Maryam waited until the door closed behind the sniffling woman before turning her attention to Xavier, who was standing on the other side of her desk and looking as if he was doing his best not to laugh. "So I think that went well." She stood, shaking her head. "Don't you?"
"Oh yeah." Xavier unbuttoned his jacket and slid it off his back and down his muscular arms. "She's a keeper."
"For a mental hospital." Maryam rolled her neck to loosen the tension and to keep her gaze where it should be, and not where it had been, which was all over Xavier as he slipped out of his jacket. Shaking her head, she forced herself to concentrate on her main problem, these endless interviews. This one was a disaster, as was every single interview she'd conducted before today. "Where do you find these people?"
He folded his jacket lengthwise in half and laid it carefully on the back of the chair their guest had just used. "She had excellent references. As did the woman before her and the one before her."
"References don't mean dick."
"Try to keep your positive attitude in check. We still have one more interview today."
"Christ on a cross." That was the last thing she wanted to hear. Sighing, she moved her fingers to the back of her neck, kneading the stiff muscles with as much pressure as she could. "This is never going to work. Never!"
"Yes, it will. You just have to give the process time."
She didn't have time. He was leaving. Sure, not today, probably not tomorrow, but it would happen, and there weren't enough minutes in the day to prepare herself for that eventuality. Feeling sullen, she frowned. "No, I don't."
"Yes, you do," he said calmly, as if speaking to a wayward child. "But if it makes you feel better, I think we're going about this the wrong way."
This she had to hear. "How so?"
"Instead of looking for one person to replace me, I think you might need to hire twenty."
"Twenty?" She didn't need twenty strangers around her, only him. The only problem was she couldn't tell him that without revealing just how much he meant to her. It was more than the job. Xavier was a man she actually trusted.
"Yes, one for security. One to help with your nicotine addition. One to file reports."
She frowned. "You haven't filed a report in over six years."
"Okay fine. Nineteen."
"Or you can just not quit." Maryam tilted her head to the side as she rubbed her aching neck. "I like my plan much better than yours. So much that I say we do what I want and you just stay." In fact the more she thought about it, the better it sounded.
"Being stubborn won't work this time."
That's what he thought. "Bet me."
"You do realize I can be as obstinate as you." Xavier walked around the desk and over to her. Stepping up behind her, he crowded her against her desk and, with an arrogant flick of his hand, pushed her fingers out of the way and replaced them with his own. As usual, his touch hit the spot and turned her tense muscles to mush. Closing her eyes, Maryam dropped her chin down and exhaled, surrendering her body to Xavier's skilled hands.
His elegant, long fingers were made for this, made to touch her. Maryam had been to some of the top spas in the world and been massaged by some of the supposedly top people in the field, yet they all paled in comparison to Xavier.
"Hmmm...very." She moaned, loving his hands against her heated flesh. The rounded neckline of the black sleeveless dress she wore allowed him ample access to her nape and shoulders. "You know you're not making this any easier. How can I possibly think of replacing you when you touch me like this?"
He paused. "I can always stop."
"And I can always have you audited."
"Ouch." He laughed and picked up where he left off, slowly turning her into butter. "You know, most people would have gone for having me killed."
"The IRS tops the Grim Reaper every time." At least in their world.
She held herself utterly still and let him perform his magic on her. His touch was electrifying and all so delicious. "Oh my God, that feels so good. My kingdom for a table." Right now Maryam would have given just about anything to be able to lie in front of him so he could work her entire body over.
"We need one. You're very tight." For a second Maryam thought about replying with a smartass comment but decided to forgo it out of fear he might stop. "You always carry your tension, right..." Xavier rotated his thumb and pressed hard to loosen the knotted muscles, causing her to gasp. "Here."
"Jeez." Maryam reached for her desk and leaned forward, bracing herself against the dark wood. "You should warn a girl next time you plan to knock her feet from beneath her."
"Where would be the fun in that? Besides, I enjoy keeping you guessing. Keeping you on your toes." Xavier leaned closer and spoke softly in her ear, "Keeping you in line."
Maryam's lashes flew up as a new and unexpected warmth rushed over at his words. There were so many ways she could take what he said, but only one of them had her pussy clenching and aching to be filled. "If you enjoy it so much"--she paused briefly to lick her lips before continuing--"then maybe you shouldn't leave. It'll be really hard to keep me in line when we aren't talking to each other every day."
"Do you plan to stop texting me and calling me at all hours?"
The amusement in his voice made her all the more petulant. "Maybe."
"If you don't work here, I don't have a reason to." And that's what bothered her the most. She would no longer have a valid reason be in his life, to be the center of it. Yes, her motivations were selfish and self-serving, but she and Xavier were a good team. Or at least she'd thought they were.
"Stop it," he ordered softly. "You're tensing up again. Relax."
"Easier said than done."
"No, it isn't." Xavier stepped closer to her as he began to work his fingers across her shoulders and down her bare arms. The heady cologne she gifted to him two Christmases ago filled her senses and caused her to smile. The first time she'd taken a whiff of the strong masculine scent had been in a lab, when it was still being conceived. Even then the line had reminded her of Xavier: strong, masculine, and intense. She'd immediately signed on to market the fragrance and named it after him, Sun, much to his dismay.
