“I’m not an asshole, Van…”
“No, you’re not allowed to get your man-whore hands on her.”
“Hey! I am not—”
“Yeah, you are,” Beau says with a grin.
I sigh and roll my shoulders. “Not having the same date twice doesn’t make me a whore.”
Van simply raises a brow. “Leave her be.”
“I’m a professional, Van. I don’t sleep with the employees.”
“Is that what you said to that assistant that sued us a few years back?”
“God.” Van shakes her head as Beau laughs. “She’s a nice woman, Eli.”
Instead of replying, I simply narrow my eyes at my sister and swivel in my chair. Kate’s a grown woman; one I’m most likely not attracted to anyway.
It’s been a few years since much of anything has held my interest for long. That would require feeling something.
“Hello?” I ask breathlessly, as the cab I’m in whizzes down the interstate, heading directly for the heart of New Orleans.
“Where are you?” Savannah asks with a smile in her voice.
“In the cab on the way from the airport. Are you sure I shouldn’t check into a hotel room?”
“No way, Bayou Industries owns a beautiful loft that we’ll pretend you’re renting while you’re here. Come directly to the office. I have a meeting, so I won’t be able to greet you, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I reply and bite my lip as the cabbie cuts off another motorist and my stomach rolls. “I’m hoping to make it alive. I might not survive the cab ride.”
Savannah chuckles in my ear, and then I hear her murmuring to someone else in her office. “I have to go. Eli will meet you.”
“Eli? I thought I’d meet with Beau—”
“Eli’s not as scary as we’ve all led you to believe. I promise.” And then she’s gone. The cab swerves again, and I send up a prayer of thanks that I didn’t eat breakfast this morning as I use my hand to fan my face.
It’s darn hot in the Big Easy.
During all the years I went to college with Savannah and her twin brother, Declan, I never did make it down here to visit them, and I can’t wait to explore the French Quarter, eat beignets, have my tarot cards read, and soak it all in.
Of course, I’d rather soak it all in while not wearing so many clothes. Who knew it would be so hot in May? I shimmy out of my suit jacket, fold the sleeves over so they don’t wrinkle, and watch as above ground cemeteries, old buildings, and lots of people zoom by.
Eli is the one Boudreaux sibling I’ve never met. I’ve seen photos of the handsome brother, and heard many stories about his stoic, tough, playboy ways. Van says the stories are exaggerated. I guess I’ll find out for myself.
Well, not the playboy part. That’s just none of my business.
Finally, we come to an abrupt stop. There’s a red cable-car on one side and mountains of concrete on the other. I stumble out into the hot Monday afternoon, and sweat immediately beads on my forehead.
It’s not just hot. It’s sticky.
But I smile despite the discomfort, tip the reckless cabbie, and roll my suitcase behind me into the blessedly cool building, where a woman sits behind a long, ornate desk, typing furiously on a computer while speaking on the phone.
“Mr. Boudreaux is unavailable at this time, but I’ll put you through to his assistant, one moment.” She quickly pushes a series of keys, then smiles up at me.
She’s very smiley.
“I’m Kate O’Shaughnessy.”
“Welcome, Ms. O’Shaughnessy,” she says, holding that smile in place. “Mr. Boudreaux is expecting you.” She types furiously and begins speaking into her phone again. “Hello, Miss Carter, Ms. O’Shaughnessy is here for Mr. Boudreaux. Yes, ma’am.” She clicks off efficiently. “Please have a seat. Can I get you some water?”
“No, thank you.”
Miss Efficient simply nods and returns to her ringing phones. Before I have a chance to sit, a tall woman in black slacks and a red sleeveless blouse walks out of the elevator and straight to me.
“Hello, Kate. Mr. Boudreaux is in his office. Follow me.” She smiles and offers to take my suitcase, but I shake my head and follow her into the elevator. She doesn’t ask me any questions, and I’m thankful. I’ve learned to lie well in this business, but I don’t know what she’s already been told. I’m led past an office area and into the largest office I’ve ever seen. The massive black desk sits before a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. The furniture is big and expensive. Comfortable. There are two doors, each on opposite sides of the room, and I can’t help but wonder what they lead to.
“Ms. O’Shaughnessy is here, sir.”
“Kate,” I add without thinking, and then any hope of being able to think at all is tossed right out of those spectacular windows, when the tall man standing before them turns to look at me. The photos didn’t do him justice.
The door closes behind me and I take a deep breath and walk toward him, hiding the fact that my knees have officially turned to mush.
“Kate,” I repeat, and hold my hand out to shake his over his desk. His lips twitch as he watches me, his whiskey-colored eyes sharp and assessing as they take a slow stroll down my body, then back up to my face. Jeez, he’s taller than I expected. And broader. And he wears a suit like he was born to it.
Which, I suppose he was. Bayou Enterprises has been around for five generations, and Eli Boudreaux is the sharpest CEO it’s seen in years.
He moves around his desk and takes my hand in his, but rather than shake it, he raises it to his lips and places a soft kiss on my knuckles.
“Pleasure,” he says in a slow New Orleans drawl. Dear God, I might explode right here. “I’m Eli.”
“I know.” He raises a brow in question. “I’ve seen photos over the years.”
He nods once, but doesn’t let go. His thumb is circling softly over the back of my hand, sending my body into a tailspin. My nipples have tightened, pressing against my white blouse, and now I wish with all my might that I hadn’t taken off my jacket.
“Please, have a seat,” he says, and motions to the black chair behind me. Rather than sit behind his desk, he sits in the chair next to mine and watches me with those amazing eyes of his.