Anna closed her eyes and took another sip of her margarita, enjoying the way the sweetness of the strawberries and sharp tequila mingled together as it slid down her throat. Opening her eyes, she studied Max over the sugared rim of her glass.
The perfectly dressed, down to the straightened tie, CEO wasn't the same man sitting across the table from her. The first thing that struck her was that the tie was missing. She had no idea where it had ended up, but it had disappeared. Instead of the flawlessly combed head of hair, golden strands stuck out as if he'd been rolling around in bed. He brushed his hand through it again and she laughed when the action screwed it up some more.
"Whachew laughing at?"
His sinfully sensuous lips turned down in a frown and his gaze hardened. She never figured Max would look so delicious pouting. Mainly because she'd never seen him pout before. It was something Maxwell Chandler would never do. But it made him so damn tempting. Not that he needed much in that quarter. Breathing apparently was the only requisite he had to have to tempt her.
"Oh, quit trying to be so damn intimidating. It doesn't work on me when I'm sober. Isnot going to work now."
He grunted then bit into a chip and his posture relaxed a bit. As he chewed, his gaze didn't leave her face. The southern rock she'd had playing earlier had long ago faded into one of the Neville Brothers' sultry ballads. The intensity of his eyes sent an alarm off somewhere in her. Before she could get to the bottom of it and avoid the inquisition, he continued.
"I don't understand you."
He sounded delightfully disgruntled. They'd spent more than a few nights hanging out together, but they'd never gotten completely wasted before. Okay, she had, but Max hadn't. Max didn't lose control.
"Why do you want to understand me?" Anna shrugged. "There are times I don't understand myself."
He cocked his head to one side and waited a few seconds to answer as his gaze moved over her. The silence between them stretched, becoming even more evident when Aaron belted out the last few notes of the song. Anna hated it when Max did that, just stared at her as if he were trying to figure her out. He did it all the time and hadn't succeeded in his quest. Restlessness gripped her but she resisted the urge to fidget. She didn't want him to think he'd made her uncomfortable.
"I think you do know what you're about."
His authoritative tone worried her. Max tended to fix things--including people. Especially people. That is what she thought his engagement was about from the first announcement. Cynthia was a piece of work and needed all the help she could get. Max probably saw it and thought he needed to fix her. Anna didn't need to be helped in any way. She was perfectly happy the way she was.
Most of the time.
Anna decided to change tactics. "This conversation isn't making any sense."
He shot her one of his lopsided smiles that made her entire soul hum, then picked up his margarita and took a drink. His tongue moved over his lips, licking the last of the red drops from his mouth. All the while she tried to remember she wasn't supposed to yearn to follow his tongue with hers, and then attack his mouth. She could just imagine the way he tasted. Sweet, with a hint of dark desire that called to her. Once the idea formed, it was hard to push it aside, especially considering her alcohol consumption. But she was saved from embarrassment when Max's voice interrupted her.
"You think I don't know why you date these younger men?"
Anna didn't like the tenor of his voice--or the fact that he'd interrupted her musings--so her voice was a bit sharper when she said, "Because they take instruction so well in the bedroom?"
He set his margarita glass down with a click and his eyes narrowed. "You know you alwaysh do that."
"Have sex with young men--as you call them?"
He shook his head. "No. You always try and change the subject when I try and dig."
Maybe it was the multiple margaritas, but she was confused. The course he was taking made no sense to her. Which was odd because most of the time she could follow his thoughts easily.
"Max, honey, I think you need to take a break from the margaritas."
Leaning back in his chair, he crossed his arms over his chest. "Oh, no you don't. Don't try to make this about my drinking tonight." She opened her mouth to ask him what he was talking about, but he forestalled her by saying, "You always change the subject when I get serious. There has to be a reason you have these shallow relationships."
She frowned. "Why would you assume they're shallow?"
"Are you going to tell me that you have deep, meaningful relationships with men you keep around less than a month?"
"Have you been watching Dr. Phil again?" She shook her head in exaggerated pity and tsked. "I told you not to watch that show."
He ignored her sarcasm and plowed on. "I know you, better than your own parents, I bet. There's a reason you don't get too serious."
Because she didn't like the direction of this conversation, she decided to offer it another path to go down. "Really? Apparently you have the same problem."
That brought him up short. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I happen to be engaged."
She held up her finger to wave it back and forth. "Na ah ah. You used to be engaged. As in formerly engaged. As in single and dateless."
"Well, I was engaged. And I didn't call it off. She did."
She snorted. "So, Cynthia finally found one nerve in her body and started thinking for herself." She took another sip, watching him over the rim again. "You're not much better than I am, Max. Admit it, you didn't want to get married."
"I did. I wouldn't have proposed to Cynthia if I hadn't wanted to."
A sharp jab of pain punched her right in the gut. "Really. Then why aren't you depressed?"
He paused to take a drink, then said, "I guess I should be. But it just wasn't..."
As he trailed off she knew she'd won her argument.
"You didn't love her, did you?"
She ignored the way her heart gave a little leap at the irritated look on his face. The fact that he didn't love Cynthia shouldn't have warmed her so much. But it did--and all the way to her toes. She figured getting up and doing a booty dance was bad form.
"So, you're single and--a fact I have pointed out quite a bit--you're older than I am."
"But it doesn't matter as much for me as it does for you."
She narrowed her eyes as she studied him. Knowing what he was going to say, she led him into the corner. "And why does it mean more if I'm not married than it does for you?"
"Well"--he smiled at her--"you're a woman."
"Maxwell Thurston Chandler, your mother would smack you silly for that comment."
He grunted and lifted his chin slightly, giving the appearance of a very dignified drunk. "If you're going to bring my mother into this, I refuse to argue with you." He drained his glass. "Do you have any more margaritas?"
Anna smiled and reached across the table to pat his hand. "Sure thing, Max. A man who knows how to admit defeat is a man who deserves a drink."
Snorting, he handed her his glass. "I'm a man who knows if I said any more you would tell my mother and I'm a man who knows better than to upset his mama."