She'd met him almost a decade ago, when she'd married his wealthy boss, international jeweler and investor Hardeep Arora. Hardeep had kept a whole security team on their toes, and Jas had been in charge of it.
He'd been in her life for so long; she'd always been objectively aware of his beauty. She'd only recently started taking it personally, tracing his bold features repeatedly with her gaze. She'd become especially obsessed with his eyebrows. They were slashing and black and thick and prominent, and she didn't understand why her sexual awakening was tied to a man's eyebrows of all things, but here she was.
When she neared, he glanced up at her from behind the book he held, a thick biography, and as those black eyes pinned her she tripped on . . . well, she wasn't sure what she stumbled on. Air? Could one's feet fumble over the strong breeze from an AC vent?
With some fancy juggling she managed to salvage the coffee, though it sloshed over the sides of the mugs.
The plate, however, flew right off the tray. It could have crashed on the floor or clattered onto the table. But no.
It landed in his lap. Facedown.
Just a plate.
And a croissant.
Her smile gone, she groaned and set the tray down on the table. "Yikes, I'm so sorry." She reached for the plate, but caught herself. A few months ago, she would have cracked a joke and helped him clean up, but she couldn't possibly now. What if she, like, touched him? She'd die.
His reflexes were quick, and before she could act, he scooped the food and plate off his lap. "Don't worry about it."
Katrina grimaced. "I was going to ask if you wanted to stay awhile." There were few things in life that were certain: death, taxes, and Jasvinder Singh's sense of responsibility. He was her employee, so she could technically tell him that they would be staying, but their relationship had never worked like that.
The doors might remain locked for another twenty minutes, Mona and her the only ones in here, but Jas wouldn't leave her alone in public. Hell, it had taken all of Katrina's negotiating powers to get him to sit out here during her therapy session. He'd wanted to stand outside the office door, and had only acquiesced when she'd told him that would make her too self-conscious to talk.
He arched a perfect eyebrow at her. "We can stay."
"You'll probably want to go home and clean up."
Mona popped up, holding a small bowl of water and a towel, as well as a new croissant. "Here you go."
"I can clean up here." Jas accepted the items. "Gracias, Mona."
Mona said something to Jas, too fast for Katrina to catch. Her Spanish skills were limited, and Mona and Jas were definitely advanced-level. Jas's family was mostly Punjabi American, but he had a Mexican grandparent or great-grandparent, if she remembered correctly, and had grown up in a multilingual community where English, Punjabi, and Spanish were spoken fluently.
Jas chuckled at Mona's comment, but flushed. Without being asked, he translated once Mona winked at her and left. "She said it was a good thing it wasn't the coffee that landed in my lap."
Knowing Mona as she did, she assumed the woman had cracked a ribald joke. Katrina puffed out her cheeks. She'd have to download that language app again.
"See?" Jas blotted his thighs. "Good as new."
She'd take his word for it. There was no way she was going to inspect those finely clad appendages for leftover jam and butter. "Okay, sure." She picked up his mug and handed it to him. "Speaking of coffee, here you go."
"Thanks." Their fingers brushed as she passed the warm ceramic to him.
Katrina indicated a table across the café. "I'll be over there." It was common for them to sit separately. She liked the routine of the same spot, and he preferred to be able to see the whole room.
She stuck the hand he'd touched into her sweatshirt pocket as she walked away. Her fingers brushed the stone she always carried with her. She'd found it on a walk a few years ago and decided it was a perfect fidget stone, smooth and a good size for her small hand. She ran her thumb over the dip in it, the cool rock grounding her.
But it couldn't get rid of the tingles racing up her arm.
This excerpt ends on page 14 the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book Anyone But a Duke by Betina Krahn.