Embraced By Love
Josie picked up her private line on the first ring.
“Taylor,” she said curtly.
“Oh come on, babe” Cooper said teasingly. “You knew it had to be me. Who else would be calling at nearly eight-thirty at night? If you’re going stay late, the least you could do is answer the phone with a cheerful, ‘hi, honey.'”
“I’m in the middle of a meeting,” Josie said. “Honey. Can I call you back?”
“The middle of a meeting?”
“The middle of a meeting that’s about to end,” Josie said. “I’ll call you back in about twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes?” Cooper said. “I won’t be here.”
“I’ll be at your office, ready to take you someplace exotic for dinner,” he said. “Hey, did you get a package from me today?”
“I most certainly did,” she said, “and I most certainly cannot discuss it right now.”
“Was it a big box from Victoria’s Secret?”
“Aren’t you even going to thank me for the present?”
“Seeing how it’s more of a present for you, no,” she said.
“Aha,” he said. “So you did open it.”
She sighed. “Yes, and fortunately I was alone in my office at the time. Unlike I am right now seeing as I’m in the middle of a meeting, with five of my staff sitting here watching me talk on the phone to you.”
“Don’t you want them to know what you wear underneath those scary clothes of yours?” Cooper said.
He laughed, a low, sexy rumble of sound. “You put some of it on, didn’t you? Which color?”
He’d sent her a dozen sets of fancy lingerie in all different colors and styles.
“I’ve created a monster, haven’t I?” she said. “Good-bye, Cooper. I’m going to hang up now.”
“You realize that when I get over there, I’m going to lock myself in your office with you until we clear up this mystery,” he said.
“Purple,” she said.
“Oh, God,” Cooper said. “I’ll be right over.”
* * * *
At a few minutes to nine, the meeting was officially over. As the other members of Josie’s senior staff let themselves out her office door, David Chase lingered.
David had been her administrative assistant since day one, and he now served as her executive vice president. Whatever his title, he was still her right hand.
“This is going to be one hell of a big job,” he said, sitting down directly across from her desk after closing the door tightly.
Josie met his steady gaze. “I know,” she said.
“You sure you want to do this?”
“I want to do it,” she said. “But I do need to talk to Cooper before I make a final decision.”
David wore his dark hair conservatively short, and as he ran his fingers through it, it fell neatly back into place as if it dare not remain mussed. “He’s not going to contribute any positive energy to the project,” he said. “He’s only going to add to your stress, raising it to an unbearable level.”
“What are you suggesting?” Josie said tartly. “That I don’t tell him about this contract?”
David smiled, his lean face relaxing. He reached up and loosened his tie. It was nine o’clock at night, Josie thought. He’d been in the office for nearly fourteen hours today, working straight through lunch, and only now, at nine o’clock at night, was he loosening his tie.
“No, obviously you’ve got to tell him,” he said. “But it’s too bad you can’t just send him off to camp for the next thirteen months.”
Josie laughed. “Camp?” she said. “David, he’s not a child.”
“No?” David said. He leaned forward, and she realized that he was not entirely joking. “He’s irresponsible, unreliable, and never takes anything seriously.”
Josie thought about the huge box of sexy underwear that was sitting in her closet. “Wanna make a bet?” she said, smiling.
“He can’t control his impulses– have you noticed that whenever he comes into the office, you’re constantly apologizing for him?”
“I’m constantly explaining him,” Josie corrected gently. “That’s hardly the same thing.”
“You shouldn’t need to explain him all the time,” David said. “If he didn’t behave so outrageously–”
“Then he wouldn’t be Cooper.”
David gave up, sitting back with an exasperated laugh. “You know, I really thought you’d get tired of him.”
Josie looked down at the stacks of papers on her desk. “If you want to know the truth,” she said, “I thought he’d get tired of me.”
A loud rap on the door made her look up expectantly, a smile on her face. “Who is it?” she called, standing up and moving toward the door, knowing full well who was on the other side.
“It is I,” boomed a deep, Dudley Do-right voice. “Pizza Man.”
“My hero,” Josie said, opening the door and batting her eyelashes at Cooper. He kissed her hello.
“Dave, baby, how’s it hanging?” Cooper asked, spotting Chase still sitting across from Josie’s desk.
Cooper was holding an insulated pizza box. He wore a baseball cap backwards on his head, and his long hair was loose around his shoulders. His sweat pants had a psychadelic paisley print, and he was wearing his black leather biker jacket over a Star Trek T-shirt.
David shook his head slightly while he looked at Josie pointedly, as if to say ‘See what I mean?’
“I thought you were going to take me someplace exotic for dinner,” Josie said, as Cooper put the pizza box down on her conference table.
“I was,” he said, sitting down and shrugging out of his jacket, “but I couldn’t seem to walk past the pizza place. It smelled so good, and I was so hungry. Besides, this office has a pretty high exotic rating. I designed it that way, you know.”
“Want a slice?” Josie said to David.
He shook his head, pushing himself out of his chair and moving toward the door. “No, I’ll leave the two of you alone to talk,” he said. “It’s time I got home to feed the cat.”
“Say hi to Fluffy for me, Dave,” Cooper said.
David smiled tightly as he left.
The door had barely closed before Cooper grabbed Josie, pulling her down onto his lap. She smiled and closed her eyes as he kissed her and held her close.
“I missed you,” she murmured, breathing in his familiar scent.
“I was at home,” he said, nuzzling her neck. “You’re welcome to come there any time.”
His words were teasing, but she could see the questions in his eyes as he wondered what had kept her at the office later than usual this evening.