Cal glanced away from his computer monitor when the door to his office opened, gave Gillian a slack-jawed nod of acknowledgement, then returned to his timed microexpressions test. Taking it for the twelfth iteration was hardly the best reason to be at the office so late, but he still wanted to score well.
"Burning the midnight oil?" Gillian said from the doorway. She walked to his desk, a folder in her hands. "Anything I can help you with?"
"Nothing important." Cal exited his test, having lost interest as soon as he saw Gillian move across the room in that pink dress. Try as he might, he found it difficult to focus on anything but Gillian when she was near. Not just her beauty or the way his body reacted to her presence, but her mind, her smile, the sunny optimism that baffled him but also made him feel more human when they were together. "How about you? What's that?"
Gillian held up the folder. He could see the slightest hesitation before she spoke. "Nothing exciting. Just some budget stuff."
Cal wrinkled his nose. He hated budget stuff, which was exactly why Gillian usually took care of their financial affairs. But lately he'd been feeling guilty about saddling her with the entire burden. He gestured to the chair across the desk. "How about you pull a seat around and we can go over it together?"
Gillian's smile lit up her eyes. "Really? I'd like that."
He felt like a right bastard. If offering to deal with the dry realities of their business made her that happy, he really should do it more. Even if it did make his ears bleed.
"Of course, love." Cal slouched back in his seat and folded his hands over his chest. "I'm all yours."
Gillian pulled the chair around and positioned herself at his side, then opened the folder in her hands. "Okay, so I'm struggling with the numbers just a bit…"
Cal leaned closer and looked at the papers Gillian spread across the desktop. Her hair smelled like pears. It was so good to be close to her, to breathe in her scent. These quiet moments with Gillian seemed to be happening more often these days, but Cal savored each one like it might be their last.
Though he respected their line, he knew that what Gillian brought to his life went beyond mere friendship. He was in love with her. Sometimes he wanted to take a chance and find out if she felt the same way, but Cal doubted he would ever do it. Being rejected by a woman was never fun, but being rejected by Gillian might just kill him.
So Cal appreciated these moments, no matter what brought them on. Being with Gillian made even dealing with money bearable.
Bearable, but not fun. Within ten minutes Cal was scowling as they studied the budget Gillian had put together. "We need more money for training," Cal said, shuffling through her papers. "Unless you think Loker and Torres are fine as-is."
"Well, of course they could use more training." Gillian gave him a patient smile, the kind she got when she thought he had his head stuck up his arse. "But it's easier to cut from there than most anywhere else. Our travel budget is lean as it is, and if we want to take more cases, we need to be able to go to them."
Cal scrubbed at his hair and leaned back in his chair. "Fuck all. How do you deal with this stuff?"
"Someone has to." Gillian's voice held no blame, but Cal still felt low about the implication.
"Sorry, love. I hate dealing with the numbers, yeah, but it's not fair of me to expect you to sort it all." Cal frowned at the papers littering his desk. "Even though it's bullshit."
Gillian laughed, lightening his mood immediately. "God, Cal. It's not that bad, honestly."
"Maybe you are better suited to it, then." Cal stole a sideways glance. "It makes me feel grumpy."
"Yeah, I've noticed that." Gillian uncrossed her legs, drawing Cal's attention to her lap. Her hemline rode up slightly, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of thigh. "I didn't come in here to bring you down."
"You're not bringing me down, Foster." Cal dragged his eyes to her face with effort. Those dresses would be the death of him. "Quite the contrary."
Gillian flushed and tugged at her hemline, obviously aware of where his gaze had wandered. "Well…good."
Clearing his throat, Cal glanced at the technology spending breakdown. Back to business. Before he made a fool of himself. "Maybe we can hold off on upgrading our servers this quarter." Cal flipped the page, trying not to look too frustrated while he waited for a solution to occur to him. How could he focus on the mundane when the extraordinary sat beside him, out of reach?
"We really need those servers, though. Think about how long it takes to pull up videos from the archive."
Cal grumbled. She had an answer for everything, didn't she? "I don't want to cut training."
"If you can think of a reasonable alternative, I'm all ears. But we need to invest in technology."
She was probably right. Cal dropped his face into his hands and sighed. "I don't suppose you've got a bottle of scotch in your office?"
Gillian giggled, thrilling him. He loved making that happen. "That's your reasonable alternative?"
Cal raised his head and grinned at her. "No. But it would help me relax while I figure one out."
Something passed over Gillian's face, making Cal's heart rate pick up a notch. He didn't know what he had just seen. Well, he did know, but he couldn't be right. There was no way Gillian Foster was aroused.
"I'm sorry." Gillian's warm hand landed on his thigh. She smiled cautiously, then scratched a fingernail over the material of his pants. "I came in here because I wanted your company. But I can do this myself if it's getting you too worked up."
The only thing getting him worked up at that moment was the feel of Gillian touching him. Shocked by the intimacy of her fingers curled around his thigh, Cal almost forgot to breathe. It took everything he had not to react. Afraid he would give in to his desire to kiss her, Cal locked his gaze on the papers and shook his head briefly.
"Stay," he said in a steady voice. "I like your company, too."
