The Wilkins building wasn’t hard to find. I walked into the lobby and checked the directory, confirming I was in the right place. As long as I was in town for a few days, I would do what I could to lay the groundwork for a backup plan when Miriam’s restraining order against Caleb expired. As much as I wanted to believe that Caleb had realized the error of his ways and would leave Miriam alone, my instincts told me otherwise. If I could vet a potential local legal ally in case things went south, I would.
My heels clacked on the tiles as I made my way over to the set of elevators, drawing the brief attention of several suited professionals hovering near the coffee shop. I fit right in. I was dressed in my court attire—conservative charcoal pencil skirt and matching blazer over a sleeveless blush-pink silk shirt. My thinking was, if I dressed like a colleague, I was more likely to be treated like one.
I pressed the button with the upward facing arrow, pleased when the doors opened right away. I stepped inside and selected the sixth floor.
The doors were beginning to shut when I heard a male voice call out, “Hold, please.”
I wasn’t in a rush, and seeing Miriam safe and happy had me feeling generous. I shifted my finger to the open button and did my good deed for the day.
My Karmic reward was granted immediately. The man who entered the car was gorgeous with thick, dark hair, dark eyes, and the hint of a sexy shadow gracing a sculpted, masculine jaw despite the fact that it was still early.
Also, he looked fabulous in a suit and smelled fantastic. Spicy and woodsy yet subtle. I wanted to move closer just so I could get a better whiff.
He shot me a grateful look that made my toes curl. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” I spoke the words politely, keeping my features neutral, though my keen powers of observation were firing double-time. “Floor?”
When I didn’t move, he glanced down at the lit panel and saw that I’d already selected the sixth floor. His lips curled upward at the corners as he took me in with his assessing gaze. Curiosity burned in his eyes, but he said nothing.
I was curious too. Did the sixth floor hold more than just the Law Offices of Paul J. Cerasino? Could he be my potential legal ally?
The elevator announced our arrival with a ding.
He stepped back and extended his arm. “After you.”
I silently appreciated his gentlemanly behavior. Confession: I liked being treated like a lady. The ideal, of course, was to be respected as a human being while also enjoying such courtesies. I was greedy that way.
I stepped off the elevator and moved forward to the frosted double glass doors bearing the name of the law offices, slightly disappointed when my elevator companion made a hard right and disappeared around the corner. Regardless, he’d been a brief, bright spot in my day.
The older woman at the reception desk glanced up from her phone at my approach and smiled warmly. “May I help you, dear?”
“Yes. I have an appointment with Mr. Cerasino.”
She checked what I assumed was a scheduling book. “Ah, yes. Here you are. You’re early.”
“I am,” I agreed.
“May I get you some coffee or tea while you wait?”
“No, thank you. I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? I made hazelnut crème today and just picked up a fresh box of PG Tips tea.” She beamed at me.
I couldn’t help but smile back. “I’m sure.”
I took a seat in the waiting area amid potted plants and tasteful framed prints. My early arrival was intentional. It gave me an opportunity to observe and get a feel for what I was dealing with. I put a lot of stock in first impressions, and thus far, I liked what I saw. The place had a laid-back yet professional vibe, a far cry from the harried office in which I worked.
I waited silently and patiently, taking in everything around me while soft music played through hidden speakers. At one point, a woman came in, wearing skintight leggings and three-inch heels, clutching a cup of coffee from the café downstairs in a hand tipped with bright red talons.
“Is he in yet?” she brusquely asked the receptionist.
“I haven’t seen him.”
“Good. If he asks, I’ve been here since seven.”
The receptionist’s expression was one of blatant disapproval, and I had to say, I agreed wholeheartedly. The newcomer didn’t seem to notice the receptionist’s pursed lips, however, because she was too busy checking me out.
She took in my suit, practical low-heeled pumps, and leather satchel, her eyes narrowing as she did so. The hair on the back of my neck rose. I knew that look. It was the look of a woman on the prowl, ready to defend her territory. I saw plenty of them hanging around the law offices, naturally drawn to successful, professional men.
I kept my expression neutral and calmly returned her gaze.
The phone at the receptionist’s desk rang.
“Good morning,” the older woman said cheerfully. “Yes, your nine o’clock is here. All right.”
She hung up the phone and turned to me. “Mr. Cerasino will see you now.”
Ms. Territorial scowled and skulked away while I stood and followed the nice older lady through a door on the right and down a short hallway to a corner office. I was pleasantly surprised to see my handsome elevator companion stand and round the desk. There must have been a separate entrance to the actual offices, which I supposed was a good thing for a family services practice to have, given the kind of things they had to deal with.
The receptionist beamed at him like he was a favorite grandson and then left, closing the door behind her and leaving us alone. Strangely enough, the large office seemed almost as intimate as the small elevator, especially with those smoldering dark eyes pinned on me.
“We meet again,” he said, his voice a rich, deep timbre that resonated pleasantly in my bones.
“Technically, we haven’t met yet,” I pointed out.
His smile made me feel tingly in inappropriate places as he held out his hand. His grip was firm, his fingers warm and strong. “Paul Cerasino.”
My heart stuttered once or twice, which had never happened before upon shaking a man’s hand and hearing him state his own name.
Copyright © 2021 Abbie Zanders.
Written by Abbie Zanders.
All rights reserved.