Texas Rascals, Book 10

Mrs. Rex Michael Barrington.

Idly, Sophia Shepherd doodled across the yellow legal notepad and gave a heartfelt sigh.

Four months into her new job as assistant to the executive vice president of Barrington Oil and Gas at the home office in Rascal, Texas, and she had yet to even meet her boss, but boy, did she have a crush on him.

Yes, she knew it wasn’t a good idea to fall for her boss, but it was hard to argue with her heart. Although, in reality, she knew little about the man beyond his sexy telephone voice, professional attitude, and sharp business acumen.

Mrs. Sophia Barrington.

She added a flourish to the Mrs. Call her old-fashioned, but she loved the idea of taking her potential husband’s name.

And while it might be dicey falling for her boss in this day and age, her three best girlfriends, Sienna, Amber, and Polly had all fallen in love with their bosses, and things had gone so well it threw Sophia’s imagination into overdrive.

Could she, too, marry her boss?

Love was definitely in the air. Amber had already wed Lucas Hunter, and Sienna was due to walk down the aisle with Jeff Henderson in November, while Polly and Liam Wilson had just gotten engaged.

Was it too much to hope that some of that magical stardust might one day settle upon her, bringing into her life the same happiness her friends had discovered?

Of course, her three friends had a distinct advantage over her. They’d actually known their bosses while Sophia had a crush on a man she’d never even met in person.

Although Rex’s picture was prominent on the company’s website, it was an old photograph, and she couldn’t find a more updated one despite frequent Google searches.

In his personal life, Rex didn’t have a social media presence. And that meant no photos of him in more relaxed settings. According to the internet, he was all business, which was frustrating, but she admired his discretion and his work ethic.

Yet, she knew he had a lighter side. He had a great sense of humor and often texted her funny—but completely appropriate—gifs and memes. They talked on the phone daily, about business, of course.

But at least once a week, Mr. Barrington—although Sophia liked to think of him as Rex, even if she didn’t dare call him that—praised her efficiency and informed her she was the best assistant he’d ever had.

And just last week he’d told her that when he returned to the home office in Texas, after being in Brazil for the past ten years, he’d fly her to their main headquarters in Houston for his father’s big retirement party, and afterward, he would take her out to dinner at a five-star restaurant to show his appreciation.

Dinner with Rex Barrington?

Sophia’s toes curled at the prospect. She couldn’t have been more excited if a movie star had asked her out. Dreamily, she closed her eyes and allowed her fantasies full rein. They’d dine at White Swan in downtown Houston where the executives from Barrington Oil and Gas took their wealthiest clients. They’d drink Dom Perignon, nibble on tenderloin medallions cooked in mushroom wine sauce, and have cherries jubilee for dessert.

Afterward, Rex would invite her for a late-night stroll along the nearby lake. Demurely, she’d agree. They’d step outside into the warm night air. He’d take her hand, and his grip would be strong and comforting.

They’d walk for several minutes, and he’d tell her his plans for their future, his sexy voice rolling over her like heated body oil. The moon would be bright and full, bathing them in an ethereal glow.

Rex would tell her how much he admired her and how much he trusted her with his life. Sophia would respond in kind, telling him he was the most industrious, responsible, empowering boss she’d ever worked for. Rex would stop and gently draw her into the curve of his arm.

His heavenly smell, an expensive men’s cologne, would intoxicate her senses. She’d catch her breath and look up into those dark eyes, as deep brown as a Hershey’s Chocolate Kiss.

“Sophia.” Rex would whisper her name in that throaty baritone, and she would tumble helplessly under his spell. “I can’t tell you how much you’ve come to mean to me over the past few months.”

“But, Rex,” she would protest, but ever so slightly, “we’ve only just met face-to-face.”

“That’s not important,” he would say. “And although you are a beautiful woman, your looks are the least of it. I’ve discovered the real you over the phone and through your witty texts. I trust you, Sophia Shepherd. Truly, deeply, as I’ve never trusted another.”

