A shaky sigh slipped through her lips as if she was relieved for the interruption, and she reached for the phone. But before she could pick it up, he caught her wrist in his hand.
“Before you answer that,” he said, “we need to go over our schedule for the day.” He stroked his thumb over the silky skin of her delicate wrist, and her pulse leaped beneath his touch. “And the night.”
Her throat moved as if she had to swallow before asking, “Night?”
He grinned. “Yes, we’re going to be working late.”
“H-how late?” she stammered.
“Quite late,” he warned her. “Tonight and every night for the next two weeks. At least…”
She drew in a shaky breath now. “Two weeks,” she said. “Just two weeks.” And she reached for the phone with her other hand, lifting it to her flushed face.
“Bette Monroe, assistant to Simon Kramer, how may I help you?” she asked the caller.
She could tell Simon the damn truth. But he didn’t expect her to freely divulge her secrets. Few people were honest about everything, and some, like his old man, were never honest about anything. He wasn’t certain into which category Bette Monroe would fall. But just like he intended to find out what lingerie—if any—she was wearing, he fully intended to find that out, too.
He would execute the plan he’d concocted Friday night and seduce the truth out of his sexy executive assistant. He just hadn’t realized how damn much he was going to enjoy the seduction. For the first time in a long time, he might actually have found a challenge. Ironically enough, it—she—had been right under his nose for the past two years.
While he had noticed Bette’s ass and hips and the swell of her breasts beneath those sweaters, he’d never thought she could possibly be nearly as big a con as he was. He’d have to be careful that she didn’t get access to any more case files and that she didn’t get to him any more than she had already started to.
Just that faint brush of her lips across his had his pulse leaping like hers did beneath the pressure of his thumb. Just seeing her had his dick swelling behind the fly of his suit pants.
Damn. He wanted her. Seducing the truth out of her wouldn’t be a hardship for him. Well, especially once he got a release from the tension building inside him.
He watched her lips move as she spoke to whoever had called. The dimple in the full bottom one seemed to wink at him, tempting him to take her mouth again—to kiss her like he had Friday night. It had been one damn long weekend waiting for Monday, waiting to see her again, to touch her again, to kiss her…
But she had work to do. And so did he. He had to plan his next move in the seduction of his sexy little office mole.
Just one week and four days left…
That was what Bette told herself as lights began to shut off on the floor for the Street Legal law practice. Miguel had left for the night along with most of the rest of the office staff. Actually, she wasn’t certain if there was anyone else on the floor but her.
Simon hadn’t lied about working late. Fortunately, working was pretty much all he’d been doing—meeting with clients in and out of the office throughout the day. Of course every time he’d had a free minute, he had either stopped by her desk or called her into his office. And every time, he had treated her to another strong dose of his sexiness until she’d gotten drunk on it.
Maybe that was why she felt so light-headed now. Or maybe it was because she’d been so busy herself that she’d had to skip lunch. She would not survive nine more days like today, not with her sanity intact. She had to make him cut the two weeks short.
Like she wished this day would have been. Would it ever end? Simon had left a while ago for his last appointment, but he’d given her orders—with a wink and a grin—for her to stay until he returned. And the way he’d looked at her…like he was already undressing her.
Her face had flushed and her body had heated and she’d tried to stammer out a protest. But he’d only laughed and claimed he would have notes for her that wouldn’t wait until morning. He was enjoying this…enjoying how rattled she got when he turned his notorious charm on her.
She could not let it affect her anymore. In order to get him to cut short the two weeks, she would have to rattle him instead. And she knew just how to do that—act like she was in love with him.
She didn’t have any experience in the theater, though. Unlike so many other women, she hadn’t come to New York to be an actress. She had come to be a fashion designer. But apparently, she had acted her ass off the past two years as an executive assistant in a law firm.
She could do this. She had to do this.
The elevator dinged. Here was her curtain call.
She drew in a deep breath and forced a bright smile. But she didn’t hear the quick taps of Simon’s shoes against the hardwood floor. Instead, she heard the creak and whine of metal wheels rolling over the wood.
“What the hell…?” she murmured. And she stood to peer into the reception area just as a chef, complete with tall hat, white uniform and apron, rolled in the metal cart she’d heard.
He paused in her doorway. “You—Miss Monroe?” he asked, his accent thick and impossible to place—at least for Bette.
Despite six years of living in the melting pot of New York City, the only accents she could readily place were ones like her own: Midwestern. This man could have been French, Belgian, Swiss, Austrian or faking it. There were a lot of people in this city who pretended to be from someplace they were not. Who pretended to be what they were not.
So she should be able to pretend with Simon.
This man she answered honestly, “Yes, I’m Bette Monroe.”
The chef’s beady-eyed gaze traveled from her hair, drawn into that tight bun, down to the closed toes of her pumps and back. His brow furrowed as if he doubted her. Would she have to show her license?
She hoped not because whatever he had on that cart, simmering in chafing dishes with burners beneath them, smelled like heaven—if heaven smelled like savory spices and beef and potatoes.
Her stomach growled, and her mouth began to water.
The guy made a noise, too, in his throat. It was either a groan of disgust or exasperation. “Mr. Kramer said you would be expecting me.”
