“Well, that’s the thing. I thought you could join us for dinner.” A pause. “I’m with a friend of mine and his daughter.”
The tension gripping her form eased slightly. It was another man, Schuyler thought, and not Mairi. The thought made her sick with relief, and when she spoke again, her tone had considerably lightened. “Where do I go?”
As soon as the billionaire gave her the address, she said right away, “Got it, bye!” and quickly hung up, not wanting to let Ioniko insist on picking her up or have his driver with his too-eye-catching limousine wait for her outside Associate.
Since Ioniko’s friend’s place was just a few blocks away, Schuyler took her time walking, wanting to use every second to expurgate all thoughts of the other woman from her mind. What happened in the past stayed in the past, she reminded herself.
Or so she thought…until she arrived at an luxurious apartment building that looked oddly familiar. She gave her name to the concierge, and the man behind the counter smiled. “Ah, yes.” He pressed on the call bell once, and a uniformed attendant appeared by Schuyler’s side a moment later. “Charlie shall escort you to the penthouse, Ms. Mathers.”
Charlie bobbed his head at her direction. “This way, Ms. Mathers.”
He led her to one of the gold-walled elevators, which opened with a tap of Charlie’s key card. Inside, Schuyler was surprised that it only had three buttons: Open, Close, and P, and engraved under the last one was a couple’s name.
Mr. and Mrs. Damen Leventis.
“She said yes then?” Damen asked as soon as Ioniko walked back into the living room.
“She insisted on walking, though,” Ioniko said with a grimace.
After serving himself and his friend drinks, Damen invited Ioniko to join him by the bar and asked, “What exactly is she like, this woman of yours?”
“Is that what you really want to know or are you wondering why she reminds me of Mairi?”
“The former.” Damen’s voice was bland.
Ioniko frowned, not having expected such an answer. But since he also couldn’t see anything wrong with it, he allowed his mind to pull up an image of Schuyler and was unaware of how thoughts of her had immediately softened his face.
“She’s feisty,” Ioniko heard himself say as he remembered all the times she had tried to get rid of him.
As opposed to his wife, Damen mused contemplatively, who was born to be submissive, albeit in the cutest and often most hilarious ways.
“Women who talk too much used to bore me, but with Schuyler, it bothers me when she’s silent, and there’s little that I enjoy more than verbally sparring with her.” More memories poured in, both good and bad, but somehow, he found himself treasuring them all. “I like how practical she is, and the way it makes her predictable.”
Practical and predictable, Damen thought in private amusement, were two words that would never apply to his wife either.
“She can be rather stubborn.” Exasperatingly so at times, but since it also made her a woman who’d never be easily swayed by other men, he wasn’t going to complain about it.
Ioniko didn’t miss the way those words appeared heavily loaded. “If you have something to say,” he said curtly, “then just say it.”
“I don’t think I have to,” Damen said equably. “I think you’ll figure it out soon enough.”
Ioniko cursed under his breath. “Enough with the cryptic bullshit, Damen. Mairi was the same way, too—”
“And it annoyed you, ne?” Damen smirked. “Despite being attracted to her, a part of you could not help but feel irritated at her tendency to beat around the bush. Am I correct?”
Feeling as if he had unintentionally offended his host, Ioniko started to backtrack…and then he stopped.
Because the other man was right.
Damen leaned back against the couch. “And now…you see it, too.” His tone was quiet but serious. “Don’t you?”
The wall-mounted phone rang before Ioniko could answer, and as Damen stood up to answer it, he saw in the corner of his eye that his guest had also risen to feet and was heading to the door. He picked his receiver. A glance at the info display told him it was the concierge, and he asked right away, “What is it?”
“It’s your guest, sir. She was already on the elevator when she suddenly insisted on having Charlie take her back down…and she just left.”
The sound of the door slamming shut had Damen looking up, and he saw that his other guest had left as well. “It’s fine, Thomas. Her boyfriend’s on his way to get her back.” In more ways than one, Damen thought as he thanked the concierge before ending the call. A moment later, and he heard ringing from the other line.
“Damen?” While Mairi’s tone made her surprise evident, there was also no mistaking the soft, eager breathlessness that underscored her voice. It was the kind of sound that only a woman in love could make, and the kind of sound that only a man who loved would be able to hear.