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  • Alexis Winter

Sneak Peek-That Look



CHAPTER 1 — TRENT

Amelia Blanc.

Sophisticated, stunning, successful, comes from a prominent family—the kind of woman men fight wars over.

But that’s not all she is. She’s sexy and tempting, a delicate flower who makes me want to forget being a gentleman and show her how a real man could make her feel.

She wants it. I can see it in the way she holds herself so professionally. The uptight facade that’s just begging to be unraveled. The way her eyes search mine like she’s begging me to read her mind—to do all the things to her that she’s too scared to admit she wants.

She’s also . . . the bane of my fucking existence and a pain in my ass.

I lean against the back wall of the tasting room in her winery as I watch her float around the room, stopping at each table to welcome guests personally with a genuine smile. Her dress lies softly against her long, lean body, and I can’t help but take a peek at the way it accentuates her subtle curves—the curves I haven’t stopped fantasizing about since the moment I saw her at my brother Tyler’s engagement party.

Amelia stands out in small-town Colorado, no way around it. It’s not that she’s unapproachable or over the top, she’s the exact opposite—subtle and down to earth. The kind of woman who casually mentions summers on the French Riviera but then downplays it so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.

I roll my eyes as the couple she’s speaking to bursts into laughter at whatever she just said.

They can’t all possibly buy this act.

All three of them toss their heads back dramatically, really laying it on thick.

Okay, now I know they’re full of shit. Nobody is that funny.

Not only is she knock-you-on-your-ass beautiful, but she’s gracious. Even when I drunkenly raised my voice at her several months back at my brother’s engagement party, she remained calm and poised. Which is why I’m here now: to apologize and do penance for my outburst.

She lifts her head as she approaches another table near me, her eyes catching mine. We stay locked in on each other for several seconds before she reaches out her hand to touch the shoulder of an older white-haired woman at the table.

“Bonjour, Madame Aubert. C’est tellement agréable de vous revoir.”

Of course she speaks French.

I cross my arms over my chest a little tighter. Why does this damn woman have to get under my skin so much? Yes, she’s beautiful. Everyone can see that by looking at her . . . but why the fuck does she have to be perfect too?

Maybe she secretly hates kittens or puppies or something.

I know that if my brother Tyler were here right now and could hear my thoughts, he’d tell me it’s because I have a crush on her. What am I, 12?

That old adage about boys being mean to girls they like is a bunch of horseshit, and I’m not being mean to her, I’m simply keeping my guard up because I don’t trust her or her family.

“Is there a reason you’re leering at me and my customers from the back of the room?”

Amelia’s question interrupts my thoughts and I turn to face her, completely unaware that she’d snuck up beside me.

“I wasn’t leering, tha—” I stop myself from making some rude-ass remark back and plaster on a big smile, reminding myself why I came here. “You have a minute?”

She motions toward a back door that she pushes open and we both step through to a deck that’s lit by strings of lights. A few people are sitting at a table in the far corner, so we move to the other corner.

“So, what can I do for you, Mr. Slade? Would you like a glass of wine?” She smiles sweetly at me, which only annoys me further.

“‘Mr. Slade’?” I chuckle. I can think of a few positions I’d like to get her in and have her call me that. “No, no wine for me. I’m here because I owe you an apology.”

“An apology for . . . ?” She plays coy, crooking an eyebrow upward as she brings her hand to her chest. She knows damn well what for; she just wants me to say it.

“For raising my voice at you at the engagement party a few months back.”

“Oh, you mean almost nine months ago, when you accused me and my family of being involved in illegal activities and running dozens of businesses out of town?”

I let out an exasperated sigh and remind myself to keep my cool. “Yeah, that.”

“If you think I care or need an apology about you raising your voice to me, I don’t. What you do owe me is an apology for your baseless and hurtful accusations.”

“Hey, if the shoe fits.” I shrug, flashing my boyish grin.

“But it doesn’t fit and you know that. My family sold our winery years ago, and the company that took it over did those things. Given your background, you know just as well as I do that once a company’s sold, you have no say or rights. So why was it my family’s fault? My parents believed they were doing the right thing.”

“Look, I don’t know anything about all that. I can still have my opinion about your family selling out the business, but you’re right, I shouldn’t have made those accusations and I’m sorry.”

“So why now, Trent? What made you decide I deserve an apology after all this time? Let me guess, your family is breathing down your neck about it? Or did you just finally come to the conclusion out of the goodness of your nonexistent heart?” She slowly lifts a finger as she speaks and pokes me in the chest.

