New York Times Bestselling Author
Caite McCallan is a Department of Defense admin working in Bahrain when a glitchy elevator, of all things, leads to an unexpected invitation to dinner by a gorgeous Navy SEAL. When he later stands her up, Caite’s understandably upset…until she overhears a plot that confirms Rocco didn’t blow her off. Instead, he and two fellow SEALs are in danger—and Caite is forced to put her career and her life on the line to save them.
Blake “Rocco” Wise never expected his routine mission to go sideways, but he was even more surprised to find himself and his teammates rescued by the adorably shy woman he met in a stalled elevator. Caite’s selfless act saved his life, but when attempts on her own make it clear someone wants her gone, it’s Rocco’s turn to protect the brave, sweet, sexy woman. The longer he knows her, the more he wants her…but keeping Caite close could bring her nearer to the enemy than ever before.
“Hot enough for ya?” the naval officer asked as he held open the door for her.
Caite McCallan gave him a friendly smile but internally rolled her eyes. Intellectually, she knew the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain was going to be a lot warmer than she was used to feeling back in San Diego, but she hadn’t been prepared for exactly how hot it was.
“Thank you,” she told him after she quickly walked through the door and headed for the elevator. She was running late this morning, otherwise she would’ve taken the stairs. She wasn’t an exerciser. She’d rather be sitting in a chair on the beach with her toes in the water, drinking a margarita, than going to the gym, taking a jog, or playing volleyball for “fun.”
But since she’d been in Bahrain, she’d started taking the stairs to her third-floor office because her lack of movement was almost embarrassing. There was no way she was going to take a run out in the heat, and she very rarely left the safety of her apartment, except when on the American naval base southeast of the city of Manama.
She impatiently hit the button and sighed in relief when the doors opened almost immediately. Caite slipped into the elevator and hit the button for the third floor.
Just as the doors were closing, a large hand caught them and they reopened.
Resisting the urge to sigh in irritation, Caite moved to the back of the small space, giving the three men room to enter.
She looked up at them with wide eyes. She’d been working in the country for four months now, and had seen her share of good-looking men in uniform, but these men, who seemed to take up every inch of space in the small elevator, were hands down the hottest men she’d seen yet.
All three had dark beards covering the bottom half of their faces, but it was the first man who’d entered who Caite couldn’t take her eyes off of. “Lush” was the only way she could describe his dark hair. It was longer than his friends’ hair, and she had the sudden urge to run her fingers through it to see if it was as soft as it looked. All three men were taller than she was, but that wasn’t saying much, as she was only five-five.
He had dark eyes that seemed to latch on to hers when he entered the elevator. His nose was a bit crooked, but it gave his face character. He was muscular, and had a larger build than the other two men with him. He wasn’t only taller than them, he was bigger in every sense of the word. He made her think of late nights and cuddling on the couch.
“Morning,” the man said in a deep voice. His lips were quirked upward, as if he found something amusing, and Caite knew she was blushing.
“Hi,” she mumbled and looked down at the briefcase in her hands.
The elevator lurched as it began its upward trajectory, and Caite held her breath as she pressed her lips together. She wanted to flirt with the man. Wanted to have the confidence to look him in the eye and smile. But that wasn’t who she was.
She wasn’t exactly shy, but she didn’t have confidence when it came to men. She was much more comfortable fading into the background and observing people. She found out a ton of information that way. Like the time she’d learned that her supposed best friend in high school secretly asked out the boy Caite had a crush on. Or when she’d overheard one of her TAs in college telling a girl in the class, who he’d been dating, what was going to be on the final exam…which subsequently helped Caite pass the class.
And when she’d heard a naval officer back in San Diego bitching to a coworker about how much contractors made when they volunteered to work overseas, when stateside employees didn’t get the same bump in pay.
Hence, why she was in Bahrain at the moment.
“I swear this place gets hotter with every trip,” one of the men grumbled.
“Global warming and all that,” another said, more to himself than his friends.
The third man didn’t comment. Caite kept her eyes on her fingers and willed the elevator to move faster.