She glanced at her computer, which was open to her email, then down at her phone, which had no new texts. “Mr. Kramer didn’t mention you to me yet.”
What was this? Along with the chafing dishes were two plates, cloth napkins and a couple of candles ready to light. A romantic dinner for two? Who was Simon meeting here?
The elevator dinged again and she realized she was about to find out. But the taps were Simon’s quick footsteps, not the clicks of a woman’s heels. At least he had arrived before his date.
“Bruno!” Simon exclaimed as he strode through the reception area and saw the chef standing just outside the open door to Bette’s office. “Excellent timing.”
“She did not know I was coming,” Bruno remarked as if disparaging Bette for not being psychic. He was definitely not criticizing Simon for not telling her. From the way he stared at Simon, it was clear he found nothing wrong with the blond lawyer and everything right.
Simon grinned. “Of course not. It’s a surprise.”
“For me?” Bette asked as her heart began to thump faster and harder.
“There is no one else,” Simon said with a wink.
She bit her bottom lip to hold in the laugh at the blatant lie. She’d never known him to date only one woman at a time—if what he did could actually be called dating.
More like heart breaking…
Her heart rate quickened with the reminder. But now, with his gaze turned on her, she understood how he’d broken so many hearts. He wasn’t just outrageously good-looking, as if that wasn’t enough.
“Bruno, please set up in my office.” Simon directed him, gesturing with his briefcase toward his closed door.
Bruno nodded and wheeled his cart away. And Bette’s stomach growled in protest.
Simon raised a golden-blond brow. “Sounds like Bruno arrived just in time.”
Heat rushed toward her face. “I skipped lunch,” she explained.
“I know,” Simon said. “Miguel told me. That’s why I asked Bruno to prepare dinner for us.”
She shook her head. “That’s not necessary. I can eat when I get home.” And work. She had so much to do for her new job. She really needed to cut short these two weeks—as short as she possibly could.
“That won’t be for a while yet,” he told her.
“But—but it’s already so late…” From last Friday night, she knew that it was not a good idea to be alone in the office with him.
“We will work over dinner,” he said, “and finish up so you can get home to your…” He raised an eyebrow again as he waited for her reply.
It wasn’t any of his business why she was quitting; it wasn’t any of his business if she lived with someone or had a boyfriend. The less Simon Kramer knew about her the better off she would be.
He was undeterred and asked, “Is anyone waiting for you in that apartment?”
She let a smile slip out as she shook her head. “No. I don’t have a cat. And the building doesn’t allow dogs.”
“Good,” he said. “I’m allergic.”
She wanted to tell him that there was no way in hell he was ever coming to her apartment. But before the words slipped out like her smile had, she remembered her plan. So she smiled wider and murmured, “Then it’s good I don’t have one.”
His blue eyes momentarily widened with surprise at her remark before narrowing with obvious suspicion. He studied her face. “So you’re going to invite me to your place?”
Her pulse kicked into overdrive, racing away. She was nervous about her plan. She wasn’t imagining him in her apartment, although he would look damn good in her new place. That wasn’t going to happen. Ever.
“That wouldn’t be appropriate while I’m still working for you,” she said. Then, summoning all the acting ability she possessed, she batted her lashes at him. “Guess you’ll have to wait two weeks for that invitation.”
He laughed and shook his head. “I’ve never been a patient man, Bette.”
Bette had more ability to be patient than act. She’d had to wait to move away from her small hometown in Michigan to attend fashion school and move to New York. She’d also had to wait six years for the career she’d wanted, for which she’d worked so hard, to finally take off. But now that it had, her patience had worn thin. There was no way she was waiting two weeks to end her relationship with Simon Kramer, such that it was.
“I can leave now,” she offered. “A temp service could send over someone until you hire my replacement.”
He laughed again and reached for her arm, tugging her toward him. “Oh, Bette, think of all the fun you’d miss if you left so soon.”
“Fun?” she parroted. “I thought we were working over dinner.”
He stepped closer, so that his body brushed against hers, his thigh touching hers, his chest bumping hers as he breathed deeply. Then he leaned down and murmured, “Work is very fun for me.”
She knew that was true. He obviously loved being a lawyer, probably loved being the managing partner of Street Legal even more. What she couldn’t understand was his sudden interest in her. Was it only because she was leaving?
Something about wanting what you couldn’t have?
She hoped that was the case, so that when she made it clear he could have her, he wouldn’t want her. Instead of stepping back as she had every time before, she stepped closer to him, pressing her body even tighter against his. She felt his erection pushing against her hip. And she parted her lips with a gasp. He felt big—really big—rubbing against her.
His gaze dropped to her mouth. His pupils dilated until they swallowed the bright blue. And he lowered his head even closer to hers.
“Dinner is served,” Bruno called out, his accent not nearly as thick now, from Simon’s office.
Her boss groaned and released a shuddery sigh. “We’ll eat first,” he said.
What else did he have planned besides work and dinner? Bette’s knees trembled a bit as she walked with him the short distance to his office. As if she didn’t know where it was, he moved his hand to the small of her back, guiding her. Or branding her?
