“How’s Richard?” he asked.

“He’ll be fine. A pretty severe infection had set in, so the doctor recommended a course of IV antibiotics. That was why it necessitated an inpatient stay. They say he’s going to recover quickly, though. Lucien just left and I was on my way out.”

“Are you coming back to the office?”

“I have my class tonight,” Lin reminded him. She was hoping Kam would meet her there.

“Sure, I understand,” he said distractedly. “It’s just that I wanted to speak to you about something.”

“I’ll come back then.”

“No . . . no, that’s not necessary,” Ian said. She sensed his preoccupation.

“What is it, Ian?”

“I’d rather not broach the topic on the phone, but I suppose I should bring it up now before Kam mentions it to you.”

“What?” Lin asked, puzzled by his manner.

“Kam plans to ask you to work for him. Not just for him. With him. He wants you to be a full partner in Reardon Technologies, his new company.”

Lin just stared blindly out the window at a row of cabs waiting at the curb.

“You’re surprised?” Ian asked after a pause.

“To put it mildly,” she replied hollowly. It suddenly felt very hard to move her lungs. A tingling sensation started on her hands and feet. “How . . . how long has he been planning this?”

“According to him, the idea has been coming on ever since he met you. He has an enormous amount of respect for you, Lin,” Ian said quietly. “I think he realized how much he needs you to make this company fly.”

Needs you to make his company fly. Is that what all of this had been about? Had her seduction been a means to acquire her for his business dynasty?

“I . . . I don’t know what to say,” Lin mumbled. She felt numb.

“I can tell it’s coming to you as quite a shock,” Ian said. “The only reason I mentioned it before Kam had a chance to is that it came to my attention that you might turn him down out of loyalty to me. To Noble Enterprises. I wanted you to know that whatever you decide, I’ll be behind you. Kam is willing to offer you things that I can’t. He’s willing to offer you things most business owners would never consider.”

“You make it sound like you want me to leave,” Lin said, feeling stung and confused by the news.

“No. That’s not it at all. Nothing would make me happier than if you took your time with the decision and came to the conclusion that Noble is where you want to remain. You know how much I value you. At least I hope you do. But the fact remains: Kam’s offer is highly generous. I can tell you love the product. With Kam’s brilliance and your business savvy, you two would be unstoppable.”

The silence roared in her ears.

“Just think about it, Lin,” Ian continued, his tone warmer than usual. “More than you’ve thought about the dozens of other offers you’ve gotten over the years that you’ve turned down. You and I were going to discuss this week the relocation of Noble to London, at least for a short time period. That would certainly change up your life as well. If anything, it’s another factor you’ll need to consider in making your decision.”

“Yes. I have a lot to think about. Thank you for telling me your thoughts on the matter, Ian,” she said, glad to hear that her voice sounded even.

“I’m available if you need to toss things around. I’m also flexible in regard to making your position at Noble as comfortable for you with the location change as I can. This isn’t about me not wanting you, Lin. You’re the best damn executive I’ve had, or will ever have. I can say that without a doubt of ever changing my mind. More importantly, you’re a good friend. I care about you. I want whatever you want. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Lin managed.

She signed off with Ian and put her phone away. She just stared out the window for a stretched moment.

I want whatever you want.

What if she didn’t know what she wanted, though? Just minutes ago, she would have said she wanted what she had with Kam to flourish and grow, but on a personal basis, not a professional one. Or at least primarily on a personal basis. She really hadn’t ever considered being business partners with him.

The realization that was probably what Kam had in mind all along made her feel like she’d been dropped down a dark, fifty-foot hole with no ladder.

Chapter Eighteen

She went home that night instead of to her dance class, trying to absorb everything that Ian had told her, trying to decode what it all meant. She’d already decided she wasn’t going to call Kam until she’d thought things through and gained some perspective.

It surprised her the next morning, however, to discover that he hadn’t tried to call her, either. That was odd. He’d said he was going to call her. Before her conversation with Ian, she’d assumed they would be seeing one another.

Not that she relished the idea of seeing him now, but it just seemed strange that he’d avoided her as well.

She spent a highly distracted day at work. At around four o’clock, however, she realized she couldn’t keep avoiding Kam. They had the meeting scheduled with two executives from Stunde Watches tonight at the restaurant Festa. Lin had yet to even brief Kam about Stunde.

“Has Kam come into the office to see Ian or called?” Lin asked Maria, poking her head out of her office.

“As a matter of fact, I just got off the phone with him,” Maria said, setting down her pen. “He says to tell you he’ll meet you at Festa at seven.”

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