"Good." Gillian inhaled then paused, clearly trying to decide whether to say something. When she spoke, her voice sounded normal, as though it was perfectly natural for her to be touching him like she was. "It seems silly to sit down the hall from one another in an empty building."
Cal nodded then glanced over at Gillian, trying to read her face. They touched each other all the time, but those were friendly touches. Affectionate. Her hand on his thigh felt more than friendly. And she wore an odd expression of nervous anticipation.
"That it is, love. Very silly." Cal leaned back in his chair, papers forgotten. He needed to know what she was thinking. "You've been working a lot of late nights. Everything okay?"
"Everything's great." Gillian smiled, but he saw the truth in her eyes. Something was troubling her. She could probably fool someone else, but not him. "I'm not the only one who's making a habit of camping out at the office."
"Oh, I live here." Cal grinned, but it was nearly true. At least on those nights he didn't have Emily staying with him. When she was with Zoe, his house felt too empty to go home to. Especially lately, when he knew Gillian would be here. "No rest for the wicked."
Gillian rubbed his thigh, then gave him a gentle squeeze. "Well, you've got to take a break sometime. No wonder you're so stressed."
"I am glad you popped by." Cal glanced down at her hand, then quickly averted his gaze. Just the sight of Gillian's slim, pretty fingers so close to his lap made him worry about doing something inappropriate. Like getting a hard-on. Almost as soon as he thought of it, Cal's cock twitched and he groaned internally.
Football. Think about football.
"I hate to see you so tense." Gillian moved her hand higher and Cal jerked in his chair, startled by her boldness. This was utterly unlike her, and very, very exciting. "Something you want to talk about?"
He should probably remind her of the line. That would be the smart thing to do. The safe thing. Instead Cal shook his head and mucked about with the papers on his desk. To hell with safe. He wanted to see where she was going with this. "Uh, no. No, all's well."
"Well, that's not the truth," Gillian murmured in a voice that sent a jolt of arousal straight to his cock. "Is it?"
What was she playing at? Cal's nostrils flared as he tamped down on the desire to just lean over and kiss her, already. Was that where this was leading? He had wanted to kiss her for so long, but he'd sort of resigned himself to the idea that the right moment would never present itself. Especially not like this. It was so sudden and unexpected. He needed time to think about what was happening, but thinking was impossible when she was so close.
"You're right," Cal ground out. "That's not entirely the truth. I am a little stressed."
"Maybe I can help you relax." Gillian drew a nail along the inside of Cal's thigh. His cock hardened and he groaned. "If you want."
Cal dropped the papers he was holding and met Gillian's gaze. "Relaxed is the last word I'd use to describe how you're making me feel right now, love."
"Forget relaxed, then. Let me make you feel good." Gillian moved her hand to brush against the bulge in his pants. There was slight uncertainty in her eyes, but also intense desire. She was afraid of a rejection, perhaps, but Cal had wanted her so badly, for so long, that refusing her would be madness.
"Okay." Hardly eloquent, but Cal was pleased he could talk at all. Gillian was giving them permission to do away with their silly line. It was quite possibly the last thing he had expected from her, and it set his heart pounding in sheer, terrified bliss. "You sure about this?"
Rather than answer, Gillian worked open the button on his pants, then tugged the zipper down. Cal leaned back in his chair and watched as she took him out of his boxer briefs, grasping him at the base before slowly stroking toward the tip. She gathered lubrication from the head of his cock then moved her hand back down.
Cal tilted his head back and groaned. Nothing should feel that bloody good. "Fuck, Foster."
"You like that?" Gillian murmured. When he met her eyes and nodded, she gave him a smile that fell somewhere between innocence and pure sex. "You have a beautiful cock, Cal."
Foster liked his cock. Cal closed his eyes, convinced he had died and that this was heaven. Gillian rubbed him so perfectly he felt like he would melt into a puddle beneath her touch. She was scorching him, blistering him with sensation. He had never imagined she would be so good at this. Gillian Foster: smart, beautiful, challenging—and brilliant with her hands.
With effort Cal opened his eyes. He made a living by watching others, and he would be damned if he was going to miss this. Gillian's face was unusually guarded, but Cal read intense arousal. Desire. Fear. He touched her cheek and she leaned into him, never taking her gaze off her hand. He still wanted to kiss her but something held him back. The look in her eyes, maybe.
"Gillian," Cal said quietly. "What are we doing?"
The fear on her face intensified. Gillian shook her head and continued to stroke him. "Just let me do this for you." She glanced up and met his eyes for an instant, then dropped her gaze back to his lap. "Please."
Cal twisted her hair around his fingers. Gillian looked so uncertain, even as she held all the power between them. Afraid to ruin the moment by pushing her to talk, Cal nodded. "All right, love." He traced his thumb over her lower lip. "You're very good at that."
Her mouth twitched. Happiness. Gillian's strokes intensified, wrenching a moan from Cal's throat. It was like she knew exactly how to touch him, what got him off. She was probably reading him. Responding to the minute changes in his expression to do what worked best for him. The thought made him hotter. To have a lover who could communicate with him, no words required, was powerfully erotic.
