He pulled me back in, then tugged me to his side.
“What are you doing?”
As soon as the doors were closed, he let me go and stepped back to lean against the wall. He smirked again, but his eyes were trained on my lips. “I’m not here for you. Relax.”
My mouth flattened. “You relax.”
The smirk moved to a grin. “You have attitude.”
I looked away and tried to ignore the inferno his touch had lit inside of me.
“You’re the team manager?”
Why I blurted those words out, I had no idea. I was also noting he had hit the penthouse floor.
His eyes narrowed, and he shifted to the side. He lowered his head, his eyes still on me.
I was waiting.
And still, nothing.
“It’s a joke. Most IT start-ups have a flat hierarchy now. The head guy in charge is now termed ‘team manager.’ You manage the team. Right?”
It was an insult. He was so not about equality and a positive work environment, which was the new push in IT departments.
And I was being passive-aggressive.
I didn’t care.
“Why were you in the lobby?”
I couldn’t handle those eyes. Still facing forward, I leaned my shoulder against the other side of the elevator.
“Antacids for my mom.”
“You had to get Tums for your mother?”
I was pissed off, and he was here, and I didn’t like him, and I was trying to ignore how my body was having the opposite reaction, so I decided then and there to unleash my frustrations on him.
I turned, facing him squarely. “Who are you? I mean, really.”
A faint grin teased the corner of his mouth as he moved to lean a shoulder against the back of the elevator. He was full-on facing me. “I thought I was the team manager?”
He was enjoying this.
He shouldn’t be.
That made it worse.
“I know you’re not a team manager. You said you’re an associate of my fath—Peter’s. You’re up there in the power chain, but who? Head of security?”
His lips thinned, but I still felt he was trying not to laugh.
“A higher security person?”
He rubbed a hand over his jaw.
I tracked his hand the whole time, and I shouldn’t have.
My mouth dried up.
“I’m a consultant of sorts for your father.”
“You consult for him? With him? About him?”
A confused look entered his eyes as he eyed me back, studying me almost as intently as I was grilling him. “What are you doing, Bailey?”
Shit. The way he said my name, my blood was singing.
I averted my gaze.
We were nearing the top, and as we did, I began to hear music. It was getting louder and louder, the closer we got, until we were only a few floors away, and whatever he said, I could no longer make out his words.
We hit the top and I could hear only bass and the sound of a cat screeching the same word over and over again.
The elevators opened and it was worse.
He glanced to me. No good-bye. Or wave.
Not even a smirk.
He just stepped out and started forward.
There was no hallway. It opened onto the actual room itself.
I couldn’t help myself. I hit the button to keep the elevator door open and I stared, like curious nosy spyware. Pressed against the panel wall, I angled my head out, just enough so one eyeball could see.
He headed toward the main room, and like that, there was another burst of loud music, as if a door opened somewhere inside. A guy passed Kashton, heading to the other side of the room. Shirtless. A lean frame like Kashton’s, but skinnier, his jeans were half falling off him. He had dark blond hair that looked greasy, spiked high, and he slapped Kashton on the shoulder as he went by him. He barely looked up before he was out of sight, and then he backtracked. Slowly. Foot by foot. There was no casual walk this time, until he was standing just in front of Kashton … staring right at me.
I hit the wall just as Kashton turned to look, too, and I let go of the button.
I knew who I had just seen. My half brother from Peter’s first marriage.
Matt Francis was almost a regular fixture on the gossip sites. Rumored heir to Peter Francis’s empire. It was reported that he had no interest in learning about cyber security or anything that has to do with computers. I ached for my idol, literally ached, when I first read that in an article. What son of a billionaire genius didn’t want anything to do with his father’s company? It was blasphemous.
His interests lay toward partying, being photographed with models, and more partying. The last scandal had put him in a huge exposé for Camille Story’s largely popular gossip website. The girl was invited to all the rich and famous parties, gossiped on them, and somehow remained within their circles.
I’d only caught the last article on him because my last roommate sent me a link, the subject line gushing, “I KNOW YOU LOVE HIS DAD! EAT YOUR CYBER HEART OUT!”
I’d just moved back home after graduating, and I wanted to read up on him. He’d been in a car accident after flipping off the paparazzi. Exiting that article, I’d been jealous of him. It’d been an odd reaction. I’d admitted that to myself then, wondering why I was envious of this rich kid’s exploits, but then I’d shrugged it off and went to make spaghetti for when my mom got off her shift.
When I got to my floor, my stomach was heaving all over the place.
Even my hand was shaking.
It was then, opening the hotel door, that I remembered.
I forgot the Tums.
Chrissy was rifling through the minibar when I got back from my second trip, Tums in hand this time. A pile of single-serving alcohol bottles was on the table, along with candy bars, sugar candy, and bags of chips. She popped up, a robe on, bare feet, and her hair wrapped in a towel.
“Hey, honey!” She saw the Tums in my hand. “Great! You got ’em.”
She scooped up all the food and alcohol, leading the way to the bathroom. The tub was filled up, with bubbles almost overflowing. She had laid out a bunch of towels beside it, and she put all the candy and alcohol on the toilet lid.
“What are you doing?” I paused in the doorway.
She tested the water, then de-robed. Literally. Untying her sash, she held her arms behind her and stepped out of the robe. It fell to the floor behind her.