- Legal Ease
- Penalty Clause
- The Baker's Bodyguard
- Negotiation Tactics
- The Billionaire's Suite Dreams
- The Baker, The Bodyguard, and the Wedding Bell Blues
- Her SEALed Fate
- Cut and Run
- Cut to the Chase
- Sutton Capital Series Box Set: Books 1-4
- Sutton Capital Series Box Set: Books 5-7
- Sutton Capital Series Box Set: Books 1-7
He thought he left the battlefield behind.
Logan Stone should be happy. More than happy, in fact. He’s Sutton Capital’s newest executive, working side-by-side with Samantha Page, the sexy, brilliant woman of his dreams. He’s no longer overseas in the line of fire fighting for his country and his brothers-in-arms as a Navy SEAL. But Logan is fighting a different kind of battle; one no one realizes he’s in. While he’s focused on managing his PTSD, something much more sinister enters his world and he must battle to save Samantha’s life and their growing love.
With all the heart stopping action and heartwarming romance NY Times bestselling author Lori Ryan has come to be known for, this stand-alone installment to the Sutton Capital Series won’t disappoint romantic suspense readers and fans!
Her SEALed Fate is book seven in the Sutton Capital Series, but it can be read as a stand alone novel.
Logan Stone looked up when his boss, as of three hours ago, approached his office. He’d been in the office since five that morning but the time had gone by quickly with no distractions around to interrupt him.
He watched as Jack Sutton, CEO of Sutton Capital, entered the moderately-sized office with a large window on one wall, and sat in the chair across from Logan. He’d known Jack for a few months and respected the man as both the head of the company, and as a person. Zach Harris, Logan’s best friend and Jack’s brother-in-law, was responsible for introducing the two men. And Logan suspected Zach might be responsible for Jack giving him this job. A fact that grated on his nerves on a daily basis, but he needed the job. He wasn’t exactly in a position to turn it down.READ MORE
“Security told me you’ve been in the building since five. I gotta tell you, I do like hard workers, but you really don’t need to be here that early.” Jack’s smile was easy and his posture loose as he crossed one ankle over a knee. Logan wished he felt the same way—edgy didn’t even begin to describe what he was feeling.
Despite his mood, he grinned and shrugged, throwing a mask over his features. From what he’d heard, there was a time when Jack Sutton would have demanded his employees showed up earlier than the competition, and left later. Apparently, being a husband and father had changed that in the last few years. Sutton Capital had been changing to a family-oriented company that prized relationships and quality of life as much as it valued dollars and cents. It still held a powerful position in the industry, but the environment of the company had changed dramatically in recent years.
“Wanted to get a jump on things.” What the hell else could he say? How could he tell Jack he’d made the twenty-minute drive to work at five in the morning because he wasn’t yet able to drive in traffic? Because he needed the ability to run a red light when the panic set in? Because, most days, he had to roll through a stop sign?
Jack nodded as though he accepted the excuse and placed a stack of files on Logan’s desk.
“These are the files I told you about. If you can go over them this morning, I’ll tell Samantha to get with you this afternoon. You can run through your thoughts and get her perspective on things. She’s familiar with all of the companies we’re thinking of acquiring. She can often spot things I can’t, so it’s useful to touch base with her before we make any decisions.”
Samantha Page. The woman had grabbed his attention at Zach’s wedding three months ago. She was good friends with Zach’s new bride, Jesse, as well as many of the other attendees at the wedding. Although he didn’t talk to her directly the weekend of the destination wedding, he’d sure as hell noticed her. And damned if she hadn’t been sauntering through his dreams every night since then. In fact, he owed her a debt there. The one thing that had eased in the last three months since he’d medically retired from the military were his nightmares. He still had to deal with his memories when he was awake, but they didn’t seem to come pounding on his door as often at night anymore. Sam had that distinction now.
Logan shoved aside thoughts of Sam and that long black hair and the soft curves of her body that plagued his dreams, and nodded. He pulled the files closer to him and scanned the names of the companies neatly typed on the edge of each one.
