“If you’ll just look right here it’ll make more—”
“No, you listen. I already told you once that—” Ring! “Hold up.”
Keely stared at the open folder she’d extended across the expansive oak desk. The thin cardboard trembled in her hand, just enough to make her wonder why she’d called this rapidly disintegrating meeting in the first place. Quickly setting the patient records down on the pristine surface, she folded her hands in her lap, gripping them tightly as she glanced up to watch Mr. Webb enjoying yet another excuse to ignore her. Applauding herself for not tugging at her constricting collar, or ensuring her hair was still wound into a tight bun, she tried to appear immune to his rudeness.
She smirked as the back of his leather chair swiveled in her direction, revealing the small patch of thinning hair at the crown of his head. She wondered if he was even aware of the inevitable that had locked in and would eventually spread out and claim the rest of his thick, dark mane someday. He was such an ass. She hoped it happened very soon. His ego needed a serious checkmate.
The squeak of the chair and the phone dropping into the cradle brought her practiced smile to the forefront—until the quick lifting of his index finger immediately dulled its edge. It amazed her that she’d ever thought he might be someone she could admire. Webb’s handsome face and expensive charcoal-gray suit belied what lay underneath. It’d taken less than two months, and one blocked pass, to realize the man that signed her paychecks was a complete tool. Eight months later, and he hadn’t changed her perception one iota. The condescending tone of his voice wasn’t a surprise.
“Look, Keely. I read your e-mail. I don’t know why you think that stating it in person is going to change my mind. Two patients jabbering nonsense isn’t worth my time or yours. Make your notes, and stamp them as a continued danger to others. It’s that simple. I only accepted this meeting so I could get you off this ridiculous path.”
Keely listened to his irritating voice, quickly losing interest in watching his lips flap on about how he was overworked and underappreciated. Her disgust grew as she observed his perfectly manicured nails brush down his perfectly matched tie. She strangled back a laugh upon a flash image of her snatching the silk material forward and stapling it to his desk while she introduced him to a Keely Anderson bitch-slap session.
Her aunt had always said that one could think whatever one wanted, as long as one didn’t actually act on the absurd thought. That was the thin fine line between stress relief and insanity. If Webb only knew how many times she’d stabbed him in the throat with his gold letter opener, he would’ve never allowed her in the building, much less his office.
“That’s your problem, you know. You get that glazed look in your eye, and there’s no talking to you. Listen up. Patients say weird things all the time. They’re nuts. That’s the point, right? I have one guy that thinks he’s the freaking Pope. Should I call the Vatican to come pick him up? You need to get back to work and clear some of these damn time-sucking cases. More money comes from the regular patients, not our mandatory visits for inmate evaluation. You have an appointment for another one right now, so go do it. Chop chop.”
Taking a cleansing breath, Keely rose from her chair and looked him right in the eye. She wondered if he could sense how much she hated him.
“Yes, sir.” Before she could escape, the adamant index finger pointed her way. She felt her jaw tighten. Damn, he makes it so hard to behave myself.
“I’m only going to say this once, so pay attention. Don’t speak with Foster again. He’s not under observation. You’ll just get us in trouble. You need permission from the department head, and I don’t want you going to him for that. You’ll only make us look like idiots. Do you understand?”
Forcing herself to nod complacently, Keely turned and reached for the doorknob. “Understood. Oh, don’t forget that I won’t be in tomorrow. I’ve got that parole hearing in Huntsville. It’s a long drive.”
“Damn it, Keely.”
Glancing over her shoulder, she enjoyed watching his brows knit together. Good. Premature wrinkles and balding. Karma at its best.
“Mr. Webb, you should’ve put it on your calendar. I sent you an e-mail about it two weeks ago. Trust me. I don’t want to be there any more than you do.”
Webb opened his mouth, but quickly shut it when his phone rang again. Keely purposefully raised her brows in question as he ignored the insistent device and continued to glare at her. She felt she’d won the juvenile battle when his gaze dropped. He was surly, as usual.
“Fine. Whatever.” With a quick flick of his hand, she was summarily dismissed.
Closing the door behind her, Keely leaned against the shiny wood and wished she’d chosen a different level of study besides psychiatry. What in the hell was I thinking? The ones running the show are just as screwed up.
Shaking off the disappointment at once again being shot down on her request to extend the case analysis on Sewell and Foster, Keely blew out a harsh breath and pushed away from the door. Shit, maybe the idiot’s right. Perhaps there is some type of communication going on between these patients. Could it be that simple? Lips pursed, she immediately dropped that line of thinking. No, that’s not good enough. How in the hell am I supposed to just accept that theory if I can’t ask any more questions?
Growling her frustration, Keely beat feet down the quiet corridor. One more patient and I can get the hell out of here. The fleeting thought made her grimace. Yeah, like that’s any better. Who looks forward to a silent apartment and another nuked meal? Crap! I’m pathetic.
