Seduction And The CEO - Page 19

Her head bobbed up and down. “Good choice. The monarchy is stable, so poverty and infrastructure will be your only problems.”

He lifted his hand, then brought it down again on the rough wood of the fence, struggling to make Melissa’s lifestyle add up in his head. “Why don’t you have a real job?”

“Define a real job.”

“An office, where’d you put that brain of yours to work from nine to five.”

“I don’t think they’d let me wander across the country.”

“How long have you been wandering across the country?”

Her mouth tightened imperceptibly, and something flashed in the depths of her eyes. Fear? Pain? He was reminded once again that she could be running from something or someone.

But then the look was gone.

“Not long,” she answered. “Do you think Royce will side with his family or with Anthony and Otto?”

“Anthony is our cousin.”

“Really?”

He nodded. “Royce is a risk taker. He’ll offer to fly down to Tappee himself.”

“He’s a pilot?”

Jared choked out a laugh. “He’s definitely a pilot. I think he likes flying around the world more than he likes investigating companies.”

“Can I meet him when he gets here?”

Jared tensed. A chill hit his body, and a warning sparked in his brain. “Why?”

She drew back, obviously reacting to his expression.

“You planning to flirt with him?” Jarred pressed. He shouldn’t have let his guard down. He didn’t know anything about this woman.

She emphatically shook her head. “He likes to travel. I like to travel.” Her words came faster. “I was thinking you could be right. Maybe I should find a real job and save up some money. I mean, seeing America is fun and all, but it might be fun to see some of the rest of the world-”

“In my brother’s jet?”

“No. No.” She smoothed her hair back again. “I’m not going to flirt with your brother. I just thought…”

Jared waited. He truly did want to know what she thought.

She let go of the fence rail and took a step forward. “I thought he might be a lot like you. Smart and interesting.”

He stared down as she moved closer. “I can’t believe you’re doing this.” But what he really couldn’t believe was that it was working. She was flirting with him, using her pretty face and killer body to gain an advantage. And it was working.

He was pathetic.

“You misunderstood,” she told him in a soft voice. “I have no designs on Royce. I don’t even know Royce. And if my mission was to land myself a rich man, do you think I’d be scooping horse poop on a ranch in Montana? No offense, Jared, but Manhattan is a whole lot closer to Gary, and their per capita count of rich eligible men is pretty darn high.”

Jared watched her soft lips as they formed words, took in her feathery hair lifting in the light breeze, her bottomless green eyes, almost a turquoise, like the newly melted water of a glacial lake. She was stunningly gorgeous and intriguingly intelligent.

“So how stupid do you think I am?” Her voice dropped off into silence. The thuds of Tango’s footfalls echoed around them.

“I don’t think you’re stupid at all,” Jared admitted. “That’s the problem.”

Melissa had overplayed her hand.

Sitting at the end of a long table in the quiet cookhouse, spooning her way through a flavorful soup, she knew she’d made Jared suspicious. She should never have asked to meet Royce. And she should have been content to let him think she was slow-witted.

Her enthusiasm for getting the story, along with her stupid ego, had both gotten in the way. She’d just had to show off her knowledge of Bosoniga and Tappee. Like some schoolkid trying to impress the teacher. “Bosoniga has a stable monarchy,” she mocked under her breath. Why didn’t she just wave her university degree under his nose and challenge him to guess why she was out on the road playing vagabond?

She dropped the spoon into her soup.

Was she trying to sabotage the story?

“Melissa?” Someone slid into the chair next to her, and Melissa looked over to see Stephanie set a white stonewear cup on the table.

At two in the afternoon, the cookhouse had grown quiet. Faint voices could be heard from the pass-through to the kitchen. Coffee, biscuits and oatmeal cookies were still available on the sideboard in case anyone needed a snack. And a helper was setting the three empty tables for dinner.

“Hello,” Melissa greeted Stephanie politely.

The younger woman’s auburn hair was pulled back in her signature ponytail. She’d removed her riding helmet, but still wore the white blouse, tight jodhpurs and high boots that were the uniform of a show jumper.

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