The Will (The Magdalene Series) (Volume 1)(7)

I felt my mouth get tight, turned my eyes to my foot and started tapping my toe.

I felt slightly mollified looking at my shoes.

They were beautiful shoes.

Indeed, all I had were beautiful shoes. I didn’t own a pair of sneakers or flip-flops and I hoped to God I never would.

Handbags and shoes were my passion.

Actually, apparel on the whole was my passion.

But I couldn’t take comfort in viewing my garments as I couldn’t see my outfit though I was again wearing black. I’d donned my outfit because I felt it was apropos for the occasion. A black pencil skirt that fit like a glove all the way down to my knees. The hem fell further, to mid-calf and it fit so snug to my hips and legs, the only reason I could walk was that there was a slit that went up to the top of the backs of my knees.

My blouse was also black, and it was silk. It looked from the front like a simple blouse (though, with a fabulous high collar that hugged my jaw and had an equally fabulous wide strip of matching cloth that I tied in a big bow at my throat). The back, however, had a cutout that exposed skin from the base of the neck, and from shoulder blade to shoulder blade, the rest of my back was covered.

It, too, fit me perfectly.

The outfit (outside the extraordinary fit, simplicity, excellent quality fabrics and that cutout) was quite unremarkable. Elegant (I thought), but unremarkable.

My shoes, however, were very remarkable

Dove gray patent leather slingbacks with a pencil-slim four-inch stiletto heel and a pointed toe. The toe was black patent leather. The heel and sole, however, were bright fuchsia.

They were divine.

My hair, as it always was, was pulled loosely back in an elegant chignon. This one I’d teased a hint to give it volume but it sat smooth and full along the length of the base of my skull.

My makeup, as ever, was superb.

And I usually didn’t give way to these thoughts as Gran had taught me there were pointless (not to mention unkind). But in that moment, staring at Terry Baginski’s profile, taking in her arrogant, dismissive demeanor along with her hair, her harsh makeup and her clothing that had been bought off the rack, which wasn’t bad except for the fact it was the wrong rack, I allowed myself to feel smug.

Gran would be disappointed but I couldn’t help but admit these thoughts made me feel better.

She murmured into the phone.

I leaned forward and took another sip of coffee.

I was replacing the cup in its saucer on Ms. Baginski’s desk when, from behind me, I heard, “Mr. Spear has arrived.”

Apparently, as Ms. Baginski alluded, he had not lied. It wasn’t twenty minutes. It was five.

I looked around my chair to see the young woman standing there.

One second later, my back shot straight in shock when the man who had been staring at me at the funeral strode into the room.

Today, he was wearing a superbly cut black blazer, a tailored black shirt, blue jeans and black boots.

It was far less formal attire than his suit of the day before but, oddly, it suited him far better.

Far better.

His eyes hit me.

My lips (expertly lined, filled and glossed, though some of that was now on my coffee cup) parted and my stomach twisted in a knot.

“I have something happening,” Ms. Baginski said into the phone. “It won’t take long. I’ll call you back later.”

She said this and I ignored it for I was watching with rapt attention as that man walked into the office. Thus, I was also watching when he came to a stop several feet from the back of the chairs. And thus, I could feel the full force of the fact that the office wasn’t big but we could be in an amphitheater and his overwhelmingly male presence would fill the space.

“Finally, we can get started,” Ms. Baginski stated. “Ms. Malone, do you know Jake Spear?”

I slowly rose from my chair, turned to him and started to move around the chair, lifting my hand, doing all this finding myself in his overpowering presence unable to speak.

I saw him lift one of his mighty paws as I walked toward him thinking I was not petite but his hand would engulf mine when he took hold of it.

Something about that made my skin feel funny, like I wasn’t comfortable in it or it needed soothing attention.

And it was on this thought the point of the toe on my shoe caught on the thick pile of the overlarge rug that covered the office carpet (for some odd reason) and I stumbled.

This happened frequently. I found it annoying and, regardless of how cute Gran found it or how amusing Henry did, I detested it.

I detested it more that I’d done it in front of that man.

I couldn’t think on that, however. As I flew forward, I felt my hand caught in a firm grip even as I brought up the other one to brace me wherever I was to land.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Mr. Spear moved quickly at the same time he jerked the hand he held. Therefore, instead of landing on the floor or staggering across the rug, I hit him.

As in hit him.

My temple collided with his collarbone, my forehead banged against his jaw and my shoulder crashed into his arm.

His hand holding mine lifted both of our hands up his chest, gripping tighter as I felt his other arm round me at my waist, pulling me against him so we were fit snug together, my forehead in his neck.

Up close, I saw his neck was more muscled, his throat more corded then either looked from afar.

Dazedly, I tipped my head back and saw he was tipping his down.

Kristen Ashley's Books