She slumped. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“Tell you what?”
“If you are the anonymous donor,” she said.
“Me?” he asked, injecting shock into his voice. “Why would I part with my money to fund a community center that could very well end up doing an inefficient job helping the children who need the services?”
She looked away. “True. You’re not the type to have a soft spot for a cause, especially after you’ve suffered burns from rescuing a child at the community center.”
“Right,” he said.
“Rescuing a child like that wouldn’t have an impact on you. You wouldn’t be concerned about that child’s future in a community center.”
“The old building was a fire hazard,” he said.
“A terrible one,” she agreed.
“They’d damn well better make sure the new one isn’t,” he muttered.
Bella looked at him and held his gaze for a moment then slid the milk shake to him.
“I didn’t tell you who the anonymous donor was,” he said.
“That’s okay. I have an idea of my own. Want me to describe him?”
He shrugged. “If you want.”
“He’s hot,” she said.
“Oh, really?” he said, lifting his brow at her.
She nodded. “He’s the kind who pretends he doesn’t care.”
She nodded again. “He’s all about the bottom line.”
“What other line is there?”
She leaned toward him and took his chin in her hand in a surprisingly aggressive move that he liked. “You’re such a faker,” she whispered and kissed him.
The more time he spent with Bella, the more he wanted her. This wasn’t going the way he’d planned. He’d expected to get his fill of her then both of them would move on. The next two evenings, he even came home early so he could spend more time with her.
In the morning, he rose early as he always did and exercised in his gym. When he returned to his bedroom, he found her reading from a folder.
She quickly set the folder down beside her and smiled. “How was the elliptical?”
“You’re awake. What were you reading?” he asked, but he already knew. He took a quick, sharp breath to control his anger.
She cleared her throat. “Um, it was on the nightstand. I knocked it off when I went to the bathroom.”
“You didn’t notice the label said Leo,” he said, clenching his teeth.
She seemed to catch on that he was displeased. She bit her lip and looked away. “I’m sorry. I know this is important to you and you won’t discuss it with me. It’s hard for me to feel shut out on this. I want to help you.”
“You can’t,” he said. “It’s a matter of patient, resilient research by a knowledgeable investigator. I’m going in the shower. If you want to read it while I’m in the shower, go ahead. When I get out, I’ll be putting the report away and we won’t discuss it.”
“But,” she began.
“This is nonnegotiable, Bella. Don’t push it,” he said and went into the bathroom to try to wash the guilt about his brother from his skin, from inside him. He knew, however, that it wouldn’t work. He also knew that he couldn’t, wouldn’t discuss Leo with Bella. Her empathy would be harder to bear than his own self-condemnation.
“You’re late,” Charlotte said as Bella returned from her lunch on Saturday. “I can’t keep up with you. One week you’re working overtime. The next week you’re spacey and late.”“I’m sorry,” Bella said, pulling on the jacket that bore the name of her aunt’s business. “I have a lot on my mind.”
“Does his name start with M?” Charlotte asked. “What’s going on between you two?”
“It’s complicated,” Bella said. Her heart and mind were still reeling after reading the P.I.’s report. It hit her again that all the Medici brothers had suffered terribly. Knowing how much Michael still grieved brought tears to her eyes. She took a deep breath. “There’s more to him than meets the eye.”
“That can be good.”
“I can’t talk about it yet. He would be furious,” Bella said. “Just trust me that I want to help him. I need to help him.”
Charlotte frowned. “It’s nothing illegal, is it?”
Bella shook her head. “Nothing illegal.”
Charlotte shrugged. “Okay, just try not to be late. Your client is waiting for you to work your magic. Can you close up tonight? Fred is taking me out for lobster.”