There are just days that suck, Crystal Webber thought as she used one hand to rub her aching head and the other to clutch her cramping stomach. Why in the world had she come to work this morning? True, she hadn’t felt quite this sick when she’d left home, but she had been nauseous. She’d attributed it to skipping dinner the night before since she had fallen asleep on the sofa hours before her usual bedtime.
Now, though, she could no longer avoid the fact that she was ill. Her boss, Lydia, had gone to lunch, so Crystal sent her an e-mail explaining the situation before getting shakily to her feet. She quickly grabbed the edge of her desk and held on until the room stopped spinning. “You can do this,” she mumbled under her breath as she put one foot in front of the other. She was grateful for her recent promotion to assistant to the director of marketing at Danvers International. Otherwise, she would be struggling to make it through the cube farm where her last desk had been located. There was little to no privacy there and someone would have certainly noticed that she was weaving as if she’d had one too many drinks. Thank God, things were quieter on the management side of the hallway.
She was relieved when the elevator doors opened as soon as she hit the DOWN button. The next few moments passed in something of a daze, and she had no idea that she’d actually made it to the sidewalk outside the building until the bright sunlight blinded her. As she blinked her eyes quickly to adjust, her stomach roiled alarmingly. The realization that she was going to be sick before she made it home had her so focused that she didn’t notice anyone standing beside her until a hand touched her arm. “Are you okay?” Crystal jumped aside in shock at the sound of the voice, whirling around to see Mark DeSanto looking down at her with concern-filled eyes. Please, no. Fate couldn’t be evil enough to throw the coworker she’d lusted after for months into her path at this moment. Not today of all days.
Using the last reserves of her strength, she pushed her shoulders back and attempted to give him a bright smile. “I’m fine,” she replied in a voice that sounded scratchy, even to her own ears. He gave her a skeptical look and then, before she could do anything to stop it, the unthinkable happened. Her body went into a full revolt, and almost in slow motion, she threw up on a pair of shoes that likely cost more than her Volkswagen Beetle. Words of apology rose to her lips but before she could utter them, her world dimmed and then turned black.
As consciousness slipped away from her, all she could think was that she’d met the man of her dreams face-to-face and she wasn’t going to live long enough to do a damn thing about it.
• • •
Mark DeSanto stood on the sidewalk in shock with the now-limp body of the woman who had just moments before ruined his favorite pair of Tom Ford shoes in his arms. He knew the effect that he had on most women. Hell, he’d had more than a few swoon at his feet, but the whole throwing-up thing was completely new. He had no idea what to do now with the unconscious woman whose weight he was supporting. It wasn’t as if he could just lay her on one of the nearby benches for someone else to find—could he?
No, he discounted that option, despite how appealing it sounded.
When he’d seen her staggering out the door, he should have turned the other way and left her to be someone else’s problem. He had walked out the doors of Danvers just steps behind her. Normally he preferred tall blondes with the occasional redhead thrown in for variety, so she wasn’t his usual type. However, as if drawn by some unseen force, he had found himself reaching out and touching her arm, wanting a glimpse of the face that belonged to the enticing body.
But he’d caught glimpses of the woman he followed down the sidewalk in the hallways and lobby of the office many times in recent months. For some reason, she was always turning away by the time he became aware of her presence. He’d recognize her ass anywhere because that was the body part usually facing him as she walked in the opposite direction. She was petite but had curves in all of the right places. Her long brown hair hung in loose waves that stopped just inches from her delectable backside. Today, she was wearing a black skirt that reached her knees, but the slit in the middle had shown shapely thighs as she’d moved unsteadily. When she had lifted an arm, rubbing her neck, the top she wore had edged up, revealing a hint of skin. She seemed to be everywhere lately, and he was ready to meet his mystery woman so that he could move on.
Anything beyond that was doubtful. He didn’t like to muddy the waters where he worked. That was not to say he’d never made an exception, but he tried not to.
When she’d jerked around to face him a few moments ago, he’d felt a jolt of electricity shoot through his body. He wasn’t a man prone to romantic foolishness, but there had been songs written to describe women like her. Wide eyes close to violet in color. Plump pink lips that made a man’s cock sit up and take notice, and a flawless peaches-and-cream complexion that some paid millions for but never achieved.
He had still been gaping at her as she’d assured him that she was fine before she further shocked him by vomiting and promptly passing out. She had been seconds away from her beautiful face meeting the unforgiving concrete when he’d caught her. As he stood with her light weight in his arms, a black Bentley sedan pulled to the curb. His driver, Denny—who was also his cousin on his mother’s side of the family—got out of the car gawking as if in disbelief of what he was seeing. As far as the employer/employee relationship, theirs was very informal. They’d grown up together, and although Mark’s family had money from the DeSanto side, Denny’s did not. So years ago Denny had proposed that he become Mark’s driver and assistant when Mark had taken over the family business, and it had worked well for both of them. Mark compensated Denny more than probably anyone employed in a similar position, but he trusted him implicitly.