She felt the heat of his palm through her sweater and the lace camisole she wore beneath it over her bra. His hand was big, so big that his fingers reached over the top curve of her butt. Could he feel the bow at the top of the G-string she wore beneath her pencil-slim skirt? A matching bow held together the cups of her bra.
She always wore lingerie—for a few reasons. He was not one of them. But would he think she’d worn it for him—if she dared show it to him?
The heat already flushing her body increased, burning her up. The lack of food and all the doses of his charm must have addled her brain. She wasn’t thinking clearly at all, not like she’d been when she’d turned in her resignation. Then she’d been thinking more clearly than she had in the two years she’d worked for him.
His fingers moved, sliding over that bow, as if he was trying to figure out what it was. He glanced down at her, and again his eyes had widened with a look of surprise. “How is it, Bette, that we’ve worked together for two years but yet I don’t feel as if I know you at all?”
She could have told him that she’d just been lucky all these years to have escaped his notice. She had been just an office fixture to him, like a computer or the coffeepot. But she only smiled and shook her head. “I have no idea.”
“Well, let’s fix that,” he said. And finally, albeit reluctantly, he removed his hand from her ass and held out a chair for her. His office was so large that in addition to his desk and chair, he had a couch and a small conference room table and chairs.
Bruno had set up their feast, complete with lit candles, on that table. The tall windows looking out over Midtown reflected back the flickering flames. She smiled at the chef as she took her seat, but his only interest was in Simon. She was surprised that he wasn’t holding out his chair.
“Is everything to your satisfaction?” the chef asked as he poured glasses of wine.
Simon took the chair right next to her and picked up the wineglass. He swirled the red liquid, studied the glass as the wine slid down the sides of it, then he sniffed it, all before taking a sip.
Bette usually went out with guys who drank beer or mixed cocktails. The few wine drinkers she’d dated had performed the same ritual Simon had but with them it had seemed pretentious and unnecessary. Simon seemed to know what he was doing and why.
She had no doubts—from the calls of all those desperate women—that he was the same with sex. That he knew what he was doing and why.
She drew in a shaky breath.
Finally, he took a sip. But he held it in his mouth for several moments before swallowing. “Excellent,” he said. Then he held out a glass to her.
She usually drank white wine. Reds were too bitter for her taste. But she was too intrigued to find out what he considered excellent to refuse the glass. Like him, she took only a sip and held it in her mouth for several seconds. Flavor burst on her tongue. She could taste berries and spices; it was as rich and full of nuances as his kiss had been, as he was.
She let it slide down her throat, enjoying the sensation and the taste. “Excellent,” she agreed.
Bruno lifted the lids from their plates. “And the meal, Mr. Kramer?”
Beef Wellington with steamed vegetables and parsnips and red-skin potatoes. Bette’s mouth watered, reminding her of how hungry she was—for food. Ever since Simon had come back to the office, she’d been hungry for something else.
For more of his kisses, more of his touch.
More of his lethal charm.
As Simon cut through the flaky pastry and the meat, juices oozed onto the plate, swirling around the potatoes and vegetables. Like with the wine, he took just a small bite and held it in his mouth for a long moment before chewing and swallowing. Then he sighed and pronounced it excellent, as well.
Bette’s heart pounded in anticipation and not just of the meal. Would sex be the same way with Simon? Would he savor every moment of it?
He cut another bite and held it out to her. Again she copied him, closing her lips around it before holding it on her tongue. The spices and flavor of the meat overwhelmed her with pleasure. She chewed and swallowed, and a moan of that pleasure slipped through her lips.
Simon groaned. Then he glanced up at Bruno, as if just realizing the chef was still in the room with them. “You can go,” he said. “I’ll have Miguel return everything to you in the morning.”
Bruno hesitated, but then, obviously realizing arguing with a lawyer would not be smart, he nodded and left, closing the door behind him.
Once again, Bette was alone with Simon Kramer. Her fingers trembled as she reached for her glass of wine. She was afraid and not just of what he would do. She was afraid of what she would have to do in order to carry out her plan. How the hell could she convince him that she was falling for him and that if she did, she would get clingy and crazy?
She’d been so focused on her designs and her career that she’d never really fallen for anyone before. Unlike her mom and sister, she hadn’t been about to let any man mess with her plans. So she had no idea how to act in love, especially with someone like Simon Kramer for whom she would never be stupid enough to fall.
For the past two years she’d seen exactly how he treated women—like they were disposable. And to him, they were. Even before he’d dumped one, another had come along. But that was a good thing for her.
He always dumped them.
So if she could pretend to fall for him, he would dump her, as well. But how far would she have to go to convince him she was falling?
Just being alone with him was a risk. Not that he would ever physically hurt her. He didn’t have to physically coerce anyone to do his bidding. He used his sex appeal instead.
And even though she knew exactly what he was doing and that it was just a game to him, she was not immune.
She doubted she would escape this time with just a kiss. But she wasn’t entirely sure that she would mind. For two years she’d dreamed of what it would be like to have his attention turned on her. For two years she’d imagined how his kiss would taste, how his touch would feel.
Now she knew. And she wanted more.