Chapter 17: Outward, You Say?
“This is very good, Cara,” Elisabeth commented after she’d read over my polished version of the report. While we’d initially planned to do it together, Elisabeth had been called to attend a meeting with another solicitor named Frederick Silverstone. Therefore, she’d told me to make an attempt at it by myself, something I appreciated. Knowing myself, I always learned faster when I was just thrown into a situation and forced to sort it out by myself. Being guided was one thing, being micromanaged was another, and I was not a friend of micromanagement.
Her remark made my day. It truly did. After all the chaos I’d endured with regards to William Night being my new boss, I was in dire need of positive feedback. During our meeting earlier, I’d been genuinely concerned about my performance, seeing as I hadn’t had the mind to admire anything but him. Thankfully, I’d managed to compensate for what I lost by managing this report.
“Thank you,” I stated through a breath of relief. My shoulders relaxed, and so did my heart. Not even my final exams had left me as battered as my first day here, but to my relief, it was nearly the end of it.
“Would you mind if I go over my contract now? William told me to go over it on my own by the end of the day.”
She looked sideways to pay me a sympathetic smile. “Of course. Before you sign it, I’d just like to say that I’ve adored working with you today, Cara. You’re a breath of fresh air. I hope you’ll decide to continue.”
Her words struck me hard. Blinking back at her, I slowly nodded my head, slightly surprised. Had I made her grow fond of me already? It hadn’t been my intention, but I surely appreciated it. That matter aside, she was also right. I couldn’t have wished for a better teacher. Patient and unbelievably kind, Elisabeth Tallis’ pedagogic abilities matched that of a professional tutor. For a moment, I wondered whether she’d actually been schooled in the art.
Without a doubt, Elisabeth was the sole reason I’d survived my first day here. She had made it bearable. Under the heat of William’s gaze, she’d remind me of reality.
As I went over my contract, I found nothing I’d like to discuss. Unsurprisingly, it was faultless. I hadn’t expected any less of a law firm. Regardless, I couldn’t help but read the contract with William’s voice in my head, as I could imagine that he had penned it. Authoritative and impatient, his otherwise sensual voice barked every single word to me. It caused a constant grimace to shroud my face while I read it through.
Bloody hell, he was everywhere – even in my head. I felt like I was suffocating.
“Cara,” his voice called then, but I gathered it was only his voice in my head.
“Cara?” he repeated, puzzled. A puzzled tone did not match the domineering one reading my contract to me in my head, so with a jump, I realised he was truly speaking to me this time. Whirling around in my chair, I found him behind me, slightly bent across my shoulder.
He was awfully close. Again, the scent of him flooded my nostrils.
“Shit, you scared me!” I barked while I recoiled from him. Amusement danced in his eyes for a second, until he closed them to refocus.
“I’ve got ten minutes to spare you, if you want to go over your contract.”
“I’m going over it now.”
“Splendid. Continue that in my office.”
A normal human being would have said, ‘Splendid. Shall we continue in my office?’ But of course, William Night was anything but normal.
Ascending from my seat, I passed him a scowl. Disobeying him in full view of Elisabeth was out of the question, regardless of how much I wanted to, as being alone with him wasn’t good for my mental health. However, professional as I was, I collected my contract from my desk to heed his command.
When I walked past him, his hand landed on the small of my back again. Did he think I required a compass to find his office?
“I can walk by myself,” I muttered under my breath when we were out of hearing range.
Devoid of emotion, he quietly replied, “I’d prefer not to walk behind you. My eyes keep landing on your beautiful bum, and I’d hate to objectify you like that.”
With cheeks hot and red, I charged into his office and watched him close the door behind him.
“You can’t speak to me like that!” I growled under my breath. “I was actually considering signing a moment ago, but you just reminded me why I shouldn’t!”
“Calm down,” he snapped.
I gaped at him. “Calm down? Are you truly telling me to calm down when you’re sexually harassing me? I am this close to filing a report! I will not stand for this!”
His eyes widened with his shock, and the sound of his sharp inhalation profoundly satisfied me. Since he appeared speechless, I decided to continue, “Why do you insist on treating me like I’m some sort of sexual object for you to entertain yourself with? I am utterly serious about this internship, and I ought to be treated thereafter! I both deserve and demand your respect! How can you be this unprofessional? It’s seriously unbecoming! Do you tell Ellie that you prefer not to walk behind her since you’ll sexualise her if you do? As if that’s not completely unheard of and therefore acceptable behaviour?”
Aghast, he blew his cheeks out and gripped his hips while he processed my tirade. At last, he had the decency to look thoroughly ashamed of himself. “You’re right. It’s completely unacceptable, and I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“No, it bloody won’t,” I retorted and folded my arms.
In silence, we stared at each other for a long while. Once he gathered that the storm had passed, a loud sigh travelled out of his tempting mouth.
“Honestly, Cara, I truly am sorry. I haven’t meant for it to come across that way. It’s just... Well, there’s really no excuse, but I’ve got my roles a tad bit confused today. Give me some time to adapt and I promise I’ll do better. Seeing you again wasn’t something I expected, and certainly not here. It’s messed with my head, especially because it’s you. I just need to readjust – figure out how to start regarding you as an employee, rather than my one-time-lover.”
