“Hmm,” Charlotte said and moved closer. “Are you still seeing each other?”
“Sure, I saw him last night. He came over and watched the basketball game,” Bella said.
“Hmm,” Charlotte said again. “There’s something you’re not telling me. Something’s not right.”
“Everything is fine,” Bella insisted. “Everything is great. My wonderful aunt is thriving and even dating. The spa is doing great. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
“And maybe if you keep saying it, you’ll believe it yourself,” Charlotte said and took Bella’s hand. “I’m worried about you. You’ve sacrificed your professional plans for me.”
“What plans?” Bella asked. “Besides, I got to pursue my dreams last year. It’s your turn now.”
Charlotte’s brow furrowed. “I don’t want you to be unhappy. Are you still hung up on Stephen?”
Bella tried, but for a flash of a second, she couldn’t conceal her feelings. “Stephen has moved on. You know that.”
“And you need to do the same,” Charlotte urged. “Don’t you like Michael?”
Like, Bella thought. As if such a tame emotion could ever apply to the man.
“He’s done so much for us,” Charlotte continued. “And he’s so handsome. Doesn’t he treat you well?”
“Of course he does,” Bella said. “Michael is just a different kind of man than Stephen.”
“Darn right he is,” Charlotte said. “He’s a leader, not a follower. And if you want him, you’re going to have to give him a run for his money.”
Bella blinked. “Excuse me?”
“I mean Michael Medici is worth exerting yourself, and I’m not talking about his money. You never had to exert yourself with Stephen. He was always there for you.”
“Until I went away,” Bella said, feeling a twinge.
“That’s just your ego talking,” Charlotte said.
Bella dropped her jaw in surprise. “That’s not true. Stephen and I were very much in love.”
Charlotte waved her hand, dismissing Bella’s protest. “You need a man, not a boy. Who knows when Stephen will grow up and stand on his own? Michael Medici is your match. You just need to make sure he knows that.”
A knock sounded and Charlotte looked at the door, a smile transforming her face. “Oh, that’s Fred. He’s taking me to a traveling production of Wicked.” She walked toward the door. “You need to get out of here and have some fun. You’re starting to act like an old lady.” She threw Bella a kiss. “Good night, Sweetie.”
Go after Michael? Bella shook her head. She wouldn’t even know how to begin. Besides, she didn’t want him. Not that way. Right? She certainly cared about him as a human being, and she was grateful for his help with her aunt’s business. Her cheeks heated as she remembered their lovemaking. Yes, he was passionate, but he was also emotionally remote. That would never work for her. Bella wanted a man who wore his heart on his sleeve. That was not Michael.
Her cell phone rang and she glanced at the caller ID. Despite herself, her heart leapt. Irritated, she answered the phone. “Hi, Michael.”
“I got tickets for a Hawks game tomorrow night. Wanna go?” he asked.
She wondered why he was asking. All the other times she’d been with him her presence had been required.
“If you don’t, then—”
“No,” she said. “I mean yes, I’d love to.”
“Good, I’ll pick you up at six. We can eat dinner first.”
Click. She stared at her phone and chuckled to herself. Yeah, now that’s a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. Not. So why was she already planning what to wear?
T he limo whisked Bella and Michael to the restaurant and he led her inside. She noticed that he barely mentioned his name before the host escorted them to a table with a view of the lighted fountain in the center of the restaurant. Seconds later, a waiter appeared and took their wine order.
“I’ve heard about this place. It’s beautiful.”“A bit theatrical,” he said. “Not bad, though. I’ve been trying to hire the chef away for years.”
“And the mighty Michael Medici has been unsuccessful?” she teased.
He shot her a mock dark glare. “The chef is married to the owner’s daughter.”
She laughed. “I guess that could make it a bit more challenging. I’m surprised you didn’t just buy the restaurant out from under the owner.”
“I tried,” Michael admitted. “Anthony is a true restauranteur. He’ll be doing this forever.”