The Wedding(10)

By: Emma Darcy

“There’s a lot of nervous tension here, Stockton,” he remarked.

“I’ve noticed that, sir.”

The dark eyes stabbed at her with amused appreciation. “I’m glad you have more words in your vocabulary than ‘yes, sir,’ Stockton. It comes as a relief.”

“Yes, sir.”

He dictated further points for the memo then came to stand behind her chair to read the monitor screen. “Turn it back to the beginning, Stockton,” he directed.

“Would you like me to print it out, sir?”

‘‘No. Just roll it through the monitor for me. I’ll tell you what to add or delete as we go.”

“Yes, sir.”

How Tessa held her concentration together she didn’t know. Several times he leaned over her to point out a place in the printing on the screen, thrusting his bare forearm right in front of her eyes, making her overwhelmingly aware of male flesh and muscle...and the long supple fingers...and the warmth of his breath near her ear... and the scent of his strong masculinity.

Several times her fingers fumbled and she had to correct her mistakes. He made no critical comment. He patiently waited until she was ready to go on. At last they came to the end of it. Then he asked her to turn it to the beginning and roll it through again.

“Very tense, Stockton,” he commented. “I think we should do something about it.”

Tessa had no suggestions. She didn’t know if he was commenting on her or him or the memo. She couldn’t even bring herself to say, “Yes, sir.” She sat there in piano-wire tautness, waiting for his next instruction, hoping she could carry it out with some air of competence.

She felt a hairpin being drawn out of her topknot. Then another one. And another one. She stopped breathing. Her heart slammed around her chest. After several moments of blank shock—and the loss of several more hairpins—Tessa’s mind dictated that she should start breathing again because her chest was getting very constricted and her heart was protesting quite painfully. Her mind added that she ought to say something, as well. But before she could find some appropriate words, he spoke.

“Nice hair, Stockton,” he said as her ponytail fell down and his fingers drifted through the silky weight of the thick tresses. He leaned over her shoulder and placed a bundle of hairpins on the table. Then he went to work on the rubber band, gently untwining it to release her ponytail. “You’ll feel a lot better with your hair down,” he said.

“Mr. Callagan...” Tessa almost choked on his name. She decided it was best not to make an issue of her hair at this late point, but to get his mind—and hers—firmly directed onto business. “Would you like this memo printed out now?” “No.”

The rubber band was tossed on top of the pins. His fingers lifted her hair away from its former constraint, fanning the long tresses out in all their glossy glory before sliding through them to gently massage her scalp. “Do you want to make more changes to the memo?” she asked, beginning to feel quite desperate about his absorption with her hair.

“Perhaps later. Needs thinking about. Feeling less tense now?”

“Yes. Thank you.” It was a terrible lie, but what else could she say?

“A pleasure, Stockton,” he purred in his velvet tone. And thankfully removed his hands from her hair. Then, just as she sucked in a much-needed scoop of oxygen, he said, “Let me help you off with your jacket.” And he was bending over her again, his hands working on the buttons at her waist with swift effectiveness.

She froze. Her mind went into stasis for the few critical seconds that it took for him to have her jacket unbuttoned and opened wide.

“Just lean forward a bit and I’ll slide it off your shoulders,” he said.

Tessa’s mind burst out of stasis and into frantic activity. It was only her jacket. He hadn’t groped over her breasts or anything. She leaned forward and lifted her arms out of the sleeves as he smoothly pulled the jacket away from her.

“Smart suit, Stockton,” he said, as he tossed the top half of it on a chair. “Does you credit.”

“Thank you, sir,” Tessa managed to croak.

Somehow, his approval of her choice of clothes didn’t carry much weight at this moment. Some belated instinct of self-preservation urged her to stop sitting like a waiting dummy and take some positive initiative. She stood up and turned to face him. It wasn’t easy meeting his eyes. First she had to drag her own up from his chest—there were more of his shirt buttons undone. Right to the waist!

“I think,” she forced out, “since you don’t need me...”