"Yes, absolutely." I pushed to my feet. Knowing my appearance would be a reflection on my boss, I smoothed my black pencil skirt and straightened the cuffs of my long-sleeved silk blouse. By a random twist of fate, my crimson shirt perfectly matched Mark's tie. "Thank you."
We headed out to the elevators and I was briefly startled when the car went up instead of down. When we reached the top floor, the waiting area we stepped into was considerably larger and more ornate than the one on the twentieth. Hanging baskets of ferns and lilies fragranced the air and a smoky glass security entrance was sandblasted with Cross Industries in a bold, masculine font.
We were buzzed in, and then asked to wait a moment. Both of us declined an offer of water or coffee, and less than five minutes after we arrived, we were directed to a closed conference room.
Mark looked at me with twinkling eyes as the receptionist reached for the door handle. "Ready?"
I smiled. "Ready."
The door opened and I was gestured in first. I made sure to smile brightly as I stepped inside...a smile that froze on my face at the sight of the man rising to his feet at my entrance.
My abrupt stop bottlenecked the threshold and Mark ran into my back, sending me stumbling forward. Dark and Dangerous caught me by the waist, hauling me off my feet and directly into his chest. The air left my lungs in a rush, followed immediately by every bit of common sense I possessed. Even through the layers of clothing between us, his biceps were like stone beneath my palms, his stomach a hard slab of muscle against my own. When he sucked in a sharp breath, my ni**les tightened, stimulated by the expansion of his chest.
Oh no. I was cursed. A rapid-fire series of images flashed through my mind, showcasing a thousand ways I could stumble, fall, trip, skid, or crash in front of the sex god over the days, weeks, and months ahead.
"Hello again," he murmured, the vibration of his voice making me ache all over. "Always a pleasure running into you, Eva."
I flushed with embarrassment and desire, unable to find the will to push away despite the two other people in the room with him. It didn't help that his attention was solely on me, his hard body radiating that arresting impression of powerful demand.
"Mr. Cross," Mark said behind me. "Sorry about the entrance."
"Don't be. It was a memorable one."
I wobbled on my stilettos when Cross set me down, my knees weakened from the full body contact. He was dressed in black again, with both his shirt and tie in a soft gray. As always, he looked too good.
What would it be like to be that amazing looking? There was no way he could go anywhere without causing a disturbance.
Reaching out, Mark steadied me and eased me back gently.
Cross's gaze stayed focused on Mark's hand at my elbow until I was released.
"Right. Okay then." Mark pulled himself together. "This is my assistant, Eva Tramell."
"We've met." Cross pulled out the chair next to his. "Eva."
I looked to Mark for guidance, still recovering from the moments I'd spent plastered against the sexual superconductor in Fioravante.
Cross leaned closer and ordered quietly, "Sit, Eva."
Mark gave a brief nod, but I was already lowering into the chair at Cross's command, my body obeying instinctively before my mind caught up and objected.
I tried not to fidget for the next hour as Mark was grilled by Cross and the two Kingsman directors, both of whom were attractive brunettes in elegant pantsuits. The one in raspberry was especially enthusiastic about garnering Cross's attention, while the one in cream focused intently on my boss. All three seemed impressed by Mark's ability to articulate how the agency's work - and his facilitation of it with the client - created provable value for the client's brand.
I admired how cool Mark remained under pressure - pressure exerted by Cross, who easily dominated the meeting.
"Well done, Mr. Garrity," Cross praised lightly as they wrapped things up. "I look forward to going over the RFP when the time comes. What would entice you to try Kingsman, Eva?"
Startled, I blinked. "Excuse me?"
The intensity of his gaze was searing. It felt as if his entire focus was on me, which only reinforced my respect for Mark, who'd had to work under the weight of that stare for an hour.
Cross's chair was set perpendicular to the length of the table, facing me head-on. His right arm rested on the smooth wooden surface, his long elegant fingers stroking rhythmically along the top. I caught a glimpse of his wrist at the end of his cuff and for some crazy reason the sight of that small expanse of golden skin with its light dusting of dark hair made my cl*t throb for attention. He was just so...male.
"Which of Mark's suggested concepts do you prefer?" he asked again.
"I think they're all brilliant."
His beautiful face was impassive when he said, "I'll clear the room to get your honest opinion, if that's what it takes."
My fingers curled around the ends of my chair's armrests. "I just gave you my honest opinion, Mr. Cross, but if you must know, I think sexy luxury on a budget will appeal to the largest demographic. But I lack - "
"I agree." Cross stood and buttoned his jacket. "You have a direction, Mr. Garrity. We'll revisit next week."
I sat for a moment, stunned by the breakneck pace of events. Then I looked at Mark, who seemed to be wavering between astonished joy and bewilderment.
Rising to my feet, I led the way to the door. I was hyperaware of Cross walking beside me. The way he moved, with animal grace and arrogant economy, was a major turn-on. I couldn't imagine him not f**king well and being aggressive about it, taking what he wanted in a way that made a woman wild to give it to him.