"Cassandra Mercer, the President."
Mechanically she raised her hand. "Mr. President." Afraid of what her eyes would reveal, she raised them slowly to meet his. Even knowing she must appear dreadfully coy, she couldn't help herself.
"What a pleasure," he said, taking her hand. His voice was soft and low, and she didn't know if he'd spoken to everyone in this tone. It was intimate, seductive. "I'm glad you could come on such short notice."
Had he instigated her invitation? She felt a swell of irrational pleasure.
"Thank you for including me, sir." How easily the respect slipped out. "I hope my being here hasn't upset any plans."
His smile ended on a warm chuckle as though he were enjoying a private joke.
"Not at all. In fact, I was hoping you wouldn't mind if we separated you from your parents for dinner. There's an empty seat at my table. Would you mind?"
"With you?" Oh, heavens, did she sound as breathless as she was afraid she did? "I mean, no..." She drew a breath. "It would be my pleasure, sir."
Unfair, she thought. She'd never be able to enjoy the dinner if her stomach didn't stop twisting up like this, and she knew it wouldn't if he kept smiling.
They stared at each other for a fraction of a second too long. Almost brusquely, he dropped her hand.
"Good. I look forward to seeing you at dinner."
Bill realized his mistake almost as soon as he'd made it, then struggled for the rest of the evening to rectify it. He'd stood there, like a gawky adolescent, holding onto her hand and staring into the pools of her eyes, his whole body aware of her.
Almighty! Better not go there.
So look at something else. He tore his gaze away from her again.