Maggie was shocked to feel her hand tremble when she put her fingers in Josiah Grant’s massive palm. He’d been more than nice to look at, and she’d already entertained more than one fantasy about how hot he might look out of that sharp charcoal-gray suit. But now that she was actually going to touch him, her brain felt in eminent danger of short-circuiting. How the devil would she manage if he actually kissed her? Peeled off her clothes? Thrust his hard cock—which should be large, given the size of his hands—inside her?
She’d combust on the spot.
“Sure,” she managed to murmur while seeming somewhere between cool and detached. It was her signature move.
As they reached the dance floor, the party tune faded away, replaced by Ed Sheeran crooning that he’d love the woman in his arms until he was seventy. As Josiah pulled her close and began to sway to the slow beat, she peered up at him. Her lashes fluttered, along with her heart. She sucked in a breath. God, she had to stop being such a nervous idiot. He was a man. She was a woman. This would probably be nothing more than a fling she’d enjoy the hell out of.
But looking into his eyes, she wasn’t so sure. They weren’t blue or green or brown or even hazel. They were more unusual. They were a glinting gray with a thick fringe of lashes against tanned skin. That gaze, along with the buzz of his brown hair, made him look somewhere between exotic and dangerous. And he was staring right at her, looking entirely serious.
Mercy, what was it about this man?
He swallowed like maybe she got to him, too.
“So . . .” She searched for a conversational topic to cut her nerves.
“So . . .” He smirked in return.
“You actually can dance. I’m impressed.”
He let loose a laugh. “See? I’m a lot of things, but a liar isn’t one of them.”
Josiah glided them around the floor effortlessly, turning her under his arm, reeling her in closer, then settling his hot fingertips in the middle of her bare back before he caressed his way down her spine and placed his palm close to her ass.
Lord, he felt good. Maggie tried not to imagine how his fingers would feel skimming her whole body with that soft, unhurried stroke. “Tell me . . . Were you in the service, like Cutter?”
Josiah shook his head. “CIA.”
Wow. “That sounds dangerous.”
“The mortality rate was higher than, say, for an accountant.”
“Why do I get the feeling that’s an understatement?”
He simply shrugged. Okay, he didn’t want to talk about it. Or couldn’t. She respected that.
“How long have you worked for EM Security?”
“About a year. I signed on because I wanted to learn from the best. Then a few months later, Caleb Edgington retired. Thankfully, his sons have proven anything but amateur. What about you?”
Since he’d done important things like save the world, he would laugh a million times at what she’d chosen to do with her life. At least he’d never guess. It wasn’t as if a guy like him would ever read an Azalea North novel. In fact, no one had figured her secret out yet, not even her sister.
“I’m . . . on hold right now. Shealyn has this big life to lead, and now she’s married. My grandparents are needing more help as they get older. Papa fell last week. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt, but Granna can’t lift him. I barely can. And she can’t remember to take her medicine half the time. They’re little issues, at least right now. But they’re going to require more care in the coming years.”
“What about your mom? Can she help?”
Maggie bit back something pointless he wouldn’t understand and she’d probably regret. “She lives in Costa Rica with her husband and my ten-year-old half brother. Up until the last few months, she really hasn’t been in my life. We’re, um . . . getting to know each other.”
“You didn’t grow up with her?”
She shook her head. “Long story.”
Hopefully, he’d read between the lines. In her book, it was a closed subject. She still wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about her mom. A few conversations didn’t erase a whole childhood of resentment, but Maggie wasn’t the sort to hold on to hate. And it wasn’t as if her youth in Comfort had been terrible.
“What about your parents?” she said to fill what could become an awkward silence.
“Long story, as well.”
In other words, he had secrets he’d rather keep, too. Fine by her.
The silence she’d been trying to avoid fell between them. Surprisingly, it wasn’t awkward at all. But it was tight, full of awareness. She could feel herself yearning to be closer to him. But what blindsided her was his desire for her. It hung so thick in the air it was almost tangible. Like a blanket, it wrapped around her, warmed her from the January chill that blew in under the tent. It left her no doubt what he thought or wanted.
The song ended. Neither one of them moved, simply stared. Those wicked fingertips of his prowled their way up her bare back again, making her shiver, before gliding down in a barely there caress.
“How much longer do you have to stay at the reception?”
Half dazed, she scanned the room. Her sister was wrapped in her husband’s arms on the opposite corner of the dance floor. Granna and Papa had already retired. Brea, bless her, had finally managed to calm her stomach enough to enjoy the festivities. The rest of the guests had either left or kicked off their shoes, started their third drink, and gotten ready to party.
“Not another minute. Are you planning to take me to bed?”
He cupped her cheek, looking like he wanted to kiss her. Instead, he backed away, teeth gritted in restraint—for now. She had a feeling that moderation wouldn’t last.
Josiah took her hand. “Yes, I am.”