Halfway around another turn, she stopped dead in her tracks. Great! I left the case folder on his desk. After a two-second struggle on whether to face his irritating ass again, she shrugged, shoved her hands into her coat pockets, and continued forward. Hell, maybe the moron will finally read it and it’ll stir up his curiosity.
All thoughts of Webb actually owning a curiosity came to an immediate halt. Her determined steps faltered, and she felt her eyes widen. She’d forgotten the last time she’d ever been this surprised, or even enthralled enough, to take a second look at anything. Geezus!
The best-looking, blue-jean-encased, sculpted male ass she’d ever encountered in her life caught her full attention and nudged every sense into full alert. That the scrumptious butt just happened to be attached to a wide, V-shaped back topped with gorgeous, tousled black hair falling a little past a set of broad shoulders wasn’t helping in the slightest. Long, muscular legs held up the tall, delicious frame.
The man stood casually to one side of the corridor, but it felt as if he took up the entire space. His right arm was lifted as he adjusted something close to his chest, causing the muscular bicep to pop up like a boulder. She fervently hoped he wouldn’t turn around and catch her ogling his attributes.
Her breath caught when a face that could only be described as a fallen angel peeked around the edge of the other man’s head. Shit! Where’d he come from? As soon as his thick-lashed gaze locked on hers, his sculpted lips stretched into a beaming smile. Keely knew she was frantically searching his features in order to take it all in before she woke up from whatever erotic dream had captured her. I’m asleep at my desk. I have to be.
Hair as dark as the other man’s was pulled back from his face, revealing a strong jaw dusted with a light beard. Slashing brows, perfectly straight nose, golden skin, and high cheekbones only further emphasized the hypnotic, almond-shaped, light-gray eyes steadily drawing her in. My god, they’re almost silver.
Eyebrows rising, he made a quick glance to the broad-shouldered man. She watched his lips moving as his friend straightened and stepped back a pace. Freed from the trap of those mercurial eyes, she realized the fallen angel’s build was just as lethal. Is his hair in a braid? Oh, that’s too delicious. Wake up! Wake up!
Dropping her gaze to ensure her feet were still moving, Keely grabbed the handheld computer from her coat pocket and pretended to study the screen. She vaguely registered that her thumb hovered over the photo application. No, no, you can’t take a picture! That’s ridiculous.
Realizing she was about to pass the Greek gods that had deigned to come down from Mount Olympus and grace the hospital corridor, Keely knew what she was about to do, but couldn’t stop herself if she tried—she looked over one more time. Her throat worked on a hard swallow as she gazed upon the face of the man with the perfect ass.
Ah, would you look at that? He’s got a dimple in his chin. I’m definitely dreaming. Full, pouty lips, dusty beard, same perfect skin, straight blade of a nose with a slight lift to the end, and winged brows held her enthralled. Her hungry eyes collided with a stunning pair of narrowed, sultry, thick-lashed golden ones. Spectacular!
The fascinating irises were the color of honey and as inviting as the sweet liquid poured over warm toast on a cold morning. The quick thudding of her heart and the heat steadily crawling up her neck assisted in breaking through the web he’d thrown around her. She ripped her gaze away before she went with pure instinct and veered right into both of them.
Gathering her wits, Keely increased her strides and begged for the next corridor to hurry up and rescue her. Don’t look back, don’t look back ricocheted around like a stray bullet in her addled brain. She felt as if she were losing her mind. The air practically crackled with electricity, while the fine hairs along her arms lifted in response. She could sense their eyes traveling her body and held back from breaking into a dead run.
Around the corner and halfway to freedom, Keely almost cried out in frustration when a thin young man with cropped brown hair and big, blue eyes waved for her attention. She was mere feet away from the open elevator full of curious lab techs. From the looks on their amused faces, they were probably placing bets to see if she was going to make it in time.
“Could you tell me where the cafeteria is?”
Taking a deep breath to get her act together, Keely slowed her brisk pace and graced the man with a brilliant smile. There was no joy in being mean to an innocent bystander. She held back her smirk when the techs made nutty faces as the panels slid together.
“It’s on this floor. Go back the way you just came, take the next two corridors to the left, and you’ll see the sign.”
“Thank you. You’re very kind.”
Blowing out a breath, Keely returned his wave as he smiled and turned the corner. Reaching out, she punched the elevator button and tried to remember why she was going upstairs. Duh, the patient. Focus, dumbass. She startled at the light tap on her shoulder. Swirling around, she felt her heart attempt a chest cavity exit. Damn. They’re real.
“Oh! You frightened me. Can I help you?” She watched the thick-lashed lids of the golden-eyed god widen before he moved a step closer. Wow, he smells so good.
“I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to scare you. I’m Makar, and this is Baruch.”
