Excerpts from The Lion and The Gazelle

Emmie's run in with Thornton

His unreadable brown eyes seared me. I shifted, unable to glance away from his penetrating inspection. Fair play, I supposed. I caught a flicker in his stare, and his frown matched Dresda’s, taking it a step further by furrowing his brow. Thornton Longbridge. What the hell did I do to piss you off?

By instinct, I reached out to shake his hand, until I remembered where my hand had last been. I snatched it back.

My smile faltered. “I need to visit the restroom. I’ll meet you in the conference room.” I shook my head—that was TMI.

Dresda’s gaze bored into my back all the way down the hall. What the hell? They were supposed to meet me in the conference room, not in front of my office. I fought the heat rising to my face. Once inside the restroom, I leaned against the door, as if I could bar the world from encroaching. Now would have been a good time for a private bathroom in my office like the partners had. Someday. Someday soon.

Digging for every inch of steel in my spine, I dared a peek at the damage. Huh. I looked pretty good. My hair passed muster—only a few of the unruly blond tresses escaped my long single braid. And my clothes? I smiled. I always rocked it in green. I turned to check my backside and, once satisfied, washed the sinful afternoon delight from my hands. With a last satisfied grin, I reached for the door.

It will be fine.

One hour with a grumpy client. I could do it.

I slowed next to the glass wall of the conference room. Murmured voices drifted from the room where my team sat on one side of the table conversing with the client’s team— an attractive Asian man and a petite Hispanic woman. But no Longbridge. Thornton. What a name. No wonder he seemed to have a stick up his butt. I craned my neck but didn’t see him anywhere.

Fine hairs along the back of my neck rose at the soft pad of footsteps, and I turned to find Longbridge right behind me.

I extended my hand. “Sorry about earlier. Mother nature and all.”

He stopped short and glanced up, his brown eyes flecked with tiny shards of emeralds that could draw you in until you were lost. Before I could say a word, some dark force pinched his eyebrows, his irises darkening. There it was. The stick was back, and I was the ant under the magnifying glass.

He stared at my hand, almost as if he knew where it had been and wasn’t sure I’d actually washed it. He reached out, slightly tentative, and grasped mine. Warm and firm.

“I’m Emmie Savoy, your team lead.” I held my smile, refusing to grimace at his returned squeeze. If we had been sitting, I would have taken it as a challenge for an arm wrestle. I pulled it back, but he held on, and it took a moment before his frown faded. A micro inch. The pressure on my hand receded, the blood flowing to my fingers again.

“Thornton Longbridge.”

I held my arm out toward the conference room, offering him the lead. “It’s a pleasure to be working with you.” It was like talking through a mouthful of peanut butter. “You have our best team.”

“Let’s hope it will be enough.” He strode past me, leaving me to wallow in his wake.