“Is it always this hot in here?” the first man asked.
Knowing she couldn’t exactly pretend she hadn’t heard him, Caite finally looked up. The man who’d asked had a closely cut beard and his hair was almost shaved on the sides, while longer on top. He should’ve looked silly, but somehow, with his brown camouflage uniform, the style made him look handsome.
He was much leaner than the man who’d immediately caught Caite’s eye, and it was easier to see his lips as his beard was cut much closer. He was the shortest of the bunch, probably only a few inches above her height, but somehow she still felt as if he towered over her. Maybe because of the air of confidence surrounding him.
She nodded. “The AC doesn’t seem to work much in the elevators so it’s always hotter in here.”
“It could be worse, Ace,” the man she’d been secretly admiring said. “We could be doing PT out in the sun.”
“True,” Ace said and shrugged.
Just then the elevator made a loud clanging noise and shuddered.
Caite put out a hand to brace herself on the wall next to her and sighed in frustration.
“What the hell?” Ace exclaimed.
“Shit!” the second man said, as Ace let out another low curse.
Without fanfare, Caite placed her briefcase on the floor. She then leaned against the wall and lowered herself to sit. She was grateful she’d worn a comfortable pair of loose black pants today. She brought her knees up, clasped her hands around them, and settled in to wait.
She knew all three men were looking down at her in surprise. Before they could ask what was going on, she said, “This happens at least twice a week. You might as well get comfortable. The last time, I heard it was an hour and a half before they were able to get it running again.”
“Are you kidding?”
Caite looked up at the man she’d been ogling. “No.”
Sighing, he eased himself to the floor near her. With one leg stretched out in front of him and the other bent at the knee, he smiled and held out a hand. “I’m Blake. Blake Wise. Rocco to my friends.”
Caite stared at his calloused hand for a beat before reaching out. “Caite McCallan.”
“Hi, Caite,” Rocco said in a husky voice that made goose bumps race up and down her arms.
“Rocco, you can’t seriously be thinking about sitting here and waiting for them to get us out? We can just—”
“Sit, Gumby,” Rocco interrupted. He was still holding her hand, and Caite knew she was blushing once again.
“We’ll just hang out here with Caite until help gets to us.” Rocco turned to her. “Do they know the elevator is stuck? I don’t see an emergency phone or anything in here.”
Caite swallowed and nodded. “I’m pretty sure they know. The last time, one of the people I work with was in here. He said within a few minutes, someone called down—or up, I don’t remember which—to him and the others stuck inside, and told them maintenance was working on it.”
Why was he still holding her hand? Caite had no idea. It felt good, but awkward.
Finally, he ran his thumb over the back of her hand and slowly let go. She clasped her hands together in her lap nervously.
Ace and Gumby finally sat on the other side of the small space.
“Not the way I thought we’d start our tropical vacation,” Ace quipped.
Caite’s lips twitched. Bahrain wasn’t her idea of either tropical or a vacation.
Obviously having seen her amusement, Ace said, “Hey, it’s warm, by the ocean, and we didn’t have to run five miles in the sand this morning. Sounds like a vacation to me.”
She looked at him and said, “But there aren’t any alcoholic drinks. How can it be a vacation without sipping a blue drink with ice cubes, sliced fruit, and a cute little umbrella?”
“I’ll never understand why chicks like that crap. I mean, what’s wrong with an ice-cold beer?” Gumby muttered.
“It’s gross,” Caite said without thought, then mentally smacked her forehead in exasperation. “I mean…it’s fine…if you like that sort of thing.”
The man next to her chuckled. “I take it you’re not a beer drinker.”
She glanced at Rocco and shook her head. “No.”
“It’s an acquired taste,” Ace said.
Caite nodded, but couldn’t take her eyes from Rocco. His dark brown gaze hadn’t left her face, and it felt weird to have a man pay such close attention to her. She’d gotten somewhat used to having guys stare at her since she’d arrived in the Arabic country, but the way Rocco was looking at her was different than how the locals stared. She always felt as if they were judging her, and finding her lacking in some way, but that wasn’t the vibe she got from Rocco.
