Taking Care of Business(5)

By: Brenda Jackson

Embarrassed, she had promised to never allow herself to be the hot topic over anyone’s breakfast, lunch or dinner table. To repair her heart and put distance between her and Dionne, she had jumped at the chance to relocate to New York when Debbie Massey, her best friend from college, had told her about an opening at Manhattan University Hospital. That had been almost two years ago, and since then she had pretty much kept to herself and had refrained from dating altogether.

“It was a job offer I couldn’t refuse and don’t regret taking,” she finally said. “I love New York.”

“So do I.”

At that moment they were interrupted when the waiter returned with a tall bottle of beer for Tag. Tag tipped the bottle to his lips, then setting it down on the table looked over at Renee. “So, Ms. Williams, how do you—”

“It would make me feel better if you called me Renee.”

“Okay,” he said slowly. “And I’d like it if you called me Tag, which is what everyone calls me.”

“All right, then, Tag it is.”

He glanced at her glass. It was almost empty. “Would you like another drink?”

“No, thank you. The fruit punch here is delicious, but too rich. I’m going to have to do a lot of walking to burn off the calories.”

“I’m sorry your date didn’t show up.”

Renee laughed. “Don’t be. It’s not the first time Debbie has gotten called away at the last minute. When duty calls, you have to go. She’s a friend of mine who works at Time magazine.”

“Ouch, they’re Pulse’s strongest competitor.”

Renee chuckled. “Yes, that’s what I hear.”

“But we’re definitely better.”

Renee reared her head back and laughed. “And of course, I would expect you to make that claim.”

Tag took another long pull of his beer. The sound of Renee’s laughter was breathy and intimate and he immediately felt a jolt of desire in the pit of his stomach.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had allowed himself to unwind, certainly not since his grandfather had challenged the family, sparking everyone’s competitive nature. But for once his mind was on something else besides work. It was on a woman. This particular woman. If she could have this sort of effect on him just by being in his presence, he didn’t want to think what would happen if he were to touch her. Kiss her. Or better yet, make love to her.

The image slammed into him, sizzling his brain cells and making slow heat flow through every part of his body.

“I guess it’s time for me to get up and start browsing the shops.”

He glanced over at her, not ready to part ways. “Would you mind if I browse with you? There are a couple of places that are giving private showings today that you might be interested in.”

Renee met his gaze. What he hadn’t said was that the only way she could attend those showings was with him. The Elliott name carried a lot of weight. She sighed and chewed the inside of her cheek. She had heard about those private art showings and knew that now was her chance to go to one. So why was she hesitating? Browsing the shops and attending a private show or two with Tag wouldn’t be so bad as long as she kept things in perspective. She was his mother’s social worker and he was being kind. End of story.

She drained the last of her drink before saying, “Are you sure you don’t mind me attending those showings with you?”

He placed his beer bottle down. “Yes, I’m sure. I’d like to spend some time with you, anyway.”

She licked her lips. “Why?”

He tried not concentrating on her mouth. Instead, he gazed directly into her eyes. “Because I’ve been working a lot of hours lately and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to grab time for myself. And because I really enjoy your company.”

Her smile was slow but he knew it was also sincere. “Thanks, I’m enjoying your company as well, Tag.”

“Then,” he said calmly, “that pretty much settles it.”

There was a moment of silence, and Renee quickly wondered if anything between them was settled, or just about to get pretty stirred up.

“Oh my goodness, this is simply beautiful.”

Tag glanced at the painting Renee was referring to and had to agree. The piece, titled Colors, depicted an African-American child standing beneath a rainbow. The artist had been able to vibrantly capture all the colors, including the child’s skin tone, as well as the blue-green ocean that served as a backdrop. The happiness that shone on the toddler’s face was priceless, and the way the painting was encased in a black wooden frame made all the vivacious colors stand out. “Yes, it is, isn’t it.”