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“Miss Tuomi? Mr. Baranova would like to see you in his office.”

She barely had time to say thank you let alone preface it with an okay before her partner’s secretary hung up. To this day she had no idea why he kept the rude young woman around. She didn’t even know how to file their cases correctly or keep up with any messages besides her own personal ones. Shaking her head, she smoothed her hands along the sides of her pants leg as she pushed out of her chair and headed to the door that joined their two offices.

“I’d prefer you throw a tennis ball at the door than have her ring for me. You know I don’t like her.”

“And that is why she is my tennis ball.”

Blue eyes were rolled and she strolled over to his view of the park, hands tucked into her pockets as she looked out across the city. “What do you need Alek?” She glanced up to the side as he positioned himself against the window, one shoulder resting comfortably against the sun warmed glass.

“I need you to do the charity event this year with me.”

“No.” He knew how much she hated those events; not the charity part but the fact that half the attendees were sharks dressed as ladies and gentlemen with the scent of money in their noses and copper on their tongues

“Mya.”

“Don’t Mya me, we had a deal.”

“Can’t you go with me just this once? It’s just a few hours of schmoozing and boozing.”

“You mean greedy hands groping my ass with one hand and asking for money with the other? I don’t think so, that’s not my forte and you know it.”

“What if I do all the schmoozing and you do all the boozing? You can be my arm-candy for the night. Don’t roll your eyes at me, I’m serious.”

Accompanying the roll of her eyes was a shake of the head as she turned and mimicked his posture, something she knew annoyed him to no end. “I’m the senior partner here, not your arm-candy. Whatever happened to Lisa? Or was it Julie?”

“Karen and it didn’t work out.”

“As usual; you’re such a playboy.”

“Mya, you’ve never showed your face at any of these events, it’s not as if they’d recognize you on the spot.”

“And I would like to keep it that way.” She pushed away from the window and went to look over his desk, plucking a case file up and flitting through it quietly.

“I could introduce you under a different name. You work every day and most of every night, too. You deserve some kind of fun, it’s either go with me to this or I force a two week vacation on you.”

His words managed to snatch her attention up from the file in her hands, a frown settling upon her features. “You can’t.”

“I can if I have the approval of the other two partners and I do.”

Her frown went from miffed to livid in two seconds flat and she dropped the file back to his desk with a venomous ‘pfft.’ “Fine, but if a single hand touches me out of place, and that includes yours, I’m out of there. Understood?”

“Got it, boss.” A grin pulled his lips taunt, his eyes sparking victoriously as she marched back to her office. In all his years at the firm, he had never seen anyone win anything from her. That title was now his and he would wear it with pride, but first he needed to find a way to keep her from canceling at the last second.

That was the easiest part of the whole thing, in his opinion.

-x-x- Two Weeks Later -x-x-

“Mr. Baranova is in a meeting, may I take a message?”

“It’s Mya, I don’t care if he’s in a meeting or not, you need to get me to his phone.”

“He was very adamant, ma’am.”

“I don’t care. Get him on the damn phone. Now.”

She heard a click and the hold music flooded through the phone, making her wince when it made her head throb suddenly.

“This better be important Mya.”

“I decide what’s important, Alek. I’m not coming in today, I’m sick from what I had for dinner last night and I need you to take my deposition at one.” She pressed the phone to her shoulder and made an audible show of vomiting, pouring some of the bad milk from the back of the fridge into the toilet just as she hung up the phone. Smirking at her performance, she flushed the stinky lumps down the drain and washed her hands before going back into her bedroom to lie down and resume her movie.

-x-x-x-x-

“Mya? Mya come on. Damn it.” Whispering the last part to himself, he turned back and replaced the phone before diving back into his meeting. He was on auto-pilot professionally but personally he was trying to figure out if Mya was actually sick or if she were simply trying to get out of the event that weekend. He didn’t think she would stoop so low but he also knew how much she hated even the thought of attending a social event. She didn’t even show her face at the company Christmas parties anymore.

Frowning, he bided his time until his day was done, carefully working through her deposition before deciding to head out early. “Mindy, I’m going home, I’ll see you Monday.”