It was as if he could read her mind. Could somehow sense how attracted she was to him.
The thought flustered her, and Caite looked back down at her hands in her lap.
“Hey! Anyone in there?” a muffled voice called out from below.
“Yes! There’s four of us!” Ace yelled back.
“They’re working on getting you guys out of there. Just hang on!” the voice said.
“Will do!” Ace bellowed back.
After a long silence, Gumby said, “So, we might as well get to know each other. And I know these yahoos, but I don’t know you…” His voice trailed off.
Caite shrugged. “I’m Caite.”
“You said that,” Rocco replied, clearly amused. “Where are you from? What do you do here? How long have you been here and how long are you planning on staying? Got any plans for dinner?”
At his last question, her eyes swung up once more and met his. She expected to see him smiling at her, letting her know he was teasing, but she saw absolutely no humor in his gaze. She looked over at Ace and Gumby. They were smiling, but their amusement seemed to be aimed at the man at her side, rather than her.
“Um…I had an apartment in the San Diego area. I’ve been here a few months and my contract is for a year, with the option to renew for a second if I want. I haven’t decided yet whether I will or not.” She purposely ignored his last question.
“What do you do?” Ace asked.
Now that, she could answer. “I’m a secretary. An administrative assistant.”
“How did you end up all the way out here?” Gumby asked.
Caite shrugged. “I needed the money.”
Silence met her response. It felt awkward, so she hurried to explain. “I majored in French in college. My mom told me I was making a mistake, but I ignored her. I fell in love with Paris in high school, and wanted to go there to live and work more than anything. I took French as my foreign language requirement in high school and decided to continue it in college. I loved every second of it, but after I graduated, I realized Mom was right. It wasn’t like there were that many jobs for a French speaker in the San Diego area. Spanish, yes, but not French.
“I started working as a secretary for a friend of my dad, and he suggested I apply for a Department of Defense contract position. So I did. I got hired and worked there for several years, but I was buried in debt. From college expenses, my car, my credit cards…I couldn’t seem to get ahead, and living in San Diego isn’t exactly cheap. Overseas positions pay more, and when the job out here came up, I applied.” She shrugged. “I got it and…here I am.”
“Do you like what you’re doing?” Rocco asked.
Caite shrugged again. “I don’t hate it,” she said after a beat. “But who loves their job? We work because we have to eat.”
“I love my job,” Rocco told her.
“Me too,” Ace echoed.
Gumby nodded. “Me three.”
Now Caite was embarrassed. “Right. Of course. Join the military and see the world and all that,” she said. “Well, it’s too scary to wander around Manama by myself. Women aren’t as persecuted around here as they used to be, but I’m just not the risk-taking type. And it’s hot. I hate the heat.”
Rocco grinned. “But you live in San Diego. It isn’t really cold there.”
“I know, but it’s also not a hundred and ten degrees either. If I wanted to be that warm, I’d move to Phoenix.”
“It’s good that you don’t wander around. It’s not safe,” Rocco said, getting serious.
“The crime rate isn’t exactly low here,” Gumby added.
“Bahrain is one of the most tolerant countries in the Middle East when it comes to dress code, and women finally got the right to vote in the last twenty years or so, but there are still no laws to protect them against domestic violence,” Ace informed her.
Caite nodded. “I know. I did my research before I accepted the job, and it was also part of the orientation. Why do you think I don’t get out much? I mean, besides the heat. I’m not willing to go alone. Everyone around here is busy, and the younger naval guys are too interested in partying than hanging out with me or showing me the sites. Besides, it’s frowned upon to fraternize with the military employees.”
Rocco grimaced. “It doesn’t sound like much fun working here,” he observed.
Caite shrugged. “I’m making it sound worse than it is. I like most of my coworkers and there are always interesting people coming in and out of the office. I’ve met a ton of people from around the world. For instance, this week, my boss is meeting with some men from Gabon.”
