An Exquisite Challenge(6)

By: Jennifer Hayward


“These are extraordinary circumstances.”

“We will kill each other.”

“No,” she countered, “we will learn to work together. I haven’t even tried to be nice to you.”

His smile flashed white against his olive skin. “That thought terrifies me.”

She gave him an earnest look. “I’m the only person who can do this, Gabe.”

He set his drink down and pushed a distracted hand through his hair. “If I gave you the business, and I’m not insinuating anything here, would you do the work yourself or will it be a case of bait and switch with the juniors doing everything?”

“I’ve never done a bait and switch in my life,” she said matter-of-factly. “If you hire me, you get me.”

Oh. That didn’t sound right. She hadn’t meant get her. But he knew what she meant, right?

He shot her a sideways look. “What is wrong with you? Sit down properly, for Cristo’s sake. You’re completely on edge.”

She pushed herself deeper into the sofa. She was on edge, dammit. It was stupidly hard to concentrate with Gabe plastered across the sofa of her hotel room looking hellishly hot in a shirt and tie that would have been ordinary on any other man but made him look like stud of the century.

“Alex?”

“Sorry?” She lifted her gaze to his face.

He sighed. “What’s wrong?”

She shook her head. “It’s been a long day.”

He pursed his lips. Took a sip of his drink. “Convince me I should let you do this.”

She got up, found her briefcase and pulled out a file. “Here are five case studies of events I’ve pulled off in this amount of time,” she said, handing it to him. “I can make this the most spectacular debut for your wine. I promise you that.”

He flipped through the folder. “This is impressive.”

“So make the call.”

He put the folder down on the coffee table and sat back. The movement drew her attention to his superb, muscular thighs. They were so good they were impossible not to ogle.

“Even if I did agree you are the right choice,” he said evenly, “we still need to discuss our other problema.”

“What other problem?”

“That problem.”

She frowned. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He lifted a brow. “Tell me that was not a distinctly lustful look.”

“That was not lustful. That was—”

“Alex.” He angled his body toward her and captured her gaze. “You’ve been jumpy since the minute we walked into this hotel room and we both know why. You keep wondering what it would have been like to have that kiss in Lilly and Riccardo’s garden and so do I.”

Ahh. The almost kiss. The thing she couldn’t get out of her head no matter how hard she tried. She’d been slightly tipsy, standing on a stool unstringing lanterns from a tree after all the guests had left her sister’s welcome-to-summer party, when Gabe had come looking for her. She’d been caught so off guard by his sudden presence she’d nearly fallen off the stool. He’d caught her and swung her to the ground, but kept his arms around her waist. The knowledge that he had been about to kiss her had made her grab her slingbacks and run.

She scowled at him. “I’m working on about four hours’ sleep, that’s why I’m jumpy. Maybe you should just say yes to the contract so I can get some rest and—” She stared at him as he moved closer. “What are you doing?”

He lifted his hand and splayed his fingers across her jaw. “Figuring out how bad this particular problema is before I make up my mind.”

“There is no problem,” she croaked. “And if we’re going to be working together, I—”

“I haven’t said yes yet,” he cut in, his gaze purposeful. “Right now we have no working relationship whatsoever.”

They did have heat. They definitely had heat. She swallowed hard as it washed over her and made her pulse dance. “If I make this really bad you’ll say yes?”

His gaze darkened. “It isn’t going to be bad.”

No, she acknowledged, heart pounding, it wasn’t. Slicking her tongue across dry lips, she told herself she just needed to stay in control. Prove to him this attraction between them was wholly avoidable. But when he shifted his thumb to the seam of her lips in the most erotic opening to a kiss she’d ever experienced, she caved like a ton of bricks.

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