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I’m a Giant. Well I’m Almost a Giant.
Before I could reach the usual ten feet most giants reach, a fey queen offered me a potion to stunt my growth.
And it worked.
Now I’m living my best life. Yes, I’m six and half feet tall, but I’m passing as human and I’ve landed my dream job as a lawyer.
Best of all, I’m dating my sexy new co-worker who doesn’t mind that I’m taller than him or that I’m a virgin (not that I plan on keeping that label for long).
But all of my perfect plans for the future are suddenly in jeopardy when the fey queen who controls the potion, forces me to defend a troll in a murder case who uses glamor to appear human.
Now, I’ll have to carefully maneuver my way around a series of lies to keep my job, my secret, and my perfect life.
Tessa stepped into her house just as the school bus roared down the street. Her heart sank when she noticed the door was unlocked and her mother’s handbag was on the couch. This was a rare day that she hadn’t been assigned any homework, and Tessa had planned to spend her afternoon eating junk food and playing video games until her parents came home from work.
She kicked off one of her black, patent leather shoes in the middle of the living room and made her way to the kitchen. Despite her five foot ten inches, she’d begged her mom for the high-heeled shoes to wear for career day. All women lawyers wore heels. So, Tessa insisted on wearing them too. And for once, her mother had caved.
The other shoe hit the wall with a loud thud after she flipped it off. “Oops,” Tessa grimaced and looked around, wondering if her mother had heard that. After a few seconds of silence, she shrugged off the hot suit jacket she’d worn to match her pencil skirt.
Career day had been perfect. Everyone had known exactly what she was when she stepped into the classroom. Okay, well, not everyone; a few knuckleheads thought she was a teacher or a librarian, which was ridiculous because she had never seen any teacher or librarian look as good as she did.
Her usually curly hair was straightened with a flat iron. Unfortunately, the hot, twenty-minute ride on the school bus had turned her straightened hair into a frizzy mess, and her blouse and jacket had two very large, smelly sweat stains on the armpits.
She made her way through the living room to the kitchen. Tessa had not been eating bread to prevent her hips (and boobs) from getting any bigger, so she had eaten only the meat from her hamburger at lunch, and now, she was starving.
Tessa gasped and placed her hand on her chest. Both of her parents were sitting in the kitchen, as still as statues, staring at an old leather book on the table. “Y’all about gave me a heart attack.”
They were both dressed in their work clothes. Jake Williams was a construction manager for the city. There was a hole at the bottom of his button-down plaid shirt. Holly Williams did secretarial work at the University of Oklahoma, and she wore a pair of loose pants and a black t-shirt.
Instead of answering Tessa, they looked at each other and frowned. Her dad stood, leaned against the counter, folded his arms across his chest, and proceeded to stare at bits of tar on his work boots. That meant whatever was about to go down would be led by Momma.
“Momma, what’s going on? Did somebody die?” Tessa asked, her earlier hunger forgotten.
“Sit.” Holly motioned toward the chair her dad had just vacated.
Hesitantly, Tessa did as she was told. She felt like she was on the brink of crying, but she had no idea why. Her father still had his head down, but instead of staring at his shoes, he was looking at luggage near the back door.
“Momma, what’s going on? Are you and Dad getting a divorce?” As far as she knew, they were happy. But what if they have been hiding their problems from her? “What are those bags for?”
“No, baby. No one has died, and your dad and I are fine.” Her mother had wrinkles in the corner of her eyes and around her lips that were not there yesterday. It looked like she had aged five years overnight. “All three of us are taking a trip.”
Tessa cocked a brow in suspicion. They never traveled. “Where are we going?”
“We’re going to see your grandparents,” Holly answered.
“Wow. Really?!” Her parents talked about their parents constantly, but Tessa had never met them. She only knew they lived somewhere in the backwoods of the south, and it was too expensive to get there.
“But…” Tessa said, coming to her senses. “It’s the middle of the week. I have a test tomorrow.” She wasn’t sure seeing her long-lost grandparents warranted losing her number one class ranking. “How long are we going to be gone? We need to get my class work if…”
“I need you to slow down and listen.” Holly Williams grabbed her daughter’s arm, her grip digging into Tessa’s skin. “Your homework and ranking won’t matter because we are not coming back.”
Tessa chuckled, hoping her mom and dad would start laughing along with her. But her father continued to look at the ground, and her mother stared at Tessa like someone was dead or dying… “Do you have cancer?” Tessa blurted out.
“No. Just listen. Have you ever wondered why you’re so much taller than everyone you know?”
“I’m a thirteen-year-old girl. We mature faster than boys. Everyone knows that. You tell me that all the time.” Her mother also told strangers they met in the grocery store, the mall, and at the gas station when they gaped and had to mention that Tessa was the tallest girl they had ever seen.
“You’re the tallest girl by far. You’re taller than your father and me.”
“I’m tall. So what?”
Her mom pushed the leather-bound book from the center of the table toward Tessa. It was dusty and smelled of mothballs. The old, stiff pages seemed to groan in protest as Holly flipped through the book with her thin dark hands.
“These are your grandparents,” Holly pointed to the pictures inside of the book. “This is my mother.” She pointed to a light-skinned woman. “This is my father,” she said pointing to a caramel colored man. He was almost twice his wife’s height.
“He’s crazy tall.” Tessa ran her hands over the image.
Her mother nodded and turned the page. “This is your father’s family.” She pointed to another couple. The man looked just like her dad. The woman was a few inches shorter than her husband, but they were both tall.
“You have his mother’s smile,” Holly said, pointing at a dark-skinned woman. Her kinky hair was wrapped in a bun atop her head.
Tessa ran her finger along the picture. “She’s beautiful.” Suddenly, the thought of missing a few days of school wasn’t looking so bad. Grandparents were legendary for spoiling their grandkids, right?
“Everyone but my mother are giants.”
“Yeah, they’re tall,” Tessa agreed.
