Ivy stepped into the corridor. She stopped and listened. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a shadow sweep across the wall. She turned as it disappeared. “Hello?” No answer. She stomped down the hall and burst into the room. “Hello--”
The room was empty.
Ivy swallowed the taste of fright. A shiver raced across her skin. She had seen someone, or had she? She rubbed her eyes. Maybe the shadows were playing tricks on her.
A loud crack in the floor behind her sent Ivy twisting. The sun from the window blinded her. She acted on impulse. She drew her fist back and punched--landing on something solid. The force behind her connection with skin and bone sent her off balance, flailing backward. A hand on her wrist pulled her hard against a steely frame.
She met a dark stare, just as she felt wobbling. The impact of her body had sent him a step back. He lost his balance. Together they fell. The air whooshed from his chest as Ivy landed on top of the stranger.
She closed her eyes and remained still. She wanted nothing more than for the floor to swallow her. Several long seconds floated by. Neither of them said a word. She finally opened her eyes.
Embarrassed and confused, Ivy laid her palms against his shoulders, pushing herself up. She looked directly into his not-so-pleased expression and gulped. Enchanting green eyes, prominent cheekbones, midnight hair...and a pissed-off set to his jaw. She’d made a mistake--a huge one. “Max Shepard.” It wasn’t a question.
He narrowed his eyes. “Ivy Kennedy, journalist and amateur boxer?”
The deep, rich tone of his voice did funny things to the pit of her stomach. His voice wasn’t the only toned part of him. Pressed together gave her an up close and personal testimonial of his physical assets. Broad chest, tight abs to long legs, she could feel tight muscles and a curious bulge. She scooted her hip around the swelling in his jeans. Heat and realization spread through her body.
One corner of his mouth lifted. “It’s my cell.” Could he see straight through her?
He reached into his pocket and held up his phone. Ivy was certain her skin changed into the perfect color of mortification. She wondered just how bad this could get. Pasting a smile on her face, she said, “Nice to meet you.” The temperature rose between them into the triple digits. Their bodies seemed to melt together. He didn’t look like the pictures she’d seen on the internet. He looked more distinguished in person. “You’re older than I thought,” she blurted.
“Older, in a good way.” She licked her bottom lip and nervously pushed her hair behind her ear. “My mother said I have a bad habit of saying the most awkward things and rambling--” She swallowed. “--like I am now.” She moved slightly.
His zipper started to swell again. Was that another cell phone in his pocket, or… Before her mind could complete the thought, he wrapped his large hands around her waist and lifted her off him. He set her on her feet as he came to stand in front of her. “That’s better,” he said as he backed up. “Damn.” He kicked rug that must have been the reason behind their fall.
He stood there, silent. This was a complete disaster. She’d managed to give him a black eye to match the dark scowl on his face. She needed to start searching for a new job. Marshall would have her head for this.