Julia was sitting at her desk swamped with papers, files and books. She was not so successfully fighting panic. How was she going to manage this? She was running out of time, and she was not at all sure she knew what strategy to use.
She sighed, rubbed her temples, rearranged the glasses, and opened another file. After some moments of reading her eyes lit up. Here it was, the evidence to build the defense on! The only weak point she had been looking for and hoping desperately it existed!

Right at this moment the door opened, and Mason came in. Perfect timing. Julia shut the file trying to seem nonchalant about this very file and very busy on the whole.

Counsellor? Mason said as he very deliberately took off his jacket.

Julia gasped indignantly. Secretly she was marveling at Mason Capwell in his white shirt and a vest; as elegant and at the same time as sensual as can be.

Now what do you think you are doing? she said meeting his intent gaze.

As he was loosening the tie, his look left no possible doubt as to what he thought he was doing. But as if he needed to specify this, he thrust his head out of the door to address her dark-haired secretary, Irene Ms Wainwright is going to be very busy next hour or so. No visitors, please, and why dont you just lock up the office and go out to have lunch?

Masons voice was so sweet. Julia sprang to her feet and leapt to the door.

Irene, I AM very busy right now, and no visitors, she shot an angry glance at Mason, and where do YOU come bumping in, giving orders to MY secretary?!

Irene shrugged her shoulders and without a word went back to work. She knew better than to meddle between the two.

Mason feigned remorse. But when they shut the door,
All work and no play, he said grudgingly.

Precisely. Now why dont you go, cant you see I am busy, Im trying to get some work done.

Growing desperate, eh? Mason sat down at the corner of her desk, in dangerous proximity to the precious file and yes, to her responding body. Just because you dont have a leg to stand on in this case, Julia, and you know it. He fumbled through a book Julia had to snatch it away from him.

Has no one ever told you people dont sit on desks? she said testily.

Why, they do, Counsellor. They do, and then they lie on desks, too, sometimes, he drawled.

The tone was very promising, and then he reached across the desk and kissed her.

Of course she responded. She always did. He was way too

Oh Ma stop, what

The books and the files and all was sent flying to the floor. Julia leapt up.

Mason, youve you go home! Now!

I am not a child to be sent home, he argued.

Ok you go away, this minute, any place you like.

Im hungry, he complained.

Are you? Go have lunch. The Orient Express would do fine.

She kneeled to pick up the hours of careful work. Now it all needed to be done again, all over well not exactly if she was lucky.

The Orient Express? He contemplated it. No, that wont do.

Since when is it not good enough?

Mason had gotten down, too, to help her with the books and the files. He handed her a pile of books, and as she took it he kissed her again. She dropped the books.

Since I am hungry for my woman, he explained. Would you rather we did it on the floor this time?

Mason!! She retreated behind the file case. It seemed safe enough. Go away this minute.

Sta-a-rving, he drawled teasingly, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

Go take yourself a drink of real cold water, she advised. She handed out a Styrofoam cup she found on the case. Or a real cold shower.

Mason sighed. Ok, he said getting up slowly. The Orient Express doesnt sound that bad, now that I think of it. Anyway, there I am hardly likely to run into someone as merciless as you, Counsellor.

Now what exactly are you implying? Julia said in disbelief.

He chuckled. Not what you might think I am, Julia. But certain kinds of hunger

Tonight, she said hastily. You know I have to work now. Please go.

Ill come pick you up in the evening then?

With that, Mason was finally gone.

In fifteen minutes Julia finished rearranging the files and going through them time and again, she had to admit the precious file was gone, too!

Julia soared up. Irene! she shouted into the intercom. Is Mr Capwell anywhere around? Locate him for me, will you, and invite him over. Try the Orient Express first. Say it is an emergency. Thanks.

She started pacing the room biting her lips. Abysmal desperation swept over her. Now, well, now she really had no leg to stand on tomorrow. Trust Mason to steal a file like this, from under her nose! to leave her a laughing stock, to make a fool out of her and she did feel a fool all right. To lead her to believe he only came for She groaned.

By the time Mason arrived she was pretty crazy.

Julia, are you all right? he rushed in, all concern.

The hell I am, she said icily.

His face got relaxed as he realized nothing much had happened. Changed your mind? he supposed cheerfully.

Julia quickly walked up to him and stretched out her hand. I trust you are thoroughly satisfied with yourself. Now give it back to me.

What? he asked innocently.

The file. You must have read it by now, or at least copied it all. Now, I am waiting.

What ARE you talking about?

The file. The one you took with you. Oh my, you have not destroyed the information, have you?

She stared at him in open fear now.

No I havent, he said just to reassure her.

Ok, now where is it? Come on, give it back to me. She felt really on the verge of insanity. You must have it on you; do you?

Search me, he suggested in a low voice, ever so provocatively.

The reaction was not what he had been provoking: she flew at him in a rage flailing her fists. You!

Mason caught her by the shoulders and shook her lightly. Now would I do such a thing? he said reproachfully.

Yes you would! she yelled up at him.

Would I do such a thing to you? he amended. His voice was urgent. Look me in the eye, Julia, do you think I would do this to you?

You you wouldnt? she whispered, watching him closely.

No. He let her go. Id expect you knew it by now.
His voice betrayed the hurt.

Mason then walked up to the desk, bent down and fished out the file in question from between the file case and the waste basket. Julia could swear she had looked everywhere, well obviously she had not.

Dazed, she stepped forward as Mason handed her the file. He did not even try to open it.

Mason, I I am sorry, she mumbled.

Its okay. Anyone would come up with all sorts of unflattering conclusions about my nature before searching for the file, now, wouldnt they, he said matter-of-factly and started away.


She felt very stupid, and the file in her hand suddenly did not seem so important any longer. I am very sorry indeed.

He stopped. I am sorry, she articulated again.

Thats not enough, Im afraid. He shook his head sadly.

What would be?

Mason looked up now.

Lock up the d**n file in the safe, he said bluntly. Julia stared. Now.

She did as she was bidden.

Give the key to Irene. He held the door open for her and stepped out of her way. Julia did that, too.

Irene accepted the key quietly, genuinely undisturbed by the tension. She then looked up at the two expectantly.

Tell Irene to go have lunch, Mason instructed.

Julia looked at her toes. Irene. Why dont you go have lunch? And no hurry, please.

/Olga Lissenkova/

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