“Dammit, woman.” I throw my hands in the air then take a deep breath to calm myself. “I came to apologize and I mean it. Why the hell can’t you take it so we can move on?”

She stares at me, her eyes narrowing, when someone pops their head out the nearby door. She drops her finger from my chest, where it feels like it’s about to burn through my shirt.

“Sorry to interrupt, Miss Blanc, but there’s a Mr. Gregory inside asking for you.”

She turns her head to face the young waiter, her hair following the movement and sending her floral perfume straight to my nostrils and a bolt of electricity straight to my dick.

“I’ll be right in, Nick, thank you.” She smiles at him then turns back to face me. I’m completely distracted by the exposed skin of her shoulder as the shawl she’s wrapped around herself slips down.

When the fuck did she get such lickable skin? Fuck, shit, no!

I quickly avert my gaze back to her face when I notice a slight pink blush on her cheeks that wasn’t there before.

“You’re right, Trent. I accept your apology and let’s just agree to move on from this and put it behind us.” She smiles and I wait for a but, but it never comes.

“Just like that?” I ask suspiciously.

“Just like that.” She smiles wider and extends her delicate hand toward me. “Truce?”

I slowly extend my hand toward hers, clasping it in my own. Her skin is warm and soft and I have the sudden urge to pull her toward me and taste her full, plump lips. I drop her hand like it’s burned me, jerking my own back and shoving it in my pocket.

“You okay?” she questions.

“Great.”

“Okay, well, I really should get inside. Mr. Gregory is waiting for me,” she says as if I have any clue who this man is . . . or care.

“Better not keep Mr. Gregory waiting any longer.” I hate the way the words sound on my tongue, like I’m weirdly jealous or spiteful of someone I’ve never met and have no actual idea why they’re asking for her.

“Have a good night, Mr. Slade.” Her words are breathy as she spins on her heel and heads back into the building just as she drops the shawl completely, giving me a glimpse of her sexy back.

I shake my head and walk down the deck stairs and around the building toward my truck, a laugh erupting from my chest as I swing the driver’s side door open and slide behind the wheel. I flip on the radio just as Luke Bryan’s “One Margarita” starts and I sing along, relieved to have finally put this thing with Amelia Blanc to rest.

With any luck, once her winery in Fort Collins is running smoothly, she’ll haul her fancy—albeit tight—little ass back to California where she belongs.

***

“Morning, Charlotte.” I place my assistant’s favorite pastry on her desk and duck into my office before she can hand it back to me. We play this same game every Monday morning.

“Mr. Slade are you trying to get me in trouble with my doctor?” She holds out the Danish toward me. “He told me no more sweets. Gotta bring my cholesterol down.”

“One a week won’t hurt you, Charlotte. Besides, they had your favorite today: blackberry.” Her eyes fall from mine down to the pastry and she brings it to her nose to smell it. “You can always take it home to Bill if you really don’t want it.”

“Well, maybe a bite or two won’t hurt.” She giggles and winks at me before heading back to her desk.

Charlotte has worked for Slade Brewing for over two decades now, and so has her husband, Bill. He’s one of the chief brewmasters, and we’re all dreading the day he finally retires.

Work has been stressful, but in a good way. Since bringing on Brooklyn Dyer—my now sister-in-law—to take over our social media, our numbers have increased quarter over quarter for a year straight.

Our most recent product launch, Slade Seltzers, has been an even bigger hit than any of our seasonal beers or small-batch whiskey. It’s all thanks in large part to Brooklyn, who spearheaded a kick-ass social media campaign to not only introduce the seltzers but also get our beer on tap into some of the biggest sports arenas around the country.

I open my bottom drawer to look for the mini bottle of champagne Brooklyn gave me when we finished last year with the highest-posted revenue Slade has ever seen, but something else catches my eye. I reach for the folder and pull it out, placing it on my desk without opening it.

Slade Wines.

This has been my pipe dream for a while now, the legacy I hope to leave with Slade Brewing. My great-grandfather had only two beers when he started this company, and his son, my grandfather, introduced a dozen-plus more beer styles that became our staple line. My dad, Drake Slade, brought our whiskey line to life, and I want to leave a legacy behind now that I’m CEO.

But that’s where Amelia Blanc comes in. The Blanc family has been one of the premier winemakers in the world for three decades. When her family finally sold their business over five years ago and her parents retired back to France, the business faced problems.

