Home > Torn (Billionaire Bachelors Club #2)(5)

Torn (Billionaire Bachelors Club #2)(5)
Author: Monica Murphy

“Gina. Don’t you have a cake to check on?” Marina asks pointedly.

“Crap! I do. Oh my God, I hope it’s not burning. I’ll be back.” Aunt Gina gives me the evil eye as she passes by and pushes through the door I can only assume leads to the kitchen, disappearing in an instant.

“Sorry about that,” Marina says, taking a deep breath and exhaling loudly. “So do you mind telling me? How you know Archer Bancroft?”

Hmm. Someone wants something. I can see it in the way she’s looking at me. Like her question shouldn’t matter but it definitely does. I wonder what she wants from Archer? “We go way back,” I drawl. This could be fun, making her work for it.

“Really? So are you two close?”

Best friends since high school, but like I’m going to give her that info. Yet. “Close enough,” I say, purposefully vague.

“Hmm. You know, I had this idea I wanted to propose to him, and I keep forgetting to give him a call, I’ve been so busy. Maybe you can help me with that,” she says hopefully, her eyes wide, her expression open.

Is she serious? I can’t tell. But I haven’t even earned her full forgiveness yet. “I can help you with whatever you want.”

Her gaze narrows. “You say things like that, and it sounds sexual.”

Guess this attraction between us isn’t all one-sided. Good news. Just looking at her and I want to touch her. Run my fingers through her hair. Drop a soft kiss to her very kissable mouth. She might punch me if I try though. Can’t push her too hard. “I guess I can’t help but think of sex when I’m near you.”

Her mouth drops open. “Are you serious?”

Shit. Yep, there I went, pushing too hard like I can’t help myself. I need to change the subject quick. Most women who flirt with me have no problem talking about sex. This one acts like I just asked her to commit a crime. “So, what sort of idea were you thinking?”

Her expression instantly goes blank. “Like I’m going to tell you anything. I don’t even know you.”

Fine. She wants to play that way? I can play right back. “You want my help talking to Archer?”

She nods so subtly I can almost believe she didn’t do it. Almost.

“I need your forgiveness.”

“You’re forgiven,” she says automatically.

Meh. That was quick. And it really didn’t count since I know she didn’t mean it, but I’ll let it slide. “You can’t make me feel guilty about this anymore. What’s done is done.”

“Fine. Great. Works for me.” She releases another shaky breath. I think I make her uncomfortable. Perfect, because she makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

As in the I want her so much I feel like I’m going to lose it if I don’t touch her in the next five minutes kind of uncomfortable.

“I’ll need one more thing from you before I can make this happen,” I say quietly, trying to amp the anticipation. I’m dying to see her reaction when I tell her.

Marina rolls her eyes, sexy despite her irritation with me. Since when have I ever been excited by a woman’s irritation? I’m a sick bastard.

“Oh, come on. What more could you want?” She sounds completely put out. And clueless.

Well. I’m about to rock her world with one single word.

“You.”

Marina

“LISTEN, I’M NOT some whore you can buy and sell,” I say, immediately regretting my words. I sound completely over the top.

The look on his face shows he knows it. “That wasn’t what I was implying,” he says carefully. “I just . . . like you. I was hoping maybe we could see each other sometime.”

The man is insane. Gorgeous and confident and with a surprisingly good sense of humor, considering how deftly he handled crazy Gina, but he’s also a complete pain in my ass.

He has something I want though and I can’t believe I forgot. Connections: one I somehow missed, so shame on me. And that connection is Archer Bancroft: a transplant, not necessarily considered a local, but definitely a man who’s moved into the area within the last five years and done positive things to regenerate the economy. His hotel business is thriving; he’s provided lots of jobs and plenty of sales revenue. He’s solid, and his reputation is relatively golden, helped considerably since he settled down into a serious relationship. This community is small enough that everyone knows each other’s business, and Archer’s not shy about making a public statement.

He is definitely someone I want to do business with. I’ve had these new ideas bouncing around inside my brain, and I think he’s the perfect candidate for one of them. Well, his hotel is the perfect candidate. If I could get my aunt’s desserts into his restaurants, the extra exposure and revenue might help save the bakery.

And I exaggerated. I don’t know Archer. I know of him. I’ve met him a few times. We always exchange polite hellos when we see each other at social events, but that’s not very often considering I’m always working and rarely out. I just don’t have time.

That’s the extent of my so-called friendship with him. Whereas Gage really knows him. And even though I don’t trust him and know he wants to buy up my family’s property—including the bakery—I may as well use him while I can, right?

So yeah. I want him to get me an appointment so I can propose my idea to Archer.

Not with these sort of stipulations put on me though. Saying he wants me? That has cheap sexual thrill written all over it.

Sighing, I finally shake my head. “Of course. I know. It’s just . . . it’s been a long day. And then you send me the gorgeous flowers, and my Aunt Gina flipped out.”

