Forbidden Merger(2)

By: Emilie Rose

“Ham, pepperoni and Havarti on Irish soda bread with a red-wine vinaigrette that will make your taste buds sing. Or you can try the Guinness Spareribs if you don’t mind licking your fingers. They’re tender and moist.”

And so was she. Listening to the man talk was practically an orgasmic experience. His voice was low enough to make her lean forward to hear him and rough enough to raise the fine hairs on her skin. He had no detectable accent to distinguish where he’d come from. So many Manhattanites hailed from elsewhere.

“I’ll keep that in mind when I order.”

“You do that.” He winked.

One dip of those gold-tipped lashes and she considered pulling out her compact to examine her chin for drool. She settled for licking her dry lips. Did she have any lipstick left on? She looked like a lipless lady without. “Do you work nearby?”

“Not close enough that my co-workers will follow me. When I leave the office I like to leave the office, if you know what I mean.” He grimaced. On him it looked good. But then every expression probably did with a face like that.

“I know exactly what you mean. There are days when I want to run screaming from my office building and never return.” She didn’t ask his name and didn’t offer hers. Fantasy Man had approached her only because he wanted to sit down. After today, she’d probably never see him again.

A totally depressing thought.

“What do you do?” he asked.

Aubrey hesitated. She’d learned the hard way that men saw her as the yellow brick road to a job with her father’s empire, and she’d been burned more than once by mistakenly believing that she was the reason for their interest. “I’m pretty much a Jill-of-all-trades. I do whatever needs doing. You?”

“Number cruncher.”

In Manhattan that could mean anything from a Wall Street broker to an accountant, but she couldn’t fault him for his vagueness since she hadn’t been forthcoming either.

The waitress appeared at the table. “Ready to order?”

Fantasy Man met her gaze. “May I buy you a drink while we wait for our dates?”

She never drank on the job, but what the hell, she’d never tried to weasel information out of a competitor either. The idea left a bitter taste in her mouth and a burn in her stomach. She had approximately thirty-two minutes before that exercise in dishonesty began. “Sure. Thank you. May I have a lemon drop martini?”

The waitress took his order for Woodford Reserve whiskey and departed.

He leaned forward, lacing his fingers on the table. She glanced at his hands.

Not manicured, but no ragged nails either. And no wedding ring. How would those hands feel dragging across her skin? Stop.

“So, which are you? Sweet or sour?”

The question stumped her. Or was that an estrogen fog making clear thought impossible?

“Sugar on the rim. Sour drink. Sweet and sour. Which are you?” he explained.

Duh. Wake up, Aubrey. “Whichever is required at any given moment. I’m flexible.”

A naughty spark flashed in his eyes. “I’ll bet you are.”

Her entire body flushed hot at the innuendo. “I meant at work.”

“So did I.” He compressed his lips as if fighting a smile but mischief danced in his eyes.

The fact that she had a business appointment in minutes and there was absolutely no chance of this going too far made her bold enough to return his brazen flirtation. “I’ll bet you have amazing stamina. At work.”

The corners of his eyes crinkled. “Yeah. I’ve been known to pull the occasional all-nighter. I’m dedicated to a good outcome. On a project.”

Her heart flipped. She’d bet there’d been plenty of female “projects” to keep him occupied. The man oozed sexual confidence but not in the sleazy, slimy, synthetic way of a bar guy trying to pick up women.

The drinks arrived. While he paid the waitress, Aubrey took a healthy sip of her martini. The alcohol hit her empty stomach with a whammy.

“Morning person or night owl?” he asked.

“I like working when the office is empty, so I can be either. I’m flex—”

Realizing she’d already said that, she bit off the word.

“Flexible. Yeah. I got that part. You’ll have to show me sometime.” This time his bright gaze slid from her face to her neck and shoulders and then over the inadequate breasts in her black camisole with its built-in shelf bra. She rarely needed more support. Darn it.

But somehow, she didn’t feel flat-chested when he looked at her that way—as if he’d like to see her shed more than the blazer she’d removed when she took the booth in the overheated pub. Her nipples tightened. The flare of his nostrils indicated he’d noticed, and then his gaze returned to hers. Hot. Aroused.

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