Leaning back against my chair, I closed my eyes. I was in desperate need of just a few moments to collect my thoughts. Josh’s smile filled my mind, and I knew I would spend my whole life missing it. I only hoped our child would be lucky enough to inherit his or her daddy’s smile.
The intercom interrupted my thoughts, and I sat up straight and tapped the Answer button. “Yes, Valerie?”
“Your ten o’clock is here,” she replied, and a surge of nervous energy filled my stomach.
“Great, please send him in,” I said before standing from my desk and walking around the side after taking a few seconds to smooth my skirt. The door opened, and I looked up at Valerie. Just over her shoulder was a tall man with dark hair.
I stepped forward and held out my hand in greeting. “Hello, my name is Gabriella Shannon.”
He smirked, and it sent chills along my neck and shoulders. He had the most piercing green eyes I had ever seen.
He entered the room and took my hand, then lifted it toward his lips. As he kissed it softly, his eyes remained locked on mine. “Very pleased to meet you, Gabriella.” His voice was rich and so smooth. “My name is Roman, but you can call me R.J. It is what my friends call me, and I have a feeling you and I will be great friends.”
“Well, R.J., it is always nice to make new friends. It should make this process easier.” I offered a forced smile, instantly regretting my choice to return. Maybe I wasn’t ready to be back. Being in the presence of an arrogant man generally gave me the urge to be just as arrogant. Except I’d lost my confidence. I think a part of me died the day Josh’s friends and partners in the FBI, Greyson and a man named Trevor, showed up at my apartment. I could instantly see the sadness in their eyes when they told me Josh had died. I could also see the dread in their eyes when they shared the news. They too had lost a man they loved.
I wanted proof, because I didn’t believe he was gone—it was too hard to imagine. I wanted to see for myself that he was no longer here, breathing and vibrant.
Cremated. It still pissed me off that those were Josh’s wishes.
I looked up to see R.J. eyeing me curiously, and I felt embarrassed for getting lost once again in my grief.
“Sorry, please forgive me. Today is my first day back after being gone for over two weeks.” I turned away quickly and attempted to gather my wits.
“Yes,” he said in that soothing voice of his. Something about it made me a little uneasy. “Margo did mention you lost someone close to you recently.”
I closed my eyes tightly and took a second to breathe in, then nodded as I turned and allowed my eyes to meet his. “Yes, I did. Someone that meant more than words could ever describe.”
“I’m deeply sorry for your loss. Times like these are never easy. If you need more time, I understand. We could meet again in a week or longer if needed,” he offered with a smile.
“No,” I said more abruptly than I had intended. “I’m sorry, it’s just that I need this. I need the push to get back to life. It’s not going to be any easier if I do this today, or if I wait until next week. I’ll still miss him then.” I paused, attempting to calm my emotions. “I know I’ll always miss him.” I rested my hand over my lower stomach as my lip quivered. I was sure the desk hid my movements, but when his gaze shifted downward and his eyes widened slightly, I realized he had seen my gesture.
With a light nod, he offered me a smile as he got more comfortable in his chair. “Okay, then, let’s find my new home.”
I was thankful he didn’t ask questions or attempt to keep me talking about the loss I was still hurting from. I needed a distraction, and apparently he noticed that too.