Mistress By Blackmail(8)

By: Caro LaFever

Abruptly, he turned away to stare out the floor-to-ceiling windows behind the desk. She felt as if an invisible string between them had broken. Her breath chopped through her in a mini-gasp.

“Santo cielo,” he growled, as his hand ran through his hair.

Her gaze slipped along the long line of his back and down his powerful legs. Her mind flipped away from the righteous fight she waged for her friend and landed again in the swamp of sexual heat pulsing deep within her. The heat inside burned and blistered her determination to win. She sucked in cool air, praying it would bring back her pride.

“This is counterproductive.” His words were low, husky. “It does us no good to fight.”

“I agree.” An olive branch. She grabbed the peace offering eagerly. She didn’t want to fight with this man at all. She wanted to do something entirely opposite. The realization shot a lance of fearful anticipation down her spine.

Turning back to her, he gave her a wry grin. And two dimples popped on the sides of his mouth. Two disarming, distracting dimples. The sex swamp threatened to swallow her whole. The impact this man had on her. It was enough to make an un-frightened girl terribly frightened.

“We will begin again,” he stated.

“Um.” Her mouth went dry. “Sure.”

Slipping his hands in his pockets, he rocked back on his heels. “We will agree not to speak of my brother anymore.”

Uh-oh. So much for olive branches. “I can’t agree to that.”

“You must.” Storm clouds immediately threatened in his eyes. “Matteo is now irrelevant.”

“Matt is the reason I’m here. He certainly isn’t irrelevant.”

“You will have nothing more to do with him.” His tone turned deadly with—jealousy? Nah, not that. Maybe the Great Man didn’t think she was worthy of being with his brother? That seemed more likely.

Her hackles vibrated once more. But her brain had finally kicked into gear.

Okay, time to change course. She’d picked up on the fact he thought her and Matt were an item. She figured this would be a card to play. Except now the tactic was backfiring on her. It was earning her hostility from this man rather than cooperation.

Sugar rather than vinegar, lovey. Her mother’s words echoed in her memories. Men always respond better to sugar.

First, she’d set him straight on the nature of her relationship with his brother. Then she’d start to apply the sugar. In large quantities. “Listen. About me and Matt—”

“We will not speak of him anymore.”

He issued commands like a seasoned potentate. Yet she hadn’t grown up rough without realizing how to stand her ground with the best of them. “I came here to specifically speak of Matt. I’m afraid you’re out of luck.”

“I do not operate with luck.” His dark brows furrowed in distaste. “I make a plan and proceed to carry it out.”

“Well, bloody good for you,” she muttered. “Listen, you need to know Matt and I—”

“You will soon find that all my plans are successful. As my plan for you will be.”

Her hackles burned under her skin. All thoughts of sweetness and light snapped out of her in a crackle of outrage.

The man might ooze sex and testosterone which called to the very core of her female body, yet he was insufferably, utterly too arrogant for belief. They’d just met. He knew nothing about her. Still, he instantly made a plan which involved her and assumed she’d merrily dance to his tune? He needed to be cut off at the knees by somebody.

Who better than Ms. Darcy Moran? Fighter extraordinaire?

“How lucky for you.” She gave him her best, absolute best, fake smile. “I’m breathless with anticipation to find out what your plan is for little old me.”

She watched with satisfaction as his entire body tensed. Yes, yes. She was good at knocking people down a notch when it was needed. Sugar might be her best weapon, but it wasn’t her only one.

His mouth tightened in a grim line. No dimples in sight. “I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.”

“Sorry.” She pouted, taking wicked delight at his frustration. “Can’t help myself.”

With three swift steps, he rounded his desk and stood right before her. She braced, forcing herself not to step back. The move would be a signal of weakness in this battle of wills. And she wasn’t willing to give in. Not for Matt. Not for herself