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Jenna puzzled over the complex wreath design a family had requested for their grandmother's funeral the coming Wednesday. She just about had it nailed; all she needed to confirm with the wholesale suppliers was that she'd be able to get the right shade of lilacs that had been the grandmother's favorite.
The sound of the door buzzer alerted her to a customer out front. She listened to see if her new Saturday part-time assistant would attend to the client, but the subsequent ding of the counter bell told her that Millie was likely in the cool room out back, or, unfortunately more likely, outside on the phone to her boyfriend again.
Making a mental note to discuss with the girl the importance of actually working during work hours, Jenna pushed herself up from her desk, pasted a smile on her face and walked out into the showroom. Only to feel the smile freeze in place as she recognized Dylan Lassiter, in all his decadent glory, standing with his back to her, his attention apparently captured by the ready-made bouquets she kept in the refrigerated unit along one wall.
Her reaction was instantaneous; heat, desire and shock flooded her in turn. The last time she'd seen him had been in the coat closet where they'd impulsively sought refugeto release the sexual energy that had ignited so dangerously and suddenly between them. They'd struck sparks off one another so bright and so fierce it had almost been a relief when he'd returned to his base in Los Angeles. Almost.
Jenna fought the urge to place a hand protectively across her bellyto hide the evidence of that uncharacteristic and spontaneous act. She'd known from the day her pregnancy was confirmed that she'd have to tell him at some stage. She hadn't planned for it to be right now. At first she'd been a little piqued that he'd made no effort to contact her since that one incredible encounter. She had half understood he'd been too busy to call her in the aftermath of his father's sudden death during Dylan's sister's wedding rehearsal dinner. But afterward? When everything had begun to settle down again?
She gave herself a mental shake. No, she'd successfully convinced herself that she didn't need or want the complication of a relationship. Especially not now and especially not with someone as high profile as Dylan Lassiter. Not after all the years of work she'd put into rebuilding her reputation. She'd made a conscious choice to put off contacting him, too, and despite the slight wound to her feminine ego that he'd obviously done the same, she would just have to get over it because she sure as heck had plenty else to keep her mind occupied now.
"Can I help you?" she said, feigning a lack of recognition right up until the moment he turned around and impaled her with those cerulean-blue eyes of his.
Air fled from her lungs and her throat closed up. A perfectly tailored blue-gray suit emphasized the width of his shoulders, while his white shirt and pale blue tie emphasized the California tan that warmed his skin. Her mouth dried. It was a crime against nature that any man could look so beautiful and so masculine at the same time.
A hank of softly curling hair fell across his high forehead, making her hand itch to smooth it back, then trace the stubbled line of his jaw. She clenched her fingers into a tight fist, embedding her nails in her palms as she reminded herself exactly where such an action would inevitably lead.
He was like a drug to her. An instant high that, once taken, created a craving like no other. She'd spent the past two and a half months in a state of disbelief at her actions. She, who'd strived to be so carefulto keep her nose clean and to fly under the radarwas now carrying the child of a man she'd met the day it was conceived. A man she'd barely known, yet knew so much about. Certainly enough not to have succumbed the way she had.
It had literally been a one-night stand, she reminded herself cynically. The coat closet hadn't allowed for anything else. But as close as the confines had been, her body still remembered every second of how he'd made her feeland it reacted in kind again.
"Jenna," Dylan said with a slow nod of his head, his gaze not moving from her face for so much as a second.
"Dylan," she replied, taking a deep breath and feigning surprise. "What brings you back to Cheyenne?"
The instant she said the words she silently groaned. The opening. Of course he was here for that. The local chamber of commerceheck, the whole townwas abuzz with the news. She'd tried to ignore anything Lassiter-related for weeks now, but there was no ignoring the man in front of her.
The father of her unborn child.
A noise from the back of the store made both of them turn around. Oh, thank God. Millie had finally deigned to show up and do her job.
"Ah," Jenna said, fighting to hide her relief. "Here's Millie. She'll be able to assist you with any requirements you might have. Millie, this is Mr. Lassiter, he's opening the Lassiter Grill in town. Please make sure you give him our best service."
