Hardwired

Author: P Hana

Page 22

   

“Very Mission Impossible,” I said, secretly hoping for an excuse to write on it. Maybe I could illustrate the boundaries that needed to exist with our relationship.

He laughed and sat down at the table beside me. “Okay, show me what you’ve got.”

I flipped a switch and my business brain took over, shifting my priorities and focus for the next two hours while we worked diligently, outlining a plan for the second phase of the presentation to Max. We hashed out numbers and I explained more about the business. I scribbled notes down, mapping out the points that I would organize back at the apartment tonight, trying not to be distracted by his proximity.

Even under these circumstances I couldn’t stop remembering that Blake and I had once shared a night of unbridled passion. People avoided workplace affairs for this very reason. When I wasn’t looking directly at him, I could pretend I wasn’t unbearably attracted to him, but not without concerted effort.

“Have I earned my dinner, yet?” He was leaning back in his chair, a pen tucked behind his ear and a wicked smile on his face that just wasn’t fair. Women had to work so hard to achieve “effortless” beauty, but Blake could make my heart skip a beat with a well-timed smile and a pair of well-worn blue jeans.

“Do you always wear T-shirts to work?” I asked, ignoring his question.

“Usually.” He shrugged.

“But you wear suits to casinos?”

“I wasn’t at work.”

“Your wardrobe metric seems to be a bit skewed, Blake.” I turned back to my notes even though I had completely lost my train of thought. Visions of him in that gray suit propped up against my hotel door kept clouding my mind. He should wear suits more often, I thought. No. No, he shouldn’t. I shook my head at my notes, thankful Blake wasn’t tuned into my internal dialogue.

“If I wore a suit here, there’d be a mutiny. I have a reputation to maintain after all.”

Sid wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit, so he might be right.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Blake’s office. I toiled away on my presentation while he tapped at his keyboard, making magic happen between his three monitors. I had made considerable progress and felt confident I could satisfy whatever questions Max might have for me in our follow up and fill in the blanks left by my brief pitch earlier. I closed my laptop and stood to go when Blake spun around in his chair.

“What’s the plan?” he said.

He sized me up with a wolfish grin that looked anything but innocent.

“I’m not your private chef. You realize that, right?”

“Perhaps we could negotiate.” He rose and leaned against the desk in front me.

Why did he have to be so damned sexy?

“What could I do for you?”

I shivered at the low rasp in his voice. Maybe we could skip dinner and go right to dessert. Chocolate mousse sounded good. Licking chocolate mousse off his rock hard abs came to mind. Every delicious ridge…all the way down. Oh God. I bit my lip with restraint. I hadn’t spent nearly enough time worshipping his body the last and only time I’d had him naked.

“Do you have something in mind, Erica?” Blake left his post at the desk and stalked closer.

I had reached the cut off for the amount of time I could safely spend alone with him. Like a drug, his presence was potent. I bit my lip at the fantasy of him being my living breathing dessert plate.

Get a grip, Erica.

I snapped out of my reverie and straightened. “Do you have your fancy car here?”

“I do. And no, you can’t drive it,” he teased.

“I need to grab some household things for the apartment. Give me a ride, and I’ll make you chicken parm tonight.”

“I’m ready when you are.”

We spent the next hour in a large department store, filling the cart with kitchenware, towels, and bedding. I grabbed the cheapest sheet set I could find in a color I liked, but Blake wordlessly put them back and replaced them with a 400-thread count set at thrice the price. I didn’t argue since I was relying on him for transportation at the moment. Beyond that, he behaved, though he obviously hadn’t shopped for much on his own in years.

At the checkout, I was so busy organizing bags in the heaping cart that I didn’t notice Blake slide his credit card through before it was too late.

“What the hell, Blake?” I protested.

“Call it your housewarming present.”

“Absolutely not. You’re being ridiculous.”

“It’s the least I can do. I did basically force you into living next door to me.”

“Below you,” I said.

“That’s how I like you,” he murmured, his eyes darkening.

Those few little words rendered me speechless and I heated from head to toe. My hands trembled a bit as I stuffed the receipt into my purse.

Blake insisted I wait in the car while he loaded the bags. We rode back to the apartment in relative silence. I stared at the screen between us and remembered the call that had come in the last time I was with him here.

“So who’s Sophia,” I asked. I feigned disinterest, looking out the window as buildings sped by us.

“She owns a company I invest in,” he said. “Why do you ask?”

“I was just curious.”

I shrugged and spotted our brownstone. So far Blake hadn’t blatantly lied to me about anything, but he had a penchant for misleading me. For now I decided to believe him and put the subject out of my mind.

Blake brought everything upstairs for me. He ascended the steps, his arms lined with about ten bags each while I hurried to unlock the door.

Just as we started putting things away, Sid walked in. Blake straightened immediately from his task of folding towels, which he was doing all wrong but I didn’t have the heart to tell him.

“Sid, hey. This is Blake. Blake, you remember me talking about Sid, our developer.”

Blake visibly relaxed and the twitch in his jaw disappeared. What was with him and staking his claim in my apartment? Sid could be easily agitated, so the last thing I needed was for Blake to make him uncomfortable on day one.

“Sure,” he said, walking over to shake Sid’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Sid towered over him but his arms were about half the diameter of Blake’s. The two men could not have been more different, in physicality or temperament.

“You too. And you are?”

“I’m Erica’s neighbor,” Blake said quickly.

A pang of disappointment shot through me. What had I expected him to say?

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