The Bride Fonseca Needs(9)

By: Abby Green

Max looked down at his drink, swirling it in his glass. ‘I saw a man being robbed and chased after the guy.’ He looked up again. ‘I didn’t realise he was a junkie with a knife until he turned around and lunged at me, cutting my face. I managed to take the briefcase from him. I won’t lie—there was a moment when I almost ran with it myself... But I didn’t.’

Max shrugged, as if chasing junkies and staying on the right side of his conscience was nothing.

‘The owner was so grateful when I returned it that he insisted on taking me to the hospital. He talked to me, figured out a little of my story. It turned out that he was CEO of a private equity finance firm, and as a gesture of goodwill for returning his property he offered me a position as an intern. I knew this was a chance and I vowed not to mess it up...’

Darcy said, a little wryly, ‘I think it’s safe to say you didn’t waste the opportunity. He must have been a special man to do that.’

‘He was,’ Max said with uncharacteristic softness. ‘One of the few people I trusted completely. He died a couple of years ago.’

There was only the faintest low hum of traffic coming from the streets far below. Isolated siren calls that faded into the distance. Everything around them was dark and golden. Darcy felt as if she were suspended in a dream. She’d never in a million years thought she might have a conversation like this with Max, who was unreadable on the best of days and never spoke of his personal life.

‘You don’t trust easily, then?’

Max grimaced slightly. ‘I learnt early to take care of myself. Trust someone and you make yourself weak.’

‘That’s so cynical,’ Darcy said, but it came out flat, not with the mocking edge she’d aimed for.

Max straightened up from the window and was suddenly much closer to Darcy. She could smell him—a light tangy musk, with undertones of something much more earthy and masculine.

He looked at her assessingly. ‘What about you, Darcy? Are you telling me you’re not cynical after your parents’ divorce?’

She immediately avoided that incisive gaze and looked out at the glittering cityscape beyond Max. A part of her had broken when her world had been upended and she’d been split between her parents. But as a rule it wasn’t something she liked to dwell on. She was reluctant to explore the fact that it had a lot to do with her subsequent avoidance of relationships.

She finally looked back to Max, forcing her voice to sound light. ‘I prefer to say realistic. Not cynical.’

The corner of Max’s mouth twitched. Had he moved even closer? He felt very close to Darcy.

He drawled now, ‘Let’s agree to call it realistic cynicism, then. So—no dreams of a picturesque house and a white picket fence with two point two kids to repair the damage your parents did to you?’

Darcy sucked in a breath at Max’s unwitting perspicacity. Damn him for once again effortlessly honing in on her weak spot: her desire to have a base. A home of her own. Not the cynical picture he painted, but her own oasis in a life that she knew well could be upended without any warning, leaving her reeling with no sense of a safe centre.

Her career had become her centre, but Darcy knew she needed something more tangibly rooted.

She tried to sound as if he hadn’t hit a raw nerve. ‘Do I really strike you as someone who is yearning for the domestic idyll?’

He shook his head and took a step closer, reaching past Darcy to put his glass on the table behind her. She knew this should feel a little weird—after all they’d never been so physically close before, beyond their handshake when she’d taken the job. But after the intensity of their day spent cocooned in this office, with the darkness outside now, and after Max had revealed the origin of his scar, a dangerous sense of familiarity suppressed Darcy’s normal impulse to observe the proper boundaries.

She told herself it was their shared experience in Boissy that made things a little different than the usual normal boss/PA relationship. But really the truth was that she didn’t want to move as Max’s arm lightly brushed against hers when he straightened again. The sip of whisky she’d taken seemed to be spreading throughout her body, oozing warmth and a sense of delicious lethargy.

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