The blonde who opens the door of Room 47 in answer to his knock looks confused. Actually, he corrects himself silently, she looks bloody amazing (long blonde hair, skinny jeans plastered to shapely legs, red sweater showing curves in all his favourite places) but still confused. “Um, yes?”
A little confused himself, he checks the piece of paper in his hand, then the room number. He’d knocked rather than use his room key as he’d arrived two hours later than he’d expected, and he felt it was only polite. “Is this forty-seven?”
“Are you E. Swan?”
Her gaze narrows, as though she suspects he’s trying to hit on her. He has the feeling being hit on by random males is something that happens to her a lot, and it almost reaffirms his faith in his gender. “Why?”
“I’m K. Jones.” He holds up the piece of paper in his hand and tries not to smile too broadly. Outstanding. This weekend might not be so dull after all. “Your assigned roommate.”
She blinks. “You’re not a woman.”
“Well spotted, love.” He leans against the door frame, silently applauding the administration department of their firm for fucking up so nicely. “And, may I be so bold as to point out, you are definitely the female of the species yourself.”
Her gaze narrows even more, but that doesn’t disguise the fact that her eyes are very green and quite lovely. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but can I see some ID?”
He smiles. Oh, she’s a tough lass. He pulls his wallet from his back pocket with exaggerated care, then flips it open for her perusal. “It’s hardly my best likeness, but it should confirm I’m who I say I am, love.”
Unsmiling, she gives his ID a disconcertingly thorough examination. “You work for Hollindale and Woods too?”
He nods. “Boston office.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Boston has its moments, but it’s not that bad.”
“No, I mean they’ve obviously mixed up the room bookings.” Her wide mouth turns down at the corners. “Such a stupid idea in the first place, getting us to room with people from the other offices.”
“It’s all about the networking, love.”
She rolls her eyes. “Don’t call me love.” Without skipping a beat, she pulls her phone from the back pocket of her jeans with the hand not holding onto the door. “Wait here, I’ll call the concierge and get this sorted out.”
“Not that this corridor isn’t without its charms, love, do you think I could come in and wait while you read them the riot act? My flight was late getting in and I’m not feeling the love for this stupidly oversized suitcase at the moment.” She hesitates, obviously still wary of him, and while he knows she’s right to feel that way, it stings, perhaps more than it should. “I’m quite harmless, I assure you.”
She eyes his suitcase, then gives him a terse nod. “You can come in, but only if you prop the door open with your bag.”
“Thank you.” Smart girl, he thinks as he gives her a reassuring smile. Maybe he should be sharing her irritation, but right now he can’t find it in his heart to complain, not when the last two minutes have been the least bored he’s felt for months.
He flips idly through the in-house brochures and room service menus while she calls reception, not bothering to disguise the fact that he’s shamelessly eavesdropping on her phone conversation. He does disguise the fact that he’s studying just how wonderful her bottom looks in those jeans and how delighted he is that she doesn’t seem to be having much luck, though, because he’s not a complete imbecile.
“But that isn’t good enough. Look, I know it’s a mistake on our firm’s part but surely there’s another room –“ She’s scowling at the carpet at her feet, and if looks could set things aflame, they’d be heading for the fire exits. “No, I understand that this is your busiest weekend of the year, but –“
“This is ridiculous,” she announces, visibly peeved, a moment later, as she flings her phone onto the double bed closest to the window. Herbed, obviously, and again, he does his best not to look too happy with this turn of events, but to be stuck sharing a hotel room with a beautiful blonde who’s intrigued him more in a few minutes than any other woman he’s met in Boston all year? He can’t say he’s disappointed. “They say they’re fully booked and there’s nothing they can do, not unless they have a cancellation tomorrow.”
“It’s only for three nights,” he offers gently, “and we’ll be cramming our eager brains with new and exciting things for most of the weekend. You’ll hardly see me.” Her mouth is still pressed hard into a mutinous line, and he is gripped with the sudden urge to see what she looks like when she smiles, because he wagers it’s a sight to behold. “Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?”
