I had $37.21 in my bank account, so unless I impressed at my interview today, I was screwed. More than face-planted-on-the-sidewalk screwed like I had been an hour ago. Starving screwed. Homeless screwed. The worst kind of screwed.
The heel to my navy pumps had twisted free on the way to the bus, and of course it had to happen in front of the bus stop. Of course it did. A kind old woman had helped me to my feet and had helped brush the gravel and dirt from my skirt suit. Luckily I hadn’t torn anything, but my chin throbbed where it’d smashed the sidewalk and my eyes burned with embarrassed tears. I hadn’t had time to run back home, so I’d limped inside a hardware store and grabbed the first bottle of super glue I could find.
Now, I sat in the reception area of kink.club.com’s Kansas City office with tiny globules of super glue leaking out from my broken heel toward the plush, white carpet. Classy. Hopefully no one else noticed.
But even without my shoe problem, I obviously didn’t belong here. Kink.club, a dating website and company that dealt in...well, kink, had to be raking in the money. Everything here was made of glass and chrome, including the perfectly coiffed receptionist, who had taken one look at me and rolled her eyes.
“Addison Blevins,” she said, “Mr. Robinson will see you now.”
I guessed that meant I would need to stand up. Sucking in a breath, I stood, putting as little weight as I could on my broken pump. Under the receptionist’s sharp judgement, I stepped carefully over the carpet, remembering to lift my feet so my heels wouldn’t catch. About fifteen minutes later—yes, I’m exaggerating—I arrived at Mr. Robinson’s double doors and entered a massive corner office.
Floor-to-ceiling windows dominated the far wall, and to the left was what looked like a full bar. To my right near the windows, a large oak desk took up one corner, and a few yards away in the opposite corner, several leather-upholstered chairs sat around a circular coffee table.
Out of one of those chairs rose a man that stuttered my careful steps. I knew Mr. Robinson, had known him since I was an impressionable teenager. And what an impression he’d made. Still did. Although older now in his late twenties, his brown eyes sparked with intelligence, a slightly darker shade than his short hair. He no longer wore snug T-shirts and jeans, but now had exceptional taste in four-piece suits. My gaze snagged on his full mouth. The man was quite a sight.
“Cyrus,” I breathed, but then I caught my mistake, my face heating, and corrected with, “Mr. Robinson.” Best to go with formalities for the sake of the interview.
“Ms. Blevins. Nice to see you again,” he said in a deep, pleasant voice and offered me his hand.
I shook it—firmly and with eye contact—but the feel of his skin on mine hijacked the tempo of my heartbeat. His hands were callused and rough, totally unexpected for a man in a suit with a corner office.
Cyrus Robinson worked at kink.club. That was something I couldn’t quite wrap my head around because I’d always figured he’d go into law like his dad. When I’d learned my interview was with Mr. Robinson, it hadn’t even occurred to me that it might be him since it was a common name.
“Please, sit down,” he said, gesturing to the chair he’d been sitting in, and then did so himself in the chair beside it.
I sat, clearing my throat nervously and avoiding his steady gaze. It had always disarmed me and slammed my heart faster when he looked at me, as if he’d sensed that I’d thought about him at night when I squirmed between my sheets. I’d crushed hard on him as a teen, even thought I’d been in love with him, and those old feelings ignited once again in his presence.
“Ms. Blevins, are you all right?” Genuine concern tinged his voice. He popped a tissue from the box in the middle of the coffee table and handed it to me. “Your chin is bleeding.”
My cheeks flushed as I took the tissue and blotted it to my chin. “Yes, thank you. I had a bit of a run-in on the way here, but I’m fine.”
His brow furrowed and his mouth tightened, giving him an almost dangerous-looking vibe. “A run-in with a person?”