“Good night Mr. Baranova.” The young girl smiled at him, lashed fluttering as she wiggled her fingers at him in a flirtatious goodbye. He only kept bostancı escort bayan her around because Mya disliked her so much, though he was beginning to tire of her inefficiency.

Once he was in the elevator, he called his favorite diner and ordered enough chicken noodle soup to last a few days and some of his other usual picks before heading out to the parking lot. He had finally decided that she was probably faking it but he wanted to play the concerned co-worker. Pulling the piece of paper with her address on it out of his wallet, he plugged it into his GPS and left, heading for the diner first.

-x-x-x-x-

He had not expected her to live in a spacious subdivision on the outskirts of the city and had never in a thousand years thought that she would have a rose garden fit for a queen with a summer cottage theme going on. Parking beside the Jeep he had always thought belonged to one of the secretaries, he got out and carried the heavy paper bag with him to the front door. Pressing his fingertip to the doorbell, the deep bark of a dog came closer from the depths of the house.

“Coming.”

Her footsteps were muffled by a rug but still audible, her soft command of ‘sit and stay’ authoritative but not sickly. Waiting for the door to open, he lifted the bag when it did and stuck his foot in the door when she went to close it in his face. “I come baring the best remedy for a faker’s sickness.”

“An apology?”

“For figuring your plan out? No; I’m not leaving so you might as well let me in.”

“Go home, Alek.”

“No. I’m not letting you out of this.”

She scowled at him and let go of the door; not opening it but also not keeping him out anymore. “How did you find where I live?”

“Personnel files. Partners have access to those, remember? “

She grumbled and led him to the kitchen where a pot of water was boiling and the air smelled like vanilla.

“I thought you’d live in a sky-rise with big open windows.”

“I do have big open windows and this view is better than a sky-rise. Plus Zeus here has plenty of space to run.” The dog’s head came up to her hip and he pressed his cheek to her thigh at the sound of his name.

“It’s nice to know you have a non hard-ass side.” He sat the bag on the counter and started unpacking the cartons of food as she poured the hot water into two mugs with tea bags pressed into the bottoms.

“It’s nice to know you’re not always self-serving.”

He opened his mouth to offer a retort but she cut him off before he had a chance. “Don’t even go there, playboy bunny.”

“Not a bunny, more like a stallion.”

She sighed and turned to grab bowls from a cabinet just as he began opening drawers to find the silverware.

“By the fridge.”

“Thanks.”

“Mhm, you too.”

“Wow, that’s a first.”

“What’s a first?”

“You thanking me outside of a professional setting.”

She glanced at him with one brow raised. “Would you like me to take it back?”

“No. I’ll take the couch after dinner. That way we can head out nice and early.”

“You are not staying the night.”

“On the contrary, I am and I expect to be out of here by eight A.M.” He took his bowl, plate and bottle of water into the living room and settled down on the couch. This was just another part of his plan to make sure she actually went with him tomorrow.

Taking her own food to her room, she glared at him as she paused at the door way. “Don’t even think about asking for pillows. You’re in the basement of the dog house.”

“I always am with you.”

Slamming her door behind her, she scrawled back into bed and ate until she felt as if she would burst. She had to give it to him, he had good taste in food but he’d never hear that from her. Setting the empty bowl and plate on the nightstand, she settled under the covers with her current book for about an hour before she drifted off to sleep, the book slowly falling to the bed beside her.

-x-x-x-x-

Instead of interrupting her dinner, he checked the hall closet as quietly as possible for a sheet or blanket. Raising a brow when a satchel of rose petals hit the floor when he removed a sheet, he picked it up and brought it to his nose. Inhaling the scent, a faint smile found its way across his lips as he closed the door and turned back to the living room. Laying the sheet on the arm of the couch, he finished his own dinner and took the empty bowl and plate into the kitchen and washed them. Laying them in the strainer, he retrieved his duffle bag from his car and took the travel bag with his toothbrush and other toiletries to the bathroom to begin his evening ritual. Half-way through, he felt the light heat of her gaze upon his back so he turned and met those fiery blue eyes with his own.

“Why does everything you do have to be so loud?” She huffed, arms crossed as she stared at him from the bedroom doorway.