It didn't take long before Cal was gritting his teeth with the effort not to orgasm. He didn't want Gillian's exquisite hand job to end, but the heady combination of her beautiful, expressive face, the sight of her touching him so intimately, and her uncanny knack for responding to his non-verbal cues had him rock hard and ready to explode. Struggling to keep his eyes open, Cal tightened his hand in Gillian's hair.
"Darling," Cal murmured. He wanted to warn her. "I'm going to—"
Gillian eased out of her chair and knelt in front of him. She lowered her face to his lap, taking the head of his cock between her lips while her hand continued to stroke the base. The wet heat of her mouth sent Cal over the edge immediately, and he cried out as he came.
Stunned, Cal slumped against his chair and stared at Gillian. On her knees. With her mouth on his cock. What had just happened? What in the world brought that on? For Gillian to be so bold, so seductive…so downright dirty, was a revelation.
Cal's hand trembled as he cradled Gillian's face. She pulled back, cheeks flushed, and met his eyes. He had never seen such vulnerability. She searched his face, almost desperately, then looked away.
"Foster." Cal hesitated, unsure what to say. He could barely think, but he knew he needed to choose the right words. This was a delicate moment and saying the appropriate thing could make the difference in where things went from here.
Gillian stood and wiped her hand across her full red lips. She exhaled shakily. "I should go clean up."
"Wait." Cal tucked himself into his pants and zipped up. "Let's talk about what just happened first."
Gillian shook her head. "I need to clean up." She rushed from his office, head down, before he could protest.
Cal sat silently for a moment, then leaned forward and placed his hands on the papers scattered across his desk. He scanned the rows of figures as though he might find answers there. How had Gillian ever gotten the courage to do something like that? Had she thought about it before coming to him, or was it completely spontaneous? Did she regret it?
Cal braced his hands on his desk and stood. His knees felt weak. Hopefully Gillian had collected herself, because he was done giving her space. He needed to find out what was going on. The longer they were apart, the more his stomach twisted with anxiety. Was she upset? Embarrassed?
He glanced into her office on his way to the ladies room. The lights were off. She wasn't in there, and there was no sign of her purse. Cal fidgeted with his pants as he approached the restrooms, wishing the building wasn't so silent. He pressed his ear to the door and listened. No running water, no crying. Cal knocked sharply.
"Foster?" No answer. Cal put his hand on the door and took a deep breath. "Foster, I'm coming in now."
When she didn't say anything, Cal pushed open the door and stepped inside. His heart sank as his uneasy suspicion was confirmed. Empty. The stall doors stood open, and the lights were dimmed for the night. Cal retreated into the hallway and looked around.
Had she really just run out on him?
Trying to ignore the pang of sorrow in his chest, Cal left the building and jogged to Gillian's parking spot. Which was also empty. Cal bent at the waist and exhaled, short of breath. It wasn't the brief run that left him winded. It was that Gillian had felt like she needed to escape.
That meant she regretted what they had just shared. Or he hadn't lived up to her expectations. Or she was scared shitless. Whatever it was, Cal's throat tightened with grief. All the time he had spent wanting her, loving her from a distance, and this was how it finally played out. He had imagined a sudden, passionate kiss. Or a slow courtship after they finally admitted their feelings for each other. Never being serviced and then abandoned.
Cal touched the shape of his cell phone in his pocket. He should call her. Demand that she turn around and come back here so they could sort things out. But would she answer? And was this really something they should discuss over the phone? He wouldn't be able to see her face, to know how she really felt. Scratch that, then. His car keys were still in his office. Maybe he should just grab them and drive to her place. Confront her there.
He walked back into the Lightman Group building, head spinning. What did Gillian want from him? Did she expect him to go after her? Or did she truly want to be alone? Cal felt like he had stumbled into a minefield. The last thing he wanted was to make an already awkward situation worse. He tried to think like Foster, but it was hard. They spent so much time hiding behind their line, he wasn't sure he could even guess what she was feeling. Or what she wanted from him.
In the end he decided to let her be. She was the one who did the touching, and the leaving, and he supposed he could let her continue to call the shots tonight. But tomorrow—tomorrow they would talk.
When Cal strolled into the Lightman Group building the next morning, he kept his face a blank mask: jaw slack, eyes scanning his surroundings. He projected his usual air of confidence so nobody would see how tired he was, or how worried. He'd barely slept the night before, kept awake by thoughts of Gillian's hand, her mouth, her eyes. Things had changed between them forever, and apparently not for the better. It made his stomach hurt and his heart ache, but he would be damned if he let anyone see his pain.
As he walked to his office, he looked for any sign that Gillian was already in the building. He wasn't sure if he was upset or relieved when he saw that her office was still dark.
"Morning, Lightman." Torres stepped to his side, matching his pace as he rushed down the hallway. "I've got something—"
Cal held up his hand. "Can it wait?"
"Uh." Torres faltered slightly, then caught up. "I guess?"
"Seen Dr. Foster this morning?"
"Nope." From the corner of his eye he saw Torres push her hair behind her ear, looking thoughtful. "Want me to tell her you're looking for her when she gets in?"
"Thanks." Cal stepped into his office, then shut the door in Torres's face. It was rude and he knew it. Right or wrong, this was how he dealt with experiencing strong emotions around people he didn't fully trust: by turning into a sodding asshole. The only one who didn't inspire that reaction in him was Gillian. Most of the time, at least.