"You seem to be relaxing a bit more."
"Because I'm not thinking of work or interviewees." She was thinking about him. But that was probably one of those things best left unsaid.
"Good. Just close your eyes and concentrate on my hands."
"I'm trying." And failing big time. How could she concentrate on his hands when she could feel his groin against her ass? From the feel of things, Xavier wasn't erect, but the little devil inside her wondered what it would take to rectify that.
She'd always been attracted to him. Hell, a woman would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to be, but they'd never taken their relationship to that level, a fact she was cursing more as the days went by. Why hadn't they? The heat between the two of them was undeniable. The attraction was there, yet neither had made the move. Not once.
Maybe it was time she did something about it. Why not? It wasn't as if she had anything to lose. He was going to leave anyway.
The door was closed. They had the room to themselves. What would he do if she just wordlessly reached back, took hold of her short black dress and began to ease it up, past her thighs until it bared the la--
"Close your eyes," he demanded, cutting into her fantasy like a knife through butter. "I can practically hear you thinking."
Maryam's cheeks heated. Lord, she hoped not. "How do you know they're not closed?"
"Because I know you." He moved his hands back up her arms to her shoulders, then began to work them down her back, taking his time to knead her rhomboid muscles deeply, before coming to rest on her hips. His fingers flexed and she caught her breath, because suddenly he didn't feel as apathetic about her after all.
"Look at you. You just can't turn it off."
With his hands on her, she was anything but turned off. Quite the opposite in fact, and if the bulge behind his slacks were anything to go by, neither was he. Her mind began to race as she tried to come up with a clever reply, but she had nothing.
"Your mind is going a million miles per second right now, and I'm willing to bet I know exactly what you're thinking."
A million miles was an understatement. But she was more than sure he didn't have a clue the direction her mind was taking was heading straight for him. "A billion to one you don't."
He released her and she missed his touch instantly. "Really?"
Maryam turned around and looked up at him, chin tilted arrogantly, eyes filled with challenge. "Oh I'm willing to bet just about anything you don't have a clue."
"Really? Anything?" Xavier's gaze grew speculative; then he leaned forward, stopping inches away from her. "All right. I'll take that bet."
Well, damn. She hadn't expected his response, but she couldn't back down now. "Fine what was I--"
Before she could get the sentence out, Xavier leaned down and covered her mouth with his. Maryam's eyes widened for a brief second, then closed as she wrapped her arms around his neck and held on to him. This wasn't exactly what she'd been thinking, but damn if it wasn't close enough.
Kissing Maryam this soon was not his plan. Nowhere near close to it, but try as he might, Xavier couldn't keep his hands to himself a second longer. It wasn't truly his fault. His desire had come on quickly. The moment he'd touched her, his mind shut down and something else, something primitive, took over and demanded he give up this foolish pretense of indifference and claim his woman.
And she was his. Whether she knew it or not, she was. And if Maryam needed further proof than the obvious, all she had to do was notice how well she fit against him. As if she was made for him. As if the very foundation of her body had been created by God for Xavier and Xavier alone.
It would take a man stronger than him to resist the headstrong beauty in his arms, especially when she surrendered so beautifully and moved so wantonly against him. Hunger for more coursed through him. He trailed his fingers down the length of her spine, gripped her full hips, and drew her closer to him, a surge of need to fill her with his flesh flooding his body.
Breaking the kiss, he moved from her mouth to the gentle slope of her soft, sweet-smelling neck, where he licked and then gently bit before speaking softly in her ear. "Was I close?"
Maryam let out a shaky breath mixed with laughter. "Pretty damn close."
"Good. I win." He'd collect his prize later; for now, he had something more important to do with his time.
Before she could say another word, he slipped his other hand behind her nape and pulled her back in for another kiss. His need for her raged through him like an unchecked forest fire, fuelled by his desire to claim her as his own.
Without even realizing what he was doing, Xavier lifted her and set her on the desk. She looked like the queen she was, perched on the edge, legs crossed at the ankle as she stared up at him in utter confusion.
Without asking permission, without waiting for consent, Xavier moved his hands down her body and tugged upward at the sides of her dress. His actions were so forceful and fast he was able to pull the material from beneath her derriere without any help from Maryam.
"What are we doing?" she asked in a whispery tone.
"Eliminating your tension." Xavier took hold of the edges of her panties and yanked them down her thighs and off her legs.
He looked up into her eyes as she stared at him, her lashes half-lowered over her desire-filled eyes. With her dress bunched up around her waist and her lower lip caught between her even white teeth she was the picture of wanton and innocent, all rolled into one. And he wanted all of her.
Xavier dropped down to his knees in front of her splayed legs and looked up at her expectantly. There were just some things a man shouldn't have to ask for, but since it was more than obvious Maryam needed a few extra seconds to get with the program, he would instruct her. This time. Next time there would be a consequence to pay for making him wait to claim what was his. "Spread your legs." His tone brooked no argument, and for once Maryam didn't give one. She simply obeyed.
Good. There was a first time for everything.