“I’m so sorry for being late. Work was crazy, and there wasn’t a single available cab to be found when I finally did get away. You must be Kam. I’d have recognized you anywhere,” she said when she approached him, smiling in greeting. “Ian never told me how much you two resembled one another.”
He turned slightly in his chair, giving her an unhurried once-over. She remained completely still beneath his perusal, her expression calm and impassive. Inwardly, she squirmed. Ian had also failed to warn her that Kam Reardon oozed raw sex appeal—not that Ian would ever say that about his brother.
Although it couldn’t have been any more than a second that he studied her, it felt like minutes before he finally met her stare. She recognized the hard glint of male appreciation in his eye. A strange sensation rippled down her spine. Was it excitement? Or that uncommon brand of lust that strikes like lightning during a rare, uncommon rush of attraction? His face and form were similar to Ian’s, although up close, there were notable differences: the nose was slightly larger, the skin swarthier, the mouth fuller, the hair not quite as dark as Ian’s, with hints of russet in the thick waves. Gorgeous man-hair, Lin assessed. It had to have dozens of females longing to sink their fingers into it on a daily basis.
Ian would certainly never go into public with a day-and-a-half’s growth of stubble on his jaw. Although Kam’s clothing was suitable for the restaurant, it was far more casual than Ian’s typical Savile Row suits. It was like seeing Ian in some kind of magical mirror—a shadowy, savage version of her debonair boss. Kam’s silvery-gray eyes, with the defining black ring around the iris, were certainly strikingly unique, despite what Richard had said about them being similar to Lucien’s.
Maybe it was more the effect they had on Lin that was singular.
“Ian probably never noticed our similarity,” Kam replied. “He’s never seen me without a full beard.”
Another stark difference. Much like that of her grandmother, who had learned English in Hong Kong, Ian’s accent was all crisp, cool control. Kam’s French-accented, roughened voice struck her like a gentle, arousing abrasion along the skin of her neck and ear.
She put out her hand. “I’m Lin Soong. As you probably already know, I work for Ian. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to finally meet you.”
He took her hand but didn’t shake it, merely grasped it and held on. His hand was large and warm, encompassing her own. The pad of his forefinger pressed lightly against her inner wrist.
“Does my brother make a habit of overworking minors?” he asked.
She flushed, the temporary trance inspired by his voice and touch fracturing. She knew she looked younger than her age, especially with her makeup faded from the mist and her hair curling around her face like a dark cloud. Besides, she was young for the position she held at Noble Enterprises as Ian’s right-hand woman. She was used to the observation, although it typically didn’t fluster her as much as it did at the moment.
“I’m hardly a minor. Ian seems to find me capable enough for all my duties,” she said smoothly, arching her brows in a mild, amused remonstrance.
“No doubt.” She blinked at the steel of certainty in his tone. His finger moved on her wrist, and she suddenly pulled her hand away, afraid he’d notice the leap in her pulse.
“Actually, I’m twenty-eight,” she said.
“Isn’t that young for the position you hold at Noble Enterprises? I’ve heard the stories from Ian and Lucien and Francesca. He can’t seem to function without you,” he said.
She flushed at the compliment. “You might say I was groomed for the role. My grandmother was the vice president of finance for Noble. She got me regular summer internships during college and graduate school.”
“And one day you ended up in Ian’s lap?” he asked, silvery-gray eyes gleaming with what appeared to be a mixture of humor and interest. “Does your grandmother still work for Ian?”
“No. She passed two years ago this Christmas.”
Her breath stuck when he reached around her waist. Was he going to touch her? She jumped slightly when a chair leg made a scraping sound on the wood floor. She exhaled when she realized he was pulling back on the chair next to him so that she could sit.
“Our table is ready,” she explained.
“I’d rather eat at the bar.”
“Of course,” she said, refusing to be flustered. She set down her briefcase in the seat next to her and reached for her chair. A frown creased his brow and he stood. “Thank you,” she murmured, surprised when she realized he’d grudgingly stood to seat her. Maybe he wasn’t so rough around the edges, after all.
“You’re a cool one,” he said as he sat back down next to her, his jean-covered knees brushing her hip and thigh.
“What do you mean?”
He shrugged slightly, his eyes gleaming as he fixed her with his stare. “I thought you’d take offense to sitting at the bar.”
“Don’t you mean you’d hoped I would?” she challenged quietly. She transferred her gaze to Victor when the bartender approached, speaking before Kam had a chance to refute her. “Victor often serves me at the bar when I stumble in after a long day’s work. He takes good care of me,” she said.
“And it’s always a pleasure. The usual, Ms. Soong?” Victor asked.
“Yes, thank you. And will you please let Richard know he can give our table to someone else?”
Victor nodded, giving Kam a nervous, covetous glance before he walked away.