Too bad I preferred simple. Uncomplicated. Otherwise I could have had both. I wasn’t in the market for breaking hearts, and mixing business with pleasure was a fast track to that end.
My phone lit up with a text, interrupting my laser focus on Erica and her presentation. My ex Sophia was coming into town in a few days. The emoticons appending the text made it clear she wanted to do more than see me. I smiled inwardly at her persistence. I should have wanted everything she offered, but I couldn’t bring myself to take her to bed again. After everything we’d been through, we were better as friends.
And not when I had a tasty morsel like Erica Hathaway right in front of me.
I shot a text off to Sophia, letting her know I’d be in Vegas and would miss her visit. I dropped my phone back to the table as Erica wrapped up. I couldn’t miss the mix of relief and fear that flashed behind her eyes. Vulnerability, with a little flash of fire.
When she concluded, I asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”
I knew I was going to hell as soon as I uttered the words. The shock of pink that hit Erica’s cheeks confirmed it.
“Excuse me?” Her voice was unsteady. “Relationships can be distracting. If you were to get the funds you need from this group, it could be a factor that affects your ability to grow.”
I could have majored in bullshit, if I’d found college worth the effort. Except she wasn’t buying it. All her vulnerability had vanished. Now she was all fire, a reality that sent a rush of blood south. Unfortunately for her, or perhaps fortunately, the promise of taking her to bed was winning out in my internal battle.
“I can assure you, Mr. Landon, that I am one hundred percent committed to this project.” Her eyes narrowed as she gazed steadily at me. She tilted her head a fraction. “Do you have any other questions pertaining to my personal life that will influence your decision today?”
I had all kinds of questions pertaining to her personal life that I intended to get to the bottom of as soon as this meeting was over.
“No, I don’t think so. Max?”
I turned to Max, who quickly prompted the rest of the investors to voice their interest either way. Erica drew an unsteady breath and clasped her hands in front her, so tightly her knuckles went bloodless.
Then, one by one, the others passed.
She swallowed hard, and I could sense her preparing for the very real possibility that she’d leave this room unilaterally rejected. What Erica didn’t know was that Max had stacked the room with men who rarely invested in web-based startups. This alone told me he wanted her for himself.
Then all eyes were on me and the room fell silent. I leveled a steady stare in Erica’s direction.
In that moment, I decided I wanted her for myself too.
“I’ll pass,” I said.