“Great. Things have been really great. How about you? I’ve seen your pictures in magazines, so I guess you’re doing pretty well for yourself.” He patted my shoulder amiably.

I gave a small nod and a forced smile in return. Deciding I needed a few more minutes to think, I excused myself and headed up the stairs to my old room.

Just walking through the door I felt calmer. The room had changed little since I was eighteen. Even while I was out of the country, my parents kept it virtually the same as the day I left for college. Sitting on my old bed I thought about how I’d feel if Miss Mills actually became involved with Joel. He really was a nice guy, and though I hated to admit it, there was definitely a chance they might hit it off. But the thought of another man touching her made every muscle in my body clench. I thought back to the moment in the car when I told her I couldn’t stop. Even now, with all my false bravado, I didn’t know if I could.

Hearing a renewal of greetings and Joel’s voice downstairs, I decided it was time to man up and face the music.

As I cleared the final landing, I saw her. Her back was to me . . . and the air left my lungs.

Why did it have to be white?

She was wearing some sort of girly summer thing that stopped right above the knee and showed off her long legs. The top was made of the same material, with little ribbons tying it together at the top of each shoulder. All I could think was how much I would love to pull those ribbons loose and see it all fall around her waist. Or maybe drop to the floor.

Our eyes met across the room and she smiled such a genuine, happy smile that for a second even I believed it. “Hi, Mr. Ryan.”

My lips twitched in amusement, watching her play the part in front of my family. “Miss Mills,” I replied, nodding. Our gaze never broke, even as my mother called everyone onto the patio for drinks before dinner.

As she passed, I turned my head, speaking in a voice low enough that only she could hear. “Successful shopping trip yesterday?”

Her eyes met mine, that same angelic smile on her face. “Wouldn’t you like to know.” She brushed by me, and I felt my entire body stiffen. “And by the way, a new line of garter belts came in,” she whispered before following everyone else outside.

I stopped and my jaw went slack as my mind raced back to our tryst in the dressing room at La Perla.

Up ahead, Joel leaned in close to her. “I really hope you didn’t mind the flowers I sent to your office yesterday. I admit it was a bit much, but I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” I felt a knot tighten in my gut as Joel’s words snapped me out of my dirty daydream.

She turned back to look at me. “Flowers? Did I have flowers delivered?”

I shrugged and shook my head. “I left early, remember?” I walked by on my way outside to make myself a Belvedere vodka gimlet.

As the evening wore on, I couldn’t help but keep track of her in my peripheral vision. When dinner finally began, it was apparent that things were going relatively smoothly between her and Joel. She was even flirting with him.

“So Chloe, Mr. and Mrs. Ryan tell me you’re from North Dakota?” Joel’s voice interrupted yet another fantasy—this one of my fist hitting his jaw. I looked over to see him smiling warmly at her.

“That’s right. My dad is a dentist in Bismarck. Never was much of a big-city girl. Even Fargo felt huge to me.” A small chuckle escaped my lips, and her eyes shot to mine. “Amused, Mr. Ryan?”

I smirked as I took a sip of my drink, staring at her from above the rim. “I’m sorry, Miss Mills. I just find it fascinating that you don’t like the city, and yet you choose the third-largest city in the U.S. for college and . . . everything after.”

The look in her eyes told me that under any other circumstances, I would either already be naked with her on top of me, or lying in a pool of my own blood on the rug.

“Actually, Mr. Ryan,” she began, the smile returning to her face, “my father remarried, and since my mother was born here, I came to spend some time with her before she passed.” She stared at me for a moment and I had to admit I felt a hint of guilt twisting in my chest. It was quickly suppressed when she looked back over at Joel, biting her lip in the innocent way that only she could make look so damn sexy.

I clenched my fists as they continued to speak to each other. But several minutes later I froze. Could that be? I grinned into my cocktail. Yes, that was most definitely her foot creeping up my pant leg. Fucking devious little minx, touching me while carrying on a conversation with a man we both knew could never satisfy her. I watched her lips as they closed around her fork, and my c**k hardened as her tongue slowly ran across them to remove the traces of marinade left behind by the fish.

“Wow, top five percent of your class at Northwestern. Nice!” Joel said and then looked over at me. “Bet you’re glad to have someone so amazing working under you, huh?”

Chloe coughed slightly, bringing her napkin up from her lap to cover her mouth. I smiled as I quickly glanced over to her and then back to Joel. “Yes, it’s absolutely amazing having Miss Mills under me. She always gets the job done.”

“Aw, Bennett. That is so sweet of you,” my mother gushed, and I watched Miss Mills’ face begin to redden. My smile vanished when I felt her foot at my crotch. Then, ever so slightly, she pressed against my erection. Holy shit. Now it was my turn to cough, choking on my gimlet.