She’s wearing a sweater today, with no hood hiding her. Instead, every part of her softness is revealed to me. No matter how hard she tries to hide it, it’s right there in her face. Her creamy skin highlighting the little freckles on her upturned nose. Her bright blue eyes shining even brighter against her cool skin.

“I’m here. Let’s do this thing.” She puts her hands on her hips, not coming any closer to my desk, but standing in the middle of the room. This is the nearest I’ve ever been to her. I need more. I want to know what she smells like. Brand it into my brain before she’s once again too far away from me.

I give her a smile, trying to hide the fact that I want to leap over my desk and drag her to the floor. That I want to do all the things I’ve been thinking about doing to her for the past few weeks. It would take me months to get to every one of my fantasies, and by then I’d have created new ones.

“Have a seat.” I wave to the chair in front of my desk.

“No, I’m good,” she shoots back, making no move to come forward. I take a calm breath and move around the desk myself. I can tell she wants to take a step back.

“Ryan.” I reach my hand out. I should probably tell her to call me Justice. Everyone on Miles’s staff does, but I want to hear my name on her lips.

“Ryan,” she says, narrowing her eyes at my hand. “I’m Paige.”

Her palm meets mine, and I wrap my fingers around hers, feeling her soft, delicate skin. She gives a hard squeeze, trying to assert her power, and I have to fight another smile. This little kitten has claws. I like that. I let my finger run along her wrist and soothe the sparks in her eyes.

She pulls her hand from mine. “So,” she snaps.

I go back to my desk and grab the folder. “You will check in with me twice a day with full reports on yours and Mallory’s activity,”

“Mine?” Her face scrunches, like she doesn’t get why I need to know what she’s doing every day.

I want to tell her because I don’t think I can breathe without knowing.

“Yes, yours, too.” She opens her mouth to say something else, but I cut her off. “It’s not open to negotiation.”

Her mouth slams shut, and she shoots me a look that I’m sure would kill lesser men. But I’m not a lesser man. I’m her man, and all it does is make my cock even harder than it was when she walked into the room.

“Sometimes by telephone, and on occasion we can FaceTime.” I reach into my pocket, pulling out the phone. “This will be on you at all times. There is no exception. I text or call you, you always respond or answer.”

“What if I’m in class? What if—”

“I’ll know your schedule. I won’t call then,” I tell her.

I watch her jaw clench, but she doesn’t say anything. I hand her the file.

“Everything you need is in here. You leave today.” I have to force the words out of my mouth.

She grabs the folder, and I don’t want to let it go. Her eyes meet mine. Fuck. I can’t do this. Something inside me is shaking, trying to break free.

I keep chanting to myself that this is what is best for her, that I have to let her go. This is the only way to free her from her father. I have to so that I can have her. I have to prove I’m worthy of her. She’s full of so much fire and passion, but also a sadness she tries to hide with anger.

I release the folder, and she pulls it to her chest, still staring into my eyes. I wonder if she knows she belongs to me. That I belong to her. I can’t help myself, and I reach out, touching her cheek softly. There’s only a heartbeat of a moment between us, but in that time it’s enough. Enough to last me until I can see her again. I expect her to recoil, or to have a sharp comeback. But instead she blinks away our connection as if it never happened. I drop my hand, yet it’s still tingling like I placed it on a hot stove.

Then she turns and leaves without so much as a goodbye. I follow her out of my office and watch her get on the elevator. When she’s inside, I turn, running toward the stairs, taking them as fast as I can. When I fly out at the bottom, I see her leaving the building. I quietly trail her until she stops, looking in a window at something. She stands there for a long moment, longer than I expect her to, before shaking her head and moving down the street. I carefully trail behind her until I see my guy at the crosswalk up ahead. He nods at me before following her, taking over his job as her secret guard.