Hardwired

Author: P Hana

Page 46

   

Resigned that this would be the end of our rendezvous, I straightened. I smoothed out the faint wrinkles in my skirt and tried to put myself back together, physically and emotionally. Out of fucking Blake mode and back into work mode—not an easy transition when all I could think about was how amazing I’d feel if he pounded me on his desk instead. I ran my fingertips over the frosted glass of the surface, the charms on my wrist clinking against it.

Blake came up behind me and pressed his warm body into mine. He kissed my shoulder.

“I have to go,” I said. The statement caught somewhere between frustration and desperation.

“Hurry back.” The depth of his voice reverberated through me.

My breasts felt swollen and heavy, aching for his touch. I pressed back into him and he let out a low growl. Then he was gone. I turned to find him at the mini bar. He poured himself a scotch and looked out the window.

I had too much pride to beg, and I didn’t feel like psychoanalyzing why he insisted on torturing us. We’d finish this later, but I was on fire now. I’d be counting down the minutes until my meeting was over. Of course that was exactly what Blake wanted. What else could I expect from a control freak hacker? He fought dirty.

* * *

Between the restored antiquities of the Plaza hotel, the chandeliers, gold crown molding, and the Frank Sinatra music pouring through the lobby, I might have stepped into a Rat Pack film. Isaac rose from a club chair on the other side of the room. I went to meet him, my heels clicking on the marble floors. He wore an expensive suit, but his shirt was unbuttoned at the top. That, with his winning smile, made him look casual and approachable.

When we met, he leaned in to air kiss me on the cheek, a gesture that reminded me too much of Sophia, but I entertained it.

“Where to?” I asked, eager to get the meeting underway.

“Let’s go to Maggiano’s. It’s right next door.”

We crossed the street and stepped into the sprawling Italian restaurant. We settled into a booth, sitting across from one another, and he ordered a bottle of wine.

“How’d everything go today?” I asked, hoping to make friendly conversation first, a skill I was trying to master.

“It went well, nothing notable. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have made the trip if I couldn’t meet with you.”

“Oh. I guess that worked out then.” I straightened my napkin on my lap, gliding my fingers absently over my still-wrinkled skirt.

“So tell me, why are you running the business in Boston?” he asked.

I lifted my eyebrows and pursed my lips while I searched for the right response. “I like being here, I suppose. I mean, I like New York too, but this has been my home for years now. I don’t really want to leave unless I have to.”

“There are so many more opportunities for you in New York.”

“Boston is a technology hub, you know.” Boston versus New York conversations could be tricky, but as long as we stayed off sports, we could probably keep this clean.

“There must be someone keeping you here then.” He leaned in with a grin.

I sat back and drummed my fingers on the checkered tablecloth. I tried to keep my expression cool. Why did he insist on making the conversation so personal? My small talk skills had never been great. Maybe I needed to give a little before diving into the logistics of how he envisioned us working together.

“There is someone keeping me here, yes.” A glimmer of an idea formed as I said the words.

“And he gave you these. Beautiful.” He brushed his fingers along my forearm to touch the diamond bangles that sparkled impressively in the dim light of the restaurant.

The contact shot through me, not in a good way. I pulled my arm back and tucked my hair behind my ear. I’d given him no indication that I wanted to be touched or wooed or flirted with. This was a business meeting, for Christ’s sake.

I chilled, wishing I’d brought a sweater, something to keep me warm and hidden from his suggestive looks. I regretted the blouse now. I’d dropped a button for Blake’s sake and there was no going back without being awkward now.

“Thank you.” I kept my eyes low and focused on the food that had arrived.

“Who’s the lucky man?”

“Blake Landon. I think you know him.” Perhaps the name would deter him.

He grimaced slightly. “No kidding. I suppose Sophia gave you fair warning on that one. He has a reputation for discarding his hobbies.”

I let the comment roll off me. Blake’s version of the events with Sophia made perfect sense and were well in line with what someone could expect from that kind of relationship and situation. He didn’t always tell me the whole truth, but I hadn’t yet caught him in a lie. Beyond that, I had a hard time imagining someone as cold and calculating as Sophia stealing anyone’s heart.

“How do you know Sophia?” I asked, figuring I’d snatch the opportunity to learn more about her.

“We use her models for various shoots for the publications, and of course she’s a savvy businesswoman, like yourself. You’re wise to connect with her.”

I quartered my saucer-sized ravioli and popped a piece into my mouth to avoid acknowledging his last statement. I bristled and the colors of the room became momentarily more vivid as I pictured her in my mind. If she ever touched Blake, I’d definitely connect with her.

Isaac was pissing me off with all of this personal banter. I needed to get us back on track. Maybe Blake had been right. Having him here would have kept Isaac to the point, though the conversation could have become incredibly awkward too.

I took a steadying breath and tried to steer us back to business. “You mentioned that we might find ways to work together. I wondered what you had in mind.”

He smiled. “Well, you’re the social expert. What did you have in mind?”

The tension backed off a little as I switched into work mode. I questioned him on the mechanics of his marketing strategy, the details of which he knew very little, but overall I had a better sense of how his departments were structured under each publication. I could think of a few ways we could dovetail our paid service with their established marketing efforts.

We spent the next hour or so discussing the logistics of cross promoting between his publications using Clozpin’s tools. The plan sounded promising, and Isaac seemed receptive. I agreed to put together a proposal outlining the options we discussed.

Once my personal life was off the table, the conversation was productive, enjoyable even. We polished off the Pinot Grigio and I recommended some other spots in Boston for him to try next time he was in town. A silence fell over the table as we waited for the check to come. I checked my phone for the time. Nearly three hours had passed. Blake would be furious.

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