“You have a wonderful view,” she said as she turned from the window to look at him.
He cleared his throat and sent his gaze to her face. Anywhere but at the breasts hugged tight by the thin T-shirt. Theos, but the woman was a walking time bomb.
“Have you already made all the arrangements for your trip to Europe or would you prefer for me to see to them?” he asked politely.
She shoved her fingers into her jeans pockets, a feat he wasn’t certain how she managed, and leaned against the window.
“I’m not going to Europe.”
He blinked. “Pardon?”
She smiled again, the dimples deepening. “I’ve decided not to travel to Europe for the summer.”
He put a hand to his forehead and massaged the tension. Damn Chrysander for getting a life and saddling him with Isabella Caplan.
“Does this have anything to do with your sudden desire for marriage?” he asked tiredly. “You still haven’t answered my question about the intended groom.”
“That’s because there isn’t one yet,” she said mischievously. “I never said that I had a man lined out yet, just that I intended to be married before I turned twenty-five. As that gives me three more years, there certainly isn’t a need to start ordering background checks.”
“Then why aren’t you going to Europe? It was your plan at least a week ago according to the letter you sent to Chrysander.”
“I sent Chrysander no such thing,” she protested lightly. “The man Chrysander hired to oversee my education and my living arrangements informed Chrysander of my trip to Europe. I simply changed my mind.”
His hand slipped to the back of his neck as a full-blown migraine threatened to bloom.
“So what do you intend to do then?” He was almost afraid to hear the answer.
She smiled broadly, her entire face lighting up. “I’m getting an apartment here in the city.”
Theron choked. Then he closed his eyes as he felt the cinch draw tighter around his neck. If she stayed here, then he would be stuck overseeing her affairs, checking up on her constantly.
Suddenly her impending marriage didn’t strike such a chord of irritation. She was twenty-two. True, it was young to marry these days, but certainly not outside the realm of possibility. Perhaps the best thing he could do for her was to introduce her to a man well equipped to provide security and stability for her.
The thought was already turning in his head, gaining momentum, when she spoke again.
“I’m sorry?” he said when he realized he had no idea what she’d said to him.
“Oh, I only said now that we’ve gotten my arrangements out of the way, I need to be going. I have an apartment to find.”
Alarm bells rang at the idea of Isabella traipsing around a city she wasn’t intimately familiar with, alone and vulnerable. Hell, she could wind up in an entirely unsuitable neighborhood. And then there was the matter of her security. Now that she was going to be here and not in Europe, he’d have to scramble to get a team in place. The last thing he needed was for her to be abducted as Marley had been.
“I don’t think this is something you should do alone,” he said firmly.
Her expression brightened. “That’s so sweet of you to offer to go apartment hunting with me. I admit, I wasn’t looking forward to it on my own, and your knowledge of the city is so much better than mine.”
He opened his mouth to refute the idea that he’d volunteered anything, but the genuine appreciation on her face made him snap his lips shut. He let out a sigh, knowing he was well and truly screwed.
“Of course I’ll accompany you. I won’t have you staying just anywhere. I’ll have my secretary come up with a few suitable places for you to view and then we’ll go. Perhaps tomorrow morning? You’re welcome to stay in the suite for as long as you need it.”
She frowned. “But I hate to put you out.”
He shook his head. “It’s no bother. Chrysander still has a penthouse here that I can use. I need to be looking for a place as well now that I’ve permanently relocated here.”
Her eyes sparked briefly, but then her expression faded to one of neutrality.
“In that case, I appreciate the offer, and I’d love to go apartment hunting with you tomorrow. Shall we do lunch as well?” she asked innocently.
“Of course I’ll feed you,” he said with a grunt. Why did he feel as though he’d been run over by a steamroller? The idea that this mere slip of a girl had run so roughshod over him left him irritated and feeling like he’d been manipulated, but there was nothing but genuine appreciation and relief in her expression.
She hurried over and threw her arms around him. She landed against his chest, and he had to brace himself to keep from stumbling back.
“Thank you,” she said against his ear as she squeezed him for all she was worth.
He allowed his arms to fold around her as he returned her hug. Her body melted against his, and he felt every one of those generous curves he’d noticed earlier. His hand skimmed over the small portion of flesh on her back that was bared by her shirt, and he wondered again over the tattoo he’d seen there. It was driving him crazy not to know what it was.
He shook his head and gently extricated himself from her grasp. “Let me call for the driver so he can return you to the hotel.”
She kissed him on the cheek and then turned toward the door. “Thank you, Theron, and I’ll see you first thing tomorrow.”
