Luke’s mother looked up from her phone screen at the proffered hand, gave it one firm pump and let it go in favor of returning to her device. “Likewise,” she said, not a flicker of emotion on her expression. Her sunglasses remained on.

Luke pulled out the empty chair next to his father for Danica and helped her into it. “Call her Phoebe,” he said. “I do.”

His father reached for Danica’s hand and carried it to his lips. “Very charmed to meet such a lovely lady,” Jonathan said after slowly releasing her fingers.

“Thank you.” Danica smiled at Luke’s father. He was a remarkably handsome man. But there wasn’t much of a resemblance between father and son. Jonathan was Teflon slick, from his carefully coiffed salt-and-pepper hair to his impeccably manicured nails. Nor did Danica see much of Phoebe in Luke. His mother resembled a diamond, all polished and glittering surfaces, from her caramel-streaked hair shining like a helmet in the sun to the heavy gold chains wrapped around her neck and wrists.

Luke consisted of rough edges and dangerous angles. His dark hair was tousled, a sure signal he had run his hands through it more than once, his heavy brows drawn together. That was fine with Danica. She preferred the brooding man of the moors to his magazine-glossy parents.

“So.” Phoebe finally put down the phone. “This is a surprise. Luke said you were too busy to join us. Danielle, is it?”

“Danica.” Luke took the seat next to his mother and across from Danica. His loafer-clad foot nudged hers. “You know her name. And she cleared her schedule for this, so be nice.”

His mother waved him off. “Perhaps if you had told us you were married, instead of leaving us to find out from Irene Stavros of all people, I would be better acquainted with my new daughter-in-law’s name.”

Danica shot a look at Luke.

Luke shook his head, once. His loafer nudged her ballet-slipper flats under the table again, and then he cleared his throat. “Few people knew about the wedding. Danica and I decided we wanted something quiet and private.”

Luke’s mother huffed and launched into a rejoinder, but Danica didn’t hear her. Of course Irene told Luke’s parents. Wasn’t the reason Luke needed to find a wife because of the Stavros-Dallas feud? They belonged to the same world of high finance and cutthroat business deals, private jets and unlimited bank accounts. While she...she was just a temporary interloper. With a temporary contract.

“Is something wrong, dear?” Phoebe’s eyebrows rose above the rim of her sunglasses.

“Not a thing,” Danica said, flipping open her menu and running her gaze down the page. “What is everyone having? I can’t decide.”

“You’re so pale.” Phoebe’s tone shifted, turning so sweet it could be used to trap wasps. “You’re not...queasy, I hope? Or faint?”

“No. I’m fine.” Aside from the fact that meeting Phoebe and Jonathan thrust Danica’s sham arrangement into the light, exposing shady corners she purposefully tried to avoid.

Luke snapped his menu open. “The ceviche here is good,” he said to Danica. “You’d like it. Raw fish, no spice.”

“Raw fish? I don’t think that’s advisable,” Phoebe said. “Perhaps the petit filet mignon, although of course one needs to be careful of listeria.”

“Listeria?” Danica raised her eyebrows at Luke. “Is that like mad cow or E. coli?”

“She’s not pregnant, Phoebe.” Luke turned to Danica. “Listeria is a food-based bacterium that can cause serious health issues during pregnancy. Care to split the ceviche as an appetizer?”

“How do you know that?” Danica asked Luke.

“Ordering meals with Anjuli when she was pregnant with her twins,” Luke answered. “Maybe you should get your own ceviche. I know how much you like your fish.”

Phoebe cleared her throat. Danica and Luke turned to look at her. “If she’s not pregnant, then why did you rush into marriage?” She took her sunglasses off, revealing piercing dark blue eyes. They seemed to be the only feature her son inherited. But while Luke’s gaze could be cold and distant, it was never as icy as the arctic blast directed at Danica.

Tags: Susannah Erwin Billionaire Romance