She sent Dylan a distracted smile and turned to go, only to feel him snag her wrist with warm strong fingers. Fingers that had done unmentionably wicked things to her and whose touch now sent a spiral of need to clench deep inside her.
"Not so fast," Dylan said, spinning her gently back to face him again. "As capable as I'm sure Millie is," he continued, flashing a smile that had the impressionable teen virtually melting on the spot, "I'd prefer to deal with you directly."
"I'm sure you would," Jenna answered as quellingly as she could. "But Millie is available to help you with your inquiry. I am not."
Her heart rate skipped up a beat as a hint of annoyance dulled his eyes.
His low tones were laced with challenge. Jenna stiffened her spine.
"Not at all, just very busy."
"Not too busy, I'm sure, to catch up with an old friend.''''
Hot color stained her cheeks. They weren't anything near approaching friends. She barely knew him any better now than she had the day they'd metthe day they were so drawn to one another that flirtation had turned to touching, and touching had turned to impassioned, frenzied lovemaking in the nearest available private space.
A butterfly whisper of movement rippled across her lower belly, shocking her into gasping aloud. Of coursethe moment she'd been awaiting for weeks, her baby's first perceptible motion, would have to happen with its father standing right here in front of her.
Dylan's fingers tightened on her wrist. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she said hurriedly. "Just very busy."
"Then I'll only take a few minutes of your time." He gave her a searching look. "Your office?"
Her body wilted in defeat. "Through here."
He released her wrist and she felt the cool air of the showroom swirl around her sensitized skin, as if her body instantly mourned the loss of contact, his touch. She found herself rubbing at the spot where he'd held her, as if she could somehow rub away the invisible imprint he'd left upon her.
Stop being ridiculous, she growled silently. He was nothing to you before, aside from an out of character dalliance, and he's nothing to you now. Logically she knew she couldn't avoid him forever. Despite the fact he was based in L.A., with the new restaurant opening here in town they were bound to cross paths again sometime. It might as well be now.
The tiny fluttering sensation rippled through her belly again, reminding her that there was a great deal more to consider than just her own feelings about seeing Dylan Lassiter. Thankfully, he hadn't noticed that her petite frame carried a new softness about it now. That her figure, rather than being taut and flat, was gently rounded as the baby's presence had suddenly become more visible at thirteen weeks.
She hadn't shared news of her pregnancy with anyone yet, and had no plans to start right now. Instead, she'd sought to hide it by changing from her usual style of figure-hugging attire to longer, more flowing lines.
As they entered the tiny office she used for administration, she gestured to the chair opposite her desk and sank, gratefully, into her own on the other side. Instead of taking the seat offered to him, Dylan sat on the edge of her desk. She couldn't help but notice the way the fine wool of his trousers skimmed his long powerful thighs, or how the fabric now stretched across his groin.
Her mouth suddenly felt parched and she turned to reach for the water jug and glasses that she kept on a credenza behind her desk.
"Water?" she offered with a croak.
"No, I'm fine, thank you."
She hastily splashed a measure of clear liquid into a glass for herself and lifted it to her lips, relishing the cooling and hydrating sensation as the drink slid over her tongue. After putting the glass down on the desk, she pulled a pad toward her and picked up a pen.
"So," she said, looking up at him. "What is it you want?"
He reached out and took the pen from her hand, laying it very deliberately down on the notepad. "I thought we could talk. You know, reminisce about old times."
Heat pooled at the apex of her thighs and she pushed her chair back from her desk. Anything to increase the distance between them.
"Look, you said a few minutes, and frankly, that's all I had. Your time's up. If there's nothing business related you need to discuss ?" She hesitated a moment, her temper snapping now at the humor reflected in his eyes. "Then you'll have to excuse me so I can attend to my work."
Dylan's sinfully sensuous lips curved into a half smile.
"You're different, Jenna. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'll figure it out."
