“I’m just fangirling right now,” the woman blubbered, eyes shining with excitement. “I feel like I’m talking to Christian Ravenhearst himself. I saw the announcement on the newspaper, you know, and then when I saw your name listed on the booth, I was wondering – could it be her? Could I be so lucky?”
As soon as the couple left, Jane quickly searched for her name on any news article, and the results that popped up had her gaping. Why hadn’t Christian told her he was going to—-
“Oh, Jane, there you are.”
Jane’s stomach sank. Was it too late to pretend she hadn’t heard anything? Could she still escape—-
The news anchor came into view, her beautiful face marred by her carnivorous-looking smile.
“I almost didn’t see you.”
Shit again. Did Merry always have to make Jane feel like she was a few inches short of being visible?
“I saw the engagement in the newspaper.” Merry’s lips curled in its best attempt at a smile.
“Oh? Uh? Thanks?” It was hard to be coherent, with Merry staring at Jane like she was something to be chewed into pieces – for the sake of chewing.
Another woman approached the news anchor then, and Jane almost did a double take. Wow. It was like seeing Merry’s doppelganger, never mind if the other woman had wavy auburn hair and icy gray eyes.
It was all in the aura, Jane thought. These two acted like it was the world’s privilege to give them a Disney moment or two.
“Is this her?” The woman was sneering at Jane.
Jane blinked. What did I do?
Merry looked like she was enjoying herself, drawling throatily, “Jane, darling, I don’t think you’ve met Elizannie yet?”
Elizannie? Really? That made for a rather complicated name, like parents vomiting on the names Eliza and Anne until the two were one unidentifiable mess.
“Bonjour,” the woman said coolly.
Oh. French. How properly intimidating. She gave the two a dutiful smile. “Bonjour, Elz.”
The Frenchwoman scowled. “It’s Elizannie.”
But I don’t want to say it, Jane protested silently. It sounded stupid. But since Merry’s friend was still scowling, she reluctantly added another syllable, hoping it would be sufficient. “Bonjour, Eli—-”
Really scowling now.
“Nie,” Jane finished glumly. Gah. That tasted horrible on her tongue.
The other woman finally deigned to smile.
Oh, goody, Jane thought. She was being rewarded.
“It’s so nice to see women like you two so civilized,” Merry enthused. Seeing Jane blink, she elaborated with vindictive pleasure, “Elizannie used to date Christian. They’ve known each other since their university days.”
Jane struggled to hide her surprise. “I see.”
“Georgette must be overjoyed,” the Frenchwoman murmured.
“I…suppose?” Who was Georgette?
Elizannie’s icy gray eyes went wide with incredulity. “Do you mean to say you haven’t met Christian’s mother?”
Shit. Why hadn’t she ever thought to ask the name of Christian’s mother?
“It’s been a whirlwind thing,” Jane said lamely.
“Évidemment,” the Frenchwoman purred.
“Évidemment.” Jane threw the words back without thinking, hoping she could purr like a cat, but instead she ended up croaking like a frog.
The two women laughed as they walked away.
Shit. What the hell had she said anyway? Jane stared hard at the wall.
Head, meet wall.
Just as she started making good on her introduction, her head leaning towards the wall, she heard a voice murmur lazily behind her, “Good morning, Jane.”
Jane whirled around in surprise and saw AMC’s CEO partially hidden behind the row of digital boards, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets.
How long had he been standing there, Jane wondered anxiously.
Straightening, Jared commented, “That was quite an amusing showdown.”
And with that, her question was answered.
“Good morning, Mr. Westland,” Jane said glumly.
She opened her mouth to protest.
“Or I could always make a company-wide announcement about certain skills you have…”
She said right away, “What do you think of our booth, Jared?”
“I’d rather you tell me what you think of Elizannie—-” Jared broke off, his lips twitching at Jane’s side-eye. “What?”
“Seriously that name doesn’t make you choke?” she blurted out. “It’s like chocolate cake laced with, I don’t know, olive oil? They’re great separately, but not together.”
“I see.” Jared did his best to suppress his amusement. “I’m afraid I’ve never, err, thought of it that way—-” He saw disappointment flicker in Jane’s eyes and added hastily, “But you do have a point.”
Jane brightened. “I knoooooow.”
Jared turned his back to Jane then, ostensibly to study the videos playing on the digital display but really, it was just his way of making sure he didn’t start laughing. When he had himself sufficiently under control, he faced her again, saying, “Have coffee with me.”
Since Christian’s friend was using his CEO voice, Jane said, “Of course, sir. I saw a rather nice vendo close by. I’ve heard the others say it makes a mean cup of cappuccino.” She smiled politely. “Shall we, sir?”
Touché, Ms. Cooper. Jared smiled, not at all bothered that Jane had found a way to avoid spending time with him privately. It only spoke of her loyalty, which wasn’t bad at all, and made her a challenge, which he thrived on.