“Your grandparents are more than tall. They are the kind of tall that scares most people. The kind of tall that scares the sanity out of most people.”
Her father quickly approached the table. “You are a giant. You come from a long line of giants.” His voice was strained.
“Just because they’re tall doesn’t mean they’re giants. That’s kinda crazy, Dad,” Tessa chuckled.
“It’s not safe here for you, and we have to leave. That’s why our bags are packed.” He was calmer now, his tone even.
Tessa didn’t understand. “Are you trying to tell me that you aren’t my parents, because I look just like you, Dad.”
“No, that’s not what we’re trying to say.” He looked away, exasperated.
Tessa was losing patience. She couldn’t comprehend anything they were saying. They were speaking crazy talk. Giants aren’t real.
“Wait a minute. Are there cameras hidden somewhere? Am I being filmed?” She forced her mouth into a wide smile for the hidden cameras.
“It’s time.” Out of nowhere, a small woman with dark, glossy hair with one red streak appeared in the kitchen.
“Is she part of the TV crew?” Tessa asked, deciding to ignore the fact that the pixie-like woman had appeared out of thin air and wore pointed ears. It must have been part of the show.
“She didn’t believe you?” The woman walked further into the kitchen as if she belonged there.
“No,” her father and mother answered in unison.
“They never believe,” the pixie-like woman replied.
Her father walked over to the luggage. “Time to go, Tessa.”
“Who are you?” Tessa tried to give her best smile for the camera. She should have kept her jacket and high heels on.
“I’m Queen Isis. I’m here to take you home.”
“Queen Isis,” Tessa repeated with a strained smile, looking over at her mom. “I’m already home.”
“Jake, Holly, are you ready?” Queen Isis asked, ignoring Tessa.
Her parents walked to Tessa and stood on either side of her. “Yes, we’re ready.” They grabbed her hand.
“Where are we going?” Tessa fought to pull her hands away.
The woman who had dubbed herself Queen Isis walked over and stood directly in front of Tessa. This close, she could see the woman had long, sharp canine teeth and pupils that were a little too large to be normal. She smelled of earth after a spring rain. An intense fear of this woman–this queen– rooted itself in Tessa’s gut. “We’re going home.” The so-called queen put her hands on Tessa’s arm, and the world disappeared.
Ten years later…
Tessa placed the last moving box on her brand-new marble countertop. “That’s the last of it! I’m officially moved in.” She couldn’t help but beam. It felt like her birthday, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and the Fourth of July all wrapped into one day.
“Woohoo!” Peony came into the kitchen, holding a glass of gin and cranberry juice. “Party time!” She lifted the glass above her head and shimmied her shoulders. Peony wore jeans and flip-flops. She had probably moved one box the entire damn day. Instead, she had stood off to the side, drinking, talking about a new boyfriend named Freddy, and gossiping about an upcoming war in the fey realm between the queens.
“If you spill any of that on my carpet, I’m kicking your ass,” Tessa threatened.
Peony’s perfect pink lips turned down into a frown. “You think you’re all that, don’t you?” The human slang still sounded odd with Peony’s elvish accent. An accent that she told the humans was Finnish.
Technically, Tessa was human, so it was easy for her to justify living in the human realm. However, elves and other fey creatures were forbidden. Although most humans didn’t know the fey or a separate realm existed. Thanks to the treaty signed centuries ago, any fey caught in the human realm had to be reported to one of the three queens or shadow guards who did the majority of the patrolling.
Queen Isis was different. She let rogue fey, fey who chose to live in the human realm, come and go as they pleased, just as long as they registered with her, didn’t use magic, and stayed out of trouble. Peony and Deidre were two of those elves, living undercover with humans and passing as one of them.
Tessa put her hand on her hip and dipped her head. “Yes, I do think I’m all that.” This apartment and this feeling of accomplishment were ten years in the making. She was going to savor every second of it.
Her parents had been right. The ‘giant’ gene that had skipped them both had decided to attack Tessa full on. She had grown half a foot within the first year she arrived in the Fey Realm.
Lucky for Tessa, Queen Isis and her sorcerers were working on a potion to slow the growth of giants. Her parents didn’t want her to be a part of the experimental trials, but Tessa begged and pleaded until they agreed to let her participate. Tessa had plans. Plans that she felt were embedded in her DNA from the day she was born. And none of those plans included being labeled a freak, a giant, or living in an ass-backward place called the Fey Realm.
While they experimented with the potion, Tessa refused to give up on her plan. After four years of homeschooling in the fey realm, she earned a high school diploma, followed by a four-year correspondence course to get a bachelor’s degree in political science.
There had been drawbacks of the experimental potions, of course: painful acne all over her body, stomach cramps, uncontrollable weight loss one day, uncontrollable weight gain the next week. But most of the side effects had worked out over time except for the joint pain. The joints in her elbows, knees, and fingers were constantly in pain, a pain she happily suffered through for normalcy and a life in the human realm where she belonged.
She had stopped growing five years ago, but Queen Isis and her parents refused to let her leave the fey realm until they were completely sure the potion had worked. It took a lot of coaxing on her part, but they released her just in time for her to start law school and get her law degree. And now, she had her first apartment and her first job.
Tessa made her way into the living room, fell onto the only couch she could find that accommodated her six-foot six bulk, and grabbed a pain pill from one of the bottles of ibuprofen she had strategically placed around the apartment. “Where is my drink?” Tessa asked Peony.
“Get it yourself.” Peony sat next to her on the couch. She’d taken off her shoes, and her feet were curled underneath her. Tessa wanted to tell her to get her feet off the new white leather couch, but she stayed quiet, fighting the need to control everything.
Peony was an elf Tessa had met in the first month of law school. They had known exactly what the other was as soon as they had seen each other in the hair salon near campus. Elves weren’t as tall as giants, but they were still taller than most humans. With gaunt cheeks, canine teeth that were sharper than humans, arms and torso a little too long, they fit in well enough to pass as human. But if you knew what to look for, it was obvious they were a different species.
