A Very Exclusive Engagement(9)

By: Andrea Laurence



“Fate has a funny way of keeping you from doing things you shouldn’t do.”

Liam came up beside her, but she wouldn’t turn to look at him. She couldn’t. She’d just get weak in the knees and her resolve to leave would soften.

“I’d like to think of it more as a brief interruption. To build some anticipation for later. Where are you headed?”

“To where I was going before my whole day got sidetracked—back to my hotel. To shower and get some work done. Alone,” she added if that wasn’t clear enough.

“Do you have plans for dinner tonight?”

“Yes, I do.” She didn’t. But going out to dinner with Liam would put her right back in the same tempting situation, although hopefully without power outages. She’d given in to temptation once and she’d been rescued from her bad decision. She wasn’t about to do it again.

Liam watched her for a minute. Francesca could feel his eyes scrutinizing her, but she kept her gaze focused on the passing cars. “You said things wouldn’t get weird. That we both knew what this was and what happened in the elevator stayed in the elevator.”

Francesca finally turned to him. She tried not to look into the sapphire-blue eyes that were watching her or the damp curls of his hair that would remind her of what they’d nearly done. “That’s right. And that’s where it will stay. That’s why I don’t want to go to dinner with you. Or to drinks. Or back to your place to pick up where we left off. We’ve left the elevator behind us and the opportunity has come and gone. Appreciate the moment for what it was.”

“What it was is unfinished,” he insisted. “I’d like to change that.”

“Not every project gets completed.” Francesca watched a taxi pull up to the curb. It was empty, thank goodness.

“Come on, Francesca. Let me take you to dinner tonight. Even if just to say thank-you for the granola bar. As friends. I owe you, remember?”

Francesca didn’t believe a word of that friend nonsense. They’d have a nice dinner with expensive wine someplace fancy and she’d be naked again before she knew it. As much as she liked Liam, she needed to stay objective where he was concerned. He was the new owner of ANS and she couldn’t let her head get clouded with unproductive thoughts about him. They’d come to a truce, but they hadn’t fully resolved their issues regarding her budget and the way forward for the network. She wouldn’t put it past an attractive, charming guy like Liam to use whatever tools he had in his arsenal to get his way.

She stepped to the curb as the doorman opened the back door of the taxi for her.

“Wait,” Liam called out, coming to her side again. “If you’re going to leave me high and dry, you can at least tell me what you called me today in the board meeting.”

Francesca smiled. If that didn’t send him packing, nothing else would. “Okay, fine,” she relented. She got into the cab and rolled down the window before Liam shut it. “I called you figlio di un allevatore di maiali. That means ‘the son of a pig farmer.’ It doesn’t quite pack the same punch in English.”

Liam frowned and stepped back from the window. The distance bothered her even though it was her own words that had driven him away. “I’d say it packs enough of a punch.”

She ignored the slightly offended tone of his voice. He wasn’t about to make her feel guilty. He’d deserved the title at the time. “Have a good evening, Mr. Crowe,” she said before the cab pulled away and she disappeared into traffic.





Three

Liam had just stepped from his shower when he heard his cell phone ringing. The tune, “God Save the Queen,” made him cringe. Had he told his great aunt Beatrice he was in Manhattan? She must’ve found out somehow.

He wrapped his towel around his waist and dashed into his bedroom where the phone was lying on the comforter. The words “Queen Bee” flashed on the screen with the photo of a tiara. His aunt Beatrice would not be amused if she knew what the rest of the family called her.

With a sigh, he picked up the phone and hit the answer key. “Hello?”

“Liam,” his aunt replied with her haughty Upper East Side accent. “Are you all right? I was told you were trapped in an elevator all afternoon.”

“I’m fine. Just hungry, but I’m about to—”

“Excellent,” she interrupted. “Then you’ll join me for dinner. There’s an important matter I need to discuss with you.”

Liam bit back a groan. He hated eating at Aunt Beatrice’s house. Mostly because of having to listen to her go on and on about the family and how irresponsible they all were. But even then, she liked them all more than Liam because they kissed her derrière. And that was smart. She was worth two billion dollars with no children of her own to inherit. Everyone was jockeying for their cut.

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