Lydia’s father walked away from her when she was eight. She’s struggled to not let him affect her, but fears she wasn’t loveable enough to make him stay. Jake wants to love one woman, but after scaring the last woman he met outside of the club, he doubts he deserves the right. She protects her heart by sticking with her fantasies and he lives by a set of rules that excludes women who choose a vanilla lifestyle.
The two will be kept in a conference room working together until their special project is complete. If Lydia and Jake hold tight to their bland lives, they’ll always yearn for love that is out of reach. Together they find common ground, passion, and a reason to take chances. Once they discover the grand possibilities of the love they desire, they find themselves in the very place they tried never to be again, facing unguaranteed loved.
S.J. Maylee Copyright © 2014
~ Chapter One ~
Lydia's boss stared the team down. She squirmed in her seat and worked to contain her fidget. The glower she recognized. Mr. Keller’s fiery gaze swept over every person in the conference room. Praying he would skim right past her, she shrank a smidge in her seat. The transition to their new product management database had bombed. He wanted someone to blame.
The team worked hard, and yet dozens of things had gone wrong, but no one deserved to get chucked under the bus. Politics was never a strong suit for Lydia, and neither was talking in front of a group. Who would enjoy sweating profusely and forgetting all words except ah and um?
The threat of humiliation fired through her, making her eager for a solution. If she could figure out a way to shift the meeting away from the possibility of someone getting fired, she’d relax. An idea rolled about in her head, but not even a drop of courage lingered within her reach.
“Keller, the policies and procedures need strength and substance if we’re going to move forward as a team with our new system.” Jake pushed back from the table.
She needed to add mind-reading to the list of Jake’s gifts. She’d had the exact idea. It wasn’t the first time he offered a solution she’d been contemplating. It often left her with the idea they’d get along well, which was ludicrous. Men like Jake didn’t pay attention to a woman like Lydia. Hesitation was more her style, and it certainly wasn’t Jake’s. As a department director, he made things happen, and along the way he intimidated the heck out of her.
Of course she’d never been alone in a room with Jake, never even had a casual conversation. Fortunately, he never sought her out. Whenever Jake neared, her pulse raced, and naughty ideas filled her mind. Her fascination with him had started on her first day with the company over a year ago.
The sidewalks had been a mess of snow and ice in front of their building that morning. She’d picked style over practicality in shoes and was rewarded with a slip and fall, flat on her butt. Jake had helped her up. He’d placed her purse strap in one hand and held the other while he asked if she was okay. Embarrassment might have flared through her, but his gaze had melted her, and she hadn’t been able to think straight in his presence since.
He made her aware of her body, the way it heated and awakened. It wasn’t the chiseled cheek bones, or his tall lean body that had to be fit as a Navy Seal. Okay, maybe in her fantasies it was heaven to grab onto his thick neck and shoulders. When Jake was around, she either got lost in a fantasy or felt like a teenager worrying about her hair being flat, smudged mascara, or worse things. What if he saw her nipples hardening? Luckily for her they worked in two different departments and didn’t find themselves with the need to talk to each other.
If she could get to know him she wouldn’t suffer so much. Most people had issues, and if she could find his she wouldn’t be so intimidated. She had a long history of finding flaws in people. First with her dad, she had been eight when he left. She led a lonely existence and wore it like an armor, and it stopped her from being let down.
“I think you’re onto something.” Boss man Keller usually agreed with Jake.
Disappointment ticked at her ragged nerves. Once again someone else was getting credit for an idea she couldn’t voice.
For Keller to ever agree with her, she'd have to have the audacity to speak about her own ideas. Until she had the guts to offer her own opinion there would be no recognition, no advancement. Soon it would be time to go back to her familiar little box, a place she usually thought of as comfortable, a place made easy to hold onto her armor.
“I’d like you to head the team on this.” Keller inclined his head toward Jake. “Pick one of the technical writers from this table, lock yourselves in a room, and get it done. I want a report tomorrow, my office, ten o’clock.” He stomped from the room and took another opportunity to sneer at each of them.
The room, without Keller’s presence, grew eerily quiet.
All attention turned to Jake. He towered over them as they waited for the chosen partner to be selected. Whispers bubbled up around her.
A door slammed down the hall, probably Keller letting off some steam. She didn’t want to think about Keller. She desperately wanted to fill her mind with one idea, that she could be the technical writer Jake chose. He could choose her.
She blocked out her surroundings, peeled back her protective layer and allowed herself to feel. She bit her lower lip and sucked it into her mouth. She could be locked in a room with Jake. Her mouth dried, and her heart pounded. She took another look at Jake and drank in his dark features and the muscles she imagined hidden under his blue collared shirt. A fantasy, starring the infamous Jake, filled her imagination.
