He saw the moment that she saw him. She’d lifted her head in laughter at something some admirer was saying and she caught his gaze full on. Her laughter stilled but she kept up her smile. There was definitely an increase of sharpness in her eyes. He walked towards her, smiling and nodding at acquaintances on the way but, for the most part, keeping his eyes on hers. She kept chatting to the small circle of people she stood in the centre of, but, for the most part, met his gaze. As he neared she broke away, moving forward to meet him, free of the entourage. He grinned inwardly, knowing the action revealed her sense of relationship with him—sure, it was as employer, but they had a connection more than this mere socialising.
He refused to analyse why this pleased him, just enjoyed the sense of satisfaction.
‘You didn’t tell me you were coming here tonight.’ He could have given her a lift.
‘You only need to know about my contracted hours, right?’ she answered coolly. ‘I’m surprised to see you here—I thought you’d have more work to do.’
He grinned. So she was still a little fired from his comments this afternoon. But he ignored the words, instead fixed all his attention on her feet and the outrageous shoes on them. Surely heels that thin and high wouldn’t be able to bear the weight of a cat let alone a full-grown woman—even one as slim as Liss. They were the flimsiest things he’d ever seen—and he’d seen a few pairs of high-heeled shoes in his time.
‘Aren’t you tall enough?’ he drawled.
A smile, one he hadn’t seen on her before, curved her mouth and highlighted her eyes—beautiful, brown and deep enough to drown in. They glittered, mysterious, mesmerising and he sank fast.
She stepped forward, so the gap between them became personal, not businesslike. Every muscle in James had leapt to attention the minute he’d seen her in the room. Now they hit screaming point. So close—he ached for closer.
She stood another half millimetre taller as she stretched onto the very tips of her toes. Her head tilted back.
And the touch of naughty in her face increased, as did the promise of sensual delight.
Stunned into immobility, James realised she was about to kiss him. Her lips were parted and full and devastatingly close. He caught the glimpse of white teeth and the tip of a pink tongue. But her mouth didn’t quite reach his. His blood pounded. The power of reason vanished and instinct took over. But just as he bent to meet her she whisked her head down and away.
‘Guess not.’ Her drawl more than matched his.
Guess not what? Oh. He got it. Not tall enough.
She granted him a coolly indifferent smile—but her eyes were flashing with success, satisfaction and humour. He was sure she’d laugh aloud. But something stopped her—the slight shadow behind the light.
The dark gleam of desire was almost invisible but he caught it before she looked away. She’d wanted to follow through on that kiss as much as he’d wanted her to. And that stopped them both from laughing.
He didn’t know what he needed first—a deep breath of air or a deep gulp of his drink.
He watched her thread through the crowd of people. But she didn’t disappear. A woman like that could never disappear. Anger traced through him. He refused to be the latest toy for her to play with. So much for thinking she’d been wary—in that moment she’d been an absolute minx. Ignoring the attraction between them wasn’t going to work. Instead he was going to have to harness it and use it to his advantage. But he’d have to be careful. He’d only touched her hand once and that had sent a bolt right to the source of his desire. Already he knew he was going to have to kiss her. Soon.
He was a man well used to being in charge. Surely he could stay in charge of this situation?
Stupid, stupid, stupid. It took almost half an hour for Liss’s heart rate to return to normal. Her overt flirt with James had resulted in the biggest cardiovascular workout of her life. If she weren’t so young and in such good health, she’d wonder if some sort of attack was imminent. She definitely shouldn’t get any closer. She definitely wanted to.
It was the first time she’d seen him in formal dress. The classic tuxedo did a lot for any man. For a man like James, it simply lifted him into the realm of super stud. The tall, dark and handsome cliché didn’t do him justice whatsoever. It wasn’t that he was the epitome of male beauty. She’d seen more ‘beautiful’ men.
But he was more attractive than any male model she’d known and she’d met several in Paris.
James had strong, even features, above-average height, a breadth of shoulders that made Liss pathetically weak at the knees. All pluses. But the key was in his stance, the way he carried himself. Some people had an aura about them—they turned heads the minute they appeared. They had people watching, listening to their every word—charisma.