He paused, trying to read Ian’s mood. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t believe me, Ian, but I am thankful for everything you’ve done for me. You helped facilitate things for the pharmaceutical deal. It’s because of you that I have seed money. You’ve helped me here in Chicago. I want to show my appreciation by allowing Noble the use of any Reardon product you think you can use.”

Ian inhaled slowly. Kam thought he was listening, but he also sensed he was still simmering with anger.

“I’m determined to make this work,” Kam continued. “That’s why I need Lin. I plan to offer her a full partnership, if she wants it. She can own up to fifty percent of Reardon Technologies stock, if she chooses. The sky is the limit as far as where we could take it . . . where Lin could take it, if she decided to. Can you offer her anything equivalent at Noble?” he challenged quietly.

Ian just stared at him, his mouth hanging open. “You fucking little bastard,” he said dazedly after a moment.

“I’m a fucking bigger bastard than you,” Kam muttered through his teeth.

A bark of mirthless laughter fell past Ian’s lips. He set his elbow on the mantel of the fireplace and put his forehead in his hand.

“I’m sorry if you feel that I’m doing this to spite you,” Kam said truthfully, feeling the tension ease between them. “I’m not. I don’t mean to sound belittling, but it’s got nothing to do with you. It’s just that . . .”

Ian looked over at him when he faded off. “It’s what makes the most sense,” Kam continued. “It feels right. Lin is precisely what I need. I think you even sense that. And she could use an opportunity like this . . . a place to be in the forefront, where she can shine at her fullest and reap all the benefits. Lin should be with me.”

“With Reardon Technologies?” Ian asked pointedly.

“Yes,” Kam replied without pause. He knew what Ian was angling at, but he wasn’t ready to discuss his personal feelings for Lin, especially when he hadn’t even had that discussion with Lin yet. “Of course, Lin might feel differently,” he admitted grimly under his breath. “Everyone knows how loyal she is to you and Noble.”

“So you haven’t spoken to her about any of this yet?”

“No,” Kam said. “I plan to talk to her about that when she gets back. She might suspect something. I’m not sure. She’s kind of hard to read sometimes.”

“She says the same thing about you. I agreed with her. You’ve certainly gone and proved us right in this case,” Ian said, frowning. He turned and faced Kam. “You care about her? You truly do? Because maybe I could start to accept this . . . maybe I could maybe even start to feel good about it if it’s what Lin wants and you assured me her feelings and her future are a priority for you.”

Kam met his stare unwaveringly. “You can feel good about it,” he said simply.

Ian held his gaze for several long seconds before he nodded once slowly. “Well, it’s not as if I haven’t had a sneaking suspicion something volatile was happening between you two. I’ve sensed something was about to erupt, but I didn’t guess this. I won’t deny that there have been many times I’ve regretted not being able to offer Lin more. Not money. She’s one of the top-paid executives in the United States. I mean more of Noble itself. She deserves more for all the work she’s done in the past.”

“I agree,” Kam said.

Ian’s eyes flashed in residual anger at Kam’s steadfast reply, but then he seemed to calm himself. “You have to understand. It’s not the wealth I don’t want to share. I don’t care about that. I’ve just never been good about sharing decisions when it comes to my company.”

“I’m not blaming you for the way you want to run your business, Ian. Lin wouldn’t, either. I heard her defending you to Klinf. She was sincere. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve more.”

Ian blinked and shook his head as if suddenly weary. “You’re right. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her at work,” he said hollowly.

I don’t know what I’d do without her. Period, Kam thought.

Kam shrugged and headed over to the sideboard, reaching for two glasses. They both could use a drink. “No reason to panic,” he told Ian, pouring some bourbon from a decanter. “The lady hasn’t spoken yet.” He walked over to Ian and handed him the glass. Ian just studied the golden-brown liquid for several seconds, lost in thought.

“To Lin,” Ian said finally, holding up the bourbon.

“To Lin. And her future,” Kam replied.

•   •   •

Lin thought a lot about Kam on her trip. She used his innovative device and thought of him and his brilliance. It was amazing, to learn about the rhythms of her own body, to come to understand how certain events, environments, and interactions made her respond. She started to feel more connected to her flesh than she ever had before, the biofeedback mechanism making her consider her physical being in a whole new way.

Lying alone in her hotel room at night, she could think of nothing but Kam and his challenging, intensely pleasurable lovemaking, his devilish smile, the knowing gleam in his silvery-gray eyes. She missed him so much.

They spoke on the phone on Monday night, Lin thanking him profusely for the gorgeous pearls and praising his device almost nonstop. A startling amount of people had noticed and commented on the watch, including many of her business associates in San Francisco. Lin had talked ebulliently about the mechanism, and saw firsthand the fascination and curiosity people immediately had for it. Kam had a future phenomenon on his hands. She asked him point-blank during a phone conversation if he planned to start up his own company sooner rather than later, and he’d admitted that it was his hope to jump right in versus waiting.

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