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She needed this job.
Clementine Foster stared across the stately desk to the empty leather chair. Behind the chair stood a series of soaring shelves stuffed haphazardly with hundreds of books. Leather-lined first editions competed with tattered paperbacks for space. At any other time, she’d have been delighted to spend hours combing through the collection and finding new treasures.
This is not the time to get distracted, Clemmie.
No. It wasn’t, was it? Now was the time to concentrate on what was most important. More important than anything else in her life right now.
“You must,” her grandfather hissed in her memory. “You’re the only one who can.”
She hadn’t argued with him. She never argued with anyone. And in this case, he was right.
There was no use arguing that there was anyone else who could do this. All the rest of the Fosters were dead. And her grandfather was as good as.
It was up to her to get the ring. And then maybe her grandfather could die in peace. And then maybe, at last, she would have paid him back. Paid all the dead Fosters back for what they’d done for her.
So she needed to get this job.
But for her, it was not really a job. It was a payment. A means of atonement. Once she accomplished this, she’d finally be free for the first time in her life.
The door behind her slammed open.
Clem stiffened her spine and forced herself not to turn around. He didn’t matter. Getting the job mattered. Getting the ring mattered.
A jolt ran through her at the name. The name she’d left behind long ago.
And then the impact of his voice slid around her spine and jolted her once more. She hadn’t expected a voice like his. Not deep and rich and sibilant. She’d expected something more along the lines of her grandfather’s – harsh and hard and old. The urge to swing around and stare became almost overwhelming.
But he moved before she could slip from her control. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a large male come up beside her and then move past her chair.
She managed to stifle a gasp.
He was huge. A great mountain of a man. The black wool sweater he wore did nothing to disguise the bulging muscles of his arms or the broadness of his shoulders. The black jeans did not diminish the strength of his heavy thighs; rather they highlighted their power as he propelled himself around the desk.
Clem had never liked big anything. Big houses. Big families. Big drama.
And she especially didn’t like big men.
He turned and she nearly gasped again.
He wasn’t old. Not even close to her grandfather’s age. Nowhere near her assumptions about her future employer.
Assumptions her grandfather had not contradicted.
His dark hair was not threatening to recede. In fact it announced its vitality by sticking straight out of his head as if he’d just been hit by lightning. His jaw line was taut, though shadowed by two days’ worth of whiskers as if he had no time to spend with basic care. His masculine power poured out of him filling the room with his energy. A man in his prime.
Clem did not like overtly masculine men. They made her conscious of her lack.
Work for this man? Steal from this man?
Was her grandfather mad?