"I find it interesting that you sent a resume."
Astrid frowned, not understanding. "Would you prefer to see photos of events I've arranged?" She bent down to retrieve her portfolio.
"No," he said.
"While your qualifications are impressive, they aren't required for the position."
Disappointment settled in her stomach. She stared at the Adonis seated across from her. At the wavy black hair that she'd bet felt like silk. At the thick, perfectly arched eyebrows above intense ebony eyes. Fathomless eyes that scattered her thoughts. And those lips …
She reminded herself that her disappointment was strictly professional, that landing this contract would be a major boon for her company.
"Why are you here, Ms. Thomas?" He set her resume down on the desk and leveled his intimidating stare at her.
"You've talked about events you've planned, and now you want to show me your portfolio." Erik shrugged. "Why?"
What did he mean? Wasn't that the whole point of this interview? She forced a polite chuckle. "Well … that's usually what convinces clients of my competence. Is there something else you'd like to see?"
His gaze drifted over her face, lingering on her lips, before lazily returning to her eyes. His eyes seemed darker, his look … sexual.
Astrid gave herself a mental shake. Her imagination was on overdrive. From what Suze had told her and the articles she'd read, Erik Santos was all business.
The sexy gaze was still there.
"Tell me about your other … skills." Sensuality dripped from the word 'skills.'
Surely she was mistaken, reading sexual intent where there was none. "I can't think of any other skills more applicable to event planning-"
"But we both know you're not here for the event planning position."
"I don't under-"
With a flick of his wrist, ecru stationery fluttered to rest in front of her. She read the words with mounting horror.
"I didn't write that!"
Paper rustled. Her gaze flew to the name scribbled in blue ink.
"I didn't sign that!"
His lips twisted. "Ms. Thomas, don't waste my time."
She glanced back at the signature – at the big loopy 'A' and the flamboyant 'T' – and fought the panic threatening to overwhelm her.
How totally embarrassing. How utterly humiliating. How was she going to explain this? She straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. "Mr. Santos, I'm afraid there's been a mistake."
His eyebrow arched. Ebony eyes watched. Waiting.
"Suze sent that letter," she said, keeping her voice matter-of-fact.
His eyes narrowed. "Suze who?"
"Bobby's girlfriend. We-"
"My brother, Bobby?"
"I find that hard to believe."
"Suze is my best friend, and we-"
"Fascinating, Ms. Thomas, but that explains nothing."
Astrid bit back her annoyance. "If you would let me finish, Mr. Santos." She paused and took a deep breath, striving to keep her professionalism in place. She'd pretend that this conversation was like any other, that Erik was … that Erik was … a disgruntled client. Yes, that was it. A disgruntled client who was unable to understand why orchids were more fitting than paper whites, or why baked chicken was more practical than barbeque ribs for his soiree.
With that image firmly implanted in her mind, she gave Erik a polite smile. "As I was saying, Suze and I were at a bar and I was complaining about the lack of contracts for Event Planners. She found an ad in the Personals column of The Santa Barbara Tribune and we joked about responding … "
The disgruntled client image unraveled.
"We dictated a letter … " Her face grew warm. "We were joking …" Her palms felt moist. "I don't know why Suze gave you that letter."
His dark eyes stared, seeming to sift through her thoughts. "Don't you, Ms Thomas?"