If nothing else, Dad had ordered me to force Cole to sign the waiver at any cost. Of course, he’d also wished me good luck with an amused snort when I took the case.
I stared at the imposing mansion. It wasn’t like Dad had any faith in me. Half of a master’s degree in French Literature didn’t give me much of an edge in…anything. But after the baby was born, Dad found me a place at his office. If I could get Cole to play nice, I’d make a name for myself in the agency.
Who better to prove that brains could prevail over brawn, even in professional football?
How tough could this one man be?
I bundled my curls into a pony tail and bolted to his front door. Cole Hawthorne couldn’t hide from his future in the league forever.
I punched the doorbell again, but, this time, I didn’t take my finger from the button. The chimes dinged, donged, and dinged again. The ringing buzzed louder.
“Ignore that, Mr. Hawthorne,” I said.
But I jammed the button a little too hard. It depressed completely, cracking in two and falling inside the casing. I yanked my hand back as the components sizzled and shorted out.
The ding didn’t dong anymore. Instead…it wailed. A high-pitched, murderous note that screamed like an insomniac, teething baby with a fever and no binkie.
Somehow, I doubted the house would calm down with a nice juice box and rendition of You Are My Sunshine.
The screeching crackled, and the sound cut out.
I breathed a premature sigh of relief just before the doorbell also shorted out the alarm system. The ding-dong and whooping wail of a security siren and the ear-piercing buzz of a fire alarm roared through the house. The ungodly melody shook the mansion’s hundreds of windows.
Oh, I really hoped this castle didn’t come with a dungeon.
Time to bolt.
I kicked off my heels and prepared to run.
Too late. The scratch of the door ground against the stone frame. That whine wasn’t the scrape of a door that opened very often. Probably for good reason.
I clutched the folder with his papers and dropped my shoes.
Why the hell hadn’t I run when I had the chance? Then again, I had visions of the linebacker chasing down my car and ripping it apart with his bare hands—ala Tyrannosaurs Rex style. If I was lucky, he wouldn’t tear me to shreds. If I was unlucky…
He’d answer the door without a shirt.
I stared at the god-like man looming in the doorway.
Cole Hawthorne was a beast.
A huge, lumbering slab of muscle and rage.
And he was the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen in my life.
He gripped the door, and every muscle in his upper body rippled as if he debated on whether he should slam it or wood-chip the slab into splinters with his fists. A still moment passed, and he wiped his face with a towel. He left the beads of sweat trickling over his broad shoulders and pecs.
I didn’t think men like this really existed. A modern day Goliath sneered at me from his isolated castle outside of the city. He was more animal than man, especially surrounded by acres and acres of forested hills separating him from civilization.
Every perfectly tanned muscle in his body popped and tensed. The tattoo swirling on his arm streaked him with angry reds, blues, and greens. His thick, defined abs clenched as the waistband of his sweat pants hung low.
A little too low.
I forced my gaze up and not on the sleeping beast bulging against his sweatpants.
I shouldn’t have made eye contact with him.
Not because he was fierce. Not because his thick jaw tightened in a scowl. Not because the mane of his wild, blonde hair cascaded over his shoulders and obscured his violent ink.
I met his stare and lost myself. His eyes shimmered unbelievably blue…and achingly intense. What might have been icy and frightening was brightened in a storybook blue, something charming and knee-shakingly intimidating.
I couldn’t even hear myself talk. The doorbell, fire alarm, and security system blasted a deafening cacophony that echoed through his house and scattered the doves in his rose garden.
And he stared at me as the culprit, his eyebrow rising.
Oh God. I was soaked in a white blouse.
The thin material plastered to my dark skin, and the dress shirt clung to my curves. My bra contained the girls, but even after weaning Rose, they were still…ample. I crossed my arms. We weren’t that desperate for his signature yet.
Cole pulled out his phone and silenced the fire alarm and security system with an entered key code. Unfortunately, the chiming doorbell was the most obnoxious of the three.
I swallowed and braved a professional nod. “Hello. I’m Piper Madi—”
Cole extended his hand, but not to shake mine. He slammed his palm against the doorbell and clawed the box from the stone. The wires snapped. The estate fell into silence.