Seduced:The Unexpected Virgin(10)

By: Emily McKay


“Well, not in my experience it doesn’t. If we’re going to reach all of our goals, we need to be realistic and conscientious and—”

“Let’s cut to the chase, Ana. Are we going to have a problem working together?” His tone was cold, his gaze quietly assessing.

Alarm bells started jangling in the back of her brain again. She rubbed the sole of one foot across the top of the other. Remember the odds. One superstar. Eighty-nine million bleeding-heart liberals waiting to take her place if she screwed up this job.

But even as that refrain echoed through her brain, she realized it wasn’t about that. Not really. The truth was, she didn’t really want to be attracted to him. Didn’t want to like him.

Ana drew in a deep breath—wishing he wasn’t sitting quite so close—and then she exhaled slowly.

Was she going to have a problem working with him? Maybe. Would he ever know it again? No. Nope. Nada.

She forced a serene and welcoming smile. “No, Mr. Miller. We won’t.”

His gaze narrowed slightly at the use of his last name, as if her formality annoyed him. She clenched her hands together to keep herself from fidgeting.

“Did you know, Ms. Rodriguez, that I was twelve the first time I performed professionally on stage?”

Disconcerted by his direct stare, she reached her hand up to tuck aside that loose strand of hair. It was all she could do not to fan the back of her neck. “No. I didn’t know that.”

“I had my first record deal at fifteen. Signed with my first major label at nineteen.”

Maybe it was the slow, lazy way he spoke. Or maybe it was the attentive way he met her gaze. This wasn’t him bragging. It wasn’t him trying to impress her. He was making a point. She had the feeling that when he got there, she wasn’t going to like it.

“I’ve been in this business for twenty-four years. Which is almost as long as you’ve been alive.” He shrugged with a wry smile. “Almost as long as I’ve been alive, for that matter. In my years in entertainment—” he rocked his chair back onto two legs, steepling his fingers over his chest “—I’ve dealt with all kinds of people who tried to take advantage of me. I’ve dealt with people who claimed they wanted to protect me. Wanted to be my best friend. When you’re in an industry like this for that long, one of two things happens. Either you become one of those crazy people who snorts kelp up their nose five times a day, or you learn how to tell when someone’s lying to you.” He let the chair drop forward onto its front legs. “I don’t like kelp.”

She fought the urge to bite her lip. Dang it, did he have to be funny on top of it all?

“Basically,” he continued, “there’s only one thing I do better than play guitar and that’s know when someone’s lying to me. So why don’t we start over and you tell me exactly why you have a problem with me.”





Three




His blunt honesty knocked the wind out of her. What was she supposed to do with that?

It’s not like she could say, “Hey, I think you’re really dreamy. Oh, and it kind of pisses me off.” Or even worse, “I’m woefully underqualified for this job. I’m barely keeping my head above water here and if you knew how close I was to drowning, you’d get me fired.”

Instead, she decided the easiest way to show him where she was coming from was to tell him a story of her own. “I was twelve when my parents moved here from L.A. Even though it’s only an hour and a half away, there’s a world of difference. My father accepted a job as the Worths’ gardener. My mother as their housekeeper. I grew up above the Worths’ garage. We may have been the hired help, but they never treated us that way.”

He was studying her, elbows propped on his knees, expression intense. Under his gaze, her breath seemed to catch in her chest. It was disconcerting to have him watching her so closely.

She was used to dealing with stars who only cared about your opinion when you were talking about them. But Ward seemed to actually be listening to her. Just like he’d listened to her staff during the brainstorming session.

Suddenly, the room felt tight and small. Like he simply took up too much space. She inched forward to shove her feet back into her shoes, then stood and nodded toward the door. “I’m going to go clean up the conference room. If you want to keep talking, come along. But if we leave that fruit out much longer, it’ll go bad.”

She knew he’d follow her, of course. It seemed like Ward rarely did what she wished he would. As they walked down the hall, she continued talking.

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