Jack’s eyes flash the darkest blue, and he sneers as he casts a leering look down my body.
Fear chokes me. What is this? What does he want? From somewhere deep inside and despite my dry mouth, I find the resolve and courage to squeeze out some words, my self-defense class keep-them-talking mantra circling my brain like an ethereal sentinel.
“Jack, now might not be a good time for this. Your cab is due in ten minutes, and I need to give you all your documents.” My voice is quiet but hoarse, betraying me.
He smiles, and it’s a despotic fuck-you smile that finally touches his eyes. They glint in the harsh fluorescent glow of the strip light above us in the drab windowless room. He takes a step toward me, glaring at me, his eyes never leaving mine. His pupils are dilating as I watch—the black eclipsing the blue. Oh no. My fear escalates.
“You know I had to fight with Elizabeth to give you this job . . .” His voice trails off as he takes another step toward me, and I step back against the dingy wall cupboards. Keep-him-talking, keep-him-talking, keep-him-talking.
“Jack, what exactly is your problem? If you want to air your grievances, then perhaps we should ask HR to get involved. We could do this with Elizabeth in a more formal setting.”Where is security? Are they in the building yet?
“We don’t need HR to overmanage this situation Ana,” he sneers. “When I hired you, I thought you would be a hard worker. I thought you had potential. But now, I don’t know.
You’ve become distracted and sloppy. And I wondered . . . is it your boyfriend who’s leading you astray?” He says boyfriend with chilling contempt.
“I decided to check through your e-mail account to see if I could find any clues. And you know what I found, Ana? What was out of place? The only personal e-mails in your account were to your hot-shot boyfriend.” He pauses, assessing my reaction. “And I got to thinking . . . where are the e-mails from him? There are none. Nada. Nothing. So what’s going on, Ana? How come his e-mails to you aren’t on our system? Are you some company spy, planted in here by Grey’s organization? Is that what this is?” Holy shit, the e-mails. Oh no. What have I said?
“Jack, what are you talking about?” I try for bewildered, and I’m pretty convincing.
This conversation is not going as I expected, but I don’t trust him in the slightest. Some subliminal pheromone that Jack is exuding has me on high alert. This man is angry, volatile, and totally unpredictable. I try to reason with him.
“You just said that you had to persuade Elizabeth to hire me. So how could I be planted as a spy? Make up your mind, Jack.”
“But Grey fucked the New York trip, didn’t he?”
“How did he manage that, Ana? What did your rich, Ivy League boyfriend do?” What little blood remains in my face drains away, and I think I’m going to faint. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jack,” I whisper. “Your cab will be here shortly.
Shall I fetch your things?” Oh please, let me go. Stop this.
Jack continues, enjoying my discomfort. “And he thinks I’d make a pass at you?” He smirks and his eyes heat. “Well, I want you to think about something while I’m in New York. I gave you this job, and I expect you to show me some gratitude. In fact, I’m entitled to it. I had to fight to get you. Elizabeth wanted someone better qualified, but I—I saw something in you. So, we need to work out a deal. A deal where you keep me happy. D’you understand what I’m saying, Ana?”
“Look at it as refining your job description, if you like. And if you keep me happy, I won’t dig any further into how your boyfriend is pulling strings, milking his contacts, or cashing in some favor from one of his Ivy League frat-boy sycophants.” My mouth drops open. He’s blackmailing me. For sex! And what can I say? News of Christian’s takeover is embargoed for another three weeks. I can barely believe this. Sex—
Jack moves closer until he’s standing right in front of me, staring down into my eyes.
His cloying sweet cologne invades my nostrils—it’s nauseating—and if I’m not mistaken, the bitter stench of alcohol is on his breath. Fuck, he’s been drinking . . . when?
“You are such a tight-assed, cock-blocking, prick tease, you know, Ana,” he whispers through clenched teeth.
What? Prick tease . . . Me?
“Jack, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I whisper, as I feel the adrenaline surge through my body. He’s closer now. I am waiting to make my move. Ray will be proud. Ray taught me what to do. Ray knows his self-defense. If Jack touches me—if he even breathes too close to me—I will take him down. My breath is shallow. I must not faint, I must not faint.
“Look at you.” He gives me a leering look. “You’re so turned on, I can tell. You’ve really led me on. Deep down you want it. I know.”
Holy fuck. The man is completely delusional. My fear rises to defcon one, threatening to overwhelm me. “No, Jack. I have never led you on.”
“You have, you prick-teasing bitch. I can read the signs.” Reaching up, he gently strokes my face with the back of his knuckles, down to my chin. His index finger strokes my throat, and my heart leaps into my mouth as I fight my gag reflex. He reaches the dip at the base of my neck, where the top button of my black shirt is open, and presses his hand against my chest.
“You want me. Admit it, Ana.”
Keeping my eyes firmly fixed on his and concentrating on what I have to do—rather than my mushrooming revulsion and dread—I place my hand gently over his in a caress.