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What you need, p.21
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       What You Need, p.21

         Part #1 of Need You series by Lorelei James
 

  Lennox

  ‡

  It wasn’t my idea of fun, getting up at six a.m. on a Sunday.

  Especially not when I’d been enjoying having a warm male body spooning me. Then firm—yet soft—lips trailing down the nape of my neck and across my shoulders, while rough-tipped fingers lightly caressed my arm, my hip, the length of my thigh before moving in to stroke my belly and tease my breasts.

  It was heaven.

  It was hell.

  A hell I’d willingly signed on for when I’d given control to Brady.

  By the time he’d gotten me so worked up I was squirming against him, he softly kissed the curve of my jaw and retreated. “I’ll shower down the hall.” Then he vanished.

  That’d been an hour ago and I was still . . . annoyed.

  “You’re grumbling, baby. What’s going on?”

  “I’m tired.”

  “Close your eyes. It’s two and a half more hours until we reach the Cities.”

  “Aren’t you tired?”

  “No.”

  But I could tell he was restless. From nerves? Was he having second thoughts about introducing me to his family?

  I’d assumed that because he was brilliant, sinfully good looking and rich, he’d never lack for female companionship. But I hadn’t banked on Brady Lund, CFO, to be a little shy.

  God. That shyness wrecked me.

  I’d gone beyond nervous to meet his family, to petrified.

  Hi, I’m Lennox Greene. Yes, I work for Lund Industries. No, you don’t know my parents—heck, even I don’t know who my father is.

  “Lennox. I can feel your whole body twitching.”

  “Brady. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”

  “What?”

  “All of it!” I gestured to nothing and everything. “You and me. Me meeting your family. You taking me to a football game at the Metrodome and us sitting in the skybox. Maybe you should just run me home first. You can tell them I ate something that didn’t agree with me. I just . . . don’t think I can do this.”

  “Why not?” he asked calmly.

  “Because I won’t fit in. Because I’ll probably say something stupid or be a smart-ass and embarrass you. Because it’s too soon. We just started dating and no one in the company knows and this is how rumors get started.”

  Brady pulled the car onto the shoulder and parked. He scrubbed his hands over his face and I realized he hadn’t shaved today. As sexy as that made him look, it wasn’t something that should’ve escaped his notice.

  Of course I blamed myself. His assorted family members—including the CEO and the COO—would take one look at his disheveled appearance and then aim their judging gazes on me, and believe we’d spent all weekend defiling the family homestead.

  And then I would feel the need to overshare and let them know that, no, we hadn’t spent every waking moment in bed—but then again . . . we had slept in the same bed both nights, we just hadn’t gotten naked and sweaty in that bed—well, except we had slept naked . . .

  Strong fingers curled around my jaw, forcing my attention to him.

  “I’ve said your name like four times while you were in whatever freak-out zone you jumped into. So let me set you straight. It’s not a rumor; we are together. If you’re worried about losing your job, don’t be. I can make it very clear that anyone who fucks with you fucks with me. My mother will likely be a serious pain in the ass, but understand it’s only because I’ve never brought a woman to family day.”

  “Never?”

  “Never. Ever.” Those intense blue eyes seemed to look into my soul. “You might think I’m playing at this. That this is just a phase for me, trying to reform myself more than just who I am at work. But I promise you, Lennox, it is not a phase.”

  He’d just, in effect, told me that I was his girlfriend.

  Holy balls.

  I wasn’t sure how to feel about that, because I’d never been in this position before, meeting a guy’s family when his family mattered to him. But I had been used as fight fodder: Hey, Dad, look at the tattooed bar skank I brought home for Sunday dinner. Pass the potatoes and the judgment, please.

  “You don’t believe me.”

  “Yes, I believe you. I just have a hard time getting a grasp on the fact this is happening to me.”

  “It kills me to hear you say that, baby.”

  He stroked my cheek in such a sweetly loving gesture I felt the back of my eyes sting.

  And somehow he knew I needed tenderness. So when Brady kissed me, I melted into him. I floated to that happy plane where the taste of him, the scent of him, the feel of our bodies touching was all I’d ever need.

  He seemed reluctant to break our connection as he continued to gift me with soft smooches, little nibbles and the sweet sensation of his breath drifting across my sensitized lips. “Better?”

  “Infinitely.” I rubbed my fingertips over the stubble on his cheeks. “This is a good look on you.”