Jack had mentioned each of them in their prior talks and Logan already had a list of follow-up questions for Sam. Logan would be teaming up with three men and one woman who, like him, were new to Sutton Capital. Samantha Page had been with Sutton Capital for years. She would be his liaison to the rest of Sutton. She was set up to help get him and his team settled into the company and help them get up to speed on the companies Sutton Capital was interested in backing financially.
Logan’s new team all had medical, science, or technology backgrounds—some earned in the military like him, one in a research firm he’d helped to found, and another as a physician. He was glad Sam would be teaming up with him to lead the new team. From what he knew of her, she was a computer genius. She could hack just about anything you threw at her and had a deeper than average knowledge base of a hell of a lot of other topics as well. From what he’d heard from Zach, she was the kind of person who read physics textbooks for giggles as a kid.
Sam’s looks reminded him of one of those woman you might see painted on a plane in World War II. Back when women were real, with curves and full lips and a body a man could lose himself in. Not one of those damned french fry stick figures most women aspired to nowadays. Sam had curves and substance to her. Logan wouldn’t feel like he might break her if he grabbed hold of her or tucked her up under him—
“Yeah?” The look on Jack’s face told Logan his boss had been trying to get his attention without success.
“So, you’re good to get with Sam at two?”
Get with Sam? Crap. Get it together, sailor.
“Sure.” Logan picked up a pencil and jotted the notation on his desk planner. He was still old school in that respect, which some considered odd given his technology background. He liked a paper desk blotter with the calendar printed on it, and he still used the plain old yellow No. 2 pencils he’d learned to write with in elementary school. Something about the graphite scratching across the paper settled him. People asked him how he could schedule appointments when he was away from his desk, but in reality, he didn’t need to be near it. He could see the entire calendar in his head at any given moment. If he scheduled something while he wasn’t in reach of the blotter, he simply wrote the notation in his head, imagining the feel and sound of the pencil as it left its markings on the page. That action alone was enough to embed the date and time so he could fill it in on the paper later.
Logan stood, needing to stretch his legs and move for a few minutes. “I’ll walk with you,” he said as Jack turned to leave. “I could use another cup of coffee.”
In reality nothing could be further from the truth. His blood pressure was, most likely, already pounding hot and heavy enough to meet the circulatory needs of a gorilla, but it was one more way to cover what was happening with his broken-ass body. The ache in his left hip and thigh got to be too great if he sat still for too long. Broken body and broken mind. Two things he didn’t want to share with anyone.
Samantha Page sipped the latte her friend had handed her and then smiled. She and Jennie Thompson stood shoulder to shoulder outside her office on the twenty-sixth floor of Sutton’s office building. Her office was one of the twenty that ringed the outer edge of the room. The inner area of the large room was filled with cubicles and desks.
“No, I’m serious,” she said eyeing Jennie, who was still laughing too hard to talk. “It’s definitely time for a divorce. I’m just going to miss the ice cream.”
Sam probably should have left out the ice cream bit. Jennie only laughed harder at that and it was clear she had more questions. Sam waited patiently while Jennie recovered. She was used to people laughing at her, and to be truthful, with Jennie it always felt more like the old saying: Jennie was laughing with Sam, not at her. Sam could handle being laughed at, though. Even by her friends. It happened. It didn’t bother her anymore.
“What does divorcing your gym have to do with ice cream?” Jennie finally asked, using her fingertips to sweep an errant tear from under her eye.
Samantha shrugged a shoulder and grinned, knowing her workout routine wasn’t exactly what most fitness gurus would recommend. In fact, even assigning the word “workout” to it was a bit of a stretch. Or fitness. Or routine, for that matter, since she didn’t exactly go on a regular basis.
“If I finish whatever class I signed up for, I reward myself with an ice cream cone from the place next to the gym. If I started working out at home instead of the gym, I’d have to drive to get my ice cream cone and that just changes the whole thing. It’s not as fun.”
“And, tell me again why you have to divorce your gym?” Jennie emphasized the divorce part of the question, as if to stress how unusual it was to talk about divorcing a fitness center. Yeah, okay, so maybe that had been the wrong choice of words.
