The Pledge: Diana Song, steely legal counsel and all-around fixer for Macalister Enterprises.
The Goal: Same as always: do her job.
The Conditions: Complete the Player’s Club initiation challenges…then shut it down.
The Complication: Finn Macalister, the boss’s son, sexy daredevil and club stalwart.
Finn has always loved living on the edge…and what’s more exciting than seducing the famously frosty (yet incredibly hot) family lawyer? He knows Diana’s been tasked with getting him to quit the Player’s Club: that makes her the enemy. And you know the old saying: keep your friends close, your enemies closer!
“Mr. Macalister, where do you think you’re going?” The nurse in the faded seafoam green uniform was scowling at Finn with irritation.
“All I have is a concussion and a boatload of bruises, so I think I’m going to rest someplace a little more comfy,” he said, looking over his shoulder and winking. He immediately wished he hadn’t – the resulting thumping in his head was like the world’s worst hangover. “Not that you haven’t been a ray of sunshine, but if I’m going to be in Hawaii, I’d rather be somewhere a little closer to the beach. Now, could you be a love and get my… ah, there’s my clothes.”
“I’m going to talk to the doctor,” the nurse muttered ominously, and left.
“Knock yourself out,” he replied, and stripped out of his hospital gown, groaning slightly. He had his back to the door, so he didn’t notice anyone stepping in until he heard her voice.
“Finn, I need to talk to you …”
He spun – another bad idea – and yanked the bunched dressing gown in front of his naked privates. “Um, hello? Knocking?”
Then he got a good look, and broke into the first real smile he could remember since he’d landed in the damned hospital.
Diana Song, looking just as cool and collected as he’d always seen her, wearing a pale gray suit with a sparkling white blouse. Her black hair was done up in one of those twist things, not a wisp out of place. Her onyx eyes were wide as she took in his nudity.
She never looked surprised, he realized, and his smile went even broader as he saw her stare at him, obviously trying not to look below the waist – and, equally obviously, failing miserably.
“See anything you like?” He wiggled his hips a little, pain be damned. He was going to celebrate this moment!
He couldn’t help but notice that she swallowed hard, just before her face turned into the Vulcan, expressionless mask she always wore.
“That’s some bruising you’re developing,” she said, voice mild as a glass of warm milk. “You’re going to look like a patchwork quilt.”
He smiled, letting the bunched-up gown start to dip a little bit. “You should see my…”
“You’ve got to quit the Players’ Club.”
He felt a punch of shock, and realized she wasn’t there to give him flowers and flirt while he was three-quarters naked. If Diana Song was anything, it was all business. Still, he forced a grin, refusing to let her see she’d shaken him.
She crossed her arms, staring at him impatiently. He just stared back.
After a few long silent minutes, she nodded at him – and for no reason that he could understand, she looked impressed. She also decided to take a different tack. “Surfing the Pipeline. That’s not brave, that’s just stupid. You know that, right?”
“Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Don’t they all,” she murmured. “Your parents are concerned that your next bright idea might be your last, and they’re concerned that your involvement in this Club might be contributing to the quality and quantity of your little… excursions in extreme brainstorming, shall we say.”
“Those are some big, lawyerly sounding phrases there,” he answered. “Intelligent girls are so damned sexy.” Which was true, actually, but he mostly said it to annoy her.
If she was annoyed, it didn’t show. “Your father has asked me to persuade you to see the error in your judgment and perhaps choose a less dangerous group of enthusiasts to join.”
“Again with the sexy intelligence. I’m notoriously bad at being reasoned with, though. Ask anybody, I’m not the type to listen to logic.” He crossed his arms, giving her a slow once-over with his eyes. “No, I think your best shot would have to be manipulating me with seduction and feminine wiles.”
“Duly noted. I was thinking more along the lines of lead-pipe cruelty, but it just goes to show that there are several avenues we can explore to achieve the desired results.”
He suddenly wished he had his clothes on. Even though he’d been joking about her seducing him– sort of – it was tough to match wits when you weren’t wearing pants.
“No offense, Diana, but you’re the family lawyer,” he said. “You’re brilliant, but at the end of the day, what can you really do to me? Write me a strongly worded memo? Subpoena me within an inch of my life?” He leaned close to her, whispering conspiratorially. “Good God… are you going to sue me to death?”