Cal dropped into his office chair with a sigh. He'd tidied his desk before leaving the night before, so Gillian's budget folder sat neatly in the corner next to his phone. He picked it up and flipped through the pages, then glanced at the chair where Gillian had sat only hours earlier. Could he have done something to prevent her from running out the door? Had she seen something else on his face, would she have stayed?
He hated second-guessing himself. It wasn't his style. Professionally, he rarely doubted his instincts. But with Gillian, he was adrift. Not only because she was sending mixed signals, but also because he loved her with all his heart. It wouldn't be okay if he handled this wrong. The stakes were too high.
Cal accessed the Lightman Group's video surveillance system on his computer and scanned each feed carefully. Loker leaned against the wall in the viewing room, arms folded over his chest. He said something to Torres with a grin that told Cal he was still hoping to get in her pants. Torres sat in front of the monitors. Trying not to smile.
What if Gillian called in sick today? Or decided to work off-site? Last night was one thing, but if she actively avoided him today, they were going to have a problem. Just as Cal felt his anger rise at the sudden certainty that she wouldn't walk through the front door this morning, she did. Cal's breath caught as he watched her make her way down the hallway, smiling at a small cluster of people gathered at the reception desk.
Her smile faded as soon as she passed the crowd, replaced by anxiety. He wondered if she would come to his office, or go straight to hers. If she came to him, he would have a much easier time forgiving her for his sleepless night. But if she didn't, he was going to be upset. He understood that Gillian was reeling over what happened, because he was too. He needed her to understand that this was something they were both going through. Not just her.
Torres intercepted Gillian in the hallway before Cal could find out just how mad he should be. Gillian's smile came back immediately, though it faltered for an instant when Torres gestured toward Cal's office. Shaking her head, Gillian followed Torres into the viewing room. Cal shifted his gaze to the new feed, glowering as Loker greeted Gillian and the three of them fell into what looked like serious conversation.
So it was like that. Cal sniffed and looked at the ceiling, trying to bring his emotions under control. Did Gillian have any idea what she had done to him? Showing him a glimpse of heaven then snatching it away. Worst of all, not explaining why.
Grabbing the budget folder off his desk, Cal stalked out of his office. Nobody met his eyes as he beat a path to the viewing room. He knew he should play it cooler than he was, but he was having a hard time keeping a lid on his hurt, anger, and confusion. Gillian had him turned inside-out.
Cal banged into the viewing room, hoping to catch Gillian off-guard. He watched her startle, glance at him, then look back at the monitor with a tight expression. Though he read very little on her face, it was clear that she wasn't in the mood to talk.
"Jesus, Lightman. Do you practice those entrances?" Loker turned in his chair and looked Cal up and down. "And why are you so pissed off?"
"Perhaps I'm unhappy about the unpaid intern trying to read me." Cal made sure his tone left no room for discussion. He was pleased when Loker swallowed and stared down at the control panel. Cal turned his gaze back to Gillian. "Torres mention that I wanted to talk to you, Foster?" He held up the budget folder. "About this."
Gillian folded her arms over her breasts and met Cal's eyes. She was wearing a gray dress today. It was every bit as sexy as the pink. "She did, but I'm a little busy at the moment. Maybe later?"
Cal blinked, surprised by the dull pain her words left in his stomach. Hurt quickly became anger. "How about now? So I don't have to worry about you running off like you did last night?"
Gillian's eyes widened as she glanced at Loker and Torres. Cal saw curiosity flash over Torres's face and he held up a finger in warning. Torres joined Loker in his intense study of the video controls.
When Cal shifted his attention back to Gillian, the stricken look on her face unleashed a fierce jolt of guilt. He was crossing the line right now, hinting at their personal business in front of their employees, but he couldn't help it. And Gillian had created this situation, hadn't she? By spinning him around until he couldn't see straight?
"Fine," Gillian said. Her voice was tight with anger and embarrassment. "Let's go to my office." She touched Torres's shoulder. "Carry on until I get back, okay?"
"Sure," Torres said without meeting Cal's gaze. "Good luck."
Cal scowled as Gillian brushed past him into the hallway. Why did she have to smell so bloody good? Pears again. The scent brought back a flash of memory: her hand stroking his cock, his fingers tangled in her hair. Cal cleared his throat and followed her to her office, doing everything in his power not to stare at her bottom. Anger did nothing to quell his desire for her. Which annoyed him even more.
Gillian closed her office door behind them a little harder than Cal expected. When she turned to glare at him with her hands on her hips, he fought a brief moment of panic over the anger in her eyes. He wasn't sure he had ever seen her so upset with him. For not wanting to misstep on this, he was in serious danger of doing so.
"What the hell were you thinking in there?" Gillian said.
Cal blinked in surprise at Gillian's language. Anyone else and that would be mild. But for Gillian, she may as well have called him a motherfucker. "Honestly? Hard to think when I barely slept at all last night."
Guilt passed over Gillian's face and her anger seemed to dissipate. "I'm sorry. If that was my fault, I mean."
"Yeah, so am I." Cal stepped closer and tilted his head, trying desperately to read her. "Ready to help me understand what happened in my office?"
