Only with You (The Best Mistake #1) - Page 8

“Wow, you liking no clutter? That’s a shocker.”

She was oddly relieved that the hunting paraphernalia wasn’t his. Sophie was a bit of an animal lover and certainly didn’t need one more reason to dislike him.

She settled uninvited into the chair across from him. “So, what’s up, boss?”

Silence. Sophie waited impatiently while he finished whatever it was that he was reading. She accidentally-on-purpose let the toe of her supercute new shoe bump against his desk.

Thump. Thump. ThumpThumpThump. THUMP.

Finally he finished his reading and set it aside. She was pretty sure he’d just been staring at a blank piece of paper in order to make her wait on him, but considering she’d taken five minutes to put on lipstick for that same purpose, she didn’t judge.

“First things first, Ms. Dalton—”

“Stop with that. Call me Sophie.”

Gray paused. Blinked at her. Considered. “No, I don’t think so.”

She couldn’t resist an eye roll.

“As I was saying, Ms. Dalton, there are a couple things I want to address before we discuss your long-term, routine responsibilities as executive assistant to the president.”

“Oh, is that your title? I didn’t see it plastered all over your fifty different nameplates.”

His poker face didn’t budge. “I understand that this job is a new…career direction for you. Care to explain why?”

Sophie’s carefree attitude evaporated. He was poking in areas that nobody had access to. “I don’t really see how my motivations are relevant.”

Just fire me so we can get this over with.

He pressed on. “So you’re telling me that quitting your waitressing job the very day after you got back from Las Vegas—”

“How did you know that?”

As if she needed to ask. Obviously Brynn had given him the details. Reason number eight hundred and fifty-four why it was a bad idea to work for someone who dated your only sibling.

Gray proceeded as though she hadn’t interrupted. “You quit a waitressing job just days after I assumed that you were a prostitute. Are the two incidents related?”

“Maybe I just got tired of the lousy tips.”

“So then you’d find a more upscale restaurant, you wouldn’t just wiggle your way into the corporate world!”

Sophie sneered. “Says the man born in a white collar.”

Gray leaned forward slightly. “I’ve met your parents, Sophie. I’ve seen the house you grew up in. Still want to talk to me about white-collar?”

She flushed. Whoops.

“Point taken,” she grated out. “And since you’re the one who brought up my family, aren’t we going to talk about the fact that it’s weird that you’re dating my sister?”

“I thought we established the awkwardness of that connection in your parents’ powder room.”

Sophie shifted uncomfortably, remembering exactly how charged that particular confrontation had been. “Well, then you shouldn’t have given me a job,” she muttered.

“You weren’t supposed to accept!”

Sophie sucked in a breath at his outburst. She couldn’t help it—his reaction stung. She’d known all along that he’d been merely trapped by her sister’s interference and that he didn’t actually want to hire her. But a small, pathetic part of her thought that maybe he’d offered because he wanted to keep her around.

Fool, she thought harshly. Men like Gray did not relish connections with women who wore miniskirts and ratty jeans and whose résumés boasted how many shots they could carry on a tray. Somehow she didn’t think he’d appreciate the nuances of a Buttery Nipple.

Oh God, do not put “Grayson Wyatt” and “nipple” in the same thought, she instructed her sex-starved brain.

“Ms. Dalton, what I was trying to get at with my questions…I need to know whether your decision to hastily quit your waitressing job had anything to do with my less-than-gentlemanly assessment of you in that elevator.”

Sophie threw up her hands in exasperation. Clearly the man was not going to give up. “Okay fine. Yes. YES. The whole mistaken-for-a-hooker thing wasn’t exactly a balm on my ego. And so, yes, I decided it might be time to change some things in my life. Happy now?”

His lips pressed into a firm line before he nodded once. “Okay.”

“‘Okay’? That’s it?”

Sophie saw temper flash across his gaze and he very purposefully set one palm on his desk as he leaned forward.

“What exactly am I supposed to say? My corporate life has just become a nightmare, and I have to accept that I have nobody but myself to blame. All because I hurt a party girl’s feelings and inspired her to play dress-up.”

Anger snaked down Sophie’s spine and she stood up, slapping her own palms on his desk so she could get in his face. “That’s why you regret insulting me? Because it led to this?”

As she said “this,” she waved her hand between their two bodies, and Gray’s eyes followed the motion of her hand before he halfway stood and put his face within inches of hers.

“Quit,” he commanded.

Sophie could feel his breath on her face. “Fire me.”

“And have a lawsuit on my hands? I don’t think so. You’d sue me halfway to China.”

“Well, I’m not going to add ‘quitter’ to my lengthy list of flaws, so if you want me gone, you’ll have to haul me out by the hair,” she shot back.

Sophie saw his fingers flex briefly and suspected there was nothing he’d like more than to follow through with her suggestion. But the hot, angry Gray was slowly fading.

Sophie watched with an odd pang of disappointment as the Ice Man returned, and he slowly lowered to his chair. For a moment he’d seemed so…alive.

“How about a compromise?”

She squinted warily. “What sort of compromise?”

“It’s more of a trial period, actually. One week to see if we can put the past behind us.”

Sophie considered. One week. She could do that. Probably.

People separated the personal and professional all the time, and half of her friends hated their bosses. Maybe her situation wasn’t so different after all.

And the sad truth was, she needed this job. It was either this or ask her parents for a loan. Her stomach turned at the thought.

“Okay,” she snapped, before she could change her mind. “It’s a deal.”

She expected him to respond with smugness. After all, she had just agreed to his terms. With no arguing. Everything she knew about him so far said he should be gloating.

Instead he looked…panicked.

But about what?

Once again, the flicker of humanity she thought she saw disappeared from his face in an instant.

