Page 20 of What Lies Beneath

George leaned across the table and speared Will with his steely gaze. “What about you? Are you getting cold feet?”

Will shouldn’t have been surprised by the older man’s blunt nature, but it always caught him off guard. “Why would you say that?”

“You two haven’t been the lovebirds you once were. Back in school you couldn’t keep your hands off each other. Even before the crash I sensed a distance. I don’t want to believe you’re a big enough bastard to leave her after her accident, but people shock me every day.”

“I have no intention of leaving Cynthia in her condition. No one can guarantee what happens after that. Any relationship can fail at any time, even when you’re trying.”

George cocked a curious eyebrow up at Will. “You know I prefer doing business with family. They won’t stab you in the back to please stockholders. If you have any reservations, you’d damn well better tell me before I sign off on this.” George slid some papers across the table.

“Mr. Dempsey, this e-reader collaboration is smart business. It benefits both our companies. The Observer is a family company as well. We’ve got sixty years invested in its success. I understand your reservations, but know that with or without this marriage, we’re fully behind the success of Dempsey Corp.”

The old eagle eyed him, reading the sincerity Will hoped was etched into his face. He seemed satisfied for now. “You better be. But one other thing, Taylor.”

Will hesitated to ask. “Yes?”

“I know a lot of people in this town. Business aside, if you hurt my little girl, I’ll do everything in my power to crush you and this newspaper like a bug.”

Will swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. And to think, he’d only been worried that Cynthia might hurt him.

* * *

When Cynthia arrived back at the apartment from her lunch with Gwen, the doorman waved her over to the desk. “Miss Dempsey?”

Surprised, she went to the counter. “Afternoon, Calvin. How are you today?”

Calvin smiled and she noted the sincerity that hadn’t been there the first time she’d met him. “Doing fine, Miss Dempsey. I have a delivery for you. It’s fairly heavy. Would you like me to have it brought up?”

“That would be wonderful, thank you.”

She continued on to the apartment, and within minutes there was a ring at the door. She opened it up to find one of the other building attendants, Ronald, carrying a large white box. “Oh, my goodness,” she said, stepping out of the way. “Just set it over on the table.”

Digging in her wallet past her newly reissued credit cards and ID, she took some money out for Ronald and thanked him as he quickly exited.

Alone, she returned to the box. The delivery slip was addressed to her. She couldn’t imagine what it could be. She took a pair of scissors from the drawer near the entryway and sliced open the tape.

Inside was a big, beautiful, expensive, top-of-the-line sewing machine. She couldn’t even lift it out of the box and had to settle for admiring it from the top. It was shiny white with chrome accents. Stuck down along the side of the foam packaging, she found the owner’s manual. Since she had a while before Will would come home and help her unpack the sewing machine, she opted to study the instructions in preparation for its first use.

Around the time she finished reading, she heard Will at the door. Leaping from the couch, she rounded the corner to meet him just as he stepped inside. He looked at the expression on her face and then turned to the kitchen, where the large box was still sitting.

“I see it arrived.”

“It did!” she exclaimed. “Did you buy it for me? It’s wonderful.”

“I ordered it this morning. They assured me it was the best you could buy and that they’d deliver it today.”

Without hesitation, she put her arms around him, hugging him tightly and kissing him. Her intent had been to say thank-you, but once her lips met his, her plans unraveled. Will snaked his arms around her waist, pulling her tight against him. He had been distant since their last kiss and she’d thought maybe he wasn’t interested, but there were no doubts once his tongue slid across hers and his fingers pressed hungrily into her flesh.

It felt so good in his arms. So…right…unlike everything else in her life. Most days, she felt like a body snatcher, wearing Cynthia Dempsey and her life like a skin. Nothing felt real or normal except sketching clothes and being with Will. Certainly taking another chance with Will was the right choice.

Pulling back at last, she said, “Thank you.” She just knew her face was turning beet-red from being pressed so firmly against the full length of his body. It made her feel self-conscious.

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