At the Billionaire's Beck and Call?(8)

By: Rachel Bailey

Then she looked across at her date—a more complicated, tangled relationship she couldn’t imagine. But she smiled at him, too, and accepted her glass. “Thank you.”

“Believe me, it’s my pleasure.” He tasted his martini and winced. “Too dry.”

Macy slowly twirled her glass, looking for the perfect place on the salt-encrusted rim to sample her drink. A much better option than looking at the man across from her. If he’d been anyone other than her boss, this might have been playing out differently…but he was.

He swallowed a mouthful of his drink then sat back in his seat. “Tell me something about yourself.”

Macy sipped her margarita then licked the salt from her lips. This was the exact problem with being out socially with a colleague—the sharing of personal information. The press had shared her personal information with the world most of her life. It’d left a bitter taste in her mouth.

She tapped a fingertip on the stem of her glass. “Ryder, don’t pretend you don’t know who I am.”

Even if her face hardly ever ran in the media nowadays, her name wouldn’t slip past a man as savvy and intelligent as Ryder. Her father worked in a similar industry and her sister was in the glossy magazines most weeks. Her surname was hardly low profile.

His eyes held hers with intensity. “I know what family you come from. I know a little bit about your childhood, like most Americans. But you’re wrong. I don’t know who you are.” Ryder stretched his legs to the side of the table. “But I’d like to.”

Macy expelled a long breath. This farce had gone on long enough. She’d thought she could play this game—one date with the boss, but she’d been wrong. Every moment this went on, she was getting in deeper into her own personal catch-22: she couldn’t get involved with him and she couldn’t rebuff his efforts to get involved. Either way she’d possibly offend him and kiss her promotion goodbye. She had to say something now before she was completely out of her depth.

She flicked her hair over a shoulder and met his gaze. “Ryder, I know I said I’d meet you here tonight, but I have to tell you, I’m uncomfortable about this.”

He straightened in his chair, frowning. “Have I done something to make you uncomfortable?”

Her stomach dipped. Now she had offended him. The man who would decide her promotion.

She held a palm out. “No, that’s the thing—you don’t have to do anything. You’re my boss. You pay my wage and hold a potential promotion in your hands, so I can’t relax.”

Ryder leaned closer. “I understand your concern. I’ve never done this kind of thing before, either.” His voice dipped. “Here and now, I’m not your boss. I’m just a man.”

Macy hesitated. She needed no reminder he was a man. Every feminine instinct she had screamed the fact. But he was her employer, too. “That’s not possible. You’re my boss whether you want to think about it right now or not. It’s inescapable.”

He raised one brow. “What if we don’t try to escape it? What if we try to build on it?” His eyes darkened in a depth of emotion that took her breath away. It transformed his features from rugged to something beautiful. She wanted to reach out and touch his lips, run her hands along his strong jaw. She’d never reacted with this intensity to a man before.

Her body screamed yes, but she didn’t, couldn’t, say the word.

Instead she gave herself an internal shake. Maybe it was time to go home. “I don’t think this is working.”

Ryder inclined his head. “I agree. My understanding of a date includes some small talk about ourselves. If you don’t want to talk about yourself, how about I talk a bit about me?”

Macy hesitated on the edge of her seat, half wanting to leave, half wanting to hear what he’d say. Like her, he was famous for not giving media interviews, and from the comment that one of his staff had made today about him being The Machine, she suspected it wasn’t only the media he refused to be open with.

Apparently taking her silence as consent, Ryder took a sip of his martini, swallowed, then began. “I suspect you know I was born in Rhode Island and that I grew up there and in New York City.”

She nodded, settling back into her seat now he’d made the decision for her about staying. She’d also heard about the open secret of his half brothers—would he go as far as mentioning them? From what she knew of him, it wasn’t likely.

“Although my parents were married, my father was absent, so I was raised by my mother.” A flash of a frown creased his forehead—too quick for her to be completely sure she’d seen it. But something told her that there was carefully guarded pain inside that statement. And the girl inside her who’d lost her mother understood.

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