” ‘im no’ bein’ ‘oud.” He responded, talking around his toothbrush and the cleansing suds crowding his mouth.

“I was asleep and you woke me up; therefore you’re being ümraniye escort loud.” Crossing the hallway, she shoved by him and shut the water off before retreating a few feet. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you to conserve water? Hurry up and finish so I can get back to sleep.” Shaking her head, she returned to her room and closed the door behind her as Zeus jumped back up to his place at the foot of her bed. Hearing the water kick on again, she sighed and settled into bed once more, pulling the thick comforter up and nestling into its comforting warmth.

“I swear to god he better hurry up.” Muttering it into the softness of her pillow, she turned her back to the door and closed her eyes to let sleep take her over once again.

-x-x-x-x-

Settling down on the couch when he was finished, he chuckled when his feet hung over the arm of the couch so drastically. If he was honest with himself it felt like he was Gandalf in the hobbit hole. Shaking his head, he folded an arm behind his head and the other over his bare chest, a smirk on his lips at the thought of her reaction to him the coming morning.

-x-x-x-x-

It was safe to say that she was on auto-pilot. She woke up, completed her morning ritual and had just stepped out to take Zeus on their morning run when suddenly it hit her. Turning back to the house, she threw the door open and stalked into the living room. Picking his shirt from the night before up, she threw it over his bare chest; half because she didn’t wish to see him half-clothed and half because she did and was afraid she would like what she saw.

“Do you have no common decency?” Taking Zeus to the back door, she let him into the back acre and slid the door shut.

“You barge into MY house last night and force your presence on me and my house all night and you don’t even have the thought to keep your damn clothes on? What the hell are you on about?” Planting her hands on the firm curves of her hips, she stared wide-eyed as he yawned and stood, stretching his long arms over his head, which only served to make his muscles stretch his skin taunt. Forcing her eyes to his, she frowned up at him as he took his time searching for a clean shirt in his duffle bag.

“I’m not naked, Mya. It was hot out here so I took my shirt off to be comfortable.”

“Well, get dressed so we can get on the road soon.”

“I’m not the one in yoga shorts and a sports bra, Mya.”

Glancing down at her own clothes, she crossed her arms over her chest at the realization that he had gotten more of an eyeful than she had. Turning on her heel, she headed quickly down the hall to her room and pushed the door closed behind her. Not realizing that it hadn’t latched closed, the door swung slowly open a few inches, just enough to offer him a view. He had followed her to apologize but he now stood rooted to the spot transfixed by the naked skin of her back as she stripped her sports bra off and tossed it onto the bed. Laying a hand on the door jamb, he watched as she rifled through her dresser and hooked a light tan, lacy bra around her small rib cage and pulled it up over her chest. Stifling the groan that tried to escape his throat at the sight of her bending at the hips as she removed her shorts, revealing firm curves of a generous backside covered with sweet pink lace. Ducking down the hallway when she turned towards the door, he leaned against the wall and took a deep breath as he evaluated the new feelings seeing her like that brought up within him. He had been a long time since he thought of her as more than a colleague, but now he saw her for what she could be outside of the power suits and clinical demeanor. Crossing to the bathroom, he closed the door and went about his business, trying to keep his mind off of the sight he’d just been treated to accidentally.

Moving around her room, she pulled a satin blouse out of her closet and shrugged into it, her finger nimbly buttoning it up as her eyes searched for the perfect pair of trousers to pair it with. Selecting a dark burgundy pair made out of the finest velvet, she ran the soft fabric through her fingers before stepping into them and pulling them up the lengths of her legs. Tucking the edge of her blouse in loosely, she buttoned her trousers and adjusted them against her waist before toeing out a pair of black pumps. Shifting her clothes to one side, she brought the garment bags from the very back of the rack and opened each one to choose between the gowns she kept just in case she had to attend a swanky function. Deciding on the red chiffon, she pulled it out and draped it over one arm and selected a second outfit for the day after the event. Taking both her selections to the bed, she folded the trousers and blouse and set them in the duffle bag she’d pulled out from under the bed. Laying the garment bag on the bed, she went back and grabbed a second pair of heels and came back to settle them to the left of the outfit in the bag.

