At Your Service - A.C. Arthur



Whispering the mantra as she stepped out of the ladies’ room, Nina smoothed her palms down the front of her navy-blue pencil skirt. With her portfolio tucked under one arm and her black leather purse hanging on the opposite shoulder, she walked easily in four-inch black pumps. Until she turned the corner and collided with something hard and delicious-smelling.

Her portfolio hit the ground as she threw her hands up and felt a strong grip on her upper arms.

“Whoa, there.”

His voice was deep but smooth and made her feel like warm water was streaming down her body, easing to her core.

“Sorry,” she mumbled with a shake of her head.

Nina pulled out of his grasp and went down on her knees to snap up the pages that had escaped from her folder. As if in rebellion, or just because they wanted her to look like a complete idiot, the papers had scattered across the dark-carpeted floor a distance away from where she was standing.

“Here, let me help,” he was saying, but Nina didn’t reply.

And she didn’t look up, just continued to gather the wayward sheets, cursing herself and what had been a horrific start to this very important day. Clutching a handful of pages, she started to stand when her purse decided to slip from her shoulder. Oh no, I’m not dropping anything else today. She lifted her hands and caught the bag as Mr. Helpful came closer.

Anxious to just get this uncomfortable encounter over with and to make it to the meeting she was already in danger of being late for, Nina glanced up to meet his gaze. Warm root beer–brown eyes stared back at her while lips of medium thickness parted slightly as if he were ready to speak again. His words were halted when her hands took that moment to continue moving upward, brushing over this gorgeous guy’s pants on the way.

No, not just his pants but his...

Nina’s jaw dropped, heat immediately fusing her cheeks as her eyes widened and she yanked her hands back against her chest so hard she almost lost her breath.

“Are you all right?”

Hell no!

Nina was on her way to a meeting that would make or break her business and she was standing here touching a man she didn’t know. A man who was the epitome of tall, bronzed, handsome and apparently very aroused.

“I’m fine,” she managed to croak and then cleared her throat. Stuffing the papers under her arm, she reached for the black case he held. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Can I help you get your belongings together?”

“No. Really. I have it. It’s no problem,” she said because the problem was obviously her. Or it could have been the train from York to Manhattan that was late because something had spilled on the tracks, or the gigantic rip in her stockings from when she’d slid across the torn seat of the taxi upon finally arriving at the Ronald Gold Fashions headquarters. Either way, this day was not getting better.

Nina stepped around the man, hoping he wouldn’t say anything else to her. She walked as quickly as she could without running and appearing more like a crazy person. Not knowing exactly where she was going, she continued down the long hallway, turning the moment she saw an opening on the right and then moving just as fast in that direction.

Her phone buzzed and she stopped to dig into her purse to retrieve it.

“Hey, Angie,” she answered after seeing her sister’s name on the screen.

“Hey. I won’t be able to run past Dad’s tonight to check on him and Daisy’s got a photo shoot so she doesn’t think she’ll get there until after eight.”

Nina closed her eyes as her fingers tightened on the phone. She didn’t scream the way she wanted to because everything that could go wrong today had already gone wrong. She inhaled deeply once more and let the breath out slowly before replying. “I’m in New York for a meeting, as I told everyone at dinner last night. I won’t be back until tomorrow morning. So somebody’s gonna have to go over there and make sure Dad takes his medications as directed and doesn’t end up passed out on the floor.”

It was, to Nina, as simple as that. But to her sisters what she’d just said wouldn’t make any sense. Younger than her by four and six years, Angie and Daisy were so used to Nina taking care of everything—from their father to them when they were young girls—that the idea