She wrapped her arm around his. "There’s not much to it." She pointed up at the trap door. "Outside that door are cables that lift it up and down, and there’s a phone." She pointed to the call box below the buttons. "If you get stuck in the elevator all you have to do is pick up the phone and you’re connected directly to an emergency staff."
His eyes darkened. "Does the elevator get stuck a lot?"
"Not really. I’ve had my office here for four years and so far it’s never once gotten stuck."
"If you weren’t on it, how would you know if it got stuck or not?"
"Elevators let out this piercing alarm when they stop. Trust me, if it got stuck, someone would know."
He swept his gaze around the wide space of the elevator, and by the light in his eyes, she could tell naughty things were on his mind. "Could you make it stop on purpose?"
She laughed. "Yes, but I really don’t want to be caught ftagrante delicto at work."
He dipped his head down and kissed her lightly on the cheek. "But being caught flagrante delicto at work could be a whole lot of fun."
Grace hugged him close. What was it about him that made her feel better? No matter what, he always seemed to make things more fun. Brighter. "You are bad," she said, reluctantly letting go of him.
"True, but you love that about me."
She laughed again. "You’re right. I do."
The doors opened, and Grace led him the short distance to her office.
Lisa looked up as they entered and widened her eyes. A smile spread across her face as she gave Julian a thorough once-over. "Dr. Grace," she teased, toying with a strand of her blond hair. "You got a hot boyfriend."
Shaking her head, Grace introduced them, then she showed Julian her office. Julian stood by the windows as she turned on her computer and placed her purse in her desk drawer.
She paused as she caught him staring at her. "You’re really going to spend all day hanging around my office?"
He shrugged. "I have nothing better to do."
"You’ll be bored."
"I assure you, I’m used to be being bored."
The bad thing was, Grace knew just how much experience he had in that department. She placed her hand against his cheek as she thought of him inside the book, alone, and encased in darkness.
Rising up on her tiptoes, she gave him a gentle kiss. "Thank you for coming with me today. I don’t think I could be here without you."
He nibbled her lips. "My pleasure."
Lisa buzzed her. "Dr. Grace, your eight o’clock is here."
"I’ll wait outside," Julian said.
Grace gave his hand a squeeze before she let him leave.
For the next hour, she barely paid attention. Her thoughts were on the man outside and how much he meant to her.
And how much she hated the thought of him leaving.
As soon as she finished her session, she walked her patient out.
Lisa was showing Julian how to play solitaire on her computer. "Hey, Dr. Grace," she said. "Did you know Julian never played solitaire before?"
Grace exchanged an amused smile with Julian. "Really?"
Lisa scooted away from Julian to look at her appointment book. "By the way, your three o’clock canceled. And your nine o’clock called and said he’d be a few minutes late."
"Okay." Grace gestured to the door with her thumb. "While you two play, I’m going to make a dash out to my car to get my Palm Pilot."
Julian looked up. "I’ll go."
Grace shook her head. "I can do it."
Without pausing, he came around Lisa’s desk and held his hand out for her keys. "I’ll go," he said in a voice that let her know he wasn’t about to concede.
Not willing to argue, she handed her keys over. "It’s under the driver’s seat."
"Okay, I’ll be right back."
Grace gave him a military salute.
Unamused, Julian left her office and headed toward the elevator at the end of the hallway.
He reached for the button, then paused. Gods, how he hated that tight, square thing.
And the thought of being in it alone…
Looking around, he saw a flight of stairs. Without a second’s hesitation, he headed for them instead.
Grace was trying to find Rachel’s file in her briefcase when she remembered she’d left a couple of folders in her backseat.
"Where is my mind?" she snapped at herself. But then, she knew. Her thoughts were scattered between the two men who had completely altered her life.
Aggravated at herself for not being able to focus, she took her briefcase and followed after Julian.
"Where are you going, Dr. Grace?" Lisa asked.
"I left a couple of files in my car, too. I’ll be right back."
Grace went to the elevator. She was still rummaging through her briefcase in search of the missing files when the doors opened.
Without looking up, she stepped inside, and automatically pushed the lobby button.
It wasn’t until the doors closed that she realized she wasn’t alone.
Rodney Carmichael stood on the opposite side, staring at her.
"So, who is he?"
Grace froze as waves of fear and rage tore through her. She wanted to tear him to pieces! But even though he was small for a man, he was still a head taller than her.
And very unstable.
Hiding her rising panic, she spoke calmly. "What are you doing here?"
He curled his lip at her. "You didn’t answer my question. I want to know whose clothes were in your house."
"That’s none of your business."
"Bullshit," he shrieked. He was teetering on the brink of insanity, and the last thing she needed was for him to fall over it while they were trapped in the elevator. "Everything that concerns you is my business."
Grace tried to take control of the situation. "Now listen to me, Mr. Carmichael, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I can’t imagine why you’re fixated on me, but I want it to stop."
He pushed the button to stall the elevator. "Now you listen to me, Grace. We’re perfect for each other. You know it as well as I do. We were meant to be together."
"Okay," she said, trying to calm him down. "Let’s discuss this in my office." She pressed the button to start the elevator.
He stopped it again. "We’ll talk here."
Grace took a deep breath as her hands started shaking. She had to get out of here without making him any angrier. "We’d be more comfortable in my office."
This time when she reached for the button, he grabbed her hand.
"Why won’t you just talk to me?" he asked.
"We are talking." Grace inched toward the call box.
"I bet you talk with him, don’t you? I bet you spend hours laughing and doing God only knows what with him. Now, tell me who he is."
