At the Billionaire's Beck and Call?(7)

By: Rachel Bailey

Rejecting the boss was just as bad a career move as sleeping with him.

In effect, she was cornered.

Ryder saw her and unfurled his long frame from the stool and strode toward her, purposeful intent oozing from his whole body. Her knees felt weak and she locked them to keep from swaying.

He stopped near enough for her to smell his clean woodsy scent, to feel the heat from his body, to see the shiny-smooth skin of his jaw where he’d recently shaved.

Ryder bent to kiss her cheek and she was surprised he’d do something so familiar. Surprised at the tingling on the side of her face where his lips had touched.

“You look beautiful,” he murmured.

His voice was a note deeper than it’d been in his office, and she felt it reverberate through her body. And there was something reassuring about his American accent. She was used to being the only American in the room, surrounded by Australian accents. Her eyes were drawn to his mouth, wanting him to say something else just to hear him speak again.

Oh, who was she kidding? This was nothing like when she’d been hit on before. Which only meant she had to tread with even more caution—the danger of forgetting her self-imposed boundaries was greater.

She’d been burned far too many times by people ready to sell her out, or walk away when times got tough, to trust again. Everyone had an angle, or they were only looking out for themselves. Even her own father, the person she should be able to depend on utterly, had distanced himself from her when she’d needed him the most—as a thirteen-year-old girl who’d just lost her mother.

So she’d accept Ryder’s compliment but not read anything much into it.

She ran her tongue over dry lips. “Thank you.”

She saw him watch the action, then move his gaze slowly up to her eyes. “Do you want to sit at the bar or take a table?”

Glad for a reason to break eye contact, she scanned the room. “The tables down the back are quieter.”

He put a hand on her waist and guided her toward the back of the room. As they wove their way through the tables, Johnny, a waiter who’d served her here before, was delivering drinks to a group of customers. He saw her and winked before continuing to place the brightly colored cocktails on the table.

As she spared him a brief smile, Macy thought she’d caught a faint scowl marring Ryder’s features but when she looked fully at him, there was no sign.

Ryder found a table in a corner that had a modicum of privacy. He pulled her chair out for her to sit, then turned to take his own seat, giving her a brief view of his back, so broad in the moss-green shirt, and exquisitely tapered down to his black trousers. For a man who had sat virtually motionless through the meeting today, he moved with masculine grace.

“You come here regularly?” Ryder’s voice held the first hint of curiosity she’d heard from him. Strange that he hadn’t seemed as curious about her reports—detailing launch expenses in the millions—as her social life.

Macy shrugged one shoulder as she scanned the drinks menu. “Occasionally.”

The live jazz was always exceptional, and sometimes when she’d finished a long day at work, after eating takeaway at her desk, all she wanted was to be lost in a dimly lit crowd for one drink. To unwind before going home.

Ryder didn’t respond for one minute, then two. But she wouldn’t look up from the list of drinks. She could feel him watching her—the air was charged with the tension of it—another tactic that probably worked well for him with employees. She continued to casually read the cocktail options.

Finally, he spoke. “Why do I get the feeling you don’t talk much about yourself?”

She smiled, closed the drinks list and laid it on the silver tabletop. “I’ll have a margarita.”

Without looking around, he held up a finger. Johnny appeared and Ryder ordered her margarita plus a martini, no olive.

Once Johnny left, Ryder cleared his throat. “What made you settle in Melbourne?”

“I like it here.”

“You obviously didn’t move for the weather. Hot as hell today, yet arctic winds on the way over here tonight.” He smiled ruefully.

She recrossed her legs under the table, irritated that he’d been here less than a day and was already finding fault with her adopted home. But annoyance was another reaction she couldn’t show her boss. “Actually, I like the weather. Makes me feel like I’m not stuck in one place all the time. The trick is to dress in layers.”

“Useful local information.”

Johnny returned back with their drinks, and she gave him a quick smile. Waiter and customer—a nice, uncomplicated relationship, just how she liked them.

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