A pool, at several hundred feet off the ground!
Whatever was she doing here, having dinner with a man who lived in a world so vastly different from hers?
Acheron had pulled out a chair for her, but somehow she couldn’t make herself move an inch. This was wrong. This was just so –
Wickham came in then, bearing a tray laden with several familiar-looking boxes.
A startled squeak escaped her, and Acheron’s eyes gleamed at the adorable sound of it. Her eyes followed Wickham’s every move, widening with every dish the older man unveiled. Spring rolls. Baked pork buns. Prawn dumplings. Leaf-wrapped rice. And when Wickham opened a box containing two orders of xiao long bao, Acheron swiftly pressed his lips together to contain his smile, having seen Pippi unconsciously lick her lips at the sight.
“I take it I’ve made the right choice?”
Pippi nodded, almost gushing ‘oh yes’ when a thought occurred to her, and she glanced at him suspiciously. Maybe she was thinking too much of this, but wasn’t it too great a coincidence for Wickham to serve Chinese cuisine, and everything happened to be her favorites, too?
Pippi cleared her throat.
Knowing what she was planning to ask, Acheron responded with an unrepentant grin, “I had my assistant stalk your foodstagram.”
Oh. Okay. At least…he hadn’t lied?
Acheron noticed the way she was still frowning. “It bothers you?”
“I’m just trying to make up my mind if you going to such lengths make you thoughtful…or manipulative.”
Acheron threw his head back with a laugh.
“And I really appreciate all this, but…do all your stay-at-home dates normally involve Chinese takeout?”
“Do you want an honest answer?”
“Umm, yes?” Why in the world would anyone want differently?
He named a place that she recognized as one of the city’s oldest fine dining restaurants, and she wasn’t surprised when he told her the establishment was on call to provide him with catered dinners at home.
“But I had a feeling doing so would only make you more uncomfortable with me.”
And he was right, Pippi thought, but the realization made her far from happy. Acheron Simonides seemed to find it too easy to read her mind, and that was not a good thing at all.
Seeing her forehead start to furrow anew, Acheron changed the subject to divert her attention, and because this was Pippi, he only knew of one thing that was certain to distract his eternally resisting prey.
“Have you read the report on Excalibur Park?”
Pippi relaxed. This, she had no trouble talking about. “I have, yes.” Work-related discussions were something she never had to feel self-conscious about, and it helped that Acheron appeared genuinely interested in her ideas about the project.
The combination of lovely food and shop talk had effectively loosened Pippi’s tongue even without her knowing it, and in between bites and sips of hot black tea, Acheron was able to subtly extricate information he had a feeling the ever-wary Ms. Jones would normally withhold.
Weekends spent helping out at her mother’s bed and breakfast, vague dreams about retiring in her own beach house, and – most importantly of all – a romantic history that only involved a summer fling with a local boy back when she was in high school…
“Does that mean what it means then?” he asked with studied casualness.
Pippi was genuinely confused. “Does what mean what?”
“Your charming story of first love, Ms. Jones. May I also take it as confirmation of your innocence?”
“Confirmation of…” And then she realized what exactly he was asking, and her horrified gaze flew to the man seated across her. “Mr. Simonides!”
Her blush proved to be as tremendously impactful as it had been in the past, and his cock jutted demandingly against his trousers. “Call me Acheron, mikrí mou.”
Pippi could only shake her head, no longer daring to speak. The sexy rasp in Acheron’s voice was like a wake-up call that had her realizing too late of the danger she had unwittingly placed herself in. It had finally dawned on her just how much she had revealed to him over the course of one stupid meal, and omigodomigodomigod – how gullible could she get?
She gazed at her glass of chilled mango sago with despair and longing. It was still half-full, but how could she let herself finish it now? Prudence dictated that she needed all her wits about her, and Lord knew how this particular dessert always had a rather mellowing effect on her senses.
Her phone suddenly rang, making her jump in her seat, and Pippi nearly cringed when she saw the flicker of amusement in Acheron’s gaze. Blast it. The man definitely knew now how nervous he made her.
Acheron gestured to her phone, saying politely, “You should answer that. I wouldn’t want your sister to think you’re in trouble.”
“Oh. Um. Thank you.” Pippi tried to hide her relief as she stood up and excused herself from the table. Maybe she had it all wrong? Maybe he was just a big flirt, maybe he was just having fun at her expense, but at the end of the day, he had realized that she simply wasn’t his type?