LOVE ME FIERCE Excerpt

 
      “What can I do for you?” Luke asked.
      As the woman approached, as if making up her mind about something, Luke studied her. The baseball cap hid most of her face and hair, but not the extreme fairness of her coloring. The army coat, which had probably seen action in Korea, effectively covered her to mid-thigh, except for the impressive bulge at her midsection. Luke eyed it warily, hoping to hell she wasn’t moving so slowly because labor was imminent. Her legs, in loose black stretch pants, appeared long and thin, but that might have been an impression left by the oversized boots.
      “I want to interview for a job.”
      Her voice was low and even, but unfamiliar. Luke dismissed the undertone of recognition he felt. Even with the baseball cap pulled low over her eyes, he’d swear now that he didn’t know her. She was just some woman looking for a job. She could have gotten his name from any number of places. He’d been premature to send Woody away. With the Joneses coming, he couldn’t afford to waste his time right now.
      “I’m sorry, but I don’t take the job applications.” Luke moved from behind his desk, intending to usher her out the door. “Let me find someone else to help you.”
      She sidestepped him, moving faster than he would have believed possible, and still clutching her stomach, parked in one of the chairs facing his desk and dropped her tattered bag to the floor. “No. I want you.”
      Luke raised an eyebrow. “It doesn’t work that way,” he said calmly and clearly. “Either someone else helps you, or you leave.”
      In answer, she clutched the arms of the chair until her fingers turned white. Luke waited for an explanation, but she was silent, her jaw rigid. Her posture was both defensive and aggressive, as if now that she’d made up her mind to stay, she expected to be thrown out at any second if she so much as budged an inch.
      Luke considered. He supposed he could throw her out. He had her by several inches and easily fifty pounds. But the way she sat in his chair, like a crowbar wouldn’t pry her out–not to mention extremely pregnant–made him wary. Building security could throw her out. Luke sighed and looked at his watch. Or he supposed he could just give her the damn interview she wanted so badly.
      Luke reseated himself, flipped to a new page on his writing pad, and picked up his pen on the pretense of taking notes. “Name?”
      “CJ.”
      “CJ what?”
      “CJ Rayner.”
      “What does CJ stand for?”
      “What does it matter?”
      Luke tapped the pen on the pad, irritated. She demanded an interview, then evaded his questions? What a fricking nut case. He wrote down the abbreviated name and forced himself to let it go. She was right, what did her full name matter?
      His desk phone rang. He turned his back while he answered. It was Bobbie, checking in about his meeting with the Joneses before she left.
      He hung up, asked “Age?” and frowned. Something was different about her. What was it?
      “You can’t ask me that.”
      Luke felt his patience slipping. “Let me rephrase. Are you eighteen or older?”
      “Yes.”
      “Thank you,” he said drily. “Phone number?”
      “No.”
      “Address?”
      “No.”
      “Okaaay. Most recent address?”
      “Minnesota.”
      “Well that narrows it down. What job are you applying for?”
      “Fashion model.”
      “Oh for God’s sake.” He threw down his pen and stood up. “Quit wasting my time.”
      “You haven’t asked about my work experience yet.”
      Luke placed his palms on his desk, leaned over, and stared down at her. He opened his mouth, ready to blast her with an earful, when his attention caught on her midsection. What the hell? Her jacket. It was laying flat–
      He jerked upright as a cat jumped onto his desk. “What the fuck! Is this your cat?”
      “No.”
      “The hell it isn’t! Get it out of here!”
      Perversely, the cat began rubbing its head against his thigh and kneading the writing pad on his desktop. Something was wrong with its fur and ear. No, Luke thought grimly, he would not ask. He rounded his desk, placed his hands on the arms of her chair, leaned over her, and spoke clearly and carefully. “You and your cat need to leave. Right now.”
      “No,” she said stubbornly, then swallowed and glanced up at him. Luke caught a flash of clear green eyes slanting over high cheek bones before they widened at the sight of him and she looked back down. He was left with a view of her slender neck and a tight feeling in his gut. Trouble, he thought. This one is trouble.

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