Secrets of the Playboy's Bride(4)

By: Leanne Banks


Another skeleton, he thought, gritting his teeth. He glanced at the photograph of Calista and remembered her smile and breathless laughter. Damn it, she made him curious. It might not be wise to pursue a woman whose life had been negatively affected by his pseudoguardian, but Leo was more tired than ever of being bound by his past. He picked up the phone and dialed her cell number.

“Hello?” she asked and her voice felt as if it seeped inside him like honey.

“Hi. Leo Grant. You said you couldn’t make the first call,” he said. “So I’m making it.”

He heard the soft intake of her breath. “What a surprise. How did you get my number?”

“I have ways. Do you mind?”

She paused, a half beat that put him on edge. “No, I don’t.”

He grinned at the odd thrill that raced through him. “Good. Dinner tonight at Antoine’s at seven. I’ll have my driver pick you up wherever you say.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t tonight.”

Unaccustomed to being refused, he felt a twist of irritation. “Tomorrow night?”

“I would like that,” she said. “But there’s no need for you to send a car. I can drive myself.”

Calista hung up the phone and mentally checked step two off her list. The following afternoon, a last-minute meeting at work nearly made her late, but she rushed to pull herself together. Thank goodness for all the charm school classes her mother had required her to take. At the time, they’d seemed dreadfully old-fashioned, but now she was thankful to know how to present a calm face even when she didn’t feel that way.

She strode into Antoine’s and asked the maître d’ to direct her to Leo’s table. The man nodded. “Your dinner partner is at the bar,” he said.

Glancing up to find Leo staring at her, she felt a dip in her stomach. No doubt about it, the man was as gorgeous as sin, but it was the intense way he looked at her that affected her. There was a hard-won strength about him that appealed to her despite the fact that she hated his father for what he’d done to her family. She smiled as he walked toward her. “Hello again,” she said.

“Are you hungry?” he asked as the maître d’ led them to a table in the corner next to the window.

“I will be as soon as I catch my breath,” she said.

“Busy day?” he asked.

She nodded. “And always a minicrisis at the end of the day. How about you?”

“I just negotiated a new deal with a company in China. That will keep us busy for a while. Would you like something to drink? Don’t I owe you a margarita?” he suggested with just a hint of sensual mischief in his eyes.

She laughed. “Thank you. I’ll stick with one glass of wine tonight. What kind of business are you in?” she asked, even though she already knew quite a bit about Leo. She’d made it her mission to know as much about him as possible—even the kind of women he favored. She’d been pleased to learn he tended toward well-bred, well-educated blondes. Nice that she didn’t have to dye her hair, she thought.

“Shipping and transportation,” he said.

“And international since you just mentioned China,” she said.

He nodded. “It’s a must with the global economy. What about you?”

“I’m an analyst for Collier Associates. It’s not my first love, but I have a great boss.”

“What’s your first love?” he asked and she noticed his voice had a caressing quality to it. She could almost feel it on her skin.

“I love astronomy, but now that I’ve worked for a couple years, I’ve decided it’s better to enjoy that as a hobby,” she said.

“So you like to study the stars,” he said. “Interesting. How long have you had your head in the upper atmosphere?”

She smiled at his teasing tone. “Close to forever. I asked for a telescope when I was a very young child. A lot of kids get them, then they’re abandoned in the attic. You strike me as the kind of man with both feet on the ground. Do you remember what you did with your telescope?”

“I didn’t ever have a telescope,” he said, with a chuckle that didn’t meet his eyes. “I didn’t have a childhood.”

She blinked at his statement. “What? Everyone has a childhood. Unless you were hatched or are an alien.”

He shook his head. “As far as I’m concerned, life for me began at sixteen. But enough about my boring past. I’d like to know more about you.”

He was more charming than she’d planned, but she supposed she should have expected that. After all, he’d essentially been a grifter, a con artist. Wasn’t that the job requirement for con artists?

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