“It’s got bad juju,” Sam explained. “It’s cursed. You can’t deny the evidence. First, my wallet was stolen in the locker room the one time I forgot to bring my lock, then I ended up with a flat tire a week later, and yesterday my car was sideswiped in the parking lot. They don’t have cameras in the lot, so I’m screwed. I just have to pay for the repairs or make a claim on my insurance and pay the deductible, and even with repairs she’ll never be the same.”
Jennie nodded and sipped her drink. Everyone knew Sam’s Jaguar was her baby. She didn’t splurge on things often, but that car had been her one great splurge and she babied it. Coming out and seeing the scrapes and dents all along one side of Dahlia had made Sam want to cry. Or hit something. Or throw things. She’d actually done all of those things. And, stomped her feet.
“That is some bad juju. Maybe you could join another gym. Mine doesn’t have an ice cream shop nearby, but there’s a donut place.”
“Ooooooo. Donuts could work.” Her grin was wide, but she was immediately distracted as the reason for her and Jennie’s early arrival in the office walked through the door. Three men and one woman followed the office’s human resources director into the room, looking around at the large area, split into cubicles.
Sweet baby elephant in tap shoes and a tutu.
The men looked like they belonged in a magazine or on the pages of a calendar. One of those calendars. And the woman looked to be five feet one or two inches of size-zero gorgeousness, designed to make other women feel inconsequential, at best.
“You have got to be freaking kidding me!” Samantha said, probably a little louder than she’d planned to. She heard Jennie sputter and cough over a mouthful of latte and had to admit to a bit of chagrin when Jennie turned amused eyes on her.
“What?” Sam said defensively. “You’re telling me you expected that for our new science and technology department? We should have gotten geeks and nerds, not underwear models and a woman who could easily pose for … for … for whatever the biggest fashion magazine is,” Sam said with a glance to her own outfit.
Sam would have no fashionable clothes if it weren’t for Jennie. Her friend had helped Sam trade in boxy business suits for cute skirts and blouses that accentuated Sam’s curves. It had taken some talking to get Sam to see, that when showcased properly, her curves were beautiful. She had her own unique style, as evidenced by the purple blouse and matching purple boots she wore today, but she wasn’t what one would consider a fashionista. Hence, her lack of knowledge about the titles of the latest and greatest fashion magazines.
Her friend shushed her and laughed as they watched the HR Director continue her tour, the underwear models in question following her as the group made their way across the room.
“I’m just not sure I understand your issue with it, Sam. If I was going to be in charge of getting those guys settled into the company, I’m pretty sure I’d be psyched, not complaining. I mean, if I didn’t have Chad, that is,” Jennie said with a sly grin.
Jennie was happily married to Chad Thompson, head of Sutton Capital’s security division and part owner in the company. Chad was also Jack’s cousin and best friends with Andrew Weston, Sutton’s Chief Financial Officer. Chad, incidentally, was model-worthy himself. It didn’t surprise Samantha that Jennie was married to such a good-looking man, since Jennie could also easily have landed the cover of Vogue or some swimsuit or underwear spread.
Samantha, on the other hand, was a normal person. She was one of those “average” females you heard about, who wore more than thimble-sized clothing and who stood taller than the average woman at five foot eleven. Oh, Jennie told her differently. Jennie said she was voluptuous and sexy, and Sam saw that to some extent. But she also faced reality. If she were a model, she’d be showing off sweatshirts and galoshes, not underwear.
“Why am I not happy about this?” She gestured to the men who stood in a loose circle across the room, each with the kind of easy confidence born of above-average looks and a physical fitness level that can only come from years of honing and driven attention to exercise. “Because we need some normal people around here.”
The women were joined by another coworker on Sam’s side as she finished her sentence.
“Damn right we do,” Tanya, the newcomer, said with a nod. Tanya worked in the finance department of Sutton and often had lunch with Jennie and Samantha.