Treymore Food and Beverage was a long-standing company for decades before they sold out as well. When they did, they turned from small family-owned businesses to major corporations that cut quality, raised prices, and padded their bottom line so they could fight any legal issues that came their way.

They’ve since claimed bankruptcy, and according to Amelia, she spent every last dime of her family money to buy back Blanc Wines, and she’s on a mission to reestablish them as they once were. I’ve got no problem with that. Coming from a generational family business, I get it, but I say they should keep their wine in California and the Pacific Northwest, because Colorado is Slade country.

I stare at the folder. Every time I bring up the idea of launching a wine brand under the Slade umbrella, I’m practically laughed out of the boardroom. So I gave up on the dream for a while, and now it just feels like a slap in the face that this ethereal woman—who can do no wrong in everyone else’s eyes—can come along and rain all over my parade.

“You okay, bro?” I look up and see my older brother, Tyler, standing in my doorway. “Looks like you’re arguing with yourself.”

“Nah, I’m good,” I say, waving away his concern as he steps inside and takes a seat across from my desk.

Even though Tyler is the oldest in the Slade family, and was expected to take over Slade Brewing as CEO, he passed it off to me in favor of devoting his time to being a rancher. He’s still an active board member, and now that his wife works for the company, he’s here at the office more than usual. Growing up, he always loved hanging with the cowboys—we both did, actually—but numbers and boardrooms were never his dream like they were mine. Still, you can’t take the mountain life out of me. I’ll always be a cowboy at heart and never plan to leave this place.

“Came in a little early for the meeting Dad set up, and figured I’d stop in and see how things are going with you.” He crosses his foot over his knee and picks at a loose string on his jeans.

“Why? What are you really worried about?”

“Hmm? Nothing,” he frowns, “just curious if, uh, you and Amelia ever made up?”

“Made up? It’s not like we were fighting this whole time; I just said some shitty things. But yeah, I apologized to her on Friday night, actually. What made you ask?”

He shrugs again and I’m starting to pick up on the fact that there’s something he’s not telling me.

“Brooklyn ask you to ask me?”

“No. I mean, she asks now and then, but mostly I think it’s because she’s friends with Amelia and she’s always worried that if she invites her to something at our house and you show up, there will be drama.”

“Drama? Seriously? Are we in high school or something? It was one time that I said something.”

He holds up his hands. “Hey, you asked and I answered.” He lets out a dramatic yawn and rubs his eyes.

“Baby keeping you up?” I ask. Tyler and Brooklyn recently welcomed their first daughter, Cecilia, to the family. She’s a perfect little ball of chunky baby rolls.

“You think you’re ready for the sleepless nights, but holy shit. You know I almost fell asleep on my horse the other day?” We both laugh. “Ranger and Decker have both had to tell me at times to go take a nap, because I’m not making any sense out in the pastures.” He drags his hands down over his face and lets them fall to his lap.

“You boys coming?” Our dad, Drake, pokes his head in my office briefly before making a circle motion with his fingers as if to say, let’s move it. That’s my dad: gruff, few words, and straight to the point.

We stand and follow behind him until we reach the main conference room.

“Hey, Uncle Colton, didn’t realize you were going to be here.” I walk over and hug my uncle.

“Got the call from your dad with a meeting date and no question about availability, which means be there, no excuses.” He laughs.

“Yeah, sounds like Dad,” I laugh as I take a seat next to him.

“All right, let’s get down to business,” Dad says, tugging on his belt. He’s still wearing the same cowboy hat, belt, and boots he’s worn for the past 20-odd years. He’s finally getting to that age where I’m starting to notice the physical changes in him. Growing up, my dad was my hero. He’s tall and commanding, always in control and knowing exactly what to do in any situation. He’s led our family through hell and back over the years, and I can’t imagine where we’d all be without him.

“You both know why I’ve called this meeting. This isn’t an official board meeting, but that will follow soon enough.”

I furrow my brows and look from Uncle Colton to Tyler, who quickly averts his gaze from mine. What the fuck is going on here?

“We’ve had a tremendous year—best we’ve ever had—and from the way things are going, we fully expect to outperform ourselves in the coming year. With that being said, we have an opportunity right now to expand Slade Brewing International in a new direction.”

My spine stiffens and I feel my teeth clench together. I feel like I’ve been completely left in the dark about whatever the hell is going on right now and I don’t like it.

