“Very well. I’ll speak to Gavin and make sure it’s available. How long will you need to prepare for the trip and arrange the time off?”

 It was Monday. At the best, she could leave this weekend. “I’m not sure, but it will take a few days.”


 “I’ll give you my contact information. Let me know when you find out¸ and I’ll have a car sent to pick you up.”

 “That’s not necessary. I can arrange my own transportation.” Claire was never the kind of woman who sat back and let people take care of her. Not Jeff, and certainly not Luca. She had the capacity and the money to handle this herself.

 “Ridiculous. We’ll ride together and start getting to know each other as soon as possible.”

 Claire clenched her jaw. He spoke as if everything was law. It made her crazy. She had to pick her battles, though. If he wanted to send someone all the way out to her brownstone in Brooklyn to pick them up, then fine. “Very well. Are we done here?”

 Luca’s lips twisted into an amused smile. “We are.”

 Good. Claire was in desperate need of getting out of this room. The spacious conference room closed in on her the longer Luca stared at her. Those dark hazel eyes had the slightest hint of gold twinkling mischievously in them. He seemed to look right through her, seeing all the secrets and shame she was desperate to hide.

 Picking up her bag, she pushed up from her seat and turned her back on Luca Moretti. She needed some distance between them. She wanted to breathe air that wasn’t scented with leather and the spice of his cologne. Claire moved with purpose out of the conference room, exiting Edmund’s law offices with Stuart on her heels. She didn’t stop until she was standing on the sidewalk, looking at the traffic buzzing down Lexington Avenue.

 Claire took a deep breath and felt the muscles in her neck and shoulders finally start to loosen. It wasn’t just what he saw in her. It was how he made her feel. Luca lit a fire inside her that licked at her cheeks and made her think about the needs she’d ignored for longer than she could remember.

 When she and her husband decided to have a child and it didn’t happen easily, sex with Jeff became a chore. Mechanical. When that didn’t work and they went to the clinic, it was even worse. Desire and arousal went out the window with sterile rooms and medical procedures. Their relationship changed as their failures became all they could focus on.

 It was no wonder Jeff strayed.

 Claire had been so wrapped up in getting pregnant, and then obsessed with preparing for the baby’s arrival, she didn’t notice anything was wrong. Jeff was working later, going on more business trips, but a lot of people worked long hours. Even she did from time to time, especially when a new exhibit was getting ready to open at the museum. But she also ignored the fact that he took a shower the minute he got home, the distant look in his eyes and the complete disinterest in physical contact. She was so adept at justifying every red flag that if his mistress hadn’t died in the car with Jeff when he wrecked, she might never have accepted he was having an affair.

 It had taken time to come to terms with the truth, but knowing that her relationship with Jeff would’ve ended no matter what had helped her cope with his death. She had lost her husband long before that night. If Jeff had lived long enough for the truth about his infidelity to come to light, they probably would’ve divorced. And if by some miracle they had fought through the rough patch, finding out that he wasn’t Eva’s father would’ve been the end. His ego never could’ve taken a hit like that.

 Realizing all this had been a major blow to her confidence in her ability to make good choices. She had thought Jeff was the perfect man for her and she’d been wrong. She’d thought a baby would help give her what she was missing from her life and her marriage, and it wasn’t. She loved Eva more than anything and didn’t regret having her, but a baby hadn’t been the answer to their problems. In the end it made them worse.

 Being attracted to Luca Moretti was another bad decision. Even as she could feel his gaze raking across her skin, she knew it was a terrible idea. And yet, she hadn’t felt that alive in years. He hadn’t even touched her and she’d reacted to him like no other man before him.

 “Claire, are you okay?” Stuart came up behind her, placing a soothing hand on her shoulder.

 “Yeah, I was just ready to get out of there.”

 He nodded, looking out at the passing cars. “Let me take you to lunch.” They turned and started walking down the sidewalk. “All things considered, I think it went okay today. Edmund’s not filing an emergency visitation petition, so that buys us some time. He’s willing to work with us to come up with an agreement before we go to the judge. It isn’t going to get any better than that.”

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