Home > Off the Record (Record #1)(6)

Off the Record (Record #1)(6)
K.A. Linde

Liz swallowed hard, trying to push down the growing heat rising in her core and her quickening pulse. Why did she feel like this? It hadn’t been that long since she had been with somebody, and she wasn’t one to get caught up. But just the thought of those strong hands grasping her h*ps was sending her imagination into overdrive.

She needed to shut down. Now.

“Thanks, Jerry. Tell Francine I said hello. I’ll try to get by to play some ball with Matt this week. Yes, see you.”

Brady hung up his phone and placed it into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He turned to face her, leaning against the railing, and smiled. “You showed.”

“Are you surprised?” Liz asked despite herself. He didn’t seem like a man who didn’t get what he wanted.

“You never know.”

“Well, you didn’t tell me who you were.”

“Ah,” he said, nodding. “Then you definitely wouldn’t have showed.”

Liz arched an eyebrow. He thought he had her pegged already. Well, he was in for a real surprise. She would have come up here for sure if she had known that he was more than some random guy, even if she would have been nervous as hell. “And yet I haven’t left.”

“I told you not to,” he reminded her. “Did you like your drink?”

Liz looked down at it in her hand. Empty. When had that happened? “Yeah. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he said with the same smile that made her weak before.

Liz didn’t know what she was doing here. Why had he bought her a drink, and why was he making pleasantries? This wasn’t going to change her article. She wasn’t sure if he really cared all that much about the college paper, but this certainly wasn’t going to help him. Either way, though, she waited to find out what he wanted. She was too intrigued.

“Can I get you another?”

“No, thank you. I know my limits. I still have to get back home tonight.” Why was she telling him this? Wouldn’t no have sufficed?

“Are you sure?” he asked, his face a mask.

Something about him made her think he was tiptoeing around her. He still had the natural self-confidence she had seen in the press conference, but still there was something else, and she didn’t know what it was. Did he want to know about the paper? Did he want to know about her article? Something didn’t add up.

“Did you need something?” she asked, straightening her blazer.

“Need something?” he asked quizzically. His brows knit together. “Why would I need something?”

“I just thought…” She trailed off, embarrassed. “Just the paper…”

“Oh, no,” he said. His eyes seemed to bore into her, searching her. She wished she knew what he was thinking or where this was going.

“Do you enjoy flying?” he asked abruptly.

“What?”

She was taken off guard. Did he want to take her flying? That was ludicrous.

“Flying, like in airplanes,” he added.

“I don’t understand.”

“I never did. My ears popped, my parents argued, I never got a window seat, the lines were too long, and it always happened when I wanted to stay home.”

Why was he telling her this? He didn’t even know her name.

“I’d have panic attacks before boarding,” he informed her. “Sometimes my parents would give me medicine to knock me out so I wouldn’t hyperventilate.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, not sure how to respond.

“I grew out of it, of course. I had to, especially if I wanted to be a politician like my father, but I never forgot that feeling. My fingers and toes would get warm and tingle. I’d find it hard to swallow. My stomach would be racked with nerves. I couldn’t focus properly on what was at hand. I couldn’t keep my breathing even, and I also couldn’t seem to suck in enough air. It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life.”

“I’ve hyperventilated before,” she admitted—she wasn’t sure why. “My sister made me run a couple miles to the store with her in the middle of the summer in Tampa, but I’m not a runner. I’ve never felt so terrible.”

His eyes glistened as they stared into hers. “Then you know what I mean?” He waited until she nodded. “Well, I’ve never associated that feeling with anything good in my entire life…until you asked me that question today.”

Liz’s mouth popped open without any intention on her part. “What?”

Her question had been tough. She hadn’t cared, though. She had wanted answers and all he had done was sidestep. She hadn’t thought he had given it much thought, and he certainly hadn’t thought about her.

“I think I hid it as well as I could, but I had to get off of that stage. I was suffocating under your scrutiny.”

“Me?” she squeaked, losing all semblance of composure.

“And I wanted to know how you did that.”

Liz didn’t know what to say. No one had ever said anything like this to her before. She felt like an idiot staring up at him, getting lost in the endless dark depths of his eyes. How was she supposed to respond to that? Only two minutes ago she had thought this was some kind of joke. Now he was saying that she completely disarmed him. Him. State Senator Brady Maxwell III.

“You seem surprised,” he said.

“Of course I’m surprised, Senator Maxwell,” she said formally. “I’m not entirely sure how to even begin to respond to that. I wasn’t doing anything on purpose. I just…asked you a question.”

“You asked one hell of a question,” he said, leaning forward into her.

“I’m not going to apologize,” she told him, standing up taller in her heels.

“I wasn’t requesting an apology.”

“Then what?” she asked skeptically.

“I was merely complimenting your reporting skills. How long have you had this position?”

Liz narrowed her eyes. “You’re complimenting my reporting skills?”

“It was a fair question,” he told her.

