He turned his attention to her phone. While he perused pictures of the especially unhappy looking cat, she opened the box. “Honestly, I fail to see what this cat has to be so grumpy about. He has his picture taken on a daily basis, inside mind you, and seems to be well-fed.”
“These are beautiful,” she breathed, paying no mind at his failed attempt at humor. “I didn’t think you noticed I’d broken my lucky pair.”
How could he not notice everything about her? “I’m quite good at multi-tasking.”
“Will you put them in?” Turning, she waited for him, but all he could do was stare in horror at her hair. All the colors were gone, stripped from the ends. “Do you like my new ‘do’?”
“It’s very pretty.” His hands shook as he carefully placed the diamond and jade chopsticks in her elegant bun. “Done,” he said and she whirled around, her eyes dancing in excitement.
“Why didn’t you tell me we were going to G.R.’s restaurant?”
Why had she changed her hair color? “I didn’t think it was important,” he said as they walked arm in arm to the waiting car. Had she got it in her head that he didn’t like her hair? All over his consider wearing something different remark. If she had, he was going to shave his head in mourning.
“Not important? It’s G.R.!” she said, getting in the car. “He’s world famous.”
“If I had known you were such a fan, then I would have arranged for a private dinner for the two of you,” he said dryly as he joined her. The door closed behind him and the car merged into traffic. “Instead you’ll have to settle for me and a few of my friends. Maybe I can get G.R. to make an appearance.”
“I don’t want dinner with G.R., I want cooking classes.” She unbuttoned her coat and placed her hands in her lap, fingers clutching at a small purse.
“You’re already a fantastic cook, Daisy.”
Smiling at him, she fiddled with the beading on her purse. “Thank you, but I want to be even better. I love learning new techniques and dishes. Once I get them down, I try to put my own spin on it. But sometimes, you can’t improve perfection.”
He gazed at her, taking in her smile, her beautiful face, her sexy body, and every inch of perfection that was Daisy Barnes. “Indeed you cannot.”
They both grew quiet and he was content just to ride with her, breath in the scent of vanilla and honey that she hadn’t changed, unlike her hair. He frowned. Maybe he could persuade her to change it back.
He heard a distinctive click, then another. Slicing his gaze to her, he found Daisy opening and closing the purse in her hands. She stared straight ahead, her brow wrinkled. The closer they got to the restaurant, the faster the purse clicked open and shut.
“Daisy,” he began.
“Sorry, I’ll stop. I know it’s annoying, but—”
“You’re not annoying me.” Holding out his hand, he said, “Take my hand.”
She looked from his hand to his face, then back at his hand again. Her hazel gaze returned to his face, pretty eyes widening.
Slowly, her fingers laced his and he pulled her hand to his mouth, brushing the knuckles with his lips. He let their joined hands settle in his lap and she scooted closer to him. The purse remained closed the rest of the way.
Dinner was exactly what Sebastian expected—his closest mates joking and laughing, giving him an extraordinarily hard time about the engagement.
However, Daisy wasn’t anything like he expected—she remained by his side, quiet and thoughtful. Speaking only when spoken to and in almost a subservient manner, like everyone there was her better. Sure his mates consisted of aristocracy and business moguls, but they were a relaxed, down-to-earth group. He was the only outlier, but supposed every circle of friends had one.
“Are you okay?” he asked softly as the majority of their group ambled over to the bar. Only his closest mate, Liam, and Kate Von Lichtenstein remained. Sebastian really wasn’t sure who’d invited her.
Daisy’s fork froze halfway to her mouth. “Fine. The food is delicious.” Then she set her fork down on the side of her plate, her hand hovering for a minute before she placed it in her lap.
“I thought the food was delicious.”
“Then why aren’t you eating?”
Kate and Liam laughed at a picture on his cell phone, and then toasted one another. Really, what was she doing here and with Liam of all people? It didn’t make sense. Besides, Liam was engaged, though his fiancée was on a photo shoot in Spain or Italy at the moment, and completely faithful to the woman. And Kate wasn’t one to go after men who were already taken.
He narrowed his eyes at the pair.
A soft intake of breath. “Because…I don’t know.”
“Oh my goodness, Liam, the ring is gorgeous. Bigger than your fiancée, really. What did Verity’s parents say when you two broke the news?” Kate gushed in her usual way. “I’m dying to know.”
Liam laughed. “They were pleased. And Verity said to remind you that you are the only woman allowed to accompany me about town while she’s away.”
Snatching Liam’s phone, Kate grinned. “Let me text your soon-to-be bride and assure her that I will keep a keen eye on her soon-to-be groom.”
Ah, so Liam had invited her, with Verity’s blessing. Sebastian relaxed. Now that made sense. He grinned at Kate. “Tell Verity you are keeping all the birds away from Liam, with your intimidating scowl.”
Kate winked at Sebastian.
Sebastian winked back.
Daisy drew in a shuddering breath.
All through dinner, it seemed he couldn’t keep his eyes off Kate, the woman that had supposedly given her great fashion advice and wanted to be great friends.
Daisy pleated the napkin in her lap, and then moved on to her dress. An overwhelming urge to stand up and walk out came over her, but she remained firmly seated, even when Sebastian joined Liam and Kate.
Sebastian’s blond head bent close to Kate’s dark one. They made a beautiful couple, so striking and fashionable…and English! While she sat there, like some poor cousin, all alone and feeling sorry for herself, in a dress that itched and hair that felt like it had been shellacked to her head. The sales clerk at the dress shop had recommended the hair salon.
If only Jules—she struck that thought from her brain. Jules no longer existed. She would have to deal with that fact. He hadn’t answered her last text, and thankfully, she’d stopped herself from texting him thirty more times.