“Blanc Wineries—”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” I shout. “You gotta be kidding me!” I can’t hide my anger.

“Something you want to share, Trent?” My dad looks at me, his words clipped.

“You already know the issue I have with Amelia Blanc and that I don’t trust that woman.”

“That sounds like a personal problem that you can address outside these walls of business, Trent. If you have an issue with their ethics, business practices, or financials, then let’s talk about it. But if you’ve got your panties in a twist over some interpersonal conflict you had with her, deal with it on your own time.”

Tyler chuckles, which gets Uncle Colton going. I sit back and roll my eyes, feeling like I’m 17 again, when I got caught sneaking into the brewery warehouse stealing beers.

“As I was saying, Blanc Wineries is a very established brand, and Amelia recently became the owner after using all her personal capital to buy it back. She came to me a few months ago with a proposition, and it’s one I think can be profitable for both companies.

“Fine, I’ll hear you out.” I raise my hands in defeat and stand up to walk over to the coffee station in the corner of the room.

“That’s great, son, but it’s not me you’re going to hear out. It’s Amelia.”

I spin around so fast that I slosh the freshly poured coffee out of the mug in my hand just as the conference room door opens and in she walks.

Amelia Fucking Blanc with a perfectly pearly-white smile plastered on her perfect face that says: I win.


CHAPTER 2 — AMELIA


“Good morning gentlemen. Thank you for having me.”

“Morning.” Drake tips his hat toward me. “My wife, Celeste, will be here any second,” he says, staring down at his phone. “She had an appointment earlier this morning.”

I nod and a second later, the door swings open and in walks Celeste Slade: blonde, with a touch of silver at her temples and a perfectly tailored Chanel tweed suit and nude pumps. From what I can gather, she’s been the outside counsel for Slade Brewing for a long time—at least longer than she’s been married to Drake, since that’s apparently how they met.

“Apologies for my tardiness,” she says politely with a sweet smile as she extends her hand to me from across the table.

The excessive jostling of a chair grabs my attention and I turn to watch as Trent pulls his chair out a little more forcefully than necessary. He glares at me as he grips the coffee cup in his hand and lets his body drop down into the chair.

“I won’t be going over the full project today like I will in the board meeting,” I say, “but I wanted to give each of you a full breakdown of the data and analytics that went into my research and presentation. In the folders I’m handing out, you’ll find more than enough graphs and reports that will back up everything I mention today.” I reach into my bag and pull out the reports I’ve had collated and bound for each member of today’s meeting. I pass them out and then turn to Drake. “Well, looks like we’re all here. Shall I begin?”

Drake nods and I turn to the screen in front of me where my presentation slides are displayed. This shorter presentation outlines how beneficial it could be to marry the Slade customers and the Blanc customers with a series of three different wines.

“I honestly don’t see how this will benefit Slade. It only seems like it would benefit Blanc since we have a huge customer base.” Trent crosses his arms over his chest, the veins on his exposed forearms bulging against the strain of his too-tight Oxford shirt sleeves.

“As I mentioned, in the folder in front of you, there are several graphs that break down the Blanc customer base.” I smile and point to the untouched report that is still sitting in front of him. “Is there a specific fact or data point you’re referring to, or just a general, unresearched observation?”

His jaw tics at my question and he lets out an audible puff of air. If he thinks he can get to me by trying to embarrass me or spout off nonfactual bullshit, he has another thing coming.

“As I was saying, this venture will not only be mutually beneficial in the immediate future, but long term, we can build an ongoing relationship that will introduce an entirely new customer base to each other’s businesses.”

I don’t pride myself on being bitchy or petty—hell, I feel like as a woman in the business world, I have to play twice as nice just to be taken seriously, but Trent Slade has made it abundantly clear that he not only can’t stand me and my family, but he also doesn’t trust us and won’t give me the benefit of the doubt, even when facts and data are on my side.

The funny thing is, I never once thought about Slade Brewing as competition. My parents never did either. We’re both family-owned businesses in the beverage industry, but we’ve never had any product crossover.

I finish my presentation and answer a few questions.

“Thanks again for this,” Drake says, holding up the folder, “we’ll be in touch about the board meeting.”

“Thank you, sir.” I shake everyone’s hand except Trent’s. He sulks silently in the corner of the room for a moment before brushing past me out of the room.

I think about how Trent stood against the back wall of the winery the other night, staring at me. At first, it was evident that he was glaring at me, given the way his eyes narrowed, but I swear, for a brief moment, it almost felt like he was checking me out. And when we went out to the back deck, the way his eyes couldn’t stay focused on mine, I’d swear there was something—a spark or a moment between us.

