His to Keep (Beauty and the Brit)(9)

By: Terri Austin

Shoving the pen behind her ear, she once again tightened her arms around the binder, as if it could shield her from the inviting heat in his eyes. “I think you would be sabotaging your chance for personal development by not completing the course yourself.” She tried to appear unaffected as she scuttled past him and moved to a large, tufted sofa near one window. She sat on the edge of the slick, brown leather. If she scooted back any farther, her feet wouldn’t touch the floor.

He turned his head, his steady gaze following her. “Why do you say it that way?”

“Say what?”

“Stress the word ‘I.’ It’s odd, yeah?”

First, she’d broken out in red splotches, and now he thought she was an oddball. Brynn ran her tongue over her front teeth, like she used to do when she had braces. It was like being in high school all over again. Because four years of hell wasn’t enough, she needed to carry this shit into adulthood. “No, I’m simply stating the facts as I…I see them. And I’m taking ownership of my feelings.”

He stalked toward her, but instead of taking the chair adjacent to the sofa, he sank down next to her—so close they were practically touching. Another few inches… “Ownership of your feelings? Who the fuck talks like that? In real life.”

“We’re not in real life. We’re in the corporate world, where saying words like ‘fuck’ can get you into trouble.” She opened her notebook and spread it across her lap. “Don’t ever confuse the two.”

“My business is my real life. I say what I want, and I don’t give a fuck who hears it.”

Brynn straightened and crossed her arms. “In my opinion, you need a long-term strategy. We’re a litigious society. It’s a wonder you haven’t been sued for workplace incivility.”

“A wonder,” he murmured, and plucked the pen from behind her ear. He slid his finger along the length of it, stroking. That shouldn’t have been sensual, but watching his finger work over that pen pushed all of Brynn’s buttons. She gazed up into his eyes and found him staring at her, a smile playing on his firm, thin lips.

She wasn’t sure how to respond to this seductive onslaught. It wasn’t in Brynn’s nature to tackle things head-on. Every instinct told her to get the hell out of there and never look back. In spite of her discomfort, she remained seated and tried to stick to the job at hand. She grabbed the pen back and forced herself to remain calm and professional. Hard to do with trembling hands, but she tried her best. “Tell me about your relationship with your employees.”

Iain rolled his eyes and sat back, flicking a hand over the knife pleat running the length of his long, sturdy thigh. His shoes were as polished as the floor, and his gray socks matched the shade of his suit exactly. “Relationship? What the hell are you on about?” He nodded toward her list of questions. “And what is that?”

“An assessment on your leadership style.”

“I can sum it up for you: an employee should do what I say, or I’ll toss their ass out on the street and find someone who will.” His eyes raked over her. “Is that what you call business attire? You’re here to lecture me while wearing jeans and a see-through blouse?”

Embarrassment flooded her, making her whole body feel as if it were on fire. Brynn jerked her head downward, glancing at her shirt. Could he really see through it? She’d successfully performed the lightbulb test—holding her blouse in front of the light and placing her hand behind it to make sure it wasn’t see-through. When she looked up and saw the gleam in his eyes, she realized he was trying to get a response out of her. Joke was on him—he didn’t even have to try. She’d never reacted to a man like this in her entire life. Sitting close to him, smelling his delicious cologne with just a hint of bergamot—it distracted Brynn so much she was having a hard time stringing words into a coherent sentence.

A knock sounded at the door, dispelling some of the tension between them. Amelia walked in, bearing a tea tray. “How are you two getting along? Everything okay?” She set the tray on a side table and her gaze flew from Iain to Brynn.

“We’re not in nursery school, are we?” Iain said. “I don’t need to be patronized, Ames.”

She didn’t seem to take offense at his words but merely smiled. “Don’t let him scare you, honey.”

In her mid-forties, Amelia’s look was classic. Her reddish-blond hair swung around her jawline in a chic bob. She had a few shallow lines around her blue eyes, model-worthy cheekbones, full lips, and a figure to die for—boobs, ass, the whole package. But Brynn didn’t get the sense that Amelia and Iain had ever bow chica bow-wow’ed. Rather, his assistant seemed almost maternal toward him.