Hearing a knock on her door as she reached her dresser, she turned and saw the door was open a bit already. “It’s open.” Turning escort kartal back, she chose a white lace bra and a matching set of panties before crossing back to the bed. Tucking them under the trousers, she zipped the bag closed and put her toiletry bag in the side pocket.

“I was just checking to see if you were ready to head out.”

“I am now.” Turning to look at him, she gave him a quick once over and gestured to the garment bag. “I always keep a dress and heels ready for parties or weddings or other events.”

“That’s a good idea, makes it easier to choose, I suppose.”

“Yep.” Settling the strap of her duffle bag on her shoulder, she draped her garment bag over her arm again and closed the distance between them only to slide by him and leave him standing there with a look she had never seen before on his face. Setting her bags on the couch, she was pleasantly surprised to see no real evidence of the fact that he had slept there the night before. Letting Zeus back in, she put food down for him and texted her neighbor to confirm that Zeus would be looked after over the weekend. When the assurance came through, she kissed him between the ears and gave him a thorough rub down before joining him in the living room once more.

“I’m ready when you are.”

Jerking his eyes up from her hips as she turned away from Zeus, he picked both his duffle bag and hers up and laid the straps on one shoulder as he picked her garment bag up, as well. “I’m ready; your car or mine?”

“Yours, this time.” Turning the light off in the living room, she led the way to the front door and locked it behind them as they headed down the walkway to his car. “I knew this baby had to be yours. No one else is cocky enough to drive this.”

“I’m not cocky, just confident in myself.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night, buddy.” Tucking herself into the passenger seat, she buckled the seat belt across her abdomen and crossed her legs at the ankles. Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye as he sank in behind the wheel, she couldn’t help but admire the way he so elegantly folded himself into such a small space comfortably. Pulling her book out of her purse, she balanced her glasses on the tip of her nose.

“I’ve never seen you in glasses before.”

“I usually wear contacts at work and wear these on the weekends. They give my eyes a break from the process of putting contacts in and fishing them out.”

“Well, they look good on you. You should wear them more often.”

Looking over to him at the compliment, a faint smile curved her lips and she tilted her head just a little in surprise. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll let you read in peace now.”

Remaining quiet, she turned her attention back to her book though occasionally she couldn’t help but glance his way as he drove. It was no longer a silence packed with tension, it was companionable, something neither of them was entirely used to experiencing but neither wanted to interrupt that feeling for fear of the tension returning.

-x-x-x-x-

The trip only took them four and a half hours but unlike the few times they had been in the break room at the same time, the silence between them wasn’t strained. Even when she got tired of reading and they began to talk, it wasn’t like before they left where they were at each others throats. Or rather she was at his throat. They were actually disappointed when they finally reached the hotel and had to leave the confines of the car. Letting the valet get their bags out of the trunk, he retrieved her garment bag from the hook in the back seat above the window and carried it for her as they headed through the double doors and to the front desk.

“Hello, we have a reservation for two rooms under the names Alek Baranova and Mya Tuomi.”

The receptionist typed their names into the computer and immediately her brows furrowed. “I only have one room reserved under those names.”

Now it was their turn for a frown to crease their brows and make them glance at each other. “There has to have been a mistake made somewhere along the line, I requested two rooms and I paid for two rooms.” He pulled his wallet out and fished out the receipt and laid it on the counter top for the woman to inspect.

“I’m sorry, sir, there must have been a system error that messed up the reservation. I can issue a credit under your name for the amount of the other room, if you’d like, or I can refund the amount to the card you used to reserve it.”

Heaving a sigh, he ran a hand through his hair before tucking the receipt back into the confines of his wallet. “Can it go towards another room?”

“We’re actually at full capacity; there are no open rooms available.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” Mya finally spoke up, leaning against the counter as she met the woman’s gaze head on.

“No, ma’am. I’m sorry but we’re all booked up with the charity ball and the concerts going on around this weekend.”

She looked up at him and sighed, her shoulders slumping just a little. “Just give us two keys to the room then. Thank you.” Taking hers after the receptionist registered it to their room; she tucked it into her pocket and turned to cross the lobby to the elevator with him not far behind. Stepping through the doors as they slid open, she leaned against the back wall and let him choose their floor.

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