Authors: Brenna Lyons
She didn’t know what to say to that, so Joy resisted the urge to question it. Instead, she followed Arren to a medical bay.
There was already a doctor waiting for her. She motioned to the bed and the clear plastic bag next to it. “I’ll need you to remove your clothing and put it in the bag. There is a shower through that door—you can change in there—and a clean medical gown hung in there for your use. After that, we’ll get you patched up.”
“Can the clothing be cleaned?”
“I’m afraid it’s evidence, miss. But we’ll—”
“I’ll take care of clothing, Ms. Patterson,” Arren interrupted whatever the doctor was going to say. He started to turn away.
“You don’t have to,” Joy called out after him.
Arren offered her a smile. “I own a clothing company. It’s really no trouble at all.”
Before she could answer, he was racing down the corridor. Thankfully, he wasn’t going toward the shuttles. If he went back to Spice now, his
was sure to hurt them both for it.
The doctor returned to the room with a garment bag. She’d disappeared at a comm a few minutes earlier. “This was just delivered for you, and Arren informs me that Karl is ready to take you home in Raashh’s shuttle, at your convenience.”
She nodded and took the bag. With it laid out over the examination bed, Joy unzipped it and started parting the tissue inside.
“If you would like to speak to a cosmetic surgeon, there are several I can recommend. Raashh will pay for it, of course.”
“What? No. You can hardly see the scar.” Even a bit of face powder would cover it completely. Someone who didn’t know about the attack probably wouldn’t even notice it.
She pulled out the dress, swallowing a gasp of shock. It was the most expensive dress Spice made, one of Daveed’s early commercial successes in the human market. It was a full-length evening gown that was nearly backless and had a long slit up to the center of her left thigh. A quick check showed it was her size. Moreover, there were underwear and shoes to match it in the bag.
“That’s pretty,” the doctor noted.
“Yes. It is.” It was the also the inspiration of her entire line. She’d adored Daveed’s sense of style and had wanted to make clothing as beautiful as his.
“If you’d rather have privacy…” the doctor hinted.
“I would. Thank you.”
She left with a smile, and Joy dressed. Every touch teased her body with sensual awareness. Though her new salary would allow her to purchase clothing like this, Joy had never dreamed of owning this dress.
Her senses scattered, Joy left the room. Arren was waiting for her in the hall, and she offered him a smile.
“I hope the dress is to your liking,” he offered in a tone that felt far too formal for a child to utter.
“It is. Thank you, but really… This is too much.”
He snorted. “It’s nothing.” He turned away, leading the way to the landing bay. “Besides, I know it’s your favorite.”
Her heart stuttered. “How could you know a thing like that?”
Arren chuckled. “When you look at it…even an image of it, your eyes linger, your scent changes. You wanted this dress, so that’s what I ordered for you.”
Words stuck in her throat. “Thank you, Arren. It’s lovely.”
“It is,” he agreed.
There was a comfortable moment of silence between them.
Arren broke it. “If it wouldn’t be too intrusive to say something?” he hinted. “I don’t want to offend you.”
Joy stared at him, shocked by a child of eight saying something so adult. “I’ll try not to be offended.”
He looked up at her, his expression starkly serious. “I’ve seen the way you look at Daveed.”
Her cheeks flamed at that. “Arren, romances in the workplace aren’t really professional…or smart.”
“I’ve seen the way Daveed looks at you too. I don’t think it would be sex between you. If you let him, he would be a very good mate.”
Words deserted her. Joy stopped cold in the middle of the hallway, finding it hard to make eye contact with Arren.
“It wasn’t an accident that Daveed was on that elevator with you. It wasn’t fate. He was on his way to the shuttle with me, ordered to evacuate by our
to come back for you. He demanded it. Daveed all but threw me at Karl and told him to get me out of there. Then he ordered the elevator to take him to you.”
She realized her mouth was hanging open and snapped it shut. “I don’t…”
“You do understand, Joy. Any other woman, my brother would have let the security forces do their jobs. Not you.”