“See, she gets it,” Samantha said to Jennie, as she bumped her hip in solidarity against Tanya’s, earning a smile from the other woman. “We’re surrounded by above-average overachievers who look like they were crafted in the Ken and Barbie doll factory instead of a womb. We need average guys around here for those of us that weren’t graced with those kind of genes,” Sam said, casting a glance at Jennie. “No offense.”
“Um, none taken. I think,” Jennie answered with a huff of a laugh. “So you were hoping for ugly?”
“Not ugly. Just . . . normal. They’re science geeks. I mean, come on. These people are supposed to be walking computers on everything from nanotech and biochemistry, to immunotherapy and whatever the hell else they do. They should, at the very least, be a little pale from being indoors too long, not tanned and glowing and all . . . all . . .”
“Godlike,” Tanya finished for Sam.
“Yeah.” Sam nodded. “Godlike. You’d think Jack would have given the teeniest bit of consideration to us mere mortals when he hired them. It’s just selfish, is what it is. Selfish and inconsiderate. Just because Jack’s all walking, talking sex-on-a-stick doesn’t mean he shouldn’t think of the rest of us once in a while. The guy could at least throw us a bone for once. Is that too much to ask?”
Sam looked at Tanya and grinned, expecting to find her co-worker grinning back. Instead, Tanya looked past Sam and Jennie, her face a pale, pasty color—somewhat like the flour-and-water glue Samantha’s mother used to make for her dioramas. In fact, she looked a bit like she might be sick. Sam turned her head slowly, flinching the second she caught sight of her boss. The sex-on-a-stick man in the flesh. Jack Sutton stood in the doorway of the office next to hers, another man next to him, both wearing expressions that clearly told her they’d heard every word she’d said.
Jennie only laughed, but given who her husband was, she could do that. Sam heard Tanya squeak and mumble something about paperwork piling up. Sam knew if she turned, she’d see Tanya slinking back to her cubicle, where she’d no doubt crawl under her desk and hide. But she didn’t turn to check on Tanya. She was rooted to the spot, trying to figure out how to get her foot to either come back up her throat or go down smoothly. Her size nine, chunky-heeled, purple boot that she thought had looked so cute this morning was going nowhere. It was firmly lodged in her throat as a weird, choked sound eked out past it.
Before she could come up with words to try to cover her mortification, Jack grinned and gracefully let her off the hook.
“Jennie, Sam, have you met Logan Stone?”
Sigh. Had she met Logan Stone? No. She hadn’t met him. She’d seen him, though. And drooled over him from across the room at her friend’s wedding three months ago. And she’d dreamed about him. She’d lusted after his dark eyes and the five o’clock shadow that graced a chiseled jaw and outlined a mouth she wanted to bite. Hair so dark it was almost black. Thick hair she wanted to pull as he, um … so, yes, she’d dreamed about him. Hot, sweaty dreams that she’d prayed never to wake up from. In her dreams, they’d done a lot more than meet, going well past “hello, how are you” to “let me stick my tongue down your throat while we get started on our first born child.”
Somewhere in the back of Sam’s mind, she knew running her gaze up and down the man’s body was rude, but who could stop themselves? He stood there all dark and scruffy in dark slacks and a charcoal sweater that hugged his biceps and chest. He looked photo shoot ready, and Sam had a hard time not being grateful that he wasn’t covering himself up with a suit jacket. She guessed going from BDUs and a flak jacket, or whatever it was SEALs wore, to a business suit was too much. She liked his choice of compromise just fine. She wondered briefly if spinning her finger in the air to indicate he should turn so she could see his backside would be too much. Yeah. Probably. But maybe?
“Hi, Logan. It’s so good to see you again,” Jennie said smoothly, next to Samantha, putting her hand out to shake the man’s. Samantha continued to stare.
Close your mouth.
Well, at least the voice in her head hadn’t been struck dumb. That was always a positive.
On the negative side of the scale was the fact that Logan Stone had just heard her tirade against her boss’s taste in men.
“And, this is Samantha Page,” Jack said, gesturing to Sam as she forced her mouth to close. “She was going to be showing you guys the ropes and getting you settled in, but I think she’s got some complaints to lodge with HR over your qualifications,” Jack quipped and Sam found her mouth falling open once again. He was joking about this? She’d called him sex-on-a-stick and he was joking?