  “Drives me crazy. I want to scratch my face off.”

  “Maybe later today you can find a nice soft place to help you ease the itch.”

  “The insides of your thighs would make great scratching posts, now that you’ve mentioned it.”

  Heat raced down the center of my body as that image popped into my head.

  He chuckled. “I’d better get us back on the road.”

  *

  I took a little catnap while he drove and woke up refreshed. I grabbed my makeup bag and fixed my face, trying to find the balance between cares too much and doesn’t give a damn. The Vikings jersey that I was required by Lund Law to wear covered the tattoos on the back of my neck, and the long-sleeved shirt I wore hid the bandage on my right arm. So I slicked my hair into a ponytail and then tucked it under so it looked a little more finished. After I added pink lipstick, I glanced over to see Brady staring at me.

  “What? Too much? Do I look like a tramp or something?”

  “Not at all. You look amazing. I was just thinking I prefer how you looked first thing this morning, so sleepy and sexy in my arms. So naked.” Then his gaze dropped to my mouth. “I was also thinking that lipstick is the exact same shade as your nipples.”

  “Is that right?” I unbuckled his seat belt and reached across the console to tug his jersey up.

  “What are you doing?”

  “Eyes on the road, Lund.” I snaked my hand under his shirt, pushing it up, bunching the extra material in my other hand. When I had the right half of his upper torso exposed, I leaned over and ran my lips across his nipple, smearing lipstick on him.

  Brady groaned and I warned him not to close his eyes, because he did jerk the steering wheel hard one time.

  I tugged his jersey back into place and refastened his seat belt. Then I offered him a smile. “Now our nipples are the same color. Think of me when you get undressed tonight.”

  “Evil woman.”

  “You started it.”

  I reapplied my lipstick and then we were in the thick of Minneapolis traffic, which was surprisingly heavy for a Sunday morning. We joined the long line of cars headed to the Metrodome.

  He cut across three lanes of traffic to the VIP/valet stand.

  The guy manning the booth grinned when he saw Brady. “Mr. Lund! Glad you could make it today. Think that brother of yours will see any game time?”

  “I sure hope so.”

  “Us too.” He skirted the front end and opened my door. “Ma’am.”

  Then Brady was right there, draping a lanyard over my head. “This place is confusing on the upper levels. So if for some reason we get separated, all the information about where you are and which access point you need to use is on the back of this pass. Anyone in the stadium wearing a jacket like Eddie’s can help you.”

  “Okay. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be stuck to your side for the entire game.”

  He draped his arm over my shoulder and kissed my temple. “I won’t complain about that.”

  We walked with the crowd up sev
eral ramps and then we cut around to a bank of elevators. Brady swiped his pass and up we went. We switched elevators one more time. An older guy stood sentinel-like in front of a curved hallway as we exited.

  “Mr. Brady.” He offered his hand. “It’s good to see you today.”

  “You too, Bart. Although I’m sorry you got stuck with the rabble-rousers again.”

  “Your family are the only ones on this side today.”

  Brady frowned. “Where are the Abbotts? They don’t miss games.”

  “Miss Martha is in the hospital again. So they’re all watching the game from her room.”

  “That’s a shame. I might sneak into their skybox and leave a note for Chuck.”

  “That’d be much appreciated, I’m sure.” He patted Brady’s hand. “You enjoy the game.”

  Then Bart leaned in to me and whispered, “Don’t let ’em scare you off, miss. But I ain’t gonna lie. They’re gunning for ya.”

  Awesome.

  Brady had walked ahead and was waiting for me by the open door.

  So I took a deep breath and stepped into the judge’s chamber.

  And just as I expected, the space went silent as I got the head-to-toe perusal from the twenty-plus people in the room.

  Everyone else hung back and waited as one couple approached us.

  Brady’s parents didn’t look old enough to have a thirty-two-year-old son. But as I watched them, I could pick out certain features that Brady had inherited from his dad: hair color, the size and build of his body, his smile. And from his mom: her Nordic eyes, her cheekbones and her mouth.

  Brady kept his hand circled around my waist, even as he bent down and kissed his mother on both cheeks.

  His dad clapped him on the shoulder. “Well, son, introduce us to your young lady.”

  “This is Lennox Greene. Lennox, this is my dad, Ward, and my mother, Selka.”

