Falling Under
Page 9

 Lauren Dane

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“Was it that bad in here?” he managed to say, like he hadn’t been sniffing her and she didn’t know it.
“Nah. I just figured since I had everything off the desks when I moved them, they may as well get a bit of a wipe down. I hope you don’t mind that I rearranged things.”
“This is your domain. Do whatever you need. But don’t forget there’s a floor full of big-ass burly dudes who would happily move heavy stuff if you asked. Me included.”
“I’ll be keeping that in mind. Mainly it was just desks so it wasn’t a big deal.”
He didn’t like the idea of her moving stuff. Or maybe he liked the idea of doing it for her. Duke wasn’t that alarmed by the wanting to take care of her part. He liked to make things easy for people when he could. But this was … odd. Far more intense than he usually felt about women he dug.
The phone rang and she grabbed it, her voice going soft and sexy. Duke stood, dumbfounded by the way she effortlessly stepped into the job.
Carmella was an adult. A woman in charge of herself. So. Fucking. Sexy.
“I don’t even know what to do with him, Ginger,” Carmella said later that night as they took a walk around Green Lake after work. “He’s really hard to resist.”
Ginger barked and kept walking alongside.
“You like him too. I know.”
Duke flustered her in ways she wouldn’t have allowed in anyone else. It was his rhythm. He took his time. With every word. With every step. And yet he didn’t come off lazy so much as totally enjoying every moment.
He was intense the same way watching a big wave safely from the shore was intense. And right then he looked at her like he wanted to spread her on a cracker and take a bite.
It didn’t matter that she was fully clothed, when Duke looked at her, Carmella felt naked. And it wasn’t predatory. He wasn’t being lecherous. It left her exposed and a little off balance.
She never did find out where he was from with that surfer boy drawl with a hint of Northeasterner flavor to his words because the day was flat-out crazy after that.
Maybe she needed to stop even thinking about this whole thing. The man was her boss. It was such a bad idea to let herself get tingly.
“I need this job. Men are plentiful if I should find a need for one. I can keep all my dirty thoughts to myself. I’m not a toddler. I have self-control.”
The path was full of people out enjoying the warm evening walk around the lake so a few people gave her a look as they passed, but mainly no one seemed to care that she was talking to herself and her dog.
Which was good because by the time she’d made her third go-round, she was ready to head back home, feeling a little more solid in her you can look but not touch plan.
I don’t know if you like racing or not, but Twisted Steel has a team and we’re headed out tonight. I wanted to invite you,” Duke said as he poked his head into her office.
Ginger, who’d been draped over Carmella’s feet under the desk, nearly broke something at the sound of Duke’s voice.
Seeing her, he grinned and knelt. “Hey, gorgeous girl.”
Ginger was so excited she shook, making her little bark growls of joy as he scratched behind her ears.
“Unfortunately I think it might be too noisy and dangerous for you,” Duke told the dog.
Carmella loved racing and had been out to the track a few times to watch the Twisted Steel team. It was pretty nice to be invited in person, though.
“I just might be there.” She needed to check on her mother first, and be sure all was well before being out, but it sounded like just the thing.
Duke gave Carmella a lopsided grin and she got a little faint.
“Ginger, you want to hang out with me awhile? I need to root around out back for some stuff,” Duke asked her dog, and obviously Carmella too.
Ginger barked, wagging her tail so hard her entire rear end vibrated.
“No one compares to you, Duke. You’ve spoiled her.” Carmella winked and Duke blushed.
“Well, I’ll be back shortly¸” Duke said as he left with the dog and she tried to pretend it didn’t make her all fluttery. It wasn’t a date. Carmella had noted the people who worked at Twisted Steel also hung out socially a lot. Duke was just involving her like everyone else.
Her first week there had been mainly about learning the ropes and getting people in line with her way of doing things. Asa and Duke left the office stuff to her, which she approved of. The other guys quickly adopted her system of what invoices went where and of what they needed to call to her attention so it wasn’t as hard as it could have been.
The work was something she knew. Her first real job at the age of sixteen had been helping out in the office at her uncle’s shop. He’d pushed her to go on, attend college, go out and be something more than his accounts person.
But that wasn’t what she wanted. Some people had a calling or whatever, but she liked her job. It was a way to get money to pay her bills and that was fine. She didn’t need to be fulfilled by her job.
Though she did need to be fulfilled by her life and that part was a work in progress. Which was one of the reasons she planned to head out to the track that night.
PJ strolled in as Carmella was in the break room grabbing some iced tea.
“Hey you,” PJ said as she came over to hug Carmella. “What’s up today?”
“Just grabbing something to drink. How are you? Down here working or dropping something off?”