On His Terms(10)

By: Jenika Snow

Clearing his throat, he sat in the seat across from her, unfolded his linen napkin that was in the form of some kind of waterfowl, and placed in on his lap. He leaned back, placed his arm over the back of the chair, and stared at her. They didn’t say anything for several seconds, and once the cook brought over a bowl of fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and a carafe of orange juice and a bottle of champagne, Rian excused him. They were left alone, the silence stretching between them, and her discomfort and confusion rising at what was happening right now.

“Juice, Miss Case?” He lifted up the carafe and looked pointedly at her.

“Mr. Hartford—”

“Call me Rian. I think for what I am going to propose to you the formalities can be pushed aside at this moment.”

What he was going to propose?

He grabbed her glass without waiting to see if she’d reply, and filled her glass with the orange, clearly fresh squeezed liquid.

“Mr. Hartford—”

“I’ve asked you to all me Rian, Miss Case, at least for today, and in return I’d like to call you Sorcha.” His voice had gone harder, as if her not calling him by his first name annoyed him. He set the carafe back on the table, grabbed his fork and knife, and started eating his food. For several seconds all Sorcha did was watch him. He even made eating an omelet somehow seem sexy. Damn him. He had to work out, because under that thin dress shirt she could see the definition of his muscles, could see the power he held in his body, and not only in his mind. He was a brilliant man, even if he acted like an asshole a lot of the time. Looking down at his hands, she saw the veins running along the back of his smooth, tanned flesh, and traced his big and masculine fingers with her gaze. Something was definitely wrong with what was going on, and it was sending up major red flags in her.

She lifted her gaze and stared at him. He was already watching her, his jaw working slowly as he chewed. He swallowed, and the sound of him doing the act seemed to drown out all other noises.

“Are you not hungry?” he said after he had taken a drink from his orange juice. He took his napkin, dabbed his mouth, and then leaned back. Again, that fucking dead air filled the space between them. “Eat, Sorcha.” He didn’t say it in a loud, booming voice, but the type of power he had behind those words made it seem like he had. “I can tell you’re hung-over, and some food will do you some good.” He leaned forward again, grabbed his fork, and started eating.

She did the same, and although her stomach protested with every swallow, as the time passed she started to feel marginally better. Once she had eaten and drunk as much as she could, she wiped her mouth, leaned back in her chair as he had done so many times, and waited for the ball to drop.

“So, you’re probably wondering why I called you in on a Saturday, and had this set-up when you came in?” He lifted an eyebrow, and she nodded.

“Yeah, it crossed my mind.” Sorcha licked her lips and noticed the way he lowered his gaze to watch the act.

“Let me ask you something, Sorcha. When you look at me what do you think?”

Was this a trick? A test?

“I’m not sure that I understand what you mean.” Her heart started beating fast again, and she shifted on her seat.

“Do I need to ask the question again? Rephrase it so that you can better understand it?” He was being a bastard again, and that was clear by the tone of his voice and this cocky fucking smirk that covered his face.

She felt her expression harden. Oh, she had a lot of things she could have said, a lot of things she had said in her mind and to Cora only. But they were things she sure as hell wasn’t going to tell Rian Hartford, not unless she wanted to lose her job. “You’re my employer, and therefore I see an intelligent man that knows how to run a business. I see a man that took over his father’s company at a young age, made it even wealthier.” She was playing safe, because she had no damn idea where he was going with all of this. He didn’t speak for a moment, and when he finally did he seemed angry, or at least the look on his face made her think he was.

“I didn’t ask for the sugarcoated explanation of what anyone could read in my bio. I want you to tell me what you see when you look at me. Off the record, without repercussions.” He started drumming his fingers on the table. Whether that was from nervousness or annoyance, she still hadn’t figured it out.

He seriously wanted her to call him out on the bullshit she thought about him? It seemed like a trick, and she didn’t speak for a second, and finally he exhaled roughly.

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