Mindy & Gus – Steele Brothers Series
“I’m joining you,” Mindy announced, sitting down at the picnic table across from the big guy. She read between the stern lines of Gus McMann’s always-serious expression and brightened her smile, not allowing his scary look to intimidate her. Or, at the very least, not letting him know that she was quaking in her heels.
“I know you don’t want me here although, I don’t really understand why. Fortunately, that’s never stopped me before and,” she stared up at his craggy features that always made her heart pitter patter and carried on, “we’re going to be friends and I won’t take no for an answer. So just stop glaring at me, Gus. Regardless,” she told him, not daring to look up at him because she would probably stand up and run away. The man was more than slightly intimidating! “I’m joining you and we’re going to figure out what I’ve done to make you hate me. Because this silent treatment you’ve got going on?” She pulled her tuna sandwich out of her bag and smoothed the paper down onto the wood of the picnic table. “Yeah, I don’t like the silent treatment. It bothers me.” She waved her red-tipped fingers in the air dismissively. “Makes me crazy.”
Mindy unwrapped the wax paper from her sandwich but didn’t take a bite. Her hands were trembling too intensely and she was trying to put on a brave front. Tucking stray dark curls behind her ear, she took a deep breath, trying to fortify herself in the face of his continued silence.
“So!” she took a deep breath and looked up at the big lumberjack. “Tell me…did I hurt your feelings somehow when I first took this job?” Mindy was the flight manager for Steele Industries. She was in charge of ensuring that the four private planes that flew Steele Industries employees around the world were mechanically sound, on schedule, flight plans submitted and food on board. She did it all and, she didn’t like to brag, but she was damn good at her job.
Even more, she was nice! She was a very friendly person! She’d made friends with everyone in the building that worked at the private airport. If there was someone who worked there and she wasn’t friends with them, it was only because she hadn’t met them yet.
This guy was the lone holdout. Gus owned the cargo shipping company that also had offices in the building. The man owned fifty planes and delivered cargo all over the world. She knew he was busy but…well, he never spoke to her. Never even said hello. Mindy heard him greeting others and, okay, sometimes all they received was a curt nod, but when she came around, he barely even acknowledged her.
Since their offices were right across the hall from each other, and the man was smokin’ hot – she wanted to at least be friends with him.
Okay, total honesty, she wanted to be more than friends with him. She wanted to walk into his office, plunk herself down on his lap and kiss him. Hmmm….yeah, she wanted more than just a kiss. Her imagination was quite good. This man and a desk…oh, the possibilities were endless!
Clearing her throat, she focused once again on trying to find out why he hated her so much.
“Anyway, you have lunch here every day. I usually eat lunch at my desk. So I thought to myself…” She paused and smiled up at him, “I do that a lot although you won’t need to worry about what I’m thinking. My mother tells everyone that all of my thoughts just come right out my mouth. I have no filter,” she laughed. “So yes, I just thought that I would come down here and enjoy my lunch with you. Today.”
Still silence. And worse, he was looking at her with a strange look in his eyes. Since she didn’t really know the man very well, she couldn’t interpret that look. It seemed heated in a way, but Gus was one of those men who didn’t show many emotions.
Actually, he didn’t show any emotion. The man was blank. He was one of the most attractive men she’d ever met in her life, had that whole tough-guy, lumberjack image going on, complete with a rough flannel shirt and jeans that seemed to be his uniform every, single day – and the scruffy beard, dark eyes and thick eyebrows.
Mindy had to clear her throat as her eyes moved over his features. She would have fanned herself, feeling a bit overheated with her perusal, but she didn’t want to give away anything. And she definitely didn’t want to scare the guy. Boy, if he knew some of the dreams that woke her up at night, starring this man in his…well, wearing nothing at all…he would….um…she didn’t know him well enough to know what he might do.
Focusing on the present, she brightened her smile again.
“So! I am here. We’ll have lunch together and I can tell you about myself. You can tell me about yourself and maybe we might have something in common!” She gave him her brightest, most optimistic smile.
Nothing. No reaction at all.
He just continued to watch her with that strange look in his dark eyes.
Determined, Mindy continued. “So, I’m a Mariner’s fan. Have been all my life. Love the team and the players. They’re doing pretty well this season, so I’m excited for their chances. Olivia and I have an ongoing bet about baseball. She’s a Washington, D.C. Nationals fan and….well, the Mariners are doing pretty well this season!” She picked up her sandwich, but her fingers were still trembling too much so she put it down. She wanted to sip her water, but couldn’t trust herself. It would be beyond embarrassing if she spilled water down the front of her shirt because of silly, shaking fingers.
“I go running every morning,” she admitted. Then scrunched up her face. “Okay, no, that’s a lie. I try to go running each morning, but there are just some mornings, especially when it rains or when the fog is too thick, that I don’t run. I pull the covers up over my head and pretend like it isn’t morning.” She curled her fingers up into a fist under the table. “And then I beat myself up all day long for not going out to exercise. I mean, I know that exercise is really good for the body but, well, sometimes the weather just isn’t nice enough to encourage a good, long, healthy run.” She bit her lip. Still no reaction. “I love yoga too!” Then shook her head. “Nope. Another lie. I do yoga because it is a healthy endeavor and because it keeps a person from shrinking as they grow older.” She laughed and lifted one shoulder. “Obviously, that’s a pretty big issue for me since I’m only five feet, four inches tall. Losing even one inch would make me a munchkin and…” she sighed and stopped talking, looking down at her food. She was lost. This wasn’t working. He just stared at her, not saying a word.
He crumpled up his trash and stood up, tossing his trash into the garbage. “You’re the perfect height,” he told her, then walked away.
Mindy blinked. He spoke? Twisting around, she cursed the picnic table that wouldn’t allow her to easily turn to watch him walk away. Because watching that man walk away was amazing! Those broad shoulders seemed even larger in the flannel shirt, his hips lean and those legs that gave him such height were strong and confident as he walked away.
She stared at him until he disappeared into the building, then she turned around, sit-dancing on the wooden bench. “He spoke! He actually spoke to me!” she exclaimed, probably more excited than she should be after only four words. But still!
Gus looked out his window, staring at the tiny, bubbly female. She was cute. Too cute. And too damn sexy!
He’d been avoiding her for months, but the determined little lady wasn’t going to allow that.
Sighing, he turned away when she finished her sandwich, tossed her trash into the garbage and danced…literally danced…into the building. Damn, she was cute!
Looking down at his desk, he rubbed the back of his neck, staring at the picture on his desk. Just one picture, but it was an important one. It reminded him of where his focus should be.
Rubbing a hand over his face, he sat back down at his desk and turned to his computer. He had work to do and definitely didn’t have time for an adorable, dancing brunette with too much spunk and a smile that could light up a room.
Or a dark, wounded heart.
What the hell? Where had that melancholy thought come from?
His heart wasn’t wounded. He wasn’t a poet and he wasn’t interested in that woman.
So why the hell have you been avoiding her as if she was some sort of serial killer, he asked himself.
Get back to work, he growled mentally.
For the rest of the afternoon, he plowed through his work, handing out orders, setting up schedules and reviewing plans for the next week. He needed to hire about ten new pilots to handle the orders that were coming in, he had contracts to review and schedules to adjust.
But at five o’clock, he stood up and walked back to his window. He didn’t resume his seat again until the adorable, sexy brunette was in her car and driving away.
It was the same every damn day. He’d watch her drive up and wouldn’t take his eyes off of her until she was safely in the building. And when she worked late, he worked late, not allowing her to remain in the building alone. He wouldn’t leave until she was safely in her car again.
Thankfully, she didn’t work late too often. The adorable woman knew her job and finished off everything with accuracy and efficiency.
Glancing at his watch, he sighed and turned off his computer, stuffing a bunch of papers into a bag, then turned off the lights. He was once again the last to leave. He had acquired a good staff and they knew their jobs. Time to go home, he thought.
Twenty minutes later, he walked into his house and bent down, waiting for it. Waiting….waiting.
“Daddy!” the little-girl voice screamed. A moment later, a female rocket launched out of the kitchen, speeding directly down the hallway and into his arms. Gus caught his six year old daughter in his arms and lifted her up, nuzzling her neck with his scruffy beard until she giggled.
“Were you a good girl today?” he asked.
He laughed. “What were you?”
“A smart girl!” she exclaimed with pride. It was their usual routine and he loved it. His wiggly daughter put a hand on either side of his face. “Were you good today?”
Immediately, Gus thought about lunch with Mindy and berated himself for indulging in her company. “No. I wasn’t good today. I did something bad,” he told his daughter.
She leaned in and gave him a sweet kiss on the cheek. “Then you have to apologize,” she commanded.
“I will,” he promised.
