His welcome party turned out to be more of a soirée for the entire faculty, held in what Giles told him was a former gentlemen’s club. It was the traditional kind, including a formal dining room, library, bar, and billiard rooms. Rooms once used for socializing had either been turned into private meeting rooms or had the walls removed to expand the bar area for social gatherings.

The place had been upgraded and adjusted with modern amenities by the new owners, turned into a study café during the day and an exclusive event venue during the night, but the ambiance remained.

“Doctor Jenkins.” Wyatt turned to look over his shoulder, swallowing an exasperated sigh when he saw yet another Professor from the division approach him with a broad smile. He’d just managed to make it to the bar after forty minutes of mingling, and more than anything he needed a break from answering the same questions repeatedly.

“Professor Carlyle, nice to finally meet you face to face.” Wyatt took the older man’s hand for a firm shake. He was well versed in the art of schmoozing, it was more of a reflex by now. Probably for the best, Wyatt thought with internal resignation, fully aware he wasn’t in the mind space for any kind of niceties after his morning encounter with Mia.

Carlyle took another twelve minutes of his time, not bothering to offer him a drink even though he had found Wyatt at the bar.

“You’re good at that,” Mia said from behind him. Wyatt spun, startled, and blinked a few times, wondering if he should go on the defensive right now or wait to see what she wanted.

“At what?” he finally asked, leaning on the bar to catch the bartender’s attention. “Whiskey sour and…?” He looked at Mia with a questioning gaze.

“A Vesper, please,” Mia said before turning to face him. “At the semi-political socialization.”

“I would thank you, but I get the distinct feeling that anything you say to me is meant to offend.” Mia’s lips stretched into an amused smile, completely unabashed by his forward accusation. “Well, you’ll have to try harder than that, Doctor Bissonnette.”

“Oh, but I’ve only just begun, Doctor Jenkins,” she retorted, her amusement growing, as if this were all some big game.

“I’m not going anywhere, Mia, your time would be better spent working with me than against me.” Mia just smiled a cryptic smile, accepting her drink and lifting it in his direction with a small salute before taking a sip and humming in appreciation.

“James Bond’s original cocktail of choice, invented by Sir Ian Fleming himself.”

Wyatt barely suppressed a snort. Mia did look like a bona fide Bond girl, with her hair slicked back and a little black dress hugging all her willowy curves. She had legs for miles, the kind of long limbs that a man could kiss up all night.

“Like what you see, Doctor Jenkins?” Her head was tilted to the side, her eyes returning a roaming look, and Wyatt took a step forward and sipped on his own drink before leaning closer to her.

“Do you, Doctor Bissonnette?” he asked in a low voice, and Mia angled her head to capture his gaze, her witchy eyes hypnotizing him. “I’ve never seen that eye color before.”

“Don’t expect me to fall for your notorious charms, Wyatt.” Her slight breathlessness was telling him a different story, and though he knew better, Wyatt enjoyed this game far more than the one Mia was trying to play.

“You haven’t answered my question.”

One corner of Mia’s lips lifted, and she placed her empty martini glass on the bar before reaching up to straighten his perfectly straight collar. “You wear royal blue very well.”

Now who’s working who with their charms?” Wyatt loved that his retort made her laugh. The entire exchange made him hopeful that, with time, they would reach common ground and have an amicable, even friendly, work relationship.

As angry as he was at Mia’s assertions this morning, by the time evening had rolled in he’d come to see things from her perspective. She had dedicated her entire career to this hub, and was its loudest advocate. It meant more to her than a job she was passed up for, it was her world, her life.

Also, he realized how bad it would look if he threw out their lead researcher so soon after he had arrived. So, although it was entirely in his power to get rid of Mia, he decided he should at least try to make this work, give her a chance to adjust and see he wasn’t all bad.

They were still standing dangerously close, Wyatt realized, with Mia’s fingers still gliding under his collar, sending a heated rush through his veins every time they brushed his pulse. He needed to step back, but she smelled like pears and sexy promises, and Wyatt found he didn’t have the will to tear away from her.

A movement caught the corner of his eye, and he flicked his gaze to another faculty member with that same sort of ‘I want a piece of you’ grin walking their way. “Oh, shit.”

Mia’s brow crinkled at his sudden change in demeanor, her gaze following his. She made a silent oh, then grabbed Wyatt’s hand, pulling him after her to the dance floor. Wyatt took her hand in his, resting the other at the small of Mia’s back with practiced ease, taking the lead in the waltz currently playing over the speakers.

She felt warm and soft under his palm, deceivingly delicate as she let him sway her to the music. Wyatt knew the sense of control was an illusion, Mia wasn’t one to hand over the reins, but Wyatt allowed himself to enjoy the moment.

“Smooth move,” Wyatt teased her.

“Very.” Mia stuck out her chin audaciously. “You owe me one for letting you use me as a way to ditch your obligations.”

“I’ve had enough of obligations for tonight.” Wyatt didn’t mean for it to sound suggestive, but Mia’s raised eyebrows and amused glare indicated that’s exactly how she took it.

“Oh?” she said in a soft voice, letting him spin her then pull her close to his chest. “What did you have in mind for the rest of the night, then?”

Wyatt knew he should nip whatever this was in the bud. He couldn’t tell if Mia’s flirtation was a tactic or real, but he did recognize his own unfurling attraction. She was sharp and sexy, and she was dangerous in more ways than one.

“Why?” he heard himself ask Mia as he pulled her closer. Her body felt good against his. “What are you offering?”

Mia looked up at him with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes that didn’t bode well for Wyatt. She was reeling him in with this back and forth, hooking him on her sultry voice and wicked eyes that were suddenly full of something other than utter boredom when looking at him. “You can’t handle what I’m offering.”

“I’m sure I can handle anything you try to throw at me.” He returned her taunting smile with one of his own, steering them to the other end of the dance floor and to a high table with two barstools, where he let her go and took a seat. “Things are complicated enough as they are, though, don’t you think?”

“So American of you,” Mia huffed with an eyeroll. “Thinking sex is what will further complicate this situation.”

“It won’t?” Wyatt asked, fascinated at how much sharper her French accent became when she emphasized the word American.

“Not that it was, or ever will be, on the table, but no.” Mia shook her head to accentuate how strongly she felt on the subject. “Sometimes sex is just a physical outlet, like running or boxing.”

Wyatt almost doubled over laughing at her analogy. “What kind have sex have you been having?”

Mia smiled a wicked smile that shone in her eyes, hopping off her stool and coming to stand in front of him, leaning close to his ear before whispering in a sultry voice that left no doubt as to the challenge her words presented. “Better than you can offer, Doctor.”

She plucked her purse off the table and walked away, her regal posture exuded an air of undeniable confidence, which Wyatt very much liked, and even more so how harmonious it was with the seductive sway of her hips. Wyatt was sure Mia was putting extra effort for his benefit. He was fully aware that she was trying to bait him, which he wasn’t pleased by, but couldn’t deny that it had the desired effect of turning him on.

Though Mia didn’t like him, they had chemistry, the kind that could either explode or create something magnificent. Wyatt was hoping for the latter, professionally speaking. He was smarter than letting his guard down, knew better than to be lured by Mia’s shameless flirtation.

Mia wanted him gone, and although Wyatt suspected she’d never stoop to using sex as a weapon to get rid of him, he wasn’t sold on the no complications clause.

He also held no delusions about Mia being more accommodating tomorrow. In her head, she’d declared war on him and everything he represented. Wyatt had to fortify his walls, make them impenetrable to her purple-eyed magic.

He was not going to lose.