Tempting the Billionaire

By: Jessica Lemmon

“I don’t do anything randomly,” Shane said with a lift of his brow. He slid out of the booth, stealing a glance over his shoulder. “Let’s go.”

“But…” Crickitt looked down at the scattered papers.

“Hurry,” Shane whispered, helping her fill the manila folder as swiftly as if they were fleeing the scene of a crime. Crickitt shoved the folder and pen into her canvas bag as Shane grasped her free hand and towed her to the door. As they walked through it, Crickitt turned to catch a glimpse of Debbie standing statue still in the center of the restaurant, her hand pressed to her chest as she stared at the “tip” Shane left her.

“Come on.” He tugged her to the limo parked out front. The second they were outside Crickitt registered Shane’s long fingers wrapped around hers. Warmth between their palms sizzled her nerve endings. She squeezed his fingers, savoring the opportunity to be close to him, the excuse to touch him. Shane spared her a glance as they descended on the limo, slowing his frantic pace long enough to flash her a wry half smile. Was he thinking the same thing?

The driver poked his head out the driver’s side door, but Shane waved him off. “I got it, Thomas.”

He held on to Crickitt’s hand until she was safely inside, then climbed in and took the seat facing hers. Shane rapped on the privacy glass and Thomas pulled into the light traffic.

At first, Shane looked like a kid who dropped off a tire swing into an ice-cold lake. But as the restaurant grew farther away, his grin emerged. Lifting thick eyebrows in a show of relief, he said, “That was close.”

“She would have thanked you if you hung around,” Crickitt said, barely repressing a chuckle. “I saw her face, she was—”

“No, don’t tell me.” Shane held up a hand. “The goal is not to be thanked.”

“There’s a goal? Is this, like, a game?”

“Sort of. Ever heard of Dine and Dash, where you go out to eat and run out without paying your tab?”

“No,” Crickitt said, appalled. “Do people do that?”

Shane offered a somber smile. “My mom was a waitress when she met my dad, happened to her a few times. Anyway, I like to do what I call Dine and Cash, where you run out after paying someone’s rent.”

“Much better.”

He shrugged, but his smile was genuine.

What Shane had done for a perfect stranger was beyond sweet, it was downright admirable. But the seed of doubt that had recently taken root in the back of her mind had begun to flower. She had to know, had to be sure he hadn’t hired her only so he could tick off a box under the Charitable Giving section of his tax forms.

“Do you only do it for waitresses?” Crickitt asked before she could rethink it.

Shane cocked his head. “Sorry?”

She swallowed. Cleared her throat. “Is that why you helped me?”

“No.” He answered immediately, the look on his face intently serious. “And by the way, I’m the one who needed help, not the other way around.”

She allowed herself a shaky smile at the idea of being needed. Maybe because she’d been overlooked for so long.

He leaned his elbows on his knees and met her eye. “I hired you because you’re qualified. You’re paid well because you deserve it. Never let anyone tell you differently.”

She looked at her lap, unable to hold his unflinching gaze. “I believe you.”

“Good.” He reached forward to pat her hand before settling back into his seat.

She lifted her head. “That was pretty impressive, by the way.”

“Well, you’re lucky,” he said, lowering one eyelid into a wink that sent her pulse racing. “I only do that to impress my new assistants.”

Chapter 9

Their morning meeting was with a man in his late forties launching a tattoo shop. And if Crickitt thought Shane was too polished to talk to a goateed, bald, bare-chested man in a leather biker vest, he proved her wrong in the space of a few minutes.

Crickitt had already assumed Shane was passionate about entrepreneurs, but seeing him in action was like watching a bird take flight. Natural, easy. Shane’s enthusiasm shone in every hand gesture, every answer, and through every assurance he made. When Shane vowed to do what it took to help the man become successful, all three of them knew he meant it.

After the meeting, they stepped outside the shop and Shane lifted his ringing cell phone to his ear. “August.”

Crickitt paused, taking in the truncated exchange.

“Yes. No problem,” he said, gazing in her direction. “Absolutely. See you then.”

