The Playboy's Proposition - Page 19

“Wow, you’re moving right along,” Bella said, pleased with her aunt’s sunny outlook.

“I am,” Charlotte said. “Plus, I have an idea for providing a few men’s services. We can give them Sport manicures and pedicures and carry sports magazines and The Wall Street Journal.”

“That’s a great idea.”

“And who knows? Maybe you’ll end up going out with one of the men who come into the Spa,” Charlotte said, throwing Bella a meaningful glance.

Bella immediately shook her head. “Oh, no. I’m not interested in dating right now.” Or maybe ever.

“Bella, I know you were terribly hurt when you and Stephen broke up, but you can’t stop living.”

“I’m still living,” Bella said. “I’m just not interested in going down that road. I know I’ll never feel the way I did for Stephen about another man.”

“You’re too young to say that,” Charlotte chided.

“You always said I had an old soul,” Bella returned.

Charlotte pursed her lips. “I can see I’m going to need to open your eyes to all the other fish in the sea out there.”

Bella shook her head again, cringing at the note of determination in her aunt’s voice. Bella absolutely didn’t want her romantic status on her aunt’s radar at all. “Your mission is to stay healthy, be happy and get the spa off the ground.”

“We’ll see,” Charlotte said.

Bella frowned. That was the second time today she’d heard those words.

That night, Bella joined Michael for dinner in the den again. “I really need to get my VW back,” she said, pushing the gourmet meal around her plate. She felt nervous around Michael. Hyperaware of his strength and mental prowess, she found being the subject of his undivided attention disturbing.“Why? The Lexus is much more dependable.”

“When my aunt saw it, she asked me if I’d won the lottery.”

Irritation crossed his face. “Can’t you just tell her you decided to lease it?”

“Not on a waitress’s salary,” she said.

“I could give her one, too and tell her it’s part of her compensation package,” he mused.

So they would be even more in his debt? Bella choked. “I don’t think that’s necessary. I’ll be happy to get my VW back.”

“I’ll get it back for you with the understanding that if it becomes unreliable again, it will be replaced. And if it breaks down, you’re to call the emergency number I gave you.”

“Okay,” she said, because she would make sure the VW didn’t break down again. “Now if I can just keep her focused on the spa and not matchmaking for me, then maybe—”

“Matchmaking,” he echoed. “Why?”

“When my aunt isn’t sick, she’s a force to be reckoned with. If she decides I should be dating, then she’ll do everything possible to make sure I am.”

“Interfering family members. I’ve never had that. My brothers and I hassle each other every now and then, but we wouldn’t interfere.” He took a drink from his beer. “Go ahead and tell her you’re involved with me.”

“Absolutely not. She would freak out if she knew this deal was dependent on you and me…” She cleared her throat. “Besides, you agreed that we would keep it—”

Michael’s cell phone rang, interrupting her tirade. He glanced at the caller ID and his expression turned odd. “I need to take this,” he said and rose. “Dan, you have some information about Leo?”

She watched as he strode a few steps away with his broad back facing her. Something in his demeanor tripped off her antennae. His stance was tense as if he were braced.

“Damn. Nothing,” he said, his voice full of disappointment. “Anything else you can do?”

The taut silence that followed swelled with raw tension. She’d never glimpsed this kind of emotion in Michael.

“Do it, and keep me posted,” Michael said then turned around.

She glimpsed a flash of powerful emotion in his eyes, but it was gone before she could identify it. He narrowed his gaze and his nostrils flared as he returned to the table.

Bella vacillated over whether to keep silent, but her curiosity and a strange concern won out. “Who’s Leo?”

He met her gaze with eyes that lit like flames of the devil himself. “My brother. He was with my father when he died.”

Bella winced at the visual that raced through her head. “I haven’t heard you say much about him. Where is he?”

“He could be dead, but we don’t know for certain.” He took a long draw from his beer. “His body was never found.”