Despite being an elf and having straight, brown hair, Peony knew how to do box braids, flat iron, and install hair weave; that alone was worth keeping her around.
“Here.” Deidre appeared from behind the couch and handed Tessa a glass of gin.
“Oh wow. How did you know?” Tessa asked jokingly. Deidre was an elven truthsayer, or what some liked to call a prophet. You’d think she would be super handy to have around, but she never warned you about important things like when you would die or when you would meet the love of your life. She believed everyone needed to determine their own destiny, but that never stopped Tessa or Peony from asking about their future.
Tessa had met Deidre through Peony and, despite Tessa’s desire to live a normal fey-free life, the three of them became quick friends. She had tried to make human friends, but most felt uncomfortable around her. Tessa couldn’t quite understand why. Was it her height, or did she give off the ‘I have a deep, dark secret’ vibe? It was probably a whole lot of both, Tessa guessed.
Deidre’s blonde hair was cut in a bob, showing off her ears. Instead of the typical pointy ears that most elves had, Deidre had a plastic surgeon blunt hers to resemble those of humans. Peony either couldn’t afford to do that or she didn’t want to. Deidre and Peony had made readjusting to the human realm much easier, and she loved them for it.
“Toast time.” Deidre stood and lifted her glass, and Tessa and Peony followed.
“To our little giant. After two years of working her ass off, she’s finally gotten everything she’s dreamed of.”
The offices of Strahan and Associates were on the second floor of an up-and-coming shopping center on the edge of downtown Oklahoma City. The locals had lovingly labeled the area Midtown. A pub where Tessa knew she would be spending lots of time, a sandwich shop, a bakery, and a burger restaurant were on the first floor. A gym, her new job, and a few other small businesses were on the second.
The elevator for the building was out of order, and the stairs rose above her like an insurmountable mountain. In the fey realm, she had to walk everywhere. There were no cars, escalators, or elevators. Tessa’s knees and elbows were in constant pain caused by her potion-slash-medication, but she had at least weighed less. Here, with fast food, fancy restaurants, and Uber, she had gained thirty pounds – all in her boobs and hips – and she habitually avoided every single stair known to man.
These stairs were karma personified, staring her down and laughing.
She took off her high-heeled shoes. They were only one of two pairs she could find that fit and were comfortable, but there was not a high-heel created that would make walking up these steep stairs bearable.
A masculine voice cut through Tessa’s trepidation. She turned to find a set of hazel eyes looking directly into her own. She almost never got to look into a man’s eyes in this realm without looking down, but this guy was almost as tall as she was.
“Do you need some help?” he asked.
It took a moment for Tessa to register the question. She was too shocked by his height. She wanted to ask if he was a basketball player, but she quickly dismissed the thought. If she had a dime for every damn human who asked her the same damn question, she’d be a one-thousandaire.
“The elevator is out of order,” Tessa replied.
“You look like you’re in pain,” he mocked. The colors in his eyes danced around each other, unable to decide if they were green, blue, or gold. “You want me to carry you?”
“I’m not in pain.” At least she wasn’t in pain yet. Her knees would be screaming after she conquered the steps. There had to be at least fifty. “I’m just lazy and out of shape.”
He ran his gaze down her body and up again. She had to fight the urge to cover herself with her arms. “You look like you’re in pretty good shape to me,” he said.
Despite herself, she blushed. Was he flirting with her? Before she could think of anything clever or flirtatious to say back, he ran up the stairs. His long, lean legs skipped three steps at a time. His gray cotton joggers were just tight enough to show the outline of a well-shaped ass.
Once he reached the top, he turned and stared down at her.
“Show off,” Tessa said from the bottom of the stairs. “I could do that if I didn’t have on a skirt.”
He replied with a smile before he disappeared into the gym.
“Asshole,” she muttered. I can do it if he can do it. Tessa took a deep breath and did a slow climb up the stairs. It was at a snail’s pace, but she confidently took them three steps at a time.
“Hi. I’m Tessa Williams. I’m here to. . .” Tessa said to the short, auburn-haired secretary.
“Yeah. I know who you are,” the secretary replied. “I remember you from your interview. I guess you don’t remember me.”
“I remember you. I just. . .”
“Don’t worry about it. Most people don’t bother to remember the secretary.”
But… I do remember you, Tessa wanted to say to the little waif of a woman, but she was already halfway down the hall, switching her hips, and talking a mile a minute. It only took a couple of strides for Tessa to catch up. She followed Paige -she suddenly remembered the secretary’s name- past the conference room and into the back where there were six offices, three on each side.
During her interview, Bill, the owner of Strahan and Associates, had told her it was a new firm looking to expand. Walking down the hall and glimpsing the empty offices, Tessa realized he had not been exaggerating.
“This is your office.” Paige stopped at the last office on the right. “Bill will be here later to explain your duties. Until he returns from court, you can complete your HR forms, health insurance, and 401k paperwork. The papers are on your desk.”
“Well, okay. Do you have any questions?” Paige asked after a few seconds of awkward silence.
“No… I guess not,” Tessa answered.
Paige turned abruptly and left the room.
What the hell was wrong with her? Tessa wondered. There goes one person I will not be best friends with. Anyway, I’m not going to let that heffa get to me. Tessa turned and took in her office. Beige curtains that were better suited for a retirement home hung from the lone window. A laptop with a docking station and two monitors sat on the L-shaped desk made from cheap manufactured wood. Two tall bookshelves half-filled with law books sat against the wall opposite the desk. The room smelled of dust and abandonment.
It wasn’t very big, but it didn’t matter. Tessa had her own office. It wasn’t a cubicle or some type of open space nonsense where everyone was breathing down each other’s necks.
Don’t worry, she thought, sitting behind the desk. I’ll use you. Tessa knew it was nerdy, but she couldn’t help but feel excited as she imagined all the hours of work she and her office were going to have together.
