‘Coward,’ he said, a note of amusement in his voice. ‘Open your eyes.’
Seriously, were prayers ever answered? She opened her eyes by slow degrees, the brilliant green catching the light at the last. ‘What are you doing here?’
He noticed she didn’t say ‘Get out’, and was strangely pleased – a heresy he chose to ignore. And he answered the specific question rather than the broader one about what he was doing here. ‘I came up because Mrs Van Kessel wasn’t able to wake you. She was afraid you were comatose. You’ve slept for almost seventeen hours, Miss Hart.’ She looked like a rosy-cheeked child just come awake, her hair a tumble of curls, her eyes still half lidded. ‘How do you feel?’
A loaded question, considering her recent dream; any number of answers streaked through her brain. None of them appropriate. So she opted for simplicity. ‘Fine, good. Did you just get into town?’
A casual question, as if they were friends. Apparently Miss Hart could be docile after all. ‘I arrived a few hours ago.’
She flicked a finger in his direction. ‘A power suit. I like it.’ He looked good in grey, but then he looked good in anything.
‘I’ll relay your compliment to my tailor,’ he said with a lazy smile. ‘By the way, congratulations. I’m impressed with your work, Miss Hart.’
‘I’m pleased you’re impressed, Mr Knight.’ With her brain fully functioning now, she knew better than to be tempted by that killer smile. ‘I’ll be sure to add your comment to my résumé.’
‘I’d be happy to write you a letter of recommendation.’ He played the game better than she. Ten years and forty companies better.
‘Thank you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I should get out of these clothes from yesterday.’
A small silence fell.
He didn’t say what he was thinking because he was helping her undress in his mind.
Nor did she – her thoughts less decisive but gratuitously sexual nonetheless with her recent dream still vivid in her mind and the living, breathing Mr Beautiful quietly staring at her.
‘One of the women from the office brought over a few things for you. They’re in the wardrobe.’ At her raised brows, he added, ‘You’re the guest of honour at a dinner downstairs.’ He glanced at the bedside clock. ‘In one hour.’
Her eyes opened wide. ‘God no! I couldn’t!’
‘It’s informal. Wear your own clothes if you prefer.’
She scowled. ‘Is there something wrong with my clothes?’
‘Of course not. Greta just thought you might like something new. She’s in our advertising department here and—’
‘She thought I looked dowdy?’
‘No, not at all.’ Her temper was intriguing. He rarely experienced opposition in his life, and it seemed Miss Hart scarcely uttered a compliant word – unless she was half asleep. ‘Greta just thought you might enjoy wearing some of her original designs,’ he explained. ‘She has her own small boutique that’s often written up in fashion magazines here. She works a flexible schedule for us and, as a favour to me, she has brought a few things up for you.’
I’ll bet she works a flexible schedule – in your bed. ‘I don’t want them,’ she said crisply. ‘Take them back.’ This blatant offer of designer clothes came with an unmistakable quid pro quo: he gave her an expensive gift, she have him sex. Talk about a super casual transaction. Like buying a slice of pizza when you’re hungry. Greta might not mind being a piece of pizza but she did.
‘Certainly. I apologize. It was meant as a benign gesture.’ He stepped away from the bed. ‘Why don’t we say an hour and a half? That should give you time. Werner and a few others on the staff want to sing your praises.’
She was still spluttering her dissent as he walked out and shut the door behind him. She’d never before considered the term ‘puppet master’ as applicable to anyone she knew. No more. The man was a total control freak. A crying shame he was so damned desirable though. It made that quid pro quo thing a little more dicey in terms of personal autonomy versus personal pleasure. Left her libido quibbling with her better judgement. Thank God she was almost out of here. Before it was too late, her little niggling voice pointed out. No, she shot back, because her normal, everyday life didn’t have men like Dominic Knight trying to tell her what to do.
Speaking of normal, she really needed a bath. Seventeen hours of sweating in her coat was grossing her out. Oh, crap. She reeked to high heaven and he’d smelled her. ‘Way to go, girl,’ she muttered.
