“The trouble with your approach is that you experience a whole lot of bad.”

“The trouble with your cynical view is you miss out on a whole lot of good.”

He studied her for a moment, as if considering her words, and then his forehead crinkled in suppressed amusement. “Maybe the answer to that particular dilemma lies in whether the water in the glass at the midway mark is worth drinking or not.” He paused before going on, his voice a fraction lower, bordering on...husky. “And how thirsty you are.”

The way he was looking at her made her sit up and take notice—even more than she had when she’d first laid eyes on his casually elegant self. He seemed different. She couldn’t put her finger on how, except his demeanor was less distant than usual. More approachable. With a faint hint of sensual promise that left her on edge. And she realized since his fateful words at their last meeting she’d expected him to arrive tonight with all his metaphorical guns blazing. Instead, there was a distinct suggestion of something infinitely more subtle, almost...seductive.

Worry and desire slithered up her limbs, and she tucked her hands behind her back, hoping to quiet her damp palms and now fidgety fingers.

His secretive smile was small but instantaneous. “I’m making you nervous.”

It wasn’t a question, and that fact alone made the tension worse. How could she prepare for a fight when she had no idea what his plans were? But a part of her knew, and her heart tripped faster at the thought even as she grew disgusted with her inability to control the excitement. A heated flush filled her body. “Was reading body language part of your training, Mr. Agent Man?”

“Ex-Agent Man,” he corrected.

She tipped her head, giving the words consideration as she slowly shook her head. “There’s nothing ex about you. You have a very natural way with your understated powers of intimidation.”

“I don’t believe in bullying people. I’m just very sure of the choices I make in life. If that intimidates others...” He gave a slight shrug.

She hiked a brow meaningfully. “You’re very sure of all your choices?”

He stared at her as if the question had hit home, his face momentarily doubtful, but then he seemed to recover. “Reading people is a skill I still use every day. Interpreting body language is useful while pitching a proposal to a potential client. It can help you tailor your presentation to make the most impact.”

“That must give you an advantage over your techie competition.”

“And others.”

Did he mean her? He took a step forward. His eyes zeroed in on her face, and her stomach tightened into a smaller knot. Which conveniently made navigating its trip to her toes easier.

“Take you, for instance,” he said.

Unfortunately right now she was wishing he would, but she pushed the mutinous thought aside as he went on.

“Placing your hands behind your back is a sign you’re hiding something and on your guard,” he said. “Advantage point...mine.”

He leaned closer, his gaze too close for comfort as he scanned her face.

“You’re breathing faster than usual, you have small beads of sweat on your upper lip, and your pupils are dilated.”

She suspected he was right, because her eyes were so busy trying to take in every aspect of his handsome face that they were straining mightily—refusing to miss a thing. Every sharp plane, every angular edge was heightened in the play of shadow in the light.

He said, “Advantage to me again. Because it either denotes anxiety...” the loaded pause killed her “...or desire.”

Her body sizzled with heat, yet she succeeded in sounding as cool as he did. “Mr. Philips, is this a lawman’s way of coming on to a woman?”

“Ex-lawman.” His lips tipped into a lopsided grin that was the most delicious Hunter smile to date. “And I’m just being observant,” he went on smoothly.

A wave of heat left goosebumps on her arms. Her skin resembled a cobblestoned street.

No doubt he could see those too.

“Maybe I should remind you that women don’t sweat.” She cocked her head when he opened his mouth to respond. “And I don’t like the term ‘glow’ either,” she said.

“What do you prefer?”

“I prefer incandescence.”

Before she could react, Hunter reached up and placed a finger at the corner of her mouth. Eyes wide, Carly stared up at him as he slowly stroked the skin above her lip...curling her toes as he went. A feat she would have sworn was a myth until this very moment, but her toenails were busy trying to dig a hole into her high heels. Hunter’s finger dipped lightly into the groove bisecting the middle of her mouth, slicking away the few dots of sweat that were immediately replaced by others. Her heart pumped overly heated blood that surely had her glowing by now.

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