“Fine,” he said with a dismissive wave. “We’ll reassess the situation next Friday.”

She nodded in agreement. “And in the meantime? Anything you want me to do besides answer the phone and follow your bidding?”

His silver eyes seemed to burn hot before he shifted his gaze to the wall behind her. “How do you feel about decorating?”

Sophie shrugged. “Amenable.” I hope you like pink.

“Amenable,” he repeated. “That must be a first for you.”

He waved his hand in the general direction of the dead animal gallery. “Get rid of all this. Donate it, sell it, keep it, ship it back to Martin Brayburn. I don’t care what you do with it so long as you get it out. Once that’s complete, we’ll discuss what I want to replace it with. If anything.”

“Should I be writing this down?” she asked sweetly.

“If you think you need to.”

Sophie rolled her eyes. “Anything else? Boss?”

“Mr. Wyatt,” he corrected.

“Whatever.” She was already heading to the door.

“Sophie,” he called, just as she was about to walk out.

She felt a weird jolt at hearing him say her first name. She ignored said jolt. “Yeah?”

“Do you think we’ll be able to survive a week of…this?”

She didn’t have to ask what he meant by “this.” But of course neither one of them would put a name to it and say it out loud.

Not with their history. Not with their work relationship. Not with her sister.

“I don’t know, Mr. Wyatt,” she responded. “But it will be fun to find out.”

CHAPTER FIVE

I don’t think Bambi would appreciate how much trouble you’re giving me,” Sophie muttered at the deer head that was staying stubbornly mounted to Gray’s office wall. “Oh God. You’re not Bambi, are you?”

The thought made her shiver, which in turn made her teeter on the ladder.

“Pull it together, Sophie,” she commanded once she’d regained her balance.

She pushed Bambi out of her mind and tried to force herself to think of the hunting trophy as a thing.

Davie the Deer was the last to go, and was proving far more stubborn than Elvis the Elk, Morrie the Moose, and Benny the Bear.

Not that

she’d gotten attached to the poor guys while she’d been taking them down or anything.

“Come on, Davie,” she said, easing her hands around to where the plaque met the wall. “Work with me here. This looked so easy when Jeff did it.”

Jeff Andrews was Brayburn’s vice president of sales and had become one of her first friends at the company ever since he’d rescued her Red Vines from the vending machine on her first day. He’d offered to help her out, and she’d happily taken him up on it.

But after handily pulling down most of the heads, Jeff had deserted her. Something about couples’ therapy with the wife. He’d seemed more excited about the dead animals.

“Focus, Sophie.” She had to get the damn wall cleared before he returned from his dentist’s appointment.

Today was it. The end of their one-week trial. Sophie couldn’t afford to fail at the one task Gray had asked of her. As in, she literally could not afford it. Not after the whopping credit card bill she’d opened this morning. Unemployment was not an option. Even if the alternative was being employed by the devil.

Sophie took a deep breath and tugged again at the deer. Nothing. Kicking off her shoes, she let them drop to the floor and tried once more. She felt two nails break, and the obstinate deer head stayed exactly where it was.

She pulled back to glare at Davie for several moments. “I hate you,” she whispered. “You’re going to get me fired.”

Feeling frazzled and desperate, Sophie grabbed at Davie’s nose and pulled as hard as she could.

Davie stayed.

Sophie did not.

She let out a high-pitched squeal as she reeled backward on the ladder. Her last thought was that it was all Davie’s fault as she started a graceless tumble.

Straight into Grayson Wyatt’s arms.

She heard his grunt as she fell into him, her back slamming into his chest. The impact was hard enough to jar her teeth, but it was a heck of a lot better than breaking her neck on the office floor.

His arms shouldn’t have felt familiar. Shit, why did they feel familiar?

Probably just reliving that initial moment of terror in Las Vegas, Sophie told herself, remembering the way she’d thrown herself at him then. Still, the sheer rightness of his embrace felt out of place, considering the wrongness of the moment. But she didn’t move.

Neither did he.

Sophie felt his heart hammering again against her back. Her own stupid heart was beating a bit too fast, although she wasn’t sure if it was from the near-death experience or her proximity to a very nice-smelling male.

One strong arm was wrapped around her waist, and the other banded protectively over her chest. Her toes weren’t even touching the ground, but from some deep, abandoned part of her soul, she realized she hadn’t felt this safe in as long as she could remember.

Her soul was apparently a fool. There was nothing safe about this man.

The fingers near her waist moved upward ever so slightly, and Sophie’s eyes fluttered shut for a moment before she realized that he was merely adjusting his grip.

“You okay?” His breath was hot against her ear, and she couldn’t seem to force any words out. She nodded and shifted slightly under his grasp, trying not to be too aware of the firm male body pressed against hers.

His fingers tightened again at her movements, and this time it was Gray who hissed out a breath. He set her down roughly and yanked his arms back as though she’d burned him.

She felt a flash of regret that the moment was over, but she steeled herself and turned around to face him, ready to deal with the lecture she instinctively knew was coming.

He didn’t yell. Of course he didn’t. But his eyes were screaming murder.

“What the hell were you doing?” His voice was as hard as she’d ever heard it, and she couldn’t resist taking the smallest step backward. The ladder blocked her escape.

“I, um…just doing as you asked. Getting rid of the animal heads.” She gestured toward the corner of his office where Jeff had set the remaining trophies.

His eyes never left her face.

“I see that. My question was why you were doing it by yourself. Do you have any idea how much those things weigh? Did you even think?”

Her embarrassment was starting to give way to indignation. “Don’t talk to me like I’m a child. I was merely following your instructions!”

Gray blanched. “My instructions? When I asked you to clear out my office safari I didn’t mean you had to do it yourself!”