Clearly he was trying to get her riled. She fought to maintain her cool. “Which parts would prove most effective?”

“I’m open to suggestions.”

“My middle finger, perhaps?”

“I prefer rounder...” his eyes skimmed her breasts, leaving her sizzling “...softer parts.” His gaze returned to her lips. “Though your sharp tongue holds a certain appeal.”

She considered sticking her tongue out at him until his eyes returned to hers—seemingly unaffected, still unerringly focused, and full of a dangerous warning that left her breathless.

Fortunately the host announced the end of the commercial. Desperate for oxygen, and a break from Hunter’s maddening effect on her body, she tore her gaze from him back to Brian O’Connor as he addressed her.

“Now that you have Hunter’s attention,” the host said, “what would you like to say?”

Go to hell came to mind. Unfortunately this wasn’t cable—no swearing allowed.

But if she couldn’t speak her mind, she could at least get him to face the music—off-key notes and all. “On behalf of all those affected, I’d like to thank you personally for the creation of The Ditchinator and the message it sends: ‘It’s over, babe.’” In keeping with their interaction to date, she lifted an eyebrow that was outwardly flirtatious but heavy with biting subtext. “You’re quite the poet.”

“You’re easily impressed.”

“It must have taken you hours to compose.”

Hunter looked as if he wanted to smile. Whether despite her insult or because of it she wasn’t sure. “Only a few seconds, actually. But at least it’s short and to the point.”

“Oh, it’s extremely pointy, all right,” she said. She twisted on the love seat to face her opponent more directly, refusing to let him get an outward rise out of her. “But what makes the experience super-fun is the bulk email the Ditchinator sends, notifying friends and social network followers that you’re now single and available.” Her smile turned overly sweet. “Nice feature.”

“I thought so,” he said, as if she was being serious. But Hunter Philips was the sort of man who didn’t miss a thing, not with that disturbingly calculated gaze that bored into hers.

“It certainly is a time-saver,” the host said, clearly trying to rejoin the discussion.

Hunter’s intense focus remained on Carly. “I admire efficiency.”

“I’m sure you do,” she said.

“It’s a fast-paced world we live in,” Hunter returned.

“Perhaps too fast,” she said, aware they were still shutting Brian O’Connor out. Hunter wasn’t playing nice with the host. She doubted he ever played nice. And she was too engrossed in this visual and verbal duel to care.

“Care to hear my favorite feature of your app?” She threw her arm across the back of the couch and leaned closer. His woodsy scent filled her senses. “The extensive list of songs to choose from to accompany the message.”

The host chimed in. “The one I’d hate to be on the receiving end of is Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker,” he said with an exaggerated shiver, clearly for the benefit of an amused audience.

She looked past Hunter to address Brian O’Connor, her tone laden with sarcasm. “Mr. Philips is very clever, isn’t he?” Her eyes crash-landed back on Mr. Ditchinator.

“Hunter,” the man insisted, his gaze trained on her. “And your ex-boyfriend’s choice of songs?”

“It was an extra-special title. ‘How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?’”

Though the audience gasped and snickered, Hunter Philips didn’t register the musical slight, and Brian O’Connor said, “Obscure. But effectively rude.”

“Which leaves me curious as to why Ms. Wolfe is using her column in the Miami Insider to target me,” Hunter said.

Hunter faced Carly again. Though braced for the impact, she felt the force of his gaze to her core.

“You don’t seem particularly angry at the man who sent you the message,” he said smoothly. “Your ex-boyfriend.”

“We hadn’t been together long,” she said. “We weren’t seriously involved.”

His eyes held hers as he tipped his head. “I find that hard to believe.”


“‘Hell hath no fury’ and all...”

Suddenly she realized he’d turned the tables and the attack was now on her. Subtle, so as to not raise the crowd’s ire, but there nonetheless. The insinuation increased the tension in the air until it was almost palpable, and their host remained silent, no doubt enjoying the show they were providing.