Her nerves rattled, she started walking again. Part of her wanted to protest that Daveed couldn’t feel that way about her. Another knew Arren wasn’t lying.
The Xxan don’t believe in lying.
What did that mean for her? Joy shivered in realization. Daveed had risked death to save her, when he was halfway to escape.
At the shuttle, Arren took her hand and bowed over it, bringing the back of her hand to his forehead. She suspected it was a Xxanian sign of respect of some sort.
“Rest well, Joy. Please…don’t try to come to work tomorrow. Allow us time to institute new security measures. When you come back… I’ve ordered your driver to use the secured level of the garage for you, from now on.” He hesitated. “Think about what I said?”
Answering that was difficult, though Joy didn’t think she could think of anything else. “I will, Arren. Thank you.”
He disappeared with a smile and a wave.
Karl stepped down the stairs from the shuttle. “If I may be so bold, Ms. Patterson?”
“It seems to be the day for it.”
“Beg your pardon?” His brow creased in confusion.
She managed a weak smile. “Go on.”
He raised her hand and pressed his forehead to it, just as Arren had. After a whispered Xxanian phrase, he stepped back and offered his hand to help her onto the shuttle.
Joy hesitated. “What…? Arren did the same thing. What does that mean, precisely?”
Karl cleared his throat. “It means we respect your courage and strength, Ms. Patterson. What you did for Daveed—”
“What about what Daveed did for me?”
His expression said she was being a fool, though Joy didn’t understand why he would think that.
Three days later
Daveed left the driver in the bunker and took the elevator up to his office suite, his mind and emotions in a riot. Who knew what awaited him? The certainty that Joy had resigned cast a pall not unlike the loss of his mother over him.
And it wasn’t illness. There is no fighting a sudden, acute illness. Joy was shot at, attacked in a building I’d assured her was secure. I wasn’t fast enough to shield her. Of course, she’ll leave.
All too soon, the doors opened on the thirty-second floor, and Daveed exited the elevator with a confident stride that belied his inner torment.
If she’s gone, I have to hide my emotions.
He steeled himself for the worst at the sight of Celeste rushing toward him.
I should have asked about Joy before I got here.
Stupid! It would have told Celeste too much.
“It’s so good to have you back, Mr. Raashh.” She pivoted neatly, reversed course, and matched his stride.
“Quite good to be here.” It was.
Five millimeters to the left and I wouldn’t be here. If Joy had been slower or Arren hadn’t broken our
orders, I wouldn’t be.
“What is my schedule for this morning?”
Please let it be light.
Pretending his healing wound didn’t pain him was difficult enough. The uncertainty over Joy was worse.
“Mr. Rowe sent over new contracts for your signature.”
“I’ll look over them tonight.” Actually, Arren would. At eight years old, his younger brother had displayed a tremendous aptitude for business.
Someday, he may be in charge of Spice Industries.
That day would be a relief for Daveed.
She tapped at the screen on her tablet computer. “Ms. Patterson is setting up the presentation of the new line in conference room three. She said to let you know it would be ready for your perusal any time.”
His heart stuttered, and the healing tissue in his chest pulled and ached. “Now?”
“Is it a problem? I can reschedule her to—”
It’s not a problem at all. It’s a…joy. A delight.
He composed himself. “I was simply verifying my schedule for the day.” He was lying. It was the only reason a Xxanian would lie—to protect a female or child.
“Ms. Patterson is your only meeting today, so it is no problem to move her, if you want me to.”
Suspicion made his blood burn. “Is it? Why so light?” He suspected he knew.
Damned doctors and my
“Your doctors’ orders,” she confirmed for him.
Rayn, you are a damned interfering man.
Forget it. It gives me time to talk to Joy.
“Is there a problem, Mr. Raashh?”
“No. I’ll see Ms. Patterson now. Handle any calls. I do not wish to be disturbed.” He left Celeste far behind and marched into the conference room she’d indicated.