She ran her hands along the surface of the desk and sneezed when a thin layer of dust hit her sinuses.
Having her own office space had been one of the many reasons why she had chosen this firm over the bigger ones that had offered her a job. She could also stand out – not that it wasn’t hard for a 6’6” woman to stand out- and she would be thrown into important work quicker. The sooner she was able to skip grunt work and sink her teeth into big, important cases, the sooner she could start her own firm.
Surprisingly, the chair and desk were tall enough so that she didn’t have to bend her knees at an awkward angle for them to fit underneath, but she did have to get two thick law books from the shelf to put under the twin monitors so she could see the screens without bending her neck.
Jeremy Price ran through the double doors of Midtown Plaza and almost ran into the tallest woman he had ever seen. And he knew tall women. He played college ball and dated a quarter of the girls’ basketball team.
She looked absolutely pissed as she stood in the hallway, looking up at the stairs that led to the second floor.
The scent of peaches and something salty and sweet surrounded her, making him both hungry and aroused. He shook the last thought away. What was wrong with him? He hadn’t even seen this woman’s face.
“You need some help?” he asked.
The woman turned, and her warm, brown eyes looked directly into his. She wore her hair in a high bun atop her head. Her blue skirt was tight around her waist, but the matching jacket was loose, showing off a white floral shirt underneath. The blouse was thin, and he wondered: If he looked hard enough, could he see the outline of her bra?
“The elevator is out of order.” She tore her gaze away from him to grimace at the stairs.
“You look like you’re in pain. You want me to carry you?” He spoke without thinking, but he meant every word.
She giggled. Her wide, bright smile and the sound of her laughter made his dick jump.
“No, I’m not old and feeble yet. I’m just lazy and out of shape.”
He swept his gaze away from her brown eyes and down the length of her body. She wasn’t skinny, but she definitely wasn’t out of shape. She was curvy, well-proportioned, and had ample-sized breasts to round out the beautiful ass he’d seen when he ran into the building. “You look like you’re in pretty good shape to me.”
Jeremy pushed his workout to the limit, using the maximum weight on all of his lifts in a vain effort to forget about the woman at the bottom of the stairwell.
It was like she’d put him under a spell. He couldn’t stop thinking about her smile or the sexy curves of her body. All he succeeded in doing with his grueling workout was tweak a muscle in his leg when he’d come down on a squat too fast.
Even though he was tired and in pain, thoughts of her were still running rapid as he stood in the shower. He desperately wanted to jerk off, but only pervs masturbated in public showers. He refused to be that creepy guy.
Damn. He needed to get laid. He needed his woman, but things hadn’t been going well with Lisa. She was always busy. But damn, so was he, and he always made time for her.
He turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, thoughts of Lisa drowning out the other woman completely.
He grabbed his towel off the shower hook and walked over to his locker. They were meeting later for dinner. Hopefully, by the end of tonight, he’d be in bed with his woman.
The moment Jeremy walked into the office, Paige the part-time paralegal and part-time secretary smiled mischievously at him. He could tell from her grin that Paige had gossip, and he had no choice but to stop and listen. Besides the boss, there were only two of them in the budding law firm, so Jeremy was Paige’s only outlet for office and family gossip. He wished he could ignore her, but pissing off the office’s only paralegal was stupid.
With only the three of them, there wasn’t much to gossip about, but Paige knew all the trainers in the gym across the hall and most of the wait staff who worked in the restaurants on the first floor.
“The new lawyer started today,” she whispered conspiratorially.
“Damn. Really?” Bill had mentioned he was going to hire someone, but he hadn’t told Jeremy he’d gone through with it.
Paige nodded with her lips pressed into a thin line.
“Is she in Bill’s office now?”
The moment he asked the question, the statuesque woman who smelled of peaches and was afraid to climb the stairs walked out of the boss’s office.
Jeremy knew it was a cliché, but he felt his heart lurch into his throat.
It took an hour for Tessa to complete her tax forms and choose the cheapest dental and medical plans. With the important stuff out of the way and with nothing else to do, Tessa figured out her computer login and pulled up Pinterest, IKEA, and Pottery Barn for decorating ideas for her office.
A leather patented love seat, baby blue cushioned chairs, and a decorative bookshelf were sitting pretty in her IKEA online cart when someone finally remembered she was there and knocked on her door.
She hurriedly closed the open tabs on her computer monitor and stood.
Bill Strahan, the owner of Strahan and Associates, was short and had black and white peppered hair. He was slender and well-built, like he did yoga and ate nothing but vegetables. He looked like a movie actor, the kind who always got to play lawyers or unaware dads on television.
“Tessa.” Bill walked into her office and shook Tessa’s hand. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t here to greet you.”
“I understand. You had a court date, right?”
“Right; have you eaten? I hoped we could have an early lunch so that you can get to know your co-workers.”
“That sounds great. I’m starving.” Tessa pulled her purse from under the desk and followed Bill into the hallway.
Standing beside Paige was the guy Tessa had met at the bottom of the stairs. No longer in sweats, he wore a pinstriped suit with a dark shirt underneath. Did her new boss have a thing for tall folks?
“Tessa, this is Jeremy, the other attorney in our firm,” Bill said. “And you’ve met Paige, our paralegal.”
“We met this morning on the stairs.” Jeremy wore a wide smile. The heat rose in Tessa’s cheeks as she remembered the way he had stared at her in the hallway. Now, he had the same mischievous gleam in his eye as earlier. Damn. This man was bold.
Bill raised a brow and cleared his throat. “I should have emailed you yesterday to let you know the elevators were out of order.”
“Yeah, I noticed.” Tessa made sure her smile never wavered as she added the friendly jibe.
“Did Jeremy show you how to get to the service elevators?” Bill asked.
That asshole. “No, he did not,” Tessa said with a forced smile.
