Her softly spoken words touched him while at the same time made him feel vulnerable. Without a computer or phone between them, he was awkward, something he’d never been in his life. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other. “Anyway, that’s what the Board wants, so that’s what they’ll get.”
“So I’m a means to an end,” she said softly.
No, you are so much more. “As am I. This is mutually beneficial, lo—er Daisy. I need your help with this bloody family business, so be quick about it. I have appointments to keep.”
God, were all British men like him? Daisy thought. Arrogant one minute—nervous the next.
No, not all of them, she reminded herself. Jules was charming and funny…and nice. Christian and his cousin, Alexander, were both devoted to their wives, and actually carried on conversations without insults.
So it couldn’t be a family trait.
It had to be because Sebastian had lost his ever-loving mind. Sure she felt bad for him, because he was obviously still suffering over losing his dad in a horrible explosion. She’d felt that way when her momma had died, but at least she had her family and friends to help her get through it.
Still… fake engagement, and she should hurry up, because he had an appointment? She had no idea if this was the way he normally conducted business, but if it were, no wonder the Board voted him out.
“Time’s a-wasting,” he said..
“Go sodder yourself, Your Royal Pain in my Buttliness,” Daisy snapped.
“It’s bugger. Impossible to do to oneself, by the way, but I’d be happy to demonstrate the technique on you,” he said in his English accent that simultaneously annoyed and made her knees weak.
“Part of your fake fiancée package deal?”
His chin dropped and his eyes grew dark. “If you wish.”
“I don’t wish.” Liar, liar, a little voice in her head mocked. Whatever his temperament, her body sure liked him, but no matter what, she wouldn’t act on it, because what kind of woman was into a man like Sebastian Romanov?
“We are agreed then.” He reached for the last cupcake. “Excellent.”
Making a noise that was a cross between a snort and a grunt, she transferred the food he hadn’t eaten to plastic containers and stored them in her refrigerator. “I didn’t say yes.”
There was no way she’d say yes. Then again, maybe she should. After all, the insurance bill was hanging around her neck like an anchor, pulling her down and drowning her. However, making a deal with a man like Sebastian Romanov—aristocratic, arrogant and aggravating as all get out—was akin to dealing with the devil, but his money would solve so much.
Sighing as she closed the refrigerator door, she turned to face him and jumped. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”
Tapping on his very expensive watch, he said, “I need an answer.”
“Right this second?” she asked, stalling for time. She needed time to think, time to hash it out with someone who was reasonable and circumspect…and Jules. She needed to talk to Jules about it. Isabella and Haven, too. Wait, she couldn’t. Bella was out of town and Haven would freak out.
“What are you so worried about?” he asked, pulling her from her thoughts. “I’m not asking you to commit a crime.”
He rolled his eyes. “For God’s sake, it’s not fraud. It’s to be paid for services rendered.”
“It wouldn’t be lying per se. For all intents and purposes, we’d actually be engaged for the duration.” She opened her mouth to speak, but he held up a finger. “To sweeten the pot, I’m willing to pay any and all future insurance bills.”
“If I were to agree, what would being your fiancée require?” she asked, trying to get all her ducks in a row, so when she talked to Jules, he could help her do a pros and cons list. Or tell her to run far, far away.
A confident smile kicked up the corners of his mouth, as if he already had the ring on her finger. “Not much. Be my date at events, and actually go on dates to non-business events, royal get togethers and the like. You know, the usual things couples in love would do with each other.”
Royal get-togethers? Her mind swam at the possibilities while her stomach did flips. No way she’d fit in his life.
“But you’re an earl and I’m not,” she said faintly.
“The title isn’t bestowed upon women.” He grinned. “You’ve been keeping tabs on me.”
Maybe just a little. “Um, your brother lives here and we’re practically related, remember?”
“Not until you reminded me,” he said with a frown. “Thank you.”
What was so off-putting about being related to her? “Look, I don’t think I’m what you need. You’re like the twenty-first century version of Downton Abbey and I’m a generation removed from the Dukes of Hazzard.”
Confusion filled his icy blue eyes. “The what and what?”
“Oh, forget it.” Jules would have totally gotten her comparison, and as soon as Sebastian left, she would fire off an email to Jules about this entire conversation instead of waiting until their usual time.
Placing a hand on Sebastian’s suit jacket, she tried to explain herself further. “What I’m saying is—we go together like peanut butter and—I don’t know—fish sticks.”
“I don’t eat peanut butter.” Edging closer to her, his suit jacket brushed against her br**sts. Dear God, he smelled good.
“Don’t you think people will see right through us?”
His chin lowered a fraction. “I think they’ll like what they see—aristocracy falling madly and completely in love with a commoner. Look at William and Catherine. The press adores them, as do members of the Board.”
“What about sex?” she blurted, her cheeks heating and her hand falling away. “I mean, you don’t expect sex. I mean, you’re not paying me for sex. I don’t have sex for money. Sex is free with me.” She couldn’t stop saying ‘sex’ and there was no one around to duct-tape her mouth shut. “But we’re not a real couple, so our sex would be fake sex.”
His arms came around her then.
She took a step back, hitting the cold front of the fridge. Bracing a palm along each side of her, he dipped his head. Her heart sped up until it beat so hard and fast that she had to take in great gulps of air.