Happy Saturday! Yesterday, my editor accepted the second book in my duet coming out at the beginning of next year. (More on that in my recent newsletter. Link is below.) I celebrated by binge-watching House Of Lies while making a batch of cowboy cookies. They are so good, but lethal. I haven't made cookies in a while because, as I told MrC, it's amazing how many cookies I don't eat if I don't make them.
Side note: I started writing this on Friday night and we had several huge cracks and rolls of thunder, then the skies opened with rain. I LOVE this kind of weather. It was humid so I had all the windows open, then the rain was pattering hard and everything smelled so fresh. Here's the view off my deck while it was going on:
Having said that, my heart goes out to Texas and those affected by the floods. Stay safe!
Shall we get back to business and the next instalment from Seduced Into The Greek's World?
If you missed the first two scenes, they're here:
- Demitri believes Natalie is flirting with his (married) brother-in-law
- Natalie can't believe Demitri
Today we carry on with Demitri re-assessing his assumptions about her and making an offer she doesn't quite refuse:
~ * ~
“What’s your first name?” he asked.
“Natalie. Why?” She eyed him while keeping her face averted, half expecting him to pick up the phone to HR. Man, he was good looking. And not the least bit ruffled. In fact, he almost looked as though he was laughing at her, which was so incensing she had to look away again.
“What are you doing here, Natalie? In Paris, I mean. What has Adara got you on? What’s the special report?”
A chance to show off. Something she had imagined would help her take a step up the corporate ladder. So much for that. “I’m part of the software upgrade.” It was hard to keep her voice steady as defensiveness and contrition pecked her. She kept it short. “I’m training the staff and working out the bugs. I’ve done Toulouse. I’m here in Paris for the week. Then I go to Lyon.”
“You’re an IT nerd?” His skepticism as he gave her another top-to-toe once-over was almost as irritating as the label.
“I wouldn’t have guessed you’re a marketing genius,” she shot back, blithely matching his dismissive tone, thinking stop it. But he was so infuriating.
“A highly creative one,” he assured smoothly. “Ask around. Although it sounds like you already have. You’re doing all the hotels in Europe?”
“I—um, what?” That creative remark had thrown her, which was his intention, she was sure. “No, I only have English and French and, um, can’t be away longer than three weeks.”
She and Zoey wouldn’t starve if he fired her, she reminded herself. The knowledge calmed her nerves. She wouldn’t even lose her house, and she always had the fallback plan of moving in with her ex-mother-in-law, which would suit Zoey just fine because she loved the farm. She’d been beside herself that she would stay with her grandma for three weeks. No, this was a minor, very awkward speed bump that Natalie would get over as quickly as possible.
“I’ve always wanted to travel so…” She cleared her throat as she realized that was too much information and headed back to bare facts. “They’re trying to implement before the end of the year. There’s a whole team. One person couldn’t do it all.”
“So you’re here to work and see the sites. Not have an affair. That’s what you’re telling me?”
“Yes.” From somewhere deep in her subconscious, a fresh blush rose. “Of course I’m here to work.” Maybe she had thought this trip was her chance to have a grown-up affair away from her daughter’s impressionable eyes, but that was very much a midnight fantasy and not something she intended to pursue. This trip might be the opportunity to cast off responsibility and act like a single woman instead of a struggling mom with bills and a flake for an ex, but she’d settle for a date with someone she wouldn’t have met otherwise.
He didn’t need to know any of that though.
Her cheeks stayed hot and hurting, nevertheless. It wasn’t easy to meet his gaze and pretend a fully-fledged affair was completely off the table, especially when there was a knowing glint teasing crinkles into the corners of his eyes.
“Even if I was looking for romance,” she blurted. “Which I’m not, I’d hardly start with the owner of the company, would I?”
“I don’t know. Would you? Let’s have dinner tonight and talk about it.” Her stomach swooped and her heart stopped, as though she’d hit an unexpected wall.
That’s how it’s done. She’d been observing, trying to crack the code of dating and casual invitations. It had seemed complicated, but he made it look easy.
Practice, she surmised cynically.
But go out with him? Impossible. Her heart restarted, pounding with sudden panic, partly because, well, look at him. He was gorgeous and obviously knew his way around the entire city, not just the block.
Danger. If she could have escaped this airless room crowded with empty desks, she would have.
Somehow she managed to hang on to her composure and scoff, “Is that a test? I realize Theo—and yes, at this level we all refer to your family by your first names when you’re not around to hear it.” She encompassed the ground floor with a sweep of her splayed hand in a flat circle. “Theo might have married a woman who once worked as a chamber maid, but we’re all well aware that was an exception. I have no such ambitions. You’re quite safe from me, and so are the rest of the men in your family.”
There. She folded her arms to close the topic.
