“I’m still in the process of creating a reliable protocol for each individual watch owner so that they can gather their baseline physiological data themselves,” Kam explained.

Otto nodded. “I understand. For the pharmaceutical companies, there are qualified professionals built in to the process that can gather the data. But I’ve studied the outline you’ve done for self-administration during the data-gathering phase, and I have complete faith that we can integrate successfully. It’s an entirely safe, nonintrusive procedure that anyone who can read can learn to do.”


Kam nodded. “I agree. But given the fact that a full instructional protocol hasn’t been written yet, I’ll do the data gathering for the demonstration.”

Otto gave Kam a sharp, blue-eyed stare. “I sense your reservations about a deal with us. I’ll be unconventionally frank with you. I want your invention for Gersbach at all costs. It’s the most innovative, exciting thing to happen to watchmaking in centuries. The idea of the watch being a tool to tell the date and time is going to become an antiquated concept, thanks to your genius. I will not allow Gersbach to go the way of the dodo. The ball is in your court. If you have specific demands for your product, please assume that I will do whatever I can to meet them. I’m sure that we can come to some sort of compromise that will leave both of us very, very happy.”

Brigit couldn’t hide her surprise at her father’s words, and Lin understood why. Otto hadn’t even seen Kam’s mechanism firsthand yet. Otto Gersbach was not known for being so forthright, or for being so willing to waver from the conservative path of Gersbach tradition.

Lin gave Kam a private, barely repressed smile of triumph as they rose to leave the restaurant a moment later. His lips quirked at her show of enthusiasm.

They paused in the entryway of the hotel to say good-bye to the Gersbachs. Otto had hired a driver for their visit. He pulled up in a sleek black sedan.

“Will we give you a ride back to the hotel?” Brigit asked Kam hopefully as she grasped his forearm. They’d established during dinner that the Gersbachs were staying at the same hotel as Kam, much to Brigit’s apparent approval.

“No, thank you,” Kam replied. “I need a word with Lin. I’ll catch a cab.”

Brigit didn’t look very pleased, but had no choice but to drop her hand. Lin felt her evening bag vibrate and glanced at her phone as the Gersbachs entered the car. She slipped the phone back into her purse and turned to Kam when the sedan rounded a corner and was out of sight. He lightly brushed his hand over her bare upper arm, and she shivered.

“You’re cold,” he growled softly, taking a step closer to her and putting his other hand on her, chafing the pebbled skin on both her arms lightly.

“No, I’m not,” she said honestly. It was a warm fall night. It hadn’t been the night air coming in through the doors when the Gersbachs exited that had made her shiver, but rather his touch. “Kam, I wish you would have told me and Ian about the real reason you weren’t interested in the luxury watch companies. If you want your watch to be accessible to most people, I can understand that. Do you want to go through with the rest of the meetings?”

“Yes,” he said, with much more conviction than she would have expected, given his prior reservations.

“But—”

“I want to continue,” he said firmly, stroking her bare arms again. “I have my reasons.”

She hesitated, looking up at him. “Well, if you want to, of course. If anything, it’s a good experience for you, talking shop with premier watchmakers and businesspeople.”

“Exactly.”

“You were certainly a hit with Otto. And definitely with Brigit,” she said, giving him an amused, knowing glance at the last.

“You had warned me that one of Brigit’s ‘hobbies’ was man hunting,” he reminded her. “At least I wasn’t surprised.”

“You still seemed a little dumbfounded by her boldness a few times, not that most men wouldn’t be,” Lin chuckled. “I think she might have stepped up her game a bit even past her normal activity to be so obvious in front of her father. I’d definitely watch out for her.”

“Are you saying that for my sake? Or yours?”

“For yours, of course.” His fingertips glided across the sensitive patch of skin at the back of her shoulders, and again she shivered.

“I can’t get over how soft you are,” he said bluntly, his brows quirked as if he really was a little disbelieving of the evidence his fingertips sent to his brain.

Her smile faded as she looked up at him. For a few full seconds, neither of them spoke, although she read the message in his eyes like a bold neon sign.

“Ian texted me,” she said in a hushed voice after a moment, kidding herself by bringing up mundane topics, trying to ignore the blatant, unapologetic lust in Kam’s gaze. “He asked if we’d meet them in the Coffee Boutique for an after-dinner drink in a half hour or so,” she said, referring to the extremely popular European-style coffeehouse and bakery inside Lucien’s hotel.

He stiffened. “I thought you said you were done with work for the night.”

“I did, but it wouldn’t hurt, would it? Ian and Lucien are just curious about how things went with the Gersbachs. They’re your family, Kam,” she added when his frown grew fierce. “They care about you.”

“You said you’d think about it.”

She froze. She knew exactly what he was talking about, of course. Heat rushed into her cheeks despite her chilled skin. She’d told him she’d think about whether he’d have her to himself after the Gersbach dinner. His thumb moved, caressing her right arm. His touch amplified her trembling.

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