I didn't sleep well last night. I tossed and turned, Carter's voice in my head, until I finally flung the covers off and started cleaning my apartment.
It sparkles this morning, and I'm no less pissed off.
I'm in the employee lounge, pouring my second cup of coffee of the day, when Carter comes walking in the room.
"Leave us," he says, effectively clearing the room. His voice is hard, his hands shoved in his pockets.
The last person out of the room shuts the door behind them. I don't pause as I stir the sugar and cream in my coffee, watching him with cool eyes.
I'm damn pissed.
"Nora," he begins, and then he sighs. "We need to talk."
"You bet your ass we need to talk," I reply, setting my cup aside and walking to him, seeing red. All my frustration and anger has bubbled up, and there's no stopping it now. "You're my boss, and I respect you, but you do not get to talk to me like that. I need to know my place, Carter? Well, for the past five years, my place has been doing whatever the hell you need me to do for you, including parent your child. I take her on the weekends you work. I take her to the doctor. I take her to after-school activities."
I shove my finger in his chest, on a roll.
"Would you stop running your damn mouth for two seconds?" He grabs my wrist and pulls me against his tall, lean body. He's breathing hard, his blue eyes are bright. "I'm trying to apologize here. So if you'd stop dressing me down for a minute, I could get the words out."
"Go on." I swallow hard, trying to ignore the fact that this is more physical contact than I've ever had with Carter in my life. He's warm and firm, and I'm not proud of the way my breath hitches when he leans his face closer to mine.
"I'm sorry for what I said." His voice is calmer now. "I was out of line. I was upset at Gabby, and I took it out on you. You didn't deserve that."
His eyes fall to my lips and his breath catches. Is that lust I see in his eyes? "I don't know what we'd do without you, Nora. I'm sorry for what I said."
"Do you forgive me?"
I swallow hard and nod. "Yeah. Of course."
I can't think straight. I need to pull away. To escape back to the safety of my desk. But we don't pull away. Instead, Carter leans farther into me, as if he's unable to fight it. His hand slides from my hip, up to my ribs, and my nipples tighten, yearning for his touch. I don't have time to question our actions as his mouth descends toward me, but just before his lips land on mine, the door opens, and we spring apart, staring at each other in shock.
"Oh, sorry," Stephanie from payroll says. "I didn't know anyone was in here. I can come back—"
"Don't be silly," Carter says, his intense gaze still pinned to mine. "We were just leaving."
He turns and marches out of the room, leaving me shell-shocked again. "Nora? You okay?"
I smile at Stephanie and nod. "Of course. Still waking up. Didn't sleep well."
I retrieve my coffee and leave the lounge, headed for my desk. What in the ever-loving hell just happened?
"Hey, thanks for taking care of things today, Nora."
I glance up from one of my three computer monitors to see Carter standing by my desk, smiling down at me. A dimple winks in his left cheek, sending a flash of warmth down my spine.
In the four months since I brought Gabby back to the office from school for maiming her bratty little classmate, I've felt a shift where Carter's concerned. It's purely one-sided. I'm positive of it.
Since that day in the lounge, since the almost-kiss, I've noticed that Carter's hot as hell.
He's remained perfectly professional and normal, as if nothing happened at all. I've worked closely with the man for almost ten years. I know him. And nothing has indicated that he's interested in anything other than my ability to basically make his life run smoothly.
Which is absolutely how it should be.