He saw it – just for a split second, the way those sexy, pillowy lips of hers curved into an unwilling grin.
“Come on, you know you wanted to laugh,” he coaxed, just for once wanting to see what she was like when she wasn’t all buttoned up. “That was a good one.”
“How you missed your calling in stand-up, I’ll never know. Perhaps you could quit the Players’ Club and pursue that instead.”
“I’m unappreciated in my time,” Finn said easily. “But seriously, what does my father expect you to do?”
“Whatever’s necessary to get the job done.” Her voice, though low, rang like a hammer on a steel blade, strong, true and vaguely ominous.
With anyone else, that sentence would’ve been a meaningless platitude, like there’s no “I” in teamwork, or we give a hundred and ten percent! But with Diana, there was a disturbing undercurrent. She’d put up with his father’s insane expectations for years, and had been able to survive in a corporate environment where lawyers were as disposable as toilet paper, and treated very similarly.
That meant that Diana was tough. Driven. Probably not to be messed with.
Which meant, perversely, that he now had to mess with her, he thought with a grin. He really had no choice.
“You’re going to stop me, then,” Finn mused. “Stopping at nothing. No matter what.”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I am.”
He couldn’t help himself. He tossed let the dressing gown drop to the ground and stood, naked, crossing his arms over his chest and looking at her sternly.
“Are you threatening me, Ms. Song?”
She stared into his eyes, calm as a statue of Buddha. “Are you trying to impress me, Mr. Macalister?” she countered. “Or perhaps going for another laugh?”
He chuckled. “Now that was just cold.” He stuck his tongue out at her, then turned, grabbing and tugging on his shorts.
He’d miscalculated. His muscles screamed at him, and he grimaced at the pain that was radiating up from his aching muscles. “Damn it.” His shorts caught on his thighs, and tugging it was getting awkward. He looked at her. “I don’t suppose you can help with this? I’m a little injured, here.”
She sighed deeply. Then she walked over to him, close, putting her hands on his waistband.
“This is so odd,” he remarked, trying to feel less helpless by joking. “Normally, most women would be trying to get these off.”
“I’ll just bet,” she responded, and tugged the pants up the rest of the way, to his waist. “But I’m not most women.”
He stopped her, putting a hand lightly on either of her forearms, keeping her close to him.
She was beautiful, he thought. Not his usual type… some kind of Amer-asian, Chinese, maybe a little Hispanic. Her eyes were deep brown, so dark they were almost black, and her hair was like wet river stones, black and glossy. Her cheekbones were high, her eyes almond shaped, her lips like plump and luscious raspberries.
Her expression was as determined as a Sherman tank.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’m not trying to be a jackass, here. I tend to joke when I’m feeling boxed in. You were trying to show me who’s boss, and that sort of thing inevitably makes me want to push buttons. Still, the naked thing…” he shook his head. “Was inappropriate, and I apologize.”
She looked surprised. Then she smiled.
“It’s okay,” she said, her voice warming. “It could’ve been worse.”
He paused a beat. “So it’d be wildly inappropriate for me to ask you out to dinner, wouldn’t it?”
“Finn, didn’t you hear a word I said?” she said softly. “Your Dad’s given me a a direct order, to get you out of the Players’ Club.”
“You’ll still need to eat, though, right?”
She laughed. He liked the sound of it – low and rich, like a brush of mink against his skin. “My job is to make you quit the Club… and from what I’ve seen, you’re not going to just go along with it. So I’m probably going to be making your life a living hell until you do what I need you to do.”
He grinned. “You’ll try, anyway. But I’ve got some skills.” He winked again. “So you do your best, and we’ll see who wins.”
“I don’t play games,” she murmured… but he could see it, the light of battle in her eyes. The challenge.
He felt his heart rev for a second, his body tingling, just like it did…
He smiled as awareness hit him.
Just like it did before his favorite challenges.
“I’ll be seeing you, Finn,” she promised, then turned and left, her determined walk still ruthlessly sexy.
“I sure hope so,” he said. “Let the games begin.”