“We’re having meatloaf for dinner tonight!” she said, wrapping her tiny arms around his neck and bouncing excitedly.
“Meatloaf?” he chuckled. He’d taught his daughter well. Meatloaf for dinner meant meatloaf sandwiches for lunch the following day – the only reason to have meatloaf for dinner.
“Yep! Sandwiches!” she giggled, covering her mouth as if the word was naughty.
“You betcha!” he told her and carried her into the kitchen.
“Hi Mona,” he greeted his housekeeper and nanny. Mona was a wonderful woman who cooked and cleaned for him every weekday. Gus dropped Chloe off at kindergarten each morning, but it was Mona who stood at the bus stop in the afternoon and walked Chloe home, got dinner ready and straightened up the house.
She was a miracle worker, keeping his little girl from missing…
Moving on, he focused back on Chloe and the meal that was already set at the table.
“Chloe has math homework and she needs to read tonight,” Mona explained, outlining his daughter’s homework tasks. “She read one story already, but told me that she didn’t remember it because you weren’t here.” Mona chuckled as she lifted her coat up and pulled it on. “You two have a good evening,” she said and, with a wave, walked out the door.
Gus appreciated Mona’s help more than he could say, but he also appreciated that she left each night so that he could have some quality time with Chloe.
Setting her down on her chair, he adjusted her seat, then sat down next to her. For the next two and a half hours, he listened to Chloe describe, in detail, every moment of her day. After dinner, they cleaned up together, took out the trash and sat down on the sofa. Gus lit the logs in the fireplace, lifted Chloe onto his lap and they read until bedtime.
After tucking Chloe into bed, ensuring that all the monsters under her bed and closet were sleeping too, he winked at her before turning off the light.
She was asleep before he was out of the room.
Back downstairs, he pulled out the files he’d brought home, but tonight, he couldn’t focus on anything. All he could think about was Mindy and her efforts to get him to talk. He knew she’d been nervous around him but, at the time, he hadn’t done anything to alleviate her nervousness. Hell, he wanted her to be nervous. He wanted her to go away.
He couldn’t handle Mindy and her exuberance or her bright smiles. Already, his dreams were filled with images of her soft, lush bottom in his hands, her breasts in his mouth and…!
His life was exactly how he wanted it. He had Chloe. When he needed female companionship, he could go out and…come to think of it, he hadn’t called any of his female friends in…months. Looking back, he realized that he hadn’t been with any woman since Mindy had started working at Steele Industries.
How long was that? Thinking back, he realized that she’d been there for about a year. Damn, it had been more than twelve months since he’d had sex?
Shaking his head, he made a mental note to call Linda this weekend. He’d never gone that long without a woman and he wasn’t going to start now simply because…well, because some adorable, sexy dynamo had started working in the building.
Mindy was wrong for him. Wrong for his life, wrong for his daughter and wrong about everything else.
No more lunches with the woman. He’d avoided her so far, no need to break that cycle. Tomorrow, he’d eat in his office.
What the hell was he doing?!
He should go right back inside. He should pack up his meatloaf sandwich and just walk into the building.
So why was he sitting here? Why wasn’t he doing what he knew he should be doing?
Instead, he stared up at the building, willing the saucy brunette to come down as promised.
Hell! Just thinking that made him want to pack up and leave. Women and promises don’t mix. Hadn’t his ex-wife taught him that lesson thoroughly enough? Mindy was no different. Yeah, yesterday she’d said she would be here every day for lunch with him. But today was a different day. Different promises would come out of her lovely mouth today. Twenty-four hours. That’s as long as he could trust a woman’s word.
He was just about to toss his lunch into the trash, uneaten, when the door to the building burst open. Without even looking up, Gus knew that Mindy would be walking out, her breasts shifting underneath that red sweater she’d worn today, making his mouth water just to look at them. Her tiny waist and round, lush hips were his undoing. As soon as he saw her, saw her breasts and her hips and…her smile, he knew he was going to sit here and eat his damn sandwich and listen to her chatter.
And bask her sunny smile.
He tried to keep his eyes on her features but too often, they looked lower, his body hardening to an almost painful level as he watched her breasts bounce, her hips sway in that sexy, unconsciously feminine way she had about her. Did she have any idea how erotic her walk was? Could she be doing it on purpose?
Looking up again, his eyes narrowed when he took in the happy smile on her lovely features.
“Hi there!” she sing-songed, tucking her legs up underneath the picnic table. “How are you doing today?”
His mind was still thinking about her swaying hips so all he could manage at the moment was a lifting of his eyebrow, letting her make of that what she wanted.
Her laughter was startling and only increased the painful arousal that he was trying to deal with.
“That good, huh?” she teased.
Mindy had a bit more control over her nervousness today. But she couldn’t hide her excitement at the prospect of seeing him again. She’d been waiting all morning for this moment, and had even thought that the man might forego his usual lunch outside after she’d invaded his privacy yesterday.
Then she’d looked outside and watched him walk over to the table, her heart pounding in her chest. When he’d looked up at her window, she’d just about passed out from the heat that had hit her with that look.
Now, sitting here across from the big lumberjack, she wanted to ask him why he was so quiet, if something bad had happened in his past that had closed him off or if he’d just always been quiet and contained.
Mindy wanted to know everything about this man.
“So, how about if we start with the basics? Get to know one another?” she offered.
Another eyebrow lift. She interpreted that as encouragement.
Smiling, although it was a bit weak and awkward, she continued. “My favorite color is yellow. Know why?”
His other eyebrow went up and she took a deep breath, continuing. “Because it’s a happy color. It makes me think of sunshine.” Nothing. No response. Eyebrows down again. “I moved to Seattle only five years ago. I used to live in Montana, but,” she shrugged and continued, “well, there aren’t that many jobs in Montana, at least where I used to live. Jefferson, Montana is gorgeous and I had a lot of good friends there, but unless you want to work with cows or bulls or ride horses, which I didn’t…I mean, I love riding horses, but cows are pretty stupid.” Still nothing. “So…I came out west and looked for a job. I have a degree in business management and started working for one of the airlines. When I interviewed with Steele Industries last year, and they offered me the job, I jumped at the opportunity.” She blinked. “Oh, but I was talking about colors.” She shifted on the wooden bench. “Yep. My favorite color is yellow because I need more sunshine in my life. I love sunshine and while there aren’t a lot of jobs in Montana, there is a lot of sunshine. And although there isn’t a lot of sunshine in Seattle, there are tons of jobs.” Still silent.
She tilted her head slightly. “So I learned about these special lights that emit some sort of light that help to adjust one’s mood. And I filled my house with them and painted everything yellow so that it would feel more like the sun was shining.” Silence. “Everyone back east thinks of Seattle as a very rainy town. So I was surprised to find out that it doesn’t get nearly as much rain as people think. The rain shadow,” she finished off lamely.
Leaning forward, she looked him right in the eye. “You know, this would be a whole lot more fun if you participated. Tell me your favorite color, at least.”
Mindy watched as he crumpled up his lunch trash, knowing he was going to leave. She held her breath, trying to think of something witty, profound or just…lumberjack-interesting so that he would stay and talk to her.
But he only stood up and turned away, tossed his trash and…turned back to her. “Blue.” He looked down into her blue eyes and winked. “Blue is my favorite color.”
And then he was gone.
Once again, he spoke, then walked away.
Oh, not this time! No way! She hurriedly stood up from the picnic table and spun around. “See? You’re starting to like me! I can tell!”
He stopped and turned around, looking at her and she could have sworn he was smiling. Well, not an actual smile on the outside. Nope – his lips didn’t even quirk slightly. But on the inside, he was laughing!
He didn’t say anything. At least, not while he was facing her. But she could have sworn that, as he turned around and started walking gain, she heard him mumble, “I like you too much.”
Mindy’s head spun around so fast, she almost hurt her neck. Had she just heard what she thought she heard? Or…?
Surely, she’d been wrong. Her ears had been mistaken. She’d only heard what she wanted to hear.
Gus looked out the window again. It hadn’t moved! Damn her, what was she doing?!
The phone rang and he grabbed it up. “Yeah?” he demanded, knowing that this was his personal line. Not many people had it.
“Hi honey. It’s your mom.”
Gus rubbed a hand over his face, cringing at the way he’d answered the phone. “Hi Mom. What’s up?”
“I need some girl time. I’m here with Chloe and I was wondering if you’d allow me to take this little cutie for a sleepover.” Gus hesitated, not sure if he was willing to sacrifice one of his nights with his daughter, even for his mother. “We’re just going to catch the latest princess movie, then go out for some pizza. I’ll have her in bed by eight o’clock sharp.” Gus heard his daughter whisper to her grandmother. “Eight thirty, sharp!” his Mom hedged.