He pocketed his phone as the driver opened the door for them. “Thomas, I’ll need you to work late tonight. Does Darcy have you booked?”

Thomas gave Shane a pained smile. “Tango lessons. I’d be glad to stay and work late.”

Shane chuckled and palmed the older man’s shoulder. “Excellent. Find a place we can loiter for a bit, will you?”

Shane ushered Crickitt into the limo. Once inside, he said, “Townsend pushed our meeting to five thirty. I realize you expected to be done working by then. I can have Thomas take you home. If we leave now, I can still make it back in time for the meeting.”

Crickitt frowned. It was a superfluous amount of driving simply to see her home. “I’m sure a four-hour round-trip isn’t the best use of your time.”

“I can read in the car. There’s no shortage of what I could learn,” he said with a grin. “It’s your call. I don’t expect you to stick around. You wouldn’t get back to Osborn until late tonight and I don’t want to break up your plans.”

Plans. Yeah, right. Her big Friday-night plans involved pajamas, a DVD, and eating out of a paper container of some sort. No, she’d prefer to spend the evening with her impressively capable boss, even if her reasons were bordering on unprofessional. Or stalkerish. “I’d like to stay,” she said, tacking on, “and meet Townsend.”

“Good,” he said, and she could swear he looked relieved.

* * *

Shane was relieved.

Henry Townsend was an important, if not the most important, client August Industries had. But as much as Shane loved the thrill of landing a new account, of helping a business owner see his dreams come to fruition, the lengthy drive and downtime were significantly less thrilling. He usually filled the hours with solo lunches or reading dry stock reports.

It was nice not to be alone, and Crickitt was good company. She pushed a curl away from her face and pinned him with serene blue eyes. Okay, she wasn’t just good company. He liked her. Liked the way she asked questions and was genuinely interested in his answers. Liked the way she waited for the right moment to interrupt him when he was deep in thought. She was good for him.

As his assistant, he reminded himself, glancing down at his folded hands.

Now that he thought about it, he doubted she’d want to spend the afternoon pinned up in the limo reading bland reports. He was already tying up her evening. “What would you like to do today?” he asked. “Art museum? Shopping? We have several hours before Townsend.”

He’d surprised her. Her eyes widened and her brows elevated in the cutest, startled expression.

“Or we could work?” he said, wondering if he’d miscalculated her after all.

“You’re paying me. It’s your call.”

Shane nearly flinched. He hoped she hadn’t stayed out of some misplaced sense of obligation. He wanted her to want to be here with him. Which wasn’t something he should allow himself to want at all. This was a business trip. He was her boss. It wasn’t a weekend trip filled with sightseeing, shopping, and dinner at Skyview.

Man, he’d like to take her to dinner again. A real dinner, one without interview questions and ending with a kiss good night.

You hired her. You can’t date her.

Tamping down his out-of-place disappointment, he tried again. “Since you’ll be working late, you have the middle of the day to yourself. Thomas can drop you off somewhere. Like the mall, or…a shoe store?”

Crickitt twisted her lush lips into a grimace. “Ugh. I hate shopping.”

A woman who hated to shop? He’d never met one. “What do you like to do?”

She shrugged, considering his question. “Watch movies.”

He recalled her apartment, the stacks of DVDs in her living room, the pile of plastic cases next to the TV in her bedroom. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s go to a movie. Anything out you’d like to see?”

“Seriously?” Her eyebrows rose even higher. “You’re taking me to a movie? And letting me pick?”

“Oh, no. You’re going to drag me to a girly movie, aren’t you? Like…” He was reaching here, trying to grasp the title of the last movie he’d seen with a woman. “Steel Magnolias or…Beaches?”

“It’s been a while since you’ve seen a movie, hasn’t it? Both of those are nearly as old as we are.”

“I admit I don’t watch a lot of movies.”

“Too busy being successful, I guess,” she supplied.

She was right. Unless it promoted a healthier bottom line, he didn’t do it. And a movie midday when he could be on the phone with clients? Unheard of.

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