Rolling off the bed, she was unbuttoning her coat when the sound of running bath water reached her ears. It was seriously freaky having someone know exactly when to draw your bath. Like having spies in the woodwork.
But minutes later, when she was lounging in a bubble bath in a tub large enough for a water polo team, with soothing music playing from hidden speakers, towels warming on a heated towel rack and her choice of pricey shampoos and hand-made soaps within reach, freaky morphed into a big-time plus. As did the gorgeous white silk robe hanging on a hook by the tub awaiting her pampered body.
Knight Enterprises certainly couldn’t be faulted in its attentions to its employees, she decided. What she chose to ignore was the fact that no other employee was housed in this mansion.
While Kate bathed, Dominic showered in his third-floor apartment. He was currently in a damned fine mood, for several reasons: Miss Hart’s swift action on the Bucharest issue for one. In addition to the PR problem, he’d been losing a helluva lot of money, and while he didn’t need it, he was in business to make a profit. And she’d definitely been having a passionate dream from the tone of her breathy little yeses, which made the reason he was here more intriguing by the minute.
Half an hour later, he was about to leave his apartment when he noticed his French cuffs. Whether it was a sixth sense or instinct, he appreciated the mental prompt. Returning to his dressing room, he stripped off his jacket and tie, unclasped his cufflinks, took off his shirt and replaced it with one that had button cuffs. Retying his tie, then slipping into his jacket, he gave a quick glance in the mirror as if his appearance mattered tonight. He softly exhaled. Relax.
Tonight was no different from any other night.
It was just a company dinner. How many of those did he attend each year? Too many, he grumbled. But contrary to logic and perhaps sanity, he found himself seeking out Greta as the office staff began to arrive, because in his privileged life he was allowed anything.
‘Would you do me a favour?’ he asked, and without waiting for an answer, detailed what he needed.
As drinks were being served downstairs, Kate was contemplating an array of designer clothes in her wardrobe. That they were in her size was either creepy or brilliant – she hadn’t quite decided. But she’d been standing there for quite a while. Indecisive. Wracked with doubt. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea in terms of ethical conduct.
Because an absolutely over-the-top little black cocktail dress was whispering to her baser instincts.
She really should resist its lure.
Or should she?
She pursed her lips.
Now that her assignment was finished – in record time, she proudly reflected – she could walk. That had been Dominic Knight’s offer. She was on her own again, independent, with no ties, no employer, no responsibilities. So technically she was free to sleep with the hotter than hot, studly CEO of Knight Enterprises. Put on the dress, take up his offer and enjoy.
Or not. It was still an ill-advised move for her. That sort of gossip could affect her future employment. But if she did give into her fuck-me temptation, she’d do it on her own terms. Not because Dominic Knight casually bought her body with a wardrobe that probably cost more than most people made in a year – or ten.
His arrogance in assuming she was for sale drove her crazy. Obviously she wasn’t, but maybe she would be if she indulged in one of guilty-pleasure gift dresses. She touched the rich, silky black fabric, admired the elegant lines of the dress, ran her finger down the V-neck that was modest, yet tastefully sexy. Damn – so what would it be – self-respect, boundaries or no boundaries, the pursuit of extraordinary possibilities or …
Another moment of indecision, another sigh. Oh, what the hell, wearing the dress didn’t necessarily mean she’d sleep with him. She had all evening to decide.
Then she noticed the shoes in the bottom of the wardrobe. Ohmygod. Black, fuck-me shoes with sparkly stuff on the toes. Could any woman turn down shoes like that?
But as she lifted the dress from the wardrobe, her complacency gave way to a hissed expletive. Along with a few more pithy observations on self-willed men. A magnificent string of pearls was looped around the pink satin hanger and no way they came from Wal-Mart.
Was expensive jewellery a deal-breaker?
If she accepted this entire outrageously pricey gift would she regret it later? Or could she consider this outfit a bonus? Would that make her less of a … She sighed. Even with a mountain of rationalization, there was no way around the fact that she’d be one of Dominic Knight’s rentable-for-an-evening females.