Gus almost laughed, knowing that his little girl was trying to finagle an extra half hour on her bedtime.
His eyes glanced at the door to his office, the empty office. A night all alone. A night without Chloe! Damn but…his mother needed time with her granddaughter and Gus knew that Chloe adored his mother. They painted their nails and his mom braided Chloe’s hair, they made cookies and did all the things that his big, huge hands weren’t capable of doing.
So instead of telling his mother that he needed Chloe that night, he relented with a sigh. “Make sure she brushes her teeth,” he told her, granting permission even as he thought about the story they were reading together.
There was a girlish yelp of joy in the background and somehow, that sound made his sacrifice worthwhile.
His mother laughed at Chloe’s exuberance as well. “Will do, honey. You go out and play some poker with your friends. It’s been two weeks since you’ve had a night off. Go have some fun.”
Gus didn’t mention that he considered hanging out with his daughter to be fun. Mostly because he knew that his mom loved spending time with Chloe and Chloe needed some female time as well.
“You too, Mom.”
“Will do, dear. Take care and I’ll bring her back tomorrow morning.”
Gus hung up the phone, irritated even though he knew it was the right thing to do for Chloe. And she was the most important thing in his world.
Gus glanced out at the parking lot once again. No, the dratted woman wasn’t important but…well, he couldn’t leave until she was safely out of the building. Damn it, what was she doing?! Why was she here so late at night?
He wanted to spank her adorable, sexy butt just for putting herself in danger like this.
Okay, so he wanted to spank her adorable, sexy butt for many reasons, but definitely for not going home when the rest of the building staff left earlier.
Yeah, it wasn’t a high crime area. But still…he needed her to be safe.
He rubbed a hand against the back of his neck, trying to hold himself back from…
It wasn’t working.
Fifteen minutes later, when Mindy still wasn’t walking out to her car, he was finished. He’d had enough!
Bursting into her office, he glared at the too-sexy woman as she stared right back at him.
“Why haven’t you left yet?” he demanded.
Those red lips formed an O and he growled at the temptation, moving into the office. “You’re supposed to be gone by now. Why are you still here?”
Mindy jerked upright, startled by his intrusion into her mental listing of “How to Get Gus” plans. So far, she’d come up with kidnapping. That’s it. Just kidnapping.
And since the guy was about a foot taller than she was and had a whole bunch more muscle, she didn’t think her kidnapping plan was doable.
“Ummm…” she tried to come up with a valid reason for her still being here in the office after hours. But her mind was blank. Probably because he was here. Next to her. Okay, yeah, he was glaring at her but he was closer now than he’d ever been.
“Answer me, Mindy. Are you okay?”
She noticed that his eyes moved around the office. Was he searching for a threat? That was so sweet!
“I’m just…” she waved her hand over her desk, but she was too efficient and her desk was clear of papers. Darn it, why couldn’t she have just a few files strewn about? Anything to make her appear busy and…something other than pathetic because she didn’t have any plans besides going home and dreaming about Gus!
“I was working on a new schedule,” she finally said, lying through her teeth.
“At this time of night?”
She looked at the clock and shrugged. “Gus, it’s only six o’clock.”
He moved around her desk, grabbing her purse and her leather tote bag. “Yeah, but you’re usually gone by this time of the night.”
She took both bags, but didn’t move. “I am?” she asked, her breath caught in her throat.
He moved closer. Stalking her. She backed up, but then realized what she was doing and stopped.
“How do you know?” she asked a bit breathlessly.
He moved even closer, towering over her. He was so close, she could smell the masculine scent of him, feel his heat and absorb the aura that was Gus.
“Really?” she breathed, not sure what he was admitting with that one word, but she knew it was significant. Once she was alone, once he wasn’t towering over her like this, making her mind remember every single one of her very erotic, very vivid dreams with him as the star…she might be able to figure out why his admission was so important. But at this particular moment, she was stumped.
“How do you know when I leave each night?”
He leaned in, forcing her to arch backwards against her desk. “Because I watch you get into your car and drive away each night.” His eyes moved over each of her features, almost as if memorizing them from the close distance. “I can’t leave until you’re safely in your car.”
Her heart was pounding with his admission. That meant he cared, right? He wasn’t immune to her. “Why can’t you leave?”
He shook his head. One moment, there was a bit of space between them and the next, his arm snaked out, wrapping around her waist, pulling her closer. “Because I can’t,” was all he would say. And then he was kissing her. His mouth angled over hers, kissing her and making love to her mouth in a way that no other man had ever kissed her before. It was like he was forcing all of his words to come through that kiss, all the words he couldn’t or wouldn’t say to her during the day when others were around. Everything he hadn’t said in words to her was in that caress, in the way his hands were touching her, holding her.
A thud sounded in the back of her head but she didn’t acknowledge that it was her purse and tote bag dropping to the floor. Nothing mattered except Gus, this kiss and his hard, wonderful body against her curves. She loved it! He was all male and so incredibly intoxicating!
Mindy lifted her arms up higher, wrapping around his neck, holding him close against her so that he wouldn’t leave her. She wanted this kiss, hadn’t truly believed it would ever happen. Yes, she’d been trying to make friends with Gus, but only late at night, in her dreams, would she think about kissing this man.
When he lifted his head, looking down at her, all she could do was say, “Wow!” in a whisper. Then she grabbed his ears and pulled him down again, using his ears like handles to hold onto him as she lifted herself up and kissed him again.
She felt her world tilting but didn’t realize it was because Gus was lifting her up and setting her down on her desk. All she knew was that he was kissing her. Finally! And she loved it!
When he lifted his head, they were both breathing hard. She realized that she was still using his ears as if they were handles and released them, pulling back. “That was really nice,” she told him, thinking that she needed to say something. Anything at all! The silence was painfully awkward.
He continued to stare at her and she wasn’t sure what else to say. When the silence went on longer, she jumped down off of her desk and, with shaking fingers, scribbled her home address down on a piece of notepaper.
“Here,” she said, handing it to him. He took the paper, but didn’t look at it.
“That’s my home address. I want you Gus. I’ve thought you were the most amazing man I’ve ever seen from the first moment I stepped into the building and saw you out talking with your pilots on the tarmac. And from what everyone else says about you, you’re a wonderful man.” She lifted her hand to stop him from speaking, knowing what he was thinking. “They don’t gossip about you. Your employees wouldn’t do that. In fact, the reason they don’t gossip is one of the reasons I know that you’re a good man.” She took a deep breath, smoothing her hair back down. “I respect the Steele family too much to continue this here in the office. But if you want me, come to my house.
With that, she grabbed her purse and her computer, shoved everything into her tote bag then walked out of her office. She knew that he would lock up after her. Because he was that good of a man. Instinctively, she knew that about him.
What she didn’t know was if he would give in to this sexual tension that was surrounding them. She didn’t know him well enough to understand that about him.
All she knew was that she wanted to get to know him and her efforts during their one-sided conversations weren’t working all that well.
Was she going to have her heart broken if she moved forward with what they both knew could happen?
Probably. But what was life without a few risks?
She slipped into her car, painfully aware that he was most likely watching her. Driving away, she could feel her heart pounding inside of her chest and wondered what would happen next. She wanted to know him, wanted…a lot from Gus.
An hour later, she’d just about given up when the doorbell rang. Looking over at the door, she trembled, wondering if it was Gus. Or a salesperson.
Only one way to find out, she told herself, forcing her feet to carry her to the door.
When she pulled it open, she found him facing the street. But at the sound of the door opening, he slowly turned around, looking down into her blue eyes.
“You’re here,” she whispered. He stood outside of her small house, his arms braced on either side of the doorframe, almost as if he were keeping himself from moving inside.
There was a long silence before he finally said, “I shouldn’t be here.”
Mindy’s face slowly spread into a grin. Stepping back, she waved for him to come inside. “Well, you’re here now. You can regret coming over later.”
He still hesitated and Mindy wondered if he would actually enter her house. Thankfully, he stepped inside, following her into the kitchen. Mindy was only slightly self-conscious of her bottom in the yoga pants she’d changed into after coming home tonight.
“I brought dinner,” he commented, lifting a white bag that looked to be stuffed with food.
She was touched, and amazed since the idea of eating hadn’t even occurred to her. She’d been too worried about him stopping by and too worried that he wouldn’t.
“That’s so thoughtful!” she gasped, taking the bag he handed to her. Peering inside, she looked at the varieties of items. “Cheese, crackers, chocolates and…” she looked up at him. “Wine?” She smiled up at him. “I would have pegged you for a beer kind of guy.”
