“You can have this room,” Colton said putting her suitcase down in one of his guest bedrooms. “The bathroom is right through that door. My room is at the end of the hallway.”
“Thank you, Colton. You have a beautiful home. I hope I don’t put you out for too long.”
“You stay as long as you need to. My priority is keeping you safe.”
A thrill went up her spine at his words. No one had ever wanted to keep her safe. Home was the least safe place in the world, the office less so but still scary because of her anxiety about doing something wrong. Yet she always knew that Colton would never hurt her on purpose.
“How can I repay you for your hospitality?” she asked staring him in the eye. “I’m not much of a cook, but I can dial up some take out right smartly.”
He smiled at her joke. She smiled back happy that she could at least make him find something funny about this whole situation.
“No need to pay me back. I’m taking care of my employee.”
“Oh yes of course.” For some reason that stung. She was just an employee to him. Well, she could understand that fact. She had wanted it that way. It had been nice thinking he thought of her as more than a good worker.
“Hey what’s wrong?” he inquired putting his hands on her upper arms. She looked up at him and debated on telling him the truth or not. Those blue eyes of his were so concerned. Surely that meant something more than just good employee relations?
“No one’s ever – cared enough about me to keep me safe,” she told him truthfully. “Even if you are only doing it because I’m your employee, I appreciate all that you have done for me today. I don’t think I could have managed it all by myself.”
“I thought you only wanted us to be boss and employee?” he mused perplexed.
“I do. I mean I thought I did. I would love to be friends with you as I am with Grayson. Is that doable for us?”
“I don’t think so,” he replied just as honestly. “I have feelings for you that are beyond friendship.”
“You do?” A warm feeling bloomed in her chest. No one had ever – wanted her before.
“Of course I do. That is why I asked you out on a date.”
“Yes but I want more from you than only sex. Can you give me more than that Colton?”
He stared at her a long time. Several women had wanted more from him than a one-night stand. Alexa wasn’t the first to demand a relationship. However, she was the first one that he considered being in one with. The idea of spending time with her didn’t seem like a chore. They had spent a lot of time together already at work, to extend it beyond that seemed perfectly natural to him.
He enjoyed being with her. They had the same taste in music and talent. He had come to rely on her opinion when recruiting new talent. Even though she was extremely reserved, he had a feeling the authentic woman she was, lay just beneath the surface of the shy introverted girl. After having met her parents, he now knew why she kept her real self locked away, safe from their venomous attacks.
“I can try,” he finally blurted out. “I – don’t know if I even can have a long-term relationship with a woman. As my employee, you have lasted longer than any other woman in my life.”
“Really? That’s sad Colton. You have so much to offer a person.”
“I think so but I’ve never found a woman I wanted to spend more time with until – you.”
“It looks like we will be spending more time together,” she said smiling sadly. “I hate that it comes about like this, but maybe this can be a try out for us to be friends, to be in a friendly relationship. No sex or anything. Just being buddies.”
“I will try, but I can’t promise you I won’t flirt with you or be playful,” he said smiling.
Her heart warmed at the idea. “I wouldn’t mind that,” she said coyly, returning his smile.
“Ok. Great! Are you hungry? I need to feed you.”
“Good morning,” Alexa shyly said when she entered the kitchen.
Colton smiled brightly at her, and she was struck by how handsome he was. He was beautiful in an artwork sort of way. You only wanted to sit and stare at him all day, memorizing and analyzing how and why he was so gorgeous.
“Good morning,” he replied getting up from the table full of food. “Have a seat. You need to eat something. You’ve been asleep for twenty-four hours.”
“I have?” she gasped sitting down in the chair he had pulled out for her.
“Your body needed time to recuperate,” he reassured sitting back down. He began to spoon some eggs onto a plate in front of her. He added some bacon and hash browns. Lastly, he got back up and toasted a bagel for her.
“Most of the swelling seems to have gone down,” he commented when he came back with the bagel. “Still looks like it hurts.”
“Not much. I look worse than I feel. This food is so delicious. I’m starving.”
He grinned as her hearty appetite showed itself. It felt right to feed her, take care of her in this small way. He shoved the “why” of this sentiment away for now. Wanting to enjoy her presence in his life was a more pressing need.
“Are you going to eat?” she asked stopping herself from shoveling in the delightful food.
“Oh yes,” he said coming out of a trance. He had been staring at Alexa intently. She wondered if she had some food on her face or something else wrong with her appearance to have him so engrossed with her. Surreptitiously she ran a hand over her mouth and cheeks to make sure she was clean. As he began to eat, she went back to her food.
