She pulled away. ‘No.’
He exhaled harshly. ‘We’ve been here before. I misjudged you then. I’m not doing it now.’
She forced her hands to drop from his shoulders. ‘Thank you, but nothing has changed. I can’t do this.’ Her lips were stiff, as if they didn’t want to speak the words.
A frown formed. ‘I’ve spent more than two seconds with you. I’ve engaged your intelligence.’
‘So now you’re ready to fall at my feet?’ she parried.
His features slid into neutral. ‘I don’t fall, Elise. Ever.’
Something jarred hard and cold inside her. ‘And I don’t sleep with people I work with.’
‘Who do you sleep with?’ he queried tersely.
‘Not that it’s any of your business, but I haven’t. Ever.’
One mocking eyebrow lifted. ‘You expect me to believe you’re a virgin?’
Heat stormed up her face in evidence before she could utter a word. Something akin to shock paled his face.
‘I’m not having this conversation with you. Believe what you will, but do it while you’re not lying on top of me.’
He released her immediately, his movements jerky as he retreated.
She averted her gaze from him, slid off the bed, stood, and attempted to straighten her embarrassingly wrinkled clothes.
They both startled when the intercom buzzed and the pilot announced they would be free of the turbulence in a few minutes.
Elise almost snorted. The turbulence in her life had taken the form of a powerful and enigmatic man whose compulsive power drew her inexorably in as every instinct screamed for her to run in the other direction. She might have succeeded in stopping her emotions from unravelling completely a few moments ago, but Elise feared she wouldn’t be as strong should any further turmoil be hurled her way.
Until she could finish her job and walk away, her only option was to distance herself as much as possible from Alejandro.
OF COURSE THAT was easier said than done.
From the moment they landed, she found herself in the very close and personal position of being Alejandro’s interpreter.
In between a whirlwind tour of Kyoto with her, he shamelessly courted Ishikawa Corporation’s rivals.
He accepted a meeting with the Ishikawa brothers two days after landing, which he then cancelled at the last minute with profuse apologies.
‘You’re taunting them,’ Elise observed as they stood beneath one of hundreds of red arches that lined the path
way to Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine. They’d paused halfway on the two-hour trek to the top, and, beneath them, Kyoto glistened resplendently in the evening light.
Elise breathed in deep, her heart lifting with a serenity she hadn’t felt for a long time.
Each morning since their arrival three days ago, Alejandro had instructed her to pick a place to visit. Their first visit had been to the Kiyomizu-dera temple close to where her grandmother lived. Her grandmother might have been absent but she’d arranged a private visit of the holy temple renowned for bestowing good fortune and love. As they’d strolled through the hallowed room, Elise had told herself the latter hadn’t been why she’d chosen the temple as her first port of call. Her heart had twanged with disbelief, but she’d shoved the feeling aside. Alejandro had strolled beside her with ease, pointing out scrolls he needed translating, then looking at her with blatant heat as she read them out to him in Japanese, then translated.
In those moments, she’d asked herself whether she was taking her reticence a little too far. Whether she wasn’t risking throwing away a spell of ecstasy for a lifetime of the unknown.
She glanced at him now as he traced his fingers down the scrolls on the arch. He turned, and one of the incisive gazes he’d taken to levelling on her since their turbulent and very eye-opening conversation on the plane bore into her.
She’d told herself she preferred things this way—looks without touching or any hint of the emotional and physical intimacy they’d shared on the plane. But slowly those feelings were changing.