Marriage of Inconvenience (Knitting in the City Book 7)(7)

By: Penny Reid


It had all worked out, because that’s how Janie met her husband, Quinn Sullivan.

Anyway, that’s a long, convoluted story with very little relevance on what was happening today.

Steven worked for Janie’s husband’s company and we all worked in the same building, that’s the important part. Moving on.

Wearing my detached resolve like armor, I tucked Ms. Opal’s envelopes under my arm and took the elevator to the lobby. Cypher Systems headquarters was on a secure floor and a keycard was needed to access the level. My plan was to ask the security guards to call Steven’s desk, and then have my friend escort me to his office where we would talk.

So I can propose marriage.

Acutely nauseous, I placed a hand over my stomach and walked out of the elevator doors as soon as they opened to the lobby. But then I stopped as soon as I saw who was standing at the security desk.

Dressed in all black, looking the definition of ruggedly gorgeous, was the man of my dreams. Literally.

It was Dan.

Dan the Security Man.

My façade slipped.

I did not appreciate his ability to discombobulate me by merely existing.

Daniel O’Malley was second in command at Cypher Systems and my . . . my . . . Honestly, I didn’t know how to describe him.

We’d almost had a thing, but I’d messed it up before anything real could happen. He was that guy. That guy I’d been successfully avoiding ever since I messed everything up. That guy I’d known for years and against whom all other men were compared.

Basically, I lusted him.

Before I’d ruined my chance, I used to frequently wish I were someone else. Anyone else. Maybe someone who’d grown up in a middle-class, two-parent household. With a family dog rather than a pack of German shepherd/wolf hybrids who ferociously guarded the gates of my grandparents’ compound in Duxbury.

And a mother who tucked me in at night with a kiss, rather than a billionaire heiress who hid me in the second attic in the east wing from the imaginary clown in her head for a week and a half when I was four.

And a father who took me to baseball games instead of having the house butler drop me off at boarding school when I was five and never visiting me. Or allowing me to go home to visit instead of me running away one too many times and being expelled.

But enough charming and hilarious anecdotes from my childhood, let’s talk about Dan.

As I looked at him, standing behind the lobby security desk talking to one of the guards, I hesitated. The call with Eugene had left me off-kilter.

The last time I was off-kilter and within Dan’s proximity, my brain had suggested topics like, Talk about the weather. My mouth had translated ‘weather’ to mean, hurricanes are a type of weather, let’s talk about death by drowning.

Did I want to interact with Dan while off-kilter?

No.

No, I did not.

But what choice did I have? It was almost noon. Eugene had been adamant, time was of the essence. Hurriedly, I made a mental list of subjects that were off-limits—basically, anything gross, illegal, or morbid—and propelled myself forward.

Dan was scanning the crowd in the lobby as he talked to his subordinate and his stare passed over me once. He immediately did a double take and, unsurprisingly, I was ensnared.

My steps faltered. Through sheer force of will, I recovered. But not before the expected eruption of awareness in my stomach and tightness in my chest.

However, given my reason for being in the lobby—my mission to thwart Caleb’s attempts to have me committed—disregarding the flustering sensations was relatively easy. Or maybe I was just getting really good at ignoring my emotions. Whatever. Either worked.

Time is of the essence. Steven. Marriage.

Dan stepped away from his employee and positioned himself at the edge of the high counter. Dark brown eyes—that always seemed alight with mischief—swept down and then up my person, as though conducting a quick assessment of my physical well-being. I ignored that too, determined to keep our interaction as perfunctory as possible.

But then he said, “What’s up, Kit-Kat?”

Oh.

Darn.

I gulped a large quantity of air at the unanticipated use of the old nickname, knowing I’d pay for it later. The price would be ruthless hiccups. But for now, the gulping swallows helped.

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