“I’m not a bellhop. Put your own damn coat away.”

He laughed and bent to lift his suitcase. “Christ, I’d just wanted you to hold it for a moment.”

“Oh.” With cheeks flushed at my overreaction, I reached in and grabbed the coat, smoothing it over my arm. “Sorry.”

“Why do you always assume I’m being a jerk?”

With another laugh, he hoisted the suitcase into the trunk. “You must have missed me a lot.”

I started to answer but got distracted instead watching the muscles of his back tighten his shirt as he placed his luggage in the trunk next to mine. Up close, I saw that the dress shirt had a subtle gray print and was tailored to fit his broad shoulders and narrow waist without any extra fabric bunching anywhere. His pants were dark gray and crisply pressed. I was pretty sure he’d never done his own laundry—and damn, who would blame him when tailored, dry-cleaned clothes made him so completely f**kable?

He closed the trunk with a slam, breaking me out of my daze, and I placed the keys in his waiting hand. He walked over and opened my door, waiting for me to be seated before closing it behind me. Yeah, you’re a real gentleman, I thought.

We drove in silence, the only sound provided by the purr of the engine and the GPS calling out directions to the hotel. I busied myself going over our schedule, trying to ignore the man next to me.

I wanted to look at him, to study his face. I wanted to reach out and touch the slight stubble on his jaw, to tell him to pull over and touch me.

All these thoughts ran through my mind, making it impossible to concentrate on the papers in front of me. The time apart hadn’t lessened his hold over me at all. If anything it made it stronger. I wanted to ask him how the last two weeks had been. I actually wanted to know how he was.

With a sigh, I closed the folder in my lap and turned to look out the window.

We must have passed ocean and navy ships and people on the streets, but I didn’t see a thing. The only thing on my mind was what was inside the car. I felt every movement, every breath. His fingers tapped along the steering wheel. The leather squeaked when he shifted in his seat. His scent filled the closed space and made it impossible to remember why I needed to resist. He completely surrounded me.

I needed to be strong and be my own person, to prove that I controlled my path in life, but every part of me ached to feel him. I needed to regroup at the hotel before this conference, but with him so close, all my best intentions got away from me.

“Are you okay, Miss Mills?” The sound of his voice startled me and I turned to meet his hazel eyes, my stomach fluttering at the intensity behind them. How had I forgotten how long his lashes were?

“We’re here.” He motioned to the hotel, and I was surprised to see I hadn’t even noticed. “Is everything all right?”

“Hmm,” he murmured, continuing to look at me. I saw his gaze flicker to my mouth, and God, I wanted him to kiss me. I missed the command of his mouth on mine, as if there were nothing in the world he wanted more than to taste me. And sometimes, I suspected that might actually be true.

As if drawn to him, I leaned forward in my seat. A hum of electricity buzzed between us, and his gaze flickered back to my eyes. He leaned in to meet me, and I could feel his hot breath against my mouth.

Suddenly my door opened and I jumped back into my seat, shocked to see the valet standing there expectantly, hand outstretched. I stepped out of the car, inhaling the air that wasn’t permeated by his intoxicating scent. The valet took the bags, and Mr. Ryan excused himself to take a phone call while I checked us in.

The hotel was packed with fellow conference attendees, and I saw several familiar faces. I had made plans to meet up with a group of other students in my program sometime on the trip. I waved to a woman I recognized; it would be great to get out with some friends while we were here. The last thing I needed was to sit alone in my hotel room and fantasize about the man down the hall.

After receiving our keys and seeing that the bellhop would take our bags to our rooms, I headed to the lounge in search of Mr. Ryan. The welcome reception was in full swing, and when I scanned the large room I found him standing next to a tall brunette. They stood close together, his head bent slightly as he listened to her.

His head blocked her face from my view, and my eyes narrowed when I noticed her hand reach up and grip his forearm. She laughed at something he’d said and he pulled away slightly, allowing me a better look.

She was beautiful, with shoulder-length, straight dark hair. As I watched, she placed something in his hand and folded his fingers around it. A strange look crossed his face as he bent his head to examine the object in his palm.

You have got to be kidding me. Did she—did she just give him her room key?

I watched for a moment more, and then something inside me snapped as he continued to stare at the key as if he was considering pocketing it. The thought of him looking at someone else with the same intensity, the thought of him wanting someone else at all, made my stomach twist with anger. Before I could stop myself, I was moving across the room until I stood beside them.

I placed my hand on his forearm, and he blinked over to me, a surprised, questioning expression on his face. “Bennett, are you ready to head upstairs?” I asked quietly.

His eyes widened and his mouth opened in shock. I’d never seen him look so utterly at a loss for words.