Playing With Seduction. Reese Ryan

Playing With Seduction - Reese Ryan

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      So she’d known on her last visit to London, just a few months ago. He rubbed his temple. Why hadn’t he noticed?

      “We need to talk about this.”

      Lena grabbed her purse off the chair. “No reason we can’t talk and eat.” Her cheeky smile almost made him laugh.

      Wes looped his arm through hers and led her to the door.

      “This is why I didn’t tell you. You’ve known all of five minutes, and already you’re treating me like an invalid.”

      “I’m not treating you like an invalid. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

      “I am.” Her genuine smile and eyes shiny with tears warmed his chest. “Especially now that you’re here.”

      On the ride into town, his mother chatted away, catching him up on what his aunts and cousins were up to. Her familiar laugh gave him a sense of solace. But he couldn’t help noticing the slight trembling in her left hand as it rested on her knee. Or the limited gestures she used as she spoke. Both were unlike her, giving him more cause for concern.

      Wes had been ready to call his friend and tell him he was passing on the project, but this changed everything. His mother needed him, whether she was willing to admit it or not. Establishing his business in the US, so close to his mother, was no longer a matter of ambition or pride.

      It was a matter of family.

      His mother had made so many sacrifices for him and his brother, a reality that plagued him with guilt. He’d never be able to repay her sacrifices in-kind. Didn’t mean he couldn’t try.

      Not even if it meant checking his ego at the door and working with Bree Evans to put on the best event the Carolina coast had ever seen.

       Chapter 3

      Bree arrived fifteen minutes early for the meeting. Because she was always early. Also, because she hoped to get a quick word in with Wes. If they were going to work together over the next six months, she needed to keep things civil. Nothing had happened between them. Other than an amazing night together and a kiss that was so hot and sweet that it melted her insides and made her heart skip a beat.

      Other than that, nothing at all.

      Bex was right. She needed to let go of her resentment toward Wes. Count her lucky stars they hadn’t slept together. Then things would’ve been unbearably awkward.

      She would apologize and clear the air. Let bygones be bygones and all of those other ridiculous clichés. Not for him, but for her. Her participation in this event would expand their brand. Help her and Bex maximize the value of what remained of their careers on the volleyball circuit.

      Bree entered the room. No one was there, except Lisa, who stood at the end of the table sorting documents. “Good morning, Bree. Can I get you a cup of coffee?”

      “Good morning.” She smiled brightly as she surveyed the chairs. Where would Wes sit? Probably next to Liam, who’d likely sit at the head of the table. She walked around the other side of the table and hung her bag on the second seat from Liam’s probable chair. Lisa eyed at her expectantly. “Oh, the coffee. I’m fine. Thank you.”

      The corner of Lisa’s mouth quirked in a knowing smile. “All right. Everyone should be here in a minute.”

      Bree’s cheeks warmed. The other woman hadn’t done a very good job of hiding her amusement over her careful deliberation about where to sit.

      Note to self: take it down a notch. Your crazy is showing.

      “Can I help with anything?”

      “I’m about finished here.” Lisa slid a few stapled sheets into a blue folder, then shut it. “There. All done.”

      Rather than taking a seat, Bree wandered over to the window and gazed out onto the water. She loved her life on the West Coast, but the Carolina coast was certainly beautiful, too. As soon as the water warmed up a bit, she would get out on a kayak and explore the Cape Fear River on the other side of the island. Right now, the water was still too chilly, despite the mild temperature outside.

      Finally, Bree heard voices approaching. She waited until they were in the room to turn around, flashing her biggest smile. “Good morning.”

      “Good morning, Bree.” Liam shook her hand in both of his, a gesture that was warm and welcoming. “Sorry I couldn’t make yesterday’s preliminary meeting. I had a family emergency, but I’m here now, and I’m thrilled you’ve decided to come on board with the project. It’s going to be an amazing event. Good for the Pleasure Cove community and the sport of volleyball.”

      “I know. I’m thrilled. Thank you for inviting me to be part of it.”

      Miranda greeted Bree, then took the seat next to Liam, closest to the door. The seat she would’ve expected Wes to take. When Lisa slipped into the seat between her and Liam, that left only the seat across from her vacant. Which meant she’d spend the entire meeting pretending not to stare at him.

      “Looks like we’re all here,” Miranda said. “Let’s get started.”

      “What about... I mean, isn’t Wes joining us?” The words spilled out of her mouth before she could stop them. She didn’t dare look over at the amused half grin that was probably perched on Lisa’s mouth.

      Liam’s eyes twinkled and his mouth pressed into a slow, subdued smile. “Wes had a family emergency of his own. He won’t make today’s meeting, but he should be here when we meet on Friday.”

      “Oh.” Bree tried to filter the disappointment from her voice. She adjusted in her chair. Way to look nonchalant.

      There was a brief moment of awkward silence that made Bree want to crawl into a ball and hide in a corner, until finally, Miranda started the meeting. She directed everyone to the agenda placed inside the front pocket of the folders in front of them.

      They reviewed various possible formats for the event, based on ideas generated in the previous meeting. Miranda reviewed reports on current beach-volleyball tournaments in California and Miami Beach. Bree shared her insight on what worked at those tournaments and what could be improved, based on her participation in them in the past. Liam stressed that the event needed to entice notable celebrities who would draw people to the resort.

      Lisa reminded everyone of the need to draw visitors who were not diehard fans, including locals. That was Wesley’s expertise. Together they made a solid plan that they were all excited about.

      After the meeting, Miranda leaned in toward Liam, her voice low. “Has Wes committed to the project?”

      “Not yet. But I expect he will soon.” Liam’s polite smile indicated that his vague response was the extent of their discussion on the matter.

      Bree had reacted badly to seeing Wes. She realized that now. Was he waffling on the project because of her?

      Wes didn’t seem like the kind of guy to let a little contention get in the way of something he really wanted. Still, if she was the reason he hadn’t committed, it was more important than ever that she apologize to him. Before he walked away from the project.

      Bree said her goodbyes and headed down the hallway.

      Liam caught up with her. “Bree, can I give you a ride to your guest house? I’m headed out for a lunch meeting.”

      She wanted to politely reject his offer. Spend the short walk back to her place lost in her own thoughts. Her feet, already tired of the four-inch patent-leather heels she was wearing, had other ideas. “Sure.”

      As they walked toward the front door, Liam stopped and turned to her. “I’m meeting with a few influential folks in town to quell their concerns about the commercialization of the island. It would be great if you came along. You’d be doing me a huge favor, if you don’t

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