My dream lay on the horizon, offering happiness, and yet losing the most precious thing in my life ached my heart. Looking at Damien always made me think of a mirrored image as though the other half of my soul resided inside him even though we were polar opposites personality-wise. Submitting to his more dominant nature was like breathing for me. I longed to please him in all things, in any way he wished—and my greatest wish was for him to feel the same.
Being an empath, I knew how he felt, and while he considered my need to hear those three words insecurity, I merely wanted him finally to acknowledge he could love again, could trust completely. He needed to take that step for his own sense of self, to become a better version of himself I knew laid inside.
I blew out a breath and sank into my office chair, my back to the brightly lit window, the rising sun promising a new beginning. My gaze flitted to the right and the door which linked my office to Damien’s. He would be gone for four weeks, plenty of time for me to focus on moving on with my life as I’d told him—looking at the available rental properties I’d found online that could be converted to a gallery and possibly, sign a lease.
Enough paintings sat in our guest room—boxed up and unloved, in need of bringing joy to people’s homes—outfitting a small gallery wouldn’t be an issue. I had already spoken with a few of my contacts in the art world, going so far as to offer retail space for commission once I made the final steps in making my dream come true.
My phone’s intercom buzzed through the plans flitting through my head. I leaned forward and hit the button while grabbing a couple Necco Wafers from the half-eaten pack on my desk. “Yes, Madeline?”
“The new secretary from the temp agency is here.”
Shit. I crunched down on a white wafer, cursing Damien for leaving me—once again—with greeting the newest employee, to feel them out. Miss Bright was only a temporary fix until we found someone worthy of filling the shoes of our other secretary who had been forced to retire early due to health issues.
“Send her in.” Standing, I buttoned my coat and stretched my neck, side to side.
Emotional overload time—every new hire, every new trainee, or seasoned financial advisor showed up their first day with enough internal stress and nerves to wreck an empath like me.
That night, I wouldn’t have Damien’s arms to comfort me.
My chest ached, but I put on a fake smile and made my way forward to greet Miss Bright as the door pushed inward.
Holy fucking shit.
I nearly stumbled over my damn feet as she slipped into my office, her bright blue eyes ensnaring me the second our gazes locked. Long, dark lashes blinked, her brows arched, as dark as the pulled-back hair sitting atop her head in a messy bun. High cheekbones blushed pink, the same color as her glossed lips, and my smile came easier.
Damien had asked if I’d wanted an emotional female to coddle, someone softer, and even though that hadn’t been my intention, Shaylia Bright fit the bill perfectly. While her emotions didn’t swarm over me, her insecurities made me want to wrap her in my arms and kiss them away, pamper and pet her until she laid lax against me.
I cleared my throat and extended my hand. “Miss Bright, I’m Ethan Lord.”
“Hello.” Her husky, low tone twitched my dick—the first woman to do so without Damien in close proximity.
The second our fingers brushed, energy pulsed up my arm, tightening my chest. Our hands clasped, and my pulse thudded in my ears as I lost myself in the clear ocean of her eyes. Her nervousness didn’t turn my stomach as people’s usually did. Her excitement amped my own, making me feel connected to her, a complete stranger.
I grinned for real, and her smile weakened my goddamn knees. The thought of asking her if she wanted to run away together to some deserted island in the Pacific ran through my head, but I dropped her hand and tore my focus off her face before making a fool of myself.
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