But Carly let Hunter know with a small smile that she was on to his game. “This isn’t a scorned woman’s vendetta.”
“You haven’t flipped the coin from love to hate?” Hunter said.
“Love is one emotion I’ve yet to experience,” she said. Although she’d come close once.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Oh?” She feigned surprise. “Does that lessen the fun of your app for you?”
He was clearly biting back a smile. “Not at all.”
“Or is it entertaining simply to use your program to dump all your girlfriends?”
“I don’t sleep around,” he said.
Her brow bunched at his tone. Was he implying she did?
“I’m more...” He paused, as if searching for the right word. But she knew it was all for show. “Prudent in my choices.”
If her lips pressed any tighter at the obvious dig they would merge into one.
The light in his eyes was maddening. “Nor am I vindictive when it ends.”
She longed to knock the coolly lethal, amused look from his face as he continued to bait her. “Trust me,” she said. “If I’d wanted vengeance against my ex, I would have taken it out on him—not you.”
“So why the need to lay your break-up at my feet?”
“It wasn’t getting ditched that bothered me.” Heart pounding under his scrutiny, she barely restrained the anger that begged to be unleashed. She held his gaze. “It was the method in which he chose to do it. And you created the app.”
“Yes, I did,” he said smoothly.
Her irritation rose. Damn it, his response was so deviously agreeable. His simple, matter-of-fact confirmation knocked her accusation to the ground, leaving it less effective. And he knew it. “My boyfriend was simply an insensitive coward. You, however,” Carly said, her voice low, hoping for a loss of his tight control when faced with the brutal truth, “are exploiting people’s callous treatment of others simply to make money.”
The worst of the worst. A bottom-feeder, as far as Carly was concerned.
There was no flicker of emotion in Hunter’s cool, hard gaze—just like Thomas after he’d dumped her to save himself. Hunter’s I’m-in-control smile was infuriating. And right now he was the poster boy for every unpleasant break-up she’d ever experienced.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “human nature is what it is.” He paused before going on, a single brow arching higher. “Perhaps the problem is you’re too naive.”
Resentment burned her belly, because she’d heard that before—from the two men who had mattered most. Hunter Philips was a member of the same heartless club as her father and Thomas—where ruthlessness ruled, money was king and success came before all else.
Her sizzling fuse grew shorter, the spark drawing closer to her heart, and words poured out unchecked. “That’s a rotten excuse for fueling man’s sprint toward the death of human decency.”
The words lingered in the stunned silence that followed, and Carly cringed.
Just perfect, Carly. A nice over-the-top histrionic retort, implying you’re a crazy lady.
She’d let her emotions get the best of her...again. Jeez, hadn’t she learned anything in the last three years?
Hunter’s relaxed posture remained in place. His eyes were communicating one thing: her wild words were exactly what the infuriating man had planned. “Are you saying I’m responsible for the downfall of human decency?” The lines in his brow grew deeper. “Because that’s a pretty heavy accusation for one frivolously insignificant app,” he said, and then he turned his small smile toward the audience, drawing them in. “If I’d known how important it was when I designed it, I would have paid more attention.”
A ripple of amusement moved through the crowd, and she knew her role in the show had just gone from lighthearted arts and entertainment reporter to bitter, jilted ex—with a generous dose of crazy.
Hunter returned his gaze to her, and frustration tightened its fist on her heart. There was such a feeling of...of...incompleteness about it. He’d swooped in, deciphered her like the easy read she was, and figured out just which buttons to push. He was more than an unusually cool, good-looking computer expert—his demeanor was a killer mix of cunning arctic fox and dangerous black panther. Obviously this was no simple network security consultant.
So why had Hunter designed such a personal app? The facts didn’t square with the self-controlled man she’d just engaged in a battle of wits. Carly coming in last, of course.