“Fine.” Only, it wasn’t fine. Not if she were hiding something. He couldn’t handle another deceptive woman who faked innocence and then demonstrated avarice. Refused to deal with that sort of woman. “Full name?”

“Larkin Anne Thatcher.”

She supplied her social security number and date of birth without being asked. He pulled out his cell and texted one of his brother’s former security associates, Juice, with the request. He’d have gone through Luc, but there might be uncomfortable questions when he later presented Larkin as his Inferno bride. Better to keep it on the down low. In the meantime, he’d get some of the preliminary questions out of the way.

“Have you ever been arrested?” Rafe asked.

Larkin shook her head. “No, never.”


A flash of indignation came and went in her open gaze before she answered in a calm, even voice. “Never. I’ve needed to take drug tests for various jobs in the past, including this latest one. I have no objection to taking one here and now if you want.”

“Credit or bankruptcy issues?”

Indignation turned to humor. “Aside from living on a shoestring? No.”

“Health issues?”

“Not a one.”

“Military history?”

“I haven’t served.”

“Job history?”

Now she grinned. “How much time do you have?”

Rafe eyed her curiously. “That many?”

“Oh, yeah. The list is as long as it is diverse.”

“Any special reason?”

She hesitated again, but he didn’t pick up any hint of evasion, just thoughtfulness. “I’ve been searching.”

“Right job, right place?”

She seemed pleased that he’d understood so quickly. “Exactly.”

“I can’t promise to offer that, but I might have something temporary.”

For some reason she appeared relieved. “Temporary will work. In fact, I prefer it.”

“Not planning on staying in San Francisco for long?” He tried to keep the question casual, but conceded that as attractive as he found her, he’d feel better about his proposition if she intended to move on a few months from now.

“I don’t know. Actually, I’m looking for someone. I think he may be here.”

“He.” That didn’t bode well for his little project. “Former lover?”

“No. Nothing like that.”

He pressed. “Who are you trying to find?”

“That’s not really any of your business, Mr. Dante,” she said gently. “What I will tell you is that it won’t have an impact on any job you might offer me.”

He let it go. For now. “Fair enough.”

His cell vibrated and he checked it, surprised to find that Juice had completed his preliminary check. Had to be a new record. Either that or Larkin Thatcher didn’t have much history to find. The text simply said “Clean,” but he’d attached an email that went into more specifics.

Rafe excused himself long enough to access his computer and scan it. Nothing unusual other than a long and varied work history. Considering she was only twenty-five, it was rather impressive.

“Still interested in offering me a job?” she asked.

It was the first time she’d betrayed any nerves, and it didn’t take much thought to understand the cause. “How far behind are you on your rent?”

She tapped her pocket. “As I said, this will catch me up.”

“But it won’t leave you anything to spare for utilities or food, will it?”

She lifted a narrow shoulder in a wordless shrug that spoke volumes.

He took a moment to consider his options. Not that he had many. Either he made the offer and put Draco’s plan into action, or he forgot the entire idea. He could still find a position for Larkin. In fact, there was no question that he’d do precisely that. The question was…Which job?

If it weren’t for the Parade of Brides, it would have been an easy question to answer. But the unpleasant truth was, he just didn’t know how much more of his family’s interference he could handle. It had gotten to the point where it wasn’t interfering just with his private life, but with his business life, as well. These days, he couldn’t turn around without running into one of his many relatives. And for some reason, they were always accompanied by a young, single woman.

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