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She started to look down once more, but he wasn’t having that. He stepped forward and tilted her face up with a finger under her chin. “Look atme. Not the floor,” he demanded.

“What I need is the male perspective, and the only other guys I know are Toby and Rich, and they’re not exactly killing it with the ladies. Or at least, they weren’t until…youhelped them. So I want you to help me, too. I figure you’re an expert when it comes to women.”

“So if you win, what exactly is it you want from me?” he asked, enthralled by this entire conversation. He was going to be late to his meeting, but he didn’t give a shit. Wild horses couldn’t drag him away from Beaumont right now.

“I want you to teach me how to make myself physically attractive to men. And how to flirt. And how to seduce a guy and how to be good in bed.”

Gage’s jaw dropped as he tried to process her request. “Wait. Are you saying you want to sleep with me?”

Beaumont tilted her head as if confused. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think sex was going to be the hard part of that favor. I mean…I’ve never really noticed you tying any sort of morals or emotions to sex.”

She wasn’t wrong. He didn’t. Sex was an act, not a feeling for him. Something she’d clearly gleaned from his well-earned reputation as a playboy.

Then her eyes widened, as if she’d solved her own puzzle. “Oh no, it’s what I said the other night, isn’t it? The work thing? I didn’t even think about that! I guess I’ve started thinking about you less as a boss and more as a friend. That was dumb of me, because now I’m in exactly the same position as the women I tried to warn you away from.”

So she really did think of him as a friend? Gage wasn’t sure why such a silly, insignificant thing made him happy.

“Wearefriends, Beaumont. And it isn’t the boss dynamic that has me hesitating.”

“Okay. Well, I mean, if it is, I could sign something that says this was all my idea and you weren’t harassing me or anything.”

He shook his head. “I don’t need you to sign anything. You’ve just caught me by surprise. I’m not sure why you want to change.”

“I…” she started, but then she shook her head. “Can I just ask you to trust me when I say this is what I want? My reasons are sort of personal.”

He wanted to press her on that then decided against it. For one thing, he understood wanting to keep certain aspects of his life private. For another, her reasons didn’t really matter…because he’d just found a way to get what he really wanted from her.

If he lost, he would carry out his part of the deal to an extent, though he had no intention of sleeping with Beaumont. He could teach her the art of seduction without taking her to bed.

For one thing, as she’d just said, they were friends. In fact, she was his first female friend, and he didn’t want to cross that line.

For another, he had no intention of losing.

“Fine. I accept the wager. If you win, I’ll help you reinvent yourself.” He was careful not to mention anything that might make her think he was agreeing to have sex with her.

She smiled. “Awesome. Well, I know you have a meeting, so I’ll let you—”

“Aren’t you going to ask what my favor will be when I win?”

“If,” she corrected. “And it doesn’t matter because I don’t intend to lose.”

“Humor me,” he insisted.

Beaumont pushed up her glasses. “I’m all ears.”

“When I win, you’re going to sign an extended contract agreeing to work here for the next five—no—make it seven years.”

Beaumont’s eyes widened, then she bit her lip guiltily. “How did you know?”

Just like that, she’d confirmed that Matt’s sources were accurate. “I have eyes and ears everywhere.”

“I wasn’t really looking to leave. They approachedme.”

“I know.” Sadly, he did. He wasn’t foolish enough to think headhunters wouldn’t seek her out. She was too fucking talented. But he’d be damned if he’d lose her.

“It’s a sweet deal,” she admitted. “Like, really sweet.”

He admired her moxie. “I’m willing to negotiate, discuss salary, benefits, and perks.”

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