The Hunter (Orion the Hunter) (9 page)

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“Yes … no, I haven’t finished admiring the exterior yet!” I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t stumbled upon this building before.  It was just a few blocks from where I lived.

 

I stepped back to the edge of the sidewalk so that I could get a slightly better view.  I barely noticed him follow me until I felt his arm around my shoulders, gently squeezing my arm.  I looked up at him in surprise but he didn’t seem to notice. He was like a kid looking at his main present on Christmas morning.  I laughed when he grinned down at me, eyes full of life. “Can we go in now?”

 

“Yes,” I laughed.  “We can go in now.”

 

He bounded up to the huge gated entrance and unlocked the gates, holding one open for me to pass through into the once elegant courtyard. 
This place just gets better and better.

 

Once inside, we talked about the previous use of the building and the type of development that would take place and I asked a whole barrage of questions.  I knew that part of the reason that my career had taken off was my ability to listen to the client’s wishes then probe deeper to gain a full understanding of their tastes and needs before I began the design planning stage.  As we walked around, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if given a free rein.  I suddenly noticed those blue eyes watching me intently and I realized that I must have had a dreamy expression on my face as I imagined what the building could be.

 

“Tell me what you were thinking,” he said.  “You looked so absorbed yet at peace.  I don‘t think you’ve heard a word I‘ve said for the last five minutes.”

 

I felt my cheeks coloring and I bit my bottom lip.  “Sorry, I just got carried away with possibilities.”

 

“Possibilities?” he repeated, as if testing the word.  “For what?” he added, the ghost of a smile playing with his lips.

 

“For this place!” I said, shaking my head, slightly.  “What else would I have meant?”

 

As he walked into the next room, I could have sworn I heard his voice muttering, “Well, nothing obviously, because you are on a sex ban!”  I stood rooted to the spot in embarrassment thinking that I had spoken my thoughts aloud again until I realized that the voice I had heard was definitely masculine and incredibly sexy.

 

Oh so he is laughing at you now!  Well, that’ll teach you not to engage your brain before your mouth!

 

When I caught up with him, his eyes were once again bright and full of life.  I wondered whether it was because of his parting shot or whether it was caused by his obvious excitement of his planned development of the building.  We continued the tour without incident and we relaxed more and more in each other’s company.  All too soon, I found that we were back to the main entrance. 

 

“Well, what do we do next?” I asked, taking one last lingering look at the front of the building.

 

“Excuse me?” he said, tilting his head to one side and stepping away from me slightly.

 

“Interior design?  You wanted my input?  I just wondered how you wanted to proceed. Or have you changed your mind?”

 

He exhaled and visibly relaxed.  “I will get my assistant to contact you and find a mutually agreeable time that we can meet up.  I am meeting with my architect again first thing tomorrow morning which will give us some more information on what we can and can’t do.”

 

“Sounds good,” I said, trying to suppress a smile at his obvious relief that I was only talking business.  “Well, I should be going.  I will await to hear from your assistant, Mr Hunter.”

 

“Very well, Miss Price,”

 

“Please, call me Issy,” I said with a friendly smile.

 

“Only if you call me Lucas,” he said returning my smile.

 

“Goodnight Lucas,” I said with a giggle.

 

“Goodnight Issy,” he said in
that
voice as those midnight blue eyes lingered on my eyes for just a moment.  Then, he turned and walked back the way we had come, leaving me standing there feeling oddly bereft once more.

 

As I approached my apartment, James hurried over to me.  “Oh, Miss Price, Miss Roberts has been looking everywhere for you.  She appears to be in quite a flap.”

 

“Thank you, James,” I smiled and hurried up to our apartment, wondering why Angel was looking for me.

 

No sooner had I opened the door, than something flew at me.  Angel!  She hugged me so tightly that I could hardly breathe and I realized that she was crying. “Oh Angel, what on earth’s the matter?” I asked. “What’s happened?”

 

She pulled away from me and I could see her bright blue eyes were red ringed from crying.  “Where in hell’s name have you been?” she demanded, harshly.

 

“Work?”

 

“You liar,” she hissed viciously and I recoiled from her, instinctively.

 

“Come here, Angel,” said Chad softly, appearing in the doorway.  He pulled her to his side and wrapped his arms around her.  “I think that we should all calm down and discuss this rationally.”

 

“I think I should open a bottle of wine or three first!” I muttered.

 

Wine glasses in hand, we settled down on the sofa.  Angel’s slowly subsiding sobs punctuated the silence. 

 

“Well?” I demanded when no explanation was forthcoming.

 

Angel took a deep breath.  “I tried to call you at the office towards the end of the afternoon to ask if you wanted to eat out tonight.  There was no reply on either your office phone or your cell.  I tried several times, leaving messages on your cell for you each time.  You need to get an answer phone sorted for the office, by the way.”

 

“Oh, yeah .. thanks,” I muttered as I fished around in my purse for my cell.

 

“When it got really late and your cell started going straight to voicemail, I called directory assistance and found the number for the guard’s station at your building,” she continued.  “I spoke with Mr Clark and he informed me that you had left the building, some considerable time ago with Lucas Hunter.”

 

“Yeah … so what?” I could not understand why that would create the scene that I had just witnessed.

