A Bargain with the Boss - Page 37

“The receptionist didn’t seem encouraging.” Amber referred to the woman who had asked them to leave the wellness resort.

“I can’t imagine his yoga participation requires the same confidentiality rules as, say, an STD diagnosis.”

“She did tell us the date he left.”

“More than five weeks ago.”

Amber took another sip of her wine, dark against her lush lips. Her face and shoulders were creamy and smooth. He remembered her taste, her scent and the feel of her lithe body enclosed in his arms.

“We should brainstorm about Dixon,” she said.

Tuck shook himself out of a fantasy that had him kissing a shadow next to her collarbone. “What do you mean?”

“What do you know about him? Any unfulfilled dreams, secret desires?”

“He doesn’t tell me his secret desires.” Nor did Tuck confide in Dixon. And he was especially keeping quiet about his feelings for Amber.

“Toss out anything,” she said. “What about when you were young, while you were growing up?”

“My desires have changed since I was young. I imagine his have, too.”

“Play along,” said Amber. “What else have we got to do?”

Tuck didn’t dare voice his ideas.

The slight breeze rustled her hair and she brushed it back from her cheek. “Funny thing, I was reminded earlier today that childhood events can impact our entire lives.”

He forced the sexy images from his mind. “You think Dixon is reacting to his childhood?”

“I think he’s reacting to exhaustion and a cheating wife. But how he reacts could be influenced by his core self-perception.”

“Core self-perception. Is that from the Highland Luminance brochure?”

“No.” Her tone turned defensive. “It’s from a documentary. But it’s valid. It just means who you think you are.”

“Who do you think you are, Amber? What’s your core self-perception?” He was more interested in her than in Dixon.

“That’s easy. I’m organized, a caretaker. I can’t leave people to their own mistakes.”

Tuck couldn’t help but smile at the answer. “You left me to my own mistakes.”

“Only after you fired me. Up until then, and against my own better judgment, I was helping you.”

He knew that she had. “I was grateful.”

“I could tell.”

“I hired you back,” he pointed out.

“Only because you needed me.”

“True. But here you are.”

“What about Dixon?”

“Don’t you want to know about me?” Tuck knew the question sounded a bit needy, but he couldn’t help himself.

“I already know your self-perception.”

“Do tell.”

“Talented, successful and good-looking. You know you’re talented because so many things come easy, and the rest is reflected back in the mirror.”

Her assessment was wholly unflattering.

“So I’m conceited?”

“I think you’re singularly realistic.”

“I was born into a rich family that had few expectations of me.”

She didn’t disagree.

“But that doesn’t make me feel talented and successful,” Tuck continued. “It makes me feel spoiled and useless.”

Her expression turned decidedly skeptical. “Yet you don’t do anything to change it.”

He refused to argue. If she hadn’t noticed how hard he’d been working lately, pointing it out to her wasn’t going to change a thing.

“I’m here, aren’t I?” he asked instead.

“To get back to the status quo.”

“For the benefit of Tucker Transportation.”

She seemed to consider that for a moment. “You’re doing a pretty good job, you know.”

At first he thought he must have misheard. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Don’t fish for compliments.”

“You took me by surprise with that.”

She leaned slightly forward. “You’re doing a pretty good job. This desperation to find Dixon is about you getting away again, not about the health of the company.”

“You’re wrong.” Tuck might have been reluctant to come on board, but he was actually glad he had. He’d felt more useful in the past six weeks than ever had before in his life.

“I’m right,” she said. “But we could go back and forth on it all night long.”

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