Tony watched Talia dash out behind her sister—who was clearly wound pretty tight, wasn’t she?—and stood there for a minute, wondering what the hell he should do now. He could help Talia chase Gloria down, of course, but that idea had zero appeal. What would he say if they caught her? Tell her not to worry because the cheating punk would surely leave his wife soon? Yeah…no. Tony did not, as a general rule, engage in emotional displays, and any feelings he had these days should be channeled into keeping his fledgling relationship with Talia on track. Lord knew he had his hands full with that; anything else was above his pay grade.
No. Best to stay here inside the apartment.
As if to second this decision, Chesley ambled over and sat next to him, her tail thumping on the floor. When he was a little too slow on the uptake, the dog nudged his hand with her head, and he scratched her ear. A few seconds of this mutual affection sanded away the rough edges of the tension he’d been feeling. That was the funny thing about dogs, he decided; while you were taking care of them, they took care of you.
So. Talia’s apartment.
As always, his curiosity about her got the best of him. He turned in a slow circle, taking inventory. This was a great place. Contrary to what he might’ve expected based on her choice in hair color, the apartment was quiet and serene. Its pale blue walls, huge windows and ivory sofas and love seats gave the effect of floating in the clouds.
She was fond of art, of course, with paintings lining every inch of the walls. None of them, he realized to his surprise, were hers. In fact…they were all beautifully framed Monet prints of water lilies, which added to the general peace.
She also had a bunch of flower bowls, family photos in fancy frames and stacks of coffee-table books all over the place, including on the marble hearth.
Over on the floor in the corner was a giant pillow with dog toys scattered around it, and the kitchen, on the other side of a granite bar, was full of high-end appliances and copper pots dangling from a ceiling rack.
She cooked, he remembered. She’d mentioned making a fantastic Christmas feast fit for a king in one of her letters to him, hadn’t she?
He wanted to be here with her this Christmas Day.
Man, did he want that.
Some of that intensity must have been written on his face, because she did a double take as she hurried back into the apartment, shutting the door behind her.
“What is it?” she asked, arrested.
She was beautiful. Every time he saw her, it surprised him anew.
Today she wore a chin-length wavy black wig that was pretty close to the style she’d had the day he met her. Her sleeveless dress was a blaze of blue that made her skin gleam and did something wonderful with her gray eyes, heightening the color until they sparkled with diamond brilliance. A pretty flush ran over her cheeks, and her plump lips were parted and kissable.
Inside him, need for her swelled and curled, tightened and burned.
She had some kind of crazy effect on him, this one did.
“Ah.” He blinked. “Nothing. How’s Gloria? Did you catch her?”
“Yeah, but she insisted on going home. She’s a mess right now. As you saw.”
She shrugged, looking circumspect. “What can you do? People have to learn their own lessons, don’t they?”
“That’s very wise.” He sat on the arm of the sofa. “Who said that? Aristotle?”
“Talia Adams,” she said, grinning.
That smile tied him up in knots every single time. Was that the thing about her that had haunted him all this time? The smile? Or was it the kindness? The wisdom? If he identified what it was, could he root it out? Would he want to, if he could?
Nah. It was too late for any remedial measures like that.
“Really?” He cocked a brow. “And is Talia Adams the genius who told Gloria to get involved with a married man in the first place?”
“Absolutely not. You offend me, sir.”
“Is she going to be okay?”
“Okay? If by that you mean that she’ll dump the bastard, then no. I don’t think she’s ready to do that. I want her to, but she won’t listen to me. And there’s no reasoning with people when they think they’re in love, is there?”