“Six grand? How big is your place? I only pay two.”
He laughs. “You must have a fan somewhere. There isn’t an apartment in the building under six grand. We’re in prime real estate and in the center of a high-profile restaurant and shopping area.”
“Oh, well, I think my boss owns the building.”
“Who’s your boss?”
I hesitate, not sure why. “Dermit Williams.”
“Never heard of him. I thought a big holding company owned the building.”
“Hello!” Meg appears by the table, looking every bit the blonde bombshell I can never be in a snug black dress and I’m rattled to realize I hadn’t even noticed her approach. She hugs me and then glances at Jared. “Good grief, woman, you hang out with beautiful people. I’m sitting with him.” She scoots Jared over, and next to me. I’m ready to crawl under the table.
“Please,” Jared says approvingly. “Come on in.” He glances down at me. “Hope you don’t mind getting up close and personal.”
Somehow I am captured in his warm brown stare, and I feel the connection in the pit of my stomach, more in the form of guilt than attraction. Not that I am beyond seeing how hot this man is. He is, and if I were any other woman, I suspect I’d be glad to be here, but I’m not. I’m a woman who is crazy about another man, and the fact that Jared makes me think of Liam speaks of just how intensely drawn to Liam I am. My cell phone beeps with a text and Meg and Jared chat with the waitress while I pull out my phone.
Where are you?
Earl’s. I met Meg for a drink.
I wait for a reply but don’t get one. Odd. I shut my computer and stick it back in my briefcase, preparing for a fast departure if I get any more uncomfortable.
“I will be soooo happy when Luke gets back,” Meg announces, and I grab the opening she gives me.
“Did you ask him for that number I needed from him?”
The waitress delivers her wine and she thanks her before saying, “Yes. And sorry. He won’t give it out.” She turns to Jared. “I haven’t been introduced.”
“Jared,” he says. “And you are?”
“Meg.” She offers her hand and he turns to her and accepts it. She bats her lashes in a flirtatious way I’ve spent too much time staying off the radar to ever even attempt. I can’t see Jared’s expression the way he’s positioned, but I can’t imagine there is a man on the planet who wouldn’t pant over Meg’s ample beauty. They both settle into their seats again and Meg asks,
“And what do you do for a living, Jared? Where are you from? Are you single?”
I just about choke on a swallow of wine. Jared laughs. “Tech guy. Texas. And yes”—he glances at me—“I’m single.”
I officially have cotton in my throat. I grab my wine and take a big swig. Jared laughs, clearly amused at my reaction, proof my decision to stay away from men while living off the radar had been a good idea. They send my composure into the dumpster. Or, at least, men like Jared and Liam, who are exceptionally…male.
“And how do you know Amy?” Meg queries Jared.
“I’m renting the apartment across from her.”
I tilt my head and frown, thinking of my extreme rent difference to what Jared has stated.
“He’s staying in a friend’s apartment. That’s probably why you don’t know him.”
“Why would she know me?” Jared asks.
“She works in the management office,” I supply.
“New, though.” She seems almost uneasy, but then being new is never fun and she adds,
“I’m just learning the ropes and learning who is where and what is what.” She sips her wine.
“This isn’t what I ordered. I’m going to the bar. Be right back.”
Great. Alone with Jared again. And why hasn’t Liam texted me back? “Where are you from, Amy?” Jared asks.
On a conflicting note, I’ve been craving a chance to talk to him about my hometown and avoided it at the same time. Apparently, I’m going to talk to him about Texas. “New York. You’re from Texas, you said?”
“Yes. Ever been there?”
“No. Too many pickup trucks and football fans.” Lie. That is a part of Texas that makes it Texas, and I miss it.
“And beer.” He lifts his bottle and takes a drink. “Us Texans like our beer.”
Not this one. “You can keep it. I don’t like it.”
“Ever tried this one?” He shows me the bottle with some sort of special import label.
“Try it.” He offers me his bottle. “It’s a different taste altogether.”
He wants me to drink from his bottle? “No. No thank you.”
Meg returns. “Ohhh, I’d love to try it.”
He hands her the bottle and she takes a sip. “German?”
“Try it, Amy,” Meg encourages. “German beers are completely different from the American version.”
Jared hands me the bottle, a challenge in his eyes. Somehow, I feel as if me drinking from his bottle is some sort of ploy to tear down a wall he thinks will let him get closer to me, but I feel like a deer in headlights, with both him and Meg watching me.
I grab the bottle and take a drink, the bitter taste filling my mouth, and I grimace a moment before awareness prickles down my spine. I glance up to find Liam striding toward us, and he is not only the picture of male perfection in his gray suit, his dark hair neatly groomed, his goatee finely trimmed, his jaw is set solid, his eyes hard. He’s pissed. He saw me drinking from Jared’s bottle.