Oui(The French Connection Book 1)(9)

By: Brooklyn Knight

“We can’t.” My response was succinct.

“Why not?”

“Jennifer McMahon.”

Ryder’s brow furrowed. “Jenny McMahon?”

I raised an eyebrow. “The girl everyone said you were dating a few months ago? You were spotted going into The 541 with her.” I pointed a manicured finger in his face. “And don’t you dare deny it.”

“Okay, I won’t deny it,” he admitted slowly, “but I promise I can explain – ”

I cut him off. “Don’t bother. The best thing is for us to move on with our lives. After graduation in a few months, it will be a lot easier. We won’t have to see each other ever again.”

“You have no idea how much the very thought scares me,” he whispered. Ryder ran his hands down my arms, sending small waves of electricity pulsing through me. “Give me another chance, Laila,” he said, coming close to my face again. “Give me another chance to show you that I can be everything you need me to be. Let me take you to dinner,” he persisted. “We can talk about whatever you want. It doesn’t even have to be about us. Let’s just... spend some time together.”

I exhaled shifting my purse from one shoulder to the other, trying to find another reason that made even the smallest semblance of sense. I was punishing Ryder Hanson. There was no doubt in my mind that he deserved every ounce of what I was dishing out, but he’d apologized. And it had been more than words. He’d given me the stage when he could have kept the lime light to himself.

I pushed my hair behind my ear and shifted my weight from one foot to the other. I glared at him. “When did you want to do it? You know I’m super busy and I really don’t have time to – ”

“Tonight,” he interrupted. “It’s the weekend and we’ve had a long day. Dinner would be the perfect way to wind down and relax.”

I grimaced, thumbing my ear. “Where?” I demanded. “It has to be somewhere completely public. I am not willing to be alone with you.”

“Bistro Du Midi,” he responded. “I know that French cuisine is your favorite. It reminds you of home, doesn’t it?”

The reference to my home in Roussillon forced the tension in my body to dissipate. I smiled in nostalgic recollection.

“Well, I’ve never been one to turn down a bouillabaisse,” I relented. “And if you’re paying...”

“When have you ever incurred an expense on my watch?” he asked.

“Fiscal or emotional?” I asked, throwing a sarcastic look in his direction.

“Never mind,” he said pulling out his cell phone. A few seconds later, he was making reservations for two at Bistro Du Midi, a place my father had taken me to several times when I was a girl and we’d first arrived in the United States. Remembering the special times we’d shared before he died brought tears to my eyes. Maybe dinner wasn’t a good idea, I thought. I quickly swatted them away as Ryder hung up and turned to face me.

“Done,” he said.

“Ryder, I don’t know. Maybe I should just go home. It’s been a long day and all of a sudden I just want to be alone.”

“I promise I’ll make it worth your while,” he said taking my hand in his. “And if you want to be alone after that, you won’t have to worry about me bothering you ever again.”

We stared at each other, a tense space suspended between us.

“Okay,” I agreed.

A yellow cab pulled up to the curb and Ryder opened the door. I entered, and he slid in next to me. The car pulled away from the curb, and I turned around to see the prestigious HA emblem posted at the top of the tall building, but I gasped when I saw the CEO staring out of the window down at the sidewalk, and his eyes were on me.

Chapter Three


‘Crucial Factor’

Later that afternoon, after the students left, Max walked into the office balancing a stack of files in his arms, and I moved away from the window when I heard the door open.

“Files for Monday morning’s meeting, Dylan,” he said throwing them onto a side desk in my office.

I ran my hands through my hair and walked over to the table, glancing at the files, uninterested. I had seen them a million times and was well versed with the details. I slapped one closed before walking over to the mini-bar and pouring myself a Bourbon.