She gives him a look that clearly says she can think of many, many things, but then her mouth twitches, her jaw losing its rigid set. Not a smile, but not an eye-roll. Definitely progress. “Fine, but don’t think I’m taking my eyes off you for a second.”
He grins at her, knowing he’d be lying if he wasn’t tempted to take that as a challenge. “I would despair if you did.”
Realising you’ve packed the wrong shoes to go with your skirt and you’ll have to rethink your whole outfit is bad enough. Being holed up in a hotel bathroom while you get changed into said outfit because you’re suddenly sharing your room with a strange British man is much worse.
He’d insisted she take the bathroom to change before heading downstairs to register for the three-day event, which she grudgingly appreciated, because that meant she didn’t have to worry about the door suddenly opening while she was standing in the middle of the hotel room with her dress halfway over her head. When she finally emerges, every black fold of the simple dress smoothed into place, his eyes light up in a way that shouldn’t make her feel as though she’s just gotten the thumbs up from her date, but it does. “You look lovely.”
There’s that accent again, she thinks with faint despair. She strides across the room to grab her purse and phone from her bedside table, annoyed that she hadn’t thought to take them into the bathroom with her. Rookie mistake, and it’s been a long time since she could be called a rookie. Apart from the whole security issue, she’d completely missed her chance to Google his name in the privacy of the bathroom. “Well, you don’t really know how I look at any other time so you can’t really judge, but thank you.”
“Do you always do that?”
She finally looks at him properly, unable to stop herself doing a head-to-toe glance of her own. The words ‘irritatingly attractive’ come to mind, and she can’t help thinking it would be so much easier to have been stuck with someone who didn’t tick so many boxes on her personal wish list. He’s changed out of his jeans and long-sleeved t-shirt into a grey business shirt, black waistcoat, black pants and no tie, his sleeves rolled up just enough to reveal a light dusting of dark hair covering leanly muscled forearms. Good hands, too, she thinks before she can catch herself. Shit. “Do what?”
He smiles at her, and again she’s struck by the vivid blue of his eyes. “Turn a compliment into a joke.”
She drops her phone into her purse and gives him the most sarcastic smile in her repertoire. “I didn’t realise the Boston office was churning out behavioural experts.”
“What can I say, love? You’re something of an open book.”
She opens her mouth to retort, then realises she has no idea how to answer that without giving him even more information. It’s easier to be predictable. “Don’t call me love.”
He fills the awkward silence in the elevator ride down to the convention room on the first floor with easy-going chatter, telling her that he specialises in Maritime and Aviation Law, which is a surprise, because after spending the last hour in his company, she would have guessed ‘Charming Handsome Smug Bastard 101’. To her reluctant amusement, though, he’s not fazed in the slightest by her one word answers and lack of real engagement. Not once does his cheery manner desert him, and she has to admit that it makes the tedious process of signing in and getting their itinerary a little less tedious.
Not that she wants to encourage him, of course. When she decided to attend this legal marketing (sorry, Business Development and don’t forget the capital B and capital D, she thinks wearily) weekend, the last thing she was looking for was an unexpected complication of the male kind. She’s had more than enough of those to last her several lifetimes.
Once they’ve finished registering (she finds out that the K stands for Killian), he rubs his hands together. “Right. Shall we get a drink before the dreary dinner at eight?”
She stares at him, trying to remember the last time she saw someone actually rub their hands together, then belatedly realises he’s waiting for an answer. “What? Oh, thanks but I can’t.” She tries not to care that his face falls at her knockback, because she doesn’t owe him anything. “I’ve already arranged to meet some people from my office before dinner.”
He looks at his watch, then at her. “And what time would that be, love?”
She may be a wizard at unravelling fraudulent corporate insurance claims, but she’s never been much good at lying herself, especially on the fly. “Uh, seven.”
