When it comes to Rachel Lansing, C.O.O. Maxwell Case makes an exception to his take-no-prisoners approach. He'll hold this beauty hostage as his assistant and settle old scores from their brief affair five years ago. The pleasure will be all his.
Rachel smells blackmail. But with her ex-husband extorting big money from her, she needs Max as a client to keep her employment agency alive. So she hunkers down as his secretary. Soon their reignited passion burns away the clouds of mystery surrounding her past. Will their intimacy survive her secrets this time?
"You." The word came out as an unfriendly accusation. "Hello, Max."
Rachel Lansing had been bracing herself for this meeting all day, and now that it had arrived, it was so much worse than she'd imagined. Her heart stopped as the gunmetal gray of Max Case's gaze slammed into her with all the delicacy of a sledgehammer.
She dug her fingernails into her palm as his broad shoulders loomed closer, blocking her view of the tastefully decorated lobby with its soothing navy-and-olive walls and stunning original art.
Was it her imagination or did Max seem bigger, more commanding than the creative lover that haunted her memories? Or maybe his presence overwhelmed her because in a charcoal business suit and silver tie, he was less approachable than the naked fantasy man that frequented her dreams.
Only the public nature of this reunion enabled her to subdue the flight impulse in her muscles. She rose from the comfortable couch in the reception area at a deliberate, unhurried pace. Keeping her body relaxed and her expression professional required a Herculean effort while her pulse jittered and her knees shook.
Pull yourself together. He won't appreciate you melting into a puddle at his feet.
"Thank you for seeing me." She stuck out her hand in a bid to restore her professional standing and wasn't disappointed when Max ignored it. Her sweaty palm would betray her nerves to him.
When he remained mute, Rachel plowed into the tense silence. "How great that Andrea had her baby. And two weeks early. Sabrina told me she had a boy. I brought her this." She raised her left hand to show him the pink and blue bag dangling from her fingers. She'd bought the gift for his assistant weeks ago and was disappointed she wouldn't get to see Andrea's expression when she opened it.
"What are you doing here?"
"I was supposed to meet with Andrea."
"You're with the employment agency?"
She whipped out a business card and extended it across the three feet that separated them. "I own it." She made no attempt to disguise her pride at what she'd accomplished.
He rubbed his thumb over the lettering on the business card before glancing down. "Rachel...Lansing?"
"My maiden name." She wasn't sure why she felt compelled to share this tidbit with him. It wasn't going to change how he felt about her now, was it?
She nodded. "Four years."
"And now you run an employment agency here in Houston?"
She'd come a long way from the girl who was barely able to support herself and her sister on the tips she made wait-ressing in a beach restaurant in Gulf Shores, Alabama. And yet, how far had she come when no matter how well her business did, she never felt financially secure?
"I like the freedom of running my own business," she said, pushing aside the worry that drove her day and night. "It's small, but growing."
And it would grow faster once she moved into larger offices and hired more staff. She had the space all picked out. A prime location that wouldn't have lasted on the market more than a few days. She'd signed the lease yesterday, gambling that the commission she'd get from placing a temporary assistant with Case Consolidated Holdings would give her the final amount she needed to move. Maybe then she could stop living day to day and start planning for the future. However, now that she'd run into Max, that fee seemed in jeopardy, and just to be safe, she'd better back out of the lease.