Home > Maverick (North Ridge #2)(7)

Maverick (North Ridge #2)(7)
Author: Karina Halle

And he’s staring right at me. Not saying a word.

“Uh,” I stammer awkwardly as I close the door behind me, “Hi. Are you John Nelson?”

My boss.

I mean, this guy can’t be my boss.

This guy can’t be anyone’s boss, except if he was a model for Hugo Boss. And, shit, he could be, if he was trying to sell some rugged new cologne that smells like testosterone and whisky.

“I am,” he says after a moment. “But you can call me Mav.”


“Short for Maverick,” he says. He still hasn’t moved, his big beastly body is just leaning back in his chair and looking me over. I can’t read his expression at all, so I can’t tell if he’s joking.

“Really? Maverick? Like the Mel Gibson movie? Or like Top Gun?”

“Actually, the original Maverick was James Garner,” he says smoothly. “And Maverick, as in that’s my name. John Maverick Nelson. The one and only.” He pauses, narrowing his eyes. “And who are you, sweetheart?”

Shit. Does he not realize who I am?

“Riley,” I tell him. “Riley Clarke.”

What I should do is walk across the room, stick out my hand, and hope he shakes it. But instead I stay where I am. I’m not usually intimidated, but this guy has my panties all twisted and being close to the door seems like a good strategy.

He arches a dark brow and slowly nods. “You’re Riley…”

And here it comes. I’m going to get the “You don’t look like you’d be a search and rescue worker” bit or something similar. I decide to nip it in the bud.

“Reporting for duty, sir,” I tell him robotically, straightening up and giving him a mock salute.

Again, what I should have done is, well, anything but that.

But his full lips are quirking up into a smile, his eyes dancing with amusement.

“I think we’re going to get along just fine,” he says after a few beats, and with one fluid movement he gets out of his seat and to his feet.

I feel like the wind is knocked out of me.

This man—Maverick—is built like a fucking bear. No, he’s more than that, like if someone used a grizzly bear as the prototype for the next Robocop. He’s a beastly machine, tall, with hulking wide shoulders, and biceps I could see myself swinging off of. Who am I kidding, I could climb his whole damn body like Mount Everest and there’s more than enough tempting places to hold base camp for a few days.

And, of course, while I’m standing here practically drooling, Maverick comes over, striding across the room with his hand out to me.

“Nice to finally meet you, Riley,” he says.

I snap out of it and quickly take his hand. His grip is firm, his hand large, his skin warm. I know I’m probably imagining it, but I swear there’s a mild current of electricity running from his skin to mine. It’s either that or the fact that my wool sweater generates enough static to power a city.

“Nice to meet you, too.”

Despite my hormones going crazy inside and my nerves all frazzled, I put on my stone face and try to sound as professional as possible. This is my problem, always has been. Because I’m tall, curvy, slim, blonde, and I have tattoos, everyone I meet makes a snap judgment about me. They don’t take me seriously.

Then when you factor in that I’m kind of a goofball at heart and choose to laugh my way through life, it only makes it worse. So I have to remind myself, more often than not, that I need to work extra hard to rein myself in.

That said, Maverick holds onto my hand for what I know is a second too long, then he goes back over to his desk, which, at closer inspection, looks like a tornado hit it. “Take a seat,” he says, nodding at the chair across from it.

I walk across the room and sit down, noting that his eyes don’t leave me the entire time. Even though he’s just observing me, there’s something infinitely carnal about his gaze. I bet he gives great eye contact while fucking.

Not appropriate, rein it in, Riley.

“So,” Maverick says, picking up a piece of paper. “I’ve been looking at your resume here.”

“Hold up,” I say, showing him my palm. “I am already hired, aren’t I? I signed the contract.”

“Yes. You are officially an employee of the BC government and North Ridge Search and Rescue. You wouldn’t have had to come all this way if that wasn’t the case.”

I relax slightly.

“Back to the resume,” he says, “I just wanted to touch on something with you that might be a sensitive subject. I probably don’t have to, since you’re here and ready, but it would give me peace of mind…your last job was nearly two years ago in Aspen. I know you and your partner were caught in an avalanche.”

I swallow hard and feel my features grow harder, a cold stone building in my stomach. My defences go up automatically and everything inside me gets switched off.

“Yes, that’s right.”

He clears his throat and frowns, leaning back in his chair. “I don’t mean to pry, but I can only imagine how traumatizing it must have been.”

“It was just a class two slab avalanche.”

“I see. Well, your partner—”

“Yes, he was buried. I got him out but it was too late to prevent any damage. He’s still in a coma, in a hospital in Denver.” He opens his mouth to say something but I plow on. “No disrespect, but if you’re concerned on whether I can do my job properly or not, the fact is I’m here and that means I can. It was two years ago. I’ve gone through grief counselling. I’ve worked through things. I want to push it past me and move on. This is the only way how. I’m ready.”

He stares at me for a moment and a flash of something, maybe respect, comes through. “All right,” he says after a moment. “I trust you.”

“Good,” I tell him, still looking him steadily in the eye. I can’t let him think for a second that I’m not ready for this, otherwise he’s going to be handling me with kid gloves from this point forward.

“Also, you haven’t put anything down on your resume with regards to where you’ve been working since then…you had to have survived somehow.”

I always survive. “I was doing a lot of waitressing jobs in small towns. Nothing relative to the position or worth putting down on the resume.” I pause. “Is that a problem?”

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