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Chapter 7

  • Nina grinned at him. "Enjoying the evening?” she asked.
  • “I think you know I’m not,” he replied.
  • She raised one eyebrow and stared at him over the rim of her glass. “Do I?”
  • Julian snagged a flute from a passing waiter and turned his attention fully on her. It was all she could do not to gasp under his heated scrutiny. It was as if he undressed her right then and there in front of a roomful of people. Her blood simmered and pooled low in her belly. He had beautiful eyes, and they were currently devouring her, delving beneath the modest evening gown she’d chosen. He made it seem like she wore the most scanty, revealing dress imaginable. She felt nude and vulnerable under his searing gaze. And somehow she had a feeling that he knew the kind of thoughts she was having about him...and that he was thinking it too. Why was he looking at her like that if he wasn't thinking about it? She shook the thought out of her head.
  • Focus. She told herself. Now is not the time.
  • “Tell me something, Nina," Julian began. "Why aren’t you over with the rest of the piranhas convincing me that your ad agency will take Mart Enterprises straight to the top?”
  • Her lips curved upward into a smile. “Because you already are at the top?” she said.
  • He smiled back, "Or maybe because we know each other, you just don't see the need. That's your plan right?"
  • "My plan?" she repeated, then she leaned closer to him, close enough so the scent of her perfume filled his nostrils. "Well, is it working?" she asked.
  • Julian grinned. “You’re such a tease,” he said.
  • At that her smile faded. He was right. She was flirting, and it was the last thing she wanted to do. She glanced across the room to where the other ad execs stood staring holes through her and Julian.
  • “I’m not desperate, Julian. It doesn't matter if we know each other or not. I know I’m good. I know my ideas for your ad campaign are spectacular. Does that make me arrogant? Maybe. But I don’t need to sell you on a load of malarkey.... And there is no 'plan'... Whatever you mean by that. I want to do this professionally, that's why I'm not playing the 'we know each other card.' All I need is the time to show you what Standard Gate Communications can do for you.”
  • “What you can do for me, Nina?” he said.
  • Her eyes widened in surprise at the blatant innuendo. And then he went on to correct the errant assumption she’d just made.
  • “If the ideas are yours and are as brilliant as you say, I’d hardly be taking on Standard gate and what the agency could do for me. I’d be hiring you.”
  • She frowned and hated that she suddenly felt at a disadvantage. Her fingers curled a little tighter around the glass, and she prayed they wouldn’t shake and betray her unease.
  • He studied her curiously, having obviously picked up on her discomfort.
  • “It wasn’t a proposition, Nina, relax. Believe me, you’d know the difference.” he said smiling.
  • In a daring move, he reached a finger out and traced a line down the bare skin of her arm. She was unable to call back the shiver, or the sprinkling of chill bumps that danced over her flesh. She shouldn't be thinking of Abby's brother like this, she told herself.
  • “I only meant that if you wow me with a pitch and I sign on with Standard Gate, you won’t pawn me off to some junior executive. I’d expect you to oversee the campaign at every level. I would like to handle it.”
  • “And do you anticipate signing with Standard Gate Communications?” she asked huskily.
  • There was a gleam of amusement in his dark eyes. He took a measured sip of his wine and then regarded her lazily. “If your pitch is good enough. Creative Edge has some good ideas. I’m considering them.”
  • Her lips tightened. “Only because you haven’t seen mine yet.”
  • He smiled again. “Confidence... It's something I have always admired about you. I like confidence. I don’t like false modesty. I look forward to seeing what you have in mind, Red. I have a feeling you put every bit of that passion I see burning in your eyes into your work. Evan Banks is a lucky man to have such a fierce employee. I wonder if he knows it.”
  • “Are we moving into the appointment phase?” she asked lightly. “I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed watching you surrounded by the piranhas as you call them.”
  • He put his glass down on a nearby table.“Dance with me and we’ll discuss appointment times.”
  • Her eyes narrowed.
  • He lifted one finely constructed eyebrow into what looked like a challenge. “It's no big deal. You are not a Stranger like most of these people. Look, I’ve also danced with female ad executives from Creative Edge, Depth Digital, Fair marketing media Media—”
  • Nina held up her hand. “Okay, okay, I get it. You’re making your selection on who’s the best dance partner.” She said,
  • He threw back his head and laughed. Several people around them turned to stare, and she had to resist the strong urge to flee the room. She hated the attention that Julian seemed to have no issue with whatsoever. How nice it must be not to have to worry what people thought about you.
  • Knowing no graceful way to bow out of the dance, she set down her own glass and allowed Julian to lead her onto the ballroom floor.
  • To her relief, he held her loosely. To anyone looking on, they could find no fault or impropriety. And there wasn't any... There couldn't be any. She and Julian didn’t look like lovers, but she knew the thought was present in both their minds. She could feel it.. This weird energy between them, especially when they were alone in the apartment when Abby wasn't there. She saw the desire in his eyes and knew he could probably see it in hers.
  • She wasn’t practiced at hiding her emotions. Maybe being the only girl in an all-male household growing up was the reason. Her family was a loud, demonstrative lot, and she’d always been regarded as the precious daughter and sister.