Her smile dimmed. He didn’t sound all that impressed. “What about you guys? Where are you from?”
“Interestingly enough, we’re also from San Diego,” Rocco told her.
“Really? Cool! How long will you be here?”
The three men exchanged glances that Caite couldn’t interpret before Gumby said, “We’re not sure. It depends on how long our mission takes.”
“Ah. Well…I hope you’ll be able to get out and see some of the country between your official stuff,” she said, somewhat lamely.
Silence fell over the group once more and Caite searched her mind for something else to say. “So…Gumby and Ace? Those aren’t…those aren’t your real names, are they?”
All three chuckled.
“No, darlin’. I’m Decker,” Gumby said.
“And I’m Beckett,” Ace told her.
“Is Caite short for Katherine?” Rocco asked.
Caite could’ve sworn he’d moved closer to her when she was looking at his friends, but it was hard to tell. She shook her head. “No. It’s just Caite. Spelled C-a-i-t-e. I guess my mom wanted my name to be different, but not impossible to pronounce or weird.”
“It’s beautiful,” Rocco replied.
Caite knew she was blushing again, damn it, but she hoped they would misinterpret her flushed cheeks as a result of the heat. The air in the elevator wasn’t exactly cool, and she knew it would only continue to get warmer until they were rescued.
“Where are you staying?” she asked, simply for something to talk about.
“Housing on the base,” Ace told her. “Where do you live?”
Not even thinking that it wasn’t smart to tell strangers where she lived, Caite said, “There’s an apartment complex right outside the gate. I was too chicken to get a place too far away from here. I don’t have to drive to work, I can just go right out my apartment building and walk here. I’ve only gone into Manama once, and I was with three other DOD employees.”
“Maybe if we’re here long enough, we can show you some of the city,” Ace said.
Caite blinked. She hadn’t been fishing for them to escort her anywhere, but it probably had sounded like she was. “That’s okay.”
“How about dinner?” Rocco asked. “I was serious about that.”
He was staring at her so intently, she shivered. He couldn’t be asking her out, could he? She’d never, in her entire life, been asked out. She’d gone on dates, and had even had one long-term boyfriend, but they’d all been set up by friends.
Caite had long since come to terms with who she was and how she looked. She’d never be called beautiful. Her nose was a bit too big and her features were simply too plain. She liked her hair, but it didn’t stand out in any way. The light brown locks were thin and if she tried to grow them out too long, they broke off at the ends and looked straggly. She’d never been the kind of woman that anyone took a second look at. She wasn’t hideous, but she wasn’t model beautiful either.
It had been her experience that men simply overlooked her. She wasn’t pretty enough, interesting enough, or skinny enough to deserve a second glance. Especially since she tended to keep to herself in social situations. There were always women around who were more interesting, outgoing, and pleasing to the eye.
But Rocco was looking at her as if she was the most fascinating person he’d met in his entire life. If she was being honest, it was discomfiting. She wasn’t used to being the center of attention.
Knowing she’d been silent too long and things were getting awkward again, she quickly said, “Um…yeah, I can join you guys in the cafeteria one night if you want.”
“Not what I meant, Caite,” Rocco said. And once again, the husky, low tone of his voice did weird things to her insides.
She glanced at Ace and Gumby, and they were both smiling once more at her and Rocco. Not in a “my buddy’s gonna get him some” way, but in a genuinely pleased way. She licked her lips and looked back down at her hands. “Oh, um…okay.”
“I don’t know when, though,” Rocco went on to say. “I wouldn’t mind if it was tonight, but I’m afraid we have to check in with the base commander and get the lay of the land. Not to mention we have to get a job done while we’re here. But I’d like to make the time to get to know you better. If that’s all right with you.”
All sorts of things were swirling around Caite’s head. Big caution signs, for one. This gorgeous man couldn’t really be interested in her. Maybe it was a joke. Maybe he thought she’d go to bed with him because she’d been here so long and obviously didn’t get out.
