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“…are you even listening to me?”

“Of course I am,” I said automatically. Seated on the other side of my desk, the besuited and very blonde Lindsey Byrd, my PR director for the last six years, made an unladylike sound of skepticism. I dragged my attention back to her. “I’ve been listening very closely to everything you’ve been saying.”

I hadn’t been. Instead I’d been staring at my assistant Ryan’s ear through the glass door of my office. Above it was a curl of chestnut brown hair that always stuck out despite Ryan’s best efforts to tame it. I’d caught him several times trying to push it down with his fingers.

It wasn’t what it seemed. It was just that my best thoughts happened when my brain was engaged with something else, and I was bored with the D.C. panorama outside my window, as expansive—and expensive—as it was. The view of Ryan’s head offered a convenient alternative.

Lately, though, I’d been finding his ear weirdly sexy.

Lindsey turned to track where my gaze had been, her eyes narrowing when they reached their target. “Don’t tell me—”

“Of course not.” I might think he had sexy ears, but Ryan was my personal assistant. Most days he was an adequately good one. More importantly, he’d lasted nearly eighteen months without telling me to fuck off or bursting into tears in my office or throwing a water bottle at my head, all of which had happened with his predecessors. More than once.

“I hope not. I happen to be fond of my nephew.”

“Did you really think I would seduce him?” I asked curiously. Lindsey was the one who’d recommended Ryan for the position in the first place.

She shrugged. “I know your reputation. My job is to fix the mess you’ve made with it, remember?”

“I thought your job was to smooth all the ruffled feathers of people who don’t like what I do or who I am. Not to police my sex life.”

“Trust me, I don’t have the energy to police your sex life. Just keep my nephew out of it.”

Lindsey was as good a PR director as Ryan was a PA, and she’d known me long enough to tell me what she really thought, which was a rare quality in any employee and one I valued. I wasn’t about to jeopardize my relationship with either her or her nephew by sleeping with him. They both made my life easier, and I liked people who made my life easier.

“Don’t worry, Ryan is safe with me.”

Lindsey looked unconvinced, but she turned back to her planner notebook where all her PR magic happened and picked up where I’d stopped listening. “As I was saying, I was able to book you an interview with Donnelly next month, though it took some negotiating.”

I hated interviews, particularly ones with puffed-up pompous asses like Brett Donnelly. “Is that really necessary?”

“It is if you want to control the narrative around the Keystone merger. Generally people don’t like it when billionaires buy up companies and then fire all the employees.”

“People don’t like knowing where their meat comes from, either. Maybe more of them should wake up and face the reality of the world we live in.”

Lindsey gave me a look, the one that said I was being an unfeeling bastard. I was used to that look. “Try not to lead with that in the interview, okay? Anyway, I told Donnelly to stick to the merger, but he insisted on leeway to ask about your personal life.”

“The media does love its salacious gay stories.” I’d certainly been the subject of enough of them.

Lindsey looked up from her notebook and tapped her pen against her lips. “It would help if you settled down with one of your conquests already. Start cultivating the image of a family man.”

I held back a snort. Settling down was so far off my radar it might as well be a blip in space. I didn’t see the point. I’d long since come to terms with the fact that my conquests, as Lindsey put it, were far more interested in my money than me.

Not that I didn’t have anything else to offer. I hadn’t made People’s top ten sexiest men three years in a row for nothing. But looks always took a back seat to wealth, when you had enough of it.

“If I made your job that easy, where would be the challenge?” I ignored the sound she made. “I promise to behave myself with Donnelly, but you have to admit, ruthless playboy gets a lot more clicks than stay-at-home family man.”

“Your image can’t handle any more clicks.” She sighed. “Speaking of, I was finally able to get through to SandBox.”

I sat up straighter in my chair. This I actually cared about. “Did you talk to Lorde? What did he say?”

“That there’s no way in hell he’s selling you the company.”

Huh. “Did he actually use those words?”

She consulted her notebook. “I believe his exact words were, ‘Tell Graham it will be a cold day in hell before I let him destroy everything I’ve built.’”

That felt excessive. I wasn’t planning on destroying his company. I just wanted the imaging software at the heart of it. Once I had that, I didn’t particularly care what happened to the company. I could leave Lorde in charge if he wanted.

“Tell him I want to talk. I’m willing to negotiate for whatever he wants.”