He sauntered around the table and stopped at her chair. His hand took hold of hers, and he pulled her into his strong arms. Once he settled her bottom on the table, he stepped in between her thighs. As he devoured her mouth in eager kisses, he popped the buttons on her blouse, unclasped her bra, and exposed her. Powerful hands molded her breasts. She let her needy body fall to the table to give him access to every inch of her.
The fantasy was in full swing now. Jake shouted her name. Oh, her name sounded sinful on his lips.
“Lydia!” someone shouted.
Something pushed her elbow, and it fell awkwardly from the table, releasing her from her inner thoughts. Everyone at the table stared her way.
“Thanks for rejoining us. Clear your calendar, and meet me back here in a half hour.” Jake locked his gaze with hers.
“Yes, Sir … I mean, okay, I’ll be here.”
She couldn’t handle his powerful expression and dropped her stare to the table. It was too intense, him standing there like an unyielding statue. Had she said something wrong? Before an idea could enter her mind, he stormed from the room. The rest of her department followed him like nothing tremendous happened. Just like that, they went on with their day, talking about lunch plans and other mundane things. Lydia, on the other hand, couldn’t move.
It had been a split second, but his eyes had narrowed in on her and dimmed to a shade darker than black. It was intimidating, but she desperately wanted to see it again. She should slap herself or pinch her arm. She was at work. This wasn’t a time for fantasies.
Lydia stood on shaky legs, her heart beating widely. She shuffled in a daze to her cubicle to stare at her desk. She needed to calm down and ready herself for the work ahead. Mindlessly, she refilled her favorite coffee mug. The deep aromatics kicked her back to reality as the rich brew caressed her frazzled nerves.
She knew the new system inside and out, and she’d prove it today. Jake had made a smart move in choosing her. A smile flirted with her mouth, but fizzled as nerves danced for attention in her chest. If the nonsensical feelings were left to fester she’d tumble into a panic attack.
They had a big task in front of them. Loads of work would fill the day, and there was no need to get emotional. Her brain heard all the reasonable thoughts, but her body continued to brace against panic. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the pace of her breathing. She needed a distraction. She opened her eyes and found it in the mess on her desk. Her hands shifted pages, such a normal thing for her to do, except she wasn’t reading a thing.
Figuring out what polices to write could take the whole morning. She hoped the size of the job would help keep her mind on the task. It was ludicrous to think Jake selected her for any reason other than the job. She was a technical writer and a logical choice for the task.
He picked me.
Her department contained several people Jake could have chosen. He could have selected Gina. She was familiar with the changes but would know more if she didn’t spend a ridiculous amount of time socializing. Gina was a nice enough girl and beautiful, too. Her dark hair and pale blue eyes were stunning. But Jake didn’t choose Gina. It felt strange, but she liked Jake more for that fact. Her breathing started to slow.
“You’re not nervous are you, Lydia?”
“No, why would I be?” Lydia looked up in time to see Gina sauntering over with a smirk.
“Well, don’t let Jake bowl you over.” Gina sat on the corner of her desk. “Make sure he hears what you have to say. Jake’s a strong guy, and he doesn’t like meek women.”
“Thanks for the tip, Gina.”
How did Gina have any idea what Jake preferred? Gina was the type of girl she could see on Jake’s arm. The two would look handsome together. Lydia didn’t have Gina’s shape or her pretty features. Gina was clever, too. The guys often laughed at the things she said.
“Hurry along now. You don’t want to make him wait.” Gina scurried her out of the cubicle.
Lydia grabbed hold of her mug, which was once again empty. She struggled to straighten her blouse.
“You look fine, Lydia. Get moving.”
Fantastic, now Lydia felt hurried and insecure. Shaking her head, she wound her way to the conference room and was thankful when she found it empty. She left her things on the table and shook out her arms as she walked to the window.
The ravine behind the building fascinated her. She took a moment to appreciate the sprawling landscape, the varying shades of green, plants and mosses covering most of the ground. Everything was coming back to life after a long winter. Several trees lined each side of the ravine, and one had fallen across the middle. An eagle soared across the sky, the hypnotic flap of the wings filling her with strength and serenity. The peaceful view slowed her raging thoughts and brought quiet peace to her senses.
Finally. She wanted to laugh for getting carried away to her dream land earlier. Naughty fantasies didn’t belong in the middle of the work day.
Her fingers grazed the cool surface of the window, and her imagination thrust her into her earlier fantasy.
