A Ruthless Proposition

By: Natasha Anders

He wasn’t quite sure what to do with the provocative, twisting bundle of femininity half draped over his lap, but when one sharp little elbow missed his groin by just an inch, he cursed and took hold of that same elbow and dragged her up onto the seat beside him.

“What in the ever-loving hell are you doing?” he asked, sounding livid even to himself.

“My phone . . .”

“Yeah. I know. And I would have retrieved it for you. You didn’t have to drape yourself all over me to get to it.”

“I didn’t.” God, her cheeks were flushed, her usually sleek hair was a mess, and two of her mother-of-pearl blouse buttons had come undone to reveal the pretty blue-lace edge of her bra. She looked like a woman who had just been soundly kissed, and because it aroused him to the point of pain, it brought his suspicious nature to bear.

“Are you coming on to me?” he hissed. “Wasn’t one night enough for you? If you want more than that, you need but say it. But don’t expect anything other than sex from me. Just because you’re Luc’s sister doesn’t automatically entitle you to more than that. Once we get this deal out of the way, we can fuck again if that’s what you want, but it will never be more than that. Entender? Understand?”

“Oh, I entender,” she said, her voice trembling slightly, making him wonder at the extreme emotion he could sense just beneath the surface. “I entender that you’re a smug, arrogant butthole who thinks the sun revolves around him. I don’t like you. But then I don’t have to like you; you’re just my boss. And while I may have had a moment’s weakness last night, it just makes me human. And trust me, one night was enough to last a lifetime. It was great, but I’m not looking for an encore.”

Cleo let her words sink in, knowing she had just kissed any future with this company good-bye. She allowed herself a moment’s regret before clearing her throat and pointing to the floor between his feet.

“Now, would you mind fetching my phone for me please, sir? I’d hate for you to get the wrong idea if I went fishing for it again.”

He kept his gaze level with hers, and the grim set of his mouth told her he wasn’t at all impressed with her. Well, to hell with him. His opinion mattered not at all.

“Just because we have shared some level of intimacy does not give you the right to speak to me so,” he said after a long and unnerving moment of silence. His voice teemed with barely restrained menace. “We are not contemporaries, we are not friends, and we are certainly not lovers.”

“No, we’re employee”—she touched her chest and then lifted the same hand to point at him—“and employer. You’re my boss, and as I very much doubt I’ll have a job after this anyway, I should probably voice my opinions now, while I have you here.”

“Why would you not have a job after this? You think I am so lacking in morals I would fire you because we spent a mutually pleasurable night together? That was last night, and we were done with work. In this car, right now, I am your employer, and I will be spoken to with respect.”

“Oh, does that mean I get to call you an arrogant butthole after hours?” She watched his face tighten and knew she was pushing every single danger button he possessed.

“What you call me in the privacy of your thoughts is of no concern to me. Just keep those thoughts to yourself.”

“So, you’re basically placing a gag order on me,” she clarified.

“If that is how you wish to perceive it, then so be it.”

He reached down to retrieve her phone—a clear indicator he considered the conversation closed—and glanced at the screen before handing it over.

“This isn’t exactly what I would call professional behavior,” he said, nodding down at the ridiculous pouting picture of her on the screen.

Embarrassed, she cast her eyes down, hating to feel so completely wrong-footed.

“It was meant to be ironic,” she attempted to explain even while she knew he would never understand the intended humor behind the picture.

“I trust you will conduct yourself appropriately at this meeting?”

Damn it. So much for trying to impress the man with her professionalism and ability to do the job. She tried her best to keep her reply humble.

“Yes, sir. I apologize if my earlier lack of professionalism caused you to think otherwise, sir,” she said in her best no-nonsense voice, although she couldn’t quite disguise the sarcasm dripping all over that last word. He raised his eyebrows, indicating he hadn’t missed the acerbity, then raked her body from top to toe with his gaze.

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