He was left rubbing his cheek where her lips had brushed just seconds before. Then he cursed and strode around to the back of his desk again. He’d been so ready to condemn Chrysander for being involved with someone so young, and here he stood lusting over the same girl. Pathetic. It had obviously been way too long since he’d been with a woman.
He buzzed his secretary and quickly gave her instructions to find three or four possible apartments. If all else failed, he could give her Chrysander’s penthouse to use.
After talking with Madeline, he then picked up the phone to arrange for a security detail for Isabella.
As he hung up, he remembered that Alannis would be arriving in a week, and he groaned. He’d counted on not having Isabella to contend with when his future fiancée arrived. One woman was always more than enough, and splitting attentions between more than one was a recipe for disaster.
But maybe Alannis would have ideas where Isabella was concerned. Together they could introduce Isabella to a few eligible men—men who’d passed muster with Theron, of course.
Deciding that this was another task suited for Madeline, he buzzed her and asked her to compile a list of eligible bachelors complete with background checks and a checklist of pros and cons. She sounded amused by his request but didn’t question him.
Theron sat back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head. This wouldn’t take long at all. He’d find her an apartment, find her a husband, and then he would turn his attentions to his own impending nuptials.
“Isabella!” Sadie cried as she threw open the door to her apartment.
Isabella found herself enveloped in her friend’s arms, and she returned the hug just as fiercely.
“Come in, come in. It’s so good to see you again,” Sadie exclaimed as she ushered Isabella inside.
The girls sat down in the small living room, and then Sadie pounced. “So? Did you see him?”
Isabella smiled. “Just came from his office.”
Isabella shrugged. “I told him I wasn’t going to Europe and that I was going to look for an apartment here. He’s going to help me,” she added with a small smile.
“So he took it well?”
Sadie flipped her long red hair over her shoulder, drawing attention to her pretty features. A year older than Isabella, she had graduated the term before and moved to New York to pursue a career on Broadway.
“I wouldn’t say well,” Isabella said in amusement. “I think it was more a matter of him wondering what on earth he was going to do with me. The
Anetakis brothers take their responsibilities very seriously. They’re Greek, after all. And I am one huge responsibility Theron needs to be rid of. I’m sure he was looking forward to herding me onto a plane for Europe as soon as possible.”
“Okay, so spill,” Sadie said eagerly. “What’s your plan?”
Isabella grimaced. “I’m not altogether sure. I had planned to go to Europe and be an all-around nuisance to him there. Now all of a sudden he’s here in New York so I’m having to scramble with the change of plans. The good news is we’re having lunch tomorrow when we go apartment hunting. I guess I’ll see where things go from there.”
“How did he react when he saw you?” Sadie asked. “It’s been what, four years since he got a good look at you?”
“Ugh. Yes. Thank goodness I’ve finally blossomed.”
“So? Did he appreciate your womanly charms?” Sadie asked with a wide grin.
“I’m sure he noticed, but I think it was a cross between interest and being appalled. You have to understand that Theron is very, uhm, traditional.” She sighed and leaned back against the couch. “But if I had shown up dressed like a good, modest Greek girl, he wouldn’t have given me a second glance. I would have been relegated to little sister status, just as Chrysander has done, and there would be no changing it.”
“Ah, so better to throw out the challenge from the outset,” Sadie acknowledged.
“Exactly,” Isabella murmured. “If he never sees me as a nonthreatening entity, then it will be damn hard for him to turn a blind eye to me.”
Sadie laughed and clasped Isabella’s hands in hers. “I’m so glad to see you again, Bella. It has been too long and I’ve missed you.”
“Yes, it has. Now enough about me. I want to hear all about you and your Broadway career. Tell me, have you landed any roles?”
Sadie twisted her lips into a rueful expression. “I’m afraid the parts have been few and far between, but I haven’t given up. I have an audition next week as a matter of fact.”
Isabella frowned. “Are you making it okay, Sadie?”
“I have a job. Not many hours. Just a couple of nights a week. The money is fantastic and I get to look drop-dead gorgeous,” Sadie said cheekily. “It’ll do until I get my big break.”
Isabella viewed her friend with suspicion. “What is this job?”
Sadie grinned slyly, her eyes bright with mischief. “It’s a gentleman’s club. Very posh and exclusive.”
Isabella’s mouth dropped open. “You’re working as a stripper?”
“I don’t always strip,” Sadie said dryly. “It’s not required per se. But I get better tips when I do,” she added with a bigger grin.