Ignoring that teasing remark, he moved closer, his eyes looking into her soft, blue ones. “What do you want from me?” he asked, moving closer. One large hand slipped up to her hair, pushing it behind her ears as he’d seen her do so often in the past.
Mindy looked at him, felt his heat and smelled the incredible scent of him. “Everything,” she admitted honestly.
His hand stilled for a moment, but then he shook his head. “I can give you tonight.”
She lifted her own hand, covering his wrist to hold his hand against her cheek. “I’ll take it,” she told him, ignoring the quiver in her voice.
And that was the end of conversation for a long time.
His head lowered, kissing her gently at first, but when she didn’t pull away, his kiss intensified. His hand tangled in her hair and he pulled her closer. Mindy reveled in his touch, in his kiss, her hands sliding along his chest. She loved the way he felt, all those muscles rippling under her fingertips.
With a swift move, he lifted her up onto the countertop, staring at her for a long moment. She realized that he was still debating the stupidity of staying with her, so she leaned forward and kissed him. Still only able to reach his neck, but she didn’t care. Darting her tongue out, she licked his skin, feeling his heart pound in his chest under the palm of her hand.
With a groan, she felt his resistance evaporate and wanted to throw her hands up into the air, cheer with victory. But that was the precise moment that he slid his hands under the stretchy material of her shirt, his hands cupping her breasts and…
She was lost! Mindy groaned as his thumbs unerringly found her nipples. She could take that, but then his thumb and forefinger pinched, just lightly, and she gasped at the pleasure that shot throughout her whole body. Unconsciously, she moved her hips closer, her legs wrapping around his waist and bringing his erection into direct contact with her body. Shifting, she found the right place and groaned with the pleasure. He was hot and heavy with arousal, making her body throb with her own need.
“Let’s go upstairs,” she whispered, then gasped when her stretchy top was tugged up over her head and dumped onto the floor.
“We’ll get there.” He cupped her breasts, his hands lifting each of them, testing their weight even as his thumbs once again moved over the taut nipples. Her hips shifted with each rub of his thumb against that peak and she whimpered, feeling as if she might explode right there on the island countertop. She held onto his shoulders, needing some sort of anchor in the midst of this storm.
“Tell me what you like,” he growled, bending lower to nip at her earlobe. “Fast? Slow? Hard? Gentle?” He scraped his beard against the delicate skin of her neck, then leaned her back further so that he could suckle on her nipples, tasting her breasts.
“I like it all,” she replied back, surprised that her mind could form the words. But it was true. Everything he was doing felt incredible and she wanted more of it. She needed his pants off, needed to feel him against her, skin to skin.
“Take off your clothes,” she pleaded, forgetting that they were still in her kitchen.
He didn’t obey her, instead, his fingers slipped into the waistband of her yoga pants and tugged, pulling everything off. She was naked! Completely naked and sitting on her countertop while he looked down at her with those dark eyes that normally told her nothing. But right now, she knew that he wanted her. Arching her back, she lifted his hands, moving one to her breast and the other to the juncture of her thighs. “Touch me, Gus. I need you to touch me here.”
Without hesitation, his big finger slipped into her folds, moving and twisting, teasing until she groaned. “You’re missing the point,” she grumbled.
And then he didn’t miss! Goodness, when his finger slipped into her wet heat, she just about splintered apart right then and there! She grabbed his wrist and held him still, shaking her head. “Please…too fast,” she told him. “I don’t want to climax just yet.”
He pressed a hand against her shoulders. “Lean back, Mindy,” he commanded.
She looked at him, startled by the tone, but that only caused her body to heat up even more. Since his finger was still sliding in and out of her heat, she knew that he recognized what had just happened. She started to say something more, to deny how turned on she was, but he shook his head. “Now!” he ordered.
She whimpered again, but followed his command, leaning back against the cold granite of her island countertop. The heat of his body, the strength of his finger inside of her and the cold stone all made different sensations which increased her pleasure. Lifting her hands, she tried to stop him, the intensity getting to be a bit more than she could handle.
“Drop your hands, Mindy. I get to look at you.” He surveyed her naked body like this. “You have no idea how much this turns me on.”
“How much?” she asked.
He moved to the side and took her hand, bringing her fingers to the erection that was still encased behind the unforgiving denim. “You do this to me. All the time, Mindy.”
She ran her hand over the bulge in his jeans, amazed that she had this kind of power over such a large, intimidating man.
But he didn’t give her enough time to explore. “No more.”
And he moved back between her legs, pushing them wider as he looked down at her. She tried to close her legs, feeling self-conscious even as her arousal spiked even higher, but his sharp eyes looked up into her blue ones. “Don’t,” he ordered. “I love looking at you like this.”
Relaxing, she allowed him to look, feeling more powerful as his fingers gently stroked her inner thighs. He didn’t touch her again, but just his heated look was doing things to her that she couldn’t believe.
Then he moved his fingers closer and closer, circling around.
“I can see you glistening with arousal.”
Her fingers curled around the edge of the countertop as his rough voice soothed her, turned her on even more.
“You’re all pink and aroused for me, aren’t you?” he said, his voice huskier, but almost contemplative.
“Yes. Are you going to do anything about it?” she asked shifting her hips slightly, trying to entice him.
“And if I want to just look?” he asked, his thumbs closer and closer. OH, if only he would touch her there like he’d been doing a few minutes ago!
“I think it’s more fun to touch than to look.”
He made a noise in the back of his throat but that wasn’t enough warning for what he did next. His hands spread her knees wider and she arched her back once again. But that only gave him better access. She’d closed her eyes for a moment so she had no warning when his hot mouth covered her. Her hands moved from the edge of the countertop to his head, her body heating up even more. He pushed her knees up onto his elbows, his arms wrapping around so his fingers could open her up even more. In this position, she had no way to control the sensations. She was completely at his mercy.
Thankfully, he had none at all!
His hot tongue danced around that bundle of nerves but when his mouth closed over the whole thing, his tongue flicking against it repeatedly, she just lost it. All control was with him and he played her body until she was screaming with the orgasm. When she was slipping over that cliff, his tongue stopped flicking so that his whole mouth could suck and that only intensified her climax and she screeched, her mind abandoning any sense of decorum as her body throbbed with the pleasure he was giving her.
As the climax eased up, so did his mouth and, with one final lick, he stood up and kissed her stomach. “Thank you,” he groaned as he kissed and nibbled his way back up her body.
Mindy laughed, shaking her head as her body slowly came down from that intense shock. She didn’t even feel the hard stone under her head, too aware of the tingling sensations still warming her body.
Then he lifted her into his arms and carried her out of the kitchen. “Where’s your bed?” he demanded.
She pointed towards the stairs and he carried her effortlessly up, shouldering his way through one of the doors. Thankfully, it was her bedroom and he laid her down on the quilt. Mindy watched with increasing fascination as he stripped off his clothes. Shoulders were revealed, rippling abs. His hands unlatched the belt buckle and she sat up on her knees, eager for her first look.
He stopped and she looked up, started. “Why did you…”
Several condoms landed by her knee and she looked down at them, then back up at him. “Oh,” she whispered, shocked and impressed that he thought she could last for so many occurrences. Then again, perhaps she should be more impressed that he thought he could go that many times.
“You’re awfully confident about yourself,” she teased.
A moment later, he was naked and he stepped closer to the bed. Taking her hand, he wrapped her fingers around his shaft. “I’ve wanted you since the first day you walked into the building. This has nothing to do with confidence,” he explained as he reached out to cup her breast even as he held her hand over his erection. “It has everything to do with all the things I’ve wanted to do to you.”
Those words…her breath caught in her throat and she couldn’t believe he’d been so open and honest. For a man who had spoken so few words to her in the past year, tonight was like nirvana. He was talking, touching, almost even smiling.
She couldn’t finish whatever it was she was about to say because he kissed her. It was raw, primal, overwhelming. And Mindy loved it. She loved touching him, having him touch her. And just as before, he loved looking at her, which only intensified her arousal. She’d never liked being looked at before, thinking she was too round in all the wrong places. But with Gus, his eyes told her that he liked what he saw and wanted to see everything. So she let him.
When he finally entered her, she gasped and wiggled, trying to accommodate to his size. He was big, but he was perfect! She lifted her hips, silently inviting him in deeper. And deeper! “Yes!” she gasped and twisted, shifting until he was fully inside of her. “Please…!”
“Tell me what you want, Mindy,” he said, moving just slightly. Looking up at him, she could see the tension in his shoulders, the taut muscles in his arms as he tried to hold still. Smiling, she tightened her inner muscles and shifted her hips as much as his strong arms would allow. “I want you to move. I want you to make love to me,” she told him.