But…she didn’t get those kinds of vibes from him. She was pretty good at spotting players. And Rocco seemed more mature and above those kinds of games.
Deciding that this was the most exciting thing to happen to her in months, besides getting stuck in the stupid elevator, Caite nodded. “I’d like that.”
The smile on his face widened. “Good. Tell me where you work so I can find you later this week.”
She did—and noticed his smile dimmed a bit.
The emotion immediately cleared from his face. “Nothing.”
Caite shook her head. “No, it’s something. What?”
“It just so happens that you work for our temporary commander,” Ace volunteered.
“And he doesn’t approve of work relationships,” Gumby said.
“This isn’t a work relationship,” Rocco grumbled. “It’s dinner. We aren’t going to go off and get married or anything.”
Caite smiled at that. The thought popped out of her mouth before she could recall it. “Right. But if we did get married, he couldn’t do or say anything about it, could he?”
Ace and Gumby chuckled as she looked up at Rocco, horrified. “Not that I think you’d want to! I mean, it’s just dinner and… Oh, shit,” she said, and closed her eyes and rested her forehead on her knees. “I’ll shut up now.”
She felt Rocco take her hand in his and she reluctantly looked at him. “Relax, ma petite fée, I know what you meant.”
Caite blinked. Had he really just called her “my small fairy” in French?
“Did I say it wrong?” he asked, smiling gently at her.
“What did you mean to call me?” she asked.
She shook her head. “You didn’t say it wrong.”
“Good. I’m fluent in Turkish, but have picked up a bit of French here and there.”
Caite wanted to ask why he’d called her that, but was too embarrassed. She was all too aware of his friends sitting there staring at the two of them, and the last thing she wanted was to hear him say it was because she reminded him of a child in some way.
“You’re fluent in Turkish?” she asked instead.
He didn’t elaborate, and Caite felt awkward all over again. She wasn’t used to being the center of attention. She liked listening to others talk, not having to carry a conversation all by herself.
Just then, the elevator lurched and immediately fell about three feet before stopping once again.
Caite screeched in fear and reached out to grab ahold of something, anything. Her hand encountered Rocco’s camouflage-covered thigh and she gripped him—hard. She hadn’t been wrong about how muscular he was. It almost felt like she was holding on to a rock rather than a human being.
Rocco immediately moved closer and put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her into him. His beard brushed against her cheek for an instant before he looked at his friends. “We’re done.” He lifted his chin as he said the words.
As if they’d been waiting for his say-so the entire time, Ace and Gumby leaped up and immediately got to work on the hatch in the ceiling.
Caite’s attention was brought back to the man at her side when he looked down at her and murmured, “Easy, ma petite fée, we’ll be out of here in a few minutes.”
Caite barely heard him. She was tucked against his side and she’d never, ever felt safer. If the elevator suddenly plunged to the ground, she had no doubt she wouldn’t feel a thing.
Somehow, even in the overly warm small space, Rocco smelled delicious. Not like cologne; no, a man like him would never be caught dead splashing that stuff on. But like soap and…man. She couldn’t explain it. But if someone found a way to bottle it, they’d make a fortune. She wanted nothing more than to snuggle up against him, tucking her head under his chin and resting it on his chest, but she forced herself to loosen the death grip she had on his pants and try to straighten. But he wouldn’t let her go.
“I’m okay,” she said quietly.
“I know you are. Just hang tight for a few more minutes.” Rocco sounded completely calm.
And just like that, things clicked in her brain.
He and his friends were SEALs.
She should’ve figured it out way before now, but she’d been distracted by his looks. He was all muscle under his uniform, and the fact that he and his friends were here for a “mission” was a big giveaway. She’d met several different SEAL teams during her tenure, and they all had a certain aura about them.
But it was the way he and his friends handled the situation in the elevator that clinched it for her. Without any fuss or discussion, Ace and Gumby had the hatch in the top of the small space unlatched and Gumby disappeared through the hole as if he did this sort of thing every day.
