He gave the sexiest, slyest, smile I’d ever seen and no matter how hard I tried, my body ached to admit the truth, just so that he would touch me again.
“There’s my proof, Emma.” He tasted his fingertip, the one that had just barely stroked me, and gave a low growl of approval. “Don’t play this game, because I’ll win. Every time.”
The kettle whistled just then and Rhys turned, took it off the burner, and walked out the front door leaving me breathless, confused and . . .
“That son of bitch.”
Horny as hell. And not in a general way. I was hot, wet and ready for one man. The same one who had just called me out, taken the upper hand in every way and we both knew it.
“Once this whole thing is over and I get money, I’ll pay you back, you know,” I said, tapping my fork against the plate of pancakes the waiter had just set in front of me.
“You’re welcome,” Rhys said and cut into his steak.
He looked at me from across the small diner table, and nodded. “I know, Emma. You don’t have to keep explaining this to me. Just say thank you and eat your damn pancakes.”
“Thank you,” I said quietly.
I unfolded my napkin, laid it in my lap and looked around. The little diner was quaint. A few customers sat at the counter next to the pie case and the whole feel was small-town middle of nowhere. Not the normal idea of what you thought of when you thought New York.
“Everything tasting good?” An older man with a short white beard called to us from behind the counter, smiling and waving at Rhys.
“Everything is great, Teddy. Best steak I’ve ever had,” Rhys replied and the old man smiled like Rhys’s approval was the single best thing he’d ever heard. It was the same kind of smile the waitress gave earlier when she dropped off our food. Was Rhys president of the diner or something? Or maybe this entire town? Because people kept glancing our way and tipping their hats at him. This town obviously loved their local hero. And I sat, silent. Maybe it was a city upbringing, but Rhys handled being paid attention to really well. Getting attention was a foreign concept to me. Much less getting positive attention.
“Do you always eat breakfast for dinner?” Rhys asked, returning his attention to me.
I shrugged and cut into my pancakes. “Sometimes. It’s my favorite food. Any time of day.” I glanced around again. The few people nearby were taking turns to look my way. I leaned across the table a bit to whisper to Rhys. “I thought I was supposed to be off the grid?”
“I grew up in this town and know just about all of the four thousand people who live here. Mase didn’t follow us and we’ll have to be coming into town anyway for some things over the next few weeks.” He leaned in a little, mirroring my movements and bringing us nearly nose to nose. His eyes zoomed in on mine. “I wouldn’t put you in danger.”
I wanted to say, I know, but I couldn’t. Something deep inside made me trust this man. Maybe it was the way he seemed to read me. Or maybe it was because the other night, when we had sex, that pull I felt to him from the moment I met him had solidified into some kind of connection. Either way, it was stupid for me to trust him completely, but I was having a hard time helping it.
“How do you know Mase didn’t follow us?” I asked.
He scoffed and smiled as if my question was absurd and took another bite of his meal. “I know.”
“Ah.” I raised my chin. “All that military background and now your security company. You must be good at what you do.”
He shrugged. “I have a limited skill set that I use to my advantage.”
I’ll say. Rhys was CEO of Striker Solutions, multimillion-dollar security company catering to the elite and entitled. He employed bodyguards, personal drivers and teams. The ultra-wealthy and powerful went to him for all their personal detail and security needs.
“Don’t you have to work? Don’t you need to be in the city to oversee things or something?”
“Yeah.” I swallowed a bite of pancake. “You’re the CEO. I mean, you’ve got the build for a bodyguard and all, but you don’t actually sell your personal services, do you?”
“I just spent several weeks there taking care of various issues in the city,” he said, bypassing my recent question and answering my earlier one. “I have good people who can run things smoothly.”
Must be nice. “So this is like your vacation time?”
His eyes skated over me and a hot shiver broke over my skin. “Something like that.”
I took a big bite of pancake and hoped the sugar would somehow satisfy me. Too bad I was wanting something else. Something on the other side of the table. And like he pointed out earlier, I had yet to stop thinking of him, or that night. Which was a problem, since I had launched Operation Don’t Fall for Rhys Striker. Or at least don’t like him for more than a sex-buddy. Because damn it, my body was craving him bad.
“So.” I pushed the pieces of pancake around the plate in their syrup pool. “You know all this crap going on with me. Tell me something about you.”
The slightest grin nudged at his lips. “You’re not trying to get to know me, are you? Maybe because you like me?”
“No,” I shot out quickly. “I just figured it was polite to ask.”
He smiled. “Well, with charm like that, how can I deny you?”
His flirty little tease made me want to giggle. Then slap myself for wanting to do something as lame as giggle. Before I could ask him more, a chipper voice rang out behind me.
I turned to see a slim, redhead with perfectly coifed hair, wide smile and bright blue eyes that matched her sweater set, walk our way. Suddenly, my brown hair felt tangled and the need to smooth my hands over my plain T-shirt was overwhelming.
“Sara,” Rhys said and stood up to hug her. She lingered in that hug a little longer than I thought necessary, but whatever. “How are you?”
“I’m great. Just ended my shift at the hospital and starting my shift here in a few minutes.”
“Yeah.” Sara smiled and her gaze roamed the entire expanse of Rhys’s body and there was definitely interest behind it. “Things have been pretty slow and all the nurses’ shifts are cut back, so I picked up a few here. I didn’t know you were back in town.” Sara’s eyes landed on me. “Oh, hello there.”