Too Much to Lose

By: Samantha Holt

Chapter One


Jess

“Oh crap.”

I knew it was a Monday when I slammed a door straight into the guy behind me. Into his face to be exact. His very sexy face. Hand to my mouth, I mutter an apology and back into the building. He follows me over and rubs the red spot on his forehead.

“I’m so sorry,” I mutter from beneath my hand.

He offers me a lopsided grin and my heart bounds. His lips are full for a man, framed by dark stubble and there’s a slight dip in his chin. It’s square, masculine—the kind of chin that makes a woman turn into a complete idiot. Then he turns his gaze on me and I know I’m in full simpering fool mode.

“I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t see you there and I’m late—” I motion to the bustle of customers in the bank behind me “—and I’m new... and...” I clutch my bag as if it might stop me from slithering to the floor. The tiniest flicker of something echoes in his eyes but I’m not sure what. The idiotic part of me hopes its interest.

Which is insane. I don’t like men. Don’t want anything to do with them. I force my back straight.

“It’s fine, honestly.”

Oh God, he’s Irish. His lilt rolls through me and warms me in places I didn’t know a man could reach anymore.

“Are you going to be okay? Do you need an ambulance?” My face heats but I don’t know what else to say.

“No, I’m fine.”

“Well, erm, I have to go.” I glance around the busy bank. I don’t want to be late. I’ve only been working here a week. “Sorry, again.”

The dark haired man gives me another smile and waits for me to leave. I feel his gaze follow me and wonder if I should be freaked out at his weirdly quiet interest. Maybe I hit him harder than I thought. A swirling sensation of excitement builds in my stomach when I see him stride after me to the elevator out of the corner of my eye.

The metal doors slide open as I arrive and as I wait for everyone to file out, he sidles up next to me. We walk into the small space together and several people follow, forcing me up against him. His arm brushes mine and I’m sure my knees tremble. I glance up into his blue eyes and smile apologetically.

“I’m sorry,” I say again.

“Don’t be. I have a hard head.”

I meant about knocking into him but clearly I made more of an impression when I thrust the door into his face. The elevator jolts and I steady myself against the wall, fearful of banging into him again. In a leather jacket and a black T-shirt, he looks edgy and when I glance at him again, his smile has dropped. Without it, he’s kind of dark and overwhelming and now I’m stuck in an enclosed space with him. It gets harder to draw breath.

The smile returns and he leans into me. “You work at Murphy’s, right?”

“Yeah, how do you know?”

“I saw you there the other night.”

How did I not see him? To top up my wage, I still work nights at the Irish bar. But few genuinely Irish people go there. It’s more for tourists. And I can’t believe I didn’t see this insanely gorgeous man there, even if we are busy on weekends.

A few people step out on the next floor, giving me room to move so I step back, but someone has the same idea and shoves into me, pushing me into the man. My palms land on his chest and I’m instantly aware of heat and muscle.

“Careful,” he steadies me with two hands to my elbows and gazes down at me. Under a strong brow, his eyes are intense and again intimidating. So why the hell can’t I look away?

I try to swallow as I stare up at him but my throat doesn’t want to cooperate. For several moments, we stand there, his gaze searching mine, my pulse pounding in my ears. The oddest dropping sensation in my stomach startles me and I jerk back.

Finally drawing myself away completely, I swipe a strand of dark hair from my face and straighten my suit jacket. If he’s seen me at Murphy’s, he knows a prim suit and careful up-do isn’t my usual style. But then, I have no idea what my style is these days. The one I adopted after moving to London is more rock chick and was always intended to be a disguise. But no one would expect to see me wearing a grey suit and working in a bank either.

When the door pings again, it takes me a moment to realise this is my floor. I practically stumble out, breaking the weird connection flying between us. I can’t even bring myself to mutter a goodbye or anything that makes sense as he follows and goes to the customer service desk.

Head down, I straighten my suit jacket, draw in a breath and stroll past the desks sat in rows. A few of my co-workers smile or say hello and I return them while my heart threatens to beat out of my chest. I still feel like a fraud. The fear that someone will recognize me always haunts me. Will it ever go? Still, with my dark hair and my careful—if slightly heavy—make-up, hopefully it’s unlikely. It’s been years since the incident with Pete and no one has figured me out yet.

A bounce enters my stride as I make my way to my desk, the episode with the sexy stranger almost forgotten. Finally my life is coming together. After passing my exams, it took me a while to get a job. Having few references aside from one from my boss at Murphy’s didn’t help, but I found someone willing to give me a chance. Thankfully studying hard and getting good grades paid off.

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