“Personal contact is good,” Brian O’Connor commented slyly.

Hunter’s gaze grazed purposefully across her lips—setting off a firestorm of confusion in her body—before returning to her eyes. “I can see how Ms. Wolfe’s charms would be more effective in person.”

Carly’s heart contracted, and her anger climbed higher as comprehension dawned. He wasn’t simply checking her out; he was accusing her of flirting with intent. And the warning in his gaze made it clear he was less than amused. But engaging others came naturally to her. She liked people. Especially interesting people. And the fascinating Hunter Philips was overqualified for the title.

“Well...” She struggled to keep her irritation from showing. “While you specialize in avoidance, I’m much better at one-on-one.”

“Yes.” His tone held an intriguing combination of both accusation and sensual suggestion, setting her every cell thrumming. “I imagine you are.”

Her lips flattened. If she was going to be accused of using flirting as a tool, she might as well give him her best shot. She leaned a tad closer and crossed her legs in his direction, her dress creeping higher on her thigh as planned. “And you?” she said, as innocently as she could.

His glance at her legs was quick but hair-raising, followed by a look that acknowledged both her attributes and her attempt to throw him off. In contrast to the wild knocking in her chest, he was cool and collected as he went on. “It depends on who the other ‘one’ is.”

She wasn’t sure if he was truly attracted to her or not. If he was, he clearly could control himself.

“I’m good with a face-to-face with someone I find intriguing and clever,” he went on. She got the impression he was referring to her. And yet somehow...it wasn’t a compliment. “The encrypted résumé you sent to my office was interesting and creative. The simple substitution cipher you used was easy to decode, but still...” a barely perceptible nod in her direction “...it was a genius touch that ensured it got passed directly to me.”

“As one who seems overly keen on protecting information,” she said with a pointed look, “I thought you’d appreciate the effort.”

“I did.” His tiny smile screamed Caution! Trouble ahead! and his words made it clear why. “Though my silence on the matter should have been response enough.”

“A simple ‘no comment’ would have sufficed.”

“I doubt you would have settled for that.” His powerful gaze gave her the impression he knew her every thought. An impression made even more annoying by the fact that he was right—she wouldn’t have been satisfied with that easy get-out. “And since I declined your offer of a meeting,” he went on, “I’m returning the secret decoder ring you sent as a gift.”

As another twitter of amusement moved through the studio audience, Hunter reached into his pants pocket and then held out the tiny object, his gaze on hers. For a moment she detected a faint light in his eyes. Despite everything, he had been amused by her attempts to meet with him.

Stunned, she stared at him blankly.

Hunter patiently continued to hold out the ring and said dryly, “I half expected you to show up and request membership at the boxing gym I use.”

He almost sounded disappointed she hadn’t.

Feeling more confident, she smiled and held out her hand for the gag gift. “If I’d known you frequented such a facility I’d—” He placed the ring in her palm, warm fingers brushing her skin, and the electric current upped her prickly awareness of him by a billion watts. Her traitorous voice turned a tad husky. “I’d have been there.”

“I suspect you would have,” he murmured.

Carly had the feeling the man was noticing, cataloguing and storing away every detail about her. To what dark purpose she had no idea. The thought sent an illicit shimmer of excitement down her spine. Trapped in his gaze, Carly struggled for a response, but Brian O’Connor spared her the effort, announcing they were cutting to commercial.

During the break, Hunter leaned closer. “Why are you chasing me down, Ms. Wolfe?”

The confidential conversation emboldened her, and she lifted her chin. “To get you to publically admit your mean-spirited app sucks.”

He cocked his head in caution. “You’ll be waiting a long time.”

She ignored his response. “Eventually—” her smile held zero warmth “—I’m going to get you to pull it off the market so no one else has to suffer.”

“I’m curious...” His lethally secretive smile returned. “How much of your body will you expose for your cause?”

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