Her father glanced at Hunter and then shot her a worried look. “Do you want me to stay?” he asked, almost as if he hoped she’d say no. “Or do you want me to fetch you a drink?”
She was tempted to keep him around as a shield. But she’d made a pact with herself today that there would be no more wallowing.
She tried for a reassuring smile. “Drink, please,” she said to her father. With a deep breath, she straightened her shoulders and met Hunter’s gaze as he strode through the crowd in her direction. “I’m going to need it,” she muttered.
Her dad headed for a casket lined with bottles, shooting Hunter a glare infused with a good bit of concern.
Hunter came to a stop a few feet from her. In an impeccably cut black suit, he looked as handsome and intimidating as ever—every muscle poised, prepared for battle. His cool slate-blue eyes were trained on her face. But this time his hair was spiked in front, as if he’d run an impatient hand through it multiple times. A brief flicker of uncertainty came and went, replaced with his usual determined gaze.
It took several moments and more than a few blinks of her eyelids to jumpstart her heart again. His presence had robbed her of her earlier confidence, so she’d just have to fake it until her mojo returned for real.
“I came to tell you I spoke with Booker and we’re all square,” he said carefully, his eyes probing, as if testing her response. “We’ve worked out a plan for me to put in some time doing consulting work for the FBI.”
She refused to be swayed by the news. “Glad to hear it.”
Neither mentioned their parting words at the elevator, but the ghost of their painful falling-out hung in the air, as if lurking in the fog-blanketed shadows. His eyes held hers, and the determined focus, the sense of purpose radiating from his face, made her heart work harder.
After a tension-filled pause, he said, “Congratulations on your new series too. How did you get your boss to agree to your plans for your column?”
“I didn’t sleep with her, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”
A small smile appeared, more sad than amused. “It’s not.”
“I confessed everything, and then handed her a story on Thad and Marcus that blew her socks off.”
His tone broadcast just how pleased he was. “Good for you.”
“Yeah,” she said. Just for good measure, she hiked her chin higher. “Go, me.” Smart words, in retrospect. Because right about now leaving sounded like a wise plan. She’d missed him, had ached for him, but he also brought a host of sharp emotions along with the longing. Ultimately, it was the confusion and pain that drove her away. “Well...” She cleared her throat, the sound awkward. “I should find my dad.” She turned on her heel.
He put his hand on her arm to stop her, his touch setting off all kinds of alarms. “I shouldn’t haven’t insulted you,” he said, the regret in his eyes profound. “I’m sorry.”
Ignoring the feel of his fingers on her skin, she took a deep breath, glad the initial icy tension was broken. His apology didn’t make up for not believing in her, but it helped ease the ending. “I shouldn’t have slapped you,” she said with a tiny sheepish shrug. “It was an impulse reaction.”
“I deserved it.”
Oh, dear God, it was the agreeable Hunter from the first show. The one who was so hard to argue with. The one who knew how to work her to get just what he wanted, whether it be irritation, confessing her deepest doubts...or a sensual surrender.
The question was, what did he want now?
“Hunter,” she said with a sigh, pulling her arm away. “I think we’ve said everything there is to say.” Like he might love her, but didn’t really know how. Not in the way she needed. The sharp ache resurfaced.
“I’m not finished,” he said. “I wanted to tell you I spent the last week trying to perfect my new app.”
She frowned, confused. “I don’t care about—”
“Marry me,” he said bluntly.
She sucked in a breath, feeling the hit, and her stomach clamped into a knot.
She shot him a look, trying to hide her weakening resolve. “You show up, after all this time, and just expect me to accept your proposal? It’s been seven days since you left me high and dry on the TV show, and—”
“I had some work to do before I could face you.”
She lifted an incredulous brow. “You confronted two men in a dangerous Miami alley, yet you couldn’t deal with me face to face?”
“Not after the mistake that I’d made.”