I nod and follow him to his sleek, black Mercedes, which he expertly drives down the narrow streets of the French Quarter. I can’t help but practically press my face to the window, trying to take in everything I see at once.
“It’s so beautiful,” I murmur.
“Have you been here before?”
“No. I can’t wait to walk around and soak it all in.”
He parks less than three minutes after we set off, and kills the engine. “We’re here.”
“I told you, it’s not far.”
“I could have walked that, even with the heat.”
“It’s not necessary to make you uncomfortable,” he replies simply and climbs out of the car, gathers my bag, and with his hand on the small of my back, leads me up to a loft that sits above an herb shop called Bayou Botanicals. I can smell sage and lavender as Eli unlocks the front door and ushers me inside, where I stop on a dime and take in the beautiful.
The outside of the building is well kept and beautiful with worn red bricks and green iron railings, but the inside is brand new and simply opulent.
“I’m staying here?”
“That you are,” he confirms, his accent sliding along my skin like honey. “You’ll consider this your home while you’re with us. Here are your keys.” He passes the keys to me, then turns his back and leads me to the kitchen, which boasts brand new appliances, dark oak cabinets, and matching granite countertops. “The bedroom is through there,” he continues, and leads me into a beautiful room with a four-poster bed. “The linens are clean and fresh. The bathroom is there.” He points to the left, but my eyes are stuck on the doors that lead out to the balcony, which offers a beautiful view of the street below and Jackson Square just a block away.
“There are times that it gets noisy with music and people, but there’s never a dull moment in the French Quarter.”
I nod and turn back to him. “Thank you. Shall we go back to the office?”
“It’s mid-afternoon, Kate. Take the rest of the day to settle in.”
“Oh, but, I’m here to work. Surely, I could—”
“It would look odd to bring on a new hire in the middle of the day, don’t you think?”
Of course it would.
I smile sheepishly and nod. “You’re right. I’ll work from here.” I toss my jacket onto the bed, pull my laptop out of my briefcase, and walk briskly into the kitchen. “It’s going to be a process.”
“Kate, I don’t want—”
“I’m not going to be able to just dig in and start investigating. Van’s right to give me an assistant position, but that’s going to be even tougher.” I tie my hair back off my face and lower into a kitchen chair as I talk briskly. If I talk about work, I won’t be ogling him, and thus losing more brain cells.
“I’m going to have to play by the rules for a while, a couple weeks at least. I need people to trust me, so they’ll open up to me.”
“Enough,” he says sharply.
My head whips up to stare at Eli. He shoves his hands in his pockets and swears under his breath as he hangs his head then glances back up at me, looking at me like he doesn’t really want to be here, and he’s not quite sure if he likes me.
“You don’t have to stay,” I inform him stiffly.
“I don’t expect you to work today at all, from here or the office.”
“Why ever not?” I lean back in the chair and frown up at him. “You’re paying me to work.”
“You’ve travelled all morning, Kate. Settle in. Eat something. In fact, let me take you out to eat something.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“I do.” He removes his suit jacket after taking his sunglasses out of the inside pocket and drapes it over the back of the sofa. He rolls the sleeves of the white shirt that molds over his muscled torso all the way up to his elbows, unbuttons the top two buttons, and removes his soft blue tie. “That’s better. Go change into something more comfortable, and I’ll feed you the best jambalaya you’ve ever had.”
“I’ve never had jambalaya before,” I reply with a raspy voice. I can’t tear my eyes off his broad shoulders.
“This will ruin you for all other jambalaya; I promise you.”
I frown and meet his gaze, trying to figure him out. “Are you sure?”
He nods and waits expectantly. I have a feeling not many people say no to Eli Boudreaux.
“I’m not going to sleep with you.” The words are out of my mouth before I can reel them back in. I feel my face flame, but I tilt my chin up and square my shoulders firmly.
“I didn’t invite you to,” he replies calmly, but his eyes are full of humor.
I nod and walk back to the bedroom to change into a light summer dress, slather on sunblock with SPF 4000 to protect my white, freckled skin, and then rejoin Eli, who is now looking out my windows.
“You’re always looking out windows,” I remark with a smile. He turns to me and his eyes heat as he looks me up and down, and I suddenly feel very exposed.
“You’ll burn, cher.”
“I’m wearing sunblock.”
“Do you always argue?” he asks.
“I don’t argue.”
He holds my gaze for a moment and then tosses his head back and laughs, shakes his head, and leads me out into the hot afternoon.
“Let’s go this way first.” He turns to the left and rests his hand on the small of my back again, ever the gentleman, walking me down Royal Street. If you’d asked me yesterday if I thought I’d be walking in the French Quarter with the sexiest man I’d ever seen by my side, I would have told you to consult a doctor.
And Eli Boudreaux is sexy. But he’s not mine, and he never will be. He’s my boss, and he’s being kind.
I take a deep breath, determined to pull my head out of the gutter and enjoy New Orleans, when Eli pulls me into a trendy shoe and accessory shop called Head Over Heels.
“Shoes!” I exclaim, already salivating. Okay, so the man is showing me shoes. I might sleep with him after all.
“Hats,” he corrects me.
“Holy crap, what are you doing here?” A woman with short, dark hair and full lips smiles from behind the counter.
“Kate needs a hat,” Eli replies and grins as his sister launches herself into his arms and holds on tight.