‘Does it stop you going to the mall?’
She chuckled. ‘I don’t tend to shop at the mall.’
‘Where do you shop? One-off expensive boutiques?’ She frowned. ‘No, op shops. Then I use my sewing machine. Half the time on the blog I’m in a black top, while Tara shows off some make-up tip. The rest of the time I’m showing off some second-hand restyled find. It’s part of the fun.’
Vintage, hip, cool. Quirky, personalised, stylish. Popular.
All those words his marketing manager had thrown at him when presenting Steffi’s blog as an option. All of them were accurate. Yet all of them were incomplete.
‘You can’t tell me the mint-green number is a second-hand store find?’ It fitted her far too well.
‘Well, no…’ She laughed. ‘That was made from an old pattern.’
‘Made by you?’
More talents. He shouldn’t be surprised, because today she was making a pair of pyjamas look couture just by the way she walked. The woman had innate style and the world stopped to look.
The world tuned in especially to look and listen.
And to laugh with her.
He’d thought Steffi Leigh was all superficial fluff and all fake, but Stephanie had been genuinely pleased to talk to that girl, and in doing so she’d made her day. She’d really cared about her—had been authentic. Genuine.
She was Steffi Leigh, and yet she was so much more.
‘You’re more of a mystery than I anticipated,’ he murmured.
‘No, I’m not.’ She shot him an awkward look. ‘What you see is what you get—Steffi Leigh.’
‘But you don’t look all Steffi Leigh today.’ At her arched eyebrows he explained. ‘No make-up.’
‘You’re not about to go on about how I don’t need it, are you?’ She eyed him warily. ‘Because let me tell you make-up has its place and its purpose.’
‘I think you look beautiful both with make-up and without.’
‘Good answer.’ She rewarded him with a softly blown sarcastic kiss.
She was the same—perky, upbeat, full of energy and enthusiasm. And so sexy that desire burned in his gut.
‘Where are we going now?’ She turned and stared straight ahead, in a very unsubtle attempt to change the topic.
‘Food.’ Though, starving as he was, his body was seeking another kind of sustenance.
Down, boy. He could go more than an hour without jumping her bones again, couldn’t he? Maybe…?
Twenty minutes later he watched in silent amusement as she stared at the building and it’s discreet signage.
‘This is a very fine restaurant. French,’ she noted.
‘I cannot go in there in pyjamas.’
‘Of course you can. You’re Steffi Leigh—you can do anything.’
She turned and looked at him. ‘Is that what you think?’
‘Yeah. I do.’
He was rewarded with a smile in her eyes that was so heartfelt it made him melt. Hell, he was going soft. But when he saw emotion in her eyes like that he was spellbound.
‘Welcome, Mr Wolfe.’ The maître d’ opened the door for them. ‘We’re thrilled to have you here today.’
Jack chuckled when he saw Stephanie almost grinding her teeth as the man ever so obsequiously led them to the private table he’d booked.
‘You don’t like it?’ he asked her, as soon as the man was out of earshot.
‘They all know who you are. They’re all expecting you. They’re all bowing and scraping and bending over backwards to do anything you want…’ She trailed off as she looked across the table at him.
And suddenly she blushed furiously.
She was thinking about bending over backwards.
He laughed and reached out to take her hand.
‘You make your money by selling tips to the independent traveller. The kind who is unafraid to doss down in a roach-infested hostel. But you only stay in hotels and luxury retreats. Five stars or more. And you dine at fine French restaurants.’ She’d recovered enough to try to tease him. ‘You’re a fraud.’
‘I thought I was keeping you in the manner to which you are accustomed?’ He shrugged. ‘Only the best for Steffi Leigh. The most refined… “Blogalicious” and all that.’
But he suspected she wasn’t accustomed. And now his curiosity about her was like a white-hot iron brand, burning its mark deeper into his skin. Because the whole Steffi Leigh scenario didn’t quite add up.
Her enthusiasm for everything was genuine, but it was almost a naïveté—as if she couldn’t believe her luck at being here. Maybe he’d got a little jaded with all the travel, and hadn’t seen it with fresh eyes in a while, but it was as if she’d been locked away and was breathing clear air for the first time in months.