“Okay, Reynolds,” she said patiently. She addressed him because he seemed to be in charge, and he was the one blocking her way to the taxi. “I need to get into that taxi. I’m going shopping. There isn’t any need for you guys to follow me on a girly trip. You could wait here at the restaurant.”

He smiled again. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Ms. Caplan. Our orders are to go everywhere you go.”

She muttered an expletive under her breath and watched as amusement crossed his face again. “Even to the bathroom?” she asked sweetly.

“If necessary,” he said, wiping the smile right off her face.

“Well, hell,” she grumbled. And then she pointed out the obvious. “There’s no way we’ll all fit in that cab.” She smiled as she waited for him to agree.

He looked sternly at her. “We have strict instructions that when you go anywhere, you’re to take the car that Mr. Anetakis provided for you. This morning, however, you’re to wait here for Mr. Anetakis to arrive.”

She frowned and then stared at Davison and Maxwell. If she expected confirmation or denial from them, she was sorely disappointed. They simply stood, their gazes constantly moving around and beyond her as though looking for potential danger.

“You must be mistaken,” she said to Reynolds. “I’m not meeting Theron today. I’m going shopping for my apartment.”

Reynolds checked his watch and then looked up as a sleek, silver Mercedes vehicle pulled up and stopped just a few feet from where they stood.

To her never-ending surprise, Theron stepped from the car and strode in her direction. As he drew abreast of her, he pulled his sunglasses off and slipped them into the pocket of his polo shirt.

He reached for her hand, his fingers curling firmly around hers. Then he turned to Reynolds. “Is there a problem?” he asked with a frown.

Reynolds gave a quick shake of his head. “Ms. Caplan was about to leave in a cab. I was in the process of explaining to her why she couldn’t.”

Theron nodded his approval and then turned back to look at Isabella. “It’s important that you heed my instructions, pethi mou. The arrangements I have made are for your well-being and safety.”

“Of course,” she murmured. “I won’t keep you. I’m sure you’re here to see Alannis.” She glanced over at Reynolds. “Will you call for the car since I’m not allowed in a taxi?”

Theron raised one eyebrow. “A few days ago, you wanted me to accompany you. Have you changed your mind?”

Confusion crowded her mind, and she scrunched up her brow as she stared up at him. “I assumed that since you have guests here, that you wouldn’t have time to go with me.”

“Ah, but you’re my guest, too,” he said as he pulled her hand. He guided her toward the still waiting Mercedes and gestured for her to get into the back. Then he spoke to Reynolds over the door. “You’re excused until we return. My team will handle her security.”

Isabella scooted over and settled into the comfortable leather seat. Theron ducked in and sat down next to her. As the driver pulled away, Isabella shook her head and smiled ruefully.

“When was the last time you didn’t get your way about something?”

He gave her a puzzled look.

“And why all the security?” she asked in exasperation. “It seems a little pretentious.”

His face immediately darkened. “Before they were married, Chrysander’s wife was abducted and held for ransom. She was pregnant at the time. Her kidnappers have never been apprehended. I take no chances with the safety of those under my care.”

“How are Chrysander and his wife?” she asked softly.

“They are well. Marley prefers the island so they stay there. Chrysander occasionally leaves for business purposes but he doesn’t leave Marley or their son very often.”

“I can’t imagine Chrysander so in love,” she said with a laugh. “He seems so intimidating.”

“You obviously don’t feel the same around me,” Theron said dryly.

She let her gaze wander slowly up his body until she stared into his eyes. “The way I feel about you in no way compares to how I feel around Chrysander.”

There was a surge in his expression, an awareness that he fought. Such conflicting emotions shooting across his face. Before he could respond to her enigmatic statement, she turned to look out the window.

“So what made you come along this morning?” she asked cheerfully.

Though she was no longer facing him, she could feel his every move. She could feel him breathe so tuned into his body was she.

“I would have thought you’d be far too busy with work and entertaining your…guests.”

“I’m not too busy to renege on a promise I made,” he said. “I told you I’d go shopping with you and here I am.”

She turned then and smiled. “I’m glad. Thank you.”

They spent the morning going down the list of items she wanted for her apartment. Theron seemed appreciative of the fact that she didn’t take forever making her selections. But the fact was, she didn’t really labor over furniture styles because if things went the way she wanted, then she wouldn’t be staying in the apartment long term. And if they didn’t go her way, she wasn’t going to stick around New York City only to watch Theron with another woman.

