In the elevator, I tried my usual mantra. “You’ve got this, Gwen. You can make it the whole day and not think about him.”

It was a lie. I knew it, but it felt good to say it. It felt good to pretend that I was strong. The elevator dinged when I reached the 16th floor, and the doors slid open. I was already digging in my purse for the key to my office when I walked into a muscular back.

“Oh shit. I am so sorry. I—”

The words died on my tongue when the man I’d run into turned around slowly. I knew my senses must have been on the fritz because I couldn’t smell him and couldn’t feel anything. All synapses were focused on my visual cortex and the six-foot-three-inch man I saw in front of me. His thick, dark, curling hair. His bronze skin. Those wintergreen eyes that were equal parts intense and eerie. And his mouth that looked like it was carved for sin.

His name was a gasp on my lips before I could even register and process what my brain was seeing. “Atticus.”

I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I was rooted in space and time to that position on the floor until he spoke my name. 


The gravel in his voice did something to unfreeze me and jar my brain back online. Then all the sensations came online at once. The cacophony of sound. A printer somewhere in the distance. Something dripping from somewhere near my left, probably a coffee machine. My heartbeat. All of it.

All the lies I’d told myself and my sister about being fine, about being over it, about moving on. I could see the liar I’d made of myself. Every last memory and emotion came flooding back. From his scent, to the feel of his stubble against my skin when he kissed me, to the timbre of his voice. He still had this effect on me.

The sensory overload was a tsunami of emotions and overwhelmed me instantly. I did the only thing I could do in that moment. I followed my instinct for self-preservation and ran.

I knew trying to outrun him was a bad idea and wouldn’t get me very far. I knew that this was a nightmare come to life. And I also knew I couldn’t trust myself.

I ran blindly down the hall. The Pendragon Tech offices were set up as a large square maze with offices and cubicles lining the center and additional offices and conference rooms along the corners and the walls.

I had no idea where I thought I was going. Maybe I could find the stairwell. Maybe I could duck into an office and hide. Who the hell knew? I had just completely lost it at that point.

I chanced a look behind me and didn’t see him. Then I bolted through the cubicles, hung a sharp left to my office, and locked myself inside.

Really? Your office? As if he won’t think to look for you here.

It didn’t matter. I was just buying some time to think and figure out what the hell I was going to do. And all in all, it seemed like a half-decent hiding spot. That was until I heard the key card disengaging the lock.