“Oh, Rex.” She’d sigh, and he’d sweep her against his chest. His lips would come down on hers in a haunting, soul-searching kiss. A tender kiss that would make her feel comfortable, safe, and secure. A kiss that held promises of happily ever after.

“Good morning, Sophia.”

Ripped from her delicious daydream, Sophia jerked her attention to the doorway.

Mike Barr, a new hire who worked in building maintenance, lounged seductively against the doorjamb, his hips cocked forward in a nonchalant slouch, a come-hither grin curling the corners of his lips and a daring twinkle sparking in his green eyes.

His longish dark-brown hair sexily mussed, as if he just whisked off his Stetson before coming into the room. He wore faded Wranglers and a plaid western shirt that couldn’t camouflage his muscular biceps.

He possessed a voice almost as deep as her boss’, but where Rex spoke in a commanding rush, Mike, the office handy, let his words drip off his tongue like heated molasses, and he dished up compliments as readily as he changed the light bulbs.

Despite her best intentions to the contrary, Sophia experienced a hot rush of desire instantly replace the lingering sweetness of her fantasy about her boss. Darn it! What was it about Mike that so stirred her blood when she didn’t want it to?

“Good morning, Mike,” Sophia replied evenly, refusing to give him a clue to the hot desire running through her whenever she was around him. The man need never know that although her heart belonged to Rex Michael Barrington, her fickle body seemed to prefer the cowboy handyman’s outdoorsy good looks.

Sure, Mike was the sexiest thing on two legs. Nobody could deny that. But when a girl looked at him, what she saw was what she got.

A handsome guy with no ambitions to climb higher. A guy who might be great for a few weeks of carefree adventure, but one that would falter in a long-term relationship. A footloose guy who was here one minute and gone the next with nary a serious thought for what the future might hold.

No, Sophia could not afford to let Mike know that she found him attractive. Because that’s all it was, she assured herself. Physical attraction. Erotic longings founded on lust and nothing more.

What she felt for Mike was the exact opposite of her feelings for Rex. Now there was a guy you could count on. Harvard educated, hardworking, energetic, take-charge, absolutely nothing like the lackadaisical, play-today-don’t-worry-about-tomorrow Mike.

He reminded her of the old fable of the ant and the grasshopper. Rex was the ant, Mike the grasshopper. With the grasshopper you might have a heady summer filled with fun but come winter you’d starve to death, and Sophia had experienced more than enough lean winters in her life, thank you very much.

“How are you, Miss Sophia?” Mike drawled lazily, his steady gaze flicking over her as hot and dry as the bright Trans-Pecos sunshine swelling through the plantation shutters and flooding the carpet with dappled lighting.

Unnerved, she placed her tablet computer over the damning legal pad in front of her. She was afraid Mike might see her doodles and discover her secret crush on her boss. She couldn’t risk office gossip.

“What can I do for you?”

His grin widened, and instantly Sophia realized her poor choice of words.

“The question is, what can I do for you?” He moved across the room, lethal as a leopard, his smooth movements so mesmerizing, she barely noticed the brown paper package cradled loosely in the crook of his arm.

“Excuse me?” Gulping, she stared, transfixed on his broad chest. Whenever he loped into the room, it was as if her brain flew straight out the window.

“I brought something for you.” Mike extended the package toward Sophia. “Since I was coming up here to change the toner cartridge in your printer, the mail runner asked me to bring this up.”

“Oh.” She accepted the package.

With her utility scissors, she snipped away the string. The package had her name on it, but there was no return address. Odd. It had been mailed in Rascal and postmarked the previous day.

Mike stayed, boldly watching her.

“Is there something else?” Sophia looked up.

His gaze crashed into hers. The man was brash and sexy and dangerous. If she weren’t careful, her heart could end up as so much carnage on the emotional highway of runaway lust. But she didn’t buy into the romantic notion of the bad boy cured by a good woman’s love.

A perilous myth indeed.