“Uh, no. A sidewalk.” As soon as it fell out of my mouth, I inhaled sharply to take it back. Sidewalk adventures weren’t what impressed potential employers, whether they knew me or not. He probably thought I’d grown up to be clumsy or careless or drunk, when on a normal day, I wasn’t any of those things. He might’ve known that if we’d stayed in touch, but I hadn’t seen him since I ran away from home when I was seventeen. Apparently a lot can change in nine years.
His face relaxed some, and he sat back with his elbow on the armrest. The force of his dark eyes pressed against my skin, blooming warmth from head to toe. “Tell me about yourself.”
He knew a large portion of it already, or at least I thought he did, but I decided to recap just in case he’d forgotten. Besides, he was being so formal, like he preferred we pretended we didn’t already know each other for the sake of the interview.
“Well, I grew up in—”
“No,” he said softly. “I want to know about you, not where you grew up.”
I nodded and sifted through all of my rehearsed answers for one that fit. “Well, I’m highly analytical. For example, I’m pretty obsessive about crossword puzzles. I can never leave one undone, even if it’s at the doctor’s office. But at the same time, I like to think I’m also highly creative. Definitely not in the artistic sense, but in the idea sense.”
The corner of his mouth tipped up. “Are you saying you have all the answers?”
“No, but I’m working on it.”
“What else?” he asked.
“I enjoy helping people, and I think they can see that I enjoy it. Back in college, I worked at—”
“Carb Farm,” he finished for me, and it took me aback, even though it shouldn’t have. Of course he’d looked at my resume. And memorized it, too, I supposed.
“Yes, and there was an elderly gentleman there, a bit on the cantankerous side, but I always got him to smile.”
“How did you do that?”
“By giving him extra butter, of course.” I grinned but it quickly slipped off my face at his non-reaction. “I also listened to him talk about his daughter.” I shrugged and smoothed my palms down my skirt.
His gaze ticked to my lap and back up again, the rest of his handsome face impassive. “What else?”
This interview was like pulling out all of my teeth, slowly and with a dull-bladed shovel. Why not just ask me real questions with solid answers? Yet I knew this was all part of the process, this jumping through hoops for a chance at a paycheck. I would jump even if the hoops were on fire, and I had a feeling Cyrus knew that and liked watching me squirm.
“I have an open mind, which seems obvious since I’m here, but I don’t pass judgement on kinks or those who have them,” I said.
“How well do you read body language?”
Was that part of the job description? “Uh, pretty well, I think.”
He studied me for a long moment, absently tapping out a rhythm on the armrest. “What does my body language say to you right now?”
“Relaxed,” I said with a slight shrug. “You look like you feel confident in your own skin. Maybe a little bored.”
I was nothing if not honest, and I never knew if that was a good or bad thing.
“Far from it, Ms. Blevins.” He smiled, which briefly melted away some of the tension on his face and did wonderful, devilish things to his full lips. He stood, a towering stack of muscle, and offered his hand once again.
Hesitantly, I stood and took it, ignoring the thrill of his rough hand in mine. Was that the whole interview? Had I completely blown it? Wow, that must really say a lot about my interview skills if I couldn’t even get through a five-minute one with only three vague questions asked of me.
He released me and led the way to the door. I followed against a crushing wave of disappointment, mentally rewinding everything I’d done and said to see where I went wrong. Sure, there was always room for improvement, but...oh god, had he seen the super glue leaking out of my heel?
He turned, his hand on the doorknob. “I wish you a safe and sidewalk-free trip home.”
I swallowed back tears. “Cy—Mr. Robinson, I-I really need this job.”
“Good.” He opened the door, his dark gaze never wavering. “Because you start tomorrow.”
My mouth popped open, but I quickly closed it. I slid closer to him so I could pass through the doorway, and his body heat enveloped me in an odd mix of a soothing balm and a pulse rocket.
I licked my lips nervously as I glanced up at him on my way out. He tracked the movement, and something in his eyes sparked, a vivid shock I felt curl between my thighs.
It stole my breath as I said, “I’ll make sure you don’t regret your decision, sir.”