He removed his hand far too soon and picked up the knife and fork beside his plate. He sliced into his chicken, inspecting the piece speared on his fork before he brought it to his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. Liese stabbed at a braised carrot, wondering when the hell eating had become a mode of seduction. They dined in silence for a few minutes, but it was strangely comfortable, despite the obvious tension.
He derailed her train of thought when he asked, “What made you accept the librarian position at FAHL?”
Caught off guard, Liese faltered. “I—well, I liked the environment and the foundation of the school. I, uh, thought you were a compelling administrator with an incredible background in education. I felt working under you would be enlightening.”
Liese left out the fact that it had been one of the first jobs she’d interviewed for and had offered the added benefit of getting her away from the city and the presence of an increasingly annoying ex-boyfriend.
Ryder smiled with rapt amusement. “And has it been?”
“Has it been what?”
“Working under me—how have you found the experience so far?” He touched the corner of his mouth with a linen napkin, hiding a grin.
She wished he would put her out of her misery. Location didn’t matter; he could take her on the dining room table for all she cared. There was plenty of room. “Ryder, please.”
“I’m certainly looking forward to enlightening you later.”
“You can act on that any time now.”
He smiled and continued to eat, as if he hadn’t been purposely antagonizing her. When he’d finished his meal, he arranged his silverware on the edge of his plate. He settled back in his chair while Liese picked at her half-eaten dinner.
“Do you like ice cream?”
“Ice cream. Do you like it?” Ryder clearly enjoyed throwing her for a loop.
“Are we having ice cream for dessert?”
He deposited his napkin on the table. “Maybe. Are you partial to it?”
“People with lactose issues?”
“There are pills for that.” She wanted to know where he was going with this.
“True. Do you have a favorite flavor?”
“Mint chocolate chip. And you?”
“Moose Tracks,” Ryder replied. “What do you typically wear to bed?” He propped his chin on his fist.
“What does my nightwear have to do with what kind of ice cream I like?”
“Nothing. I’m just curious.”
Liese took the bait. “I sleep naked. What the hell is Moose Tracks?”
“Vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup ribbons and mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Every night?”
“Every night, what?”
“Do you sleep naked every night?”
“Even in the winter?”
“I thought I needed to serve my detention first, but if you want to skip that part, it’s fine with me.” Liese smiled angelically.
“Come now, do you really think I’d go that easy on you?” he asked, lowering his voice. “This is the part of the evening I’ve been looking forward to most.”
Liese’s fork clattered to the table. Ryder rose from his chair. “I’ll assume that means you’re finished.” Not bothering to wait for her response, he gathered their plates.
She gulped down the last of her wine. Pushing her chair out, she followed him into the kitchen.
“Would you like an aperitif?” Ryder held up a bottle of Cognac and two glasses.
At her nod, he poured a glass of the amber liquid and held it out to her. With an unsteady hand, she accepted the drink. She would have chugged it if that wasn’t so impolite. Liese put the glass to her lips and took a small sip to mask the tremor.
Ryder closed the distance between them. Setting her glass on the counter, Liese bowed her head. Her body churned with exhilaration and uncertainty.
Ryder cupped her cheek in his palm, urging her to meet his gaze. His tenderness rendered him less severe. “If you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be.”
“I want to,” Liese whispered.
“That’s good. I want you here, too.” He smiled. “Would I be correct in assuming you’re not interested in dessert?”
“I thought I was dessert.”
“You will be soon enough.” Taking her hand, he led her down the hall to a flight of stairs. “I’d like to show you my personal office, where we’ll begin with your detention.”
Liese trailed her fingers along the ornate banister as she ascended the stairs. Despite there being more than enough room for Ryder to walk beside her, he stayed one step behind, his hand low on her hip. At the top of the stairs he pulled her to him. His palm slid roughly over the swell of her ass, fingertips digging in as he squeezed. His head dipped, and his lips met the shell of her ear.
“I can’t even begin to describe the ways I want to fuck you.”
Her eyes fluttered closed, certain he would spin her out of orbit.
With a hint of impatience and his hand still planted firmly on her backside, Ryder led her down the hall. He stopped at a set of double doors and opened them, sweeping out a hand to invite her inside. The room was a radical contrast to the minimalist main floor. The walls on either side were lined with cherry shelves, filled to capacity with everything from educational texts to classics. It was a librarian’s fantasy room.
Along the far wall, red velvet drapes were tied back to expose windows that spanned the length of the room. An antique desk and a leather executive chair dominated the center of the space. If the sun hadn’t already set, Liese imagined she’d have a perfect view of his backyard.
“Why don’t you have a seat, Ms. Harper.” Ryder motioned to two black leather chairs facing the desk.
Liese faltered, the use of formal address surprising her. Until she caught on. If she was serving her detention and being punished, he would be doling it out as Mr. Whitehall, not Ryder. The Ryder she met with to review her project was encouraging and engaging. Mr. Whitehall the disciplinarian was a different story.
“Yes, sir.” She aimed for nonchalance and sauntered over to the chair. Purposely sliding her skirt up her thighs until it rode obscenely high, she sank into the soft leather. Crossing her legs, she hooked her hands around her knees and looked at the floor, waiting.