Fic- Husband Material – Chapter 6

Over the weekend, Max reviewed his husband–material lessons. Time was running out for the Flying C ranch and his mother. Unfortunately, this latest development with Kate only complicated matters. He still couldn’t stop thinking about her and their kiss.
More than once he picked up the telephone, but hung up before dialing her number. Kate hadn’t agreed with his canceling the husband–material lessons for this weekend, but he knew they needed distance. He couldn’t put them in another potentially romantic position. The consequences were too great. Plus, Max had to find a wife. Without Kate’s assistance.
Monday morning, he was ready to face whatever challenge arose. With the determination of a warrior intent on the enemy’s front line, he attacked the contents of his inbox.
“Good morning, Maxwell.”
He glanced up from a financial report and did a double take at the beautiful woman in a lime green fitted jacket and short skirt. The style flattered her hourglass shape, taking advantage of her voluptuous curves and full breasts, and showed a lot of skin. He’d never seen so much of her legs before. “Kate?”
As she walked toward him, Max noticed the way she jiggled. He squirmed in his chair and glanced at her feet. New shoes — high–heeled pumps that showed off her long legs — had replaced her sensible flat ones.
“Did you have a nice weekend?” she asked with a polite smile.
She acted as if today was no different than any other day. But it was. She was. He forced his gaze away before he started to drool.
Max cleared his throat. “Yes. Did you go…shopping?”
As she nodded, her past–her–shoulder–length strands of auburn hair shimmered. Soft hair meant for running fingers through. “And your hair?”
“I decided to try something new.” She tilted her chin. “Do you like it?”
Like didn’t begin to describe what he thought. He swallowed. Hard. But then he remembered her wind–blown ponytail and how the escaped tendrils had framed her face when they were at the beach. “Yes, but I like your ponytails, too.”
She studied him for a moment, then placed a folder on top of his inbox. “I have your travel plans for SEMICON West.”
He caught a whiff of something exotic. Not her normal flowery scent. What was going on? Not that it mattered. His thoughts about her were inappropriate. He had to stop. Now. “Thanks.”
She smiled. “I forwarded you links to some articles you’ll want to read.”
“Okay.” Something else was different about her. Her eyes. Same sky blue, but they stood out more. Makeup, he realized, but it wasn’t just that. “What happened to your glasses?”
“I’ve had contacts for ages, but never wear them at work.”
Max missed her turquoise frames. He missed her. Sure Kate–the–sexy–chick was hot, but so was Kate–his–fresh–faced–assistant. The realization made him feel even more unsettled. He didn’t want to think of Kate as hot or even a woman, just his assistant. The way it had been before. “Why?”
She stared at him, a smile on her lips and a challenge in her eyes. “I thought it was time.”
“Time for what?”
Her smile tightened. “A change.”
“You don’t need to change. You’re…” Perfect, he thought. “Fine the way you are. Were.”
“Maybe ’fine’ isn’t good enough.” She placed his schedule for the day on his desk. “Maybe I want to show more of the real me.”
“The real you is inside.” He’d discovered it for himself over the past week. “It’s always been inside you, Kate.”
“Well, now it’s time for it to come out.” She motioned to his schedule. “You have lunch with a reporter from the Financial Times, a presentation at two and the monthly staff meeting at four–thirty. Your computer will remind you.”
Thorough as always. She was still his Kate. Correction, his assistant Kate.
“Do you have anything for me?” she asked.
Oh, yeah.
Stop before it’s too late.
Max wet his lips. He still felt the effects of their kiss, and now he was feeling the effects of her. Time to put an end to his husband–material lessons and get their relationship back to the comfortable place it had once been. “Why don’t you sit?”
She did and readied her pen and notebook. “What’s up?”
Her skirt, that’s what. The hem inched up her thighs. Not all the willpower in the world could keep him from looking at that peek of thigh. He wanted to tell her something, but couldn’t remember what.
“Maxwell?”
Closing his eyes, he rubbed his forehead to keep a headache from exploding.
“Are you okay?” The tender concern in her voice tugged at his heart.
Heart tugging was not allowed. He opened his eyes and squared his shoulders. “Let’s do this later. I just remembered I have a conference call.”
“It’s not on your schedule.”
“It just came up.”
She rose. “Later, then.”
As she walked out of his office, the sway of her hips hypnotized him.
Get a grip, Cooper.
Max glanced at the digital stock ticker scrolling by on his monitor, but he couldn’t comprehend a symbol or number. All he could see was Kate. Beautiful, sexy Kate. Pretty, sweet Kate.
He wanted them both. Trouble, big trouble.
Max owed it to his mother and to the Flying C ranch not to do anything stupid, but most especially he owed it to Kate. She deserved so much more than he could give her.

Kate expected some reaction from her co–workers about her new look, but their positive responses overwhelmed her. She wasn’t used to so much attention and had forced herself to just say thank–you and not blush when anyone complimented her. Including Maxwell.
She smiled. He liked the new her, but he still liked the old her, too.
The real you is inside. It’s always been inside you, Kate.
His sincere words had wrapped around her like her grandmother’s quilt. Yes, he had his priorities mixed up, but she’d always known there was something special about him. This past week had proved it. Her love for him had grown from what she now recognized as a crush and hero worship to something stronger, more real. If only things could be different for them…
The telephone rang. Her extension, not Maxwell’s. “Kate Reynolds.”
“Good morning, Kate,” a man’s deep and cheerful voice bellowed through the receiver. “It’s Connor Andersen.”
He was a company cofounder who had offered her a job two weeks ago. A position she’d turned down.
“Mr. Andersen.” Kate’s heart hammered against her chest, but she managed to keep her voice calm. “What can I do for you?”
“I’d like to see you in my office this afternoon at two–thirty.”
“Okay.” But it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. Was Mr. Andersen upset over her not taking the job? Had someone seen her kiss Maxwell in the park? Was she going to be reprimanded? Or fired? Was he? Suddenly, a new her had a totally different meaning. One not so appealing.
Kate gulped. “Would you mind telling me what this regards, Mr. Andersen?”
“It’s Connor,” he said. “I respect your loyalty to Cooper, but I still want you to be my executive assistant, Kate. Is that what you need to know?”
Not fired. Good. She blew out a puff of air. “Yes.”
“Right to the point. I like that about you,” Connor said. “Just so you know what you’re walking into, I’m not going to make it easy for you to say no this time.”
Did she want to say no again? Did she want to turn down a high–profile promotion to look after Maxwell while he looked for a wife?
No. She deserved more. But this change was more serious than shortening her skirt or letting her hair down. And, Kate realized, she was more than up for it.
Anticipation rippled through her. “I’m looking forward to it, Connor.”

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