The Devil She Knew

By: Talia Hunter

Nate tried to ignore Suzie while the wedding speeches were going on, but sitting next to her was torture. Each time they were asked to toast the happy couple, he glared as she gulped her ridiculous cocktail. It was even brighter than her hair, bristling with too many straws and umbrellas. When it was reduced to nothing but a few half-melted ice cubes, Suzie ordered a big glass of wine and made a show of knocking that back as well.

No doubt Suzie wasn’t listening to the wedding speeches at all, but stewing over the single lie Nate had told. He had much more to be angry about. She hadn’t recognized him. Hadn’t known he was the kid who’d been hit with an iron bar when she’d sent her thug of a boyfriend after cigarettes.

But all that was in the past. He didn’t need to think about it, because he was completely over it. And the fact she’d been permanently burned into his memory when she didn’t even know his real name? No, he wasn’t upset about that either.

Nate realized he was grinding his teeth and made a point of relaxing his jaw. If only the perfume she was wearing didn’t keep wafting over and stirring something inside him he couldn’t quite control. He shifted in his seat and she shot him a sideways glare, her eyes narrow slits and her expression dark. Bring it on, Suzie. He needed more looks like that to get through to the part of him that hadn’t got the memo about her being bad news.

The other guests were clapping. Were the wedding speeches over? He got a waiter’s attention and motioned for another beer. He’d already had more than he’d usually drink, but they were fuel to help him get through the evening.

A waiter put their meals in front of them and Suzie snatched the name card from behind his place setting and held it up triumphantly, her bracelets jangling with the movement. “Nate,” she exclaimed.

“Congratulations,” Nate’s voice dripped sarcasm. “You guessed it.”

She stared at the name card and her eyes widened with horror. “Nate Mason? You’re Nathaniel Mason, the one who made that Journeyman website?” She slapped her forehead as though berating herself. “You’re who Laura was talking about. Why didn’t I realize it was you? How could she have sat me next to you, when she knew what you did to me? Sometimes she can be so—”

Nate leaned forward, cutting off her flow of words. “I didn’t create the Journeyman website.”

“Liar.” Her beautiful eyes narrowed. “Laura said you—“

“I came up with the idea, wrote the back end, and designed the engine to connect with airline ticketing systems. My business partner added the hotel booking and rating system. Then the company we sold it to added features that screwed up the user interface. They ruined it. But they spent enough on advertising to make sure it was the product everyone used.”

Suzie waved his name card like it was a stick she could use to beat him with. Her voice rose. “I was a freelance corporate travel consultant, until your stupid software put me out of business.”

He snorted. “Journeyman isn’t the only website for booking travel. There are lots of others out there.”

She tossed her head, making her curls bounce angrily. “I was good at what I did. My clients loved me. But thanks to you, my work dried up and I couldn’t go on.”

She threw the name card back on the table and her blue eyes flashed. They had been striking when she had brown hair. Now, framed by her fiery red mane, the effect was so stunning he could barely drag his gaze away from them.

Everything about her was designed to goad him, from the tangle of curls he wanted to smooth back from her face, to the way she angled her upper body toward him, teasing him with the gorgeous swell of her breasts, emphasized by the low cut of her dress.

Did she have any idea what she could do to a man just by leaning close? Silly question, of course she did. She did it deliberately to drive men crazy. No wonder she’d been stuck in his head all these years.

He gave a slow, deliberate shrug, knowing it would irritate her. “The industry had to change. It was inevitable. Any smart person could have predicted it.”

Her cheeks flushed to match her hair. “Any smart person?”

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