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A Baby for the Boss(6)

By:Maureen Child

With little else to do but accept the inevitable, Jenny closed the door. “Well, do come in,” she said, every word dripping with sarcasm. “Make yourself at home.”

Features grim, eyes the color of a lake frozen over, he said, “We need to talk.”


Mike stopped in the middle of the room, turned and just looked at her. She wore a pale green T-shirt and faded, curve-hugging jeans with a hole at the knee. Her small, narrow feet were bare but for the pale pink nail polish. Her hair was a rumpled mass of tumbling blond curls and her wide blue eyes were fixed on him warily. She looked good. Too damned good, and that was part of the problem.

Stuffing both hands into his pockets, just to keep from reaching for her, Mike deliberately looked away from Jenny and glanced around the small living room. His gaze picked out the details even as his brain reminded him not to let her distract him. Great body, beautiful eyes and kissable lips notwithstanding, he had come here for a reason and he had to keep his focus.

The duplex was old, probably one of the original beach cottages built in the late 1930s. Jenny’s home was well kept, casual and welcoming. There were overstuffed chairs covered in a flowery fabric and a love seat boasting yellow and blue stripes. Several small tables and standing brass lamps were scattered about the room, shining puddles of golden light onto the scarred but polished wood floors and the few rugs that broke up the space. The walls were painted a soft green that reminded him of spring. There were framed paintings and photographs clustered together in no discernible pattern and on one wall, there was a mural.

His gaze caught it and held. Obviously, Jenny had painted it herself and Mike had to admit that whatever else she was, the woman was also immensely talented. The mural was a scene straight out of a fairy tale—or an Irish legend. A forest, just waking up to daylight. Fog drifted across the landscape in thin gray wisps, sunlight speared through the trees to lie in a dappled pattern on the leaf-strewn ground. There was a hint of a flower-laden meadow in the distance and in the towering trees were fairies, delicate wings looking as if they would flutter any minute.

Damn it. He hated that she was this good.

“Why are you here, Mike?” Her voice was soft, but the glint in her eye was anything but.

Good question. Mike knew he probably shouldn’t have come here—they hadn’t been alone together since that night in Phoenix—but he had run out of options. He couldn’t tell Sean why working with Jenny was a mistake—because damned if he’d let his little brother know that he’d once been taken for a ride. In more ways than one.

But Jenny knew why this wouldn’t work. All he had to do was get her to tell Sean she didn’t want the job of designing the art for the new hotel. And if Jenny herself requested that she be let out of the project, Sean wouldn’t object.

Time to get to the point so Mike could get the hell out of this too-small house where her scent seemed to hover in the air for the express purpose of tormenting him. “I want you to back out of the hotel job.”

She didn’t even blink. “Interesting. Well, I want to be three inches taller and have smaller boobs. Looks like we’re both doomed to disappointment.”

Why the hell she would want smaller breasts was beyond him, but not the point. “We both know that working together for months is a bad idea.”

“Agreed.” She crossed her arms over her chest, pushing her breasts higher. “Maybe you’re the one who should quit. Switch hotels with Sean. I like Sean.”

“Leave Sean alone,” Mike ground out.

Her oh-so-casual pose evaporated and she threw her hands high in frustration. “Please. Now you’re afraid I’m going to be paid to seduce Sean?”

“I didn’t say that.” Thought it, maybe. Said it, no. All right, he admitted silently, he hadn’t even thought it. Not really.

“What exactly are you saying, Mike?” She plopped both hands on her hips and the movement tightened the fabric of her shirt against the aforementioned breasts. Distractions, Mike told himself. Pay no attention.

“I’m saying leave Sean out of this,” he said. “It’s between you and me.”

“Fine. Then you tell Sean he should take over the River Haunt and you do the Wyoming place.”

“No.” He wasn’t ready to admit defeat yet. He could still find a way to convince Jenny that this was an impossible situation and that it was up to her to back off.

She shrugged again, and walked past him slowly enough that the scent of her vanilla perfume flavored the breath he took and held as she made for the chair by the wide window.

“So, since neither one of us is willing to drop out of this project, I guess we’re done here,” she said, plopping into the chair and lifting her wineglass for a sip.