The CEO's Accidental Bride(10)By: Barbara Dunlop
They came to a halt.
“Dylan,” Zach said, resisting the urge to reach out and touch Kaitlin, “meet Kaitlin Saville and Lindsay Rubin.”
“The lovely bride,” Dylan teased Kaitlin, and Zach tensed at the edgy joke.
“The pirate,” Lindsay countered with a low laugh, smoothly inserting herself between Dylan and Kaitlin, then shaking his hand.
“Zach’s the pirate,” Dylan informed her, a practiced smile masking his annoyance at what he considered an insulting label.
“I’ve been studying Zach’s family history,” Lindsay countered. “And I also came across yours.”
“Why don’t we head this way.” Zach gestured toward the elevator. He didn’t want an argument to mar the day. Plus, the game was about to start.
Kaitlin followed his lead, and she fell into step beside him.
“A pirate?” she asked him in what sounded like a teasing voice.
That was encouraging.
“So I’m told,” he admitted.
“Well, that explains a lot.”
Before Zach could ask her to elaborate, Lindsay’s voice interrupted from behind. “It seems Caldwell Gilby cut a swath through the Spanish Main, plundering gold, ammunition and rum.”
Zach could well imagine Dylan’s affronted expression. The sparks were about to fly. But he had to admit, he kind of liked Lindsay’s audacity.
“You can’t trust everything you read on the internet,” Dylan returned dryly.
Kaitlin leaned a little closer to Zach, voice lowering. “Is this going to end badly?”
“Depends,” he answered, listening for the next volley.
“I read it in the Oxford Historic Encyclopedia at the NYU Library,” came Lindsay’s tart retort.
“It could end badly,” Zach acknowledged.
While he’d long since accepted the fact that his family’s wealth had its roots in some pretty unsavory characters, Dylan had always chosen to pretend his ancestor fought against the pirate Lyndall Harper, and on the side of justice.
The two men had zigzagged across the Atlantic for years, lobbing cannonballs at each other. They’d fought, that much was true. But neither was on the right side of the law.
The suite level elevator doors had opened, so they walked inside.
“Caldwell had letters of authority from King George,” said Dylan, turning to face the glowing red numbers.
“Forged and backdated in 1804,” Lindsay retorted without missing a bead.
“Have you ever seen the originals?” Dylan asked. “Because I’ve seen the originals.”
Kaitlin merely grinned at Zach from beneath her ball cap. “My money’s on Lindsay.”
He took in her fresh face, ruby lips, dark lashes and that enticing little dimple. He caught the scent of coconut, and for a split second he imagined her in a bright bikini, flowers in her hair, on a tropical beach.
“Is it a bet?” she asked, interrupting his thoughts.
“Sorry?” He shook himself back to reality.
“Ten bucks says Lindsay wins.” She held out her hand to seal the deal.
Zach took her small, soft hand in his, shaking slowly, drawing out the touch, his attraction to her buzzing through ever nerve cell in his body. “You’re on.”
The elevator came smoothly to a stop, and they made their way along the wide, carpeted hallway to the luxury suite. For many years, the Harpers and the Gilbys had shared a corporate suite for Mets games. Dylan’s father used them the most often, but they had proven a valuable corporate tool for all of them in wooing challenging clients.
“Wow.” The exclamation whooshed out of Kaitlin as she crossed through the arched entrance and into the big, balconied room. It comfortably held twenty. A waiter was setting out snacks on the countertop bar, next to an ice-filled pail of imported beer and a couple of bottles of fine wine.
“Will you look at this.” Like an excited kid, she beelined across to the open glass doors and out onto the breezy, tiered balcony, where two short rows of private seats awaited them.
Happy to leave Dylan and Lindsay to their escalating debate, Zach followed Kaitlin out.
“So this is how the other half lives,” she said, bracing her hands on the painted metal rail, and gazing out over home plate. Rows of fan-filled seats cascaded below them, and a hum of excitement wafted through the air.
“It works well for entertaining clients.” Zach heard a trace of apology in his voice, and he realized he wanted her to know it wasn’t all about self-indulgence.