“We aren’t even very high,” Rocco reassured her. “Even if the car did fall, we’d only fall a story or two. But Gumby will figure out how far we are from the next floor and he’ll get us out. Don’t worry.”
Caite could only nod, and that made his beard brush against her shoulder. She couldn’t feel it through the long-sleeve blouse she was wearing, but her nipples didn’t seem to care. They puckered, and she hoped like hell her slightly padded bra was doing its job. She sneaked a glance downward, relieved to see that she wasn’t giving Rocco and his friends a peep show.
“Still okay?” Rocco asked, sounding concerned.
“Yeah,” she said immediately. “Thanks. I was just startled there for a second.”
“Can’t blame you,” Rocco told her.
“Good news,” Gumby said from above their heads.
Caite looked up and saw him staring down at them through the hatch.
“The car’s just below the second floor. The doors are right here. We can pry them open and climb out from up here.”
Rocco nodded and removed his arm from around her shoulders and stood. Caite immediately felt chilly, which was ridiculous, as it was at least eighty-five degrees inside the elevator. He held his hand out to her. “Ready to get out of here?”
Caite nodded and reached for his hand.
As his fingers closed around hers, and he helped her up, she never wanted to let go.
Apparently, he felt the same way. Once she was on her feet, he intertwined his fingers with hers and held on tightly.
Feeling giddy and like she was a teenager on her first date, Caite stood there while he discussed the safety of what they were about to do with Ace and Gumby.
Caite forced herself to pay attention. “What?”
Ace smiled down at her. “I asked if you were ready.”
Caite shook her head and said at the same time, “Yes.”
The men all grinned once more at her contradictory word versus her head movement. She wasn’t all fired up to climb on top of the elevator and crawl out onto the second floor. There were bound to be others around who would gawk at the four people climbing out of the elevator shaft. She hated being the center of attention.
“You got this, ma petite fée,” Rocco said, then squeezed her hand.
She nodded and took a deep breath. “How am I going to get up there?” she asked no one in particular.
“I’ve got you,” Rocco said.
“Give me your briefcase,” Ace said, and Caite let him take the bag from her.
Rocco kneeled in front of her and held his hands up. “Step up onto my shoulders. I’ll lift you. I won’t let you fall.”
Caite said the first thing that came to mind. “It’s a good thing I’m not wearing a skirt today or you’d get a show.”
All three men chuckled again, and Caite blushed furiously.
“I’m actually more relieved you’re not wearing heels,” Rocco told her. “Those would hurt like hell digging into my shoulders.”
“Can’t stand the things,” Caite said. “They hurt my feet, and it’s not like two or three inches would make that much of a difference in my height. I’d still be smaller than just about everyone.” She tried to think of something else to say that would delay the inevitable, but Rocco obviously read her body language.
He looked up at her from his crouched position and patiently continued to hold his hands out to her. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you, Caite.”
“I’m heavier than I look,” she blurted.
His eyes quickly darted from her face down to her chest and hips, before coming back up to meet her gaze. “You’re perfect,” he said. “Besides, I carried this guy,” he used his head to indicate Ace, standing nearby, “for more than a mile once. In full combat gear. Compared, you weigh next to nothing. Come on, ma petite fée, trust me.”
How could she not when he called her his little fairy in that adorable, horrible French accent? She wanted to hear more about when and why he’d had to carry his friend, but knew asking would be just another stalling tactic. Without further delay, she reached for his hand and lifted her leg to step up onto his shoulder.
Within seconds, she was standing on his shoulders, bent over and clutching his hands for dear life.
“Easy, Caite. I got ya,” Rocco told her as he rose slowly until he was standing under the open hatch.
“Let go of one of his hands and reach upward,” Gumby ordered from above her head.
Caite took a deep breath. She didn’t want to be a wuss, but damn, this was so not something she was enjoying. It took a few seconds, but none of the men rushed her. Ever so slowly, she loosened the fingers on her right hand and blindly reached upward.
She immediately felt her hand grasped by Gumby’s large warm one.
“Now the other one,” he said softly.
