Page 19 of Sinful Temptation

What the heck was going on? Had Christmas come early this year?

It didn’t help that they were, next to Tony, two of the hottest men she’d ever seen in person. Marcus had a deep olive complexion, short, sandy hair sun-streaked with gold, amber eyes and swooping brows. He had the kind of sexy mustache and stubble that suggested he only shaved when the mood struck, which wasn’t very often. His smile was easy and he was dressed in the black-on-black outfit—dress shirt with expensive jeans—that a lot of New Yorkers favored.

Cooper, Marcus’s adopted brother, on the other hand, wore frayed camouflage cargo pants, a plain white T-shirt, and had an explosion of silky blond curls ringing his head like a halo. His hard jaw and thinned lips gave him the look of a man you didn’t want to piss off, and his glittering blue eyes were rock hard, as though they’d been chiseled straight from sapphires.

They looked, in short, like models escaped from the pages of GQ and Soldier of Fortune magazines, respectively.

Marcus stuck out a hand and shook Talia’s in his firm grip. “Talia. I’m familiar with your work. We thought it was time to take a closer look.”

He was familiar with her work? Really? She knew she had talent, of course, but this was the equivalent of a freelance magazine writer getting a call from the head of G.P. Putnam’s Sons offering to buy a manuscript from her. She had the undignified urge to squeal with delight and spin in gleeful circles, but then she got suspicious. She shot Tony a questioning look, but his bland expression gave nothing away.

“Thank you,” she replied. “It’s great to meet—”

But Marcus’s attention had already wandered, and he was heading off to study some of her paintings. “I’ll just have a look around,” he said vaguely, producing a pair of edgy black-rimmed glasses from a pocket and slipping them on.

O-kay, then.

That left her to greet Cooper, the surly one. She shored up her courage, praying he wouldn’t kill her for saying hello.

“Hi,” she said, extending her hand. “Thanks for coming.”

It took him a minute to shake because he’d been distracted by something over her shoulder. Snapping to attention, he took her hand, said, “Pleasure,” in an indifferent voice, and then looked past her again.

Bemused, Talia followed his line of sight to discover Gloria still working on packing boxes.

“And you are…?” Cooper asked Gloria.

“The sister,” Gloria told him. “Ignore me.”

With that, she finished taping a box closed, swung it around and headed to the studio’s back room, giving Talia a suppressed smile and a wink as she went.

Cooper stared after her, a vague frown marring his brow. “Excuse me,” he finally said to Talia, and then wandered off to join his brother as they studied the paintings.

Which left Talia semi-alone with Tony.

“What’s going on?” she asked, not bothering to hide her open suspicion.

Shrugging, he took his time answering, and her nerves stretched accordingly. He had to know that she was freaking out and overwhelmed in the presence of a couple of men who could give her career a huge boost with little more than a snap of their fingers.

“We told you. We wanted to take a closer look at your work.”

“Why? Slow week? Did you run out of Picassos and Monets to buy and sell?”

“Not exactly.”

“What exactly, then?”

“A couple things. First, a wall in my Hamptons estate was damaged in the storm a few months ago.”

“And you decided to come down here and share that news flash with me?”

“Not that news flash, no. This one—a huge mural depicting scenes from The Odyssey was destroyed. My mother, who was a Greek professor, commissioned that mural, and she loved it. Therefore, it means a lot to me, and I’d like it to be replaced.”

Talia blinked, letting all that information sink in.

Oh, no.

Oh, no.

Freezing her poker face into place, she waited for the rest, although she already had the terrible feeling that this conversation was going to culminate in a Godfather-esque offer she couldn’t refuse, no matter how much she knew she should refuse it.

“Is that so?” she murmured.