Gillian's gaze darted to the corner of the ceiling and her face colored. "This isn't the time or place for this conversation," she murmured under her breath. "Not with your cameras everywhere."
Cal leaned close to her ear. "Camera didn't seem to bother you last night, Foster."
"You weren't recording." Gillian pulled back and searched his eyes. "Were you?"
"Of course not." Cal couldn't help but give her a playful smirk. "But not a bad idea, that. Something to watch while we reminisce about our first date."
A smile tugged at Gillian's mouth. He could see her resistance to him crumbling, and it eased the knot of tension in his gut. "I'm surprised you're speaking to me this morning," she said quietly. "I'm not sure I know what to say. I spent the drive in to work preparing myself for the silent treatment, or at least the possibility that you would pretend like last night never happened."
"I can't pretend, love. And I am angry. But I don't want to be. I don't like being angry with you. Or not knowing what's going on in your head."
Gillian's eyes softened. "You have every right to be upset with me. I shouldn't have left like I did. I know that. I was scared…and a little embarrassed."
"There was no reason to be embarrassed, love. You provided me with the most thrilling two minutes of my life. If anyone should be embarrassed, it's me. For not making it last three."
Laughing, Gillian looked down at the floor. She leaned into him slightly, and Cal breathed a sigh of relief. He was getting somewhere.
"I don't know what came over me," Gillian murmured. "I just thought I felt…something happening between us. So I let myself get carried away. But it was completely inappropriate, it was way over the line, it—"
"Was incredible." Cal took a chance and touched Gillian's face, hoping the camera wouldn't make her pull away. They were the only ones who had access to this feed, anyway. "Yeah, it was over the line. But maybe it's time to talk about getting rid of the line."
"I shouldn't have done it." Gillian's mouth turned down at the corners. Sadness. She turned her face to kiss his palm. "I love you, Cal. So much that the thought of losing you…"
She trailed off, but she didn't need to finish. Cal knew exactly what she was saying.
"I love you, too," Cal said, making sure his face told her it was the truth. "And I get it. Do you know how many times I've told myself it's better to want you for the rest of my life than try and fail at being your lover? For the record, though, I'm starting to think that might be rubbish."
Gillian's pupils dilated slightly. Probably reacting to the word lover. Cal rather liked the sound of it too. Then she shook her head.
"I've already lost one marriage." Gillian's gaze lowered in shame. "I'm not sure I know how to make a relationship work. And I don't think I could stand for you to ever seem like a stranger to me, like Alec does now. If things didn't work out. To know that I had you and lost you. Not when our friendship is this good, this…important." She took his hand away from her face and held it in front of her body. "You understand?"
"Letting our relationship turn romantic frightens you because romantic relationships are by nature more tenuous than friendship. Because of the higher expectations, and the chemical reactions, and all that lot." Cal watched her face to determine what she thought of his words. "Is that it?"
"In a nutshell." Gillian cleared her throat and smoothed her dress over her hips, then glanced at the door. "Look, do you think we can just agree to chalk last night up to temporary insanity on my part?"
"Afraid not, love." Cal raised his eyebrows when her sharp gaze landed on his face. "Well, I'm sorry. But you can't just re-draw the line after you've scrubbed it out of the sand. It's not that easy."
"It could be." Gillian's voice was calm, but he heard the tension simmering beneath the surface. "If you'd let it be."
Cal shook his head. It was all so clear now. This wasn't about anything he had done. He hadn't disappointed her. Plain and simple: Gillian was scared. Alec had shaken her confidence, and now Cal was paying the price. And that was unacceptable.
"Psychologist, heal thyself." Cal smiled to take the sting out of his words, and thankfully, Gillian chuckled. "Listen, do you really think that's the healthy thing for us to do? Pretend that nothing has changed? That things aren't different now?"
"I think it's the safest thing to do." Gillian gave him a familiar look, pleading with her eyes. Asking him to understand and back off.
"What came over you last night?" As scared as she was now, she had been doubly as bold when she touched his thigh. Cal wanted to know where that courage had gone. "For a couple minutes, at least, something overruled all these fears."
Gillian flushed, her cheeks turning light pink in that way Cal loved. Sometimes he said things just to elicit that girlish blush, and it made him giddy every time. Pressing her hand to her face as though checking her temperature, Gillian murmured, "I just wanted you, Cal. And I let my heart talk my head out of all my very legitimate reasons not to let myself go there, for just a minute."
"Two minutes," Cal said. "Don't go underreporting, love. Not when I haven't a minute to spare."
Laughing, Gillian ran her thumb over his knuckles. "Those were two very exciting minutes," she murmured.
"You're telling me." Cal grinned, then sobered as he tried to decide how to proceed. They were talking and joking, and that was good. That was normal. But the fear hadn't left her eyes, and he still had no idea where they stood. He was teetering precariously on the center of a tightrope, unsure how make it across. All he knew was that he had to try. "Let's give it a go, Foster. You and me."
"I want you. More than that, I need you." Cal let the truth of his words show on his face, and didn't try to hide the emotions that coursed through him. Fear. Hope. Love. "When you walk into a room, it makes me happy. I look forward to seeing you every morning, and I miss you when we're not together. You've been there for me when there was nobody else. And you believe in me when everyone around us thinks I've gone mad. To top it all off, you're the most beautiful woman I've ever known. You turn me on in every way imaginable. Hell, I would be mad not to try and talk you into taking a chance on me."
