“Come with me!” Carly ordered, rushing into Danielle’s office and grabbing her hand.
“What’s wrong?” Danielle asked, startled by the urgency in her friend’s voice and jogging to keep up. For a woman wearing four inch heels, Carly Cole could really hustle! The beautiful manager of The Solutions Group bustled through the lobby and then through the back door of the office building. The back patio of the custom designed building looked out onto the insane obstacle course, the place where Danielle’s employers trained various groups in the seemingly mystical art of self-defense and other not-to-be mentioned activities.
But it wasn’t the lush woodlands that captured Danielle’s attention on this beautiful, sunny afternoon. It was the incredibly tall, dark haired man who was whipping through the obstacle course, giving the enormous Oz, Ryker, and Jayce a challenge – possibly the first time that had ever happened. Since the three men who owned the company were ex Special Forces, whoever this new giant was, he was impressive!
A new employee? Or potential employee? Goodness, the thought of those shoulders and…well, all the rest of him, walking around the building…!
Danielle was dazzled!
Which was odd, because Danielle had been working as an accountant for The Solutions Group for a while now. The men and women who worked on the various teams were all impressive. But…there was something different about this one.
The others running the course were far behind the four men. Up and over, under and around, through the trees, up ropes, over obstacles, and across barriers, the participants moved with extraordinary speed and astonishing agility. The course was designed by a maniac, none other than Ryker Thune, one of three owners of The Solutions Group.
Ryker was a wonderful man really, but she remembered the time she’d walked into Ryker’s office, needing a signature. He’d been working on the design for the seemingly impossible obstacle course and had looked up with what could only be described as an evil sparkle to his amazing blue eyes. It was designed to test one’s ability to anticipate problems while racing through challenges, overcoming issues without hesitation. To make it even harder, the course changed every few weeks because…well, because Ryker was a sadist, Danielle thought. If anyone ever met Ryker, they wouldn’t know that he loved to push the limits of one’s endurance through tortuous obstacle courses. He was one of the kindest, most serious, and generous men you’ll ever meet.
Normally, Danielle loved to watch her employers race through the course. She was fascinated with their spectacular stamina and the splendidly bulging muscles. But today, she didn’t even notice them. It was the stranger who captured her exclusive attention.
He was magnificent! Astounding! The ridges of his marvelous muscles showing through the thin material of his shirt as he pulled himself up and over a wall were drool-worthy. There was no other word for them.
Up and over, under and around, Danielle watched as the four of them moved and laughed, racing through the course. Laughing? The men were laughing? The course was brutal! Not just long and through the dense woods, but the obstacles themselves seemed insurmountable! Good grief! The men were nuts! Absolutely insane!
And still, she couldn’t seem to pull her eyes away from that fourth man…who was he? What was he doing here? Why was he here? There were many teams employed by the company. The teams went out into the world, resolving issues that the US Government, foreign governments, or even corporations needed resolved, as long as the mission was legal, ethical, and moral. As the accountant for the company, Danielle wasn’t privy to where each of the teams went or what their missions were. And Danielle suspected that she didn’t want to know, not wanting to worry about the teams and their safety.
A few minutes later, the four rounded the final corner of the obstacle course, sprinting the last quarter mile. Danielle had no idea who won. It seemed as if all four huge men sped over the finish line at the same time, then turned and…laughed.
“Idiots,” Carly muttered, shaking her head.
Usually, Danielle would joke with Carly. But Danielle couldn’t seem to pull her gaze away from the dark haired stranger.
That’s when he stopped and turned, looking up at her as if he could feel the weight of her eyes. Danielle gasped, shocked by the impact of that look. She couldn’t seem to look away, transfixed by his seemingly unbreakable hold, her body tingling with trembling awareness of him not just as a stranger, but as a powerful man that she…
“Are you okay?” Carly asked softly.
Danielle jerked sideways, looking around and trying to regain her bearings. “Huh?” she asked, gripping the metal banister with one hand, praying that she didn’t fall over and look even more foolish.
“Are you okay?” Carly repeated, peering at her friend with concern.
Danielle touched her cheek, hoping to hide her blush. “Yes. I’m fine. Why?”
Carly’s green eyes sparkled at Danielle. “Because you seem to be lost in your own world.”
“I’m sorry,” she replied quickly, turning her back on the four men and focusing instead on the beautiful landscape. “What was the question?”
Carly, Danielle’s best friend and boss, grinned while watching Danielle carefully. “What were you thinking about a moment ago? Your face is flushed.”
Danielle shook her head, trying to come up with something, but her mind refused to function. “I don’t remember. Sorry. And I’d better…” she tried to figure out what she should be doing instead of ogling strange men but her mind drew a blank. Accounting. Didn’t she need to account? That was her job, right?
At that moment, the four men appeared at the top of the stairs and Danielle wished that she’d moved faster, maybe hurried off of the patio and back into the building. Her desk would be nice place about now. Alas, her life was not filled with helpful, merciful miracles.
Which is why Oz walked over to his sister, threatening to hug her with his sweaty arms. Carly muttered some sort of evil threat that held Oz off, earning chuckles from the others. Unfortunately, Danielle’s mind refused to process the conversation so she stood there, feeling silly and awkward.
“Carly, I’d like to introduce you to my friend and our newest client, the Sheik of Stilan, Mica al Jiffrar. Mica, this is my annoying baby sister and the brilliant manager of the group, Carly.” He paused as the black-haired man shook Carly’s hand. “And this is our head accountant, Danielle Conyers.”
Danielle held her breath, wishing she could blink and vanish from this uncomfortable situation.
Carly was the ultimate professional, Danielle thought, almost resentful at how easy and carefree Carly appeared as she smiled up at the new man. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness. And it’s an honor to help you and your guards with your new training.”
Client? New training? Oh, this wasn’t good! Danielle groaned mentally, then winced, hoping she hadn’t groaned out loud.
Then she realized that everyone was waiting for her to acknowledge the introduction and she jerked upright. “I’m so sorry,” she blurted clumsily, then extended her hand towards the dangerously enticing stranger. “It’s wonderful to meet you, Your Highness,” she continued, following Carly’s words, although not nearly as smoothly. The stranger shook Carly’s hand and released it, but when he took hers, he held on, his dark, almost black eyes staring into hers and sending a silent message. A message she didn’t have the brain capacity to translate, not with her hand tingling, swallowed in his larger grip.
“Ms. Conyers, it is indeed a pleasure to meet you.”
Danielle didn’t know what to say, but she sighed with relief when he finally released her hand. Stepping back, she allowed Carly to take over. The woman could charm kings and…okay, well, that was certainly true since this sheik guy was literally a king. A king of…what was the name of the country? Surely Oz hadn’t said Stilan. Because that was…good grief, that was a huge country! The man wasn’t really the Sheik of Stilan. Was he?
But Danielle knew that The Solutions Group had done work for other countries before, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch that the company would work with yet another country.
Needing to take a deep breath, and that wasn’t going to happen while the enormous, handsome stranger was nearby, she stepped back. “If you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do.” She nodded to the others, then nodded as politely as possible to the stranger. “It was a pleasure,” she lied, then backed away and hurried back inside the building.
Rushing to her office, she closed the door and leaned back against it, taking in huge gulps of oxygen. Wow, she thought! That man was…incredible! Magnificent. Amazing! With a chuckle, she shook her head. Apparently, there was more than one word to describe the man.