‘Then that’s it.’ She smiled between gritted teeth. ‘The abduction goes ahead.’
Without waiting for him to say anything more, she turned and walked back across the expansive lobby to the door. Surely she could do the comebacks, put on the charm, maintain the persona just long enough to seal the deal? She was not going to let him annoy her into slipping and lowering her guard again.
‘Why can’t you drive?’ he asked, keeping pace alongside her.
‘I’m going to be talking to you.’ Selling it to him.
‘I thought women were good at multi-tasking.’
‘Actually, I think it’s better to focus on one task at a time and do it to the best of your ability.’
‘I’ll drive, then.’
As if Tara was ever going to let him near her precious car. And as if he’d want to be seen behind the wheel of it once he saw it.
‘Will you be able to listen and drive?’ Stephanie asked.
‘That’s going to depend on whether what’s being said is interesting enough.’
He’d thrown down the gauntlet now. Stephanie straightened. Could he smell the desperation clinging to her? She couldn’t let him see just how badly she wanted this deal.
‘Tara can drive us,’ she said firmly. ‘So it’s not going to be a problem.’
‘Does Tara own the blog or do you?’ he asked, and stopped walking. Forcing her to stop and face him.
‘Then you’re the one I need to negotiate with. Only you.’
Insisting on meeting with her alone was unconventional—possibly bordering on unprofessional. But could she really complain when she’d been the one to say she was going to abduct him?
‘Can you drive that?’ Stephanie gestured at the car turning into the entranceway. The vintage Mercedes convertible in ultra-feminine pale pastel yellow was not a car a man like him would want to drive, surely.
‘Where are you going to sit?’ he asked, looking puzzled.
‘In the middle—in the back.’
‘You’re a contortionist?’ He cast a disbelieving gaze at the tiny back seat.
‘The size is deceptive,’ she muttered, walking out. She wanted to warn Tara about his attempt to change the plan.
But Jack spoke the second Tara cut the engine. ‘Steffi’s agreed to let me drive.’
‘She has? Okay.’ Tara smiled up from the driver’s seat and then unclipped her seat belt and exited the car. ‘If you like, I’ll stay here and find out what I can about that lotion. It could be a good one to profile, Stef.’
Stephanie wasn’t near enough to stab her in the ribs with her index finger. Or stomp discreetly on her toes. But she could glare. ‘You don’t mind not coming?’ Stephanie questioned pointedly.
‘Not at all.’ Tara didn’t even look at her as she dropped the car key into Jack’s outstretched hand. Instead she smiled at him. ‘I’m sure you’ll be careful with her.’
Her the car? Or her Steffi?
Jack looked amused. ‘I’m always careful.’
Stephanie wanted to kidnap them both and drop them into the Southern Ocean. Instead she acted all Steffi Leigh and stepped in front of Jack to pull Tara into a quick hug.
‘Will you check on Dan for me?’ she asked quickly into her friend’s ear.
She hadn’t left her brother alone for as long as this in months.
As Stephanie stepped back Tara looked too happy for comfort.
‘It’ll be fine,’ Tara added meaningfully.
‘You will check, though? In person?’
‘Trust me.’ Tara leaned forward and wrapped Stephanie in another quick hug. ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ She stage whispered, ‘It’s only a couple of hours. Go enjoy yourself.’
How was she supposed to enjoy herself with the wolf?
And yet there was a tightening in her body, as if her muscles had sharpened and her skin had shrunk. As if she was preparing for something.
She hadn’t felt it in such a long time. Hadn’t looked forward to anything in so long. She was looking forward to negotiating with this man—to taking what she wanted from him. She was going to secure this deal, for all his initial disapproval.
‘Bye, Jack. Nice to meet you.’ Tara waved and practically skipped back into the hotel.
Jack walked around to the driver’s door.
‘You know we drive on the left side of the road here?’ Stephanie muttered grimly.
‘I’m aware of that.’ He got into the car and slung his briefcase on the back seat.
By the time she got into the passenger seat he already had his seatbelt fastened and was sliding his hands over the steering wheel, getting the feel of the vintage beauty.