“Your ice cream is melting,” she finally said. “Why don’t we sit back down so that you can eat some of your pie before it drowns.”
Relief flared in his eyes, but beneath it she thought she recognized the same desire she hadn’t been able to push down within herself. Which was why, as he finally let her hand go and they both sat, she said, “Before you tell me more about your product, there’s something you need to know about me. I don’t mix business with pleasure.”
Jack looked surprised, and she got a sense that women hadn’t turned him down very many times in his thirty-two years. And why would they, she asked herself, when he was not only extraordinarily gorgeous, but he had a smile that could instantly make you feel as if you were the only woman in the world who mattered.
“So if you agree to represent my invention,” he clarified, “you won’t let me ask you out?”
Her stomach fluttered at the sheer thought of a proper date with Jack. One that would likely end in a kiss.
“It makes things too complicated.”
She still remembered the pain of having to continue working with a man she could barely stand to be in the same room with, of having to listen to Romain’s endless critiques and demands. She’d been too much of a professional to tell him where he could stick it and had had to make do with the vivid fantasies of what she’d wished she’d said to him.
Jack studied her for a few moments. “In that case, we’ll have to take care of business first.” But he reached across the table for her hand again and brushed his thumb across her palm. “And then we’ll move on to pleasure.”
It took every ounce of self-control for Mary to slide her hand away from his and to convince herself it was better this way. Instead of jumping into a sizzling-hot affair that could burn out just as quickly as it flared up, they’d get a chance to know each other better by working together first. And then, after they’d concluded their business affairs, if the sparks were still there between them, perhaps they could see about starting another kind of affair entirely.
Only, as Jack showed her how the Pocket Planner worked, instead of being able to keep her distance, she was increasingly seduced not only by how gorgeous he was—and she’d seen plenty of handsome men in her career—but also by his incredible intelligence.
And his passion.
“Thank you so much for agreeing to work with us, Ms. Ferrer,” Larry said as he pumped Mary’s hand enthusiastically in the lobby of Walter Industries the following day.
“You’re a lifesaver, Ms. Ferrer,” Howie said as he reached for her hand the very second Larry let it go, nearly pulling her arm loose from her shoulder socket in his excitement. “My girlfriend wanted me to tell you that she’s your biggest fan.”
She smiled warmly at both of the men. “Please, call me Mary.”
Jack had done his research after putting Mary into a cab in front of the diner last night. He’d quickly confirmed that he’d been having pie and coffee—and fumbling through every last second—with one of the most successful models in the world. No doubt, she had men throwing themselves at her feet, men with a hell of a lot more to their name than a dream.
She’d been right to get up and start to walk out on him last night at the diner. He’d deserved worse than that for the way he’d gracelessly asked her to be the face of their product, without making it clear that business wasn’t the only reason he wanted to spend time with her. It was just that as soon as they’d started talking about his invention, and she’d been clearly interested in it, he’d automatically fallen back into engineering mode, the same way he would have with Howie or Larry.
The hurt that had flashed across Mary’s face when she’d thought he was only interested in her as a spokesmodel for an advertising campaign had kept him up half the night.
Jack had lived his life using intelligent calculations and analysis. Not only did a model and an engineer not make any sense as a couple, but a serious relationship had never factored into his plans or his life. What’s more, it had been less than twenty-four hours since he’d met Mary. He should have been up all night planning for this meeting today with the board. If ever he needed to have perfect focus on his work, on making his long-held dream come true, it was right now.
But thoughts of Mary had remained front and center since the moment he’d set eyes on her.
Placing his hand gently on her lower back, he guided her away from his partners. She looked incredibly beautiful this morning in a long-sleeved navy wrap dress and high-heeled boots. There was a slim gold chain around her neck and another on her wrist. Her dark, glossy hair moved over her shoulders like silk, and her complexion was so perfect he honestly couldn’t tell if she was wearing any makeup. She was both naturally sensual and, at the same time, approachable and down-to-earth.
He wanted to tell her that he’d thought about her all night long, but he knew he needed to respect her request to keep business and pleasure separate.
“Do you have any questions for me about what’s going to happen in the boardroom?”
“I don’t think so. From what you explained to me last night, and the documents you couriered over early this morning, I think I have a good understanding of the selling points for the Pocket Planner.”
When they’d first met yesterday in Union Square, she’d smiled so easily at him. Now, her eyes were guarded. Jack silently cursed himself for putting those shadows there. She must still believe he wanted her more for business than he wanted her as a woman.