“What were you going to do, attack me with the stapler?” he asked. “That’ll only work if it’s a heavy-duty one, and even then you don’t throw it, you’ll miss. You swing it with as much momentum as you can muster and hit the guy on the head. As long as it’s not my head.”
With a grimace that could have been annoyance or embarrassment, she set it back on the shelf. “All I knew was that it wasn’t Joe coming down the hall. He walks with a heavier gait and also he’s still slightly favoring his left foot from when he broke it last year. I thought it might be you because you walk like a wildcat stalking his prey but I couldn’t be sure.”
Now wasn’t the time to be impressed with her skills. He already knew she was amazing, and if she wasn’t bat-shit crazy, he’d have hired her a long time ago.
Hell, who was he kidding? He couldn’t hire her, she’d kill him in his sleep.
Or vice versa.
Her gaze went to the bandage around his arm. “Are you okay?” she asked.
“Oh, no,” he said. “You first. What the hell are you doing here in the middle of the night?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say middle of the night exactly. It’s only midnight.”
“That’s not an answer, Elle.”
She hesitated and looked away. A very rare tell for a woman who seldom if ever gave herself away. He decided he was too tired for this, for these games that he didn’t ever seem to have a full set of rules to. “You broke into my office.”
“Technically, no,” she said. “I didn’t break in, there was no need.”
“Yeah, because you flashed those dangerous baby blues at Joe,” he said.
“Don’t blame Joe.”
“I don’t. I blame you.”
Eyes still on his arm, she took a step closer to him. Brave to the end. Always had been too. Few people dared half the shit with him that she did, but for some reason with her he allowed it. Clearly it was early onset of insanity due to misguided lust, he decided. “What did you need in my office, Elle? What’s on my computer?”
“Was it deep?” she asked, very gently running a finger down his injured arm. “Did you need a lot of stitches? Are there any complications?”
He caught her hand in his. “No, no, and no.” His other hand went to her ponytail, which he used to tug her face up to his. The gesture felt shockingly intimate and a vision came to him of other reasons why he might fist his hand in her hair to hold her head.
Maybe he’d hit his own head tonight and didn’t know it. That would explain a lot. “Now you,” he said. “What are you up to, Elle?”
“A lie,” he said. “Let me guess why. You were mad that I cut short your booty call. Then you sent me an email that you clearly regret sending so you broke in here with the intention of deleting it from my computer before I could read it on my phone. How am I doing?”
She was good. Really good. She didn’t even wince at the realization he’d already read the email. She simply inhaled slow and deep and said, “It wasn’t a booty call. It was a date.”
“It was Mike,” he said. “It was totally a booty call. You need to learn the difference.”
She stared at him for a long time, clearly taking this in, torn between trusting him and holding on to her mad. “He seems like a nice guy,” she finally said.
“He is. He’s a nice guy who loves women. All of them.”
She took this in as well and then hugged herself, another rare tell. “I’m single. That gives me the right to see who I want and do whatever I want with them.”
Then it was his turn to draw in a slow, controlled breath, during which he tried to erase the image of her doing “whatever she wanted” with Mike.
Or any man other than him.
Christ, he had it bad.
“Look,” she said. “You pissed me off with the Neanderthal act of ending my date, okay? You don’t have any claim on me, Archer.”
Their gazes locked and held while he bit his tongue to keep the words in. Bit it hard too. Because it hadn’t been an act at all. Just the real him. “We done here?”
Her eyes narrowed. Yep, if the steam coming out of her ears meant anything, they were completely done.
Elle whirled away to leave, but her temper took over and before she could stop herself, she spun back. “And for your information, I do know the difference between a date and a booty call. A date is when two people go out and enjoy each other’s company, not just falling into bed like you probably did last week with that woman from the pub after the distraction job. Because that, Archer, that was a booty call.”
“What are you talking about?”
She gaped at him, not sure if she was surprised or pissed. “You don’t even remember. Unbelievable. I hope she gave you something that makes your dick fall off.”
He stared at her and then laughed.
“The other day you announced that I’ve got a full body rash and now you hope my dick falls off,” he repeated, still grinning. “Priceless.”
She saw red. She gave him a nudge that was maybe more of a push because he was in her personal-space bubble again, looking big, bad, and just rumpled enough to be sexy as hell. The push didn’t do anything. Of course it didn’t. First she’d been careful because of his arm and, second, no one could budge the stubborn ass unless he allowed it, which didn’t stop her from doing it again.
“Stop,” he said, eyes still flashing but not with amusement now.
She heard the danger in his voice but she couldn’t heed it. She’d lost her shit. So she shoved him again and before she could blink, he’d curled his fingers into her sweater and pulled her to him, reversing their position to push her against the wall and pin her there with his hard, badass body, eyes dark as midnight.
When he spoke, his words threw her for a loop.
“You carry my knife on you,” he said. “All the time.”
He wasn’t touching her with his hands. One was planted on the wall on the side of her face, the other was at his side, probably because it hurt to lift it. If she turned her head to the side, her mouth would brush against his forearm. It was shocking how badly she wanted to do that. “It’s a righteous knife,” she managed.