“I’m glad you and my father got along so well,” I say.
“Truthfully? I’m surprised,” he admits.
Laughing, I shake my head. “So am I. I thought he might hate you . . . or love you.”
“I know.” Gage chuckles. “He’s a good guy though. I like him.”
“So are you. A good guy,” I say softly, drinking Gage in, arousal heating my blood. It doesn’t take much for me to want him. And seeing him behind the wheel of one of his powerful cars always makes me want to jump his bones.
When it comes to Gage, I’m incredibly weak. But I don’t mind, because when I’m with him, I feel strong. Like I can do anything.
“Archer called yesterday.” He sends me a quick look. “He said the two of you met a few days ago.”
“We did.” I nod. “He wanted to hammer out the details.”
“That’s amazing. I’m happy for you. Why didn’t you tell me about it?” He sounds a little incredulous.
Leave it to Gage to get right to the point. Not that I can blame him. He deserves to know what’s going on. “I was afraid I’d jinx it.”
“Even to me?” He looks wounded. Silly man.
Leaning over the console, I press a kiss to his cheek, resting my hand on his muscular thigh so I can give it a squeeze. “Especially to you. You’ll pump me up and get me so excited, I’ll believe I can do no wrong. What if it didn’t work out?”
“I would never let it not work out.” His expression goes tight and his lips thin. “I’d kick Archer’s ass before that would happen.”
“That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you,” I say, laughing. “This is not about you kicking Archer’s ass. This is about Archer and me coming to a business decision. I can’t have you glowering in the background, out to tear anyone apart who dares defy me.”
“Why not? I can’t help it if I’m protective of you.”
He is so sweet I almost want to cry. Or do him. I’d prefer the latter.
“I love how protective you are of me,” I murmur, smoothing my hand up and down his thigh. God, I love his body. He’s so hard . . . everywhere. “I’ve never had someone defend me before.”
“Well, I’m all yours. Don’t forget it.” He flinches and yelps when I cup his burgeoning erection. “Damn it, Marina. I’m driving.”
“Yes, you are. And I’m touching you. Don’t mind me.” I undo the button fly on his jeans and slip my hand within, encountering warm, thin cotton stretched across his hard, thick cock. My panties dampen just touching him, and I release a shuddering breath.
“Don’t you dare do what I think you’re doing,” he admonishes but his voice is weak. He’s such a sucker for my touch.
Almost as much as I’m a sucker for his.
“I could give you a hand job while you drive.” I scooch closer to him, my mouth at his ear, and I curl my fingers around his length. “Or a bl*w j*b. Remember when I did that last week?”
That had been fun. He’d been driving this powerful car, looking so sexy and in command I hadn’t been able to resist. Next thing I knew, I was sprawled across the front seat of the Maserati with my head in his lap and his erection in my mouth. He’d had to pull over so I could finish him off without him wrecking.
Hot. He makes me so hot it’s ridiculous. I’m with him, and I feel like a giddy teenager just out for a good time. I think he feels the same way.
At least we’re in this together.
“Baby, I love it when you put your mouth on me, but I’m trying to get us home in one piece so I can have my mouth all over you.” He stifles a groan when I deliberately stroke him. “Fuck, I swear you like seeing me in agony.”
I do. I love torturing him. Only because I know he wants me so bad. It’s a heady feeling, wielding this much power over Gage. And he has power over me as well, there’s no denying it. I think we make a great team.
I can only hope my family feels the same. And eventually they can forgive him—specifically my mother—when he buys up our properties in downtown St. Helena and resells it. That’s what his plan is. He doesn’t even have to tell me. I already know.
And I finally think I’m okay with his plan. If I have to give up the bakery, then so be it. It chokes me up to think about it, but I need to act like a grownup. Archer and I have discussed my possibly working with him very casually, and I know he means his offer. He’s mentioned me taking on a management position within one of his restaurants. I don’t know if I would actually pursue it, but hey, it’s an option. One I appreciate Archer making for me.
“We’ll be home soon, okay?” He settles his hand over mine, giving it a squeeze. I, in turn, give his c*ck another squeeze. His ragged moan sends a little thrill through me that urges me to keep going. “And then you can do whatever you want to me.”
“Really? Whatever I want?” I raise my brows. There are so many things we haven’t attempted yet that I’d love to try out. I’m so comfortable with him, I know whatever I suggest, he’d be game for it.
“Definitely whatever you want. But you need to get your hand off my dick. I feel like I’m gonna blow,” he says through gritted teeth.
I burst out laughing. “I’ve barely touched you!”
“Yeah, but that’s all it takes, Marina. Haven’t you realized that by now?” He turns to look at me, the heated glow in his eyes so intense, it steals my breath.
And makes my heart expand. He’s so far gone over me, I love it.
Especially since I feel the same exact way.