He grins at her. “Will you look at that? It’s six now.” He puts both hands behind his back, and looks at her like he’s a freaking schoolkid on a trip to the county fair. He’s actually bouncing on the balls of his feet, she thinks, and can’t help smiling. His gaze immediately drops to her mouth, and his eyes brighten. “What do you say, Swan? Shall we have a drink?”
She’s not quite sure how it happens, but five minutes later they’re at the hotel bar and there’s a vodkatini in front of her and he’s sipping a beer. After a tense moment while ordering (should I charge it to our room, love?) she relaxes enough to finally start flinging some banter back at him. She may not know him from Adam, but again she has to admit, he isentertaining company.
“And what do you specialise in, Swan?”
“Fraud, and I keep telling you, it’s Emma.”
“You must come up against some dastardly types in your area of work.”
She raises her glass to him in a mock toast. “Not just at work, believe me.”
For the next hour, they talk and they drink, the latter definitely in moderation because she is determined to keep her wits about her. He tells her the gossip about the partners in his office, and she returns the favour. He flirts, which seems to come as naturally as breathing to him, and she does her best to keep up without leading him on, but it’s getting harder and harder, because he’s gorgeous and funny and intelligent and he’s looking at her as though she’s the only person on this planet that could possibly interest him, and it’s been a long time since anyone looked at her like that. It’s only when she hears a familiar voice that she realises she’s forgotten this was only supposed to be a quick drink.
“There you are!” She looks up to find Ruby advancing on them, Victor in tow as usual. “What time do you call this?”
Startled, Emma looks at her watch to see it’s after 7:30pm. “Crap. Ruby, I’m so sorry.”
Her friend waves away her apology. “Not a problem. Just glad you’re not lying dead in a ditch somewhere and, hel-lo, who is this?”
“Killian Jones.” Her drinking companion speaks up before Emma has the chance to introduce him. “I’m Emma’s roommate for the weekend.”
Ruby and Victor’s heads swivel in unison towards Emma. Victor, in particular, seems gleeful at this revelation. “Oh, my. Do tell.”
Emma can feel the dull flush of colour travelling up her neck and all over her face. “There’s nothing to tell,” she informs them, flashing an irritated glance at said roommate. “Administrative error.” Noticing the appreciative glance he’s darting at Ruby’s legs, she gives him a saccharine sweet smile. “Apparently Killiansounds a little too much like a girl’s name, so you can understand their mistake.”
“Oi.” He tilts back his head, and she can’t help noticing that he’s even attractive when his nostrils are flaring in indignation. “I’ll have you know it’s an honoured family name, stretching back centuries.”
Emma opens her mouth to retort, then thinks better of it. Instead, she introduces Ruby (rising star in their Family Law division) and Victor (self-proclaimed guru of their medical malpractice team) to him, not bothering to explain that her friends are also roommates of sorts this weekend, not when Victor’s hand is on Ruby’s ass and his mouth still bares the faintest trace of her signature red lipstick.
“We’re just heading into dinner,” Ruby says, her hand lightly squeezing Emma’s shoulder in a familiar we will talk about this later gesture. “Would you like to join us?”
Killian smiles at Ruby. “I’d love to, but I’m afraid I have to do penance with my own people this evening. Boss’ orders.” He turns to Emma, toasting her with his empty beer glass. “Thanks for indulging me with your company, love. I guess I’ll see you later?”
She refuses to feel disappointed that he won’t be joining them for dinner. “I’m sure you will, seeing we’re sharing a room.”
“See?” He leans close, close enough for her to smell the warm spice of his aftershave, and she doesn’t think to move away. “That sounds so much more fun than administrative error, don’t you think?” He winks at her, then slides off his bar stool and saunters out, leaving her staring after him
“Well.” Victor’s dark eyes are dancing with the promise of salacious information. “I think someone’s got some explaining to do.”
To the sound of Ruby snickering, Emma tosses back the last inch of her drink, hoping the burn of the alcohol will distract her from the ridiculous racing of her pulse. “Shut up, Whale.”