“I’m not sure that’s on the table,” she said frankly. “He doesn’t want to sell you the license or the company. I don’t think you’ll change his mind.”

If Lindsey believed that was enough to deter me, she didn’t know me as well as I thought. “What’s his schedule for the next few weeks?”

She sighed, conceding defeat. “I’ll get it to you by the end of the day.”

I smiled. “Excellent. Was there anything else?”

“Nothing that can’t wait.” She rose from her chair, and because even unfeeling bastards could be gentlemen, I stood and walked her out of my office.

Ryan looked up when we went through the door, giving his aunt a smile and me an inquiring look when I lingered at his desk after she’d left.

I didn’t actually have a reason for hanging around. “Did Slake finally stop calling?”

Ryan’s brows crinkled in a frown. I’d put him in charge of monitoring the phone number I gave to the men I took home, because inevitably they didn’t get the message that it was one night and no more. That I had no interest in being the billionaire jackpot they were hoping for.

Some were more persistent than others, even after the flowers and the apologies and the firm refusals—all of which Ryan excelled at. Really, he should be a professional relationship breaker with all the practice I gave him.

“He has, actually,” Ryan said, pursing his full lips. I knew he found this part of the job distasteful. I admit, I enjoyed seeing the irritated frown line appear between his brows. With most people eager to kiss my ass with lies and flattery, it was refreshing. “Stopped calling, anyway.”

He held out the phone, then flushed when I perched on the edge of his desk and leaned in close to take it. I wondered if that was the reason, or if it was simply his disapproval further manifesting itself.

I held the phone in one hand and thumb-scrolled through the many pictures Slake had sent. He was a model—thus the idiotic moniker—and he really did have a nice body, which I vaguely remembered from our night together. I wondered if Slake had had the shots professionally taken, and if he’d fucked the photographer after.

I held the phone back out to him. “What do you think I should do?” 

By the hot pink flush of his ears, Ryan knew I was teasing him. He snatched the phone from my hand. “I think you should call him.”

“And say what?” I asked, curious.

“That you’re not interested. And you’re sorry for dicking him around.”

“You’re the one who’s been corresponding with him,” I pointed out. “Have you been dicking him around?”

“You know what I mean.” Ryan bit his bottom lip. I stared at the red dent his teeth made. “I’ve broken up with him every way I can think of, but he won’t quit.”

“Then I think that makes him the dick, not you. And certainly not me.”

Ryan snorted. “I’m not the one who slept with him in the first place.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Last I checked, that wasn’t a crime.”

Ryan flushed again, probably because he’d just been called out for slut-shaming his boss. “Of course not.” He shoved the phone in a drawer of his desk. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

His sheer sincerity still stunned me sometimes, like a slap to the face. I was being an ass, and he was trying to reassure me he didn’t think any less of me for it.

Sometimes Ryan fucking terrified me.

In the lull of my silence, Ryan said awkwardly, “Don’t forget you have the Pryor party tonight.”

I had indeed forgotten about Grace Pryor’s party. I considered skipping it, but Grace had a long memory. “Is my Brioni suit—”

“The service dropped it off at your place this morning,” Ryan said, because he was in fact a good assistant.

“Thank you.” I slid off his desk to go back to my own, ignoring my reluctance to leave. I clearly needed more to do if I could waste time chatting with an employee.

Still, I hesitated, curiosity winning out. “What are you going to tell Slake?”

Ryan didn’t toss his head, exactly, but it was close. “That he’s hot and deserves someone better.”

I suppressed a smile. “He is hot. And he probably does deserve someone better.”

Ryan’s eyes narrowed. At which part, I didn’t know. “Hopefully he’ll see that too.”

I wasn’t so sure, but it wasn’t actually my problem. That was why I had Ryan. “I trust you’ll handle it beautifully.”

Ryan gave me a look, one of long-suffering…fondness, almost, though that couldn’t be right, not with the amount of shit I put him through daily. Even people who liked me for reasons outside my money—and there weren’t many, people or reasons—weren’t actually fond of me.

Despite what I’d told Lindsey, I’d wondered more than once what it would be like to seduce him. If he’d even let me. I wasn’t entirely sure. He could be surprisingly unpredictable. Take his reaction to Slake, for instance. I hadn’t expected him to care so much about the feelings of a one-night stand.

It was a moot point. Because the real reason I’d never tried to seduce him? The one I’d never tell his aunt? Was that I’d just end up ruining him.

Like this, he was perfect.