Maker and Bahroosh. Well, that’s different. Definitely not from around here. Italian, maybe? Keely knew she was gaping at him, but couldn’t stop. The deep, sensuously accented voice had snagged her ears and refused to let go. Latching on to a slight movement to her left, she watched the one he’d called Baruch lift his big arm and casually press his palm against the wall.
Keely found herself boxed in on both sides by a wall of muscle and testosterone, immediately surprised that she didn’t feel an ounce of fear. Baruch’s lopsided grin was just too adorable. Aww, he’s got a little gap between the front two. She fought to find her voice.
“Uh…hello.” Her knees trembled from his thorough study of her features. Confused, she watched the intense silver pools soften, as if he was working something through his mind. Was he expecting her to say something? She glanced back to Makar when she heard him clear his throat. He looked nervous. Damn. I can totally empathize.
“We’re new to the city and were hoping someone could let us know of any good restaurants close by. Do you have any suggestions?”
Keely felt her shoulders drop a few notches. Oh, good. I can handle this. Just another man looking for a meal. She observed a twitch to the left side of Makar’s full, sensuous lips. He looked as if he was pleased with himself.
“Uh…sure. Do you like steak?” Both of the men’s heads started bobbing up and down, as if she’d said the magic word.
“Yes. Steak’s good.”
God, I could listen to his voice forever. She couldn’t stop the big smile that split her face.
“Well, I could name a few close by, but they’re sort of pricey. I think your best bet is Texas Land and Cattle on Highway 183.” When they both took a closer step, she fought from rambling as she gave them the directions. She hoped she’d provided them correctly. Her head was spinning, and she couldn’t concentrate from the continuous heat suffusing her skin. She startled when Makar suddenly leaned forward, his words nothing more than a husky whisper.
“Go there with us. We’d like to buy you dinner.”
Oh, shit. What do I do? Keely felt her spine stiffen and cringed at her sick attempt at laughter. She inevitably spit out her tried and true answer to any man that attempted to get close. Hell, they were already fifteen steps inside her bubble—way past the comfort zone.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know you. That wouldn’t be wise. Thank you, though.”
Damn, that sounded so rehearsed. Before she could summon a friendlier response, Baruch leaned forward. She had no idea that someone else could own a voice as sensual as Makar’s.
“That’s the whole point, isn’t it, to get to know one another? It’s a public place. You’ll come to no harm. We promise.”
The word “we” flipped her intelligence switch to “On,” immediately kicking her into analysis mode, a skill she was definitely comfortable with utilizing. Anything beat this swell of unfamiliar emotion that had effectively short-circuited her brain.
Keely glanced back and forth between them until understanding hit her squarely in the gut. Their close proximity in the hallway and the team corral-and-corner routine should’ve been a dead giveaway—if she’d been thinking with her gray matter instead of her libido. It was time to shut this fantasy down. She narrowed her eyes to let them know she was on to them.
“Oh. I see. You’re a pair. I’m sorry. I’m not into that…uh…kind of thing.” Her uptight-Keely routine didn’t last longer than a single tick on a clock when Baruch moved even closer and unleashed another aspect of his voice, instantly turning her legs to noodles.
“Oh, but, sweetness, how do you know unless you’ve tried?”
His breath smelled minty and blew warm across her cheek. Keely recognized that she was way out of her league. They were just too powerful. How was it possible for words to caress your skin? Musk, fresh woods, vanilla, and plain ol’ sexy-as-sin man smell slammed into her senses, and she was immediately grateful for the thick elevator doors keeping her from ass planting. She swallowed hard when her clit throbbed upon the quick image of her being smashed skin to skin between those two sex gods. Holy, shit!
Scrambling to ignore the flash of throbbing warmth between her legs, Keely yanked the handheld up and glared at the screen. She knew she looked like an idiot, but if she gazed into their eyes any longer, she was going to drop like a rock at their feet.
Despite her best efforts to ignore them, her eyes flicked across their bodies like a souped-up hummingbird on a nectar run. It was only then that she realized both wore dark T-shirts. No wonder their eye color had popped so brilliantly. Makar’s was a deep rust, and Baruch wore faded black. There was some type of writing on the front—a band maybe? Those are some killer boots. Damn, they have big feet.
The sound of her name coming from Makar’s lips tore her from the escalating fantasy and right into concern.
“How do you know me?” Heat flooded her face when Makar’s long, masculine finger pointed to her nametag. Popping herself on the forehead, she tried not to regress to her awkward teenage personality, yet immediately lost the battle.
“Well, that was silly of me.” As she choked back a giggle, Keely felt as if her face was going to burst out into flames at any second. What the hell is wrong with me?
Salvation came in the form of the wall opening up behind her. She was ready to slip into the abyss just to save her sanity. Keely didn’t care how far she had to fall. She desperately wanted her brain back.