The door swung open noiselessly, revealing a lush ass encased in silk and—he was sure—nothing else. He closed the door, his primary hard and heavy behind his trousers.
Her scent was potent and alluring, and she shifted further, still folded over the table.
She wants me. She’s inviting me.
If she was, Joy would be his only appointment…and not because Rayn insisted on it. In fact, it was a sure bet that Rayn would be irked that Daveed was considering such hearty exercise.
“How are you, Joy?”
His voice sent pleasant shivers down her spine, and Joy considered her position. She hadn’t intended to meet Daveed in such a provocative pose, but her body heated at the idea of him taking advantage of it.
He didn’t, and she turned to face him. Daveed stood, his ankles slightly parted, as imposing as always despite his injury.
His cock was hard and pressing out against his trousers. Joy licked her upper lip slowly, and he breathed in deeply.
Scenting me. He knows I want him.
She leaned back on the table, seeking something solid to support her when her shaking knees weren’t helping much. “I should be asking you that question.” Her voice was breathy and lacking the conviction she’d wanted it to carry.
How can I think with his cock so ready, let alone speak?
Daveed stepped toward her, his expression solemn. “My injuries are nothing.”
“Nothing. You must be—”
Her lungs and throat seized at the brush of his fingers against the line of scar tissue on her chin.
His words caressed her lips with heat. “Yours is intolerable to me.” He traced the line again.
“Just a scratch,” she whispered. “You could have died.”
“I would willingly die to save you from harm. Any male would willingly die to save a female from harm.” It sounded like he was correcting himself.
“Not any male.” Her ex certainly wouldn’t have put himself in danger to save her.
“Any honorable male would.”
“Yes. I believe that,” she agreed.
They stood there, close enough to kiss. When Daveed didn’t make the first move, Joy’s nerves deserted her.
She motioned to the display. “The proposed line will be—”
“Is that what you want to show me?” There was nothing coy in that, nothing teasing.
Words failed her. Joy shook her head slowly.
“Then it can wait.” Still Daveed made no move toward her.
I refused him. I need to do something he can’t mistake as interest.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and rose on tiptoe, pressing her lips to his.
Daveed didn’t hesitate. His arms encircled her body and drew her flush to his chest. His scent made her head spin, and Joy opened her lips to gasp.
His tongue dipped inside, and she moaned at the taste of him in her mouth. Musk and spice. She’d always thought it was cologne, but it was his natural flavor. Joy entwined her tongue with his, drinking in the potent flavor of Daveed.
He caressed a hand down her shoulder and arm. His hand angled away, and the sound of the doors locking shut followed.
He has a button to secure the doors.
It wasn’t unexpected. Many corporate meeting rooms had such security features.
The sound around them muted, and she shivered in understanding. He’d also soundproofed the room.
Daveed drew back, and she stared at him blearily. He’d dimmed the lights in the room and removed his sunglasses. His eyes were narrowed, and the pupils were widened until they almost formed circles instead of slits.
He stroked at her throat, making designs with his smooth thumb. “Do you want this, Joy?”
She nodded, managing a gasped “yes” to go along with it.
Daveed slipped his hand under the shoulder of the low-cut dress she’d worn, eased the fabric off her shoulder, and massaged her bare skin. “If I do this, I am not content for it to be one time.”
Her heart thundered in excitement. “I don’t want a one-night stand either.” She blushed in the realization that he hadn’t said that. Xxanian men were a sexual lot. He could mean he wasn’t going to stop with one quick fuck but wasn’t offering a long-term relationship. What if Arren was wrong? Not lying but reading his brother wrong?
He cocked his head to one side. “I intend to claim you as my mate, if you have the least interest in—”
That seemed to surprise him.
“I’ve always believed that casual sexual relationships between coworkers or employee and employer don’t work. If you’re not in a committed relationship with the other person, it’s a recipe for disaster.” With humans, it could still be a recipe for disaster, but once a Xxanian mated, it was forever. No nasty divorce scenes.
“Are you saying you’re willing to mate with me? Now?”