Secrets of the Playboy's Bride(8)

By: Leanne Banks


“You like it?” he said with an approving smile.

“What’s not to like? Beautiful scenery, comfortable living conditions.” She sighed.

“I’m glad you like it,” he said.

“And have you noticed the stars?” she asked, looking up at the sky.

“No, but I would expect you to,” he said. “See anything interesting up there?”

“It’s more than interesting,” she whispered.

“I may have to get a telescope so you can show me how interesting it is,” he said.

A staff member appeared with a tray of food and served both of them. “It looks delicious,” she said.

“No more than you,” he said.

She bit her lip and looked down at her food. “What made you decide to build a lake home here if you fight staying here?”

“Something about it was irresistible,” he said. “I missed the water. I miss the ocean too,” he said. “I’ll address the ocean another time.”

“How can you miss the water? Haven’t you spent your whole life in Philly?”

He paused. “No. I have vague memories of visiting the sea. I can’t explain it. I just do.”

She frowned, taking a bite of lobster. “But you said you had no childhood.”

“Exactly,” he said in a crisp voice. “Like I said, I can’t explain it. It’s like it’s from another life. One of the few irrational things about me.” He took a bite of steak.

She sensed he didn’t want to discuss it further. Despite her desire to ask more, she delayed giving in to her curiosity. She had another job to do. “Thank you for inviting me. After the prom drama of the day, this is a huge relief.”

He smiled. “How did that go?”

“Mostly good,” she said. “My sisters are total opposites. Tami can be a trial, but she was good today.”

“How often do you see them?” he asked.

“Almost every week,” she said. “The love of my life.”

He slid his hand across the table and covered hers. “Is that why you’re not married?” he asked.

“It’s more complicated than that. I guess I haven’t found the right man yet,” she said.

“Describe the right man,” he said. “Similar backgrounds? Shared passage on the Mayflower? Same schools?”

“No,” she said, laughing at the Mayflower comment. “Good head, good heart and crazy for me.”

“That list doesn’t sound that difficult,” he said.

“You’d be surprised,” she said. “What about you? Describe your right woman.”

“Someone classier than I am to conceal my rough edges,” he said. “Beauty doesn’t hurt. Complete honesty. I’m not sure marriage is necessary, though.”

“Many men don’t,” she said in a dry tone, her stomach tightening at his reference to honesty. How could he expect that of someone when he’d been the consummate liar?

“You disagree?”

“I believe in family. Marriage is part of family.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know much about family.”

She gave a shrug in return. “Maybe you should learn.”

He paused as he lifted his beer. “Is that a challenge?”

“I’ll let you decide that,” she said with a light laugh.

After dinner, they took a walk along the long dock that led out to the lake. His cell phone beeped and he glanced at the caller ID. “Excuse me, I need to take this. Won’t be a minute. I’ve had a few blips with the China deal.” He put the phone to his ear. “Leo Grant,” he said and listened.

Calista walked further down the dock, torn between her next step with Leo and the sound of his voice.

“So our shipping agent in Hong Kong tried to charge more after we’d already loaded the merchandise for transport? Fine. Pay the surcharge this once, then call our second choice. After delivery is confirmed, cut the first guy loose and tell him we will be reporting his behavior to everyone in the shipping and merchandising business.”

The ruthless tone in his voice made her throat tighten.

“That’s my final word,” he said. He turned off his cell and looked toward her. “That’s done. We shouldn’t have any more interruptions this evening,” he said and moved beside her, sliding his arm behind her back.

“Why do I get the feeling that a guillotine has just fallen on some very foolish guy in Hong Kong?” she asked.

Leo shrugged. “He should have stuck to the deal. If someone tries to cheat me, they’re history.”

She felt a chill and a sliver of bitterness at his hypocrisy. How many times had his own father cheated people? How many times had Leo been a part of his father’s schemes?

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