Jeremy grinned. “Well, you looked like you would have preferred the stairs.”
I looked like no such thing, Tessa thought, shooting him a stare that sent most men cowering away in fear. But this wasn’t just any man. Jeremy seemed like a giant in his own right, and he apparently didn’t cower.
“Where would you like to eat, Tessa?” Bill asked.
Tessa plastered the ‘I’m a friendly giant’ smile back onto her face before she turned to Bill. “My office looks down on an interesting place. I was wondering about their food.”
Taking the service elevators out of the building, the quartet walked the short distance to the restaurant. During the walk, Tessa learned that Bill lived in Heritage Hills, an older, expensive neighborhood five blocks north of Midtown. She couldn’t help but be impressed. Most people who lived in Heritage Hills had old money, and she wondered what his story was.
Jeremy lived about half a mile south in some new fancy condos that were right out of an IKEA catalog. She knew because she had looked into them before she decided on her own apartment. The building she’d chosen was newly renovated and more than a hundred years old.
According to the menu, the restaurant served Latin American food and was named as an homage to the year Columbus arrived in America. Who would name a restaurant after a year that symbolized the torture and genocide of Native Americans Her mother would have a fit if she knew Tessa was eating in a restaurant celebrating the destruction of an entire culture. Why couldn’t they just name it something Latin that symbolized less human suffering?
“Did you hear me?” Jeremy asked, pulling Tessa away from thoughts of genocide. “I apologize. I should have told you about the elevator,” he continued.
Tessa put down the menu. “Yes, you should have. You’re right, though; I needed the exercise.”
A wave of familiarity passed through her like a chill. It didn’t happen often, but she could tell he was going to be one of those people she would enjoy working with. “So, you exercise before you come to work?”
“Yeah. I ride my bike in the morning and lift some weights afterward.”
She looked him up and down, giving him the same predatory stare he’d given her when they’d first met. “You don’t look like you need to exercise to me.”
“That’s why I do it.”
At five o’clock on the dot, Tessa packed up her purse and headed out of the office. Apparently, it was a slow day because everyone else had left at four p.m. sharp, but she had insisted on staying. Bill had given her three cases he wanted her to work on for a month. She was determined to work her ass off and finish the work in half the time he’d given her.
To celebrate her first day on the job, Peony and Deidre were meeting Tessa at the pub downstairs. Tessa figured Peony really wanted to drink and talk more about her new boyfriend than to celebrate Tessa’s new job, but she was not rude enough to point that out.
The pub was jam-packed, loud, and standing room only. The place was half-filled with professionals in suits, flats, and high heels, dressed exactly like her. Then there were the hipster-creatives with tattoos, nose rings, and a few beards. She smiled. This was just her type of crowd.
Scanning the crowd of twenty- and thirty-somethings, she spotted Peony and Deidre sitting at the bar. As Tessa made her way through the throng of downtown professionals, she noticed her girls had saved her a seat by leaving a purse on a bar stool.
A woman standing on the periphery of her group was eyeing the purse with malice, clearly upset to see the seat was being unused. When Tessa picked up the bag, the woman looked up and grimaced.
When her eyes settled on Tessa and all of her tallness, she blanched and scurried to the other side of her group. Tessa smiled. Height was good for something.
The moment she sat, Deidre passed her a bottle of Corona Light and an order of fries. When it came to food, Deidre and her truthsayer-ness always knew exactly what Tessa needed.
Tessa threw a couple of fries into her mouth. “Thank you. I’m starving.” Because of the twisted name of the restaurant, she had only eaten a salad during lunch. She refused to contribute to that restaurant’s profit margin. Now she was so hungry she felt as though her stomach was eating itself.
“How was your first day at work?” Peony asked. She sat on the other side of Deidre, and she had to lean over for Tessa to hear.
“It was great!” Tessa shouted. “I got exactly what I wanted. My own office and kinda friendly co-workers,” she elaborated, thinking of Jeremy, who was a little too friendly, and Paige, who seemed to be unhappy about working with another woman. “It’s just two other lawyers, so I know it’ll be plenty of room to move up.”
“Good!” Peony said exuberantly. “Those criminals won’t know what hit ‘em. You’re going to be the best damn lawyer this side of the Mason Dixon line.”
“I’m going into tax law,” Tessa corrected. “And do you even know what the Mason Dixon line is?”
“Nope,” Peony agreed. Tessa could tell by the quick answer she was already tipsy.
“Was that just something you heard on TV?” Tessa asked. Peony was always repeating slang she heard from television. Most were old and regional and that no one understood.
“Yep.” Peony bobbed her head furiously to the rock song playing over the speakers.
“How long have you guys been drinking?” Tessa asked Deidre. She was a little jealous she wasn’t feeling as good as Peony yet.
Deidre dipped a fry in ketchup and put it in her mouth. “About thirty minutes. I told her to slow down. But the guy she’s sitting next to is buying them.”
“Oh.” Tessa rolled her eyes.
“It doesn’t take a truthsayer to know that he’s trying to get her drunk and take her home,” Deidre said bitterly.
Tessa couldn’t help but grin. Her truthsayer best friend was scary sometimes. Deidre hated liars and cheats. With her ability, she could spot them a mile away.
Tessa knew that Deidre would go ahead and let the man spend his money and buy Peony drinks, but that was as far as it was going.
“But what about her new gorgeous boyfriend?” Tessa asked.
“Since when has having a boyfriend ever stopped Peony from flirting?”
Deidre had a point. Peony was boy crazy. She went through men (mostly human) like Tessa went through pain pills.
Tessa leaned back and eyed the person sitting next to Peony. He was an older guy, human of course. From this view, Tessa could see his belly hanging over his belt. Because elves were usually thin, human men with a little fat were almost considered a sex symbol to elven women.
Tessa was about to return to her food and drink when someone caught her eye and almost made her choke on her fries.
