“I prefer the real thing, don’t you?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, her voice sounding nothing like it usually did. Her gaze fell to his lips, full and totally kissable when they weren’t stretched into a thin line. In fact, right now they were parted and oh so dangerously close. Tempting. “But not with you. I mean, I don’t know you,” she murmured.
“You could get to know me,” he said and her eyes rounded, but she didn’t move.
Time seemed to stand still. His lips seemed to draw closer and his eyes became all slumberous. Heat spread through her, languorous waves that made her want to touch him, to see if he felt it too.
“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” she said. Her br**sts ached. They felt heavy and she wanted his hands on her. Oh God, she was a hussy. A slave to her lust, all over a man she’d only met twice before, yet wanted to jump as soon as she’d seen him. All three times.
“Then it’s a very good thing I’m of the same opinion.” He stood, letting his hands fall away. “I’ll transfer half of the amount you require to your account within the hour. The rest will be transferred upon the ending of our engagement. Afterwards, you will notify me should more bills suddenly appear and I’ll make them go away.”
Make them go away? God, it must be nice to have that kind of power and freedom. “Now what do we do?” she asked, slipping past him. Her skin felt overheated. She poured herself a glass of water and drank greedily.
Tilting his head to one side, he let his eyes roam her body. Her ni**les tightened and desire pooled in her belly, spreading low between her thighs.
“We pretend to fall in love. I’ll be by Wednesday for your answer, and to sample your next menu offering. Think tropical.” With that, he strode to her door and grabbed his coat along the way.
“And Daisy,” he asked, pausing at the door.
“I would have kissed you, if you’d asked me.”
She wanted to wipe away the smug smile that appeared on his face. “Guess you’ll never be kissing me then, because I will never ask you.”
For a moment, his smile fell. She blinked and it was back, maybe her imagination had wished it had fallen. “Never say never.” Then he opened the door and left, letting the door close softly behind him.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” she chanted, rushing to her phone. Forget emailing Jules. She had to talk to him now.
Sebastian glanced at his phone as it buzzed and climbed inside the limo.
Daisy: Are you there? Do you have a minute or five million?
Jules: All my time belongs to you.
Daisy: You’re not a Duke or something, are you?
He grunted. Oh, he was something all right, but Jules would only answer her Duke question.
Jules: Not for at least thirty more years.
His mother’s father was bound to live for at least that many years, and Vladimir had made the Duke of Everham sign a binding contract that his title and the estates would go to him upon his death. Only Vladimir was dead and Westmoreland was still kicking.
Rather poetic justice, Sebastian thought.
The text bubble had the … in it while she typed.
Daisy: I met someone.
Jules: Should I be jealous?
Daisy: No, kittenpartybasketbagel
He made a face. What the hell was that?
Jules: What the hell was that?
Daisy: Ugh. Autocorrect. Can I call you? It would be easier.
Oh hell no. She’d hear his voice, recognize him, accuse him of being a liar (rightly so), and never speak to him again. There was no way he could let that happen.
Jules: Sorry, darling, but I’m actually in a meeting.
His driver opened his door, and he got out, heading inside a chain restaurant on the outskirts of town. Some meeting he was having.
Daisy: OMG. I’m so sorry.
He smiled. Now that he’d heard her voice again, he could actually hear her saying the words.
Jules: No worries.
Daisy: Talk to you later?
Jules: Of course. I’ll text you ASAP.
He sighed. Whenever she typed his name like that, she had something serious to ask or tell him.
Daisy: I like it when you call me darling or love. Just wanted you to know.
He frowned. Yet, Sebastian wasn’t allowed to call her anything but her given name. Why should he? Sebastian didn’t know Daisy, not like Jules did. But he was also Jules, so he did in fact know her as well as Jules did.
“Oh good God,” he muttered. He was becoming jealous of himself.
Jules: Laters, darling.
He took extreme satisfaction typing that last word out before pocketing his phone. Sebastian Romanov might be on the outs with the sexy little caterer, but Jules Westmoreland sure as hell wasn’t, and he would use that to his advantage.
“Still no butler,” Sebastian said with a frown as his brother greeted him at the door.
Christian raised his brows. “Your powers of observation are truly frightening.” He gestured for Sebastian to come inside. “Now that you’re back, maybe you can help me with something.”
Sebastian followed his brother into the living room. “Diffusing the situation between your bride and her mother not enough?”
Turning to face Sebastian, Christian gave him a look. “You only helped, because it served your purpose.”
Removing his coat, he draped it over a large, flowered chair by the fireplace and sat down. “And?”
“So don’t pretend you did me any favors.”
“But I did do you a favor.”
His brother’s mouth opened and shut. Taking a deep breath, Christian moved to stand beside the fireplace mantle. “Doing me a favor was still self-serving.”
Why did it bloody matter what the purpose was or who it served? “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
Christian rubbed the back of his neck. “Good to know some things don’t change.” He picked up the Owl Whistle Pez Dispenser and held up to the light. “Don’t suppose you’d care to share how this suddenly appeared in my collection?”
“That’s your predicament—magically appearing candy dispensers? How incredibly wonderful that’s your only pressing problem in life.” His brother peered at him, identical blue eyes growing frosty as a winter morning in St. Petersburg as Sebastian’s insult hit its mark. “Truly fascinating.”
An evil grin lit Christian’s face. “It was you.”
Indeed, but claiming ownership didn’t signify in the greater scheme of things. Sebastian loosened his tie. “Any Russian Standard in your cupboard?”