Alexei (Her Russian Protector #8)(9)

By: Roxie Rivera


“It’s fine.” Her voice was quiet and tense. “I shouldn’t have bothered you while you were working.”

“It’s not fine, and you are not bothering me. I enjoy your company. Always,” he said, the dark intensity of his voice drawing her attention. A curious expression played upon her gorgeous face. For the briefest of moments, he considered finally being honest with her and telling her the truth about the feelings that had been tormenting him since last Christmas.

How would she react if he told her that he purposely stayed late on Wednesday evenings just because he wanted an excuse to talk to her? What would she say if he told her that his heart was thumping against his ribcage right now because he was getting to see her a second time in the same week? Because he was close enough that he could breathe in the tantalizing scent of that barely-there hint of beach and sunshine from the perfume she wore?

Clearing his throat and abandoning that line of thought, he asked, “Why is your crew here again?”

“Your manager called and asked for us to come back because of all the mud and rainwater that got tracked onto your showroom floor. Apparently you had a busy day,” she said with a timid smile. “She wanted everything to be bright and shiny for the weekend.”

Happy to talk about something positive, he nodded. “Fridays are always good for business, but today was one of our best Fridays ever. I have a good feeling about this weekend.” Despite the knowledge that his office was perfectly clean and tidy, he still moved aside and waved toward his desk. “Come in, please.”

She tried to slip by him, but he purposely angled his body to force her to brush against his chest. It was a provocative move but he couldn’t stop himself. As soon as they made contact, he noticed the flush that deepened the color of her face and neck. She never wore makeup when working so he could easily see the blush spreading. His entire body thrummed as he imagined having Shay in his bed, naked and writhing under his greedy hands, and watching that sweep of pink spread from the very tips of her toes to the top of her head.

Shay whacked his arm with the duster. “Behave or else I’ll send Manny up here to tackle your office.”

There it was. That sweet, flirty smile that he sometimes managed to draw from her. It was the smile that brightened his whole day. Playing her game, he drew a little cross over his heart. “I swear I’ll be on my best behavior.”

She laughed. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”

He didn’t follow her into the office. Tempted to overstep the line of friendship that existed between them, he remained near the door because he truly didn’t trust himself to behave. On edge with the discovery of the attempted theft from his business, it would be too easy to give in to the walking temptation that began to dust and polish his furniture. He respected Shay all the more for the way she never allowed their friendship to get in the way of her job. She had a work ethic that he wished he could bottle up and force feed to the new employees who tried to make the cut on the showroom floor.

“Looks like you’ve been busy.” She eyed the mess of paperwork on his desk before glancing at him with obvious concern. “You shouldn’t work so late, Alexei.” Her gaze drifted to the gym bag in the corner of his office. “Were you training this morning, too?”

“It was just a workout.”

“At what time?”

“Six.”

“So you were up at five?” When he nodded, she said his name in a censorious tone. “Alexei! You’re going to run yourself ragged!” She looked at his trash can and surely noticed the containers from his uneaten lunch. “Have you eaten today?”

“I had breakfast.”

She shot him a look of consternation. “Do you remember two months ago when you got onto me about my schedule? About how I needed to drop one of my jobs and take better care of myself?”

He remembered it clearly. He had discovered her damn near dead on her feet with her stomach growling so loudly he could hear it all the way down the hall. He had forced her into his office, closed the door and ordered her to sit on the couch. He had leaned against his desk and watched her eat an apple and Cliff Bar from the snack basket in the employee lounge.

It was the night he had nearly broken the rule he had created for his friendship with Shay. He had sworn to himself that he wouldn’t get involved with her but that night? Christ, that night he had wanted to smash that wall he had built between them, sweep her up in his arms and smuggle her away to some place private where he could keep her safe and protected and pampered.

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