And with those words, he did exactly that. Slowly at first, he moved in and out of her body. But as the tension built, the pace increased. She suspected he was holding back, not wanting to hurt her. Smiling to herself, she reached up and wrapped her legs around him, lifting her hips to every one of his thrusts. “Faster,” she begged. With that one word, he unleashed his control and it was more blissful than she could have ever imagined. Bending over her, he moved his hips faster and faster until she screamed out as her second release washed over her. Only then did he growl and arch his back as he followed right behind her with his own climax.
When they could finally catch their breath, he fell on top of her and she hugged him, thinking he was the most incredible man she’d ever met.
Mindy looked at the mail, wondering what she should do about it. It was a large envelope but the mail carrier had delivered it to the wrong office. This package was for Gus.
Should she bring it over?
It was the considerate thing to do but…
She hadn’t heard from him all week. He’d been gone from her bed Saturday morning when she’d woken up and he hadn’t called all weekend. She’d seen him around the hangars a few times over the last few days, felt his gaze on her as she’d walked from the mechanics shop to the planes, but she’d kept her distance, not sure what he wanted.
Mindy admonished herself for feeling sorry for herself. He’d been perfectly honest with her. He’d told her that he could only offer her that night. Nothing else. And he’d given her more that night than she’d ever dreamed possible.
It was her fault that she wanted more.
She shouldn’t want more. Especially after he hadn’t called her.
“Hey Mindy, do you know where…” and her day began. Mindy focused all of her attention on Pete who had come into the office asking for some forms. Then Marcy called, asking which plane could fly Teague and Logan out to Arizona. There were conference calls, forms to fill out, flight plans to file with the authorities, food to order, inventories to review and numerous other issues to deal with.
It was after five o’clock when she got back to her desk and things began to quiet down.
That’s when she saw the package. It was just staring back at her, looking benign and yet, so non-benign.
She should deliver it to Gus’ assistant. There was a receptionist that was right inside the door to his office. Surely, Silvia could take the package and deliver it, couldn’t she?
It would be a simple drop-off. Nothing more. Nothing less. She’d just hand over the package. If Silvia wasn’t there, Mindy figured she could just put it on the receptionist’s desk and walk way. Gus wouldn’t even know she was there.
She’d do it. She’d just dump and run. And if Gus was there, they could share a secret smile together.
As soon as she opened the door, Gus was standing there, big and handsome and all gruff looking. All of her plans went out the window.
“Mindy,” he growled, looking at her as if he wanted to eat her up. Mindy thought about the idea for a long moment, remembering the last time that he had…wanting him to do it to her again more than anything.
And then she was in his arms, he was lifting her up and carrying her somewhere else. To his office? She didn’t know, was only vaguely aware of a door closing, hearing a lock click and then, he was pulling her sweater off, over her head and dumping it on the floor beside a huge desk. Her skirt wasn’t even pulled off, it was just pushed up around her waist. Then he was kissing her, his big hands kneading her breasts, his fingers tweaking her nipples and Mindy was so lost, she couldn’t even control the desire swirling inside of her. She wanted him so badly, her fingers fumbled with his belt buckle. When it wouldn’t come apart easily, she abandoned that effort to go for his zipper. She moved her hands inside of his jeans and…Oh glorious man!
His erection was in her hands and he was pressing her legs wider. Her hand squeezed, her fingers sliding up and down his shaft and she wanted to taste him. Sliding off of the desk, she started to bend lower, needing to taste him.
“No time,” he growled and spun her around. He placed her hands flat on his desk and pushed her skirt higher. “Mindy!” he groaned.
Then she was the one groaning as he pressed into her body. She wiggled, feeling him press even deeper as she closed her eyes, needing him deeper, pressing her bottom back against his erection so he would move faster.
“Damn!” and he pulled out.
Mindy spun around, wondering what was wrong. Then she saw him drag his wallet out and grab the condom. Swallowing, she bent down onto her knees again, thinking he was distracted trying to get the condom wrapper opened. She wrapped her mouth around him, tasting him, feeling him pulse against her tongue and he was amazing. She couldn’t take all of him in her mouth, but what she could feel, she gloried in.
“NO!” he growled and lifted her up. With one hand, he put the condom on while he fondled her breast with the other, pressing her back against his desk.
“Put your legs around me,” he commanded, then didn’t wait for her to respond. His hands settled under the backs of her knees and he pulled her forward. With one thrust, he buried himself in her heat then stopped, both of them reveling in how good it felt to be connected like this again.
“I missed you so much this week,” she said, pressing her knees higher, taking him deeper. “Don’t tease me Gus. Just…”
And he started moving. It wasn’t a slow, rhythmic joining. This was frantic. Hot and heavy. He was too big and perfect, and Mindy was too turned on. Within minutes, she was shattering apart, her climax spinning her out of control as he pounded into her.
Long thrusts later, she felt him come as well and held on as he slammed into her over and over as she rode the wave.
When it was all over, she wrapped her arms around his neck, breathing in the musky scent of him mingled with her own.
“That was glorious,” she whispered.
“Come to my place and let’s do it again,” he told her, his voice low and raspy. His hands gently cradled her head, holding her against him as if he didn’t want to move.
“Yes,” she sighed.
With her immediate and heartfelt agreement, she felt his erection harden once again and her smile widened. “How about if we get out of here before we start that all over again?”
He sighed, his hot breath against her neck and she squeezed his shoulders. “I promise, we won’t stop until we’re both satisfied.”
He pulled out of her, then looked down at her opening. He hadn’t even bothered to take off her bra, only pulled the straps down to reveal her breasts. “I want you naked, woman,” he told her, his big hand coming up to cup her breast.
She inhaled as she endured his caress. But when his thumb flicked against her pebbled nipple, she grabbed his hand, stopping him from doing more. “A bed,” she reminded him. “Naked.”
“Right,” and he stopped, carefully adjusting her bra strap for her. “Naked.”
Mindy jumped off of the desk, watching as he zipped up his zipper. Had she done that to him? To his hair? She almost laughed, but thought that might be too much. She was giddy with happiness, but turned around, grabbing her sweater and pulling it on over her head.
“Let’s go,” he told her and grabbed her elbow, leading her out of the office. He already had her purse and tote bag in his hand, only pausing to lock the door and make sure that her office door was locked before they headed back out to the parking lot.
“I’m driving,” he told her and opened the passenger door to his SUV.
Mindy jumped into the passenger seat, her body still thrumming from their interlude in his office. Never before had she done anything so outrageous! Having sex in an office? Good grief, what was she thinking?
Then she glanced over at Gus. “Yep!”
He took his eyes off of the road for a split second. “What’s that for?”
Mindy’s head whipped back to look at him, surprised that she’d actually said the thought out loud. “Oh, um…I was just…!” He looked at her again and she sighed, her shoulders drooping ever so slightly. “I was a bit horrified about having sex in your office, on your desk. I couldn’t imagine why I’d done that but then I looked over at you and realized why.”
No comment, but that dark eyebrow went up. She took that to mean that he needed more of an explanation.
She thought about lying, or of just remaining quiet. But this was Gus. She was in his car and the man was driving to his house so that they could continue their…affair? She wasn’t exactly sure how to define what they were doing. An affair sounded tawdry…well, and a bit more official than what they seemed to be doing.
Mindy realized that he was still waiting for an answer. “I think you’re an incredibly attractive man, Gus. Both inside and out.”
“Inside?” he asked, another monosyllabic prompting.
She smiled. “Yes. You’re a good person inside. Your employees respect you and you’ve grown your company to a large, efficient organization in a very short period of time. You’re a good man, Gus.”
He pulled up outside of a log cabin type of house, shutting off the engine. Mindy turned to look at him just as he twisted in the driver’s seat. “I’m not good,” he told her.
Mindy smiled gently, reaching out to touch his rough cheek. “Yes you are.”
He wanted to argue with her, but she was touching him and he couldn’t hold back any longer. He needed her. Possibly in ways he didn’t want to admit, but he needed her touch, her smiles. He needed her in his bed. Now!
Gus practically ripped the door off of the hinges as he exited the truck, coming around to the other side. Mindy was already out of the truck, waiting for him and he lifted her up into his arms, kissing her as he walked into the house. They barely made it through the front door before he was pulling her clothes off of her again. But this time, he wanted her naked. And he wanted to be naked, feeling all of her skin against his own.
Mindy gasped when he tore off her clothes, but loved every moment of it. His urgency spurred on her own, intensifying the need she’d been feeling from almost the moment she’d climaxed on his desk.
When she was completely naked, Gus pushed her back against the door of his house and just looked at her, taking in her soft curves, full breasts and the heat in her eyes. Going down on one knee, he lifted one of her legs up, pulling it over his shoulder as his fingers teased her opening. His mouth covered her and he sucked, licked, teased and tasted her incredible body.
