JAMES leaned back in his chair, rubbed over his face with both hands and then ruffled them through his hair.
The flight from Kuala Lumpur had landed just after five that morning and he’d come straight to the office, showering and changing on site. He’d already caught up on most of the essentials and now he desperately wanted another coffee and something more substantial than a rubbery in-flight muffin. He’d read the paper and relax for ten.
Thankfully he heard sounds of movement in the office outside his door. Good. His secretary must have arrived. A little later than usual but he didn’t mind; she was the best there was—usually.
He picked up the papers he’d been skimming earlier, grinning as he walked to the door.
‘Bridge, did you break all your fingers and thumbs or something? The typos in this report are appalling. I can hardly read it.’
He looked up from the page he’d been chuckling over and stopped on the threshold, staring at the stranger rising from behind the desk.
She was tall, she was dark, she was stunning, she was…
‘Not Bridget,’ he said stupidly.
‘No.’ Her voice was quiet but firm, with a foreign lilt and a tinge of guilt to it.
And in that one beat he lost all power of thought—couldn’t process a thing. Could only look at the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. The only word remaining in his brain was wow. It seemed to take an age for his heart to beat again. When it finally did, he walked closer. The colour in her cheeks seemed to rise higher with every step he took nearer.
‘Princess Elissa.’ He remembered now, kicking the grey cells back on. He’d told her brother he’d give her a job. He’d forgotten that in the hype of the conference. She must have been here in Sydney at least a month already?
He couldn’t help himself—kept staring and stared some more. He’d seen her photo countless times in papers, magazines, on telly. But this was the first time he’d ever met her in person. He’d never thought she ’d be such a stunner in real life—so often these model types were actually a disappointment live and up close, without the benefit of tons of make-up, accentuating lighting and airbrushing. But in truth no photo could capture the dancing lights in her dark eyes, or the richness of colour in her long brown hair. Hair that invited the touch of fingers, and that would feel like silk brushing across skin. And nothing could prepare anyone for the perfection of her body—both slim and curvy, womanly and tantalising.
‘Bridget is on holiday. I was told to work up here while she’s away.’
James nodded, still too busy processing her presence to be able to speak much.
‘I’ll redo that report.’ The colour in her cheeks was deeper, she wouldn’t look him in the eye, and as she held out her hand for the document he saw it shook a little.
It brought him back to reality. A smidge of compassion made him feel the need to give her some sort of excuse, to ease her embarrassment. ‘Some of the buttons on the keyboard are probably different in Europe.
She looked up at him then, for just a second before looking back down to take the report. Apology shone in her eyes and something akin to—panic? ‘Must be.’
Fascinated, he watched the dull red splotches spread over her lightly golden skin; his fingers itched to trace over the patterns—to see if it felt as hot as it looked. Then he realised he was still holding onto the paper that she was trying to take back. He let it go and in the same instant, turned away. He’d been staring a little too long. But it had been a bit of a shock—she really was something else. Hell, he must be more tired than he thought—damn jet lag.
He shook his head, wanting to flick away the haze. But all he could see was red—the colour of temptation.
It was interesting how someone who must be so used to scrutiny still had an all-over body blush like that. It never showed in the photos of her. It must be airbrushed out.
He retreated into his office and told himself to get a grip. Intriguing blushes or not, he didn’t want her taking up any of his brain space. She was way too beautiful for him—the kind of woman every man would want and one who would want the attention of every man. And he wasn’t one for sharing.
Liss let out the breath that had been held so long her lungs were bursting. She flung back in the chair like a rag doll. So that was James Black? For some reason she’d imagined her hotel tycoon boss to be fifty-ish, a little squat, balding. Not maybe thirty, tall and with a head full of slightly unruly dark brown hair. He was gorgeous. He was more than gorgeous, and when she’d looked into his eyes she’d seen the most tantalising golden gleam that had her aching to reach out to touch him—to capture it and keep it.