I pursed my lips. “Yeah, well, you’re not alone in that. How do you think I’ve experienced all this? On top of juggling my way through a brand new job, I’ve not only managed to fuck my flatmate’s brother, but he also just happens to be my new boss. What’s more, he keeps declaring these outrageous, vulgar things, and it’s been doing my head in all day! And yet I still manage not to sexualise you. Outward, anyhow.”
I wish I hadn’t added that last part, but my mouth had spoken before my mind. At once, his eyes shot toward me, leaving me to whimper. Bollocks. Why had I said that?
A smug smile crept across his lips as he propped his broad back against the door to his office. Folding his strong arms across his chest, he studied me until I felt about to expire.
“Outward, you say?”
“Mr Night.” Menace filled my tone. I was not a woman to be messed with right now.
Smirking, he nodded to himself. “I admire your resolve, Cara, but why do you insist on calling me Mr Night?”
“It’s all part of the resolve you so admire.”
“What?” he queried perplexed.
“I’m creating psychological distance between us, and it’s working, so I have no intention of stopping.”
He burst out laughing then, and I found it awfully patronising.
“Fuck this,” I grumbled and dropped the contract on his desk. I wasn’t going to sign it. This would never work. The man wasn’t taking me seriously at all, and I found it extremely offensive. I was serious about this internship. That meant I was determined to put our sensual past behind us, but he kept insisting on reminding me of it. As such, he wasn’t treating me like every other employee at all, and that wasn’t something I found acceptable.
I did not want his special treatment. I wanted to be treated like anyone else in this firm, like we’d never shared a bed. I couldn’t possibly fathom why he would assume it all right to do anything else.
My action murdered his laughter. With the eyes of a hawk, he watched me approach his figure in front of the only sensible exit, but if he didn’t move, perhaps the windows of his office would become sensible options, too.
I hated when he used that tone with me, because it exuded a willpower not even I dared question.
“Sign the contract,” he ordered. While avoiding his eyes, I reached for the handle, but his hand intercepted. Grabbing around my wrist, he guided my hand away, and then he completely shocked me. Entwining our fingers, he held my hand in the most affectionate manner and fixed his eyes on them.
I followed his gaze, overwhelmed by the intimacy of his action. My heart lashed out against my ribcage until its beats were of such strength that I wondered if it would burst within me. It felt like my whole body was vibrating, and it was only because of a hand around mine.
What the hell was going on with me? Was this truly just lust, or was I growing infatuated with this imbecile? No, I couldn’t be. I hardly knew him.
Without letting go of my hand, he repeated, “Sign the contract, Cara.”
Speechless, I continued to stare at his hand around mine. I was trying to make sense of my feelings, but fathoming the extent of his influence seemed impossible. I had never felt like this, as if he’d set me on fire, and he was only holding my hand.
“I promise I’ll be good to you,” he murmured and, much to my regret, released me.
Paralysed, I watched him walk past me to fetch my contract from his desk. When he made his return, he withdrew a pen from his pocket and, as he extended both items to me, paid me a grave look.
“I won’t let you waste away an opportunity like this, and I’m not saying that because I want in your knickers. I’m saying it as one solicitor to an aspiring one. We’ll work it out. We’ll just have to communicate. This is an original situation, but we’re both adults. We’ll work our way around it. Please don’t squander your potential just because you happen to have shared beds with me.”
Again, I swallowed, hypnotised by his power. Ceaselessly paralysed, I merely stared at him, undecided. I just couldn’t decide!
After a sigh, he grabbed my shoulder to have me face the door again. Next, he shoved the pen into my hand and then he grabbed around it. While holding the contract to the brown wood of his door, he raised our hands toward the dotted line.
“Three months, Cara. You’ll survive, and you’ll be thanking yourself – and me – for the rest of your life.”
My hand was shaking within his much larger one. Without thinking, I slowly began to write my signature, but since my hand was trembling so terribly, it looked like a dying patient had signed their authorisation away. In many ways, I supposed I had. My fate rested in his hands now, and I feared what he would do with it.
“Excellent,” he murmured, audibly satisfied, and snatched the sheet of paper away from the door. My breath stormed out of my lungs. I’d signed. I was trapped with him now, for three long months.
Body rigid, my eyes followed his. He was walking around his desk now, where he would store my signed contract in the top drawer.
“Now, then.” He exhaled and dropped into his chair. While grinning up at me, he spread his arms apart in a ‘why-not’ manner, before he enquired, “Will you have dinner with me today?”
Grinding my teeth, I glared back at him. “Are you taking the piss?”
“Not at all.” He chuckled. “Seeing as you’ll be stuck with me for the better part of three months, I gather we should get to know each other better. Dressed, this time.”
There he went again. Though I would never admit it aloud, the man had wit, even if I didn’t appreciate the reminder it contained this time around. Blushing, I looked away from him while shaking my head. “I’m finished for the day, Mr Night. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“What? It’s a harmless dinner, Cara.”
Nothing involving that man was harmless. “Bye,” I muttered and opened the door.
“Tell Jason I miss him, will you? Ask him if I might come over for dinner this week.”
I froze at his bold suggestion, appalled. “I’d rather die,” I grumbled and shut the door behind me without looking at him.