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Driven (Page 19)

I sigh loudly, my body attuned to the proximity of his.

He chuckles, fueling my irritation as I turn to face him. He is leaning back in his chair, an ankle resting on the opposing knee, his arms causally resting on the armrests. We stare at each other, observing and scrutinizing each other for the first time without bystanders. His eyes lazily wander the length of my body, hesitating at my cleavage. I watch his smile widen in what I can assume is an appreciation of the feminine form in general, not just mine, before they travel down the rest of my curves.

His beauty really is magnificent, although I’m sure he would disagree with my term. Thick, dark lashes that are a stark contrast to their translucent color frame his green eyes. His strong nose has a slight curve to its line, where at some point it has been broken or damaged. The imperfection in an otherwise perfect face adds to his overwhelming sex appeal. I take in his full lips, the top one slightly thinner than the lower, the darkened stubble that shadows his face, and the pulse that beats steadily under the curve of his jaw. I have the sudden urge to kiss him right there and nuzzle into him, to feel the pulse of this vibrant man beneath my lips. To be enveloped in his clean, earthy scent.

I shake my head, trying to bring some sense to myself. He quirks his eyebrows and waits for me to make the first move. We stare for several moments as we measure each other. I finally break the silence. “Is this what you call taking matters in to your own hands?”

“What’s the matter? Can’t handle the temptation, Ryles?” He flashes a wicked, arrogant grin at me, and as much as I want to roll my eyes at him, the temptation before me is all I can think about.

“Hardly,” I snort.

He shrugs indifferently. “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, Ry,” he says. “You left me no choice.”

“No choice? Really?” I scoff throwing my hands up in disgust. “What are you, fifteen years old throwing a tantrum because you didn’t get your way?”

“You owe me a date.”

“All this for a frickin’ date, Ace? Or is it because I denied your sexual ministrations after I came to my senses?” Ugh, he is so frustrating!

“Oh, you would’ve come all right,” he rebuts sardonically, raising an eyebrow, “and from what I recall, your senses? Those were strewn all over the backstage floor.”

Smartass! How can he get me so fuming mad when it takes so much more to get me to this point with other people?

“So because I said no, you offer up tons of money and bind me with a contract through my work? Through my boss? Forcing me to have to spend time with you? Money in exchange for a date? I’m not a whore, Colton.” I rant, waltzing to the window trying to diffuse some of my angst. “Especially not yours!”

I can hear him shuffling behind me as he rises and walks toward the window. He looks at me through his reflection in the glass window and holds my stare. My body vibrates from his nearness.

“Let’s get something straight,” he growls at me. “First of all, I have my own reasons for donating the money that have absolutely nothing to do with you. Nothing! Second, I don’t ever pay for dates, Rylee. Ever. I have more class than that.” I can feel his fury roll off him in waves.

“You paid for a date with me,” I retort.

“Charity. Auction. Does. Not. Equal. Escort. Service.” He snarls at me, taking a step closer, but never breaking our reflective stare. “Lastly,” he seethes, grabbing hold of my arm to emphasize his point, “I don’t ever want to hear your refer to yourself as a whore again.”

We stand in silence as his words settle around us. Why the hell does he care what I call myself? He has no claim over me. I know better than to provoke when someone is angry, but I can’t help myself. For some reason I want to push his buttons. If I’m going to be forced to do something, then I might as well say my piece.

“Then why the contract? The events that I’m required to be your escort for.” I yank my arm out of his grip. “Sounds like your ego is bruised because I won’t succumb to your dazzling charm, so you need to tie me to you to prove to yourself that you still have that magic Colton touch. That you haven’t lost it—”

“I didn’t say anything about bondage,” he smirks, cutting me off. “But if that’s your thing, Rylee, I’d be more than happy to oblige. I can teach you the ropes.”

I shake my head in disbelief; the meaning of his words as they sink in has blood rushing to my cheeks, before I can meet his eyes in the glass again. “I’m ignoring your last comment,” I say dryly, trying to recall what my point was since he has scattered my thoughts so cleverly. Um—where was I? Oh! “Your ego’s bruised because I won’t fall helplessly at your feet and become your compliant sexual plaything, so you come to my work—take the one thing that I really want, the one thing that I’ve been working toward for over two years—and you serve it up to me on a platter.”

“And the problem with that is …?”

“The problem is that you offer it to me with terms that can only logically be explained as self-satisfying for you …” I falter because I realize I’m rambling now. And at some point I’m afraid that if I keep talking, private thoughts may tumble out—thoughts about him. And if I slip, then … he’ll know I think about him more than I should.

Colton sidles up next to me, leaning his shoulder on the glass, staring at my profile. Our silence extends for several moments, my anxiety ratcheting from his quiet scrutiny.

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