"Rodney!" he shouted. "Dammit, my name is Rodney."
"Okay, Rodney. Let’s-"
"I bet he’s had his filthy hands all over you, hasn’t he?" He cornered her by the buttons. "How many times have you slept with him since you met me, huh?"
Grace trembled at the feral look in his beady eyes. He was slipping. She reached behind her to pick up the phone, but before she could get it to her ear, he grabbed it.
"What the hell are you doing?" he asked.
"You need help."
He smashed the phone against the buttons. "I don’t need help. I just need you to talk to me. Do you hear me? I just need you to talk to me!" He punctuated each word by bashing the phone into the control panel.
Terrified, Grace watched as the phone splintered. Then, he started pulling at his hair.
"He’s kissed you, I know he has." He repeated the words over and over again as he wrenched his hair out by the handfuls.
Oh, God! She was trapped with a lunatic.
And there was no way out.
Julian returned to Grace’s office with her Palm Pilot. "Where’s Grace?" he asked Lisa when he didn’t find Grace at her desk.
"Didn’t you see her? She went down to the car a few minutes after you left."
He frowned. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah. She said she left some files or something."
Before he could ask anything else, an attractive African-American woman walked into the office dressed in a conservative black suit and holding a briefcase.
She paused inside the doorway to kick off a shoe and rub her heel. "It’s definitely a Monday," she said to Lisa. "I just had to walk up eight flights of stairs because the elevator is stuck between floors. Now what wonderful news do you have for me?"
"Hi, Dr. Beth," Lisa said cheerfully, running her hand down the book on her desk. "Your nine o’clock is with Rodney Carmichael."
Julian went cold.
"Oh, no, wait," Lisa said, "that’s Dr. Grace. Yours-"
"Did you say Rodney Carmichael?" he asked.
"Yeah. He called to reschedule."
Julian didn’t wait for her to finish. He tossed the Palm Pilot on Lisa’s desk, then ran out of the office toward the elevator. His heart hammering, all he think of was getting to Grace as fast as he could.
It was then he realized the buzzing he’d been hearing was an alarm bell ringing.
A cold shiver went down his spine as every instinct he possessed told him what had happened. Rodney had stopped the elevator with Grace inside. He was sure of it.
Suddenly, a muffled scream sounded from behind the closed elevator doors.
His vision clouding with anger and fear, he wrenched open the door to the shaft.
He couldn’t see the car. All he could see was the black cavern. And it looked just like the book. Worse, going down it would feel like being sucked into his hell. Of darkness. Cramped. Tight.
He struggled to breathe as terror washed over him.
In his heart, he knew Grace was down there. Alone with a madman and with no one to help her.
Grinding his teeth, he stepped back and jumped to the cables.
Pushing violently, Grace forced Rodney off her.
"I’m not going to share you!" he snarled, grabbing her arms again. "You are mine."
"I don’t belong to anyone except me." Grace kneed him in the groin.
He sank to the floor.
Desperate, Grace tried to climb up the side rails to reach the trapdoor above her head. If she could get to that…
Rodney grabbed her about the waist and slung her back into the corner.
His face contorted with rage, he braced his arms on each side of her. "Tell me the name of the man who has been inside you, Grace! Tell me so I will know who I have to kill."
His eyes empty and terrifying, he started clawing at his face and neck so fiercely that he made bloody welts. "Don’t you know, you’re my woman? We are going to be together. I know how to take care of you. What you need. I am so much better than him!"
Grace ducked away from Rodney, then kicked her high heels off and grabbed them in her hands. They weren’t the best weapons, but they were better than nothing.
"I want to know who you’ve been with!" he shrieked.
At the same moment Rodney took a step forward, the trapdoor above her head opened. Grace looked up.
Julian dropped through the hole and landed in a deadly crouch like some sleek predator. An aura of dangerous calm surrounded him, but it was his eyes that were terrifying. Snapping fire and hell-wrath, they focused on Rodney with murderous intent.
Then, slowly, methodically, Julian rose to his full height.
Rodney stopped dead in his tracks as he took in the size of Julian. "Who the hell are you?"
"I’m the man she’s been with."
Rodney’s jaw dropped.
Julian passed a quick glance over Grace to assure himself she was safe and whole, and then he turned on Rodney with a roar.
He slung Rodney against the wall with such force, she was amazed it didn’t leave a dent in the wooden panels.
Julian grabbed him by the shirt and held him against the wall.
When Julian spoke, the coldness of his voice sent a shiver over her. "It’s a pity you’re not big enough for me to kill, because I want you dead." He tightened his fist. "But little or not, if I ever find you near Grace again, if you ever cause her to shed another tear, there is no power on this earth or beyond that will keep me from crushing you. Do you understand?"
Rodney fought uselessly against his hold. "She’s mine! I’ll kill you if you come between us."
Julian cocked his head as if he couldn’t believe his ears. "Are you insane?"
Rodney kicked Julian viciously in the stomach.
His eyes darkening, Julian slugged him hard against the jaw. Rodney crumpled to the floor.
As Julian knelt down by Rodney’s side, Grace shook in relief. It was over.
"You better stay unconscious," Julian said ominously to Rodney.
Rising to his feet, Julian pulled her to him in a crushing embrace. "Are you okay, Grace?"
She couldn’t breathe, but at the moment, she didn’t care. "I’m fine, and you?"
"Better now that I know you’re all right."
It was a few minutes later when the police finally pried open the door of the elevator, and Grace saw they were trapped between floors.
Julian lifted her from her waist as Grace took the policeman’s extended hand and let him pull her up to the floor above them.