She fought back a groan. The man was all about detail. She knew that intimately. If she didn't get him out of here soon he was bound to notice exactly what it was that was different about her. She wasn't ready for that, not right now, anyway. She needed more time.
Before she could respond, he continued, "I want you to do the flowers for the opening. Wildflowers, grasses, rusticthat kind of thing. Can you do it?"
"I'll get my staff on to preparing some samples for you on Monday. I take it you'll be around?"
His smile widened. "Oh, yes, I'll be around. And your staff won't be handling this for me. You will."
"My staff are well trained and efficient"
"But they're not youand I want you."
His words hung in the air between them. She could feel them as if he'd actually reached out and touched her.
"You can't have me," she whispered.
"Can't I? Hmm, that's a darn shame," he said. "Because then I'd have to take my business elsewhere."
His words, so gently spoken, sent a spear of ice straight through her. It would take only a day for the news that she'd turned his business away to get through town. Less than that again before more people would follow his cue and take their business to other florists, as well. She'd fought long and hard to get a reputation as the leading florist in town and she wasn't going to lose it just like that.
She bit the inside of her cheek as she swiftly considered her options. Well, option. She really had no other choice but to take his business. Refusing it, with the associated fallout when word got around that she'd turned down a Lassiterwell, it didn't bear thinking about. However, the benefits would roll in pretty quickly when it was known that she'd done the flowers for the opening. There was nothing some of the better-heeled members of Cheyenne society loved more than following a trend set by the Lassiter family.
"I may be able to carve out a little time," she hedged, not wanting him to see how easily he'd forced her to capitulate. "Do you have particular designs in mind?"
"Tell you what. Why don't we discuss this further over dinner tonight."
"I'm sorry, I have plans for tonight." Plans that included a long soak with her feet in a tub filled with warm water and Epsom salts, followed by a home pedicure while she could still bend down and reach her toes. "Perhaps you could give me your contact number for while you're here. I'll call you when I'm free."
He gave her a narrow-eyed glance, then lazily got to his feet, reached into his back pocket for his wallet and slid out a card. She went to take it, but he didn't immediately let it go. Instead, he tugged it closer to his body, thereby tugging her a little closer, too.
"You'll call me?"
"Of course. We're closed tomorrow, but I'll check my schedule on Monday and call you then."
"I'll look forward to it," he said with a lazy wink and released the card.
She followed him from the office into the showroom. Even though she'd worked here since she was a teenager, she was still attuned to the sweet, luscious fragrance of the blooms she had on display. The various layers of scent filled the air with a strong feminine presence. A complete contrast to the powerful masculinity that was Dylan Lassiter.
Jenna held the front door to the store open for him.
"Thanks for stopping by," she said as he stepped past her and onto the sidewalk.
Just as he did, a large delivery truck passed on the street. The subsequent whoosh of warm air hit her full on, the gust plastering her short-sleeved tunic against her body. Dylan didn't miss a trick. His eyes drifted over the new fullness of her breasts, then lower, to where her waist had thickened, and to the gentle roundness of her tummy. He stared at her for what felt like an aeon before his eyes flicked upward to her face.
What she saw reflected back at her had the ability to nail her feet to the ground, right where she stood. She'd read about his convivial side, his laissez-faire attitude to life and his ability to continually land on his feet even as he eschewed traditional choices. Conversely, it was widely known that he was a perfectionist in the kitchen, which took a keen mind and grim determination.
The expression that he presented to her belonged to a different man entirely. This was the face of the CEO of the Lassiter Grill Corporation, not the playboy, not the one-time lover. No, this was the face of a man who had a question and, she thought with a shiver, would do whatever it took to get his answer.
"Looks like we have a bit more than just flowers to discuss. I think we'd best be having that dinner mighty soon, don't you?"
He turned on the heel of his hand-tooled boot and strode toward a dark SUV parked a few spaces down the street. She couldn't help but watch the lithe way his body moved. Jenna closed her eyes for a second but still his image burned there as if imprinted on her retinas. And she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that her time for keeping this baby a secret had well and truly passed.