“About that amendment…” she began.
He folded his arms across his chest. He should have seen it coming. Now that she had him between a rock and a hard place, she could name her terms and he’d be forced to agree. Or so she thought. He’d soon disabuse her of that fact. Just as he had Leigh when she’d pulled a similar stunt.
“Name your demands.”
Larkin blinked in surprise. “Demands?”
“That’s what they are, aren’t they? I’ve introduced you to my entire family as my fiancée. We’re committed to seeing this through. And now you want to change the terms of our agreement.” He shrugged. “What else am I supposed to call it?”
Everything about her shut down. Her expression. The brilliance of her gaze. Her stance. Even the way she breathed. One minute she’d been a woman of vibrancy and the next she might as well have been a wax figurine. “I don’t want your money, Rafaelo Dante.” Even her voice emerged without inflection. “You can keep your ring and your cash. I only want one thing. A favor.”
She shook her head, her features taking on a stubborn set. “When I’ve performed my duties to your satisfaction and the job has ended, then I’ll ask you. But not before.”
“I need some sort of idea what this favor is about,” he argued.
“It’s either something you can grant me, or not. You decide when the time comes.”
He considered for a moment. “Does this have something to do with the person you’re looking for?”
Her request didn’t make the least sense. “Honey, I’ve already said I’d help you with that. I’m happy to help. But I hired you for a job and you deserve to be paid for that job.”
She cut him off. “It’s not just a matter of my giving you a name to pass on to Juice. There’s more to it than that. For me, that something is of far greater value to me than your ring or cash or anything else you’d offer as compensation.”
“I think I’ll make that determination when the job is over. If your request doesn’t strike me as a fair bargain—fair for you, I mean—then I’m going to pay you. If you don’t want the ring, fine. If you don’t want the money, fine. You can donate it all to charity or to the animal rescue group of your choice.”
Even that offer had little impact. “Do you agree to my terms?” she pressed. “Yes or no?”
Depending on the favor, it struck him as a reasonable enough request, though he suspected he’d discover the hidden catch at some point. There had to be one. He’d learned that painful fact during his marriage, as well as from a number of the women who’d preceded his late wife, and also those who’d followed her. When you were an eligible Dante, it was all about what you could give a woman. Once they’d tied the knot and Leigh had dropped her sweet-and-innocent guise, she’d made that fact abundantly clear. Well, he’d deal with Larkin’s hidden catch when it happened, because there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that it would be a “when” rather than an “if.”
“Sure,” he agreed, wondering if she could hear the cynicism ripping through that single terse word. “If it’s within my power to give you what you ask, I’m happy to do it.”
“Time will tell,” she murmured in response. “I do have one other request.”
“You’re pushing it, Larkin.” Not that his warning had any impact whatsoever.
“It’s just that I was wondering about something.” She continued blithely along her path of destruction. “And I was hoping we could discuss it.”
He gestured for her to finish. “Don’t keep me in suspense.”
“What happened at the lake when Draco broke his leg?”
“Hell. Is that what’s been bothering you all night?”
“What makes you think anything was bothering me?” she asked, stung.
“Gee, I don’t know. Maybe it was that long stretch of silence on the trip back from Primo’s. Or the fact that you’ve been on edge ever since our conversation with Draco.”