“I know.”

“Then why do you look like you might pounce? I’m not meaning to be critical.”

She glanced away from his overwhelmingly beautiful face, over the railing, and out across the main bar area. It was a crowded night. How had he even seen her in the growing madness below?

“I just…” Her eyes gradually shifted back to his, and she gripped the railing harder. “I’m not certain where this conversation is heading.”

“Why does it have to head anywhere?” he asked, scrutinizing her face.

She blushed and made the mistake of looking into his eyes. “I didn’t…that’s not what I meant.”

He laughed. “It’s all right. It seems you are more adept at sidestepping my questions than I was at sidestepping yours.”

Had he admitted to dodging her question? Was this off the record? Had they ever clarified?

“Seems you’re stuck here with me now. You’re going to have to answer me,” he said, taking another step toward her. His smile was playful. He was flirting with her…teasing her. Brady Maxwell was teasing her.

“I’d be happy to,” she said boldly. “It’s not like anyone is going to be writing an article about me.”

“That’s good. You don’t need to be in the papers. Then everyone would know about you, and I think I prefer you here all to myself.”

Her mouth went dry. She had no words.

“So,” he said, deliberately reaching forward on the railing and sliding his thumb against her hand. Sparks ignited everywhere he touched her, and she felt her body reacting instantly to him. It was the same feeling she had gotten in that conference room when he had walked onstage. He focused in on her, and she couldn’t breathe. “Let’s start with your name.”

She was pretty sure he had knocked the breath right out of her, but she found her confidence within and answered, “Liz. Liz Dougherty.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Liz,” he said, offering her his hand.

She placed her hand in his. “Handshakes and kissin’ babies,” she muttered.

“Such is the life. Though it’s typically not this enjoyable.”

“You seemed to enjoy yourself just fine today,” she responded. “What made you decide to run?”

“Now, now, none of that,” he said. She hadn’t meant for it to come off as a reporter question, but it was her life, after all. “I didn’t buy a reporter a drink. I bought Liz Dougherty a drink. And I want to know when I can see you again.”

Everything about the situation told her not to give in. What good could come from that? She was a reporter and he was a politician she was writing a story on. They couldn’t ignore that.

But for the life of her, she couldn’t do it.

“You want to see me again?”

He dug into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and extracted a business card. He placed it in her palm, and she fingered the thick embossed paper. It was an expensive card; that much she knew.

“I’ve already said I want to see you again. If you want to see me, give me a call on that number. It’s my personal line. If you can’t reach me, call my secretary at the number below that. I’ll get in contact with you,” he said with a penetrating gaze that made her believe he would. “I wish I could stay now, but I have some business to attend to.”

She couldn’t call him. She couldn’t see him. It wasn’t right for her professionalism or for her future career in journalism.

Maybe when she was finally away from him, she wouldn’t feel as heated and desperate to be closer to him.

“Hey,” he murmured softly, brushing his fingers across her jawline, “you want to see me. I want to see you. Call me. If you don’t, you’ll regret it.”

Could he read her mind?

“I’ll think about it,” she whispered, entranced.

“I look forward to your call,” he said, releasing her chin.

Her body was already missing his touch. She hated that he left her with the option, but he had already stated what he wanted. Now it was up to her. He wanted her to come to him willingly, and she certainly was willing. He had this undeniable, uncontrollable pull on her that she had never experienced with another man. He made her want to use this card.

But she knew she never would.

Chapter 5

MIXED SIGNALS

Liz walked in a trance back down the flight of stairs leading out of VIP. Her hand was clutching the business card Brady had given her, between shaking fingers. All of her attitude dissolved when she left, and she was wondering what the hell had happened.

Her feet hit the bottom of the stairs, and she exited the doorway back onto the main floor. She didn’t know how long she had been gone or if anyone had noticed her absence. All she knew was that Brady Maxwell, a sitting State Senator, had said he wanted to see her again. And what had she said? I’ll think about it. Really? Was she out of her mind? The man was the most gorgeous person she had ever laid eyes on, and the physical attraction she felt in his presence was off the charts. She would have gone to the ends of the earth for him, and still somehow she had told him she would think about it.

Not that it was a good idea to see him, but now that she was away…it felt like a much worse idea not to see him.

Liz tucked the business card carefully away in the pocket of her navy blazer and walked back to the table. Her head was down as she approached, her mind lost on Brady. He was all charm, and she shouldn’t have been surprised. He was a politician, after all. She just had never expected…him…that he would throw her so off-balance.

She had a strong head on her shoulders. Her dad had always told her that. It was why she had worked so hard in high school to get a full scholarship to Chapel Hill, and why she pushed herself at the paper to become a reporter. It was the same steadfastness that made her a long-term kind of girl, and that caused her to always be the one who ended things with her various boyfriends when she felt the relationship slipping. She might stay with them longer than she should, but in the end, it was always her choice…it was always her. Yet here she was, swept away by some politician.

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