He grimaced. So much for sweeping her out of his head.
He paused for a split second just inside the door, trying to interpret her expression, and failing. He hadn’t overplayed the luster—or the appeal—of her eyes in his memories during the past few days. They drew a man in like a moth to dark flame. He yanked his stare off her and automatically took Ian’s hand when he extended it.
“Welcome,” Ian greeted warmly. “I hope you found us all right.”
“It’s kind of hard to miss,” Kam said dryly. Noble Tower was one of the most impressive of the high-rises along the river. He understood that his brother’s new headquarters had already become an iconic symbol of the city.
“Can we get you anything? Coffee? Breakfast?” Ian asked.
“No. I had breakfast at Lucien and Elise’s.” Coraline took this as her signal to go and exited silently. Ian waved him over to the pair of chairs where Lin sat.
“I wish you’d reconsider staying with us at the penthouse. Francesca was on me about it after you left last night,” Ian said. “I understand from Lucien that Elise is giving him just as hard of a time because you’re not staying with them, either.”
“I’m used to being alone,” Kam replied shortly, even though the last thing he felt was alone in his hotel room. More like a cooped-up lab rat.
“Lin and I were just discussing the meeting with the Gersbachs tonight,” Ian said as he went behind his desk. Kam lowered to the chair next to Lin. He gave a sideways glance and caught her staring. Her gaze immediately jumped off him like a skipped rock. Her dress was loose and shapeless, like an oversized man’s shirt, but made of draping, soft silk. Unfortunately for him and his overactive libido, it was also cut just above her knees, leaving a few inches of thigh and her lower legs exposed. To add to his misfortune, she also wore a pair of spiked heels with inch-thick straps that buckled around her ankles. The vision of the black leather against her slender, elegant ankles sent an electrical jolt through him. Fuck if it didn’t make him think of tightening leather restraints around those sexy ankles—straps that had nothing to do with luxury footwear—of Lin bound and helpless, writhing and moaning in pleasure beneath his mouth and hands—
Ian interrupted Kam’s uncontrollable pornographic thoughts. “Lin seems to be of the opinion that you might be more comfortable with me there instead of her tonight.”
“Is she?” Kam asked, giving Lin a glance. He wasn’t shocked, precisely, but he was irritated. As he stared at her, however, a different feeling crept into his awareness: curiosity. Her throat looked exceptionally white and flawless next to her dark, upswept hair and the dress. It tightened as she swallowed.
“I just think a family member might ease things for you more than I can,” she said, her low, honey-smooth voice at odds with the delicate, quick flutter of the pulse at her throat.
“So you’re not up to it,” Kam said. “Funny, you seemed up for the challenge the other night.”
Her gaze flashed to meet his, and this time he clearly sensed her anger flowing toward him like a cold, clear stream. “I didn’t say I wasn’t up for it,” she said.
“Then why are you trying to pawn me off onto Ian?”
“It’s not a matter of . . .” She faded off when she looked at Ian and noticed his curious stare, as if Ian, too, had wondered the same question. So . . . Lin definitely hadn’t revealed to her boss any of the dirty details of Monday night. He’d wondered. Was that because she was worried about her job or because she was personally embarrassed about having had sex with him? He noticed the delicate stain of pink on her cheeks and decided on the latter. Her lush, rosebud mouth flattened.
“It was just a suggestion on my part, that’s all. Ian is on more familiar terms with the Gersbachs,” she said evenly.
Kam slouched back in the chair. “If you aren’t up for doing it, that’s fine by me. The whole thing is a joke, so it hardly matters to me who’s in on the laugh.”
Her head swung around at that. “Who is going to be laughing? And at what?”
“Presumably the Gersbachs at my rustic ways, isn’t that what you and Ian are worried about?” he replied without pause. “But don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll get a good laugh out of the whole thing as well.”
“Do you often think people are laughing at you?” she asked with quiet sarcasm. “That’s called paranoia, Kam. No one is laughing at you, or is going to be laughing at you. You think far too much of yourself if you think you affect other people so much.”
She started back slightly when he laughed. Kam’s burst of amusement faded and was replaced by guilt when he saw how stunned Lin looked by his impulsive reaction. He knew it’d been rude, but her depiction of him had given him a sudden bird’s-eye view of himself—a bitter, paranoid loner who was more comfortable with his dog than with most people. The vision had struck him as apt, sad, and strangely comical as well.
“I get it,” Lin said, recovering from his harsh bark of laughter and turning away from him dismissively. “It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and jeer.”
Irritation spiked through him. A movement broke his focus on Lin, briefly fracturing his attention. Ian sat behind his desk, a very untypical expression of rapt bemusement on his face as he watched the two of them.
“If you don’t think I’m going to be a source of amusement in all these meetings you have planned, why are you backing out of them?” Kam demanded of Lin.