“Bella,” he prompted.
“The Essex House? Isn’t the wine tasting one of those events that’s featured on television and in the newspaper?”
“Yes, and national magazines. It begins at seven. You can either get ready at my house earlier—”
“Whoa, I didn’t say I could go. For one thing, that’s making our relationship way too public. I told you I didn’t want that.”
“Why are you so concerned about that?”
“Because I don’t want to have to explain things after we’re finished,” she said.
His irritation tightened further. “It’s not that big a deal.”
“Maybe not to you. What am I supposed to say? That you and I had a sexual arrangement and now it’s over?”
He narrowed his eyes. “Our arrangement is for an affair. An affair includes other activities. If you’re that worried about what to say after we’re finished, just tell people you dumped me.”
Bella gave a short laugh. “Right,” she said. “As if anyone would believe that.”
“Because women don’t usually dump handsome, rich bachelors.”
“You can be the exception,” he said. “If you’re not at my house by six, I’ll pick you up at your apartment at six-thirty. Enjoy your jelly—”
“I don’t have anything to wear,” she confessed in a low voice.
“Pick something out tomorrow. I’ll pay for it. I’ll send my driver over with my credit card.”
“I have to work tomorrow. Saturday is our busiest day.”
“Make good use of your lunch break then,” he said without budging an inch.
She gave a sigh. “You are so bossy. It would serve you right if I maxed out your card.”
He laughed. “Sweetheart, give it a try. You couldn’t do that in a year, let alone one day.”
After a busy morning at the spa, Bella headed straight for the shopping district. She was uncomfortable using Michael’s money for her clothing, but there was no way around it. She visited several high-end shops, but nothing felt right. Accepting his money to purchase her clothing just seemed to remind her how much she wished she could help her aunt on her own. On a whim, she went into a vintage shop and found a black, beaded, chiffon flapper-style dress she could pair with black boots and a silk scarf. The style was more funky luxe than strictly luxurious, but it suited her and didn’t cost the earth.If Michael didn’t like it, then perhaps he wouldn’t take her out in public again, she thought deviously. She worked the rest of the afternoon and scooted out an hour early to get ready. She would never admit to the surge of excitement and anticipation sizzling inside her.
Ridiculous, she thought as she lined her eyes and applied red lipstick. The event would just be a group of stuffy society types. Her doorbell rang and her heart lurched. Michael’s driver. Grab scarf, purse and coat, she reminded herself. “Just a minute,” she called.
Collecting her things, she opened the door to Michael, drop-dead gorgeous in a tux. Her breath whooshed out of her lungs. “Oh, I didn’t expect you.”
He lifted his eyebrow. “Who, then?”
“The driver,” she said, feeling his gaze travel over her from head to toe.
“You—” He hesitated a second and his mouth lifted in a half grin. “Sparkle.”
Pleasure rushed through her. “Thank you. I didn’t do too much damage to your card.”
“I told you I wasn’t worried about it.” He glanced beyond her to her apartment. “This is where you live?”
“Yes,” she said, trying not to feel self-conscious. Her apartment probably could serve as a closet in the home. “It’s small, but cozy.”
“It’s not the safest neighborhood,” he said.
“Neighbors here watch out for each other. I’m okay with it,” she said stiffly and stepped into the hallway.
“I wasn’t criticizing,” he said.
“Your house is much more luxurious, but I’m happy to have a little space of my own.”
“You say that as if you think I’ve always lived like I do now,” he chided, closing the space between them. “You know where I came from.”
“Looking at you in that tux, it’s easy to forget,” she said.
“Don’t,” he said. “One of the things I like about you is that you’re not overly impressed by my wealth.”
“So you like me disagreeable?” she asked. “Does this mean I should tell you I’ve decided not to attend the wine tasting?”