“Then where are you staying?” she asked curiously. “Why would you give up your suite?”
“The hotel is undergoing renovations. The only available suite was…mine. I’m temporarily taking a different room.”
She laughed. “I could have taken other accommodations. There was no need for you to move out for me.”
“A few days won’t make a difference,” he said. “You should be comfortable before your trip to Europe.”
She swallowed back the denial that she would be going to Europe. No sense in putting him on guard as soon as she arrived. There’d be plenty of time to apprise him of her change in plans. Mainly when he had no chance of talking her out of it.
A mischievous smile curved her lips. “I received your summons.”
He made a sound of startled exclamation that sounded suspiciously like an oath. “Surely I didn’t sound so autocratic, Ms. Caplan.”
“Please, call me Isabella. Or Bella. Surely you remember when we weren’t so formal? Granted it’s been a few years, but I haven’t forgotten a single thing about you.”
There was an uncomfortable silence. And then, “All right, Isabella.”
“All right…Bella,” he conceded.
He made an exasperated sound in her ear and then said, “Now what was it we were discussing again?”
He sounded distracted, and though he was unfailingly polite, she knew he wanted rid of her as soon as possible. She grinned. If he only knew…
“We were discussing your autocratic demand for me to appear at your office tomorrow.”
“It was a request, Bella,” he said patiently.
“And of course I will honor it. Shall we say ten in the morning then? I’m a bit tired, and I’d like to sleep in.”
“Of course. Don’t overtax yourself. Order in room service tonight for dinner. Your expenses are being taken care of.”
Of course. She hadn’t expected anything less and knew better than to argue. The Anetakis brothers were thorough if nothing else. And very serious about their perceived obligations.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” she said.
He uttered an appropriate goodbye, and she hung up the phone. A smile popped her lips upward as she hugged her midsection in delight. Oh, she’d planned to pay him a visit the next day, all right.
T heron sat back in his chair and surveyed the skyline of the city from his window. After a busy morning of meetings and phone calls, he actually had a few minutes to breathe. He glanced at his watch and grimaced as he remembered that Isabella Caplan was due in a few minutes.
He felt like a revolving door. Isabella was in, and then she’d depart for Europe, while Alannis would be arriving in a week’s time from Greece. Thankfully he’d be rid of his obligation to Isabella in short order. He’d make sure she was adequately provided for, arrange for someone from Anetakis International to meet her in London and have a security team see to her safety for the duration of her stay.
Alannis, on the other hand…He smiled ruefully. She was his own doing. He and Alannis had what could only be considered a close friendship. Perhaps an understanding was a better term, though he was open to the relationship growing into more. He knew he needed to settle down now that he was taking over the New York office. It was something he’d discussed candidly with Alannis a few weeks before.
They’d make a good couple. They understood each other. She was from a solid Greek family, old friends of his father’s. Her own father owned a shipping company. They were well matched, and so it stood to reason that they’d gravitate toward each other.
She’d give him friendship and children. He’d give her security, protection.
Yes, it was time to settle down. His move to New York was in all likelihood permanent, as Marley had no desire to move from the island where she and Chrysander had made their home. And if he was going to be living here on a permanent basis, it seemed the best course to find a wife and start his family.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door. He frowned and looked up as he uttered the command to enter.
“Sir, Ms. Caplan is here to see you,” Madeline, his secretary, said as she poked her head in the door.
“Send her in,” he said brusquely.
As he waited, he straightened in his seat and drummed his fingers idly on the desk. He tried to draw on his vague memories of the girl but all he could picture was a very young Isabella with big eyes, gangly legs and braces. He wasn?
??t even sure how old she was now, only that she’d graduated. Wouldn’t that make her somewhere around twenty-two?
He summoned a gentle smile as the door swung open. No need to scare her to death. He was on his feet and walking forward to greet her when he pulled up short, all the breath knocked squarely from his chest.
Before him stood not a girl, but a stunningly beautiful woman. An invisible hand seized his throat, squeezing until he twisted his neck to alleviate the discomfort.
She smiled tentatively at him, and he felt the gesture to his toes. For a long moment, all he could do was gawk like a pimply-faced teenager experiencing his first surge of hormones.
Isabella was dressed in formfitting jeans that slung low on her hips. Her top, if you could call it an actual top, hugged her generous curves as snugly as a man’s hands. The hem fell to just above her navel, and that, coupled with the low-slung jeans, bared her navel to his view.
His gaze was drawn to it and the glimmer of silver in the shallow indention. He frowned. She had a belly ring?
He looked up, embarrassed to be caught staring, but then he locked eyes with hers. Long, dark hair fell in layers beyond her shoulders. Long lashes fringed sparkling green eyes. A hint of a smile curved plump, generous lips and white teeth flashed in his vision. Two dimples appeared in her cheeks as her smile broadened.
This was not a woman who could ever escape notice. The past several years had wrought big changes. To think he’d remembered her as someone who faded into the background wherever she was. A man would have to be blind, deaf and dumb to overlook her in a room.
“What the hell are you wearing?” he demanded before he could think better of it.
She raised one dark brow, amusement twinkling in her eyes. Then she glanced down as she smoothed her hands over her hips.
“I believe they’re called clothes,” she said huskily.
He frowned harder at the playfulness he heard in her voice. “Is this the sort of thing Chrysander allowed you to run around in?”
She chuckled, and the sound skittered across his nape, raising hairs in its wake. It was warm and vibrant, and he derived so much pleasure from it that he wanted her to laugh again.
“Chrysander has no say in what I wear.”
“He is—was your guardian,” Theron said. “As I am now.”
“Not legally,” she countered. “You’re doing a favor for my father, and you’re the executor of his estate as it pertains to me until I marry, but you’re hardly my guardian. I’ve managed quite well on my own with minimal interference from Chrysander.”
Theron leaned back against his desk as he studied the young woman standing so confidently in front of him. “Marry? The terms of your father’s will is that you gain control of your inheritance when you turn twenty-five.”
“Or I marry,” she gently corrected. “I plan to be married before then.”
Alarm took hold of Theron as he contemplated all sorts of nasty scenarios.
“Who is he?” he demanded. “I’ll want to have him fully investigated. You can’t be too careful in your position. Your inheritance will draw a host of unwanted suitors who only want you for your money.”
Another smile quirked at the corner of her mouth. “It’s nice to see you again, too, Theron. My trip was fine. The suite is lovely. It’s been awhile since I last saw you, but I’d recognize you anywhere.”
Her reproach irritated him because she was exactly right. He was being rude. He hadn’t even properly greeted her.
“My apologies, Isabella,” he said as he moved forward. He grasped her shoulders and leaned in to kiss her on either cheek. “I’m glad to hear your trip was satisfactory and that the suite is to your liking. May I get you something to drink while we discuss your travel arrangements?”
She smiled and shook her head, and then moved past him toward the window. Her hips swayed, and her bottom, cupped by the too-tight denim bobbed enticingly. He sent his gaze upward so that he wasn’t ogling her inappropriately.
It was then that a flash of color at her waist stopped him. He blinked and looked again, certain he had to be mistaken. As she stopped at the window, the hem of her shirt moved so that a tiny portion of what looked to be a tattoo peeked from between her jeans and her shirt.
His gaze was riveted as he strained to see what the design was. Then he scowled. A tattoo? Obviously Chrysander had failed miserably in his role as her guardian. What the hell kind of trouble had she gotten herself into? Tattoos? Talk of marriage?
He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as he felt the beginnings of a headache.