He'd never seen her blush so hard. Aroused by the sight, Cal raised her hand to his lips and kissed her thumb. He let her see his desire, delighting in the way her own attraction played out on her face.
"You're not scared about risking our friendship?" Gillian murmured. She glanced in the direction of the camera again, then back at him. "For a little sex?"
"It's a lot more than just a little sex, and you know it," Cal said. Things could never be just sex with Gillian. If that were all he wanted, he wouldn't have dreamed of putting their friendship on the line. The only thing that made the risk acceptable was the possibility of finding true happiness with Gillian. And he was pretty sure the odds were in their favor. "But yeah, I'm scared out of my mind."
"And you still want to take that chance?" Gillian was beginning to look cautiously optimistic, as though he were convincing her of something she desperately wanted to believe. "Why?"
"Because I have this awful feeling that I could miss out on the love of my life if I don't. So call me selfish, darling, but yeah, I want to take a chance. No matter what happens, I think it may be worse to regret what never did."
Gillian's hand went to her chest, covering the bare skin above her neckline. "Careful, Cal. It's been a long time since someone made my heart do that."
"Is that a good thing?" Cal used his free hand to touch her face.
Gillian leaned into his caress. Her eyes shone with emotion. "I don't know yet."
"It's a good thing," Cal said. He needed her to believe that, so that she would take his hand and leap with him. "Trust me."
Sniffing, Gillian stepped away from him and straightened her dress around her knees. "We need to get back to Torres and Loker."
"Afraid they'll think we're fooling around in here?" Cal watched Gillian's face. She hadn't really given him an answer about where they would go from here. He'd never make it through the rest of the day without one. "Do you want to fool around a little?"
Gillian smiled in a way that told him she was fighting back a grin. "Yes. But it would be highly inappropriate, and you know it."
"I know it." A rush of dizzy excitement flowed through Cal, something he hadn't felt in years. "I just wanted to hear you say you wanted to."
"I want to." Gillian flushed, looking away shyly. "Let's continue this conversation this evening. Okay?"
That was more than enough to make him happy. Cal nodded, then rushed to open the door for Gillian. "After you."
"Thanks," Gillian said. Glancing down the empty hallway, she put her hand on his arm before she stepped out. "By the way, I meant what I said last night. It's beautiful."
Incredibly, Cal's face heated when he realized what she was talking about. You have a beautiful cock, Cal. This was going to take some getting used to, having Gillian say things like that. While he had always suspected that a woman who took such hedonistic delight from junk food and trashy romance novels must also have a deep appreciation for sexual pleasure, Gillian had never hinted at these depths before.
Cal loved it.
"So are you," he whispered. "Beautiful." He placed his hand on her lower back. "Come on. I'm in the mood to mess with Loker and Torres. Want to help?"
She gave him a look of admonishment, but he saw the sparkle in her eyes. "What do you have in mind?"
"Oh, I don't know. How about we tell them that their performance on this McClellan Industries case will determine who gets to use the measly training budget this year. Pit them against each other."
"We can stretch the training budget to cover both of them." Gillian shook her head, looking at him like he was a naughty puppy. "We don't want them working against each other, Cal. They're a team, and they need to act like it."
"I know that. That's why it's a test." Cal stayed close to Gillian as they walked back to the viewing room. "To see if they know how to act like a team even when they have incentive not to. It's good for them. They love my secret psychological tests."
Gillian laughed, and Cal's spirit soared. For the moment at least, he'd made it to the other side of the tightrope unharmed.
That evening after everyone else had gone home, Cal knocked on Gillian's office door. He held a bottle of champagne and two flutes behind his back, almost embarrassed to be bringing them to her. The bottle had been in his office for months, given to him by a grateful client, but he'd never found a real reason to open it. Until tonight.
"Come in, Cal."
He heard the smile in her voice and his heart began to pound. All day he had been waiting for the moment they could be alone together, and now it was here. When he walked through her office door tonight, it would be different than all the times he had done so in the past. He wasn't coming to her as just her partner or her friend, but her lover. At least he hoped so.
Cal opened the door and poked his head inside. "Another late night?"
Gillian closed the folder that lay open on her desk. "Actually, I just finished reworking the budget. And for your information, I think I've found a way to increase the training funds."
"Brilliant." Cal walked into her office, shutting the door behind him. "Makes me glad I thought to bring this." He held the bottle of champagne aloft, watching her face for a reaction.
She looked amused. "And where did that come from?"
"I tapped into the celebration budget." Cal plopped onto her couch and gestured for her to join him. She came and sat beside him without hesitation. He handed her the flutes and pulled out a corkscrew, chuckling at her raised eyebrow. "Honestly? It's been aging in my office and tonight seemed like a good time to crack it open."
Gillian touched the bottle as he went to work opening it. "Chilled, even."
"Only the best for you." The cork gave way with a loud pop, and Cal poured some of the bubbly liquid into Gillian's glass.
"All this for my latest draft of the budget?" Gillian waited until he'd served himself, then took a careful sip.
"No," Cal said. He held up his flute, grinning at Gillian when she toasted him gently. "This is to celebrate us finally coming to our senses."