Samantha closed her mouth and cleared her throat. “I’m good, Jack. No complaints here. I’ll just, um, I’ll get, um ….” Oh, my hell. Stop babbling and say something—anything—moderately intelligible. Or burst into flames. Developing the ability to go up in flames right now would be handy.
“Hi,” the man of her dreams intoned, his deep voice washing over every atom of her body, stroking her in a way she’d felt only while sleeping before this. “It’s nice to meet you, Samantha.” He had said the words, but kept his hands shoved in his pockets.
And, with that, in front of Jennie, her boss, and the man whose kids she hoped to have one day, Samantha Page opened her mouth and said, “Gah.” Or something like that.
Logan knocked on the jamb of the open door to Sam’s office. He’d spent the rest of the morning in meetings with his new team and Jack. They’d prioritized the research projects Jack wanted everyone working on and the acquisitions Logan would be looking into in the coming months.
“Hey, Sam.” Logan watched as Sam’s head shot up, her attention ripped from her computer, which apparently held something enthralling. So enthralling, she hadn’t noticed he’d been watching her for the past few minutes. The woman intrigued the crap out of him. Unfortunately.
She had a habit of rubbing the tip of her nose with her index finger as she focused, then tapping it whenever she smiled as though she’d had a breakthrough or some big “aha!” moment. Logan blinked his eyes purposely, a trick he’d used during his years in special ops when he needed to clear his mind and refocus. Like the click of an old slide show projector, Logan moved to the next frame in his mind. He focused solely on Samantha as a co-worker, not as an erotically tantalizing woman with a kick-ass body he’d love to get his hands on. It was an exercise he’d need to get used to doing again, if they were going to work together.
He had no business getting involved with anyone with the state his head was in. He needed to focus on planting one foot in front of the other, right now. On just making sure he made it through the day without losing the shit that seemed to be swimming around in his head for brains nowadays. There wasn’t time for anything other than that, and sure as hell not with a woman like Sam.
“Jack told me to come see you at two. He said you’ve done some of the preliminary work for us on a few of the companies he wants to look into,” Logan said, a little intrigued with the way she openly ogled him from head to toe. She didn’t even seem to realize she was doing it. It was almost comical how blatantly she allowed her eyes to skim him from head to toe. If it wasn’t so comical, he might be tempted to squirm under the scrutiny, but nothing about her gaze made him uneasy.
“Sam?” he prompted when she still hadn’t answered him.
“Hmmm? Oh! Lunch.”
“What?” He didn’t know what she meant. He hadn’t mentioned lunch and it was already two o’clock.
Her eyes cut to the small clock that sat on the corner of her desk and he heard her murmur quietly about it being lunchtime already. He wondered how often she got so caught up in her work she didn’t realize it was time to eat. And how often she talked to herself, even when there was someone else in the room.
“Uh,” she said almost distractedly as she leaned over and used her mouse to save something on the screen before locking the computer. “I need to go eat lunch. Come with me and we’ll talk while we eat?” She picked up her purse and faced him.
“Uh.” Real suave, idiot. How to explain that he had brought lunch so he wouldn’t have to leave the building? “I, uh already ate.”
“No biggie,” she said, seemingly unfazed. “You can have dessert.” She walked to the office door as though she expected him to follow her, and follow he did. Like a freaking puppy. What the hell was wrong with him?
As they stood by the elevator, Sam cocked her head to one side, her expression thoughtful. As he waited to see what she’d do, trying to decipher the maddening scent that had to be a pheromone of some sort, he noted she was even taller than he’d thought. She must be close to six feet tall, coming so close to his own six feet two inches in those boots, he wouldn’t even have to duck his head to close the space between them and taste those full lips of hers. He imagined they’d taste like cherries or strawberries, but that was probably only because of the berry red lipstick she wore.
