The Billionaire's Seduction(6)

By: Kristi Avalon


His blue-green—or green-blue, she couldn’t be sure—gaze scanned the room in its entirety, every crevice, taking in the tight quarters, from all four walls to the ceiling. He shifted with a trace of discomfort, as if these closed confines disturbed him as much as they did her.

An unexpected breath of relief sailed from her lips. She sat up stiffly, clamping her mouth shut. She couldn’t let him know his presence had in any way comforted her.

Because it shouldn’t. Right?

In a place like this, she needed to be on guard at all times.

“Sophia.”

When she inhaled, her breath entered her lungs with a stutter. He’d said her name as though beginning a prayer. Her whole being softened—for no good reason.

Then she snapped her spine straight.

“Yes?” she answered, eying him the way a condemned person regarded her executioner.

Instead of launching into a hard interrogation, as she’d expected, he sat back in his chair, away from her. Giving her space to breathe, to be. To collect her scattered, worried thoughts.

She sighed in unspoken appreciation.

“Do you know why you’re here?” he asked mildly.

Shaking her head, she sat forward in earnest. “I swear to God, I don’t know. I wish I did. But if it’s about me putting in my two weeks, please tell Mr. Atlas I’ll take him out to lunch. We can settle this as colleagues, although, of course, he is my boss.” She caught herself babbling. “I promise I won’t take any of his clientele or contracts. I mean, how could I? The people who will be my clients are everyday people, just wanting their taxes prepared. They’re average. Like me.”

His head tilted a fraction to the left. “Do you consider yourself average?”

Cripes, I don’t know. Is that a trick question? She fumbled for a response.

“Just curious,” he responded, in that heady, almost hypnotic voice of his. “Because I find you anything but average.”

Green-blue at the moment, his eyes revealed little—except maybe a glint of respect. Admiration? No, too strong a word. She didn’t know him well enough to expect that much.

“Then, you don’t know why you’re here,” he said more than questioned.

Desperation crept into her tone, and she couldn’t scrape up the pride to hide it. “Can you, please, tell me?”

Those expressive orbs closed. A door slammed on her hope. Her heart sank.

He said, “Yes, I can tell you.”

She inched forward. Waiting for the answer she’d been desperate to understand since she’d arrived.

“But I won’t.”

Confusion mingled with an unreasonable sense of hurt. Her shoulders slumped.

“That’s not why I’m here.”

Tears threatened to breech her lashes. She whispered, “What do you want from me? I can tell you whatever you want to hear—if I knew what it was.”

Abruptly, he shoved back his chair and stood, startling her. Below the noise, he spoke in low tones, his lips barely moving, “Never say that again.”

Her mouth half-formed the word why?

But he cut her off before she spoke. “Never. Again,” he demanded under his breath. Then he raised his voice several notches. “Or I’ll leave here right now. Do you understand?”

He spoke as if the words were intended for someone else.

Shying away from him, she subtly nodded. I get it. Then her eyes implored him. Will you help me?

He gave a tight nod, imperceptible to anyone who might be looking on.

Right. Of course. Why hadn’t she thought of that? Alex Atlas had cameras aimed at every conceivable space in his immense multiplex fortress.

Including this room. Especially this room.

“Can I have some water?” she blurted out. She’d rather have a shot of tequila, but she’d settle for the most accessible drink to quench her thirst.

His nearly imperceptible grin reassured her. “I’ll ask.”

He didn’t ask. He full-out demanded that someone among Mr. Atlas’s crew arrive with water soon, or he’d…well, she didn’t know what he’d do, but his tone indicated something unpleasant.

For the first time since she and Maribeth had conjured gargoyle names for their coworkers, she felt a smile tug at her lips. Maybe this guy really did have her back. Maybe he honestly, truly believed in her. His actions said as much.

But she reminded herself to remain cautious. Mr. Atlas wasn’t above using specialized tactics to get his worst offenders to confess. So she’d heard.

Nerves stretched thin, her well of honesty full but the bucket dragging on a thin rope, she gulped when the interrogator returned to the table. He didn’t close the door entirely behind him. Did that mean someone would come with water?