“It is a pleasure to finally meet you,” and he took the hand that had been poking his chest for emphasis, enveloping her entire hand, fingers and all, into his larger, much warmer hand. Gone was the teasing, sexy tone and, in its place was a man well-schooled in the art of diplomacy. There was no expression on his features now.
“I apologize for the rudeness. We were expecting someone much older. Your reputation as a brilliant practitioner precedes you. I’m shocked to learn you are so young. You are an accomplished and prolific writer, which is why I was anticipating someone in her fifties or older.”
Her eyes widened with surprise at the sharp tingles of awareness zinging up her arm at his touch. She was also surprised that he had apologized. He didn’t seem like the kind who would. Ever! Harper’s anger immediately dissipated after such a pretty and flattering explanation and apology.
Her eyes blinked as she stared up at him. “Oh.” Now that he’d explained his response so prettily, she felt silly. Pulling back slightly, she shifted uncomfortably. Blinking again, she nodded. “Well, thank you.” That’s when she realized that her hand was still enveloped in his much larger one. “Um…that’s…” she stared at their hands. His tanned and powerful, with scars along the back. Hers softer. Paler. No scars. Not even a callus.
Slowly, her eyes lifted, drifting over strong forearms revealed by the folded back cuffs of his pristine white shirt. The shirt covered a powerful chest. The top buttons were open, showing off a bit of dark hair. Instantly, her mouth began to water. What was underneath that white shirt? Was he just as muscular underneath? And did he ever smell good! Too good! The heat outside had obviously fried her brain, because Harper had never appreciated a man’s scent before. In fact, unless they were stinky from sweat or an overabundance of cologne, she’d never spared a thought about how men smelled. And this man was definitely not stinky! He smelled…divine!
Her gaze traveled higher. Idly, her brain registered his neck, his Adam’s apple, then her eyes moved higher. Hard jaw, thin lips, and…very nice, thin lips! She swallowed, her mouth watering as her eyes lingered on those lips. Would he kiss hard? Or soft? Were those lips curling ever so slightly? Her eyes moved higher, passed his nose, which had obviously been broken at some point. And then her blue eyes clashed with his hazel ones. Beautiful hazel eyes surrounded by lush dark lashes. Men shouldn’t have such beautiful lashes, she thought a touch resentfully. But on him, they looked…right. Not pretty, but those lashes seemed to mitigate some of the harshness of his features.
It was in that moment that she realized she was staring. What in the world was she doing?!
Quickly, Harper pulled herself out of her contemplation of the man’s ridiculously long, dark lashes. “I’m sorry!” she gasped and took several steps backwards. “I’m just…I’m so tired and you’re the third person who has told me that I’m not who I am and…well,” she sighed, closing her eyes for a moment as she admitted, “it’s been a really long day.”
He crossed his arms over his chest during that explanation. “Again, I must apologize for my bad manners. You should have been shown directly to your rooms and provided refreshment. That was my fault, as I am eager for you to meet my nieces and help me discover how to help them.” He pressed a button on his desk and, a moment later, the door to his office opened.
“Rashid, please show Doctor Ross to her room. Call the chef and have him deliver food. Doctor Ross is tired and needs rest before she and I discuss the issues she’ll be working on over the next several weeks.”
Rashid bowed, then turned to Harper. “This way, Doctor Ross,” he said, gesturing politely.
“Right,” she said, and started towards the doorway. But she felt too light. Something was wrong. Looking down at herself, she noticed her clothes were a wrinkled mess. She wished that she’d taken a few moments on the plane to tidy herself up.
Her tote bag appeared within her line of sight. Looking up, she realized that the giant was holding it in front of her. “Thank you,” she whispered, reaching out nervously to take it. Those long, tanned fingers seemed innocuous, but for some reason, her mind filled with images of those fingers touching her.
Shaking her head to rid herself of the outrageously inappropriate images, she hitched the tote’s straps over her shoulder. The weight brought her back to the present and she nodded with what she hoped was a polite acknowledgement of his assistance, then turned to follow the other man out of the office.
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