He didn’t expect it at all when Samantha reached a hand out and squeezed his bicep. Her hand felt too damned good over the cotton of his shirt. She ran her hand up to his shoulder, her fingertips grazing lightly over his collarbone. Hell, if that didn’t send a message straight to his groin. The expression on her face was almost analytical in its intensity. Her touch was clinical, but his body didn’t seem to give a damn.
Great. A hard-on at the office on his first day. What a proud moment.
“Hmm. It really is just like a romance novel.” She left the odd statement out there and turned to enter the opening elevator doors, as though she hadn’t just felt him up. Logan was left with a grin on his face and another laugh he hadn’t expected bubbling up in his chest. Luckily, the strange way her mind worked intrigued him enough that his dick started to settle down in his pants and he was able to follow her.
Catching up, he let one hand fall to her elbow for no other reason than he wanted more contact with her. He leaned in close. “What’s like a romance novel?”
Samantha froze and turned round eyes on him. “Damn, I said that out loud? Have to stop doing that,” she seemed to admonish herself, stabbing the button marked L for Lobby in brass letters.
“Did I—” she cut herself off as she glanced at his shoulders.
He laughed. “Feel me up? Yes. That wasn’t happening in your head, either.”
Logan pushed his back against the back wall and turned to face the double doors. Standing shoulder to shoulder, she turned to him with one of the most earnest expressions he’d ever seen.
“I apologize. I don’t have an internal filter. I’m the only one in my family who was born without one. It used to embarrass the heck out of my sisters. I always said the wrong thing in front of their boyfriends. I never fit in at school. I would have been a total pariah if it weren’t for my sisters and brothers paving the way for me.” Samantha sighed and he bit back a grin. “Anyway, I just never managed to grow a filter so you’ll have to excuse my random babbling from time to time.”
Logan felt the corners of his mouth twitch as he nodded. “Got it. No problem. Ignore random babbling.” The hell he would. He loved the random things she said. They were funny, and when she combined them with actually reaching out and feeling him up? He could get on board with that in a heartbeat.
Logan held the elevator door open when they landed in the lobby. The crowd of people moving in and out of the four units that made up the elevator bank of the large building kicked an unwelcome agitation into high gear. He gritted his teeth as they moved through the crowd and tried to get Samantha to begin babbling again.
“So how many sisters and brothers do you have?”
“Three older sisters and two older brothers.” Her smile was wide as she answered.
“The baby then, huh?”
“Yup. And, they never let me forget it.”
Logan paused when they hit the sidewalk and looked in both directions. To an outsider, he probably looked undecided about where to go. He stretched his neck, tilting his head from side to side, attempting to relieve the strain tightening his muscles. The back of his neck always seemed to feel like it was filled with chunks of calcite grating into each other. Always grating and grinding, setting his teeth on edge.
“What’s good around here?” Logan turned to Sam as he spoke and noticed her studying him.
Sam nodded to a place across the street to the right. “I usually go to the bagel place. They have sandwiches and great coffee and they also serve breakfast all day if you want it. Or there’s a Mexican place farther up the street. When it gets warmer out, make sure you try the Thai cart that parks across the street. They have really fantastic Pad Thai, but they won’t show up for another few weeks.”
Logan nodded. “Bagels work.” They stood side by side near the crosswalk, waiting for the light to change. Logan edged his way to the back of the small group of people waiting there and let his eyes roam. A crushed soda can lay in the gutter only feet from them. A parked car sat three yards down. A van idled beside it, double parked with no driver in sight. Logan took another step backward and shot a glance to the light. Still no sign of the little lighted man that would tell them to cross. His fists clenched and unclenched and he realized he had fallen into the patterned combat breathing that had become a way of life out on an op.
Lost in the moment, he was shocked when Sam put her hand in his. She pulled him several yards back, toward the edge of the building, away from the crowd and the cars.
“I prefer to wait in the shade,” she said simply, letting go of his hand and turning to watch the light at the corner. She studiously avoided his gaze.
Shade, my ass. It was in the forties and, if not cloudy, certainly not sunny by any means. Although he hated that she might have noticed his tension, he felt the tightness in his chest ease. It was a little thing, waiting that short distance away, but having his back to the building and just a bit of space gave him back the ability to breathe. He was able to think clearly and rationally instead of listening to the screeching alarm bells in his head. And, he had a feeling she knew exactly what she was doing, but wasn’t going to make a big deal of it.