Carefully, she let go of Rocco’s other hand. Even as Gumby was grabbing hold of her, she felt Rocco’s hands grasp the back of her calves, steadying her, holding on and making sure she was secure.
The elevator wasn’t all that tall. By the time Rocco was standing up straight with Caite on his shoulders, she was practically out of the elevator already. All it would take was a small step up and she’d be standing on top of the metal box next to Gumby.
“That’s it,” Gumby said. Clearly this wasn’t a big deal for him…or the other two men. He’d leaped right up and out of the elevator as if he did it every day of the week. When she glanced at their clasped hands, she saw that the sleeve of his uniform was pushed up, and she caught a glimpse of tattoos around his wrist.
They fit him. She could totally imagine him riding a motorcycle wearing nothing but a leather vest as he raced down the road. She’d been obsessed with Sons of Anarchy when it had been on, and Gumby could totally fit right in with all the characters on the show.
“Caite?” Gumby asked. “I’ve got you. You aren’t going to fall.”
Mentally chastising herself for not paying attention, she said, “I know.” She shifted her weight and picked up her right foot.
Within seconds, and without much effort on her part, she was standing on top of the elevator car next to Gumby. The entire process took less than a few seconds and was so smoothly executed, she knew for a fact that they’d definitely done this before. She wondered how many other damsels in distress they’d had to rescue from broken-down elevators.
Gumby left his hands on her waist for a second, making sure she was stable. “Okay?” he asked.
“Good. Now let’s see about getting the hell out of here, shall we?”
Before she could blink, Ace and Rocco appeared. With all four of them on top of the elevator, things were a bit crowded. Rocco stood behind her and replaced Gumby’s hands on her waist with his own. He pulled her close, until she could feel his chest against her back. “Let’s give them some room to work,” he said.
Caite wanted to tell him to be careful. To not back up too far. The last thing she wanted was for him to fall, or for the stupid elevator to suddenly start up again and have him get caught in the cables or get scraped against the walls of the shaft, but she kept her mouth shut and watched Ace and Gumby make quick work of forcing open the doors on the second floor.
Ace hopped up and out of the elevator shaft and placed her briefcase on the floor. Then he turned and held out his hand.
Rocco walked her forward until she was standing in front of the elevator doors. On her, they were at about chest height. “Up you go,” Rocco said softly, and tightened his hands on her waist. She reached up and grabbed Ace’s hands just as Rocco lifted her off her feet as if she weighed no more than a sack of potatoes. Once out, she hurried out of the way and watched as Gumby and Rocco hopped out of the elevator shaft as if they did it regularly.
The air conditioning felt awesome, but it also made her shiver.
Something struck her then, as she watched the three men talk with one of the maintenance workers who had shown up.
They could’ve gotten out of that elevator at any time, but they hadn’t. They’d sat on the floor and chatted with her instead. It hadn’t been until the elevator had lurched and scared her that they’d gone to work on the hatch in the ceiling.
She wasn’t sure why they’d waited, but she didn’t have time to think about it as Rocco came toward her. “Ready?”
“For what?” she asked stupidly.
He smiled. “To go to work.”
Caite wrinkled her nose and Rocco grinned. “Come on, we’ll go with you and make sure you don’t get in any trouble.”
“I’ll be fine,” she told them honestly. Her boss could be an ass, but it wasn’t like she could help the fact that she’d been inside the elevator when it had gotten stuck. Everyone who worked in the building knew the thing was persnickety.
“We’re headed the same way you are anyway,” Gumby informed her.
“Oh. Right.” Caite felt stupid. They hadn’t pushed any other buttons when they’d gotten inside the elevator. Of course they were going to the third floor. Reception for all temporary employees and sailors was on her floor and her boss’s boss was their temporary commander.
“The stairs are this way,” she told them, and gestured toward the end of the hall. Ignoring the stares from the other contract employees and military personnel, Caite held her head up and acted like she climbed out of an elevator shaft—with three of the most gorgeous men she’d ever seen—every day of her life.
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