By two in the afternoon, she was tired and hungry and told Theron so. He suggested they eat at the hotel again. She was thrilled that he didn’t seem intent on rushing back to Alannis as soon as the shopping was done.

When they got back to the hotel, they were met by Reynolds who told Theron he and the others would stand by in the restaurant while they ate. Already, she was growing used to the small entourage of people who followed Theron wherever he went.

If he was this protective over someone he deemed “under his care,” then how much more so would he be when it came to someone he loved?

She smiled dreamily as they were escorted to Theron’s table. She could handle his overprotective tendencies if it meant he loved her.

“You look well pleased with yourself, pethi mou.”

Theron’s voice broke through her thoughts.

“Are you happy with your purchases?”

She nodded and smiled. “Thank you for going with me.”

“It was my pleasure. You shouldn’t be alone in such an unfamiliar place.”

After placing their orders, Theron sat back in his seat, glass of wine in hand and stared over the table at her.

“So tell me, Bella. Why New York? Did you not have friends in California you preferred to stay close to? And have you given more thought to what you will do now that you’ve graduated from university?”

She smiled patiently. “My indecision must drive someone such as yourself insane, but I really do have a well-thought-out plan for my future.”

“Such as myself?” he asked. “Dare I ask what that’s supposed to mean?”

“Just that I imagine your life is planned out to the nth degree and that you have no patience for people who aren’t as organized as you. Am I right?” she asked mischievously.

He struggled with a scowl before finally relaxing into a smile. “There’s nothing wrong with having one’s path planned out in advance.”

“No, there isn’t,” she agreed. “I have mine quite mapped out, however, things don’t always go according to plan. The real test is how you manage when your plans fall apart.”

“Very wise words coming from someone so young.”

She wrinkled her nose and rolled her eyes. “Do you keep reminding yourself of my age so that you aren’t tempted to do something outrageous like kiss me again?”

He blinked at her, his mouth falling open. Then he snapped it closed and his jaw tightened. “I thought we agreed to forget that ever happened.”

“I agreed to do no such thing,” she said lightly. “You can do as you like, however.”

He was saved from making his response when the waiter returned bearing their food. Isabella watched Theron all through the meal. H

is agitation was evident in his short, jerky motions as he dug into his food and ate. Several times he looked up and their gazes connected. There was such fire in his eyes. He wasn’t immune to her. Not by a long shot. If she had to guess, he was very affected.

She’d already shoved her plate aside when she heard Theron’s name called from a few tables away. She glanced over to see a handsome man approach their table. He was well dressed, he screamed wealth and refinement, and he looked at her with un-disguised interest even though it was Theron’s name he spoke.

Theron looked less than pleased by the interruption, but it didn’t seem to bother the man who now stood at their table.

“Theron, it’s good to see you. I was happy to receive your invitation for Thursday night.”

He glanced over at Isabella as he spoke and she stared back, wondering if this was one of the men on Theron’s infamous potential husband list. She cocked her eyebrow in question but Theron ignored her.

“Are you coming?” Isabella spoke up, offering the man a bright smile. “I have it on good authority that Theron is using Thursday’s little soiree to find me a husband.”

She grinned at the man’s look of surprise. Then he laughed while Theron scowled even harder.

“You must be Isabella Caplan. I’m Marcus Atwater, and yes, I’ll be attending. Now that I know my attendance puts me in the running, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Isabella smiled and extended her hand. “Please, call me Bella.”

Marcus took her hand but instead of shaking it, he raised it to his lips and kissed it.

“All right, Bella. A beautiful name for an equally beautiful woman.”

“Is there something you wanted, Marcus?” Theron asked pointedly.

His glare could melt steel, but Marcus didn’t seem to be too bothered—or intimidated.

Isabella sat back. Maybe Theron seeing another man openly flirt with her would bring out those protective instincts. Maybe, just maybe if he suddenly had a little competition…

“Nothing at all,” Marcus said congenially. “I saw you with a beautiful woman, and I merely wanted to make her acquaintance and see for myself if this was the mysterious Isabella Caplan, the same woman you were throwing the party for. I’m glad now that I came over.” He glanced back at Isabella again. “Save me a dance Thursday night?”

She smiled and nodded. “Of course.”

She watched him walk away before turning back to Theron. “So tell me, how did he rate among the other men you considered for my husband?”

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