Secrets of the Playboy's Bride(5)

By: Leanne Banks

Just after the server delivered their drinks, a man approached the table. He looked vaguely familiar to Calista, but she couldn’t name him. She wondered if he was one of Leo’s acquaintances, except he kept looking at her.

“Calista French. All grown up. I remember you as a young teen,” the man said.

Calista searched the man’s face but still couldn’t recall him. “I’m sorry. I’m drawing a blank.”

The man laughed but his eyes were cold. “William Barrett. I was one of your father’s business partners.”

Calista felt her blood drain to her feet. William Barrett had sued her father’s estate and then gone after her mother after her father had died. She mustered a blank expression. “You’re correct. I was very young. I hope you’re enjoying your dinner. It’s a lovely restaurant, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. How is your mother these days?” he asked.

She couldn’t quite keep from digging her fingernails into her palms, but at least her hands were in her lap out of sight. “My mother passed away several years ago.”

Barrett raised his eyebrows. “Oh, I’m sorry. Of course, I knew about your father, but—”

The maître d’ approached Barrett. “Sir, I’ve been asked by the manager to inform you that your party will receive a complimentary appetizer. We just need to know your preference. Your server has a menu at your table.”

Barrett gave a loud bark of a laugh. “Must be my lucky day. Hope to see you again, Calista.”

Calista said nothing and reached for her glass of wine, barely resisting the urge to hiss at the man.

“You don’t like him, do you?” Leo asked.

“Was I so obvious?”

“You turned pale,” he said.

“He treated my family poorly during a difficult time,” she said.

“Then I’ll tell his server to pour red wine on him,” he said.

His suggestion lightened her mood. “Oh, they wouldn’t do that on purpose,” she said, feeling a slight pinch at the memory of the margarita she’d poured on Leo.

He lifted an eyebrow. “My personal assistant usually runs interference when I’m eating in a public place, but I allowed this man to approach because he might have been a friend of yours. Next time we’re in public, I’ll stick to my routine.”

Although Calista had been raised in a relatively wealthy home, she’d never heard of her father employing an assistant for such a task. She glanced around. “Is your assistant here tonight?”

He nodded behind her and waved his hand. A brawny middle-aged man approached them. “George, this is Miss French. We’d prefer no interruptions for the remainder of the meal.”

“Miss French,” George said in a gruff voice with a nod.

“George, it’s nice to meet you,” Calista said, extending her hand.

Looking slightly uncomfortable, he shook her hand. “Pleasure to meet you also, Miss,” he said then turned to Leo. “Enjoy your dinner, sir.”

George turned around with his hands folded behind his back, creating a barrier between their table and the rest of the room.

Calista let out a sigh of relief. Barrett wouldn’t be approaching her again that evening. “Must ask. What does he say to people who try to approach the table?”

“Mr. Grant and his guest would like to enjoy their meal without interruption. Thank you for your consideration,” he recited.

“Has it ever not worked?” she asked. “What happens if they ignore him?”

“That’s only happened three times. George says, I insist.”

“And if that doesn’t work?”

He hesitated, then smiled. “You want to know about the one time that a man wouldn’t take no for an answer? George is a former boxer, but he was homeless when I met him. He’s my trainer and sparring partner.”

Surprised, she stared at him for a moment. “Is he your bodyguard?”

Leo laughed. “Hell, no. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had. I just had to find a way to get him off the streets and the only way I could do it was to employ him. Shocked?”

“Yes.” She paused a second. “In a good way.”

He lifted his glass and clinked it against hers. “To no more interruptions.”

A couple hours later, Leo escorted her downstairs and outside. He was tall and moved with athletic grace. He oozed confidence, strength and mystery even though she knew his secret. Sliding his fingers through hers, he looked down at her. “Come to my house for an after-dinner drink,” he said, his eyes full of invitation.

Her stomach dipped, taking her by surprise. “I can’t. I have my car,” she said.

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