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Lion of Caledonia(2)

By: Caro LaFever


“Hmm.” His hand kept sweeping back and forth, those eyes of his piercing into her. The energy he exuded, his masculine vitality, filled the large library, making her feel as if she experienced tunnel vision and the only thing she could focus on was him.

A flutter of instinct swished through her. Her heart pounded in her chest.

Lethal. He was lethal.

Her breath, her instinct, her heart all yelled at her.

Leave.

But she couldn’t. The ring and her obligation stood in her way. And more than anything, her grandfather. She couldn’t walk away from this man and this monstrous mansion. Her predicament made the air in her throat knot and then gasp in a clear sign of distress.

He stiffened, and the tawny brows dropped into a ferocious frown. “What’s wrong?”

This interview was going horribly wrong and she needed to get herself refocused.

“You must, Jennet,” her grandfather whispered in her memories once more. “The ring means everything to me.”

“Nothing, sir.” Knotting her fingers in her lap, she forced herself to meet his gaze. His eyes were a mix of dark colors she couldn’t define. Certainly not black, but not brown either.

“Nothing?” He jerked the stately leather chair out from behind the desk and slammed his body into it, as if compelling himself to continue with this odd exchange. “Do ye have a problem with your breathing?”

The question surprised her. Not the words themselves; questions about her breathing weren’t uncommon. The surprise came from the sliver of compassion running through them. She wasn’t used to compassion. “No, sir. Not at all.”

“Stop calling me sir.” His frown deepened. “There’ll be none of that around here.”

“Yes, s…” She slithered to a stop.

A glimmer of humor lit in his odd eyes. The frown eased. “Call me Cam.”

She didn’t want to speak his first name. Just as she didn’t want him to speak hers. First names smacked of potential friendship. She wanted none of that. She was here to get the job and do a job. The last thing she wanted was to feel any guilt about what she planned to take from this man. “I think it would be better to keep things businesslike.”

“Do ye?” One brow rose again. “Why?”

“It’s more professional.”

“Professional.” The word hung in the air. He edged it with wry whimsy, rolling the vowels in his rich voice as if he testing it for clarity.

“Yes.” Jen’s hands tightened until her nails cut into her skin. She was no good at this kind of thing: talking, chatting, interviewing. The desperate need to jump up and run out the door swept through her again. The only thing she wanted to do was run and run and run back to her place. The placid and peaceful place her grandfather’s summons had yanked her from one week ago.

“Hmm.” His hand pawed through the mound of papers once more and much to her relief, his gaze dropped from her face. Silence, the wretched silence she couldn’t ever seem to fill with easy chatter or witty words, lay like a heavy woolen blanket between them.

“Ye come highly recommended.” His abrupt pronouncement split through the room.

Jen jumped in her seat and swallowed a squeak, like a mouse in front of a big, growling cat.

His lips tightened. “Are ye a nervous woman?”

“No, sir.” As soon as the title came out of her mouth, she winced.

“If not nervous, then perhaps unwilling to take concise directions.” His tone went sharp, all humor gone.

Two years ago, this would have been the end. The old Jennet would have given up, fled in defeat, and disappointed every member of her family. For two years, though, she’d been nurturing herself, growing confidence, finding her own way.

The new and fragile confidence shot down her spine, making her straighten in the hard antique chair. “I can take directions.”

Cameron Steward stared at her across the vast expanse of his desk. The quiet tick-tock of the ancient grandfather clock standing beside the enormous pit of a marbled fireplace was the only sound filling the silence. Until another one replaced it.

“Hmm.”

The sound was apparently a signature for him and she couldn’t help but think it resembled the deep purr of a giant cat. There was something silky and seductive to it, while underneath rolled the potential of a quick strike.

He coiled out of his chair, a slinky glide that startled her. Even though the movement was smooth and subtle, the heft of his big body and the intensity of his presence shot through her.

Lethal.

The man stalked over to another bookcase, this one filled with an assortment of scary African masks and other memorabilia. His hands swung around, clasping behind his back. “The work is usually in the morning.”

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