He shrugged. "We've backed some strong horses recently. It's paid off."

"So that's what it's about then? 'Backing horses'? Sorry, I don't know much about venture capitalism. For me, it's always fallen under the umbrella of 'miscellaneous financial jobs that all seem vaguely the same'."

His indulgent expression said that was a common perception. "Well, in a nutshell, we take people's money and invest it in projects we think might be profitable. Some work out, some don't. We split the profits and losses with our investors."

"Is that what you did for Chase Adams?" The words left my mouth before I could stop them. I hadn't realised it, but that connection was still bothering me.

He did a double take, looking startled for a brief second, but it was gone again in an instant. "Ah, I'd forgotten he was there the other night. Well, to put it simply, yes. He's been a long standing client of ours."

"And now he just comes by and parties with you guys?"

"When he's in town."

I wouldn't have picked a Hollywood A-Lister to spend his time hanging with a bunch of corporate types, no matter how much cash they'd made him, but perhaps I was underestimating them. "So, you guys deal with some pretty big names then. Anyone else I might have heard of?"

He shot me a little smile. "Probably, but all of them would be quite upset if I began talking about their investments in public."

I tried my best to hide my disappointment. Stonewalled again. "Well, it doesn't sound like such a bad deal really," I said. "Getting paid to party with clients and throw huge sums of money around to see what sticks."

He looked amused. "It's a little more complicated than that." But he didn't elaborate further. Apparently, he took his bosses' penchant for secrecy to heart. Learning anything about him was going to be a slow process.

I watched him as he ate. Even doing that, there was an economic grace to his movements that was a joy to behold. It set my mind wandering, imaging what he might look like doing other things.

He caught me staring and grinned, exposing a row of perfect teeth. "And what are you looking at?"

I blushed, somehow sure he knew exactly what I'd been thinking. "Nothing."

"My mistake then," he said.

The third course arrived. Some kind of creamy crab dish that tasted so fresh I wouldn't have been surprised to learn it had been pulled from the sea just minutes earlier.

"So are you enjoying dinner?" he asked me, after we'd both scraped our bowls clean.

I nodded. "I was a little sceptical, but this place definitely lives up to its reputation. My only problem is, I'm not sure what I'm going to do once it's over. You might have ruined me for homemade spag bol and cheap Chinese forever now."

His mouth quirked up ever so slightly. "I have a few ideas about what we could do once it's over."

Wow. Again. He never missed an opening. "I'm sure you do," I said, keeping my voice neutral, "but I don't remember agreeing to anything beyond dinner."

"No you didn't." But you will, his eyes finished. A strange sensation rolled through my chest, and I looked away. I didn't know how to fight that, that unrelenting certainty. I'd done everything in my power to resist, and I'd still wound up at dinner with him. What chance did I have of stopping him now?

"Nonetheless, I'm glad you came," he continued. "For a while I was sure I'd scared you off.

"Your approach was a little... unorthodox."

He laughed. "Perhaps. But nothing about this—" he gestured to the space between us "—is orthodox."

"You mean you don't routinely pick up girls you find hiding in your wardrobe?" I joked, trying to guide the conversation back to lighter territory. If things turned any more risqué, I knew I'd be in trouble.

But he wasn't having any of it. "Surprisingly, I think that's a first," he said, his voice growing huskier. He reached out and ran a finger softly along my arm, coming to rest on my hand. "But I can honestly say I've never been so pleased to have my privacy intruded upon before."

And just like that, the tension in the air was back. It settled over my skin like a fine mist. I knew I should find something to say, but as always, his touch left my mind flailing.

"You know, I wanted you from the moment you first walked in through that door the other night, Sophia."

"You did?" I asked, my voice reed thin.

He nodded. "All I could think about after our first discussion was what it would be like to take you home with me. To watch your body tremble as I made you come."

The way he brazenly ventured into such erotic territory was disarming, and quite frankly hot as hell. I knew I should probably have been offended, but all I could think about was letting him do exactly what he'd just described.

"To have you like that would have been enough," he continued. "But after finding you crouched in my office, watching me spank Hannah, I realised something." He reached out and brushed my chin, guiding my eyes to his. "You want more than that too."

"I don't... I mean, we're not—" a single finger pressed into my lips, silencing me, teasing my mouth with hints of salt and musk.

"When I found you kneeling on the floor that night, you were practically radiating excitement. I could smell your arousal. You want this Sophia, you want to do more than just watch, and I'm going to be the one that shows you."

His gaze bored into me with steely promise. I felt myself growing hot. It was unsettling, hearing him say those things, giving voice to the fears that had been simmering inside me. That night had been a flurry of confusion and alien sensations. I still couldn't wrap my head around the idea of giving yourself to someone so completely. It felt too much like being taken advantage of, like being used. But if that was the case, why was my body so flushed with desire?

"I'm sure it works for some people," I stammered, "but I just don't think that's me."

"Who are you trying to fool?" he asked, his eyes ablaze. "You wouldn't have come tonight unless you were curious. It was always going to come to this. We'll go slowly, as slowly as you like, but you're coming home with me, and I promise you that by the end, you'll be begging for more."

My heart was hammering in my chest. Something told me this decision was important. I could say no, and things would simply return to normal. But then I'd never know for sure. Did I really want to spend my life asking 'what if?'

"Okay," I said, my voice barely more than a whisper.

Tags: Maya Cross The Alpha Group Billionaire Romance
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