‘You’re heading out for lunch?’ Jacinta frowned because usually Felicia grabbed something to eat in the back.
‘Yes, I have a dental appointment.’
Felicia headed into the tiny staff room and opened up her purse. She took out a brush, and quickly redid her hair and topped up her makeup.
She was incredibly nervous at the prospect of a lunchtime date and added her red silk scarf for luck before heading out.
‘Felicia!’ Jacinta wasn’t letting her go quite yet. ‘This should have been arranged on your own time.’
Felicia took a breath and was about of to apologize as she usually would but, tired of walking on eggshells, she pointed out a fact. ‘My lunch break is my own time, Jacinta.’
And she wanted to spend it with Leander!
‘I have to be back at two,’ Felicia warned before she had even sat down.
‘That’s fine,’ Leander said.
Her coat, scarf and hat were with the doorman and she sat opposite a very polished Leander, who was dressed in a deep navy suit, and it was such a perfect match for his eyes.
‘You were wearing a navy suit the day we met,’ Felicia commented.
‘Was I?’ Leander frowned. ‘I don’t remember.’
‘Well, I do. Can you remember what I was wearing?’
‘No,’ Leander admitted. ‘Because I don’t actually notice those things.’ Then he thought for a moment. ‘You had on red the other night.’
‘Seriously!’ Felicia laughed, but it took a second to register that she laughed alone. ‘You only remember that far back? Well, on the day we met, my dress was black,’ Felicia said, ‘and I had on a silver scarf.’
‘I’ll have to take your word for it.’
He had his serious face on, Felicia knew, and she looked down at their plates and, no, he hadn’t had touched his lunch.
Leander wasn’t here for the food. He wanted a serious conversation, and she dealt with it in the only way that she could—by trying to avoid it.
‘My dress on the day we met had no buttons,’ Felicia said, and she nudged his foot. ‘Or zip. You had one helluva time getting it off…’
She waited for that smile of old to dust his lips, for his eyes to lift to hers as they recalled that night.
Except he did not smile, and though his eyes met hers they remained serious rather than sensual.
And Leander refused to be distracted, so much so that for a moment she wondered if she was tapping the table leg with her foot.
She wasn’t, but absolutely this would not end in bed, Leander had decided, until Felicia let go of the lies.
‘I do remember,’ Leander said, ‘that rather than me pick you up, you always suggested that we meet here, at the bar.’
‘I like it here,’ she said defensively.
‘Was your apartment being renovated, Felicia?’
‘No,’ she said uncomfortably.
‘And your parents, were they ever on that extended cruise you spoke about.’
She gave the tiniest shake of her head.
‘So tell me, what part of us was the truth?’
‘All of it,’ Felicia said. ‘Most of it…’
But Leander wouldn’t meekly accept her urgent confirmation as to the beauty of the time they had shared. ‘Why would you lie?’
‘Because it was easier than the truth.’
‘Easier?’ He gave a mirthless laugh. ‘I wouldn’t describe this past year as easy, Felicia. Do you really think that I’m so shallow. That I was scouring the hotel for suitably well-heeled women…’
‘Of course not.’
‘Do you know what, Felicia?’
She attempted to swallow.
As one probably did when the guillotine was about to fall.
‘What?’ she asked.
‘It doesn’t matter.’
Felicia blinked. She certainly hadn’t been expecting that.
‘On one condition,’ Leander warned.
‘It stops now. No more lies.’
She had always wondered what Leander was like in the business world. Of course he must be hugely talented, but she’d read a few times that he had an uncompromising edge. That you pushed Leander Carmichael too far at your own peril.
Felicia had laughed at the time, dismissing the reports.
She wasn’t laughing now.
‘Are we clear?’ Leander checked.
‘Very,’ Felicia croaked. The cucumber sandwich she nibbled on tasted like cardboard as she forced it down.
Leander assumed they had cleaned the slate, except she hadn’t told him the biggest part, the hardest part.
The very reason her entire life was a lie…
‘How’s work?’ Leander asked.
‘Awful,’ Felicia admitted, and though it was bliss to see him smile, she could not bear to think of his face when she told him her truth. ‘I’ve got an interview tomorrow.’
He whistled when she told him.
‘It’s Jacinta’s main rival. Really, I don’t stand a hope. She’s hardly going to give me a reference, and without one I’m sunk.’
‘You could put down a client,’ Leander suggested.
‘No, thank you,’ Felicia said as she shook her head. ‘I want to do this myself.’
‘I’ll need to get back,’ Felicia said, because with the walk back her forty-five minutes would soon be up. ‘Are you really leaving this afternoon, or were you just saying that to get me here?’
‘I don’t do that type of thing, Felicia,’ Leander said. ‘I head off soon.’ He called for her coat and things, and when she was suitably dressed they started to head outside. ‘So this is goodbye?’
‘No,’ Leander said. ‘This is a whole new start.’
They walked back hand in hand under his huge umbrella, but just before they reached the boutique, Leander turned her to face him.
‘Do you know what I remember about the day we met?’
‘Not my dress,’ Felicia smiled.
‘Your hair was falling out of its tie,’ Leander said. ‘And you blushed.’
‘The same second that we met.’
He kissed her frozen cheeks and then he moved his mouth to her ear. ‘And I do remember trying to get that dress off.’
‘I’m remembering it now,’ Leander said, and pulled her in close.
‘So am I.’
‘Do you trust me, Felicia?’
‘I think so,’ she said, and neared her mouth to his, but instead of kissing her, Leander did something that she perhaps wasn’t ready for—he took off her rather tired red silk scarf and replaced it with lavender cashmere.
‘It’s my lucky scarf,’ Felicia protested.
‘So is this one,’ Leander said. ‘Only it’s warmer.’
He kissed her then, beneath the umbrella, with snow falling all around. A slow, measured kiss that tasted of promise and a future.
If only she would allow it.
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