She took another sip, lips curling into a smile behind the rim of the glass. "Is that what we've done? I thought maybe we'd lost our minds."
Despite her words, Gillian looked happy. Relaxed. Cal took a drink, then set his flute on the table. He couldn't stand champagne. But Gillian liked it. '"Whatever we're doing, I thought it deserved a little something."
"Mmm." Gillian sipped again, closing her eyes briefly before pinning him with a smoky gaze. "Are you trying to get me drunk, Dr. Lightman?"
Cal swallowed. It appeared Gillian had regained her confidence. And he was definitely regaining his hard-on. "Will that be necessary?"
"Not at all."
Moving slowly, Cal took Gillian's flute from her hand and set it next to his. She watched his face, smiling when he scooted closer to her. "Good," Cal murmured. "I want you sober for this."
He could see that she thought he was leaning in for a kiss, but instead he gathered her into a gentle embrace. Pressing his lips to her neck, Cal cradled the back of Gillian's head and held her close. He closed his eyes and savored the feel of her in his arms. Frightening how he already felt addicted to this new intimacy between them.
"You're really okay with this, love?" he murmured next to her ear. Cal knew he had a tendency to steamroll people, and he needed to be sure that Gillian wanted to do this for her own reasons. Not because he had bullied her or made her feel like she had no other choice if she wanted to keep his friendship. "I want to kiss you but I can't until I know you're okay."
Gillian ran her fingers through his hair. "I am very okay."
Cal pulled back and she grabbed his jacket in her fists and pressed her mouth to his in a blistering kiss. Cal groaned, dropping one hand to her hip, raising the other to touch where her neck met her shoulder. Tracing his thumb over her throat, he relished the softness of her lips and the exquisite pleasure of finally shedding the last vestiges of the restraint he had shown all day. Kissing Gillian was even better than he had imagined it would be, as everything she hadn't yet said aloud she told him with her mouth and tongue. He never wanted it to stop.
When they broke apart, Cal grinned. "Well, that was brilliant."
"I've wanted to do that for a very long time." Glassy-eyed, Gillian touched her lips with her fingertips and Cal's cock stirred in response. "I knew you would be a good kisser."
"So you've given the matter some thought, then?" Cal lowered his hand to her chest, tracing the slope of her breast through her dress. Now that he had permission to touch her, he didn't know how he would keep his hands off.
Gillian put her hand on his arm as if to steady herself. "I'm embarrassed to tell you how much."
"Now I'm intrigued." Cal watched his fingers trace her curves, coming close to her nipple without touching. "What else have you thought about?"
"What happened last night," Gillian murmured. "That's been a fantasy of mine for a while now. Seducing you in your office. I still can't believe I went ahead and played it out."
"That makes two of us." Eager to match Gillian's courage in sharing that confession, Cal said, "My personal favorite is the one where I shag you on my desk."
That made her laugh. "Your office sees a lot of action in our fantasies."
"Hardly seems fair, now that you mention it." Cal lowered his thumb to brush over her nipple and she shivered. "But as luck would have it, I have an idea or two about your office."
Exhaling, Gillian said, "So do I. But maybe we should take this to a bed somewhere. My place, if you want. It's closer."
Cal feigned shock. "Are you suggesting we sleep together on our first date?"
Gillian laughed and cast her gaze downward. "Yes, I am." She flushed as she watched his thumb circle her nipple. "I kind of—I started us off on a strange path last night. Normally I'm more of a take it slow kind of girl, but…" There was a touch of embarrassment in her smile. "I think we're past that now. And I want a second chance to do this right."
"Foster." Cal gave her a cheeky grin. "I was just teasing you. Of course we're going to sleep together. You can't resist me."
He caught her hand before it could swat him for the comment, then pulled her close and kissed her again. Cal could feel her smiling as she kissed him back, and it set him on fire. There was nothing sexier than a happy Gillian Foster.
Cal broke away with effort. "I am definitely taking you to a bed. But first a little quid pro quo."
"I hope that doesn't mean you're going to make me come then run away." Gillian raked her fingers through his hair, scraping his scalp with her nails. "Trust me, you'll regret it."
Chuckling, Cal leaned close and murmured, "I'm not going to run away, love. But I am going to give you something to think about every time you sit on this couch."
Gillian's breath caught. "Oh, really?"
"Really." Cal dropped his hand to Gillian's knee and nudged her legs slightly apart. "Consider it a teaser for what I'm going to do to you in that bed."
Gillian's hands moved inside his jacket, gripping his arms. "You're not recording, right?"
"Turned the camera off." Cal slid his fingers along the inside of Gillian's thigh, groaning when he found the top of her stocking. "My God, you're sexy."
"I'm glad you think so," Gillian said, sounding embarrassed but also very pleased. She opened her legs a bit more, giving him room to run his fingertips over the edge of her panties.
"It's not an opinion, darling. We're talking objective fact." Cal kissed her neck as he traced a line straight up the center of her panties. He could feel her wetness through the silky material, and pressed his fingers into her, eliciting a quiet whimper that left him painfully hard. "You wear your clothing so very well. It's a wonder I can concentrate at all."
