"The ability to know something special when you see it," he replied, staring directly into my eyes.

I couldn't help but smile at that. I had to hand it to him; he was incredibly smooth. But as much as it was pushing my buttons, I didn't want to give him the satisfaction. I knew how men like him worked. The Partners at my office were no different. It was like a sport to them; dangle a platinum AmEx in the air and watch the ladies flock. I'd even fallen for it a few times in my younger years; it's surprisingly easy to confuse other emotions for love when you don't know any better. Several horrible experiences later, I'd promised myself I'd never be one of those women again.

As if on cue, at that moment, a bikini clad girl appeared at his side.

"There you are, sir," she said, laying a hand on his arm. "I've been looking for you everywhere."

The look she shot me suggested she wasn't pleased about where she'd found him. A girlfriend perhaps? That certainly cast things in a new light.

She was pretty, albeit in a strange, childlike way. Thin, almost frail looking, she had straw blond hair and huge doe eyes that made her seem younger than she probably was.

Sebastian's smile wavered. "Hannah," he said, a hint of displeasure in his voice. "What have I told you about interrupting me?"

She balked at his tone, but decided to press on. "Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I just thought you might want to come for a swim with me. The water is lovely."

It didn't take her long to realise she'd made a mistake. In the steely silence that followed, her enthusiasm quickly melted away. It wasn't that Sebastian looked angry — in fact his expression never wavered — but nonetheless I felt something shift in the air, some dangerous charge that hadn't been there before. I knew without it being said that a line had been crossed. Judging by the way Hannah began shrinking into herself, she knew as well.

"It would be rather rude of me to abandon my new friend here in the middle of our conversation, don't you think?" He didn't raise his voice, but there was an edge to it now that said he expected to be agreed with.

It seemed to have the desired effect. Hannah visibly wilted. "Of course sir. You're right. I'm sorry I bothered you."

He nodded in acceptance. There was something strange about the exchange. I'd revised my earlier guess. The way he scolded her didn't make them feel like a couple. But what then? Colleagues? A younger sister maybe? I wasn't sure.

Now that he'd made himself clear, Hannah seemed eager to be anywhere else. Turning quickly without another word, she began heading back towards the pool. For a second I thought that would be the end of it, but just before she disappeared into the crowd, Sebastian called out to her. "And Hannah." She turned, a look of dread on her face. "We'll talk about this later." Hannah nodded slowly.

Watching the defeated girl trudge away, I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for her. I hoped I hadn't gotten her in any real trouble. His reaction seemed a little extreme, given the circumstances.

"I'm sorry about that," he said. "My secretary."

Secretary? Wow, that must be some work environment.

"It's fine. Really, I don't mind," I replied. "Go and have a swim if you want. I'm a big girl; I can take care of myself."

"I'm sure you can, but don't worry. Hannah and I will find time to have a paddle later." His eyes twinkled as he said that, like he'd just told a joke nobody else would understand.

"In any case, we're not done talking," he continued. "I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage. You know a little about me, but I know nothing about you. When you're not being accosted by gentlemen at parties," I grinned at the joke, "what is it you do with yourself Sophia?"

"I'm a lawyer."

"Oh I'm so sorry," he said, his voice totally deadpan.

I just laughed. In my profession you rarely go more than a week or two without some kind of lawyer joke. It comes with the territory, and you learn not to take it seriously. "I know, right? If you want to turn and run I won't hold it against you."

"I'll keep that in mind. There are a few other lawyers here tonight actually. You didn't happen to come with any of them did you?"

My stomach clenched. There it was; a question I couldn't answer. My gut told me there were no unaccompanied women in the room, so I'd have to have a partner, and while he might not know everyone, I doubted I could bluff my way through it.

"A lady doesn't kiss and tell," I replied, trying my best to look coy. Inside, I was panicking. If he pressed the issue, that would be it. The jig would be up.

For a few seconds I was certain it was over, but eventually he broke into a laugh. "I'm sorry Sophia, I didn't mean to pry. I was just curious if there were any gentlemen lurking nearby who might be preparing to leap in and defend your honour."

I raised my eyebrows. "I didn't realise my honour was under threat."

His eyes seemed to flicker ever so briefly. "Give me a chance. We've only been talking a few minutes."

His directness was both offensive and exciting. I found myself wondering what it might be like to succumb to his advances. Even now, just sitting and talking, there was something fiercely attractive about him. I knew he'd be mind-blowing in bed. He exuded that sort of dominant authority that sent logic and self-restraint tumbling to the wayside.

Get a grip Sophia. This cannot happen.

"You seem rather sure of yourself," I said, trying my hardest to act unperturbed.

He gave a little laugh. "I prefer to think of myself as optimistic."

In truth, I doubted his confidence was misplaced. I struggled to see many women rejecting him, however blunt he was.

I realised then that I had to get away. The attraction I felt for him was verging on dangerous, and the longer we talked, the more likely it was that I'd do something stupid.

...okay, something else stupid.

"Well, unfortunately I'm going to have to leave your hopes dashed this time," I said. "I am actually here with someone, and it's about time I got back to him. I just left to get a refill, and that was ten minutes ago."

He studied me for several seconds. I expected him to look at least a little disappointed, but instead he seemed vaguely amused. "That's a pity," he said eventually. "But perhaps we'll run into one another again?"

"Perhaps." No fucking way.

"Excellent. Well, have a good evening Sophia." And with that, he turned and walked off into the crowd.

I blinked a few times and followed his receding form with my eyes, trying to work out what had just happened. It was like someone had climbed inside me and turned my hormones up to eleven. My heart was still thundering in my chest. Fantastic Sophia. Ten minutes with tall, dark, and charming and you're hyperventilating like a twelve year old at a Justin Bieber concert. What the hell is wrong with you?

Tags: Maya Cross The Alpha Group Billionaire Romance
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