And just how horrendous would it have been if she’d actually been in love?
There was no way she was going to let the elusive Hunter Philips remain in the shadows, raking in money at other people’s painful expense.
The commercial break over, the host said, “We were lucky to receive a surprise phone call today. Ms. Wolfe, you’re about to get your wish.”
Carly froze, a strong sense of foreboding and inevitability curling in her chest, and she forgot to breathe as the host went on.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the show the creator of The Ditchinator—Mr. Hunter Philips.”
An electric flash zapped Carly’s every nerve, leaving her body numb. Great. After chasing Hunter Philips for weeks, he’d trumped her maneuvers by turning up when she was most unprepared. Crafty little devil.
Stunned, and irritatingly impressed by his move, Carly felt her heart hammer, and she forced herself to breathe as the man appeared, heading toward her amid the audience’s applause. He wore dark pants and a classy black, long-sleeved knit shirt that hugged a chest too delicious to contemplate. Talk about feeling unprepared. Delectable torsos could definitely prove to be a distraction.
His dark hair was short on the sides, with just the right amount of thickness on top. His tall frame, replete with lean muscle, moved with a sinewy grace that exuded a lethal readiness—conjuring images of a night prowler poised to pounce.
Carly had the distinct impression she was the target.
Brian O’Connor stood as the man strode toward the couch and the two shook hands across the desk. The applause died down as Hunter Philips sat on the love seat beside her. The leather cushion dipped slightly...and Carly’s stomach along with it.
The host said, “So, Mr. Philips—”
The man’s voice was smooth, yet with an underlying core of steel that triggered Carly’s internal alarms, confirming that this was not a man to treat lightly. But after all the stunts she’d pulled, well...it was too late to back down now.
“Hunter,” the host repeated. “Miami has been following Ms. Wolfe’s blog updates as she tried several unusual techniques to get you to comment before she ran her column, and I’d like to know what you thought of her attempts.”
Hunter Philips shifted in the seat to face her, his intense iced-blue eyes landing on Carly. A static energy bristled along her nerves, paralyzing her. A classic “deer meets headlights” moment.
Hunter’s smile was slight. Secretive. “I was disappointed we couldn’t accept your social networking job. It sounded fascinating,” he said dryly. “And sadly,” he went on, “I wasn’t able to use the Star Trek convention tickets you sent as an enticement to accept your offer.”
An amused murmur moved through the audience—most likely because Hunter Philips was so far from the stereotype to attend such a function it was laughable.
Which was probably why Brian O’Connor was chuckling as well. “Thoughtful gift.”
Hunter Philips studied Carly, his brow crinkling mockingly. “It would have been even better if I were a fan of the franchise,” he said, his nerve-racking gaze pinning her down.
Mentally she shook herself from her stupor. Now’s your chance, Carly. Just keep it cool. Keep it easy-breezy. And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t let your emotions get the best of you again.
She tried for her standard disarming smile, the kind that usually won people over, holding out little hope that it would sway this darkly dangerous man next to her. “Sci-fi isn’t your thing?”
“I prefer mysteries and thrillers...”
“I’m sure you do.” He was mysterious, all right. “I’ll keep your genre preference in mind next time.”
His lips curled at one corner, more in warning than humor. “There won’t be a next time.”
“Pity.” Those watchful eyes made the hair at her neck prickle, but she refused to back down from his gaze. “Even though chasing your comment ultimately proved fruitless, it was still fun.”
The host chuckled. “I liked the story of when you tried to deliver a singing candy-gram.”
“That didn’t even get me past Security,” Carly said wryly.
Hunter lifted an eyebrow at her, even as he addressed the host. “My favorite was when she applied online for a position at my company.”
Despite her nerves, and the smoldering anger she was beginning to feel building inside her, she tried injecting a little more false charm into her smile. “I’d hoped a job interview would at least get me personal contact.”