Jeremy, her new coworker, sat at a table near the window, having what looked like a heated discussion with a beautiful brown woman.
Tessa jerked upright on her bar stool, almost spilling her beer. “Oh my gawd, Deidre! That’s one of my co-workers over there.”
“What?! Where?” Deirdre asked, acting surprised. She may have actually been surprised. It was hard to tell with a trushsayer. Deidre had told them repeatedly that she didn’t see nearly as much stuff as they thought she did.
Tessa tried to look as inconspicuous as possible as she motioned towards the windows with her eyes and a small nod.
Deidre followed her gaze. “Are you talking about the tall human?”
“Yeah,” Tessa said, a little too loud and with a little too much emotion. She had only had a few sips of her beer, but it was already starting to affect her. Yeah, she was a lightweight. “I think my boss has a fetish for tall people.”
“It looks like they’re arguing,” Deidre said, staring intently at the couple.
“Who’s arguing?” Peony asked, the guy next to her forgotten for the moment.
“One of my coworkers is sitting at the table over there.” Tessa didn’t dare tell them what happened today in the stairwell. They would probably tell her he was flirting with her. But… humans didn’t flirt with Tessa unless they were crazy and had a tall girl fetish.
Jeremy sat at the crowded pub, trying to stay patient as he waited for his girl. He hadn’t seen Lisa in two weeks, and all he wanted to do was cuddle on the couch with her, watch Netflix, and chill. But she had insisted on dinner out, so here he was. He also had to admit he was feeling guilty about flirting with the new lawyer at work. Some alone time with Lisa would chase the thoughts of all other women from his mind.
When she walked through the entrance, she was fifteen minutes late and stone-faced; her lips were pressed into a thin line. Even when she was obviously grumpy, Lisa’s beauty was hard to deny. She was Cherokee, and her shoulder-length black hair was streaked with honey highlights that went perfectly with her tanned skin.
“Are you okay?” Jeremy asked, standing to greet her.
She sat in her seat before he could touch her. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
Despite his gut telling him something wasn’t right, his body responded to her instantly. He wanted to reach out and touch her hand and run his thumb across her cheek until she looked up and smiled at him with those gray eyes.
“What’s going on?” he asked, deciding to play his part. A part of him still held out hope everything was okay. Maybe he was reading too much into her absence over the past few weeks and her standoffish behavior right now. Maybe he was paranoid.
“Jeremy…” She paused. “We’ve been together for a year now.” Another long pause. She lifted her head, and he could tell she was forcing herself to hold his gaze.
“Yeah. What’s your point?” His voice was harsh.
Her frown deepened, but she held steady. “I think it’s time for us to start seeing other people.”
“Is this why you’ve been avoiding me?”
She stayed silent.
He guessed he owed her a thank you for dodging him over the past few weeks. He had known it was coming; he just hadn’t wanted to believe it. As he sat across from her, Jeremy realized he’d been mourning the relationship in her absence. Now, all he needed to do was kill and bury it.
“Is there someone else?” he asked before he could stop himself.
“Why does it have to be someone else? Why can’t I just move on with my life? Why can’t we just be over?”
“I remember how we got together. You were with someone then, also. But I didn’t know about it until your boyfriend confronted me at my job. Remember?”
“That’s not fair.”
“I don’t know why I thought this relationship would be different,” Jeremy continued. “I thought we were going to get married.”
“I don’t believe in marriage. You know that.”
He nodded, grinning at his stupidity. Yeah. Lisa had said she didn’t believe in marriage when they first hooked up but her actions had proven the exact opposite. For the past year, they’d spent almost every night together, every holiday, every birthday.
He was a fool to believe he could tame her.
She stood and slung her purse strap over her shoulder. She looked relieved. Like a heavy weight had been lifted off her shoulder. She was even smiling. “It was good while it lasted, right?”
Jeremy sat back in his chair and flipped her off. It was childish, but he couldn’t let her get away too easily.
She rolled her eyes and fought her way through the crowd and out of the pub.
He slumped further in his chair, feeling defeated and drained. In this position, he had a perfect view of the bar, and he noticed a group of women looking his way. He was about to dismiss them until he noticed one of them was much taller than anyone else at the bar.
A slow grin crossed his face. The fates were on his side after all.
“Do you think that’s his girlfriend?” Tessa asked.
“Not anymore,” Peony said as all three of them watched Jeremy give the girl the universal sign for “fuck you.” The woman, to her credit, just turned and left. Tessa’s inner pettiness would have made her return the gesture.
“Wow,” Peony said. “That was embarrassing.”
“We don’t know they broke up. We don’t even know if that was his girlfriend,” Tessa said.
“Deidre?” Peony asked.
“Yes, that was his girlfriend, and they broke up,” Deidre answered as if she was bored.
Tessa gasped. Deidre hardly ever gave them any details about what she knew.
“Why’d they break up?” Peony asked, beating Tessa to the question.
“None of my business.” Deidre suddenly became very interested in the ice at the bottom of her glass.
“Well, if he’s single now,” Peony said, “do you mind if I go talk to him?”
“You are not going to hook up with my co-worker!” Tessa exclaimed.
“Just for a little while?” Peony asked with a wicked grin.
“No,” Tessa said, wondering what happened to her old, chubby human.
“Fine; I got a boyfriend anyway.”
“When do we get to meet this new boyfriend?” Tessa asked at the same moment she saw Jeremy turn his attention to their direction.
“Oh shoot!” Tessa gasped, quickly turning away. “He just looked over here!?”
Deidre frowned at her glass while Peony chuckled. “Busted.”
“Do you think he saw us?” Tessa asked Deidre.
“So, you saw what happened, huh?” Jeremy’s voice spoke from behind Tessa. She turned. Her cheeks blazed with embarrassment.
“It looked like you got dumped,” Deidre quipped.
“Deidre!” Tessa and Peony shrieked in unison.
