Blue-Eyed Devil Page 43


I heard the ring of a cell phone. Hardy glanced at both of us. "Excuse me. Do you mind if I take this one? I'll make it as fast as possible."

"Take your time," Todd said. "We're fine."

Hardy flipped it open, wandering to the next room for privacy. "Cates here." He paused while the person on the other end of the line spoke. "Make sure they drill slower when they go in sliding mode . . . and I want them to build that angle tight, got it? The equipment can handle it. Especially since we're not drilling deep, no more than medium radius . . . "

There was no business with more phallic terminology than the oil business. After being exposed to three minutes of conversation about drilling, holes, fluids, and pumping, even a Benedictine nun would have dirty thoughts. Todd and I were silent, listening avidly.

" . . . tell them we're going long and horizontal . . . "

"I'd like to go long and horizontal with him," Todd commented. I smothered a laugh. "I'll admit, he's cute."

"Cute? No. Sexy as hell. Unfortunately, also very straight, so . . . he's yours."

I shook my head. "It's too soon after the divorce. I don't want him. Besides, he can be a jerk, and I've had enough of that."

"You let him touch you," Todd observed idly.

My eyes widened. "I do not."

"Yes you do. Just little touches here and there. He puts his hand on your arm or back, he stands close to you, getting you used to him . . . it's a mating ritual. Like March of the Penguins."

"It has nothing to do with mating rituals. It's a Texas thing. People are touchy-feely here."

"Especially when they want to bone you into the middle of next week."

"Todd, shut up," I muttered, and he snickered.

We both looked hastily down at the sample book as Hardy came back into the room.

A few more minutes of discussion, and then Hardy glanced down at his watch. "I'm sorry to have to ask this . . . but would either of you mind if we cut this a few minutes short?"

"Not at all," Todd said. "I've got more than enough to start with."

"Thanks. I appreciate it." Hardy loosened his tie and unbuttoned his shirt collar. "Time to change out of the monkey suit. We're having some drilling issues with a deviated well, and I need to go on-site to check on it." He picked up a briefcase and a set of keys, and grinned at me. "So far it's a dry hole. But I have a feeling we've got a wildcat on our hands."

I didn't dare look at Todd. "Good luck," I said. "By the way, is it okay if Todd and I stay here a few minutes?"

"Of course."

"I'll lock up when we leave."

"Thank you." Hardy passed by me, his fingers brushing lightly over my hand as it rested on the counter. The warm touch caused a ripple of sensation to run up my arm. His gaze connected with mine in a flash of unholy blue. "Bye." The door closed behind him.

I lent my weight to the counter, trying to think straight. But my brain had evacuated the premises.

It was a good half minute before I looked over at Todd. His eyes were slightly foggy, like he was waking up — reluctantly — from a lascivious dream. "I didn't know they still made them like that," he said.

"Like what?"

"Cool, tough, retro-manly. The kind who only cries if someone just ran over his dog. The big-chested guy we can indulge our pathetic daddy complexes with."

"I don't have a pathetic daddy complex."

"Oh? Tell me you haven't imagined sitting on his lap." Todd grinned as I flushed. "You know what it is you smell on him, Haven? Testosterone. It's leaking out of his pores."

I covered my ears with my hands, and he broke out laughing. He waited until I had taken my hands from my ears before he said in a more serious tone, "You need to be careful with him, sweetheart."

"Careful? Why?"

"I got the sense that beneath that all-American, blue-eyed exterior, he's a little twisted."

I felt my eyes go as round as quarters. "Sick twisted?"

"No, twisty twisted. Like, bending-the-rules, foxy, conniving twisted."

"I don't agree at all. He's like Jack. Straightforward."

"No, that's what he wants you to think. But don't believe it for a minute. It's a front, that aw-shucks-I'm-just-a-redneck routine. He does it to set people up. And then he goes in for the kill."

"You're saying Hardy's some kind of master manipulator or something?" I asked skeptically. "He's from a trailer park, Todd."

"The only person I've ever seen who's almost as good at that kind of calculated underplaying . . . almost . . . is your father."

I gave a disbelieving laugh, but I felt a chill run down my back. "Do you think he's a bad guy?"

"No. But there's a lot going on under the surface. You watch his eyes. Even when he's doing his regular-guy routine, he's taking measure, learning, every damn second."

"You got all that from talking about sofas with him?"

Todd smiled. "People reveal a lot when discussing their personal taste. And I picked up a lot by watching him watch you. I think you're in for a time of it with him, sweetheart."

"Do you think I should stay away from him?" I asked in a scratchy voice.

Todd took a long time to answer. "My advice is, if you're inclined in that direction, go with your eyes open. It's okay to let someone play you, Haven, as long as you know what's going on."

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