Forbidden Merger(3)

By: Emilie Rose

The impact took her breath away and stirred a maelstrom of need low in her belly. She couldn’t blame her sudden light-headedness on her drink since she’d only had one sip.

She recalled a scene from a dreadful movie—one in which the lovers had met in the bathroom stall of a crowded restaurant and gone at it like hormonally insane teenagers. Aubrey had snorted in disbelief during the film. Today, the idea not only seemed plausible, it appealed. Even to her. A woman with too many hang-ups, according to her last lover.

She exhaled slowly. Never had she been hit with such a powerful punch of attraction, and she’d certainly never had it reflected back at her with such potency.

Why now, when she couldn’t do anything about it, she railed at the unfair Fates.

It’s your turn to speak, A. Be witty. Flirt. But when she looked into Fantasy Man’s eyes she couldn’t think of a thing to say. She was too old and too savvy to be dumbstruck by physical attraction. And yet she was.

He smiled, drawing her attention down his straight nose to the sharply chiseled line of his lips. A small white scar curved on the corner of his not-quite-square jaw. “Like it?”

“What’s not to like?” And then she blushed. She never blushed and yet he’d made her do so twice in less than five minutes. But he’d caught her gawking. Again.

The crinkles at the corners of his eyes deepened. “The drink. Is it good?”

She wanted to crawl under the table. Of course, if she did he’d probably get the wrong idea about why she was under there, and he’d expect her to get to know him a whole lot better. She should be appalled by the shocking thought. Instead, need tightened in her midsection.

“Oh. Oh, yes. It’s delicious. Strong, too.” Maybe she could blame her idiocy on the bartender. Aubrey tried to gather her scattered wits before she made an even bigger fool of herself. “So, what about you? Morning person or night owl?”

He shrugged casually, but those twinkling eyes warned her to brace herself.

“Depends on the task. Some things I handle best when I first get up in the morning. Sometimes I do my best work right before I fall into bed.”

If her heart beat any harder she’d need a paramedic. He was light years ahead of her in the sexual repartee department. Aubrey, you have been without a man for too long. Otherwise his teasing would not make her want to jump him.

“Business or pleasure?” he asked over the rim of his glass.

“Excuse me?”

“Which brings you here today?”

She cursed her slow-functioning brain. “Business. You?”


He glanced at his watch. “In fact, my appointment’s due any minute.”

Wanting to smack her forehead but refraining, she looked beyond his shoulder toward the door. She should have been watching the entrance for her luncheon appointment to arrive. Not that she knew what Liam Elliott looked like, but how many men entered this particular establishment alone at one in the afternoon? Maybe she’d subconsciously blocked her assignation from her mind because she really didn’t want to pry information out of the competition. By fair means or foul, her father had ordered.

She checked the time. “Mine, too.”

Regret thinned Fantasy Man’s mouth. “I see a table opening up. I guess I should take it.”

Disappointment settled heavily in her chest. She wasn’t ready to let him go.

Bantering with him had been fun. When was the last time she’d had fun? She wanted his name and number. Ask for it. But somehow she couldn’t find the nerve to do so. He was too far out of her league. “Yes, I guess you should. Thanks for the drink and for the company.”

“Could I call you?”

Yes! Yes! Yes! she mentally shouted, as pleasure fizzed through her bloodstream like fine champagne, but she replied as calmly as possible, “I’d like that. Very much.”

She shuffled through her leather satchel and found a pen but couldn’t find anything other than her list of questions to write on. She refused to give him a business card. It would be a while before she’d risk telling him she was a VP for Holt Enterprises, assuming they were still seeing each other in “a while.”

But writing on a cocktail napkin seemed…cheesy. “I don’t have a piece of paper.”

He rose, dug into his hanging suit jacket pocket and pulled out a slim gold case. He extracted two business cards, laid both on the table facedown and slid one in her direction. “Write on the back of this. I’ll give you my cell and home numbers.”

While she wrote her first name and her phone number on the card in front of her he stood beside the booth and penned his numbers on the back of the other. They exchanged cards. He offered his hand, and his fingers closed around hers. His handshake was warm and firm and sent a zing of sexual awareness vibrating though her. From the widening of his pupils and the flare of his nostrils she’d bet the reaction wasn’t one-sided.

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