Nicole put down the file she was reading and rubbed her bleary eyes. She hadn't gotten off work until two o'clock this morning and it had been another hour after that before she'd gotten home and crawled into bed.
As she'd expected, Natalie hadn't come home last evening. There was a message on the machine saying that she was spending the night at Reed's place and that she had big news to share with the family in the morning.
She hadn't been able to sleep right away so it had been almost four o'clock before her eyes finally closed. She woke at ten and remembered the work she had to do at the office. After showering, she dressed quickly then left a note for Katie and headed off to work.
There's no one here, she noted as she got out of the car and made her way to the lobby door, although she hadn't really expected anyone to be. She held her employee badge to the scanner. There was a buzzing sound and a click indicating the door was now unlocked. After retrieving the files from her office, she went to the conference room. There was a large table in there, which had plenty of room for her to spread out the information she needed to look at.
Several hours passed by and her stomach began to growl. It's one-thirty now, she noted after a quick glance at her watch. It's time for something to eat. Standing, she stretched from side to side, then walked down the hall to get the lunch she'd thrown together hastily before leaving this morning. A piece of leftover lasagna from Thursday's dinner and the rest of the salad they'd had. She stopped at the microwave to heat the lasagna, then went back to the conference room to eat. Her eyes rounded when she noticed someone sitting at the table, his back facing her.
"Excuse me, can I help you?" The man turned around and gave her a brilliant smile. She frowned. "M-Max? But how? I thought you were out of the country?"
"Not any more," he drawled.
She had recognized him from the picture in Reed's office, but he probably had no idea who she was. "I'm sorry, I'm N--"
Rising to his feet he said, "I know who you are. Reed told me all about you on the phone last night. But how did you recognize me? We've never met."
Nicole blushed. "Oh, um, I've seen pictures--on Reed's desk."
"I don't understand what you're doing here. I thought you were calling from Saudi Arabia last night?"
"I was on the plane heading home, actually. When Reed told me about the engagement, I told him I would meet you here today."
"But why? I don't understand. Reed never said anything."
He walked slowly to where she was standing, never once dropping his gaze from her. "You know, my brother didn't do you justice when he described you. You're not just beautiful--you're gorgeous."
Her eyes widened in astonishment. She didn't quite know how to respond to a statement like that. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. She lowered her lashes and murmured hesitantly, "Thank you."
She had always thought that Max was good-looking, but to see him in person, he was spectacular. He was taller than Reed--who was just under six feet--by about three or four inches. His eyes were a deep blue and mesmerizing, which drew her eyes back to his. His hair was thick, luxuriant and midnight black. She itched to run her fingers through it.
He tucked a stray lock of her own rich, chestnut hair behind her ear. The small gesture made her realize just how close he was to her; close enough that she could smell a hint of the expensive cologne he was wearing. She inhaled deeply. His head lowered to hers. He's going to kiss me, she acknowledged inwardly. And I'm not going to try and stop him because I want him to. From the first moment she'd seen him in the picture on Reed's desk, she'd wondered what it would be like to be kissed by him. His lips met hers and she closed her eyes and gave herself up to pure bliss. She lifted her arms around his neck and he pulled her closer. He's an incredible kisser, she acknowledged dizzily, and that was the last coherent thought she had as he deepened the kiss.