“But you wouldn’t have accepted otherwise.” Not only were the sheets itchy, but the room was too hot. He pushed the covers down.
“No. I like taking bets, but finding you a wife? That would have been too professionally risky, even for me.” She smiled at him, but it quickly turned into a frown. “You seem restless. Anything wrong?”
“No.” Yes. Danica accepted his original offer only because of her family. Not for her own financial gain. It was counterintuitive to everything he knew to be true.
And he believed her. Her room spoke loudly of her affection for her family. Clusters of photo frames and mementos, cheap in price but cared for as if they belonged in the Louvre, told a clear story.
His carefully ordered world, already wobbling in its orbit, started to tilt. So, when Danica declared her love for him to his parents, did that mean...
No. It was a ploy. A feint in the bigger war. She said that only to win the battle.
A shrill noise came from the direction of his discarded trousers, crumpled where they had been thrown. They both looked in that direction. “That’s the ringtone for Anjuli,” she said. “You should pick up.”
He got out of bed and stalked to his pants. “Yes?”
“Check your texts,” Anjuli said and hung up.
Frowning, he looked at his screen. Several texts crowded the display. Nestor Stavros had unexpectedly returned to Palo Alto. He wanted to see Luke. Tomorrow.
He opened his mail app. His inbox was a jumble of new spreadsheets, press requests from his corporate communications team and questions about catering for the meeting. Too many details he had to get right. Now.
Danica cleared her throat. “What did Anjuli want?”
“I have to leave.”
She blinked. “Right now?”
“Nestor Stavros came back to town early.” He picked his shirt off the ground and buttoned it, then rebuttoned it when he realized he was off by a buttonhole. “He wants to meet in the morning.”
She became very still. “The acquisition.”
“Yes.” He looked around for his socks. He found one by the door and the other under the bed.
She started to push back the covers. “Let me throw some clothes on and I’ll go with you to the office.”
“No need.” He thrust his feet into his shoes and tied the laces, and then tried to give her a smile. He wasn’t certain he succeeded. “Enjoy what’s left of your time off.”
Her gaze locked on his. “Are you okay?”
No. “Yes.” Patting his pockets to make sure he had his wallet and keys, he straightened up and tried to give her a smile. It felt more like a grimace. “We’ll know tomorrow if the marriage is a success.”
“If the marriage is a—oh. Right.” She sat back against the pillows. “So, do I say good luck, break a leg or...?”
“Let’s hope for the best possible outcome.” He wanted to kiss her, but he was afraid it would cause him to stay with her for, oh, at least a week. Or whenever the food ran out. He settled for resting his lips against her forehead, allowing her scent to envelop him one more time before he left. “I’ll drop the truck by the house and pick up my car before going to the office. It will probably be an all-nighter.”
“Of course.” She gave him a bright smile. “I might stay here, then, so I can see Mai when she gets home. One more girls’ night.”
There was a note in her voice he’d never heard before, but he shrugged it off as he hopped into his car. The prize he had been chasing for so long was in his grip. His employees could look forward to a very lucrative payout. Everyone would win.
But he couldn’t help feeling he was missing a very big chunk of the game he was playing, and he’d left the clue to discovering it lying in a warm bed.
Danica walked the short distance from the train station to the Ruby Hawk offices, her gaze focused on the sidewalk. The weather had taken a chillier turn overnight, mimicking the cold descending on her heart when Luke exited the afternoon before.
She spent last night wide awake, trying to solve the mystery of why Luke had left so suddenly. Yes, he had to prepare for the meeting with Nestor, but something had been bothering him before he ran out of her home as if it were a condemned house. Had it been a mistake, allowing Luke into her private space, surrounded by her photos and mementos? Did it make him see the gap between them as insurmountable? There weren’t a lot of ski medals and golf trophies hanging in display cases and littering her shelves after all. She pushed open the glass doors, barely hearing her coworkers’ cheery hellos.