This time Gillian's laugh sounded a bit strained, as though she couldn't catch her breath. "I've caught you looking a few times. I always wondered if you were thinking what it looked like you might be."
"I was thinking about shagging you on my desk," Cal said. He rubbed his fingers up and down her labia through her panties, then pushed his thumb against her clit. She gasped and he tightened his free arm around her back, holding her close. "Either that or how I love you with all my heart. Probably shagging, though."
Gillian moaned as he made circles over her clit. "I love you, too."
Cal gathered her closer, then lowered his voice to whisper in her ear. "When I get you home I want to kiss you here." He dragged his fingers down her length, then back up. "Will you let me?"
"Yes." Gillian raised her hips, pushing herself into his hand. Begging him.
Cal ran his blunt fingernail over the elastic leg of her panties, then slipped inside to play with her impossibly soft labia. Gillian hissed at the contact, resting her head on his shoulder. Venturing further into her panties, Cal encountered incredible heat and abundant wetness that soaked his fingers and drew groans from both of them.
"I'll lick you right here." Cal slid his finger down to trace her opening, making her tremble against him. "Put my tongue inside. You want that?"
"Oh, yes." Gillian chuckled and shook her head, breathing heavily. "You're a talker."
"I like talking." The brain was the biggest sex organ, after all, and Cal knew how to work it. "All right?"
Gillian drew back and met his gaze. "Very all right." She lowered a hand to cover his, encouraging him to continue touching. "You have no idea."
Cal raised an eyebrow as he swirled his fingers in the slick juices that poured from her. "I have some idea."
Gillian gave him a smile that nearly brought him off right then and there. "What else are you going to do when we get home?"
"This." Cal pushed his finger inside her slowly, watching her face as he rubbed along her anterior wall. She shuddered and gasped, spreading her legs as wide as her dress allowed. Cal looked down and grinned at the sight of his hand disappearing under her skirt. It was, quite frankly, the hottest thing he had ever seen.
Gillian's hand left his and grabbed onto his arm instead. He withdrew his finger then pressed back in with two, delighting in the way she tightened her grip on his bicep when he began to pump gently inside her. He used his thumb to push her panties further to the side, then found her clit and rubbed light circles over it.
"You like hand jobs, right? Gave me one hell of a wank last night," Cal murmured. Gillian's laugh turned into a moan when he curled his fingers and stroked her harder. "Do you like how I play with your pussy?"
"Oh," Gillian breathed, squirming on his hand. "Fuck. Yes."
Hearing that kind of profanity from Gillian ratcheted Cal's excitement even higher. "You want me to put my cock in there later?"
"Yes. Please." Gillian's fingers convulsed on his arm.
"Stretch you open?" Cal said. Her thighs trembled next to his hand and he knew she was close. "Fill you up?"
"I can't wait to feel you wrapped around me. I'm going to make you come so hard all over my cock, you'll beg me to stop." Cal felt her pussy contract and hastened the motion of his thumb on her clit. "Come for me, darling. Let me feel it."
Gillian grabbed his arms and buried her face in his shoulder, crying out into his jacket as she came. Cal held her tightly against his body and planted a gentle kiss on her hair. He wanted to enjoy every last second of her climax. It felt so good to be inside her, so slick and snug, so very hot, and he knew he would have to withdraw soon. The contractions around his fingers grew weaker, until finally she collapsed against him with a languorous whimper.
For some time they just held one another, catching their breath. Then with a shaky exhalation, Gillian patted him on the chest. "Wow."
"I'll say." Cal kissed her hair. Though he was pretty sure he knew the answer, he couldn't help but ask again. "You okay?"
"I'm excellent." Gillian drew back and touched his face. "And you're right. I will definitely think about that every time I look at this couch."
Cal laughed. "So will I."
"I can't believe how good you are with your hands." Gillian's gaze shifted to his mouth. "Your tongue might just kill me."
"Nah. Loss of consciousness, maybe. Never loss of life." Cal gave her an apologetic smile as he slowly withdrew from her, eliciting a groan. He raised his hand to his mouth and sucked her juices from his fingers, instinctively knowing it would drive her wild. Her pupils dilated as he murmured his approval. "Delicious. Can't wait for more."
Gillian ran a shaky hand through her hair, then stood and straightened her dress around her thighs. She held out her hand and Cal took it, kissing her fingers. "Take me home, Cal. Now."
"Yes, ma'am." Cal let her help him to his feet, but before she could lead them to the door, he tugged her into his arms. He brought his mouth to hers, pushing his hips into her so she could feel what touching her had done to him. Groaning, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and returned his kiss. When he pulled away, Cal looked into her eyes, satisfied by the contentment he read there. "Thank you, love. For risking it."
"Thank you. For being patient with me." Gillian took his hand and interlaced their fingers. "I've known I loved you for years. I'm glad I'm finally able to show you exactly how I feel."
"Me too." Cal chuckled when she poked him in the side. Enough of the serious stuff. He was ready to have fun. "So how exactly do you plan on showing me?"
"Tell you what." Gillian dropped his hand and walked to her purse, taking out her keys and tossing them to him. "You drive and I'll tell you exactly what I'm planning to do."
Cal exhaled shakily and followed Gillian out the door. No doubt about it. This was going to be another late night.