Beautiful Bastard Chapter 19

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“Are you ready to begin?”

“Yes, sir.”

He nodded once and turned back to his office.

Okay, so that’s how this was going to play out. Fine by me. I wasn’t sure what I’d been expecting but was somewhat relieved that things weren’t different. Things between us were getting more and more intense, and it would mean a harder crash when it all stopped and I was left to pick up the pieces of my career. I hoped we could limp through this without further disaster until I finished my degree.

I followed him into his office and took a seat. I began going over the list of tasks and appointments that needed his attention. He listened without comment, jotting things down or entering them into his computer when needed.

“There’s a meeting with Red Hawk Publishing scheduled for three this afternoon. Your father and brother are also planning to attend. It will probably take up the rest of the afternoon, so your calendar has been cleared . . .” And so it went, until eventually we got to the part I’d been dreading.

“Lastly, the JT Miller Marketing Insight Conference is in San Diego next month,” I said, suddenly becoming interested in what I was doodling in my calendar. The pause that followed seemed to drag forever, and I glanced up to see what was taking so long. He was staring at me, tapping a gold pen on the desk, his face completely void of any expression.

“Will you be accompanying me?” he asked.

“Yes.” My one word created a suffocating silence in the room. I had no idea what he was thinking as we looked at each other. “It’s in the terms of the scholarship that I attend. I, uh, also think it’d be good to have me there to, um, help manage your affairs.”

“Make all the necessary arrangements,” he said with an air of finality as he resumed typing on his computer. a.s.suming I had been dismissed, I stood and began walking toward the door.

“Miss Mills.”

I turned to look at him, and even though he didn’t meet my gaze, he almost seemed nervous. Well, that was different.

“My mother has asked me to extend an invitation to you for dinner next week.”

“Oh.” I felt heat bloom across my cheeks. “Well, please tell her I’ll look at my schedule.” I turned to leave again.

“I was told I must . . . strongly encourage you to attend.”

Turning back slowly, I saw he was now staring at me, and he definitely looked uncomfortable. “And why exactly should you do that?”

“Well,” he said before clearing his throat, “apparently she has someone she would like you to meet.”

This was new. I’d known the Ryans for years, and although Susan might have mentioned a name in pa.s.sing, she’d never actively tried to fix me up with anyone.

“Your mother is trying to set me up?” I asked walking back toward his desk and folding my arms over my chest.

“So it seems.” Something in his face didn’t quite fit his nonchalant answer.

“Why?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

His brow furrowed in obvious annoyance. “How the h.e.l.l would I know? It’s not like we sit around discussing you,” he growled. “Maybe she’s worried that with that sparkling personality of yours you’ll end up an old spinster wearing muumuus and living in a house full of cats.”

Leaning forward with my palms on his desk I glared at him. “Well, maybe she should be more worried that her son will turn into a dirty old man who spends his time h.o.a.rding panties and stalking girls in lingerie stores.”

Jumping out of his chair, he leaned toward me, his face furious. “You know, you are the most—” He was cut off as the phone rang. We stared fiercely at each other from across the desk, both of us breathing heavily. For a moment, I thought he would throw me across the desk. For another moment, I wanted him to. Still glaring at me, he reached for the phone.

“Yes,” he barked sharply into the receiver, his eyes never leaving mine. “George! h.e.l.lo. Yes, I have a minute.”

He lowered himself back into his desk chair, and I lingered to see if he needed anything from me while he talked to Mr. Papadakis. He held up his index finger for me to wait before he slid it over his pen, rolling it across his desk as he listened to the call.

“You need me to stay?” I asked.

He nodded once before speaking into the phone, “I don’t think you’d need to be that specific at this stage, George.” The deep tenor of his voice vibrated down my spine. “Just a general outline is fine. We need to know the scope of this proposal before we can move into drafting.”

I shifted where I stood. He was such an egomaniac, making me stand here like I was holding a plate of grapes and fanning him while he spoke to a colleague.

He looked up at me and did a slight double take, his eyes dropping to my skirt. When he looked back up, his lips opened slightly, as if he would ask me something were he able. And then he reached forward, pen poised between his finger and thumb, and used the tip of it to lift the hem of my skirt up my thigh.

His eyes widened when he saw the garter.

“I understand,” he murmured into the phone, letting my skirt fall. “I think we can agree that’s a positive development.”

His eyes moved up my body, darkening as they traveled. My heart began to pound. When he looked at me like that, I wanted to slip onto his lap and bind him to the chair with his tie.

“No, no. Nothing so broad at this point. As I said, this is only a preliminary outline.”

I slipped around his desk and sat in the chair across from him. He raised an eyebrow, interested, and then slipped the tip of the pen between his teeth, biting down.

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