He didn’t have nearly enough time tasting her before he felt her shudders of release, her fingers gripping his hair as she gasped out her pleasure. He’d thought he could slow down once he’d tasted her, but that wasn’t the case. He needed more. Lifting her higher, he grabbed her legs and impaled her against the door with his body.
“Damn!” he growled, but couldn’t stop himself from sliding into her once. Twice. Pulling out, he shook his head and grabbed for his wallet.
“What’s wrong?” she gasped. “Oh!”
Gus rolled the condom down his shaft, cursing himself for forgetting it twice in one night. But this was Mindy and…well, she was too incredible.
When he was protected, he lifted her up again and pressed into her heat, groaning when her body gave way to his invasion, holding him tight in her wet channel. “Tell me if I’m hurting you,” he ordered, but his hands were on her soft bottom, lifting her up as he thrust into her.
“Don’t stop!” she screamed, her legs tightening around his waist while her arms wrapped around his neck. “Don’t you dare stop!”
Several thrusts later and he felt her screaming once again as her climax hit her hard and fast. With that throbbing, she pulled him over to his own release and he couldn’t stop, feeling himself pour into her. The orgasm went on and on and he almost tumbled to the floor. It was only through sheer force of will that he protected her, carrying her over to the sofa where he fell onto the cushions, Mindy still intimately connected to him as she fell against his chest.
He sighed, more content than he had been in a long time. Mindy’s soft body pressed against his and he couldn’t seem to stop touching her. She was so soft, so sweet and beautiful. He wanted…
NO! He wouldn’t go there. He wouldn’t wish for something he couldn’t have. He’d done that once and the results had been devastating.
Five years ago, he’d decided that he wouldn’t ever hope for forever with a woman. Never again!
Mindy stared at the calendar, her fingers trembling as she did the mental math. Two weeks late. Yep, it was official. Her period was now a full two weeks late.
Gus was going to be furious, but Mindy couldn’t stop the happy bubble of excitement that hit her with the realization that she was going to have Gus’ baby.
Yeah, he was going to be livid. Every day, they ate lunch together. She talked, he listened. He walked her back to the building but never touched her. Never glanced at her.
Until Friday night. Then they couldn’t seem to get enough of each other. He would come to her place or she’d go to his. They’d never again chanced getting caught by having sex in his office, but it was always an urgent, insane meeting when they came together every Friday night and their connection was explosive! They couldn’t seem to keep their hands off of each other and Mindy had gone on birth control that first week.
Apparently, she’d been too late.
Yes, she was incredibly happy. No, she didn’t want Gus to have to take responsibility for the baby. He didn’t seem like the kind of man who would want children.
So what was she going to do? Mindy couldn’t stay on in her job, working right across the hallway from the father of her baby, especially when he most likely didn’t want children.
Mindy looked up from her computer to find Gus standing in front of her desk.
He leaned forward, those huge, delicious shoulders looking so enticing, it was hard to believe that this man wanted her the way he did. He could have any woman in the world and yet, he wanted her!
“You didn’t come down for lunch. What’s wrong?”
Mindy glanced at the clock on the lower area of her computer screen, shocked to find that it was well past noon. Looking at her desk, she realized that she hadn’t done any work today, her mind completely focused on her pregnancy. Or possible pregnancy. She was late, but she hadn’t taken a pregnancy test. Until then, she could pretend as if it weren’t real. It was just a possibility and…Gus was still waiting for an answer.
He pushed away, running a hand over his face. He paced back and forth in front of her desk, then came back, hands fisted on his hips. “I was too rough last Friday. That’s it, isn’t it?”
If Mindy hadn’t been head over heels in love with this man, his words and his worry at this moment would have tumbled her head long into that space. Standing up, she came around her desk and wrapped her arms around his lean waist, resting her head against his chest. After that last time, they hadn’t touched each other in the vicinity of their offices. So this was unprecedented.
She felt his arms come around her slowly, but then they tightened almost too much. When they loosened slightly, she looked up at him, her arms still hugging him. “You weren’t too rough, Gus. You’d never hurt me. I know that.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
She smiled and pulled out of his arms. She thought about holding off on talking with him, but the worry in his eyes made her stomach hurt. Since there were no flights in or out today for the Steele employees, she decided to take a break and talk to Gus.
“I think I might be pregnant,” she told him, admitting it boldly. Leaning against her desk, she braved looking up at him, needing to see his reaction.
Nothing. He continued to stare back at her.
But she knew him better now. A lack of expression didn’t mean this big huge, lumberjack wasn’t thinking and feeling. This man felt deeply and she could see that in his eyes now. He was worried.
Gus watched her carefully, his gut tightening as he looked down into her beautiful blue eyes. Flashbacks to his first wife, her anger at finding herself pregnant. It had taken him weeks to convince her not to abort their child. Then he’d listened to her complain about the way her body changed over time, the months of agony. Everything was blamed on him, on the baby.
Was Mindy like that?
He didn’t want to think about her hating their child but…
“I’m sorry,” he told her, remembering the time when he’d forgotten a condom. It had only been for a moment, but obviously, that moment had been powerful.
He watched her pretty lips press together and knew that he’d said the wrong thing. Anger started eating at him, fury that she was going to tell him she didn’t want the baby.
“Let’s not jump to any conclusions,” she told him and stood up, walking around her desk. “I’ll find out tonight.”
Rubbing a hand over the back of his neck, he felt like roaring out his frustration. He’d done it again. It hit him suddenly that he was in love with Mindy. And this was stronger, more powerful than anything he’d felt for his ex-wife. This was crazy love. This was a tender, harsh, painful and miraculous kind of feeling. He’d fallen for a woman and the results could once again be devastating.
Then he thought about Chloe and changed his mind. Chloe wasn’t a devastation. She was a delight. Every moment he spent in her company was like a precious gift. His ex-wife didn’t think so, and Mindy probably wouldn’t either, which was why he’d never introduced the two of them even though he suspected that Chloe and Mindy would get along extremely well.
“I just want you to know that…” she paused and Gus felt his stomach muscles tighten even more. “Well, if I am pregnant, I’m…” every muscle in his body tensed, waiting for whatever she might say. “Well, if this is a baby,” she told him, her pretty fingers fluttering over her stomach, “then it will be okay. I won’t ask you for anything but…I can’t abort a child. I know that others do and that’s their choice and they have to do what’s right for their conscience but…this is a baby and I love it already.” She laughed, a self-deprecating sound and Gus wanted to pull her into his arms and kiss her. He held back, but only because his relief was making him a bit dizzy.
He watched as that delicate hand reached up to rub her forehead. “No. I’m always on time. I can set my calendar to my monthly cycles, Gus.” She looked up at him and shrugged slightly. “I really think that I’m pregnant.”
He waited a single heartbeat before he released the emotions welling up inside of him. Once the floodgates were opened though, he moved like a bolt of lightning, grabbing her and pulling her into his arms.
“I love you,” he whispered a moment before his mouth covered hers. “Damn, I love you!”
Mindy heard the words but didn’t believe them at first. Then he was kissing her and she couldn’t ask him to repeat the words or to clarify them. As his mouth moved over hers, she tried to think, to understand what he was saying. But whenever Gus kissed her, it was like her world and her mind just stopped. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back, showing him with actions that she loved him as well.
When he finally lifted his head, she smiled tremulously up at him. “You love me? Really?”
She laughed, thinking that was so typically Gus. Just one word, but when he spoke, it meant so much more!
“I’ve loved you so much for so long! I can’t believe you feel the same way.”
He pulled back and the serious expression in his eyes warned her that she might not like what he was about to tell her. “I need you to come over to my place for dinner tonight though.”
She pulled back, not sure she liked where this conversation was going. “Why?”
He stepped back, his hand once again rubbing the back of his neck. When he looked down at her, Mindy thought he looked far too serious and it frightened her. “I need you to meet someone,” was all he would say.
Mindy tried to understand, but he wasn’t giving her any clues.
But at that same moment, Olivia walked into the office. “Hey Mindy,” she started off, but then her eyes looked between the two of them and she stopped. “Should I come back?” she asked.
Mindy straightened and shook her head. “Nope.” She turned to face Gus. “Whatever it is, we can talk about it tonight.”
He was already out the door so she turned to Olivia. “What’s up?”
Mindy watched with increasing happiness as the door shut behind Gus. He loved her! The worry she’d started out with this morning was quickly blossoming into a golden sunshine hovering just over her shoulder. “Um…Gus is…”
“You’re dating Gus?”
Mindy’s eyes shot to her friend. “Please, don’t say anything about that to anyone. No one knows.”
Olivia laughed. “Of course we all know! You eat lunch with him every day.”
