Taking Care of Business(8)

By: Brenda Jackson


Tag paused for a moment, reflecting on what his next words would be. “Although my grandfather dotes a lot on my grandmother, he hasn’t always spent a lot of time with his children and grandchildren and isn’t very demonstrative, although we all know he loves us. Over the years we’ve accepted that his true love is his empire, Elliott Publication Holdings, or EPH for short. All of his children are working for the company and he runs a strict ship. He also insists that all family members, including his grandchildren, must earn their way to the top by working their butts off within various levels of the business. No exceptions.”

Renee took another sip of water before asking, “How old were you when you began working at the company?”

He smiled, remembering those days. “I was sixteen and started out in the mail room without any special treatment because my last name was Elliott. I later got a degree in journalism from Columbia University.”

At that moment, the waitress returned to take their order. They ordered hamburgers, milkshakes and fries. After the woman left, Tag turned to Renee and said, “I don’t remember the last time I ate junk food. I’m usually too busy.”

Renee looked surprised. “You’re kidding. Most people eat junk food because they don’t have time for the real thing. So what do you eat?”

“Too much nourishing food. The guy who lives next door to me is a chef and he keeps my refrigerator loaded.”

“Jeez, life must be good,” Renee said as a smile touched her lips. “Especially since you could call me the microwave queen. I don’t have time to cook. I’m so busy, I barely have time to change my clothes after work before tackling some project or another. It’s easier for me to just pop a meal in the microwave.”

Tag swallowed. Heaven help him, but he could picture her rushing through her house after a long, taxing day at work and taking her clothes off. He wondered how many or how few underthings she wore. He then wanted to kick himself for even letting that speculation rule his thoughts. It wasn’t like he was ever going to get involved with her, and needed to know.

“I meant what I said earlier, Tag. You don’t have to take me home.”

Tag glanced over at her. So they were back to that again, but he was determined to dig in his heels. There was no way he would put her on a subway when it wouldn’t be any trouble giving her a ride. “You did say you’ve met my mother, right?” he asked, looking deep into Renee’s eyes.

The blue gaze almost held her spellbound. “Yes. Why?”

“There is one trait she has that you may not have picked up on yet, and of all her children I’m the one who inherited it the most.”

Interested, Renee couldn’t help but ask, “And what trait is that?”

“Stubbornness.”

“Ah,” she said, nodding. “And what if I told you that I can probably be just as stubborn as you?”

He studied her a moment before a smile touched his lips. “The only thing I can say is that a standoff between the two of us ought to be very interesting.”

Three

“O kay, I concede, Teagan Elliott. You won this round.”

She might have to concede on that issue, Tag reasoned, but he personally had to concede that she looked good sitting in his car. “Now come on, Renee. Did you really think the gentleman in me would have you roaming all over New York in the dark?”

She gazed at him in obvious frustration when he brought his vehicle, a Lexus SUV, to a stop at the traffic light. “I don’t see why not, since I do it all the time. And riding the subway isn’t roaming. It’s getting from point A to point B.”

Tag couldn’t help but shake his head and silently admitted that he had totally enjoyed the time he had spent with her today. It had been clean, honest, wholesome fun. Although he would be the first to admit that developing a relationship with her would be high on any man’s agenda, it wasn’t on his. Not that he wasn’t interested, because he definitely was. He just didn’t have the time. Pulse was the only thing he was romancing these days. Pulse, and his family.

“I live in the next block.”

Her voice reined his thoughts back in. “Nice neighborhood. I used to jog a lot in the park while attending Columbia.”

She smiled over at him. “I jog there a lot now. I’m a member of the Morningside Park Coalition. We work with the city to preserve and improve the park.”

When he came to a stop in front of her apartment building, she said, “You don’t have to walk me to the door.”

A part of Tag couldn’t help wondering if the reason was that she didn’t want to be seen with him. For some reason the thought bothered him. He leaned toward her and touched her cheek. “Sorry, there’s no way I can deliver you home halfway. My task wouldn’t be completed until I walked you to the door and made sure you got into your place okay.”