.

 

“Finally, we can get started,” Ms. Baginski stated. “Ms. Malone, do you know Jake Spear?”

 

I slowly rose from my chair, turned to him and started to move around the chair, lifting my hand, doing all this finding myself in his overpowering presence unable to speak.

 

I saw him lift one of his mighty paws as I walked toward him thinking I was not petite but his hand would engulf mine when he took hold of it.

 

Something about that made my skin feel funny, like I wasn’t comfortable in it or it needed soothing attention.

 

And it was on this thought the point of the toe on my shoe caught on the thick pile of the overlarge rug that covered the office carpet (for some odd reason) and I stumbled.

 

This happened frequently. I found it annoying and, regardless of how cute Gran found it or how amusing Henry did, I detested it.

 

I detested it more that I’d done it in front of that man.

 

I couldn’t think on that, however. As I flew forward, I felt my hand caught in a firm grip even as I brought up the other one to brace me wherever I was to land.

 

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Mr. Spear moved quickly at the same time he jerked the hand he held. Therefore, instead of landing on the floor or staggering across the rug, I hit him.

 

As in hit him.

 

My temple collided with his collarbone, my forehead banged against his jaw and my shoulder crashed into his arm.

 

His hand holding mine lifted both of our hands up his chest, gripping tighter as I felt his other arm round me at my waist, pulling me against him so we were fit snug together, my forehead in his neck.

 

Up close, I saw his neck was more muscled, his throat more corded then either looked from afar.

 

Dazedly, I tipped my head back and saw he was tipping his down.

 

Yesterday, he was clean-shaven.

 

This morning, he had not shaved and he had a dark shadow of black and silver stubble on his jaw.

 

This also suited him.

 

Greatly.

 

My eyes caught his and I noted three things instantly.

 

One was the fact that he had unusual gray eyes. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was unusual about them except for the fact that they were alarmingly attractive.

 

He also smelled good. I’d inhaled the scent of a variety of men’s colognes but not one was that alluring. It was, as was everything about him, aggressively masculine, assaulting my senses, making it hard for me to breathe.

 

And last, his body was far bigger and more imposing than it was from a distance.

 

And it was very hard.

 

“You all right?” his deep voice rumbled. I heard it and felt it, and I blinked.

 

It was then I remembered to be mortified and to keep my distance.

 

So I pulled at his hold and I felt his arm around me and his hand in mine strangely tighten for a brief moment before he let me loose at the waist. I moved away half a foot but not further as he kept hold of my hand.

 

“Steady?” he asked.

 

“Yes,” I said quietly. “My apologies,” I went on to murmur, putting pressure on my hand as an indication he should let it go.

 

He didn’t let it go.

 

“Not a problem,” he muttered, his lips quirking with amusement. “Obviously, you’re Josie.”

 

My back went straight because no one called me Josie.

 

No one but Gran.

 

“Yes, Josephine Malone.” I put significant stress on my proper name. “Lydia’s granddaughter.”

 

This got me another lip quirk and a, “Know that. Heard a lot about you, Josie.”

 

I was not certain this was good.

 

“Now that you’re here, maybe we can get started. I have a full day and this delay has put me off my schedule by half an hour,” Terry Baginski butted into our exchange, her voice terse, like Mr. Spear and my taking a moment to greet each other was exhausting her patience.

 

Of course, he had been late, though he had also called (albeit tardily) to explain he would be. But he was the reason we were delayed.

 

Therefore, I wasn’t certain what came over me when that woman spoke those words.