At the Billionaire's Beck and Call?(6)

By: Rachel Bailey


“I don’t want to discuss work matters,” he interrupted. “I’m asking you out on a date.”

Her lips compressed into a flat line. “I’d prefer you didn’t do that.”

He’d expected resistance, and it didn’t worry him. In fact, he’d rather confront any issues between them early.

He angled his head to the reports stacked on his desk. “Because I’m your boss?”

She held his gaze, unflinching. “Among other reasons.”

“Well, let’s deal with that one first. I’m not asking you out as your boss. I’m asking as a man who’s seen a beautiful woman and wants to have a drink with her, even though it’s slightly inappropriate.” Make that incredibly inappropriate in the modern workplace for him to ask out an employee. But this was hardly an everyday situation. “I want you to know I’ve never done this before, but I’m compelled to make an exception here.”

Her hazel eyes focused on his mouth for a fleeting moment, and every nerve ending in his lips leaped to life.

“It’s impossible for me to forget you’re my boss. You’re holding a potential promotion in your hands and I’d rather not complicate that issue.”

He smiled. Integrity. Such an attractive quality. “What if I gave you that promotion now? If I said you’ll definitely be the CEO of Chocolate Diva’s Australian operation?”

Her eyes flared and her lips parted before she brought herself back under control. “Then I’d say we’ve already complicated things. I want that promotion but I don’t want a single question in anyone’s mind about how I got it.”

He pushed off the desk, bringing him to stand in front of her…within touching distance. “We don’t have to tell anyone.”

She flicked her long hair over her shoulder. “That’s hardly the point. I’ll know.”

He hadn’t expected she’d accept the unearned promotion—if she’d wanted the easy route she’d still be at home with daddy’s money like her sister. But he was still relieved she’d turned him down. He’d prefer his wife to have principles, even if it did make this stage of the negotiations more challenging.

He reached for her hand and held it lightly between his. No pressure, just holding. And yet her skin touching his set off a sizzling heat that traveled through his veins all the way to his toes. For one extraordinary moment, he forgot the pressure to marry, forgot the company buyout, forgot the inheritance, and just wanted.

Wanted her.

As he watched, a blush stole up her décolletage, along her throat and bloomed on her cheeks. She felt it, too. The pull to kiss her delectable lips, to taste her, was almost overwhelming. His skin tightened and his lungs labored, but he couldn’t get carried away. Couldn’t count his chickens before they hatched.

He needed to marry her, not entice her into his bed.

Hauling himself back, he cleared his throat. “What if I promise our date won’t affect your promotion, that no one else will know, and that it will just be one drink?”

Her skin was so soft he couldn’t help but run a thumb across the back of the hand he still held, then over her palm. He watched as her pupils dilated. She was wavering.

“One drink, Macy. No torture involved.” He gave her a half smile. Damn, she was beautiful.

Then she withdrew her hand and nodded, back to being cool and businesslike. “I’ll meet you at the bar. Seven o’clock.”

“Looking forward to it,” he said before she turned and strode from his office. “More than you know,” he murmured to the empty room.

He tapped a thumb to his bottom lip, still prickling with awareness of her. If he could get her to agree to his plan, if he could convince her, then it’d be full steam ahead.

And he had a gut feeling that it would be. That he’d just made a date with his future wife.





Two




At seven o’clock, Macy stood outside The Jazz Room, taking in the scene—an upmarket cocktail bar with live jazz, and a deep room full of beautiful people in their glamorous best. Muted red walls surrounded the almost-capacity crowd who sat on tall stools at the gleaming bar or at polished silver tables.

She spotted Ryder sitting at the bar, and was un-characteristically nervous for the second time in one day. She was on a date with Ryder Bramson. She’d always been so careful about keeping her work and private life separate, yet she’d agreed to meet her boss socially.

It wasn’t the first time she’d been hit on by a colleague or employer, but it never got any easier to rebuff. Ryder had quickly moved past her first line of defense—her aloof exterior—and now she had to play very carefully.

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