“Let me get your feet free.” Jack knelt in front of Eleanor, quickly releasing the rope from her ankles. When he stood, he offered his hand.
She pinched her lips and stood without his help, prancing away and around to the side of the table. When she pivoted in a huff, prepared to question his lack of bravado in the face of their impending doom, the sight of his relaxed stance and teasing expression froze her intentions.
Dove gray eyes regarded her, crinkled at the corners as if amused. His smile was a flirtation when his bottom lip twitched. Both hands were tucked in his pants pockets, his head tilted just so. She hadn’t noticed before that he was without his tie, and his jacket hung unbuttoned. Although covered in a shirt and jacket, his biceps bulged, challenging the restraint of material. The open shirt collar exposed his strong neck and a hint of a well-formed chest. She couldn’t stop herself from gazing down the line of shirt buttons and imagining tight abs beneath the pale green material.
He cleared his throat.
“I like your hair like that, loose, and swaying around your shoulders when you walk.”
Her hand went involuntarily to push the tresses off her neck. The compliment left her speechless…but only momentarily. “I can’t believe you’re talking about my hair when we could be hours from suffocating in this tomb.”
“We’re fine. Maybe—”
“Fine?” She stomped within inches of him. Someone needed to take control of this disaster. “How the hell can you be so blasé about our situation? Why did you let that bozo escape and lock us in here? Why didn’t you—”
“I was going to say, maybe I should explain.” He’d taken her by the shoulders, and his thumbs resting on the bare skin where the dress ended below her collarbone did more to rob her of speech than his interruption. “All right?”
She stepped back from his seemingly innocent embrace, merely nodding.
A frown passed over his face. “I’m sorry.”
His touch had weakened her resolve, but she clung to the control her anger had lent. She waved a hand through the air. “Continue.”
“I saw King kiss you. It struck me as odd. Not odd that he’d want to kiss you.” He shuffled his feet. “But what he was doing at the party, after having been fired. I wondered if there was something…between you. I didn’t think there could be. The man’s a dolt, and you’re…” He studied her face.
She hitched a small gasp. The anger fled in a whoosh. The goose bumps his words caused sent little jolts of fire from her shoulders to her toes. “What, Jack? What am I?”
“You’re so much more than he deserves.” He swallowed, inhaled deeply, and continued. “When I saw you in the elevator, the way you stood, your face, I thought something was wrong, and I had to follow. I took the stairs and reached the first floor before you did. When the elevator continued to the basement, I was certain something was wrong.”
The concern on his face furrowed his brow. She wanted to hug him, throw herself into his arms and bury her face in his chest.
“The stairs are at the other end of the basement from the elevator, and by the time I crept to within sight of you and King, you were headed into the vault with a gun at your back. That’s when I headed back upstairs.”
Like a shot of cold water the warm fuzzies were washed away, and she jerked. “You what?”
“I recognized the gun, Eleanor.”
“Oh, well, that makes it better. You just left me?” She stepped back, but he quickly closed the distance between them.
“It wasn’t real. The phony gun is the cigarette lighter from Clines’s desk. I recognized it right away.” He spread his arms, and she stepped into them as if drawn by a magnet. “You weren’t in any danger. Like I said, King’s a dolt. A thief, a jerk, and a dolt.”
“Oh.” Her heart pattered, her arms hung limp at her sides. What should she do with her arms? She’d only imagined being held by this man, and in her wildest dreams she always knew what to do with every part of her body. “But, if the gun was a fake, why didn’t you…” She glanced away. He could’ve immediately rescued her.
He lifted her chin. “I’m sorry if you were frightened. I’d heard enough of your sparring with King to know you were holding your own.”
“I was more concerned about getting locked in this vault.”
His caress along her chin ramped up the beats per minute of her heart.
“Is it so bad?” His hand returned to her waist.
She smiled, staring into his teasing gray eyes. Bringing her arms up, she tentatively encircled his shoulders.
“I went back up to alert Cline so he could get the cops rolling and intercept King before he made his getaway. He’s probably being handcuffed right now.”
“And you came back down…” She held her breath with her thought. He didn’t have to come back, to get locked in the vault with her.
“I went back up for another reason besides speaking to Cline. There was something I needed to get.” One hand fell from her and slipped into his jacket pocket. He smiled, winked, and lifted a sprig of mistletoe over their heads. “I couldn’t let King’s kiss be the last you remember from tonight.” He held her closer. “I’ve wanted to do this for ages.” His lips touched hers then retreated, as if asking her permission.
Reaching, walking her fingertips up the back of his neck, she laced them together. His breath was moist, tinged with the scent of chocolate and brandy. “Just what are your intentions?”
“May I kiss you, Eleanor?”
“Oh, yes, Roman, Jack Roman.”
I hope you enjoyed my contribution to Mistletoe Magic. For information and buy links for my books, check out my Website. Tomorrow, you'll be treated to another story of Mistletoe Magic from Rolynn Anderson. Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!