Danica’s smile disappeared. “Then why did you agree to the interview?”
“I was flattered. It’s not every day you get a call out of the blue to discuss running a foundation. If the offer had been too good to refuse—” she shrugged “—who knows? I might have tried to work out a bicoastal arrangement.”
Luke swirled the champagne in his glass. “Jackson didn’t ask you to accept the interview in the hopes of getting inside information about Ruby Hawk?”
Felicity bit her lower lip.
Terrific. Thankfully, Danica saved the evening before he could dig himself into a pit too deep to get out of. He reached for her hand and gave her slender fingers a squeeze of appreciation.
Danica jumped, but kept her gaze on Felicity. “There’s still a lot of Monte Carlo Night left. Why don’t you find your fiancé and have fun?”
Felicity’s gaze shifted between Luke and Danica a few more times. “I will. Oh, and, Luke, I know Cinco would love to talk to you—”
“We’ll keep that in mind,” Danica interjected. “Best wishes for continued success with your career.” She beamed at the other woman.
Felicity’s mouth twisted. “Right. Well, thank you for the opportunity.”
She moved to shake Luke’s hand, but Danica maneuvered her way between him and Felicity. She intercepted Felicity’s proffered hand with a shake of her own. “It was great meeting you. Have a terrific night!”
As soon as Felicity joined her fiancé, Danica’s face fell. She turned to face Luke, her teeth worrying her lower lip. “I am so sorry. I had no idea she was engaged until my investigator called a little while ago. I hope this didn’t ruin your evening.”
He opened his mouth to reassure her.
Then he reconsidered. Danica was here, in person, not just a voice on the phone or a string of characters in a text message. And suddenly he was looking forward to an evening of socializing. With her.
He straightened his expression and looked down on her from his full height. “I’m out a date. At a black-tie event.”
Danica kept her chin raised, but her gaze fell to the ground. “Yes, I know. I will find someone to replace Felicity. I still owe you two candidates.”
“Doesn’t help my situation right now.”
“If I could change the situation, I would—” she began, her eyes wide with apology.
“Good. You’re my date.”
Danica stared at him. “You want me to be your date? Here? Now?”
She swept her left hand to indicate the crowd dressed in expensive finery, the museum-quality artwork on the walls and the bottles of vintage French champagne being emptied and replaced by more. Then she swept her right hand over her plain shirtdress, a bargain from an outlet store two years ago. “Me?”
He shrugged. The movement emphasized how well his tuxedo jacket outlined his broad shoulders. “I RSVP’d for two. Beggars can’t be choosers.”
She narrowed her gaze and was about to tell him just how much of beggar he needed to be for her to stay when she caught the slight uptick of his mouth. “Very funny,” she said.
“I think the kids say LOL.”
She laughed and his grin appeared, his teeth flashing white against his bronzed skin. “You really want me to stay?”
He nodded, slowly and deliberately. “I do.”
She’d heard stories from her previous boss about the Peninsula Society’s Monte Carlo Night. The morning after previous years’ events, Johanna would arrive hours late to work and then spend the day rhapsodizing about the gourmet food, the designer dresses and, above all, the one-of-a-kind silent-auction prizes that had millionaires trying to outbid each other, using chips won at the gaming tables augmented by very real money.
And now Danica was here. She glanced around at the glittering crowd and caught the gaze of a nearby server, who sniffed and rolled her eyes at Danica before she turned away to offer another guest a glass of champagne. This was Luke’s world, she reminded herself. His and that of the wife he wanted her to find. Even the catering staff knew she didn’t belong.
Her parents came to America thanks to a small grassroots organization dedicated to helping war refugees. But after her parents arrived and the novelty of welcoming refugees wore off, the organizers’ interest waned. Her mother and father were left practically stranded, the promises of professional jobs as empty as the new bank accounts set up for them.