Sam’s smile fell. “My instructions are to feed you a good breakfast. I wish to do as he instructed.”

Geez, Michael sure had his staff trained. “I’m not really hungry….”

“But a cappuccino? Latte?”

She sighed, not entirely comfortable with others serving her to such a degree. “Latte, thank you. Where is Mr. Medici?”

Sam chuckled. “Long gone. That man rises before the sun. Very rarely does he sleep late. He left a note for you,” he said and held out an envelope. “Would you like oatmeal pancakes? I make very good pancakes.”

She smiled at his gentle, persuasive tone. “Sold.” She opened the envelope and read the handwritten three-line note. Bring your aunt to my office at 9:00 a.m. for a planning meeting tomorrow morning. Enjoy Sam’s pancakes. Looking forward to our next night together. Michael.

Her heart rose to her throat. He was sticking to his part. She would need to meet her end of the deal, too. Pancakes? How could she possibly?

“I have pure maple syrup, too,” Sam said.

Bella took a deep breath and sighed. What the hell. “Why not.”

One day later, she took her aunt to meet Michael. Still bracing herself for the possibility that Michael would back out, she just told Charlotte that they were meeting someone for a special business consultation. Although Charlotte pounded her with questions, Bella remained vague.“I wish you would tell me what this is about,” Charlotte said, adjusting her vivid pink suit as the elevator climbed to the floor of MM, Inc.

“You’ll know soon enough,” Bella said, adjusting her own black jacket. The elevator dinged their arrival and Bella led the way to Michael’s office.

“How do you know this man?”

“I met him through my job,” Bella said.

“At a bar?” Charlotte asked.

“He’s the owner,” Bella explained then pushed open the door to the office. She lifted her lips into a smile for Michael’s assistant. “Hi. Bella St. Clair and Charlotte Ambrose to see Mr. Medici.”


His assistant nodded. “He’s expecting you.” She announced their arrival and waved toward his office door. “Please, go ahead in.”

Charlotte cast Bella a suspicious glance. “What have you gotten me into?”

“It’s good,” Bella promised as they walked toward the door and she pushed it open. “But I think it would be better for Mr. Medici to talk about it.”

Michael rose to meet them. “Bella,” he said. “Ms. Ambrose. It’s good to meet you,” he said to Charlotte. “Bella has told me so much about you, but she didn’t tell me what a lovely woman you are.”

Charlotte accepted his handshake and slid a sideways glance at Bella. “Thank you. I wish I could say the same about her telling me about you.”

Michael gave a chuckle. “I’m sure she was just trying to protect you. Let’s sit down and talk about the business plan for your spa.”

Charlotte stopped cold. “Excuse me? I lost my spa business to the bank.”

Michael glanced at Bella and made a tsk-ing sound. “You really did keep her in the dark, didn’t you?”

Charlotte frowned. “I would appreciate an explanation.”

“The bank took over your business and I bought it. After discussions with Bella, I’ve made the decision to finance and codirect a relaunch of one Charlotte’s Signature Spa.”

Charlotte stared at him in amazement. “Codirect?” she echoed. “Relaunch?”

He nodded. “Yes. Let me show you the plan.”

Over the next hour, Bella watched her aunt’s demeanor change from doubt to hope and excitement. By the end of the meeting, Bella knew she had made the right choice in helping her. The illness and loss of her business had robbed Charlotte of her natural drive and optimism.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this opportunity. Your backing means—” Charlotte glanced back and forth between Michael and Bella, her eyes filling with tears. “Oh, no. I’m going to embarrass myself. Please excuse me for a moment,” she said, standing. “Could you tell me where the powder room is?”

Concerned, Bella followed her aunt to her feet. “Charlotte?”

Michael also rose and Charlotte waved her hand. “No. You stay here. I just need a moment to compose myself.”

“The restroom is in the outer office,” Michael said and Charlotte left his office. “Is she okay?” he asked Bella.

Full of her own overwhelming emotion, Bella wrapped her arms around her waist and nodded. “She’s stunned. She’d lost all hope of rebuilding her business. I probably should have at least given her a hint, but I didn’t want her to be disappointed if—” She paused, meeting his intent gaze. “If things didn’t work out.”

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