Olivia leaned her forearms against the top of Mindy’s computer, smiling down at her friend. “His staff is talking about how good things have been lately and…”
Olivia leaned in further and put a hand to Mindy’s arm. “Hey, it’s okay! Nothing bad is going to happen! Gus is a good guy. He’s like Pete, just a good man all around.”
Mindy knew that but… “You and Pete are happy?”
Olivia rolled her eyes. “Incredibly! Although he still makes me sit through every Mariner’s game. He said something the other day about getting season tickets.”
Mindy laughed, knowing that her friend was a Nationals fan. Coming from Virginia, she had two choices of baseball teams to follow; the Nationals or the Orioles. “Come to the dark side, my friend. You’ll never love the Nats the way you’ll love the Mariners once you understand that they are far superior.”
“Anyway!” Olivia replied, rolling her eyes. “The wine you got last week for the flight to San Diego, it was excellent. Can you stock up on that for Logan’s next flight? He asked for it specifically.”
Mindy immediately got to work, pushing her pregnancy possibilities to the back of her mind for the moment.
But several hours later, she was once again thinking about Gus and a possible pregnancy. But now, she was second guessing everything that had occurred earlier. She still couldn’t believe that Gus loved her. It seemed impossible that a big, gruff, gorgeous man like Gus could love a mousy woman like her.
She was sitting at her desk, staring at…nothing when the door to her office opened up. There he was, looking big and huge and…awesome!
“Are you sure?” she whispered, her eyes conveying her trepidation.
He walked over to her and took her hand, gently lifting her out of the chair. “About what?”
“That you want me? What if I am pregnant? You don’t have to be a part of this baby’s life. I promise, I won’t ask for anything. I won’t give up the baby though.”
His hand reached up to cup her cheek. “Come,” he said softly, but with a strange roughness to his voice.
He took her hand and led her out of the office, locking the door behind her. He led her out of the building and over to his car, ignoring hers that was parked only two spaces away.
“Where are we going?” she asked when they joined the rest of the commuters that were moving along the streets of Seattle.
“You’ll see,” he said and Mindy could have sworn that the man actually smiled. Well, as much as a lumberjack could smile, she thought.
Sitting back in the passenger seat, she did what she normally did when she was nervous. She talked. Not really about anything in particular, but just chatted away. She discussed her conversation with Olivia, their romance, how she knew that Olivia and Pete were meant for each other which was why she scheduled them together as a team so often. She’d seen the sparks, knew that they had a lot in common, even if Olivia did root for the wrong baseball team. Thankfully, they’d worked out their differences. Now she just needed to find someone for Miranda, one of the other pilots that worked for Steele Industries Aviation. She was a sweet woman, smart and sassy and so much fun. But also shy when she was around men.
When Gus pulled up outside of the drugstore, she knew exactly what he wanted. She smiled over at him and touched his arm. “I won’t hold you to anything that was said earlier today if I get a pregnancy test and it comes back negative, okay?” She said the words, but her throat choked up at the possibility of him not really loving her. But if he didn’t love her, then she needed to know that now. She also needed to give him an out, just in case he’d only said he loved her because of the potential for a child being involved.
He stared at her for a long time, then pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Hi. Can you stay for an extra half hour tonight?”
Mindy listened to him, not sure who he was calling. But when he nodded, said, “Thanks,” and hung up the phone, she was too nervous to ask any questions.
Then confusion sprang up when he backed out of the parking lot. “You don’t want me to get a pregnancy test?”
He turned around and put the car into drive. “We need to talk. You need to know some things about me before we move any further with this.”
She sat there silently for the next few minutes until he pulled into one of the city parks. This was one of her favorites because it looked out onto Puget Sound. It was heavily wooded, but still had a few open spaces where a person could sit and watch others walk by.
“Come,” he said and took her hand as he led her down one of the pathways. She knew exactly where they were heading and walked along silently beside him. For the first time in her life, she was too nervous for even nervous chatter and remained silent. He must have understood, because his huge hand squeezed hers gently as they walked.
When the path ended and they walked towards one of the benches, he sat down next to her. “First of all, let me explain that I didn’t want to fall in love, Mindy.” He saw the hurt in her eyes, the way she bowed her head and he put a finger under her chin, lifting her eyes back up to his. “It was a losing battle. From the moment you took the job and burst through the doors of your office that morning, I was lost. I fought it with everything I had, but you won out anyway.”
Mindy smiled, just a tentative smile, but the tension in her shoulders eased somewhat. “Why don’t you want to love someone? Everyone needs someone to love.”
He chuckled and took both of her hands. “I thought I was in love once. I was married.” He lifted her onto his lap when he heard her gasp of surprise. “I know, not something I advertise to many people.” He sighed and looked out at the Sound. “In almost every way but one, my marriage was a colossal mistake, Mindy. The woman I married was a selfish bitch who married me for my money and the security I could provide. She wanted a big house and glamorous travel. So when I bought the small house, she was furious with me. She demanded a bigger diamond ring, a trip to the Caribbean every year and other things.”
Mindy blinked, trying not to cry for the pain this horrible woman must have inflicted on a man as sweet and sensitive as Gus. He only looked like an unfeeling lumberjack. But after weeks in his company every day for lunch and spending Friday nights and Saturday mornings with him, she knew that he was a sweet, gentle giant who felt things very deeply. One just had to know how to interpret his facial expressions to know what he was feeling. He was tender and caring, passionate and lustful. He was everything she wanted in a man, and never knew could possibly exist in one human being.
“She should have been thrilled to have you,” she told him, her voice filled with sincerity.
He looked at her strangely. “You really mean that, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she asserted, leaning into him. “You’re the kindest, most gentle man that ever existed! I love you for all of the sweet things you do for me.”
The blush that stole up her cheeks made him laugh softly. “Okay, well, I like the things you do to me. But also the gentle way you’re so protective and concerned, the way you take care of me and let me take care of you.”
“You don’t want a huge house up on the top of the hill?”
She cringed. “No. I prefer to run in the mornings and living on the top of a hill means I’d have to run back up the hill to get home after a run.” She leaned forward and kissed him gently. “I’m not that dedicated of a runner.”
He looked into her blue eyes and read the sincerity there, nodding. “If you’re pregnant…?’
“If I’m pregnant, I won’t trap you Gus. What we have together…it’s enough.”
She started to slide off of his lap, but he held her firmly. “What if it’s not enough for me?”
Mindy looked up at him. “What are you saying?”
He looked out at the Sound, then back at her. “What if I want you to marry me?”
She held her breath, not really sure if he meant what he was saying. “Gus, you don’t have to marry me if I’m pregnant.”
He shifted his hands along her bottom, then turned to look directly into her eyes. “What if I want to marry you even if you’re not pregnant?”
She watched him, trying to understand. “Gus, are you proposing to me?” she asked, the smile starting to form on her lips.
He shrugged. “What if I am? What would you say?”
She laughed and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him. “If you are proposing, then yes, I’ll marry you. And if you’re not proposing,” she pulled back and sighed, “then I’m proposing to you. Will you marry me? Only if you truly love me. Because I love you Gus. I really love you. I love the sweet way you hold me,” she kissed his cheek. “I love the way you watch out for me,” she kissed his other cheek. “I love the way you make sure I’m eating lunch and taking a break.” She kissed his neck and shifted on his lap. “And I really love the way you make love to me, as if the world might stop spinning if we stop touching each other.”
He groaned and pulled her closer. “I love you, Mindy!” and he turned her so that she was straddling his hips, kissing the breathe out of her.
“But before you say anything else, I think you should come home with me.” He stood up and set her back down on her feet.
“I thought we were going to get a pregnancy test.”
He took her hand and led her back to his car. “We will, but there’s someone I want you to meet first.”
Once again, that wariness crept back into her mind.
Fifteen minutes later, they pulled up outside of his house. Nothing strange about that except that it was a Tuesday night instead of their regular Friday nights together.
As soon as she stepped into the house, she smelled the delicious meal. Instantly, jealousy shot through her. Was there another woman in Gus’ life? Was he bringing her home to some strange…threesome relationship?
Mindy had never really questioned their Friday night’s together. She’d simply assumed that he worked hard during the weeks and didn’t want to be distracted. But now, with the smell of something delicious permeating the air, she wondered if there was more to the story. He was a secretive man, not letting a lot out.
Then she realized what she was thinking and looked up at Gus. This man wouldn’t do something like that. He was sweet and kind and honest. If something was going on, he would tell her. Which was probably what he was trying to do now.
As soon as that thought hit her, she heard the screeching. A moment later an adorable dark haired girl shot out from around the corner, leaping into Gus’ arms. Without flinching, Gus caught the delightful girl in his arms, immediately nuzzling her cheek with a kiss.