He folded his, bunching those gorgeous shoulders in a way that made her throat go dry. “You’re funny,” he said.
“I’m completely serious!”
“I know. That’s why it’s funny. Calling marriage to any of us an ambition is hysterical.” He didn’t laugh. He only gave his mouth an ironic twist, which drew her notice to the shape of his lips. The lower was fuller than the top one, but the upper had a shallow space between the two peaks, perfect for a fingertip. The corners of his mouth extended into short, deep lines that gave him that look of being perpetually amused by the lives of the mortals around him.
His smile grew and he jerked his chin in a nudge of insistence, voice pitched intimately low, filled with knowledge that she was responding to him. “Have dinner with me, Natalie.”
She was mooning. And he’d noticed. Of course he had. He was a serial pickup artist. Where were the natural disasters when you needed them? It was definitely time for the earth to open up and suck her underground.
“Dating among coworkers is frowned upon,” she managed, delighted to have found both the excuse and a steady voice. “I’m sorry you thought I was making a play for your brother-in-law, but I’m highly cognizant of company policy and have no intention of violating it, even if he were available. Now if we’re finished, I really should get back to work.”
“You’re sorry for my mistake? This really is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Come on. Dinner. It will be my apology.” He splayed his straight fingers against his wide chest. A gorgeous chest, she was sure. He looked like he worked out. Often. His physique distracted her from how suddenly he’d turned on the charm. “Where’s the harm in the boss taking an out-of-town employee to dinner? It’s networking,” he cajoled.
“Is that what it would be?” She couldn’t help her snort of laughter. She’d thought he was merely a playboy, but he made the sharing of his favors sound like some kind of a job perk.
His expression changed slightly as she laughed, becoming less arrogant as his regard sharpened with male interest and something more acute, as though he was reassessing her. It made her think she might be holding her own in this match of wits, surprising him.
Which gave her a thrill that she did her best to ignore.
“Look, I’m flattered,” she rushed to say, glancing away so he wouldn’t see how flattered. As sophisticated as she dreamed of being, she wasn’t prepared for someone such as him. “But I’ve seen the women you date and I’m not in their league. Which, by the way, is another reason I would never set my sights on your brother-in-law. So, thank you for this extremely interesting conversation, but I need to get back to work. I don’t want to get fired,” she added pointedly.
“Not in their league?” he repeated, frowning in disagreement as he gave her yet another thorough assessment in a way that set her alight. Her entire body actually hurt from the blood rush that prickled through her.
She’d starved herself and worked out like mad before leaving Montreal, determined that if any sort of corporate limelight fell upon her—or any sexy Frenchmen—she’d have nothing to be insecure about. Nevertheless, she experienced a pang of insecurity under his review, worried she wasn’t up to standard.
He dragged his gaze back up to hers and let her see undisguised male desire.
Tingling excitement encompassed her. It wasn’t exactly confidence, but it wasn’t uncertainty either. It was a delicious and involuntary, Yes, please, that scared the hell out of her.
“You’re very much in an elite league of your own, Natalie. Or are you making excuses to spare my feelings? It would surprise me if you are. You don’t strike me as someone who would bother. Not considering the frankness we’ve already arrived at.”
That made her chuckle dryly, but she suppressed it with a sheepish dip of her chin. “You’re right. But read my personnel file, Mr. Makricosta—”
“Demitri,” he corrected.
“I don’t live nearly as fast as you do. Demitri.” She tried to make her voice diffident and amused, but Demitri was a surprisingly erotic name for a man with an American accent. “If I thought you were issuing a genuine invitation—and one that was only for dinner,” she added with a you-can’t-fool-me look. “I would be tempted. My coworkers here have families to go home to. It would be refreshing not to eat alone. But I suspect you’re mocking me. Or maybe punishing me for said frankness?”
He was taken aback by that. “Why wouldn’t I want to take you out? You’re beautiful, amusing and you have a pretty laugh.”
The sincerity in his tone made her heart swing inside her chest, dipping and lifting in a way that made her set a hand on the edge of her desk for balance. She grappled for humor to deflect how thoroughly his simple compliment disarmed her.
“And you want to hear that laugh in bed?” she challenged.
“Ha!” His chuckle was surprised and real, his grin appreciative before it turned hot and hungry. His gaze closed around her like a fist. “I’ll have the car brought to the curb for seven.”
~ * ~
Seduced Into The Greek's World is on shelves, but if you prefer digital the quick links are below:
Do you belong to my newsletter? You can read Dani's May Newsletter here where I dish about that upcoming duet I've been writing for Harlequin. My next newsletter will come out on June 6th. The easiest way to sign up is to enter my monthly contest here on my website.
I have a pile of tasks I've been putting off, but I've given myself a deadline of 'end of May.' Well, guess what? No more procrastinating! What are you doing with your weekend?