“Sorry, girls,” I reply, sighing gratefully as I stretch out, “but I’ve been busting my ass with this project.”

“Yeah?” Izzy says, trying to sound encouraging. “What’s it about?”

“Well, I’m not supposed to spill any details. It’s all corporate hush-hush, but I’ve been pulling long hours all week. There were team meetings four days this week, and after that, I had to really put the pedal down and bust my butt to even get home before ten o’clock.”

I chuckle, though it sounds more like exhaustion escaping than mirth. “I haven’t seen the sunset in a week.”

“Damn, girl,” Charlotte remarks as our lunches come. “Is it worth it?”

I shrug, trying to wrap my head around Thomas Goldstone’s presence. He’s been at every meeting, at least stopping in for a quick check-in.

And each time, I walk out of the room feeling like I just stuck my fingertip into a light socket.

“I don’t know. But I do get seen by Mr. Goldstone . . . the boss.”

“Yeah, well, he sounds too demanding for me,” Izzy says, jumping in. “He’d better be worth all your attention.”

Oh, my God, if she only knew. That man is sex on a stick. He could demand anything from me and I’d give it willingly, even if he does come off as an ass.

But I don’t tell them that.

“I’ve heard people say he can be a jerk,” I reply, stirring my soup and taking a sip, “and I get it. He maintains a lot of pressure on us to perform, but . . . we’ve got the heavy lifting done now, I think, so I guess his tactics work.”

“So, no more pressure? No more crazy hours?” Charlotte asks, and I nod.

“I sent my report to Randall, our team leader, right after this morning’s meeting. So while the project isn’t done yet, I think most of what I’ll have left is convincing the others why I think my analysis is correct.”

Defending my ideas . . . that’s definitely my weakness. While so far, corporate politics and turf fighting haven’t come into play, the idea of standing in front of Thomas Goldman and trying to say anything coherent makes my head pound and my gut churn.

The man’s just too handsome, whether it’s in slacks and a dress shirt or jeans and a T-shirt. Oh, yes, I did manage to catch him in casual wear one evening when I was working late and went upstairs. I would’ve thought he’d look odd, so much power in such a rough wrapper, but the soft wear on the jeans had given me all sorts of dirty thoughts about teasing my hands along his thighs.

And now I don’t know which fantasy image I prefer—rough and casual, or slick and formal.

His burning gaze, the powerful clench of his jaw as he chews over what other people are saying, the flex of his muscles straining against his shirt even as the fabric panics to release its hold on his perfect flesh . . . I might be getting home after ten, but I’ve been up until midnight just trying to get my mind calmed down.

Not that a man like that would notice a girl like me. I’ve barely spoken up in the meetings, spending most of my time burying my head in my tablet or pretending to be obsessed with the PowerPoints everyone else is putting up like experts.

Yeah, I’ve answered questions when someone’s directed something my way, but for the most part, I’ve put all of my effort into my meta analysis, and that’s not something that can get broken down into daily PowerPoint presentations.

“Earth to Mia, anyone there, cosmonaut?” Charlotte teases, waving a hand. “You spaced out for a minute there.”

“Sorry. Guess I’m just mentally drained. What’d you say?”

“I said, is he as hot as he is on paper, or is it just airbrushing?” Charlotte asks. “Gah, he looks like Prince Charming to me.”

“Prince Charming?” I ask, snorting. “Sure, he’s good-looking.” I make sure to play it down. Good-looking doesn’t even begin to describe Thomas Goldstone.

“But he’s not charming in any way, Char. He’s less prince and more god-like.” Before they get too excited, I continue, “Really pretty packaging on an arrogant, controlling center. Watch me control the winds, the lightning . . .”

I stab my fingers in the air like I’m directing weather forces and throw my head back in a villainous laugh.

Both girls grin at my antics. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Babe, I’m not asking if he’s actually charming,” Charlotte laughs. “You know what I meant, and I think I got my answer. ‘Really pretty packaging.’” She mimics my words with a waggle of her brows and a smirk.

“Okay, yeah, I guess I did answer. Fine. He’s really nice on the eyes,” I admit. “Still, that’s all he is.”

“Ooh . . . a hot but arrogant control freak?” Izzy sums up. “I don’t know, I could work with that. For one night, at least.”

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