Hearts in Darkness

By: Laura Kaye

Chapter One

"Wait! Can you please hold that?"

Makenna James huffed her frustration at her crappy day as she jogged toward the waiting elevator. Her cell phone rang in her suit jacket pocket. She shifted her bags over her right shoulder to pull it out. The bleating ring tone was as annoying as an alarm clock in the morning, but it was probably just that the damn thing hadn't stopped ringing all afternoon.

She glanced up just long enough to glimpse a big tattooed hand holding the elevator door open as she finally freed the small black phone. She spun it around in her hand to answer it and fumbled, sending it crashing and skidding along the dull marble floor.

"Shit!” she muttered, already fantasizing about the bottle of wine she was going to demolish once she got home to bring a quick and mellow end to her day. At least the phone skittered toward the still-waiting elevator. God bless the patience of the Good Samaritan holding it.

Makenna bent down to retrieve the phone, then stumbled into the elevator. Her long hair swung into her face, but she didn't have a free hand to push it back.

"Thanks,” she mumbled to the Good Samaritan as her laptop strap fell off her shoulder, bringing her purse with it to the floor. The elevator beeped its impatience even as the man removed his hand and the doors eased shut.

"No problem,” came a deep voice from behind her. “What floor?"

"Oh, um, lobby, please."

Distracted by her purse and the day in general, Makenna hiked her laptop strap higher on her shoulder, then reached down to grab her purse. She slung it over her arm once more and looked down at her phone to see whose call she'd missed. The LED screen was black.

"What the...?” She flipped the phone around and found a gaping rectangular hole where the battery should be. “That's just perfect."

There was no way Makenna could be without her phone. Not with her boss calling every five minutes to check on the progress of her work. That it was Friday night and the beginning of the weekend made little difference to him toward the end of a project. She'd be glad when this contract was up.

With a sigh, she reached a tired hand over to the panel and jabbed at the button to return to the sixth floor. From the corner of her eye, she glimpsed just how tall her Good Samaritan was.

Then the elevator jolted to a stop and everything went pitch black.

Caden Grayson tried not to chuckle at the frazzled redhead careening toward the elevator. Why did women carry so many bags anyway? If it didn't fit in the pockets of his worn-soft jeans, he didn't carry it.

As the woman reached down to scoop up her phone—another thing Caden refused to carry unless he was on call—he found himself mesmerized by the way her hair tumbled over her shoulder in a long waterfall of soft, wavy red.

When the woman finally made it into the elevator, she murmured distractedly that she was going to the lobby too. He stepped back against the rear wall and bowed his head as he always did. He didn't really care if people stared at his piercings and ink, but that didn't mean he went out of his way to see their looks of disapproval or, worse, fear.

Caden shook his head in amusement as the woman continued to juggle her belongings and spat out a string of expletives under her breath. His day had been a complete pisser, so he was almost ready to join in with her—though his particular coping mechanism usually had him looking for the humor in a situation. And he found Red damn funny. He was grateful for the distraction.

Red reached in front of him to press a button. Caden almost laughed when she punched it at least five times. But the laughter died in his throat when he caught the scent of her shampoo. One of the things he loved about women: their hair always smelled like flowers. And that scent, combined with the redness and the softness and the waviness...Caden shoved his hands in his jeans pockets to keep from running his fingers through the thick mass of her hair. But, Christ, how he wanted to, just once.

And then Red disappeared, along with everything else, as the elevator jerked to a stop and the lights went out.

Caden gasped and stumbled back into the corner of the elevator. Clenching his eyes, he lowered his head into his hands and counted backward from ten, trying to remember his breathing techniques, trying to keep from flipping the fuck out.

The confined space of the elevator was one thing—years of therapy had gotten him past that. Mostly. But confined spaces with no lights? No way. The pounding of his heart and tightness in his chest told him that was a complete fucking deal breaker.

He was on five when he realized Red was making a noise. He managed to push through his fear enough to hear she was laughing. Hysterically.

Caden opened his eyes, though they were useless. But he could tell from Red's laughter she was still near the bank of call buttons. And, amazingly, the more he focused on her, the faster his panic receded—or, at least, it didn't worsen.

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