The problem he’d been mulling over the last few days was how to throw Carly Wolfe off her game. She was too quick to be bested during the most heated of banter, and she had no qualms about using every weapon at her disposal. Unfortunately she was also getting harder and harder to provoke.

Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, he remembered the mute look on her face when they’d collided at the bar. For a moment her confidence had wavered, and the confused, dumbfounded expression that had followed had been the most telling of all. Apparently the wily Ms. Wolfe was as susceptible to their attraction as she’d hoped he’d be.

She might be a beautiful woman, and hot enough to melt the deepest winter chill, but he hadn’t suffered at the hands of his ex without taking away a few hard-earned lessons. Attraction, the electric pull between them, was something he was certain he could control. And to date it was also the only thing that had truly shattered Carly’s sassy confidence.

If he had to go toe-to-toe with her on the talk show, then he was going to utilize his every advantage. If he upped his game and started truly coming on to her he might throw her off kilter—at least enough to keep the loaded banter, and the questions, under his control.

Pleasure sluiced down his spine, heating vital parts, as he contemplated pursuing the lovely Carly Wolfe. But hot on its heels was the vague impression that what he was about to do was reminiscent of the stunt his ex had pulled.

Doubt fisted in his stomach—and then he saw Carly’s Mini Cooper pull into the garage and park. She exited her car, and instead of fresh and flirty tonight she was dressed to kill—namely, to kill him. And any qualms he’d had regarding his strategy died.

Her silver-sequined halter top sparkled in the light, her tiny skirt exposed fabulous legs, and the expanse of tan skin on display was truly impressive as she headed his way. Heart pumping appreciatively in response, now looking forward to his plan, Hunter slid out of his car, shutting the door behind him. The slam echoed in the concrete garage, capturing Carly’s attention. And when she caught his gaze, she froze.

Yes, he was going to enjoy besting Carly Wolfe at her own game.

* * *

Surprise, intense caution and awareness hit Carly at the sight of Hunter leaning against his car, hands in his pockets. Given his parting words to her Wednesday night, the twirl of excitement in her belly was totally inappropriate—because she couldn’t afford to be less than her best.

His tone was smooth, low. “You ready for another show?”

The comment was drenched in undertones, conjuring memories of the bar, but Carly ignored the hot curl of awareness. “Interesting choice of attire for a fight.” She stepped closer, taking in his exquisitely cut black suit. The white dress shirt, minus a tie and open at the collar, gave him the perfect blend of elegant evening attire with a casual attitude. “Tonight could get messy,” she said. “I hope you’re wearing a bulletproof vest beneath that expensive outfit.”

His mouth didn’t smile, but his eyes did. “I suspect it will get messy.”

The unknown promise in his gaze left her a little uneasy, and a whole lot disturbed. What trick did he have up his sleeve? The question had haunted her since his warning at the bar, and her heart thumped as all sorts of possibilities flitted through her head.

Just don’t go getting all flustered when he flashes those cool blue eyes in your direction, Carly.

“Unfortunately I left my Kevlar-coated vest at home,” he said.

She resumed her walk in his direction. “Too bad for you.”

“Will you be slaying me with your words or your gaze?”

“Both.” She came to a stop in front of him and leaned back against the car parked beside his. “Maybe white wasn’t an appropriate choice of a shirt for you,” she said with a smile she hoped looked confident. “Bloodstains being so hard to remove and all.”

“I know. I had to throw away the one I wore the day of your blog.”

“Are we still discussing that?”

“With one difference,” he said.

“Which is?”

“At first I thought you’d enjoyed the bloodbath.” His gaze held hers. “But after our discussion at the bar I realized I was wrong.” He tipped his head, his eyes focused intently on her. “I think the potential for such a vindictive backlash against me never crossed your mind.”

It hadn’t. Then again, Thomas cutting her loose to save himself had come as a shock too. But that hadn’t been nearly as devastating as her father’s silence when she’d needed his support.

She stared up at Hunter as she fought the depressing memories, her heart beating a little bit harder. “You know, a part of me hates that you’re right. But a part of me is proud too. Yes, I’d expected a healthy online debate, not a mean-spirited, vindictive slug-fest.” She crossed her arms. “But if being naive means I reserve negative judgment until I’ve been proven wrong, it’s a label I’m willing to live with.”

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