“You’re a very good cook,” she commented in between bites. “I’ve never tasted eggs this yummy.”
He gave a half smile at her word choice. What would she say if he told her that he thought she looked incredibly “yummy” herself in just an oversized t-shirt and thick socks. The t-shirt was falling off her shoulder, and he wondered about whose t-shirt it was, to begin with before coming into her possession. A past boyfriend? Grayson? It couldn’t have been him; Grayson wasn’t that wide or tall. This person had to have been a beast given how big the article of clothing was.
The tantalizing view of skin it gave made him hungry for something more than eggs and bacon. How would she taste beneath his tongue, her soft petals all ripe and wet for the savoring?
Damn, he thought with desperation. He had it bad. He put down his fork and tried took some deep breaths, trying to regain control over his body so that he could stand up without his erection tenting his lounging pants.
“Are you ok?” she asked with much concern. Colton seemed to be having trouble breathing. “Do you need something?”
He managed a smile as he willed his cock to calm down. “I’m fine,” he mumbled out. “Just a little excited by you being here.”
He cleared his throat and repeated himself more clearly.
Chuckling when she blushed at his words, he changed the subject and asked her about what she needed to do that day.
“I should probably talk to Grayson. He’s called me several times already and texted me for the last two days. I guess I need to tell him what happened.”
“Why wouldn’t you tell your BFF?”
“I don’t want to get him angry. He’s liable to go to my parent’s house and do something drastic.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” he suggested gently. “Someone needs to tell your parents to lay off.”
“I know,” she sighed. “I just don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
“Who cares about their feelings?” he snarled. “They apparently didn’t care about your feelings or body when they sent those bastards to hurt you.”
“I can’t believe they would do that to me,” she whispered, the tears soon falling. “I knew they didn’t – love me but to do – that …”
“Hey,” he said softly, grabbing her arm and pulling her into his lap. She readily came curling up next to him, sobbing into his chest.
“You’re safe now,” he murmured to her. “You don’t need to be afraid or scared anymore. I’ve got you.”
“Thank you,” she said pulling back from him and giving him a watery smile. “For being here for me. I know you don’t have to do this for an employee.”
“Well, sweets you are more than an employee now. I feel responsible as your boss but also as your friend. I hope we are friends.”
“Of course!” she said encouragingly. “I still need to thank you. You could walk away from me and all my – crap. But you aren’t. You are very kind.”
“I can be,” he drawled. “With the right woman.”
She chuckled at his comment, not getting what he was trying to insinuate. Laying her head back down on his chest, he realized once again how small she was, like a child in his arms. He liked the feeling of being able to encircle his body around her, physically keeping her safe from the monsters of the world, including her parents.
“Yes sweets,” he said as he stroked his hand up and down her back.
“I feel very tired all of a sudden.”
“You’re still recovering Alexa. Let’s get you back to bed to rest some more.”
“But I’ve been sleeping for the last twenty-four hours! Are you sure you can carry me?” she skeptically asked when he stood up with her in his arms. “I’m a big girl.”
“No you aren’t,” he disagreed walking back to her bedroom.
“I am overweight,” she persisted throwing an arm over his shoulder to hold onto him. “But I can’t seem to lose the extra pounds. I’ve tried dieting, exercising. I’ve pretty much given up and learned to live with being fat.”
He halted his movements and looked right at her perplexed. “You aren’t fat,” he told her. “You have some definite curves, but they are in all the right places as far as I am concerned.”
She shook her head slightly. “I wish I had curves. I mostly have deflated tires all around me.”
He snorted a laugh and began walking again. “Well, I don’t think you’re fat. I think you are incredibly sexy and beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she replied shyly. “Grayson always says I’m pretty, but he’s gay, so I don’t know if he means it the same way a heterosexual man would define the word. I tend to think he’s a bit more forgiving in his assessment of me.”
“No, I don’t think so. He’s a man and knows what he likes to look at like I do.”
He laid her gently on the bed. Before he could stop himself, he passed his lips over her very lightly. No pressure to return the kiss only a reminder that he was interested in her outside of friendship. Her eyes widened at his contact, and when he stood, she sat there with her hand on her lips, surprised by his action.
Smiling down at her, he commanded gently to rest and that if she needed anything he would be in his office on the first floor by the kitchen. Quickly he left her to deal with all the emotions of her very first kiss.