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A Baby for the Boss(5)

By:Maureen Child

“Who the hell do you think you are?” she asked, voice trembling.

“Mike Ryan.”

She staggered at the name. Mike Ryan. One of the owners of Celtic Knot. Jenny knew their work, knew the art and graphic design that went into every one of their games. She’d admired them for years, had hoped to one day work for them—which wouldn’t happen now. Not only did he clearly think she was a spy—and oh yes, a whore—but she couldn’t imagine herself working for a man who made snap decisions with zero thought behind them.

“Uh-huh,” he said, nodding as if he’d just had every one of his suspicions verified. “So you do know me.”

“Now,” she said. “I didn’t last night. Not when I met you. Not when we...” She pushed one hand through her hair and kept clutching the blanket with the other. Best not to think about everything they’d done because she’d do something completely stupid like blush, for heaven’s sake. With her fair skin, the moment she was embarrassed, her cheeks lit up like a red light at an intersection.

“And I’m supposed to take your word for that,” he said.

Her gaze sharpened and narrowed on him. “It seems you don’t need anything but your own suspicions to make up your mind. You’ve already decided who and what I am, why should I argue with you over it?”

“You know, playing the outraged innocent isn’t nearly as convincing as the seductress I met last night.”

She sucked in a gulp of air and fed the flames burning in her belly. “You arrogant, conceited, smug bastard.”

One dark eyebrow winged up and a look of pure male amusement tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Doing better now. The outrage almost looks real.”

Her heart pounded so hard in her chest it was a wonder he couldn’t hear it. She half expected her heart to crash right through her rib cage. “This isn’t an act, you jackass. Think about it. I didn’t seduce you. You approached me in the bar. And nobody forced you into my bed. As I remember it you came willingly enough.”

“Several times,” he said, playing on her words just to irritate her further.

It worked.

“That’s it. I don’t have to listen to any more of your paranoid ramblings. Get out of my room.” She swung one hand toward the door and stabbed the air with her index finger.

He grabbed his black jacket off a nearby chair and shrugged it on. “Oh, I’m going. No worries there. I wouldn’t stay if you begged me to.”

“That’s not gonna happen.”

He snorted again, a particularly annoying, insulting sound. Striding across the room to the door, he stopped before he opened it and looked back over his shoulder at her. “Tell your uncle I said nice try, but no cigar. Celtic Knot won’t be doing a deal with him no matter how many attractive nieces he tosses into my bed.”

Jenny picked up a wineglass from the room service tray they’d shared the night before and hurled it at him. He was through the door and out before the glass shattered against the wood to lie in splinters on the floor.

Jenny sighed and took another sip of her wine. She hadn’t thought to even see Mike Ryan again, but then six months later, his brother, Sean, had offered her a job that was simply too good to pass up. The chance to work on the kind of art she loved was worth the risk of being around Mike every day. And frankly, by being on-site every day, she was silently telling Mike Ryan that what he’d done hadn’t hurt her. Hadn’t crushed her. Of course that was a big, fat lie, but he didn’t have to know that. Working at Celtic Knot was a dream that only occasionally became a nightmare when she was forced to deal with Mike.

Of course now, the nightmare would be a 24/7 thing for the next few months. Yes, she was excited about being the artist to design the murals for the River Haunt hotel. But having to work one-on-one with Mike was going to make it all so much more grueling than it should have been. Still, she wouldn’t back off. Oh, Jenny knew that Mike wanted her off the project, but this was too big an opportunity for her to turn tail and run. Especially, she reminded herself, since she’d done nothing wrong.

He was the one who had plenty to apologize for. He was the one who’d insulted her, humiliated her and then stomped off without so much as listening to her side of the story.

So why should she be the one to pay a price?

The knock on her door interrupted her thoughts and she told herself, if it was a salesman, she’d buy whatever he was selling out of simple gratitude.

She opened the door and stared up into Mike Ryan’s blazing blue eyes. Without waiting to be invited in, he pushed his way past her and marched into her apartment with all the determination of Grant taking Richmond.