“Unfortunately we’re running out of time,” the host said, disappointment in his voice.
Hunter’s gaze remained locked with Carly’s—a gut-twisting, heart-pounding moment of communication from victor...to loser.
“Too bad we can’t come back again,” she said provocatively, and held Hunter’s gaze, hurling daggers meant to penetrate his steely armor, but sure they were being deflected with ease. “I’d love to hear what inspired the creation of The Ditchinator.”
For the first time a hard glint flickered in his eyes—a look so stony she had to force herself not to flinch.
The host saved the day. “I would too.” He turned to the audience. “Would you like to hear the story?” The audience went wild, and Brian O’Connor became Carly’s newest BFF. “You up for it, Carly?”
“Definitely.” She turned her attention back to Hunter, her tone silky, as it always was when she tried to control her anger. “But I’m sure Mr. Philips is too busy to participate.” Although he hadn’t moved, was as coolly collected as ever—God, she wished she had his control—he had to be mentally squirming as he searched for a way out. The thought was much more satisfying than near-miss daggers, but her fun ended when he shocked her with his answer.
“I’m game if you’re game,” Hunter said.
A second show. Why had he agreed to a second show?
After a brief conversation with Brian O’Connor’s producer, Hunter strode toward the TV station exit, ignoring the corridor walls filled with photos of previous guests as he homed in on the glass door at the end. He’d set himself a task, achieved his goal and won. Carly Wolfe had fought the good fight, but her anger had gotten the better of her. So Hunter should be walking away in triumph. Done. The issue behind him.
But when the talk-show host had mentioned returning, Hunter had looked at Carly’s amber-colored eyes that had sparkled with challenge, the high cheekbones flushed with irritation, and he’d hesitated. Her quick-fire responses laced with biting sarcasm were entertaining. And when she’d flashed him her delightfully unique blend of charm-and-slash smile, daring him to a second go around, he’d been driven completely off course. What man wouldn’t be captivated by the winningly wily Carly Wolfe—especially after her cheeky crossing-of-beautiful-bared-legs attempt to trip up his focus?
He wasn’t worried he’d lose their second round of verbal tag, or that he’d succumb to her allure, because touching her was out of the question. The sexy firebrand was a problem, but one he could comfortably control—because he’d lived with a pretty reporter once, and to say it hadn’t ended well was a gross understatement...
There was no better education than a negative outcome. Although with Carly around the view was admittedly five-star.
He heard Carly say his name, interrupting his thoughts, and looked to his left, appreciating her lovely face as she fell into step beside him.
Heels tapping on the wood floor, she struggled to keep up. “Interesting how you were too busy to give me five minutes of your time.” The smile on her face didn’t come anywhere near her eyes. For one insane moment he missed the genuine warmth she’d exuded early in the show. A warmth that had ended the moment he sat down beside her. “Yet here you are, going out of your way to come on this program, Mr. Philips.”
“Hunter,” he said, ignoring her enticing citrus scent.
She shot him a you-can’t-be-serious look and stretched those beautiful legs, clearly determined to match his stride. “Why do you keep insisting on the use of your first name? To pretend you have a heart?”
Biting back a smile, he trained his gaze on the exit door, feeling a touch of guilt for enjoying her reaction and her struggle to keep pace with him. “You’re just mad you lost.”
“All I wanted from you was a few minutes of your time, but for weeks you were too busy. Yet you turn up here and then agree to a second show.” Her tone was a mix of irritation, confusion and curiosity, as if she truly wanted an answer to the burning question. “Why?”
“Maybe you charmed me into it.”
“Aphrodite herself couldn’t charm you into going against your will,” she said as she continued walking beside him. “So why now?
“The time suited.”
She stopped in front of him, forcing him to come to a halt or plow her over. “Saturday at midnight?” Her tone radiated disbelief. “But you must be exhausted after spending the week protecting your big-name clients from sophisticated hackers and designing those heart-warming apps.” Apparently she couldn’t resist another dig. “I do hope you’re well compensated.”