“I am grateful,” she reiterates. “Jean thinks I’ve just been a waste of space since I had to come back home. My dad is just happy to see me.”

“He isn’t the only one,” I find myself interjecting. Our hands drop as if the words were too much and break the spell connecting us. I try not to reach for her again, to pull her to me and kiss her right here in my office. It’s hard, harder than the throbbing flesh wanting to bury itself inside her, to resist making the offer. Instead, I sit back down and ask if everything at her desk is satisfactory.

She comments on how she needs to get settled in with the computer and go through the manual she was given for getting logged in. I’m loathe to let her go, wanting her in here with me, and for a moment I consider having her desk brought in here to share my space. I don’t want to be the creepy, stalker boss, however.

“If you need anything, Lia, just ask.” Even I can hear the double meaning in my husky words.

Lia swallows, her neck bobbing. She looks at my mouth, her eyes locking on mine again as if daring me to come to her again. Not going to her is torture. Every muscle in my body screams her name as I cling to my chair in hopes of not succumbing to the urge to kiss her again.

She gives me a shy smile, one that shakes a bit as she swallows once more before speaking. “I’m fine, Beck. I’ll let you know if I have any questions. If you’re done with me, can I go to my desk?”

I’m not done with her at all, not by a long shot. “Go ahead. Calls aren’t going to your phone yet unless they have the direct extension. We’ll have everything rerouted to your desk tomorrow. I didn’t want you having to learn our phone system today on top of everything else. Mostly though, you’ll be making copies, running errands on site, and keeping me on schedule.”

She steps out, closing the glass door, and I can see her back as she sits down. I rest my elbows on my desk, palm my forehead and hair, and I groan so loudly my chest aches. What the hell is wrong with me?

The entire time Lia was in here, I was like a teenaged boy going through puberty. If this is how I’m going to be around her, maybe this was not a great idea after all. I don’t know if I can hide my reaction to her. Yeah, the tailor is going to have a lot of work in order so I can avoid splitting open the seams on my pants anytime Lia touches me.

I push my hair back out of my face, and my daughter’s beautiful smile is the first thing I see. The picture of her taken on a cruise around Greece last spring has been on my desk since the moment we got home from the vacation. My daughter. My not-so-little girl who will always be my baby… Lia is her age. They’ve been best friends for more than half their lives.

Groaning again for good measure, I force all thoughts of Lia out of my head and focus on my to-do list. If we’re going to make this work, I have to be able to actually function. If I wanted to pay her to distract me… Well, that’s not exactly legal in our state.

It’s nearing lunch when Lia interrupts me at last, but her question is not what I wanted to hear. “You have a visitor, Beck. I’m not sure which button will buzz her past the security door. Which one is it?”

Her voice is cold, and I know of few people who could earn that sort of reception from her. Lia was devastated when Carrie left me. She had claimed at the time that she hated to see Tasha lose her mom. Now, though, I think it was far more personal. It must be Jean. I don’t want to deal with Jean today, but the wrath Lia would endure isn’t worth my preferences right now.

“Our door will open manually from this side. You can either directly open the door or there is a yellow square that lights up on your phone when someone doesn’t have access. If you press that, it will open the door for them.” She’s already at the door and pushing the button before I can ask her who it is. Security would have called me if Jean’s visit were announced as a visit for me. She must have told them she was here to see Lia.

I straighten the papers on my desk, hiding the top sheet of confidential numbers. Jean is leaning on Lia’s desk, and Lia has put herself between her step-mother and my slightly ajar door. “If you’ll wait here, I’ll check with Mr. Huntsworth to see if he’s available.”

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