Hardwired

Author: P Hana

Page 9

   

“Aren’t you going to invite me in for a drink?” he murmured. His tongue traced his lower lip and his teeth caught it.

Who could say no to him?

I swallowed hard and stepped back a little, disconnecting from the electricity of his grasp. I shook my head and twisted with my hair nervously, trying to concentrate on anything other than his lips. “I have to get up in a few hours.”

“Me too.”

This was the same Blake Landon who had nearly destroyed my chances for funding my company only a few days prior. I wasn’t about lie down with the man. Right?

I took a deep breath and looked him straight in the eye. “Blake, I’m sure you’re not used to hearing this, but I’m really not interested. We had fun tonight, but I’m here for work.”

“You don’t look like you’re here for work.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, but he only grinned.

“Seriously, Erica, are you saying that you aren’t attracted to me, at all?” His arm slid up the wall as his body circled mine.

Determined to keep distance between us, I pressed myself against the door. Were those last few inches that separated us the last bastion between me and…a night of a lifetime?

No, between me and a very big mistake.

“If you’re fishing for a compliment, you’re not getting one from me,” I said. “And even if I were attracted to you, I would not be acting on that for a number of reasons, not the least of which is keeping my relationship with Angelcom as uncomplicated as possible.”

“I’m not investing in your project, so it’s not complicated.”

“I disagree.”

“How could I persuade you?” He smirked, challenging me.

The fabric of his suit strained a little against his arms and thighs. Jesus, techies weren’t supposed to be this sexy. All I wanted to do was unwrap him like a present. How I could possibly resist him if he touched me again, or God forbid, kissed me?

I wanted nothing more than to drag Blake into my room and fuck him senseless, but I knew better.

“It’s quite simple. You can’t.”

I turned away and fumbled in my purse for the key. The next minute his body was behind me, and a warm and possessive arm circled my waist. I closed my eyes and sucked in a sharp breath, reeling at the sudden contact. He swept the hair away from my neck, brushing a soft kiss behind my ear. My vision went white and I pressed my hands against the door for balance.

“See you tomorrow,” he said with a shaky breath.

I turned and he was gone. He disappeared down the hall and into the elevator. I leaned into the door, cursing myself and wishing he had stayed as much as I needed him to go. My fingers trembled but I finally found the key…and the chip next to it.

CHAPTER FOUR

The door latched closed, and my eyes shot open. The room was pitch black, but the big digital clock on the end table read eight o’clock. The faint outline of a woman inched quietly toward the adjacent bed. Her neon dress nearly glowed in the dark.

“Alli?”

“It’s me.”

“Are you just getting in?” I rubbed my eyes, and slowly the details of my current reality were dawning.

“Yes, Mother,” she said sarcastically.

I switched on the bedside lamp, bringing her into focus. “Well, look what the cat dragged in.” I leaned back on my elbows and smiled. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days, which was almost true. Her mascara was smudged and her hair was in a state I’d never seen in public—only a few degrees below perfect.

“Ugh, I can feel you judging me.” She kicked off her heels and collapsed onto the bed still dressed.

“So are you going to tell me what happened?” I was now fully awake, which surprised me considering the current hour and my minimal R.E.M. sleep.

“What do you want to know?” she mumbled into the bedspread.

“Every sordid detail, obviously.”

Alli flipped herself over and stared listlessly at the ceiling. “I really like him.”

I thought I heard a sigh. Oh no.

“Jesus, Alli, please tell me you didn’t sleep with him.”

“What the hell do you care?” She slapped her hands down to her sides.

I bolted out of bed and met her glare. “I care, Alli, because I’m trying to project a professional image with our company, and I didn’t expect you to screw Blake’s brother. Now he’ll tell Blake, and oh shit...” I calculated all the possible implications of this indiscretion.

“Stop right there. I told him you would freak out if Blake knew, so he gave me his word.”

“Unbelievable.” I walked over to open the shades to our room.

Alli cringed as light poured in.

“Well, what about you? I half expected to walk in on you two, the way he was eye-fucking you all night.”

“Alli, seriously. There is absolutely nothing between Blake and me.”

“Bullshit.”

“I’m serious. I can’t screw up this deal. I told him last night that I wasn’t interested. End of story.”

“Blake doesn’t strike me as the type who hears the word ‘no’ frequently. Also, you didn’t tell me he was drop-dead gorgeous.”

“Gorgeous or not, I’m here to work.”

“Erica, are you really mad at me about this?” She pouted her bottom lip a little.

Here came the guilt. “It’ll be fine. Just get some sleep. I’d be great if you could do a little networking today since we’re flying out tomorrow.” I couldn’t let her off the hook completely.

I wanted to be angry with Alli, but in truth, I was mostly worried for her. I’d given her the opportunity to let her guard down around Heath, who was likely a master womanizer.

I escaped to the bathroom where I silently fumed under the steady pressure of the shower. Determined to put the situation out of my mind, I focused instead on possible questions for the panel.

When I returned, Alli was fast asleep under the duvet. I dressed in our pre-approved outfit, a stylish black patterned blouse and bright white blazer with dark straight jeans. I slipped into the black pumps Alli had left at the foot of the bed and grabbed my bag. Time to work. Without any back up, again, I thought. I might as well get used to this.

* * *

You’re not supposed to be here.

Sometimes I really hated the little voice in my head. As I read the name cards set out for the panelists, my anxiety shot into overdrive. I would be shoulder-to-shoulder with a star-studded cast of tech CEOs, veritable celebrities in the technology world. My anxiety shifted into overdrive and nausea threatened.

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