Reunited with the Lassiter Bride(10)By: Barbara Dunlop
He trapped her hand, holding it against his thudding heart. “Nobody?”
Her eyes were black as the night around them. “Nobody. And I’m insulted that you asked.”
“You’re a beautiful woman, Angie.” He wasn’t entirely sure if it was an explanation for his suspicions or an observation in the moment. Every time he saw her, he was blown away by her beauty. “Men must hit on you all the time.”
“I understand how to say the word no, Evan.”
“Yeah?” He felt himself swaying forward.
“Yeah,” she told him with conviction.
“Then tell me no.”
To be fair, he didn’t actually give her time to answer. His lips were on hers again before she could even draw a breath. In the back of his mind, he realized he had to stop doing this. He had no right to kiss her, no right to touch her, no right in the world to ask about her sex life. But right and wrong seemed to fly out the window when she was near.
Before he knew it, she was in his arms, their kiss deepening. Somehow, she had imprinted on him. The memory of making love to her was burned into his spinal column. He knew to wrap one arm around her waist, bury his fingers in her hair, caress the back of her neck, tease her tongue with the tip of his own. Her little moan was familiar to his ears, while the scent of her hair took him back in time.
The next move was his hand at her waist, slipping under her blouse, rising up to cup the lace of her bra.
“We can’t,” she cried, pushing her hands against his chest and turning her head away.
He ordered himself to let go, but it took his body a moment to react.
“We can’t let that happen.” She pressed herself back against the car.
He eased off, putting some space between them, his breath ragged. “I didn’t plan it.”
There was an edge of hysteria to her voice. “You think I did?”
“No. No. Of course not. I’m only saying—” After all they’d been through, he shouldn’t want to make her feel better about the slipup, but for some reason he did. “I’m only saying the physical attraction is still there. It doesn’t have to mean anything.”
“It doesn’t mean anything.” She paused. “Okay, it means we have to be careful.”
“We do,” he agreed. They seemed all but combustible when they got close to each other.
He also realized that the kiss had answered his original question. There was no need to apologize. He tried to rein in his ego, but he failed.
He voiced his suspicions. “You liked it. That’s why you didn’t stop me. You liked my hand on your thigh.”
“I did not,” she snapped.
“You said you wouldn’t lie.”
“I told you, it shocked me.”
“But you liked it,” he challenged.
She looked him straight in the eyes. “Like I said, we have to be careful.”
She might not have confirmed it. But she hadn’t denied it.
He couldn’t help the self-satisfied grin that spread across his face.
“Angelica?” Her brother Dylan’s voice came over the speakerphone on the meeting room table. “Is there something you want to tell us?”
Angelica had temporarily set herself up in a comfortable meeting room on the twenty-eighth floor of the Lassiter Media building, leaving the top floor boardroom and J.D.’s office free for the renovators.
“Tell you what? And who is us?” she asked as she continued to page through a financial report.
“The us is me and Sage. The what is the article in the Weekly Break newspaper about you and Evan getting back together.”
Angelica snatched up the telephone receiver, glancing worriedly at the open meeting room door. “What?”
“That’s what I’m asking you,” Dylan responded mildly.
“I don’t know where they’d get that.” Her mind flipped frantically back to last night when she’d kissed Evan at the parking lot on the highway. Could a reporter have possibly gotten a shot of them in that moment? “Is there a picture?”
“Is there a picture?” Dylan parroted. “Are you telling me there might possibly be a picture?”
“There can’t be a picture,” she lied. “Unless it’s an old one. You know, maybe with a current newspaper Photoshopped into it.”
“It’s not a ransom demand.”
“I realize that.” She didn’t know what else to say.
“Angie?” Dylan’s tone was searching. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing is going on.”
She caught a flash of movement in the corner of her eye and glanced up to see Evan in the doorway, a copy of the Weekly Break in his hand.
“I have to go,” she said to Dylan.
“I have a meeting.” Her eyes locked with Evan’s. “It’s nothing. They’ve made up a story is all.”
“Are you sure, because we’d all be very happy—”
“Goodbye, Dylan.” She quickly hung up the phone.
“You heard?” asked Evan, walking into the meeting room.
“You shouldn’t be here.”
She came to her feet, crossing the room to close the door.
“You might not want to close that,” he observed.
“Speculation is probably better than having them overhear our conversation. What happened? What does it say?” She reflexively put a hand to her forehead. “Oh, man, how is Conrad going to react to this?”
Evan tossed the paper onto the top of the meeting table. “I think Conrad’s the source.”
She glanced down to see a damning headline on the front page. There was a picture of them, but thank goodness it was from last year.
“They didn’t catch us last night?” she asked, spinning the paper right-side up in her direction.
“Now, that’s the kind of thing you don’t want people to overhear.”
She frowned at him. “You know what I mean.”
“There’s no new photo,” he confirmed. “But an unnamed source quoted me as saying I’d be a blind fool to give you up.”
Angelica closed her eyes for a long moment. “Conrad.”
“Unless it was the butler.”
She opened her eyes to look at Evan. “Butlers get fired for a lot less than that.”
“My money’s definitely on Conrad.”
“But why would he do that? He said he wanted the Lassiters to stay out of the tabloids.”
“Maybe he’s calling our bluff.”
“No.” But she hesitated. “You think?” She glanced down at the article. “What would be his motivation?”
“I don’t pretend to have the first clue about what makes that man tick.”
“What are we supposed to do now?” They couldn’t let this stand. But they couldn’t let Conrad know the truth either. Kayla’s wedding was at stake.
“We may have to ride it out.”
Angelica did not like the sound of that. She dropped back into her chair, voice going low, trepidation rising. “What do you mean, ride it out?”
“I mean...” He pulled out a chair across from her and sat down. “We don’t deny anything to anybody until after the ceremony.”
“And let the world think we’re getting back together?”
She shook her head. “Uh-uh. No way.”
“I’m not saying it’s a good answer.”
“We can’t do that.”
“The alternative is to tell Conrad we lied.”
She continued shaking her head. “We can’t do that either.”
“Then tell me the third option.”
She frantically searched her brain. But there was no third option. She brought the side of her fist down on the paper. “How did we not see this coming?”
“We never guessed he’d go to the tabloids.”
“We shouldn’t have assumed he’d keep it a secret.” She could have kicked herself for being so stupid.
“Well, I was drunk,” Evan drawled.
“This isn’t funny,” she snapped in return.
“I don’t think it’s funny, Angie. But nobody’s going to die from it either. It’s two-and-a-half weeks. And then we’re done. We fake a breakup and walk away.”
“I am not going to lie to my brothers.” It would be bad enough having strangers think they were a couple.
“I mean, after all we’ve been through. We just got back on an even keel. I can’t possibly do that to them, Evan.”
He seemed to ponder for a moment. “I do understand. Trouble is, Sage can’t lie to Colleen and Dylan can’t lie to Jenna.”
“Of course they can’t,” she agreed.
“And you want Chance to have to lie to Felicia?”
Angelica set her jaw.
“Exactly how big do you think we can make the conspiracy before somebody accidentally trips up?”
She felt her throat close up. No matter which way she turned, somebody got hurt. “I can’t do this.”
His tone turned gentle. “You don’t have to lie, Angie.”
“How do I not have to lie? How can I possibly not have to lie?”
“Answer me this. If I was to come to you on bended knee, telling you I was sorry, that it was all my fault, that I thought we should give it another try, would you dismiss the idea out of hand, or would you at least think about it?”