Hardwired

Author: P Hana

Page 26

   

I called Marie, hoping she was nearby.

“Help!” I said with mock panic.

“What’s up, baby girl?”

“I got the funding, and I’m going out tonight to celebrate.”

“I knew it. Congratulations!”

“But I have nothing to wear.”

“Honey, that’s a problem we can fix. Do you want to grab some lunch before we hit the stores?”

“Absolutely. Thank you.” After days with techies and suits, I needed girl time.

* * *

The Vine was a beautiful little Mediterranean open air restaurant tucked in the basement floor of a brownstone on Newbury Street, one of the most exclusive and expensive shopping districts in the city. Not surprisingly, it was only a few short blocks away from the new apartment. Marie and I sipped iced tea and shared calamari while we caught up.

“So tell me about your date,” Marie said.

I paused, contemplating how to bring her up to speed on everything Blake had thrown at me lately. “You don’t happen to remember that guy I literally ran into at the restaurant the other night?” Butterflies danced in my belly at the thought of my first chance meeting with Blake.

She stilled, and her beautiful brown eyes widened. “You’re kidding me.”

“Not kidding. He’s the executive director for the angel investment group who is giving us the funding.” I skipped the part about him seducing me in Las Vegas and luring me to live in his apartment building. Marie wasn’t my mother, but she did get protective at times.

“Wow, that sounds right up your alley.”

“Hardly. He’s so out of my league. It’s actually incredibly intimidating.”

“I don’t suppose a busy guy like that would spend time with you if he thought you were out of his league.”

I sighed. I wished I knew what Blake was thinking, but he had me too busy sorting out my business to pry much. “I guess not. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind so I don’t really know what to think.” I poked at my salad. “To be honest, Marie, I don’t know up from down right now.”

“That’s how love goes, baby.” She shook her head with a smile.

Love? Leave it to Marie, the hopeless romantic, to even think it. Blake was a magnificent distraction, but that had nothing to do with love.

I masked a cringe at the mention of the word and asked about her new beau, Richard. She quickly changed course, filling me in the details of their last date. I had no room in my life for love right now.

* * *

I slipped into the sexy, overpriced cocktail dress. Marie had helped me pick it out. Solid black, with a thin white strip along the tulip hem, the garment was dressy but still suited the hot day with tiny spaghetti straps and light layers of chiffon. I paired the outfit with some strappy heels and silver dangle earrings, and I pinned my hair up in a loose bun. We would see what Blake had to say about all this, I thought. I touched up my smoky gray eye shadow. With or without Blake, I felt like a million bucks and I wanted to look great tonight. Alli would be proud.

Sid was rummaging through the fridge when I emerged from my bedroom, my heels clicking loudly across the floor. I stopped at the breakfast bar to wait for Blake. Sid turned and saw me, his eyes wide.

“What?” I said, suddenly concerned that I didn’t look nearly as good as I thought I did.

“Uh—” He averted his eyes. “Nothing.” He bolted back to his bedroom, which required about three strides since he was so incredibly tall, and shut the door behind him.

I had loosely considered inviting Sid to dinner, but a fine dining experience would be lost on him. Now I was glad I hadn’t, since apparently he couldn’t be in the same room with me in this outfit.

Blake let himself in and slowed as I circled the island to greet him. He wore the same gray charcoal suit from Vegas, with a freshly pressed white shirt. A bit of stubble offset the formality of his attire. Damn. I sauntered over, trying like hell to stay steady on my heels, savoring the look of pure carnal appreciation that swept his face.

“Hey,” I said.

“You’re killing me in that dress.”

I bit my lip, never knowing what he might do when we were alone like this.

With a feather-light touch, he traced a line from my cheek to my chin, tipping my face toward him before giving me a slow, sweet kiss that had me trembling with need at the finish.

CHAPTER TEN

We didn’t skip a beat when we entered the restaurant on the busy Friday night. The maître d’ escorted us without delay to a table for two that seemed private by way of the wall of wine that separated us from the main dining area. Through the huge windows, Boston sprawled. Below, dozens of tiny white sails dotted the Charles River and the sunset reflected off its meandering path through the city.

“You know how I love a good view,” I murmured. I loved that we were ending this perfect day here, and I’m sure it showed.

“I do, and now that I know you’re a food connoisseur, I’m going to change things up and let you order for the both of us.”

I giggled. “Uh oh.”

“Everything here is incredible, so you can’t go wrong.”

“That I don’t doubt.” I perused the menu.

When the server arrived, I ordered, duck confit for him and haddock for myself.

After the server left, I asked, “Is it difficult for you to not be in control?”

He paused a moment. “Yes, but I’ve been trying it in small doses lately.”

“How’s that going for you?”

“It’s...not always easy.”

“Seems like it might be liberating. I think sometimes it would be nice to take a break, to be able to defer to someone else for once.”

“You can defer to me whenever you’d like.”

He licked his lips and smirked at me. I narrowed my eyes at him playfully, feeling my skin tingle at the gesture and enjoying our pseudo-sexual banter more than I expected.

I needed to move the conversation away from the topic of sex. Blake could take my mind from zero to filthy with a few choice words. “You’ve been making yourself scarce. Anything new?”

His eyes met mine with a penetrating gaze. “Just putting out fires at work.”

“You haven’t asked me about the meeting with Max,” I said.

“What’s to tell? I knew Max was going to invest from the moment I saw you in that boardroom.”

“How did you know that?” I wish I had known, I thought, if only to save myself a fair measure of stress and anxiety.

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