Jeremy laughed. “Yeah, it was a few weeks coming. No big deal.” He had a friendly smile, and there was light in his golden-green eyes. He didn’t seem like he’d just been broken up with.
Deidre sneered at him like he was shit on the bottom of her shoe and looked away.
“Don’t pay her any attention. She’s crazy,” Tessa tried to laugh off Deidre’s behavior. Tessa had seen Diedre turn bitch on plenty of people, but Tessa had to work with Jeremy. She had to know looking at him like that wasn’t cool. Still, Tessa couldn’t wait to get Deidre alone to hear why she had put him on her truthsayer naughty list.
“I have to go to the bathroom.” Deidre stood. “Peony, come with me. I need some protection from the weirdoes.”
“No, I want to stay and talk to Jeremy,” Peony replied.
“Come.” Deidre pulled at Peony’s arm and dragged her away.
“You want me to come?” Tessa asked, confused. What was going on? This was strange even for Deidre.
“No,” Deidre replied. “I just need Peony.”
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” Jeremy said as he watched them walk away. “I’m usually much more respectful to women. It’s just a little complicated.”
“She dumped you for someone else?” Tessa asked.
He frowned. “It was that obvious, huh?”
“Yep,” Tessa nodded, wondering what the other guy must have looked like for his girlfriend to cheat on this good-looking guy.
“Some things are just meant to end, no matter how much work you put into it.”
“You must have really loved her.”
He shrugged. “What about you? Girlfriend? Boyfriend?”
“No, no boyfriend. I’m single.” Her cheeks burned from the question, but she tried to sound casual. “What’s up with Bill?” Tessa asked to change the subject. “There are only a handful of six foot six people in the world, and he has two of them to working at his office. Seems like a big coincidence.”
“I was wondering the same thing. Do you think he has a fetish?” Jeremy asked with a laugh and a sparkle in his eye.
“Good question,” Tessa said, giggling. His laughter was contagious. Once again, she was reminded how easy it was to talk to him.
“Well, here come your friends.” He nodded toward Peony and Deidre as they made their way through the crowd. “I don’t want to interrupt your evening out. I just wanted to say hi before I left. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Bye,” Tessa nodded. She couldn’t help but stare at the outline of his butt in his jeans as he walked away.
“What’s going on?” Tessa asked the moment Deidre was in shouting distance. “If you know something about Jeremy, you have to tell me. What’s wrong with him?” A ball of nervous dread clattered around in her belly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Deidre said, feigning ignorance.
“You were pissy to him. I’ve only ever seen you act like that with murderers and liars and child molesters… evil people.”
“I don’t know what you mean. I treat everyone equally, regardless of their past or future.”
Tessa cut her eyes at Deidre. She knew damn well what Tessa was talking about. “Peony, did Deidre tell you anything? What’s wrong with Jeremy?” Tessa leaned over the bar to catch Peony’s gaze.
“She didn’t tell me anything,” Peony shrugged. “Sorry.”
“Come on, Deidre. Is he a mass murderer?”
“No, he’s not a mass murderer.” Deidre’s lips turned into something between a grimace and a sneer. “But keep your distance from him.”
Tessa never asked Deidre serious questions about her future or past. She left that up to Peony. But this was different. She would have to work with Jeremy. She needed to know if she was in danger. “Come on, Deidre. Will you please just give me this one bit of information? Is he dangerous?”
“No, he’s not dangerous. But he’s not safe either.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Tessa asked.
“If we’re not going to celebrate your new job, I’m leaving.” Agitation was clear in Deidre’s voice.
“Okay. Okay. Let’s drink, eat, and be merry.” Tessa gave up. She resigned herself to sip her drink and smile while she made a mental note of being careful around Jeremy. She wouldn’t let him know where she lived; she would no longer look at his well-muscled ass or gaze into those sexy hazel eyes. She would stay far, far away from this man unless it was work related.
How hard could that be? She popped her last fry into her mouth. She was at Strahan and Associates to work, not flirt.
Six weeks later, Tessa sat across from Clark Dewberry, a middle-aged owner of an IT company. He smelled good and looked expensive. It was easy to tell that this guy enjoyed money, especially when you considered he’d chosen to lie to the IRS about $100,000.00 of his income.
It had taken a week of daily pestering, but she’d finally been able to convince Mr. Dewberry to be upfront about the shortcuts he and his accountant had taken. Lying had only saved him $20,000.00. Now that the IRS had caught him in his lie, he not only owed back taxes, but now he had to pay penalties, interest, and a lawyer. Tessa didn’t understand why people weren’t just honest from the beginning. Then again, if people like Mr. Dewberry were honest, she wouldn’t have a job.
Jeremy sat next to her, letting her lead the meeting. Before Tessa was hired, he’d reluctantly worked all the tax-related cases. Over the past six weeks, he’d spent every workday training her to take them over. Despite the distraction of having an Adonis around her every day, she’d been able to concentrate and soak up all the advice and information he gave her. She reminded herself daily that according to Deidre, he was a potential madman.
The job had been frustrating at first. Tessa was constantly making mistakes but over the past few weeks, she had learned enough to get through a meeting without stumbling over the most common tax codes.
Most people thought tax law was boring, but the law and the people she represented were interesting. The schemes people came up with to dodge their share of taxes were incredible. Ironically, most were only caught because their wives, mistresses, business partners, or pissed-off employees had reported them. In Mr. Dewberry’s case, his wife and mistress had teamed up to turn him in for tax evasion.
By the time the client left, there was a box of papers on the table, filled with the missing information and the correspondence between Mr. Dewberry and his accountant. The accountant would lose his license, of course, but Mr. Dewberry only had to pay a hefty fine and back taxes, and he could go back to business as usual.
“Are we having lunch today?” Jeremy asked.