He had not expected to feel the pull of lust to Lydia, let alone the desire to dominate her body. Sure, she called him Sir, and that alone would please many dominants. The fact the formal address came from quiet Lydia’s lips made his cock rock hard. He adjusted himself, but it didn’t help the building pressure. He had a half hour to gather himself before getting locked in a room with her for the rest of the day.
He went through the motions of replying to emails and updating his projects. Nothing required enough concentration to shake his thoughts from Lydia. How had this woman grabbed his attention? She was the type you didn’t notice often, except her frequent trips to refill her coffee mug. This morning might have been the first time he heard her sweet voice.
Now all he could think about were the other things he had never noticed before, such as the length of her long, brown hair and the intensity shining in her hazel eyes. He could get a nice grip and pull her hair as he fucked her from behind.
Get control of yourself, man. There will be no fucking. It was a pity, because the curve of her beautiful, full behind would look amazing with the red impression of his hand.
He jumped at the sound of Keller’s assistant’s voice and then shook his head. “Oh, hey. Hi, Anne. I was lost in thought there for a second.”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you, just wanted to see if you and Lydia would need anything today.”
Typical of Keller, he would want to make sure they were productive, but what else was he up to? Keller always claimed he had nothing to do with the matches that seemed to take hold after one of his strategic requests. In fact, Jake vaguely remembered Keller talking about Lydia yesterday at lunch. Had the conversation unknowingly put Lydia’s name in his mind this morning?
He only knew two things about Lydia before yesterday. She wrote their technical instruction manuals, and she drank coffee like a chain smoker.
“I’ve seen her caffeine addiction, so I’ve already set a fresh pot to brew. We’ll work through lunch, so it would be great if you could order something for us.”
She probably knew Lydia. He should ask her … what? He already knew what he needed. According to Keller, she was famously precise in her studies of their new software. That’s why he’d picked her today. Lydia was the right person for the job. Whether she was right for him was irrelevant.
“Sure, no problem, I’ll wait to hear from you. See you later, Jake.”
Jake would stick by the three promises he made a long time ago. First, he would never again approach a woman outside of the kink clubs. Second, he would never again scare a woman. He craved for a woman to willingly submit. Third, he was not relationship material. His rules protected him, but more importantly, they protected the women around him.
Most women at the clubs understood a Dom not wanting a relationship. It was his job, as a Dom, to ensure no one got hurt, physically or emotionally. It was a big job, but his rules handled most of the work. Even though Keller liked to employ people he met at the club, none of his submissive coworkers were a match for Jake, and his rules were intact.
His rules hadn’t been a problem until a few minutes ago when Lydia called him “Sir”. She was probably vanilla. He wouldn’t find out, because their conversation would stick to policies they needed to draft. There was a lot to do in the next twenty-four hours, and he was thankful. He needed all the help he could get to keep his mind off of Lydia’s assets.
On his way out of his office he ran into his friend Simon.
“Hi, Simon.” The two friends fell in step with each other.
“Hey, man. I was hoping to run into you before your new project started.”
“You heard about that?”
“Sure did. I’ll handle the team meetings for you this week.”
“Thanks.” Jake clapped Simon across the shoulders. He could be an arrogant guy, but he always watched everyone’s back.
Simon stopped walking and turned to Jake. “I wanted to warn you to be on the lookout. I’m getting the feeling Keller is back in his covert match-making mode.”
“Shit, I was afraid of that. It’s been a while.” Keller knew about his rules. Jake felt reasonably safe, but a tick of concern swiftly followed. He started walking again, suddenly not as eager to see Lydia.
“I got a call from Charlie this morning that might cheer you up,” Simon said.
“Some more meals from that Dominatrix would cheer me up. That woman can cook.”
“She didn’t promise food, but she’s looking for some new trainers and wanted to know if we were interested.”
He might be able to survive the week with Lydia if he knew he had a sub waiting for him on Friday night. “Yeah, sure, tell her I’ll be there Friday.”
“Great, I’ll go with you. I’ll tell her we’ll do it if she cooks for us Saturday morning.”
“Simon, I like the way you think.”
He returned to the conference room early with the excuse of clearing the table. Maybe his mind would calm by doing simple tasks. The door opened to reveal Lydia with her back to him across the room. His body heated at the sight of her. She looked out the window. He tried to do the same, but his gaze wouldn’t detour from the slope of her neck.
They needed to work on drafting policies and procedures. His body didn’t want to listen. Work is all they would be doing in this room. Visions of him restraining her and demanding she submit filled his mind.
He was in a lot of trouble.
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