London waved away Diamond’s stern segue. “Don’t worry about that.”
“Don’t brush me off.”
“Calm down, girl, before you bring on contractions.”
“I’m serious, London. You bribed an employee into breaking a company rule. We could have been sued! Any other instance and she would have been fired. But Ellen is a hard worker with a stellar record whose family has experienced a year of financial setbacks. Five thousand dollars cash was understandably hard to pass up. Plus, I know how tenacious you can be.”
“I’m sorry, Diamond. I guess I didn’t look at it from a corporate angle.”
“Please tell me she’s not fired.”
“No, but she was written up and put on a ninety-day probation. If there are no more incidents, after a year we’ll remove it from her file.”
“I really am sorry, cousin. Forgive me?”
“I’ll think about it.” The frown lines disappeared as Diamond relaxed. “So tell me the who, what, when, where and why of it all. I want to hear everything.”
London obliged, relating everything from overhearing the girls in the bathroom to Ace’s take-charge ways. “I let him get away with it this time. I bribed my way into his room and all. But next time he tries to boss me around, no matter the situation, I’m going to put him in check.”
“Careful with that. I’m married to an alpha male. Trying to put them in check is a pretty tall order that usually ends with them on top. In fact, I think it was just such a conversation that led to my stomach now looking like this.”
“Well, I’m not going to let a man boss me around.” London looked at her watch and abruptly stood. “Time is flying! I’ve got to run. Ace and I are having dinner at eight. He said if I were late there’d be consequences.” She rushed over to Diamond for a quick hug and kiss and hurried out the room. “Bye!”
As London reached the end of the hall and headed toward the door, she heard Diamond burst out laughing.
London took a step back from the bungalow’s front door. “That is not a proper greeting.”
Six feet of I-don’t-give-a-damn filled the large frame and looked amazing in the process.
Had she read minds, Ace thought, she would have known his brusque behavior covered up how much her beauty threw him off guard. “I apologize. Good evening, London. You’re late.”
London rewarded him with a smile. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, leaning in to give him a feathery kiss on the cheek. Her eyes were wide and pleading. “Forgive me?” She nibbled her lip, awaiting his response.
He placed his hand on her shoulder, slid it to the nape of her neck and placed soft, plump lips on her forehead. “I forgive you.”
He stepped back so she could enter. “I just won’t be able to give you the gift I purchased earlier today.”
A lover of presents no matter the reason, London unleashed her inner child. She whirled around, eyes shining. “What’d you get me?”
“Nothing now. We talked about your tardiness already. You obviously didn’t feel my time was important.” He reached into an inside jacket pocket and pulled out a small gift-wrapped box. “Please, have a seat and excuse me for a sec while I put this away.”
“Ace!” London, fast on his heels, tried to reach around him and grab the box.
He turned and blocked her. “What are you doing?” His eyes shined with humor.
“Trying to get what belongs to me!”
London was five foot eight so it wasn’t easy, but Ace being four inches taller helped him keep the box out of her reach.
“When one doesn’t follow the rules, there are consequences. I told you that.” He took his eyes on a slow journey down her body. “But you’re irresistible. So here.”
London beamed. “Thank you, Ace! What is it?”
“Open it and find out.”
She dropped her purse on the coffee table and sat on the couch where they’d conversed earlier. After another sexy look at him, she lifted the lid on the bow-wrapped gift and opened the leather box inside.