“At Shea Stadium, we used to sit over there.” She pointed to the blue seats high behind third.
“Was that when you were a kid?”
She shook her head. “It was when we were in college.” And a wistful tone came into her voice. “My first live game was sophomore year.”
“So, you were a late bloomer?” He shifted to watch her profile, wondering what had prompted the sadness.
“As a kid, I watched as many as I could on TV.” She abruptly turned to face the suite, and her tone went back to normal. “You got any beer in there?”
“No live games as a kid?” he persisted, seeing an opening to get to know her on a more personal level.
“Not a lot of money when I was a kid.” She sounded defiant. He could tell he was being dared to probe further.
He opened his mouth to ask, but a cheer came up from the crowd as the players jogged onto the field.
Kaitlin clapped her hands. And by the time the din had abated, Zach decided to leave it alone. He patted one of the balcony chairs in the front row. “Have a seat. I’ll bring you a beer.” Two stairs up, he twisted back. “You want chips or something?”
“Hot dog?” she asked.
He couldn’t help but grin at the simple request. “One hot dog, coming up.”
Back inside the suite, while Dylan explained some of the finer points of King George’s Letters of Authority, the waiter quickly organized hot dogs and beer.
In no time, Zach was settled next to Kaitlin, and the game was under way.
As the Mets went up to bat, they ate their loaded hot dogs. Between bites, she unselfconsciously cheered for the hits and groaned at the strikes. Zach found himself watching her more than he watched the players.
After the final bite of her hot dog, she licked a dab of mustard from the pad of her thumb. The gesture was both subconscious and sexy. Somehow, it looked remarkably like a kiss.
“That was delicious,” she said, grinning around the tip of her thumb. “Thanks.”
He tried to remember the last time he’d dated a woman who enjoyed the simple pleasure of a hot dog. Lobster, maybe, caviar, certainly, and expensive champagne was always a winner. But the finer things had mattered to his dates, his money had always mattered.
Then he remembered Kaitlin owned half his fortune. And he remembered they weren’t on a date.
“So…” She adjusted her position, crossing one leg over the opposite knee, and adjusted her cap, apparently remembering the same things as him. “Why did you invite me here?”
He feigned innocence. “What do you mean?”
She gestured to the opulence behind them. “The suite. The baseball game. Imported beer. What’s up?”
“We’re working together.”
“And…” She waited.
“And I thought we should get to know each other.” Sure, he had another objective. But it was perfectly rational for the two of them to get to know each other. The renovations would take months. They’d be in each other’s lives for quite some time to come.
“I’m not signing the divorce papers,” she warned him.
“Did I ask?” There was no need for her to get paranoid.
“And I’m not changing the renovation designs, either.”
“You could at least let me look at them.”
“No way,” she determinedly stated.
He tried feigning nonchalance. “Okay. Then let’s talk about you.”
She came alert. “What about me?”
“What are your plans? I mean long-term. Not just this single project.”
The crack of a bat against the ball resonated through the stadium, and she turned to face forward while a runner sprinted to first. “That’s no secret,” she answered, gaze focused on the game. “A successful career in architecture. In New York City.”
He took a sip of the cold beer, concentrating on getting this conversation just right. “I’d like to help you.”
Her mouth quirked into a rueful smile. “You are helping. Reluctantly, we both know. But you are helping.”
“I mean in addition to the Harper renovation project. I know people. I have contacts.”
“I’m sure you do.” She kept her attention fixed on the game while the opposing pitcher threw a strike, retiring the batter, and the Mets headed out to the field.
“Let me use them,” Zach offered.
She turned then to paste him with a skeptical stare. “Use your contacts? To help me?”
“Yes,” he assured her with a nod.
She thought about it for a few minutes while the pitcher warmed up. Zach was tempted to prompt her, but he’d messed up so many conversations with her already, he decided silence was the safer route.
“I read where you’re going to the chamber of commerce dinner next Friday,” she finally ventured, turning to watch him.
“The resurgence of global trade in northern Europe,” he confirmed. They’d asked him to speak. He’d prefer to sit in the back and enjoy the single malt, but having a profile at these things was always good for business.