They had a brief conversation or…more specifically, the girl told Gus all about her day. When she finally paused for a breath, the child turned and, with one arm wrapped around Gus’ neck, said, “Who’s this?”
She didn’t seem threatened in any way, which only told Mindy what a well-balanced child she was. Very comfortable and secure in her father’s love.
“I’m Mindy,” she said, extending her hand. Immediately, the girl leaned over and shook Mindy’s hand. “I’m Chloe,” she said. “Are you having dinner with us?” she asked. “Ms. Mona made lasagna. It’s really good,” she squinched up her nose, “even though she uses ground turkey sausage instead of the real stuff. She says it has to be healthy. And she sneaks vegetables in it, thinking I don’t know but I know because I’m smart. My daddy tells me I’m smart and I already know how to read.”
Mindy’s eyes looked up to Gus, enchanted with the little girl.
“This is my daughter, Chloe,” he explained.
Immediately, Mindy put the pieces of the puzzle together, nodding her head. “She’s very sweet,” she replied, smiling up at her lumberjack. Her heart swelled with love for the man who protected his daughter so carefully.
Mindy nodded. “Completely.”
“Yes!” she replied. “Definitely yes!”
Mindy looked from the daughter to the father and knew that everything was going to be okay. Then something occurred to her and, stepping back before Gus could take her hand and lead her into the kitchen, she glared up at him. “You’re a Mariners fan, right?”
He looked startled for a moment, then Chloe answered for her. “There’s no other baseball team worth watching,” she announced with an arrogance that only a child could convey.
Mindy sighed with relief. “Good! Olivia…” she shook her head. “Pete’s trying to convert her, but…”
Gus and Chloe waited and Mindy had to laugh. “Never mind,” she told both of them.
As the three of them walked into the kitchen, the smells of something delicious once again hit her. But even that mystery was solved as the fifty-something woman smiled as she untied the apron strings around her waist. “I’m Mona. It’s wonderful to finally meet the woman who has put this grouchy old man into a good mood.”
Chloe laughed, her little fingers covering her mouth before she giggled again. “Ms. Mona says that daddy has been happy lately. And he started doing the voices in our story books, so he must be in a good mood because usually, daddy only reads the stories but doesn’t do the voices.” She leaned over in her father’s arms and whispered, “Thank you!”
Mona and Mindy both laughed while Gus…well, Gus patted his daughter’s back.
“I have to go. Dinner is ready and in the oven for you when you’re hungry.” She hung her apron up on a hook and took down her coat. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
Then she was gone.
Dinner was a delightful affair with Chloe chatting away. Mindy had finally met her match in the chatty department and was able to simply sit back in her chair and listen, smiling and nodding whenever appropriate.
It was fascinating to watch the little girl slowly wind down. When Gus gave her a bath, Mindy stayed downstairs, giving them a bit of time alone. She could hear Gus’ deep voice and Chloe’s higher tones. Obviously, the little girl was asking questions and Gus was answering.
Mindy really wanted to leave and give them a bit of privacy, but Gus had asked her to stay so they could talk. Tenderness and love was hitting her hard and she thought she might just burst into tears. She didn’t, taking deep, calming breaths so that she wouldn’t cry. Mindy was painfully aware of how tears affected Gus. He simply hated them and she knew that he would start mentally beating himself up if he came downstairs to find her crying.
So she moved around his house, noting the small things she should have noticed before when she’d been in Gus’ house. Such as the story books in a box under the coffee table. They were all little girl stories that seemed a bit too complicated for a girl Chloe’s age, but after meeting the adorable child, Mindy was certain that she was perfectly capable. On the windows, there were some prisms that she’d noticed before and had thought were charming, but now that she knew about Chloe, Mindy suspected they were for the little girl and not Gus’ choice.
There were a few other things, but Gus’ house was neat and tidy, so whatever toys Chloe played with during the day, Mona had most likely stored away before Gus arrived home each night.
It was only a few minutes later before she heard Gus’ footsteps coming down the wooden stairs. It occurred to her that, for such a big guy, he was very quiet when he moved.
As soon as he stepped into the living room, his eyes searched out hers and she stood there waiting. When their eyes connected, she felt the normal jolt and smiled.
“You’re still here,” he said softly, those incredible eyes landed on her, then slowly moved up and down her body, sending warm tingles of delight coursing through her system.
“Of course I’m still here. You asked me to stay.”
HE sighed and stepped into the room. “I’m still never sure about…”
Mindy hurried over to him, taking his hand and feeling bold when he curled his fingers around her hand. “Talk to me Gus. Tell me what worries you. I can’t battle these demons if I don’t know what they are.”
He pulled her closer, his hand wrapping around her head so that he could kiss her. Immediately, she tilted her head and kissed him back. This time, it was just a gentle kiss, warming her heart with the emotions he couldn’t express in any other way.
When he pulled away, she felt his fingers tighten on her hand. “Chloe is my life,” he explained.
Her smile brightened and she nodded. “I get that. You’re a wonderful father to care about her so deeply.”
“But I…” he struggled and she pulled him over to the leather sofa.
As soon as he sat down, she started to sit next to him but he pulled her onto his lap instead. Over the past several weeks, he’d done this, preferring her right on top of him but tonight, his need seemed to take on a different dimension.
She saw the struggle in his eyes and put a hand on the middle of his chest. “Gus, you love me. I love you. Chloe is a wonderful little girl.” She laid her hand on her stomach. “If I’m pregnant, then we’ll figure this out step by step.”
His strong arms wrapped around her as he held her close. “I don’t understand you, Mindy.”
She snuggled closer, feeling as if her world had never been more right than at this moment. “What’s not to understand? I love you. You love me. You have one delightful daughter and we might be having another daughter or son.”
He was quiet for a long time and Mindy waited, wondering if he would finally explain.
“She married me only for my money,” he started off. Mindy didn’t move, afraid that, if she shifted in any way, he might not tell her anything more. “And when she got pregnant, she threatened to abort our child.” His arms tightened as he said, “My ex wanted to get rid of Chloe!” Mindy felt the strong emotions hit him and pressed her face against the warmth of his neck. “When she first told me that she was pregnant, I panicked, but I never considered abortion. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to take care of a tiny person, but now, I can’t imagine life without Chloe.”
“Are you sad that your ex-wife is gone?”
“Hell no!” he said without hesitation. “That marriage was over as soon as the ink dried on our marriage certificate. Good riddance to the vicious woman.”
“Do you still keep in touch?”
“No. She doesn’t even call Chloe on her birthday. As soon as she left the hospital, I never saw her again.”
“Not even for the divorce?”
He shook his head. “Apparently, she’d gone to Europe and hired a lawyer to go through the divorce process for her. She tried to get money from me, but because of her departure, the judge dismissed any sort of alimony payments.” He chuckled and Mindy smiled, thinking it was the first time she’d heard him laugh. “The judge ordered her to pay child support though.”
Mindy lifted her head to look at Gus. “Does she?”
“I haven’t seen a penny from the woman. So if she comes back to the country, she’ll owe me thousands of dollars in delinquent child support payments.”
“Good job!” she whispered, kissing him once again.
“So you’re going to marry me, right?”
Mindy smiled, thinking Gus was the most extraordinary man. “If you really want that.”
“I want you. As long as you’re okay with Chloe being a part of our lives.”
She kissed him again. “I think Chloe is amazing and I would be honored to join your family.”
After that, there wasn’t much talking going on between them and Mindy reveled in the openness she felt now that she understood Gus more. He was even more amazing than she’d ever thought!
When the storm was over, she curled into his arms and kissed him again. “I love you,” she whispered, trying to be quiet so they didn’t wake up Chloe.
“I love you, Mindy. You brought sunshine into my life.”
Mindy’s heart swelled with love for this man. He was so gruff and big and dangerous looking. And yet, he constantly surprised her with sweet words like that.
“I do,” she whispered, fighting back the tears of happiness as she vowed to love, honor and cherish Gus for the rest of her life. The gold band now on her finger warmed her soul as she stared up into the beautiful eyes of Gus.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” the minister announced.
A moment later, Gus pulled her into his arms, not even waiting for the minister to give him permission to “kiss the bride”. The small church, filled to capacity with people even standing in the back against the wall, burst into applause. When Gus finally lifted his head, it was only because they were pushed apart by Mindy’s bridesmaid, an adorable Chloe who was jumping up and down with excitement, spraying flower petals from Mindy’s bouquet everywhere as she abused the arrangement.
When Gus and Mindy separated, Chloe walked in front of both of them and quickly kissed Mindy’s swollen belly where the soon-to-be-newest member of their new family was still growing. The congregation burst out laughing and Mindy took her step-daughter’s hand as the three of them walked back down the aisle together.