Dante's Temporary Fiancée(4)

By: Day Leclaire


Draco approached. “So? Have you given my idea any thought?”

Rafe stared blankly. “What idea?”

“Weren’t you listening to me?”

“It usually works best if I don’t. Most of the time your suggestions only lead one place.”

Draco grinned. “Trouble?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Well, this one won’t. All you have to do is find your Inferno bride and everyone will leave you alone.”

Rafe shook his head. “Apparently you’re not great at listening, either. After that disaster of a marriage to Leigh, I’m never going to marry again.”

“Who said anything about marriage?”

Rafe narrowed his eyes. “Explain.”

“You know, for such a smart, analytical-type guy, there are times when you can be amazingly obtuse.” Draco spoke slowly and distinctly. “Find a woman. Claim it’s The Inferno. Maintain the illusion for a few months. Act the part of two people crazy in love.”

Rafe’s mouth twisted. “I don’t do crazy in love.”

“If you want everyone to leave you alone, you will. After a short engagement, have her dump you. Make it worth her while to go a long way away and stay there.”

“You’ve come up with some boneheaded ideas in your time. But this one has to be the most ludicrous—” Rafe broke off and turned to stare in the direction of the kitchen. “Huh.”

Draco chuckled. “You were saying?”

“I think I have an idea.”

“You’re welcome.”

Rafe shot his brother a warning look. “If you say one word about this to anyone—”

“Are you kidding? Nonna and Primo would kill me, not to mention our parents.”

“You?”

Draco stabbed his finger against Rafe’s chest. “They wouldn’t believe for one minute you were clever enough to come up with a plan like this.”

“I’m not sure clever is the right word. Conniving, maybe?”

“Diabolically brilliant.”

“Right. Keep telling yourself that. Maybe one of us will believe you. In the meantime, I have an Inferno bride to win.”

Rafe headed for the kitchen. He arrived just in time to see Larkin refusing the wad of money Barney was attempting to press into her hand. “I’ll be fine, Mr. Barney.”

“You know you need it for rent.” He stuffed the cash into the pocket of her vest and gave her a hug. “We’re going to miss you, kiddo.”

One by one the waitstaff followed suit. Then Larkin turned toward the exit and Rafe caught the glitter of tears swimming in her eyes. For some reason a fierce, protective wave swept through him.

“Larkin,” he said. “If I could speak to you for a minute.”

Her head jerked around, surprise registering in her gaze. “Certainly, Mr. Dante.”

Instead of exiting into the reception area, he escorted her through the door leading to the hallway. “Is there a problem?” she asked. “I hope you don’t blame Mr. Barney for my mistake. He did fire me, if that helps.”

Ouch. “It’s nothing like that,” he reassured. “I wanted to speak to you in private.”

Leading the way to the wing of private offices, he reached a set of double doors with a discreet gold plaque that read “Rafaelo Dante, President, Dantes Courier Service.” He keyed the remote control fob in his pocket and the doors snicked open. Gesturing her into the darkened interior, he touched a button on a panel near the door. Soft lights brightened the sitting area section of his office, leaving the business side with its desk, credenza and chairs in darkness.

“Have a seat. Would you like anything to drink?”

She hesitated, then gave a soft laugh. “I know I’m supposed to say no, thank you. But I’d love some water.”

“Coming right up.”

He opened the cabinet door that concealed a small refrigerator and removed two bottles of water. After collecting a pair of glasses and dropping some ice cubes into each, he joined her on the couch. Sitting so close to her might have been a mistake. He could sense her in ways he’d rather not. The light, citrusy scent of her that somehow managed to curl around and through him. The warmth and energy of her body. The way the light caught in her hair and left her eyes in dusky blue shadow. He’d hoped the business setting would dampen his reaction to her. Instead, the solitude served only to increase his awareness.

He gathered his control around him like a cloak, forcing himself to deal with the business at hand. “I’m sorry about your job,” he said, passing her the water. “Firing you seems a bit severe for a simple accident.”

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