Grounded (Up in the Air, #3)(3)

My brow furrowed as I saw the number 543 listed on the tag. I studied the rows of shoeboxes, my eyes eventually finding a matching number there. I sighed, my mouth twisting wryly, as I saw the system that had been set up. Jackie apparently didn’t trust me to pair my shoes and clothing without help.

Part of me wanted to ignore her not so subtle suggestions and just wear whatever I felt like wearing, but she was a professional shopper, and I barely ever shopped.

I decided gamely to give her recommendation a try. Why not? If I hated the shoes she’d picked, I’d just wear something else.

I opened the box to find a pair of yellow, Prada patent-leather wedges with a peep toe and a smart little leather bow. I thought they were adorable.

I put them on and found that Jackie knew her stuff. As a bonus, they were comfortable and easy to walk in.

I went a little heavy with my eye makeup, going for a smoky eye, but I thought it worked. I was liberal with the black mascara, and went with my usual lip stain and soft pink gloss. I was pleased with the end result. I had taken longer than usual with my makeup, but it had still only taken ten minutes, which gave me a solid ten minutes for my hair, which only needed a quick blow-dry. I gave myself a quick once over, noting that the haircut had been a very good idea for me. Straight blonde bangs now framed my face, bringing out my eyes until they were an almost startling, pale aquamarine.

I was running right on time when I heard a knock on the bedroom door. I opened the door, thinking that it had to be Marion. I was less than thrilled to look down at Jackie. She smiled at me.

She eyed me up and down, smiling as though she hadn’t already clearly expressed how much she disliked me. “Very nice. Armani fits you well. I’ll make a note of it.”

My face had schooled into a carefully blank expression at the sight of her. I just couldn’t make myself smile back at her, but I would manage to remain civil. “I’m in a hurry, if you’ll please excuse me…”

She held up a finger. “One thing. I set up your bag collection in the fitting room. James hates clutter and they take up a lot of room, so this seemed like the best option. Come right this way.”

She strode off without waiting for my agreement.

I followed unenthusiastically, determined to see what she was talking about and get on my way in a timely fashion.

She led me to the guest bedroom I had used just a few days ago to try on dresses. The large closet now had roughly half of it devoted solely to handbags.

I groaned.

Jackie shot me a look. It was very nearly hostile. “You don’t like bags?” she asked incredulously.

I grimaced. “I like some of them, but clutches are not happening for me. I can’t stand having to hold something all the time. I need something with a long strap.”

She made a noise of pure disgust, but didn’t waste any time selecting a bag for me. She thrust a large, cream-colored leather satchel-style bag in my direction.

“For the love of God, at least hook it on your arm. If I see you wearing it cross-body, I may just scream.”

I took the bag from her, gave her a very unfriendly look, and strode out of the room. I had to return to our bedroom briefly to put all of my things in the bag before rushing downstairs, now late.


Mr. Violent

I descended the stairs, rushing to the elevators. A security team awaited me at the elevators. A team…

I blinked at the three austere men in suits and the one woman who managed to be the most intimidating of the bunch.

Blake nodded at me, speaking first. “Ms. Karlsson, let me introduce you to the rest of your security detail.” She pointed to the man closest to her. He was massive with muscles and obviously armed under his finely tailored suit. His dark hair was cut very short and his features were severe but appealing. “This is Williams.”

“Ms. Karlsson,” he said, nodding at me politely.

I nodded back, trying to file the name into my memory. I was apparently going to need to learn a lot of them, with this much security.

The elevator car arrived and Blake waved me inside. I walked in, trying not to feel intimidated as the four of them flanked me.

Blake cleared her throat. “We need to hurry. Mr. Cavendish won’t be pleased if you’re late.” She quickly introduced the other two men.

One was shorter than the others, at least an inch shorter than me, if I wasn’t wearing three inch heels. He was still intimidatingly swollen with muscles though, and his short blond hair made him look unquestionably ex-military. Blake introduced him as Henry.

The last one was my height almost exactly in my heels, with medium brown hair and smiling brown eyes. He was less severe than the others, and more attractive, but he still held himself in that disciplined way that had law-enforcement written all over it. Blake introduced him as Johnny.

I thought it was odd that some of them used their first names, and some their last names, but I didn’t ask them about it. I had been conditioned from a very young age not to pry.

It was late June, and hot as hell in New York. I was thankful for my lightweight clothing, since the heat and humidity instantly attached themselves to me the second we stepped outside. My security flanked me closely as we moved from the elevator to a swank limo that was lined up directly with the lobby entrance.

I tried to act as though I wasn’t uncomfortable with my extremely affluent settings and my ridiculous overabundance of security, but I felt very stiff as I moved from the elevator to the car.

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