I laugh to myself as I pack up the rest of my things and slide my bag over my shoulder. It wouldn’t be the first time thoughts about Trent Slade swirled through my brain, leaving me confused and a little flustered. The way his eyes sparkle when he’s smiling and that big, loud laugh he can’t seem to control . . . a flutter runs through my belly as I make my way toward the elevator and out to the parking lot.

I reach for the handle of my car door, telling myself that it’s just been too long since I’ve been with a man and that’s my problem. After 11 long months of trying to get over my ex-fiancé, I’m just now back in the dating pool, and so far, I’ve been pretty lucky considering my first post-breakup date was with Jack Gregory, a real estate developer I met a few weeks ago.

“That was really fucking shady to go behind my back and talk to my father—even for you.”

I spin around to see that Trent has followed me to my car. He holds his hand up over his brow against the morning sun.

“How was it shady? He’s the majority shareholder of Slade Brewing.”

“And I’m the CEO,” he snaps back. “You could have come to me about this venture, but you didn’t. Why?” He steps closer to me.

“Seriously? Because you screamed at me in front of dozens of people and accused my family of horrible things, then when you were informed that your accusations were inaccurate at that same event, you still stood by your defamatory remarks. Even this weekend, when you came to apologize, you downplayed it and said you were apologizing for raising your voice at me. As if I need an apology for that. I’m a grown, professional woman, Trent. I can handle myself and my emotions, but you clearly can’t.”

“This is why you were so quick to accept my apology, wasn’t it?” He takes another step toward me and I step back, hitting my car. “Because you knew you were coming in here today to fuck up my world and you wanted to have the last laugh. Is this your version of revenge?”

I can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous his accusations are. “You really think highly of yourself, don’t you? You think I’ve been so consumed by your emotional outburst that I created an elaborate business scheme to . . . what? Get back at you?”

“No, not exactly, but I think you’re deriving joy out of going behind my back and making me look like a fool in there.”

“Why can’t you believe that this actually has nothing to do with you, your accusations against me, or revenge, and realize it’s completely about business, money, and the fact I now single-handedly own Blanc Wineries? I know this is probably hard for you to believe, but not everything is about you.” I can feel tension building in my chest and I rub my temples to release it.

“Did you mean it when you said you accepted my apology the other night?”

“Yes.”

“How can I believe you after what you pulled today?”

“Because believe it or not, Trent, I don’t hold on to the past. I forgave you a long time ago, even when you didn’t ask me to. Anger and hatred don’t do anyone any good. You just let me live rent-free in your head because you hold on to so much bitterness toward me. Meanwhile, I don’t think about you at all.”

I shrug nonchalantly but my throat constricts tightly as I swallow down the nervous lump.

“That right?” He drags his hand slowly over his scruffy jaw. It stands out against how clean-cut the rest of him looks in his tailored suit.

“Yes, that’s right.” I stiffen my spine, doubling down on my statement even though I’m so full of shit.

Do I ever think about you? Yes. When, you ask? Oh, when I’m lying in bed at night trying to fall asleep, but I’m so hot and bothered, I can’t help but touch myself to the thought of you between my thighs.

“You never have a random thought creep in about me? Maybe wondering if I ever think about you?” His eyes stare into mine and a slow warmth begins to spread through my body. I pray it doesn’t show on my cheeks as I feel them flush with embarrassment at the thought.

“I think you do. I think you think about me an awful lot, actually.” He flashes me his signature flirty grin with a throat chuckle, but I narrow my gaze.

“What game are you playing here, Trent? Because I’m not interested.”

“Game? What makes you think I’m playing any game, sweetheart?” He places his hand on the roof of my car and leans in.

I roll my eyes. “That right there . . . I’m not your sweetheart. I’m your business partner. It’s like you’re just trying to get a rise out of me for your sick pleasure.”

Partner?” He laughs again. “If anything, I’m your boss on this project. In fact, I’d highly suggest we go back to you calling me ‘Mr. Slade.’ Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?” He winks at me.

I tilt my chin up to look at him as he towers over me, attempting to assert my confidence. He’s closed the distance between us. In fact, he’s so close that I can smell his spicy cologne and hear the sound of his whiskers against his hand as he laughs, dragging it slowly over his jaw.

I know exactly what you’re doing, you sneaky bastard, and two can play that game.

