Reunited with the Lassiter Bride(8)

By: Barbara Dunlop

“He needs to believe we’re still friends,” Evan cautioned as he trotted down the staircase after her.

His dark blue Miata convertible was parked halfway around the circular driveway. He’d picked Angie up in this spot countless times, taking her to dinners, to parties, occasionally away for the weekend. And for a few heartbeats, it felt exactly like old times. He had to stop himself from taking her hand or putting an arm around her shoulders. Touching her seemed like such a natural thing to do.

“I can act,” she responded breezily.

He slipped past her to open the passenger door. “I’m sure you can.”

She slid into the low seat, pulling her dainty shoes in behind her. “Conrad knows we’re coming?”

“He knows. I imagine we’ll get an earful about some of the stories in the tabloids.”

“I can cope with upset people.”

“Can you keep your cool when they come after your family?”

“Of course, I can.”

“Angie?” Evan cautioned.

She stared straight ahead. “Don’t call me that.”

“You want me to call you Ms. Lassiter?”

“My name is Angelica.”

He waited for a moment, until curiosity got the better of her and she raised her eyes to look his way.

“Not to me it isn’t,” he told her firmly. Then he pushed the door shut and rounded the hood of the car.

He knew he shouldn’t goad her, and he probably shouldn’t use her nickname either. But they’d been lovers once, best friends, engaged. They’d been mere hours away from getting married. They’d laughed. They’d fought. And she’d cried naked in his arms. He wasn’t about to pretend it had all never happened.

They both stayed silent as he pulled onto Sunset, pointing the sports car toward the Pacific Coast Highway.

“You can do it for one night,” she told him as he navigated traffic beneath the bright streetlights.

“Do what for one night?” He wondered if she was aware of the many interesting ways that statement could be taken.

She’d probably slap his face if she knew what he was picturing right now.

His mouth flexed in a half smile at his own thoughts. If this really were the 1950s, she would slap his face, but he’d kiss her anyway, pinning her hard against the nearest wall. Then she’d quickly capitulate and kiss him back, because she was only protesting out of a duty to be a good girl, not because she was unwilling.

“Call me Angie,” she answered, startling him out of the daydream.

“I can call you Angie for one night?”

“While we’re at Conrad Norville’s pretending to be friends. But that’s it.”

“I don’t think you can control what I call you,” he countered casually.

She fussed with the hem of her skirt, and there was something defiant in her tone. “I can control what I call you.”

“Call me anything you like.”

“What about incompetent and irresponsible?”

“Excuse me?” He swung a glance her way for a second before returning his attention to the winding highway. “You’re planning to insult me in front of Norville?”

“Not Norville. I had a phone call this morning. Somebody looking for a reference on your work with Lassiter Media.”

“Who?” Evan immediately asked.

“Lyle Dunstand from Eden International.”

Anger clenched his stomach, and his tone went iron-hard. “You’d actually undermine my business out of spite?”

She was silent for a moment. “Relax, Evan. I told them you’d done a fantastic job under trying circumstances. I gave you complete credit for last year’s expansion into Britain and Australia, and I said your instincts for people were second to none.”

His anger dissipated as quickly as it had formed.

“My point is,” she continued. “I’m treating you with respect and professionalism. You could at least do the same for me.”

“I didn’t give anyone your contact information,” he assured her. “I was hoping they’d avoid checking with Lassiter.”

“I can’t see that happening. You were with us for several years.” She angled her body to face him. “So, you’re opening up the consulting agency again.”

“I have to earn a living.”

“My father left you a lot of money.”

Evan coughed out a cold laugh. “Like I’m going to touch Lassiter money.”

She seemed to consider his words. “Are you angry with him?”

“Hell, yes, I’m angry with him. He used me. He messed with my life like I was some pawn in his private game.”

“He assumed we’d be married by the time he died.”