Blue-Eyed Devil Page 40

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My eyes widened. "I . . . I . . . your decision has nothing to do with me. Don't make me part of it."

"Would it bother you if I lived here?"

"Of course not," I said, a little too quickly.

He smiled lazily. "I'm not a man of many talents . . . but the few I've got are good ones. One of them being, I can always tell when someone's lying to me."

I had no choice but to admit the truth. "Okay. It might bother me a little."

"Why?"

He was good at throwing me off balance. I could feel my pulse kicking up with agitation. I didn't know what it was about Hardy that broke through my defenses. Damn, he was wily. Aggressive, pushy, but smart enough to cover it with easy charm. He was ten times the man Nick was, and he was just too much, too much in every way. If I ever let him close to me, I would deserve whatever I got, and the results wouldn't be pretty.

"Look," I said sharply, "whether you move here or not, I'm not interested in any kind of . . . whatever . . . with you."

His gaze didn't move from mine. His eyes were darker than a blueprint. "Define 'whatever.'"

"In this case it means sex."

"That's one of my other talents," he volunteered.

As distraught as I was, I almost smiled. "I'm sure that will make some of the female residents of 1800 Main very happy." I paused for emphasis. "But I won't be one of them."

"Understood. So where do I end up, Haven? . . . Here, or Post Oak?"

I made an impatient gesture to indicate it was of no consequence. "Move here if you want. It's a free country."

"Okay. I will."

I didn't like the way he said it. As if we had just made some kind of bargain.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Like hell he's gonna live here," jack said indignantly, pacing around my office later that day. He had dropped by for a quick visit to see how things were going. Although he would never admit it, I thought that Jack was mildly relieved that Vanessa was gone. Whenever she was around, she sent out discreet signals that she was angling for some kind of relationship that went beyond business. Thankfully, he didn't seem interested.While Jack fumed about Hardy, I sat behind my desk, trying to figure out some new software that had gone contrary on me.

"Here's the way I'm looking at it," I said, looking up from my laptop. "'Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.' What better way to find out what Hardy Cates is up to, than have him in our building? "

That made Jack pause. "I guess there's some sense in that. But why does he want to live here? If this is some whack deal about Gage and Liberty — "

"No, I honestly don't think that's it. I think he would have taken another apartment if it were available."

Jack sat on the edge of my desk. "He's got something up his sleeve. I guarantee it."

He sounded so certain that I gave him a questioning glance. "Have you met him before?"

"Yeah, about a year ago. He was going out with a girl I used to date and I happened to see her at a club, and we all talked for a few minutes."

"What did you think about him?"

A wry smile curved his lips. "Hate to admit it, but if it weren't for the shit he pulled with Gage's biofuel deal, and crashing the wedding, I might have liked the guy. We talked some hunting and fishing, and he struck me as a good ol' boy. And like him or not, you've got to hand it to him — that company of his is kicking ass."

"Why do you think that is?"

"He's pulled together a great team, and he can negotiate a tight deal. But mostly he's got the knack for finding oil. Call it luck, call it skill, but some people got it and some don't. Maybe he's not college-smart, but he's smart in a way they can't teach. Man, I wouldn't underestimate him." Jack dragged his hand through his dark hair, looking thoughtful. "Joe's met him."

I blinked in surprise. "What? Our brother Joe?"

"Yeah. Joe took his picture for that thing they did on him in Texas Monthly last year."

"What a coincidence," I said slowly. "What did Joe say about him?"

"Can't remember. I'll have to ask him." Jack frowned. "You think Cates has some kind of revenge thing going on against the Travises?"

"For what?"

"Because Gage married his old girlfriend?"

"That would be taking things a little far," I said skeptically. "I mean, they never even slept together."

Jack's brows rose. "How do you know?"

"He said so."

"You were talking about sex with Hardy Cates?" he asked in the same tone he would have used for et tu, Haven?

"Not like that," I said uncomfortably. "It was sort of a casual reference."

Jack gave me a long, hard stare. "If he so much as glances in your direction, I'm going to wipe the floor with his ass — "

"Jack, hush — "

" — and I'm gonna make that real clear to him before the contracts are signed."

"If you embarrass me that way, I'm going to find a new job. I swear it, Jack. Not a word to Hardy."

A long silence, while my brother stared at me. "Are you interested in Cates? " he asked.

"No!"

"Good. Because — and don't take this personal — I have no confidence in your ability to pick a decent guy for yourself. If you like someone, he's probably scum."

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