Logan glanced down at her again as the light changed and they took off toward the bagel place, crossing the street just a little behind the crowd. They were quiet while ordering their food at the walk-up counter, but Logan picked up the subject of family again when they found seats near the back of the restaurant. Sam had nodded and followed him when he pointed to the booth against the wall.
“So, is your family nearby?” he asked Sam. The restaurant was on a corner, with two entrances, one on either of the facing streets. He popped the top on his bottled iced tea and took a large gulp, letting his gaze take in the people surrounding them. A family with two young kids at the table next to them; four men in suits on the other side; a few tables with only one person, all looking like they came from the surrounding office buildings. Two police officers in uniforms in the far corner. From his position, Logan could watch the two doors, but he wasn’t so close to either entrance that people caught him off guard when opening the door. As Samantha began to talk, he found the churning in his gut slowing. He could almost pretend he was normal in her presence. She sure as hell did a good job of acting like he was, even though he was pretty sure nothing was getting by her.
Sam nodded. “My parents are in Massachusetts, an easy drive on the weekends, and most of my siblings are spread out in this area. Two in New York City, another in New Jersey, and two in Philly.”
“So you guys are all close?”
She gave a funny tilt of her head back and forth and a little shrug of a shoulder. “As close as one can be to a family of jocks and prom queens when you skipped three grades and were more focused on writing code than you were on fitting in.”
Logan raised an eyebrow. “You hardly seem like a black sheep.”
She shrugged a shoulder again, mumbled something about not quite fitting the mold and quickly changed the subject. He let her.
“What about you? Do you have family nearby?”
Logan shook his head no. “Only my dad and he’s up in New Hampshire.”
“No sisters and brothers?”
There was an uncomfortable lull and he felt like a jackass for being so short. Family wasn’t something he had fond memories of. His dad was an alcoholic who had served as little more than an embarrassment to Logan growing up. He didn’t have a relationship. After Logan’s mother had died when he was seven, he’d essentially raised himself.
Logan had been a bit of an outcast in school as well. He was more into computers and books than a lot of the kids in his school, and he’d been scrawny growing up. When he’d started getting his ass kicked on the playground every day, he’d signed himself up for karate lessons. And that was how he and Zach had met and become best friends. Zach was a brother to him now. They’d taken care of each other. Still did.
Sam cut into his thoughts, and into the stiff silence. “So, Jack has you looking at Kleintech? Is he thinking of pulling the plug on their funding?”
“Maybe not pulling it altogether, but at least sending some of us in to oversee things for a while. It looks like Arty Klein is a brilliant scientist, but not exactly a crack businessman. Jack is pretty sure if we straighten things out on the business side of things, the technology is still worth the investment. I’m planning to send Jaxon down there next week so he can go over the books and see what we can do to streamline things.”
“Jaxon Cutter.” She looked like she was running through a computer in her head, and from what he’d heard about Sam from Jack and Zach, that made sense. If what they’d told him was true, Sam was easily the smartest woman he’d ever met and he’d worked with some crazy intelligent women in the military. Sam could hack just about any program and he wouldn’t be surprised to hear she had an eidetic memory.
She began to spout off what sounded like a summary of Jaxon’s military service record. “Honorable discharge two years ago, Navy Corpsman to the Marines, a couple of bullets took his spleen, a piece of one lung, and his left leg below the knee. A lot of his record was redacted. I thought about hacking it, but Jennie has told me I shouldn’t dig into the personal lives of people I know. Apparently, it’s rude.”
Logan found himself squirming now, realizing Sam had probably read about each of his injuries as well. She might even be aware of the struggle he had even walking some days, after having taken a hell of a lot of shrapnel to his thigh and hip. Luckily, their food arrived and he was given a reprieve. He dug into the chips that filled one half of the green basket set in front of him. Logan steered the conversation back to work for the rest of the half hour and was treated to several more of Samantha’s “unfiltered” thoughts, including her musings as to whether Jack would be firing her after overhearing her rant that morning.