 

“So what?” she echoed my words incredulously, her eyes huge in her petite face.  “So you admit to leaving with him?  The Phantom?”

 

“Yes,” I shrugged.  “Why wouldn’t I?”

 

She looked desperately at Chad for assistance.  He held up his hands muttering “You can leave me out of this” which earned him a withering look from Angel.

 

“Issy, you don’t know anything about that creep! Anything could have happened to you!” she said quietly. 

 

“Lucas isn’t a creep and there is no need to be so melodramatic!”

 

Her eyes narrowed at my use of his first name. “You have said yourself how weird he is.  Remember how freaked out you were when you found that bouquet on your desk.  And when he stalked you in the elevator!  How many handsome, loaded, twenty-somethings do you know who are totally reclusive?  How can he be one of the richest men in New York and yet be an unknown?  Why couldn’t you find out anything about him on Google?  Not one image!  Something is just not right about him.”

 

“You haven’t even met him!  How can you judge him?” ” I hit back, defensively.

 

“I don’t think that your brief encounters qualify you to be an expert on him either,” she sneered.

 

“I didn’t say that I was an expert; I just said that he wasn’t a creep,” I retorted before draining my wine glass.  I closed my eyes. 
She is only overreacting because she cares.  She must have been out of her mind with worry to get so mad.
  I could feel my irritation with Angel fading, replaced instead with affection.  I opened my eyes and held out my arms to her.  “I’m sorry you were worried; I didn’t think.  I know that you are only looking out for me.  And look - I am fine really.”

 

She launched herself and me and gave me a suffocating bear hug.  “I’m sorry too.  I know I can’t live your life for you, you‘re a big girl now” she said smiling as I wiped away her tears.

 

“Thank god for that!” said Chad.  “Now can we get some food?”

 

We both laughed and threw cushions at him. 

 

Chad thought it might be an idea to order in a takeaway rather than eating out because of the streams of mascara that had run down mine and Angel’s faces.  We laughed and continued to make our peace as we polished off the rest of the bottle of wine.  I discovered that my cell battery had died, probably from the constant barrage of calls from Angel.  I explained that I had left it in my office when I went up to Norman & Wilde to take my portfolio photographs.  She seemed pacified that I hadn’t realized that she was trying to reach me - that I wasn’t ignoring her calls deliberately.

 

Shortly, we were tucking into Chinese food with relish and I explained the reason that I had left work with Lucas Hunter. 

 

“See, it was work,” I pretended to scowl at Angel.  She pulled a face and we laughed.

 

“It sounds like it was a bit of pleasure too,” said Chad quietly.

 

“Huh?” I turned to face him.  “What do you mean?”

 

He shifted in his seat uncomfortably, looking very much like he wished he’d kept his mouth shut.

 

“Well, you obviously enjoyed looking around the mini Dakota with him …” he paused, took a sip of wine and then continued, his words coming out in a rush “and you obviously enjoyed getting up close and personal with him, especially if you wanted him to do you on the conference table!”

 

Angel burst out laughing.  “He has a point!”  She then looked serious again.  “One thing that I haven’t mentioned is that the guard said that Lucas Hunter never uses the main entrance and he has never, ever seen him leave the building with someone before.  He was very surprised that he’d left with you.”

 

“Well, he did want to use his personal entrance but I needed to speak to Clark,” I said simply.

 

“I wonder what he meant when he said that he was not like other people?” pondered Angel as she waged war on an elusive noodle with her chop sticks.

 

You have no idea how unlike most people I really am. 
His harsh whisper echoed around my head and I felt the same chill crawl along my spine.  I shuddered involuntarily but thankfully Angel was too busy chasing noodles around her plate to notice.

 

“I think that we should contact CNN said Chad suddenly.

 

“Huh?” Angel and I said in unison.

 

“Issy has found a man that she is incredibly attracted to and she hasn’t had sex with him yet, NEWSFLASH!” his shoulders shaking with unexpressed mirth.  He ducked as I threw another cushion at him.

 

“I am on a self imposed sex ban, remember,” I retorted indignantly and then groaned.  “I can’t believe I said that aloud - he must think that I am some sort of tramp!”

 

They both laughed at my pained expression.  “You know,” Angel said thoughtfully.  “I don’t think that you could have him, even if you weren’t on a ban.”

 

“He truly would be unlike other men if he could resist Issy’s charms.  Perhaps that‘s what he meant,” quipped Chad.

 

I pulled a face.  “Shut up Chad!” But I couldn’t help asking Angel why she had come to that conclusion.

 

“Because, firstly - he didn’t throw you on the conference table when you were practically drooling over him.  And secondly - from what you’ve said, he seems uncomfortable around you when you behave like that.”

 

Hmmm, she has a point - he couldn’t get out of there fast enough when I made it obvious that I wanted him. 

 

Those very thoughts were still taunting me when I lay in bed that night. 
Why doesn’t he want me? 
His body certainly responded to me - even if he didn’t take advantage.
That was a new experience for me.  Perhaps he’s a perfect gentleman with old fashioned values - that would certainly make him different from most men!  And why is the thought of him not wanting me, making me want him more than I have ever wanted any man?

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