  I offered my hand. “I’m happy to meet you in person, Mr. Lund. I do see you storming the halls at LI occasionally.”

  His eyes narrowed. “You work for us?”

  “Yes, sir. I’m in the office support department.”

  “IT?”

  “No, I’m a floater.”

  “I am not familiar with this ‘floating’ term,” his mother said.

  “Like the secretarial pools back in the day, Mom. Lennox fills in in any department where she’s needed. So she has a wide range of skills and responsibilities.”

  I shot Brady a look. I didn’t need him bragging like I was something special to his supermodel mom.

  Selka took my hand. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Lennon.”

  “Lennox,” I corrected.

  “Ah. Right. Sorry.”

  Like hell you are.

  “So you and my son met when you showed him your . . . office skills?”

  Brady stiffened beside me. Then he laughed. “No, actually we met at the LCCO outreach program. Lennox’s roommate heads up the county’s program. I’d run into Lennox a few times before that at LI, but we both just happened to volunteer on that day.”

  Selka’s eyes burned into me. “You have roommate?”

  Her accent sounded part Scandinavian, part Russian. “Yes. We share a house.”

  “I had roommate once. Terrible person. She wore all my clothes.”

  “Fortunately, I don’t have that problem with Kiley.”

  “Have you been married before?”

  “No.”

  “Do you have children?”

  “Mom,” Brady said with exasperation. “Knock it off.”

  Selka patted Brady’s cheek and said something in Swedish.

  “No, Mrs. Lund, I don’t have any children.”

  “You’re lovely. You must be part Swede.” She cocked her head. “My son is handsome, yes?”

  “Jesus.” Brady looked at his father for help.

  But Ward Lund just held up his hands in surrender.

  “Yes, Brady is very handsome. And he’s smart. He can be very funny.” I paused. “What surprised me most about him, though, was his kindness. He was great with the teenagers in the program the morning he volunteered. That’s why I agreed to go out with him, despite our potential conflict of interest with the CFO dating a lower-level clerical employee.”

  I felt Selka studying me as Ward said, “We don’t have rules about interpersonal relationships at LI. In fact, several of our employees met there and have been married for years.”

  “And just as many were divorced,” Selka added.

  Looked like I was scoring points with Mama Bear. Not.

  “I’m happy you’re here,” Ward said. “I’m sure you at least know of the other members of the family, so we’ll let you get on with the introductions, Brady.”

  Selka said nothing.

  I didn’t ask Brady’s take on how I’d done with his mother once they’d walked away. He had no other experiences to judge it by. And men were often clueless about women stuff anyway.

  Brady introduced me to his uncle Monte, who was president of the board of directors, and his wife, Priscilla. Next we moved on to his uncle Archer, CEO of LI. He was an imposing man and my hand shook as if I was meeting a rock star. Archer’s wife, Edie, thought I was cute and asked me a bunch of questions about my position at LI, which calmed me a little because she knew Lola. She also knew Anita, and the way her nose wrinkled told me she didn’t care for her either.

  Annika was the biggest surprise. She hugged me. “Lennox! Look at you, dating my brother. Everyone thinks he’s the big bad wolf so I’m glad to see someone got past his sharp teeth.”

  “Thanks for that analogy, sis.”

  “Did Lennox tell you I tried to hire her?”

  I closed my eyes and willed her to stop talking.

  “No, she forgot to mention it.”

  “Well, when May had her baby, Lennox was assigned to my department. She was so efficient and got us all caught up on a backlog of filing and she even cross-referenced all the information. It was amazing. So when May came back and saw all that Lennox had done, she knew she’d been busted for doing the absolute minimum and she requested a departmental change from Personnel as well as a job-share position to part-time.”

  Yes, I’d done my job so well that I’d cost a new mother her job. I still felt guilty about that.

  “But when I tried to get Lennox to stay on as May’s replacement, she declined. She said she was still too new to the company and wanted to remain in her current position for at least a year.” Annika punched me in the arm—right on my recently re-inked tattoo. “Crazy loyal, huh?”

  “What are you? A thirteen-year-old boy? Stop smacking my girlfriend, Nika.”

  “Shit. Sorry.” Then she proceeded to rub really hard on the spot she’d just hit. “I’m just glad Brady finally showed he has good taste in women.”

  “Uh . . . thanks?”

  Brady steered me away. Then he got right in my face. “Are you okay?”

  “I’m fine. It just stings.”

 
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