The Italian's Deal for I Do(9)

By: Jennifer Hayward


He was silent for a moment, then dipped his head. “I am sure you will find alternate avenues.”

She nodded determinedly. “I intend to. You do what it takes, right? To make your dreams come true?”

His mouth twisted, a strange light filling his dark eyes. “You do indeed.”

It was like a coldness had enveloped the warm Navigli night, the way the warmth drained from his expression. Olivia shifted in her seat, wondering when the breeze had kicked up. Wondering what she’d said or done to bring the mood change about—because everyone had dreams, didn’t they? They were good things, not bad.

She took another sip of her wine. “So,” she murmured in an attempt to lighten the mood, “you know what I do. Your turn to spill.”

He arched a brow at her. “Spill?”

“Confess. Tell me your secrets... At least, what you do for a living.”

“Aah.” His mouth tilted. “I push money around. Make things profitable. Ensure the creatives don’t bring the ship down.”

She gave him a look of mock offense. “Where would the civilized world be without us?”

“True.” His half smile sent a frisson of awareness through her. Made her hot all over again. She had a feeling he did that easily. Ran hot and cold. Turned it on and off like a switch.

His gaze probed hers. “What?”

“You do that easily.”

“Do what easily?”

“Run hot and cold.”

An amused, slightly dangerous glint filled his eyes. He set his wineglass down with a deliberate movement, his gaze on hers. “Possibly very true. Out of curiosity, Liv, which would you like me to be?”

Her heart skipped a beat. “I think I’ll abstain from answering that.”

“Forever or just for now?” he jibed.

“For now,” she said firmly. She focused on the inch of ruby-red liquid left in her glass. She hadn’t flirted with a man since the beginning of her unspectacular, long-term relationship with Guillermo Villanueva, a photographer she’d met on a job and eventually lived with. They had been finished for over a year now, and she was sorely out of practice when it came to flirting.

“Have you eaten?” He lifted an inquiring brow as she glanced up at him.

“I was going to eat when I got home.”

He picked up the menu and scanned it. Ordered a selection of appetizers without consulting her. Surprisingly, for a woman who valued her independence above all else, she found it a huge turn-on. Found everything about him a huge turn-on. And it only seemed to get worse as they chatted about everything from French and American politics to books and music. He was clearly way above average intelligence, sophisticated and seemed to have vast amounts of knowledge housed under that compelling facade.

“Why Columbia?” she asked as she snared the last piece of bruschetta. “Did you have family in America?”

He shook his head. “I wanted a change of pace like you did. To spread my wings. New York as the epicenter of it all made sense.”

“So are you a financial genius, then? Million-dollar deals and all that?”

A glitter entered his eyes. “The genius part is debatable, but yes, sometimes there are big deals.”

She found herself staring at his mouth again. It really was lush. Spectacular. What would it be like to kiss him? What would it be like for him to kiss her? Oh, God. She pushed her empty wineglass away with an abrupt movement. Enough of that.

He inclined his head toward the glass. “Another?”

She shook her head. “I should get home. I have a lot I want to accomplish tomorrow.”

“I’ll drive you, then.” He lifted his hand to signal the waitress.

She wanted to say yes. Wanted him to drive her home so he could kiss her good-night. But that was utter madness. She didn’t know him. He could be a criminal. A high-end one with a Rolex and great shoes.

He looked up at their server as she took his credit card and ran it through the machine. “I would like to drive this young woman home, Cecilia. Can you offer me a reference?”

The brunette let out a husky chuckle, her gaze moving to Olivia. “He is perfectly respectable. If uncatchable.”

Olivia had no doubts about that. She got to her feet, gathered her gym bag and purse and allowed Tony to guide her through the crowded little trattoria, his hand on the small of her back electrifying. They walked a short distance down a side street to where his insanely expensive-looking yellow monster of a car was parked at the curb.