“She’s quite the character,” he inserts politely.

“You’re too kind.” Smiling wryly, I continue on. “Then you show up begging for forgiveness and . . . you distracted me.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“When a girl needs to focus on working, her business, and nothing else—yes. It’s a very bad thing.” Deciding to hell with it, I move away from behind the counter and head toward the front door, flipping the sign from OPEN to CLOSED and turning the lock.

“Closing up?” he asks. He sounds incredulous.

“There are no customers in here besides you.” And it’s near enough to our actual closing time that it won’t make any difference.

“So are you going to answer me?” he asks, watching me move around the tiny café. His big body seems to eat up all the space, filling the air until all I can breathe and see is him. I do my best to avoid him, straightening chairs, picking up miscellaneous straw wrappers and crumpled napkins that still litter the tables. I’m trying to avoid answering him. Too full of nervous, restless energy he can no doubt pick up on.

What more could you want?

You.

I mean really. Who says that sort of thing? I feel like I’m in some bad, cheesy made-for-TV movie or something.

“What sort of answer are you looking for? You never really asked me a question,” I finally say, glancing out the corner of my eye to see him approaching.

“I did so.” He stops mere feet away from me. I can feel his body warmth reaching toward me and I’m tempted to lean in. Absorb all of that strength and warmth and gorgeousness. Though he looks utterly untouchable in the finely tailored suit that I can tell cost a fortune. “I asked if you wanted my help in getting you a chance to talk to Archer.”

“Of course I do,” I say, my voice quiet, my thoughts a confused jumble in my brain. What is going on here? Why am I even talking to him? Why do I want to be close to him? It makes no sense.

I can’t stand him.

Really. I can’t. I don’t care how good he looks in that suit or how his sexy hair probably needs a trim. How bad I want to run my fingers through it. Or maybe grab his tie and yank him closer, see what he might do if I reared up on tiptoe and kissed him . . .

“Then go out to dinner with me,” he suggests, his voice bold, his expression arrogant. The glint in his eyes, the curl of his lips . . . he’s too damn confident. Like he knows I won’t be able to resist him.

Irritating, because I’m this close to giving in and saying yes.

I slump my shoulders. Seconds ago I was imagining violently kissing him, and now I’m considering some other sort of violence toward him—like bodily harm. He infuriates me, yet he interests me. Usually if I’m interested in a guy, it’s because I like him. I don’t want to smack him upside the head.

“You’re going to force me to go out to dinner with you and in return you’ll help me arrange an appointment with Archer Bancroft?” I laugh though I find no humor in his suggestion. I might find it . . . arousing. Which is wrong on so many levels I lose count.

“I’m not forcing you to do anything, Marina,” he says softly, his eyes glowing as they drink me in. “Unless . . . you like it that way.”

Well, holy shit. The man needs duct tape wound around his mouth about twenty times. He says the worst things ever. “Did you really just say that?” I ask, my voice sounding deadly even to my own ears.

He seems to snap himself out of a trance. Standing straighter, he blinks, runs a hand along his jaw. God, his hands are big. I wonder what they might feel like on me. Sliding over my arms, my legs, between my thighs—

Get over it!

“Did I really just say what?” He looks dazed. The tension crackling between us has suddenly become unbearable and I have no idea why.

Um, maybe because you’re attracted to him?

I push the pointless thought out of my head.

“Is it just me you say idiotic, sexist, disgusting things to, or do you talk this way to all the women you encounter?” I cross my arms in front of my chest again, noting—again—that his eyes drop right to my br**sts. Men. They’re all the same. And this one is so blatant, so cocky, and with such a rude mouth. He’s downright offensive.

Yet my skin is buzzing just being in his presence. My blood is warm, my body both loose and anxious all at once. I only ever feel this way right before I’m going to have sex and I’m all amped up. Excited and nervous.

And I am never. Ever. Having sex with Gage Emerson. Oh hell, no.

A little groan escapes him and he closes his eyes for the briefest moment, gripping the back of the chair directly in front of him. Damn, his eyelashes are thick. Of course. Everything about him is the epitome of male beauty.

He cracks his eyes open. “Did I really say that out loud?”

“Yep,” I confirm, enjoying his absolute misery.

“I was thinking it,” he admits, looking sheepish. Cutely sheepish. “That probably makes me a pig just the same, right?”

“Right.” I nod, letting my arms drop by my sides. “I won’t whore myself out on a date with you just to get a chance to talk to Archer. I can do that on my own.”

A dark brow rises in challenge. “You really think so? Think about it. I’m offering you an easy in. He might throw up roadblocks, you know.”

Knowing Gage, he’d probably ask Archer to throw up those roadblocks just so I’d go out with him. Jerk. “Oh my God. Are you implying I can’t see Archer without you? Do you really need to be such an arrogant ass?” I toss back, immediately wishing I could clap my hand over my mouth. This man makes me say things I regret every single time.

 

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