“My text message name?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
I grinned wildly. “I need you to know that I completely approve of that name. And now I need to give you a nickname. How about Hot American Girl?” I suggested, but we both cringed at the same time.
“HAG,” she said, crinkling her nose.
“Sexy American Girl,” I offered, but then nixed it quickly, too.
“SAG is bad.”
I snapped my fingers. “We have the same problem with Beautiful American Girl. Damn you, hot American girl with the AG initials.”
She laughed and her lips curved up in the sexiest smile. I brushed the pad of my index finger against her lips. “Jess,” I said softly. “I’m so sorry I deceived you about the job, but all this?” I gestured from her to me and back as I looked in her eyes. They were big and round and looked so damn vulnerable as she nodded for me to keep going. “It’s all real. I think you’re hot and beautiful and sexy and funny and smart, and it drives me absolutely crazy how you try so hard to dislike me.”
She rolled her eyes. “What if I’m not trying? What if I really do dislike you?” she tossed back, her eyes sparkling now, saying otherwise.
“Then stop me before I kiss you again,” I said bending my head to her neck to layer a soft kiss on her skin. But just as I was about to map her with my lips, she pressed her hands against my chest.
“William,” she said, her voice a warning. “I don’t want to be used.”
“How is it using you if I kiss you?”
“Weren’t you kind of using me before?”
“And we’re using each other now. But we’re also not using each other because we’re being open about it. Yes, I needed to understand how you did your job, and now you’re telling me and that’s helping me with the most important thing to me—potentially staying here. And now you’re using me and I’m helping you with information so you can possibly get the most important thing to you—money for med school. So we’re using each other to help the other person get what they most want.”
I glanced down. Her hand was still on my chest, but instead of pushing me away, she fisted a handful of fabric. “Use me,” she said in a purr and tugged me in for a kiss. A quick, searing, hot kiss that fogged my head. The taste of her was intoxicating, like summertime and honey. Within seconds, I’d forgotten where we were, what we were doing, and who we were staking out. All I wanted was more of her.
She broke the kiss. “What did you really say to me in Italian?”
I brushed her hair from her ear, buzzed my lips along her neck, and nibbled on her earlobe. Then I whispered, “How much I want you.”
She gasped as if I’d just said the most scandalous thing. “William.”
I pulled back. “That’s the truth, Fredericka.”
She looked away, as if she were trying to avoid the prospect of an us. Jess was back and forth tonight. Hot and cold. She was kissing me, and pushing me away. Maybe she was warring with herself over whether she was truly mad at me or not.
“Moving on to my secret identity for the wedding,” she said, back to brisk, business-like Jess. “Can I just pick a simpler name? Like Claire?”
“Claire with the red hair,” I said, shifting gears, too. “What’s your alibi?”
“I’m a celebrity dog trainer, of course,” she said, with a glint in her eye. I recognized that look—it was the one she had when she was excited about a plan or a strategy.
“I can have J.P. make that ID for me by Friday. Claire Tinsley sounds like a perfect name for a celeb wedding guest–slash–celebrity dog trainer.”
“Great. You’ll be a solo guest, so you’ll come to the gates one hour before the wedding starts, and Sal—he’s with us and he’ll be doing the check-in—will have your name on the list as Claire Tinsley.”
“And then I just walk inside and blend in with the other guests?”
“Not that simple. They’ll be checking for cameras. They’re asking guests to leave their cell phones at the check-in.”
“Ouch. But that’s standard procedure at these events,” she said quickly.
“I don’t really know how you’ll get a camera in, Jess. I mean, I can get you in, but that’s as much as I can do. It’s not as if I can smuggle in a camera and disassemble it and leave it in parts in the kitchen cabinets, and then have you reassemble it like in some heist movie.”
“Let me think on the camera issue and whether any heist flicks are actually realistic and useful research for me when it comes to reassembly. But I’ll come up with something. I definitely don’t want you to get caught smuggling, and I promise you won’t get in trouble at all.”