“Two minutes, City Girl.”
She followed him, wanting to retort that she hadn’t always been a city girl, but the way her stiletto sank into the damp grass weakened the sentiment. So Jordan said nothing, carefully tiptoeing her way across the lawn to where he stood leaning against the pole of the swing set.
He took another swig of the beer before lowering his arm to his side, letting the bottle dangle loosely between long, strong fingers.
For a moment, Jordan felt blindsided by a pang of homesickness—a longing for a normal life where the men sipped beer from bottles, and women didn’t count carbs, and where comfortable cowboy boots were perfectly acceptable footwear for all occasions.
“Okay, here’s the thing,” Jordan said, taking a deep breath. “You don’t like me. You don’t like the idea of this show. I get that. But tawdry as the whole thing sounds from your perspective, you have my word that the women will be handpicked to be potentially compatible with you.”
“Handpicked,” he said sarcastically, taking another drink of beer. “You don’t say. Handpicked by whom, you?”
The precise grammar caught her off guard, and she realized this was no country hick to be steamrolled with sweet talk. She quickly shifted her stance to her ace in the hole. Her boss had insisted it be a last resort only, a last-ditch effort to get their guy, but Jordan read people for a living, and her read on this guy told her there wasn’t a romantic bone in his body.
So she took the other tack.
“We’ll double the original offer.”
He didn’t even blink.
“Twice as much,” she said.
“Yes, I’m aware what double means.”
“It’s a lot of money,” she said. “And like I said earlier, if money’s not important to you, just think what it could do for the town should you want to donate it.”
Luke took a sip of beer and said nothing.
Her eyes narrowed. “Do you even remember what the first offer was?”
“Didn’t forget, I just . . . never read it in the first place.”
She scowled. “I spent a lot of time on those emails.”
“Well, you wasted your time. I never made it past the second sentence.”
Luke moved so quickly she gasped when he stepped toward her, crowding her space. Her surprise had her rocking backward, the spikes of her heels sinking all the way into the grass and throwing her off-balance.
He reached out quickly, a palm against her back. His touch steadied her stumble even as it sent her heart racing.
“I’m only going to say this once more, City, so listen up,” Luke said in a low growl, his breath warm on her face. “I don’t care how much money’s on the table. I don’t care if your ‘handpicked’ women are all Victoria’s Secret models with degrees in neuroscience who run charities in their spare time. I’m not, nor will I ever be, interested in being a part of your show. So you can prance your high heels and your tight ass right back to New York City and leave me and my town in peace.”
He released her so quickly she nearly stumbled again, although she was pretty sure her unsteadiness had more to do with the thrum of her awareness of being so close to Luke than it did the stilettos.