Heeding Deidre’s warning, Tessa promised herself she wouldn’t interact with Jeremy unless it was work-related. She had every intention of keeping that promise, but he was training her, and they clicked like they’d known each other for years instead of only a few weeks. If it was true that psycho murderers were personable and charming, then Jeremy fit the bill. Since she had started at Strahan and Associates, they’d spent every day together, including lunch at least three days out of the week. And if they were both on really tight deadlines, they would have dinner. Deidre had said he wasn’t a murderer, but Tessa still made sure she carried mace and a knife in her purse.
“No, I’m too busy to do lunch today.” Tessa could feel her stomach stretching the waist of her pencil skirt pass its natural limits. She needed to skip lunches until she learned how to bypass burgers and fries and order something healthy.
“Why? What are you working on?” His eyes narrowed. His voice was full of disbelief.
“Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with work. Maybe I have a lunch date.” She didn’t, of course, not unless she counted the salad she had packed for lunch as a possible suitor.
“Oh.” He frowned as though no one had ever told him no in his entire life. Come to think of it, she had never told Jeremy no, but the additional weight was increasing the pain in her knees tenfold. Healthy habits started today.
Ten minutes later, Tessa placed Mr. Dewberry’s paperwork on her desk. When she turned around, Jeremy was standing in her office.
“I’m not going to lunch, Jeremy. I packed …” a salad, she was going to say, but before she could finish, Jeremy had closed the space between the two of them and tried to kiss her. Or at least that’s what she thought he was trying to do.
He had come in too fast and ended up knocking her teeth with his own.
“Ow!” Tessa covered her mouth in surprise more than pain.
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t do that right.”
Jeremy tried again. She should have been more prepared this time, but she had thought the first kiss had been a mistake.
This time, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. He pressed his lips firmly against hers. Tessa’s body reacted immediately, melting into his. Tingles shot down her lips and traveled to her toes.
Tessa moaned, and Jeremy took the kiss deeper, sliding his tongue into her mouth. Her mouth, moving with a will of its own, sucked on it greedily. He tasted sweet, delicious, and minty. Had he popped a mint into his mouth before he came in here?
His cool, minty breath was enough to wake her up. “Hey…hey… What are you doing?” She put her hands on his chest and pushed him away.
Short of breath, he licked his lips. “I thought it’s what you wanted.” He turned as red as a beet, and Tessa almost laughed.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” She was not an office whore, even if the wetness between her thighs said otherwise.
He lifted his chin; his earlier embarrassment gone, but his cheeks were still flushed. “No. If you were stupid, you wouldn’t have this job.”
“If you thought I had a brain, you wouldn’t kiss me at work without my permission. We’ve never even been on a date.”
He furrowed his eyebrows. “We go to lunch almost every day.”
“And never once have you have indicated you were interested in anything but friendship. I’m not desperate, and I have standards. If you’re interested in me, take me out.” Her mother had told her the ins and outs of relationships every chance she had. The number one rule was to not take shit. Her mother would be so proud of her right now. Because Tessa did feel desperate, and she was lonely, but that didn’t mean she had to act like it. Besides, this was the man Deidre had warned her against.
“I don’t think you’re desperate,” he said.
“Have you ever been with a woman who was anywhere near as tall as me?” Tessa should have nipped the conversation and ended the encounter, but she couldn’t help herself. She had to ask.
“Yes,” he answered. “I played college ball, so I dated a lot of basketball players. Two of my college girlfriends eventually went pro.”
“Oh,” Tessa said. “Well, I bet you’ve never been with a woman who weighed more than you.”
He looked down at her chest as if he was hungry and her breasts were a buffet. Somehow, during their kiss, her shirt had become askew, and a good portion of cleavage was showing. She hurriedly straightened her shirt. The shirt was a tad too little, but it was hard to find cute shirts that could reign in her ample chest.
When his eyes met hers again, they were alight with desire, but his voice was clear and steady. “I’ve never asked any of my girlfriends their weight,” he finally answered as if that had been the stupidest question he had ever heard.
She felt flustered. On paper, Jeremy was perfect. He was almost as tall as she was, so the height thing wouldn’t be a problem. But Deidre warned her to stay away from him.
She took a deep breath. She needed to rein it in. She hadn’t worked her assets off in the past few weeks just to have Jeremy and her hormones label her the office slut.
Tessa walked behind her desk, letting it divide the two of them. “Get out of my office, Jeremy. When I’m at work, I’m all about work. Don’t disrespect me again.”
“You’re right. I should not have approached you that way. I’m sorry.” He turned and left.
As soon as his footsteps disappeared down the hall, Tessa slumped into her chair, fanning herself with one of the file folders on her desk. Damn, he was a good kisser, and he loved tall women, and he was sexy, and he was interested in her.
What were the fates doing to her? What was Deidre keeping from her?
Damn. Why had he done that?
Oh, right. Tessa had said she was going on a date, and he panicked.
Honestly, he had meant to ask her out long before now, but he chickened out every time he had an opening. He could never find the courage. Most women flirted if they were attracted to him. Tessa never did; at least not that he could tell.
She laughed at his jokes, but that was as far as it went. If it wasn’t work-related, she never initiated conversation. The woman lived and breathed tax law.
Jeremy took a deep breath as he paced back and forth in the front lobby. Tessa may have been angry, Jeremy realized, but she had kissed him back. She had even moaned and leaned into him.
She had enjoyed it.
“Excuse me.” A thin woman with long brown hair stood in the entrance of Strahan and Associates. She looked familiar, but he couldn’t place her. He had been so busy flogging himself, he hadn’t even heard her enter.
Jeremy’s eyes narrowed. The hair on his arms rose. He shook his head to clear his thoughts.
“I’m sorry for disturbing you,” she said, “but does Tessa Williams work here?”
“Why?” Jeremy asked automatically, not trusting the strange woman.
“Because I need to talk to her,” she replied sharply.
Damn, what was he doing? He wasn’t a hunter anymore, and this woman was here for Tessa. “I’m sorry. I had a difficult day at court,” he lied. “Let me show you to Tessa’s office.”