Irritation spiked through Lin at his distance handling of the matter, but so did confusion. “That won’t do,” she murmured. “Can you call him back and ask him to meet me at six thirty at the bar? We should at least touch base about Stunde before we meet with Kyle Preston and Nina Patel.”

Maria rang her a few minutes later and told her that Kam had agreed to six thirty. Again, she experienced bemusement that he hadn’t asked to speak with her personally.

That night Lin dressed with extreme care for their last meeting with the luxury watchmakers. She still hadn’t decided precisely what she wanted to say to Kam, but had already determined they should stick to business before and during the meeting. She’d call him out about his tactics for gaining her trust and interest after everything professional was over and done.

How dare he play with my emotions this way? she fumed silently for the thousandth time. He wanted her for his business and so he’d forced a physical relationship in order to secure his place in her life? Well, not forced precisely, she conceded irritably as she zipped up her dress that evening and closely studied her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She’d been more than eager to go to bed with him that first night, and progressively more enthusiastic every time since.

She’d loved every second of his primal, powerful lovemaking.

He just wanted me for his business.

But he could have wanted me for me as well, couldn’t he? A man couldn’t fake passion like Kam had shown, another part of her argued.

Now you are kidding yourself. Of course a man can make lust look like true feeling. Every day women are fooled into thinking sex means caring.

Kam’s not most men, though. He’s brutally honest.

He didn’t tell you what he was planning, though, did he?

Disgusted by her internal battle, she forced herself to focus on the moment. She’d just get tonight over with. After dinner, she had no choice but to confront Kam and try to discern the truth in him. She was admittedly scared of what that truth might be.

Taking a deep breath, she lifted her chin in preparation for battle. She wasn’t displeased with her appearance. None of the cracks in her armor were showing on the surface. Her hair was styled in an elegant partial upsweep with loose curls falling down her back. She wore a silk sarong print dress that left one shoulder bare, the feminine ruffles of the skirt tempered with a black leather belt that echoed the Reardon watch. She’d toyed with wearing the stunning pearls Kam had bought her, but no. Those were just another example of his unfair influence on her heart. The watch, she wore because it was business . . .

. . . and this was a business dinner, no matter how Kam had tried to alter the playing field to suit him. If there was one thing Lin could rely on, it was her professional persona. Calm. Charming. Polished. She’d rely on that persona tonight, just like she’d depended on it for years to survive.

•   •   •

She arrived at the restaurant bar before him and took a seat in a sleek upholstered chair at a cocktail table. Her anxiety grew as she waited. She sensed his presence before she saw his tall form approaching in the corner of her eye. Several heads turned to admire him as he walked toward her. He may not customarily wear suits, but he looked good in them . . . extremely good, wearing them like he did his casual clothing—like a second skin on his toned, athletic frame. His face remained impassive when their gazes locked across the crowded bar. She waited for that gleam of warmth and arousal she’d grown used to seeing, but his glance remained as cool as his expression.

“Thanks for meeting with me early,” she said neutrally when he took a seat next to her at the table.

“Ian told me that he spoke to you about the position. I’m furious at him for doing it, although I understand why he did,” Kam added grudgingly.

She blinked in surprise. There it was: his ever-present, blunt honesty.

“Don’t worry. I know you aren’t planning on accepting my offer,” Kam said, his eyes flashing.

“How can you know that when I—” she broke off when a waiter approached. They gave their drink orders, both of them tight-lipped.

“I’m not sure this is a good time to discuss it,” Lin said evenly once the waiter had left. She sounded calm, but her heartbeat had started to pound in her ears. “I want to tell you a few key things about Stunde, and Nina and Kyle are going to be here any minute.”

“Right. The top secret briefing.”

She simmered at his sarcasm. “I’m just trying to get through this evening without any major mishaps.”

She felt her cheeks heating when he studied her closely for a silent moment.

“Who’s going to make a mishap?” he finally queried, leaning forward with his elbows on the table. His eyes were like ice chips. Before she knew what to expect, he reached for her hand, flipping her palm up.

“Don’t,” she whispered heatedly when she realized what he was doing. He expertly tapped on the tiny screen. He looked up at her with a grim smile when he quickly scanned her vitals, which—damn it—indicated a marked escalated stress response like a neon sign.

“What’s wrong, Lin, not as cool and collected as you’re leading everyone in this snooty restaurant to believe?”

She gritted her teeth in anger and yanked back her wrist. “That’s none of your business.”

“If I were you, I’d take off the device then,” Kam replied. “I mean it,” he said and gave her a defiant glare, a trace of steel to his voice. “I don’t want those people gaping at what’s going on inside of you.”