“I can’t tell you what a pleasure this is for us to meet you as well,” Otto was gushing in crisp, Swiss-accented English. “Brigit was very busy with the advertising campaign for the holidays, but she insisted upon accompanying me in order to meet the genius who created such a revolutionary mechanism. Even now, I can’t quite grasp what you’ve managed to accomplish.”

Kam resisted an urge to shrug and just held Otto’s stare.

“He’s modest,” Brigit said in mock-confidential tone to Lin. “The brilliant ones often are.”

“He’s unconventional, that much is true. Don’t try to pigeonhole him if you truly want to draw his character,” Lin said, smiling warmly up at Kam.

“Do you?” Kam asked Lin, looking down at her upturned face.

She blinked, taken off guard by his question. “Do I what?”

“Want to draw my character?”

“Of course she does. Everyone knows Lin has a talent for seeing straight to the heart,” Otto joked. “She can see to the rotten core of a person in two seconds flat during a business deal. It’s one of the many reasons Ian guards her like a personal treasure.”

“Fortunately I see no rotten cores here tonight,” Lin replied.

Her manner was easy, polished, and businesslike, but Kam took heart from her light touch on his arm. A waiter approached carrying sparkling fruit juice and carbonated water. “Shall we take in Francesca’s exhibit?” Lin invited when they’d all taken a flute.

“Absolutely. Such a talented young woman . . .” Otto was saying. Kam tuned him out as the four of them began the circuit around the room. He was forced to break contact with Lin as they moved about. He was too distracted by her to be anxious about meeting the Gersbachs. He was caught up in the spell of Lin’s lithesome bare arms and sexy long legs. His senses were always extremely sharp, but tonight they seemed exponentially sensitive. He was entranced by the sound of her melodious voice and the nearly silent swish of hair on both her bare skin and the fabric of her dress. He managed several responses to the Gersbachs, a decent amount of which were longer than two words. It wasn’t that hard, given his honest admiration of Francesca’s sketches and Lin’s effortless, yet warm and genuine skill for social conversation.

Even though he’d been forced to allow her to drop her hand from his arm, he touched her whenever he got the chance, subtly and outside of anyone’s notice. He’d brush her waist or bare shoulder, silently urging her to a more ideal spot in which to see the artwork. Significantly, she never gave him a quelling glance when he first did it, so he continued.

As they moved throughout the exhibit, more and more people started to stream into the room. Many of them took different paths than the Gersbachs, Lin, and Kam.

Several people were already gathered in front of one of the larger sketches when they reached it. Otto and Brigit maneuvered for a view. Kam reached out and spread his hand on the tight curve of Lin’s hip, urging her in front of him. He was tall enough to see the sketch over her head, but he wasn’t looking. Not really. He dared to put his other hand on her hip, encircling her. She went very still in his hold. He just felt her for a stretched second, absorbed her refined energy, the sensation of her feminine hips and the delicious fragrance from her hair. A tickling, arousing buzz started on the root of his cock. He resisted a strong urge to press himself against the tight, round curve of her ass. Somehow he knew that, for that brief moment, she was as hyperfocused on him as he was her.

From the corner of his vision, he noticed a familiar form coming around the corner. He dropped his hands from Lin, recognizing Lucien walking next to Francesca.

They finished the circuit and approached Francesca, the Gersbachs and Lin giving their warm praise and impressions of the exhibit.

“And you, Kam?” Francesca asked after a moment. “You haven’t said much. Worried about offending your sister-in-law?”

“You know me well enough by now to realize if I wanted to offend, I would have by now,” Kam mumbled. He blinked when Brigit Gersbach gave a loud laugh, as if he’d been joking. “I enjoyed it,” he told Francesca. “No reason I wouldn’t. Your attention to the tiniest detail is amazing, and yet it only adds to the overall impression of harmony.”

“Not unlike a quality timepiece, no?” Brigit asked him, looping her arm around his elbow, staring up at him with a brilliant smile. There was something jarring about her voice. He looked down at her in bemusement. Lin cleared her throat, and he suspected he might have been wincing.

“Speaking of time,” Lin said brightly, checking her delicate diamond watch. “Shall we go into dinner?”

“Absolutely,” Otto said briskly. “I have pages of questions for you,” he told Kam, drawing him away from his clinging daughter.

Kam glanced back warily at Lin. She seemed to notice his resigned suffering, her humorous glance encouraging him to bear it out. She’d said he could have her to himself afterward. Or at least she’d said she’d think about it.

He was having trouble thinking about anything else.

•   •   •

Kam seated Lin when they were led to a table at Elise’s chic restaurant, and then took the chair next to her. Brigit and Otto sat across from them. Lin noticed that Brigit appeared to be slightly annoyed by Kam’s indifference toward her. Lin wasn’t immune to the other woman’s disappointment. Neither Ian nor she should have worried about Kam ruining anything with his disdain for luxury and fashion. If anything, his tendency to say little in combination with his penetrating, intelligent gaze and stunning good looks gave the impression of an aloof prince. The quieter and cooler he was, the more Otto, and especially Brigit, seemed determined to draw him out.

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