She shuffled, kicking her toe at something that had fossilized in the asphalt. “I know who you are.”
“Really, Australia?” He dropped his arms and drifted closer, knowing she didn’t have a fucking clue who he really was. “And who am I?”
Her attention flashed to his mouth and then away. “You and your friends are . . .” Her lips turned down, and she shrugged a shoulder. “I’m actually not sure what you call yourselves; gangsters, mobsters, Mafioso . . . ?”
“Try businessmen,” he whispered with an edge to his voice that she couldn’t miss. She blinked those amazing eyes of hers up at him, looking as though she’d just thought of something. He watched with way too much interest as a slew of emotions flew across her flawless face, none of them staying long enough for him to address. But he hadn’t missed the three most prominent: fear, regret, and then a wide-eyed fuck-that. Now she was—infuriatingly—moving on, seemingly unfazed by the tone he’d used. A tone that normally had men twice her size taking a step back.
“Okay,” she agreed. “You’re businessmen that people have a healthy respect for. You get what you want when you want it, no matter who you have to go through to get it. Right?”
He couldn’t speak for his friends, but he supposed she had his public reputation nailed down. His hand came up, and he hooked his pinkie in a thick strand of her hair, watching it shimmer under the security lights as he drew his finger down its length. “If I am who you say, I suppose I should just take you. No matter how much you protest.”
He had the pleasure of watching her pink tongue come out to swipe nervously across her full lips, her eyes darting around the empty alley they stood in. His pleasure died when he saw the return of the fear that had made a brief appearance in her expression a second ago. She brought her arms from around her back and lazily cut one through the air, reclaiming that lock of spun silk. “Where would the fun be in that?”
Her bravado was admirable. But unnecessary. See? She didn’t know him at all. “Relax, beauty,” he said soothingly. “I don’t want it if it isn’t freely given.”
Her mouth twisted. “And I’m sure it is more often than it’s not.” Her brow puckering let him know she hadn’t meant to share that observation, and he had to hide a grin.
“You’d know what that’s like.”
“The difference is, I don’t want it.”
“Why is that?” Curiosity was annoying.
So was she.
“Do you often stalk your women like this?” she asked casually.
“Hmm. Now we’re getting somewhere.” He bent, coming in as close as he dared. Damn she was tiny. “You’re coming to see yourself as my woman.”
“You wish.” She half laughed in a soft burst.
It was really more of a scoff, but whatever. Her white teeth glittered through a smile that nailed him right behind his zipper. And, yes, he did wish.
“You didn’t answer my question. Do you stalk regularly? And does this approach normally work for you?”
He refused to tell her the truth: that he’d never had to work so hard before. “I’m not stalking you; I’ve befriended you. There’s a difference. If I was stalking you, you’d never know it.” He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring wink. “Yet another thing we can discuss over drinks, you and I.” He withdrew his phone from the inside pocket of his coat and opened his contacts. “I understand it’s getting late and you’ll be opening soon, so why not give me your private number and I’ll call you tomorrow. We can set something up. Full name and spelling?” He sounded like a f**king cop.
He looked up when nothing was forthcoming and sighed at the obstinate tilt of her chin. The sparkle dancing in her eyes reassured him she was more entertained than frightened. Ah well, it had been worth a try. He pocketed his phone. “What do you have against giving me an hour for a sit-down?”
She ignored his question, as she did a lot. “I underestimated your tenacity. I thought you’d be bored of this long before now. Why haven’t you moved on? Found someone more willing to play this game with you?”
“Because you’re a challenge, and I’m not going to leave your **s alone until I’ve had it.”