Logan had to grin at that. He’d heard stories about Sam from Zach long before he’d seen her at the wedding. Maybe that was why she’d fascinated him so completely right off the bat? Because she’d been built up in his mind over the years. Sam had been instrumental in rescuing Jack’s wife, Kelly, from human traffickers intent on auctioning her off. Logan was fairly sure that involvement meant no one at Sutton had the authority to fire Sam. Not even Jack Sutton himself.
Logan was quiet as he watched her eat the apple pie she’d ordered with her sandwich. He hadn’t taken her advice of having dessert, opting to have a second lunch instead. She had been right about the sandwiches. The place was good. But watching her eat the gooey confection in front of her made him want dessert. Or her. One or the other. Or both. One on top of the other.
He cleared his throat, searching for some topic to clear his head. “Corpsmen are some serious shit. After everyone else is sitting down catching some Zs or eating, they’re still going around checking everyone, patching shit up. They’ve got stamina like you wouldn’t believe. Guts to match.” He’d known some amazing Corpsmen during his time overseas. Respected the hell out of all of them.
Sam nodded, her brows knit together. “It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be in a war zone, having never gone through it, you know?”
They were quiet again, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Just thoughtful.
“How did you know what to do back there? When you pulled me away from the crosswalk?”
Logan didn’t know where the question had come from. The nagging sense that she’d known exactly what he was struggling with while waiting for the light hadn’t left him since they’d sat down. He didn’t know how he felt about it. In some ways, he was grateful she’d snapped him out of his own head. In other ways, it disturbed the hell out of him that she’d seen through him so quickly. He’d thought he was doing a better job of hiding things. And, the thought that others might catch on set his neck muscles to gnashing again.
“Um …” Samantha squirmed in her seat.
He couldn’t help but laugh. Why would she feel weird about it? He should be the one feeling uncomfortable in this conversation. And yet, here she was once again, setting him at ease with something he sure as hell shouldn’t be comfortable with.
“I don’t really do well in relationships. Oh, wait! I don’t mean that that way. I didn’t mean to say we’re in a relationship, because obviously we’re not.” As he watched, her face blushed a furious red and she began to wave her hands in front of her as though she were trying to erase what she’d just said. “I mean, we work together. Not that I wouldn’t want a relationship with you. You’re hot. I mean, really truly hot. So, don’t be offended. I just meant relationship in the sense that I don’t relate well to people all the time. Not relationship like dating. I mean people think I’m weird and they don’t always get me and I don’t always get people or, well …”
Logan took pity on her. “Sam.”
“Huh?” She looked up at him, doe eyes huge.
“Stop. I get it.”
“Oh. Okay.” She nodded and took a deep breath. “So anyway, I don’t always get relationships and people and stuff. So, when Jack said some of you had a military background, I figured I would research returning vets. I thought I could see what issues veterans deal with when they come back to the States. I found a lot of websites that talk about the kind of stuff you guys go through, so I could relate to what you were feeling. Only I don’t think I actually can. Not that I don’t want to, but I mean really, who can relate to a thing like war, unless you’ve lived in it? Right?”
Now, he did squirm.
“Oh! But, you don’t want to talk about that, right? Daisies.”
“Daisies. I just planted daisies in a pot in my window. I’m not sure if they’re going to grow or not. I think I got them in early enough, but I’m not really great with plants. I mean, I get all the theory of them. I can look up all the information and follow the directions, but I don’t always seem to be able to apply all the information and get results, you know?”
Logan nodded as he realized she was changing the subject and letting him off the hook. The result was a little mind-spinning as she launched into a lecture of the dos and don’ts of growing daisies in a pot, in the window. He had to admit, it helped. And, he couldn’t help but wonder at her assessment that she sucked at relationships and reading people. She seemed to be damned good at knowing exactly when he needed her to move on, and she did it. No questions asked. She might move on to some strange topic, like the care and growth of daisies, but she did it. He had a feeling she was a lot better with people than she realized.COLLAPSE