“Whatever you want, Mr. Slade.” I say the words slowly and deliberately, but I can’t hide the mocking tone in my voice.

“So this is how it’s gonna be then?”

“Doesn’t have to be.”

He crooks an eyebrow at me. “Meaning?”

“Meaning we can put this all behind us right now . . . and not like you apologized the other night then bit my head off today. I mean really put it in the past and move on.”

“And then what? We’re friends?”

“No, we don’t have to be friends. We can simply be professionals who work together and treat each other with respect and trust.” I emphasize the last word since I know he struggles with the idea of trusting me.

“Trust, huh?”

“What is that you think I plan to do? Take over your family’s billion-dollar brewery?” I huff in exasperation. “That’s complete insanity, Trent. All I want is to re-establish my family winery as a legitimate, reputable brand like it once was, so the next time I go to France to visit my parents, I can tell them they don’t have to be ashamed of our last name anymore.”

“You wanna know what I think?”

“No, but I have no doubt you’re going to tell me anyway.” I can’t hide my frustration and it pisses me off even further that I’ve let him get under my skin.

“I think you need me. You need my family business and that pisses you the hell off because you want to hate me.”

I roll my eyes, tired of this narrative already.

“Well, you know what I think, Mr. Slade? I think you’re an arrogant, entitled rich boy who is intimated by powerful women. You can’t stand the fact that I don’t need your family money or business. Blanc Wines was successful long before this business deal arose, and you know that. I think it eats at you that I don’t need you.” I say the last part slowly, making deliberate eye contact with him.

His eyes study mine, then they drop down to my lips as my tongue darts out to wet them. I swear it feels like he’s inching closer. I can feel the heat radiating off his body, but just as quickly, he looks away.

“You have a deal,” he says, holding his hand out toward mine. He’s so close, the shake is a little awkward, but we manage. Not what I was expecting, but I’ll take it. Maybe that’s what we needed in this situation: to both just say our piece about each other—full transparency and move past it . . . at least, that’s what I’m hoping this is.

“See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” I give him a genuine smile as I release his hand, but he doesn’t back away.

“I’m not saying I trust you yet, but I’ll work on it and I’m open to it.”

“That’s a start,” I reply as we stand chest-to-chest, almost touching. It feels weird and intimate at the same time. “I should get going.”

He still doesn’t move. “You going to move closer now that you’ll be in my office regularly?”

“Hadn’t planned on it, no. Fort Collins is only a 40-minute drive, and I don’t foresee myself being in your office very often.”

“What are you doing tonight? Want to grab dinner?”

His question takes me by surprise. “Uh, I have plans, actually, but I assume I’ll be back in the office later this week for the board meeting. We can discuss things then?” I assume he meant a business dinner, because there’s no way in hell Trent Slade is asking me on a date . . . right?

He nods and takes a step to the side to reach around me and open my car door. I look at him, a little surprised as he places his other hand against my elbow and ushers me into my car.

“Thank you,” he says, and I look at him questioningly.

“For?”

“Your patience and . . . forgiveness.”

I smile, even though it almost seems painful for him to say the words.

“You’re welcome.” We stare at each other again for a brief second. “Why are you being nice to me all of a sudden?”

“Nice? Who says I’m bein’ nice?” He places his large hands on the open windowsill of my car and leans forward a little.

“So this is a game to you then? Just play nice enough so I let my guard down then you—”

“Then I what?” He laughs, waiting for me to finish the statement, but I don’t. “I simply thanked you for accepting my apology is all. I can still be wrong in how I handled things with you in the past, but right about this deal not being a good idea. Either way, no reason for us to have bad blood between us.” He winks at me and pats the edge of my car.

“Careful, Mr. Slade,” I say teasingly, “I might get the wrong idea if you start playing nice.”

He gives me a wicked grin. “I’d love to know what the wrong idea is in your head.”

“That maybe underneath all that false bravado there’s a soft spot.” I blush. “Why, what did you think I meant?”

He laughs and shakes his head as he grips the edge of my car door and leans down till his face is near mine. “Now that’s a conversation for another time, but trust me, it has nothing to do with being nice or soft.”

I swallow down a huge lump and grip the steering wheel in my hands as I feel my thighs squeezing together.

“Okay, we’re done here.”

Just before he shuts my door and walks back toward the building, his voice deepens and he tosses me a sexy wink that has my stomach doing a little flip.

“Drive safe, darlin’.”

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