I’VE WAITED FOR this moment for what feels like a lifetime. Hounded this man until I’m sure he was sick and tired of hearing and seeing my name. Now that the time has come, and I’m sitting across from him in my San Francisco office, and despite being on my turf I’m so full of nerves I swear I’m going to be sick.
I am also a complete wuss. My biggest fear? That I’ll somehow f**k it all up and lose everything.
“My daughter likes you,” Scott Knight says, his gaze razor sharp as it meets mine. I don’t back down. Just keep my expression neutral and hope like hell he can’t tell I’m sweating beneath my suit. “But just because she likes you doesn’t mean I have to.”
Jesus. Way to boost my confidence.
“I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt though. Marina doesn’t make bad choices. She’s a smart girl. I like to think I had something to do with that.” Scott turns his head toward the window, seemingly lost in thought. “So with that said, I think it’s time we discuss you purchasing the property downtown.”
Fucking finally. I practically sag in my chair. The relief that’s ready to consume me is strong, but I’d also have to be an idiot to believe all is well. This could be a trick.
I’ve been tricked before.
But no. Without hesitation, he launches into the specifics. Costs and current leases and documents and the details regarding the preliminary contract he had his lawyer draw up. Photos and the history of the buildings and that one single question: I don’t plan on tearing it all down so I can rebuild, do I?
Hell no, I answer, knowing that I pleased him just by the look on his face.
I scan all the documents as he pushes them toward me, knowing I’m going to have my lawyer review them anyway, so I don’t read them over too carefully beyond the asking price. Nod my head in all the right places and ask the appropriate questions when prompted. But all the while I’m wondering, why? Why now? Why me?
It’s to the point that I can’t hold back. I’ve gotta know.
“Why do you want to sell to me now?” I ask after he hands over a thick stack of papers. The contract his lawyer has drawn up. I’ll be countering with a contract my lawyer will have put together, but there’s no need to mention it at the moment. “After all this time, why me?”
Scott stares at me like I’m crazy. “Why not you? First, you barrage me with calls and messages for months. Practically to the point of harassment. My plan was to ignore you. I wasn’t ready to sell yet.”
Swallowing hard, I rest my forearms on the edge of my desk, remaining as neutral as possible.
“Then you start dating my daughter and I wonder.” His all-seeing gaze lands on me again, and I can tell he’s trying to figure me out. “Are you using her to get to me? Tell me the truth.”
Damn. I can’t confess that was my original intention. It’s not anymore. If I’m being truthful with myself, I can admit I’m halfway in love with her. More than halfway. It’s just hard to come to grips with that sort of thing and admit it, especially to her father.
I haven’t even told Marina how I feel. Yet.
“Would that change your price if I told you I was?” I ask, pretending to be the shrewd, ruthless businessman I used to be.
We glare at each other from across my desk, neither of us moving until he finally shakes his head.
“You’re a bullshitter. It’s written all over your face,” he says.
“What are you talking about?”
“I can see that you’re in love with Marina.” I open my mouth to protest, but he narrows his gaze, silencing me with a single look that reminds me eerily of Marina. “Don’t bother denying it. I know the two of you have been spending most of your time together.”
He hasn’t really been around lately, so I’m surprised he’s noticed.
“I keep tabs on everything where my daughter is concerned.” Another pointed look delivered by the man who I’m thinking might be my—gulp—father-in-law someday. How I can even think that way blows my mind. “That she even gave you a chance despite knowing what you wanted shows me she somehow saw beneath your surface.”
Agreed. She’s perceptive, my Marina. Smart and strong and beautiful and sexy as hell.
“I want to give her the bakery,” I blurt, clamping my lips shut as soon as the words leave me. I hadn’t meant to admit that yet.
“I think that’s a good idea.” Scott doesn’t even flinch at my admission. Like he knew I’d planned it all along.
Strange. But perceptive. Kind of like his daughter.
“I want to keep it in your family. Give her the bakery as a gift, though she’ll probably freak out if I offer it as a gift,” I say, muttering the last few words.
“My daughter is full of pride. Sometimes it’s foolish, sometimes it’s not.” Scott smiles. “I’m sure she’ll be very appreciative of your generous gift.”
“And wary,” I add with a shake of my head. “She’ll probably think there are strings attached to it.”
“Not at all.” She loves the bakery. It’s a part of her and her aunt, and I hate to see them lose it. “It means too much to her, and I can’t let it slip out of her fingers.”
“That right there is exactly why I’m ready to sell you the property. Though I can’t deny there are financial reasons as well.” The grimace on Scott Knight’s face is unmistakable. “We’ve suffered these last few years. The economy hit the family businesses so hard, it’s been a struggle to recuperate. I held on to the bakery and the buildings that surround it specifically for Marina and my sister-in-law for as long as I could. I know they both love it. I couldn’t stand the thought of taking it away from them.”