“Lead the way, Jane,” he told her, deliberately injecting a note of huskiness to her name. He was summarily remunerated with Jane’s flustered look.
On their way to the vendo, the CEO asked her once more about her little tête-à-tête with Christian’s ex, and Jane made a face, admitting ruefully, “She made me feel properly awful over how little I know about Christian’s background.”
“Are you saying you’ve not talked about his family once?”
“Of course we have.” Did she sound a little defensive there?
“I told him my family’s inviting us to stay with them for Halloween, and he told me his mother wants us to join her for Thanksgiving.” Yes, she totally sounded defensive.
“So…obviously…we talk.” And they did. They really did! Only…maybe not as much as they should, Jane thought guiltily. But then – was that really surprising? It was Christian’s fault, for teaching her of the other more interesting things they could do with their mouths.
“Obviously.” The CEO’s tone had suddenly become cool. “Évidemment.”
Oh, so that was what the word meant!
A moment later, she realized what was so obvious to Christian’s friend, and her face burned. “It’s just—-”
The CEO’s dark eyes bored through hers.
“Anyway…here we are!” She hurried to the vendo, relieved for a change of subject. “Do you want—-”
“Let me.” Jared took his wallet out. “Cappuccino?”
“Yes, Mr. – Jared.” She let her purse fall back into her cardigan’s pocket. After a few minutes, the CEO handed Jane her coffee, and she murmured her thanks.
Watching Jane take a sip of her cappuccino, Jared asked casually, “How is it?”
“And how are you and Christian since you’ve gotten engaged?”
“And how far have you and Christian gone in the bedroom?”
Lulled by the CEO’s tone, she answered without thinking, “Third base—-” She choked. What the hell had she just said? Jane glared down at her cup. Did coffee really serve as truth serum these days?
She took a deep breath, intending to tell Jared Westland off, CEO or not—-
He beat her to speaking, asking almost inaudibly, “Does it really have to be him?”
Jane ended up choking. Looking up, she asked faintly, “Are you really his friend?”
“Believe it or not,” the CEO murmured just as faintly, “but yes.”
“You don’t act like it.”
“Christian won’t take it personally.” A dry smile formed on the CEO’s lips. “We’re friends who also happen to be rivals. We’ve been competing with each other for years, and Christian understands you’re fair game until you make it to the altar.”
Jane started sipping her coffee again, trying not to fume at the way Jared Westland was talking about her like she was some piece of bone dogs could fight over.
How observant, Jane thought sarcastically.
Jared laughed. “You’re really mad.”
“Shouldn’t I be?” she muttered. “You make me sound like some kind of helpless prey, with no say over what happens—-”
“Then why don’t you tell me,” Jared cut her off silkily.
She broke off. “Huh?”
Jared gazed at her with dark, inscrutable eyes. “What do you want to happen? Is marriage really the end goal?”
Her lips parted.
She involuntarily took a step back.
What did she really want?
Something that strongly resembled anxiety started stirring inside her, and Jane’s head started to pound. There was something she wanted…something on the tip of her tongue.
When she took another involuntary step back, the CEO suddenly reached for her, his fingers circling her wrist, and she stilled, her eyes widening at the way the CEO’s fingers tightened. “Sir?”
“I have to—-”
The low, flat reply had Jane’s head jerking up, and she found Jared Westland’s dark eyes fixed sharply on her. And yet when he spoke—-
“If I let you go now…”
His voice was almost hurtfully gentle.
“I have a feeling the next time we meet, you’ll be a married woman.”
“So tell me, Jane Cooper.” His fingers around her wrist tightened even more. “Why should I let you go?”
Shady Hills Towers
Penthouse: C. Ravenhearst
Jane’s knees had been shaking nonstop all throughout the cab ride, and they only got worse when she finally made it to Christian’s apartment building. Making her way to reception, she prepared herself for a battle royal just to get inside the elevator, but instead the concierge smiled politely at her.
“Good morning, Ms. Cooper. My warmest congratulations for your engagement.”
The words startled her, and she stammered, “Thank you.”
The man nodded at someone behind her, and when she looked around, she saw another guy holding the elevator doors open for her.
“Dave will take you to the penthouse, Ms. Cooper.”
Oh. Her head snapped back to the concierge. “You’re really letting me in just like that?” she asked dumbly.
“Mr. Ravenhearst added you to the list of authorized guests…” The concierge tapped on his keyboard. “Ever since…ah.”
Her eyes widened at the date the concierge supplied her. That was the first night Christian had brought her here. He had given her access that early?
When she made it to the penthouse, Christian himself opened the door. “Jane?” He was dressed in a striped V-necked shirt and loose trousers that fell an inch above his ankles. He looked very stylish, the way only an Englishman could be, it seemed.