The Exception(13)

By: Adriana Locke




An hour later, I pulled up in front of a one story commercial building at the address listed on the paper. It was stucco and discreet, but fairly large and on the outskirts of Scottsdale.

I was excited to get started, to kick off this new phase of my life. But an undercurrent of confusion coursed through me.

What did Max have to do with it?

Stepping out of my Jeep, I took in a hasty breath. The temperature overtook me as the hair on the back of my neck became damp with sweat. Dry heat my ass. I quickly made my way to the front of the building, ignoring the construction workers that were obviously watching me from the building next door.

Looking through the glass, I didn’t see anyone. The door was unlocked, it was hot, and the address matched, so I went on in.

“Hello?” I called out into the space. “Is anyone here?”

I was met with silence, save the faint sound of the air conditioner working overtime.

The building looked to have been empty for a while. The floors were dusty and there were odds and ends of office furniture scattered throughout the large entry room, but otherwise it was vacant.

“Hello? Max?” I announced again, peeking into one of the cubicles lining the side wall. A sound cracked from a back room and my heart jumped to my throat in surprise. I laughed softly and headed towards the sound, hoping that it was Max and not a murderer.

As I cautiously approached the doorway, I could hear someone inside. I rounded the corner and stopped abruptly, my heart skipping a beat.

He was sitting at the desk in the back of the room, his head resting in the palm of one of his hands. I could see his fingers pressing against the sandy colored strands as if in thought. His watch caught the light and sent a prism of color onto the wall.

He looked so out of place—so large and powerful in the small, drab area. It was a play on opposites—excellence meeting mediocrity.

He hadn’t heard me arrive, completely absorbed in whatever he was reading, and I took a second to steady myself before I caught his attention. Just looking at him was enough to take my breath away.

I briefly considered sneaking out before he saw me, but remembered that I was there on business.

Breathe.

Taking a deep breath, I knocked gently on the door. He didn’t move anything but his eyes, raising them to mine. A slow smile crept across his face and my heart picked up its pace.

Cane leaned back in his chair and grinned smugly, like the cat that ate the canary. “Well, what do you know? We see each other again.”

My racing heart was now fueled by irritation instead of lust. This is the first day of my new life, and I’m being toyed with by another jerk? Heaven help me.

I briefly closed my eyes and tried to stay calm. Ripping into him, giving him a huge reaction, would be letting him win and I was tired of handing victories to assholes.

“It seems that we do. I was told that Max asked to see me?” I forced a smile.

“Oh, Max would probably enjoy that,” Cane laughed. “But no, you are here to see me.”

“And why is that?”

He leaned forward, his elbows on the desk and his grin growing wider. “Isn’t it obvious why you are here to see me?”

“I’m hoping there is a valid reason.”

“Why do I sense a little hostility?” He smirked.

“I guess I’m just confused. I was told Max made an appointment to see me today and then I come in here and you have that look on your face. Sorry if I feel a little addled right now.”

Cane looked genuinely amused. He stood up and leaned against the desk, rolling his white shirt sleeves up, baring his forearms one golden inch at a time. It was a completely natural thing to do, but watching him do it was almost like foreplay; I felt my chest rise and fall harder.

“Max is a contractor and I am a real estate investor. I buy properties and Max gets them ready to resell. He manages the construction part of Alexander Industries.”

“I see.” I adjusted my bag on my shoulder, feeling a little awkward. “So how do I come in to play?”

“I want to put Solomon Place—this building—on the market. And I thought you could help me with that.”

“Can I ask you a question? Why did you call our office? You have never done business with us before.”

I pushed a breath into my constricted chest, feeling my lungs press against my ribs. This wasn’t what I had in mind for my first day back. I was supposed to be serious, focused, starting my life fresh. Instead, I was looking into the eyes of a gorgeous playboy, trying to decide if his intentions were professional or if he was trying to manipulate me. Why do I always find these guys? Why couldn’t Max’s friend have been an accountant or something?

“This property needs to be put up for sale. Max mentioned that you were a realtor. It seemed like it could be a good partnership.”