And he’d walked into it like a green MBA just out of business school, all theoretical book learning with none of the street smarts he had honed over the years. His fists bunched, nails digging sharply into his skin. It was either that or punch the wall, and the cubicle looked like one good blow would topple it over. “I can’t believe I didn’t see this,” he ground out.
Danica stopped tearing paper, her gaze fixing on his. “What does Johanna’s new job have to do with you?”
He shook his head, the bile closing his throat and bottling his words deep inside. Nestor and Irene were three steps ahead of him, always had been. They took Johanna off the game board, knowing she would be his first move. It was predictable, he had to admit. He and Irene and Johanna had been at business school together. Irene knew his social circle almost as well as he did. Damn it.
He strode out of the cubicle. “I have to get back to my office.”
“Oh, no, you don’t.” Danica beat him to the outer door and stood in his way. “You’re not leaving until you tell me what is going on.”
He ignored her, veering right.
She dodged him with a grace he hadn’t seen since the last time he was dragged to a benefit for the San Francisco Ballet. She set her feet and held her arms out to block his passage. He couldn’t help but notice how her stance caused her shirt buttons to strain against her full breasts, creating shadowy gaps that tempted further exploration.
He dragged his gaze away and reached for the doorknob. “I don’t have time for this game.”
Her hand grabbed his wrist, her fingers landing on his pulse point. Their gazes met, clashed in a lightning strike that sent electricity crackling through the air.
Her chin dropped, and she looked up at him from under dark gold eyelashes. The tip of her pink tongue darted out to wet her plump lips, her breaths coming faster. Her remarkable eyes almost glowed in the dust-filled light. What if he leaned in, like so—
Before he could put his thoughts into action, she snapped her head up. The static in the atmosphere dissipated. She let his wrist go but he could feel the pressure of her fingers on his skin.
“This is not a game. This is my life.” Her voice cracked on the last word, and she took a deep breath. “Before today, I had a job I loved in executive recruitment. I was really good at it too. My title might have been assistant, but I made most of the placements and I was finally about to be promoted. But this morning, poof!” She snapped her fingers. “And judging by your behavior, you’re connected to the magic trick that made my job disappear. You owe me an explanation.”
He couldn’t tell her the truth. No one got the better of him. Especially not Irene and her father.
Then Danica’s words clicked. Executive recruitment. She was also a recruiter.
It wasn’t the most elegant solution. She’d think him irrational, to start, and maybe he was. He certainly wasn’t acting like himself, leaning in to kiss a stranger just because he found her mouth intriguing.
Yet when he ran a split-second mental check of the pros and cons, it made sense. In fact, it might work better than his initial plan, which had required Johanna’s unpredictable cooperation.
Danica’s words made it sound like her entire world had imploded. She needed him. Or rather, he corrected himself, she needed his offer of employment. It was always beneficial to have the upper hand in a business relationship.
Yes, he found her attractive. But his discipline, at both work and play, was legendary. “You say you’re good at executive recruitment?”
“The best.” Her expression turned wary. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I need a wife ASAP. And you’re going to recruit one for me.”
“You need a wife?” Danica was surprised her legs still held her up. “And you want me to recruit one for you?”
It didn’t make sense. Luke Dallas should have no trouble finding a wife. His effect on women was well documented. She herself spent only three minutes in his presence before she started tripping over her bag. If she hadn’t managed to break the spell his nearness cast over her, she would have thrown all professionalism to the wind and kissed him. And then prayed for an earthquake to swallow her as she’d be the laughing stock of Silicon Valley: the assistant who threw herself at Luke Dallas. Johanna especially would—