Golden eyes blinked up at him. Not the shade of the gold bars stacked inside the national reserve, more like the dark whiskey he’d drunk too much of not so long ago.
“I’m asking you to dinner.”
She looked around again, seeming more concerned with the parking lot than with him. “Oh.”
Not exactly an answer and not the effect he usually had on women. “Stephen,” he said and offered his hand.
She hesitated so long, he thought she might leave him hanging. But finally, and with obvious reluctance, she slipped her small hand into his. He got a little buzz from the slide of her palm against his. He imagined the rest of her would be just as soft. “Your name?”
“So, Hannah,” he said, wanting to tug until she was flat up against him. “Will you please have dinner with me?”
“No.” She didn’t consider it for even a second and pulled her hand free.
“Ah.” He inclined his head toward her bags. “Chips. Beer. You have plans. Another night then.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Give me your number and I’ll call you.”
“Yes. I mean…no.”
“Not sure?” Now he was getting somewhere. She rolled her bottom lip between her teeth. If she was playing hard to get, he could play too. And he would win.
“I mean I can’t give you my number and yes, I have plans.”
She flicked her eyes toward her driver’s-side door.
Nervous? It was broad daylight and not like they were standing in a darkened alley, but he straightened, gave her a bit more space. Though there was no way he was about to leave things like this, just watch her drive away. Not when he was dying to touch her, brush back the wayward strands feathering around that gorgeous face.
“Maybe just a drink then. No pressure.”
Seconds ticked by and she bit at her lip again, making him think about biting it too. She seemed to weigh her options, possibly deciding which was the better offer. If he’d been interested before, now he was damned intrigued.
“I guess I could meet you somewhere.”
He cocked his head, resisted giving her the head-to-toe perusal he wanted to. “Is that the best deal I’m going to get?”
“It’s the only deal you’re going to get.”
In the second their eyes connected, he caught a touch of sass before she looked away. Cute. Very cute, on top of being very beautiful. “Okay. Reno’s.” If she was surprised at Norfolk’s exclusive, impossible-to-get-into restaurant, she didn’t show it. His phone rang and, without taking his eyes from hers, he slipped it out of his pocket. “Seven thirty?”
She gave a swift nod and escaped to her car.
As a businessman he knew compromise could often get you farther. And sometimes, he thought, sliding into the deep black leather, it was best to let your opponent think they’d won.
He brought the cell to his ear. “Hey, Adam, what’s up?” As he listened to the young intern he’d recently taken on, he watched Hannah leave the parking lot.
“So how should I reply?”
Stephen started his own car and pulled out. “You tell them the deal’s off. They want to sell more than we want to buy. That’s the point. Find out why they’re so eager and then we squeeze. Three to one he caves by midweek.” Which were better odds than his date showing up tonight.
“And that’s why you’re the shark.”
Stephen smiled at the young man’s enthusiasm. “I’ll be back in the office in twenty.” He ended the call and dropped his phone into the console, his mind more on a golden-haired angel than a major land acquisition. He had other acquisitions in mind.
His smile grew at the thought as he muscled into midday traffic and took the I-4 into downtown. Breast-hugging tank top he’d only gotten a peek of thanks to the shirt she wore over it. That shirt had also partially blocked his view of a very fine ass. Just the right curves in addition to a sinfully sexy mouth. And a single tear tracking down her cheek that had twisted something inside him. Not at all the kind of thing he liked.
He preferred happy and carefree, conceited and self-involved. All of which turned the spotlight on someone else and turned both parties away from matters of the heart. But he was a man who got what he wanted, and the longer he’d stood there beside her car, the more he’d wanted Hannah. Plus, she’d said no. That alone had sealed her fate.
Feeling triumphant, Stephen pulled up to his office located in one of Norfolk’s newest high-rises—his high-rise. All glass and sleek metal, the silver edges gleaming in the afternoon sun, the space between reflecting the clear blue sky.