She took out her measuring tape. “No.”
Why didn’t he go away? She had work to do, thinking to do. And most of all she’d wanted to be alone in her wonderful building, planning and deciding and dreaming about how it was all going to be when she’d finished.
The colors, the textures, the tones, the smells. Everything.
And here he was, in her way, wandering around. All male and gorgeous and distracting in his perfect suit and his expensive shoes. He smelled, oh so subtly, of high-end soap and aftershave.
He probably paid more for a cake of soap then she had for the jeans and shirt she was wearing. And he thought he could just mill around, wafting in her air, making her feel clumsy and inferior.
“What are your plans for this room?”
She wrote down her measurements and kept her back to him. “This is the main salon. It’s for hair, manicures, and makeup.” When he didn’t respond, she was compelled to look over her shoulder. He was staring contemplatively at her ceiling. “What?”
“We have these mini track lights. Very practical, but with a fun look. They have the advantage of being able to be set in a number of directions. You going for fun or elegant in here?”
“I don’t see why it can’t be both.”
“Good point. Soft colors or bold?”
“Bold here, soft in the treatment rooms. Look, Bradley—”
“Ouch. That sounded like my mother.” He’d already crouched down to flip through a sample book, and cast her a quick grin. “Do you guys have like a training center where you learn how to develop that withering tone?”
“Men aren’t allowed to have that information. If I told you, I’d have to kill you. And I just don’t have the time. We’re going to close on the property in a month, and I want to have my plans outlined so I can start on them the minute we do.”
“I can help you.”
“I know what I’m doing and how I want to do it. I don’t know why you assume—”
“Hold on. Boy, are you touchy.” Wouldn’t you think a woman who wore skintight jeans and decorated her navel would be a little more approachable? “I’m in the business, remember?” He tapped the HomeMakers logo on the sample book. “Not only that, but I like helping a building meet its potential. I can give you a hand with some labor and material.”
“I’m not looking for a handout.”
He set the book aside, slowly got to his feet. “I said a hand, not a handout. What is it about me that puts your back up?”
“Everything. That’s unfair.” She shrugged. “But it’s true. I don’t understand people like you, so I tend to distrust them.”
“People like me?”
“Rich, privileged people who run American empires. I’m sorry, I’m sure you have some very nice qualities or you wouldn’t be Flynn’s friend. But you and I have nothing in common. Plus, I have a lot on my plate right now and no time to play games. So let’s clear this up, then we can move on. I’m not going to have sex with you.”
“Okay, well, obviously my life is no longer worth living.”
She wanted to smile at that, nearly did. But she had reason to know his sort was very tricky. “Are you going to tell me that you’re not hoping to sleep with me?”
He took a careful breath before speaking. She’d hooked the earpiece of her sunglasses in the V of her shirt, and those long, tawny eyes were staring very directly into his. “You and I both know there’s no way for me to answer that question correctly. It’s the mother of trick questions. Others in this category are, Do I look fat in this? Do you think she’s pretty? And if you don’t know, I’m certainly not going to tell you.”
Now she had to bite the inside of her lip to hold back the laughter. “The last isn’t a question.”
“It’s still a mystery and a trap. So why don’t I just say I find you very attractive. And we have more in common than you seem to think, starting with a circle of friends. I’m willing to help you, Malory, and Dana with this place. None of you has to have sex with me in return. Though if the three of you wanted to get together and organize a nice tasteful orgy I wouldn’t say no. Meanwhile, I’ll let you get back to work.”
He started out, then said casually as he walked down the stairs, “By the way, HomeMakers is having a sale on wall treatments—paper and paint—next month. Fifteen to thirty percent off all stock.”
Zoe hurried to the top of the steps. “When next month?”
“I’ll let you know.”
So, she wasn’t going to have sex with him. Brad shook his head as he walked to his car. That had been an unfortunate statement on her part. Obviously, she wasn’t aware that the one thing no Vane could resist was a direct challenge.