mouth, he looked both dangerous and more than a little scary.

“Sam,” the man said, glancing between her rescuer and herself. “Is there a problem?”

“I think there might be.” Sam looked back at her. “Ms. Marcelli was trying to make a delivery to Malcolm and White.”

“They split last week.”

“As I explained to Ms. Marcelli.” He motioned to the cart. “Take this inside, Jason. Store it in one of the conference rooms.” He turned his attention back to her. “If your employer’s expecting payment for a delivery, that isn’t going to happen. At least not right now. Come on inside and we’ll get this situation straightened out.”

Francesca found herself being ushered into a plush office with a gray and burgundy waiting area. An attractive woman in her early forties manned the front desk. She spoke over a headset as they walked by, pausing only to nod at Sam.

“I can search out Malcolm and White,” Sam said as they moved down a long corridor decorated with elegant prints and the occasional slim table pushed up against a wall. “I’ve been looking for an excuse to track them down.”

He sounded fierce as he spoke, as if he had a personal beef with the missing businessmen. Francesca trailed after him, torn between wondering why Sam Reese would care if a company in his building closed and trying to figure out what she’d gotten herself into. They passed several large conference rooms, what looked like classrooms, and a few offices containing large desks, computers, and file cabinets. All generic stuff that didn’t hint at the kind of business done here.

At the end of the hall they made a left, then a quick right before stopping in front of an open foyer containing a large desk and computer setup manned by a well-dressed young man wearing a sport coat.

“Jack, this is Ms. Marcelli.”

The young man, probably around twenty-five and built like a football player, rose to his feet. “Nice to meet you, ma’am.”

Francesca walked to the desk to shake hands. As she did so, her purse slipped down her arm and plopped onto the ground before she could catch it.

“Oops,” she said, bending down to pick it up.

As she straightened, all the blood rushed from her head, causing the room to spin and her body to sway. For a split second she thought she was going down.

Less than a heartbeat later a strong arm encircled her, holding her in place. “Ms. Marcelli? Are you all right? Is it the baby?”

Baby? What… oh, the baby.

Francesca shook her head slightly. Her sense of equilibrium returned enough for her to realize she was standing amazingly close to Sam. Close enough to see the surprisingly dark lashes framing his eyes. Speaking of which-she stared more intently-seen from such a close range, his eyes were the most unusual color. Light brown, shot with gold. Otherworldly eyes. Cat eyes.

Cat eyes on a powerful man. She felt both the heat of him and the strength. Somehow she’d always assumed that executives in expensive suits were sort of wimpy under all that designer wool. She had been seriously wrong.

“Ms. Marcelli?”

Tension filled his voice. She shook her head again and tried to shrug free of his hold. When he didn’t release her, she gave him a quick smile.

“I’m fine.”

“You nearly fainted.”

“I know. I haven’t eaten today. I do that sometimes. Work distracts me. Then I get low blood sugar.”

“That can’t be good for the child.”

As there was no child, his concern made her feel a little guilty.

“I’m fine,” she repeated. “Really.”

He slowly removed his arm from around her waist. “Jack, bring Ms. Marcelli some herb tea. There’s a selection in the coffee room. Nothing with caffeine. Also, check to see if there are any sandwiches left from the lunch meeting.”

Francesca thought about protesting again, but before she could figure out what to say without blowing her cover, she found herself being ushered into an office the size of Utah.

Floor-to-ceiling windows offered a view of Santa Barbara and mountains from one wall and Santa Barbara and a hint of ocean from the other. Tasteful paintings decorated the remaining walls. Two large leather sofas formed a conversational area in a corner. Between them and the desk was enough room to hold a kickboxing class.

Sam settled her on the sofa, then sat next to her. Before she knew what was going on, he had her hand resting in his and his fingers on the inside of her wrist.

“Your pulse is rapid. Would you like me to call your doctor?”

She generally went to student health services whenever she needed a checkup. Somehow she didn’t think her friendly chitchat with the nurse practitioner qualified as having a doctor of her own.

Although she would have to admit that having her hand cradled by a handsome man held a certain thrill. He was warm, solid, and plenty sexy. Had she looked slightly more appealing than something gacked up by a stray cat, she might have tried smiling, flirting, and witty conversation. Not that she could think of anything witty right at the moment.

“No doctor calling,” she insisted, reluctantly drawing her hand free of his. “There’s nothing wrong with me. Although I have been taking up too much of your time.”

She started to rise. Sam kept her in her seat with nothing more than a steady gaze.

“Have some tea,” he said. “You’ll feel better.”

Both were an order.

Before she could protest, Jack appeared carrying a tray. There was a steaming mug of tea, along with a wrapped deli sandwich.

“We only have turkey left,” the young man said apologetically as he set the tray on the glass coffee table.

The small amount of guilt she’d felt before doubled in size. “Look. You’re being really nice-both of you. But there’s no need to fuss.”

The men ignored her. “Get on the computer,” Sam told his assistant. “See if you can track down either Malcolm or White. You’ll find a file in the usual place.” He turned his considerable attention back to her. “You said your boss had left for the day. How do you get in touch with him? I want to let him know that the boxes can’t be delivered. I’ll also make arrangements for them to be returned to him.” His fierce expression softened slightly. “He should never have left you to take care of them yourself.”

“I didn’t mind,” she said weakly, feeling the floor beneath her crumbling into quicksand. In a matter of seconds she was going to sink so deep, no one would ever find her. “And you can’t get in touch with him. He’s, um, heading for the airport. To, ah, get on a plane.”

She mentally winced. Lying had never come easily to her. Heading to the airport to get on a plane? Why else did people go to the airport?

Francesca sighed. Somehow this experiment had gotten out of hand. According to her research, Sam shouldn’t have stopped to help her, and he should never have taken things this far. The man was messing with her data.

“What airline? What flight?” He pulled a small leather-covered notebook from his jacket pocket.

Francesca didn’t know what to say. “You won’t be able to track him down.”

“Try me.”

Uh-oh. She was in way over her head. She gave Jack a frantic “rescue me” look which he either didn’t get or chose to ignore. Jason, the big and strong, poked his head in the office to inform them that he’d put the boxes in Conference Room 2. Jack disappeared with Jason, closing the door behind them. Leaving her very much alone with a man obviously capable of ruling the universe.

“So, Ms. Marcelli, your boss’s flight? His name would help, as well.”

“Please call me Francesca,” she said and reached for the tea. Her stomach growled, but she refused to touch the sandwich. Not while she was here under false pretenses. “Can you really get in contact with someone on a plane?”

“If I have to. It would be easier to reach him before he left. Is he driving down to Los Angeles, or taking a

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