FALLING FOR THE ENEMY Silhouette Desire by Shawna Delacorte reissued by Harlequin in ebook
G-EXCERPT #2: (restaurant)
A classically beautiful Italian girl in her early twenties came up behind Bryce, slipped her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. ‘‘Papa said you were out here.’’
‘‘I’d know that sultry voice anywhere.’’ He twisted around in his chair, took her hands in his and extended a warm smile. ‘‘Angela, how have you been? Last time I was here you were one month away from motherhood.’’ He slipped his arm around her slim waist and pulled her close to him. His smile quickly shifted to a teasing grin that matched his tone of voice. ‘‘Look at this! I can actually get my arm around you now.’’
‘‘Twins.’’ She beamed at him, her total and complete joy covering her face. ‘‘A boy and a girl. We named the girl Sofia, after Grandma. And the boy—’’ the smile faded from her face and tears formed in her beautiful brown eyes ‘‘—we named Bryce…’’ She quickly blinked the tears away and recovered her enthusiasm. ‘‘Bryce Antonio Roberto Vincent—’’
‘‘Stop, already!’’ Bryce broke out in an easy laugh. ‘‘The poor kid will be an adult before he gets all of his names memorized.’’
Paige saw the surprise and the unconcealed emotion dart across his face before he could hide it. She had thought he was merely a good customer over the years, that this very close family were friends of his. But it was now obvious to her that there was more to it than that—much more.
‘‘Bradford, this is Angela. She’s the fourth of Antonio and Maria’s children. Angela, this is Paige Bradford, a business associate of mine.’’ The two women shook hands.
Angela’s enthusiasm bubbled to the surface. ‘‘It’s time for Papa to go home and rest. If I don’t chase him out of here he’ll stay until closing.’’ She gave Bryce another affectionate kiss on the cheek. ‘‘I’ll see you later.’’ She turned her warm smile to Paige. ‘‘It was nice meeting you.’’ With that, she hurried off toward the kitchen.
Before Paige had an opportunity to make any subtle inquiries, Rudy returned with the first course of what turned out to be a complete seven-course meal. As Bryce had promised, the food was excellent and there was plenty of it. Somewhere between the fourth and fifth courses Bryce excused himself from the table, saying he wanted to have a word with Maria. She watched as he disappeared into the kitchen.
The fact that he had twice introduced her as a business associate rather than an employee had not escaped her attention. It seemed to demonstrate a sense of equality where others were concerned. It was the same concept as his personal friendship with the French ambassador and also a working-class Italian family who owned a small restaurant. Her preconceived notions about Bryce Lexington were beginning to crumble. Paige was not happy about it, but was not sure how to stop it. She didn’t have any idea where to place her trust, that little bit of trust she was able to muster. Should she trust her firmly entrenched beliefs or her subsequent observations of this man?
‘‘Quite a remarkable man, no?’’ It was Angela’s soft voice that captured Paige’s attention.
She wasn’t sure exactly how to respond to Angela’s comment. ‘‘He’s definitely unlike anyone I’ve ever met before.’’
‘‘You’re a business associate?’’ Angela flashed Paige a warm and friendly smile. ‘‘So are we. Bryce owns twenty-five percent of this restaurant.’’
The pride, and it seemed to Paige something almost akin to gratitude, showed on Angela’s face. Paige immediately latched on to the twenty-five percent that Angela had quoted. Angela must have been mistaken. A ruthless shark like Bryce Lexington would not be involved in a business if he did not own controlling interest. She tried to maintain a casual tone of voice as she subtly probed for answers. ‘‘How did your family come to be in business with him?’’
‘‘Bryce had been coming into our restaurant for many years, he knew the whole family. Eight months ago Papa had a heart attack, he needed bypass surgery. Things became very bad financially. Our creditors were after us for past-due bills, we were in danger of losing the restaurant. Then on top of everything else, Grandma became very ill. She was still in Italy. Papa wanted very much to be able to see her before she died but there was no money for a trip and Papa had just had the surgery and all. That was when we became business associates with Bryce.’’
Angela looked around to make sure no one could hear them. ‘‘He took care of all our past-due bills and paid for Papa and Momma to go back to Italy to see Grandma. She died a few days after they arrived. They never would have been able to see her for one last time if it hadn’t been for Bryce. When they got back, he sent Papa to a heart specialist in the United States to make sure everything was okay.’’
‘‘Is that when he took part of your business and made himself your partner?’’ As soon as the words were out of her mouth Paige wanted to bite her tongue. They sounded too caustic. This young woman obviously thought the world of Bryce, as did her entire family. The last thing she wanted to do was attract undue attention to her real motives and intentions.
Angela cocked her head and creased her forehead for a moment, her expression indicating her confusion over Paige’s comments. ‘‘Not at all. It was Papa who offered half the restaurant to Bryce to repay the money he had spent on us. Bryce said they would draw up a formal contract for twenty-five percent rather than fifty percent. So far, he hasn’t taken any of his profits out of the business. He says we should hold the money in the bank and use it as an emergency fund, in case Papa gets sick again.’’
Angela remained for a few minutes longer before hurrying back to work. Paige sat in silence digesting the conversation they had just shared. Was Angela confused about what had happened? The story Angela just gave her did not in any way resemble the actions of a ruthless shark preying on unsuspecting people. Not only had he made his twenty-five percent of the profits available to Antonio as an unrestricted fund, Bryce had reduced Antonio’s taxable income by being a partner in the business. This meant that Bryce was actually paying part of Antonio’s tax burden.
She didn’t know what to make of this new and contradictory information. Could she have been mistaken about Bryce Lexington? She began to wonder if she really knew exactly who and what he was. She clenched her jaw and gathered her determination. No…she was not mistaken. Obviously Angela was the one who didn’t have all the facts. Antonio’s daughter was far too trusting, the type of mistake Paige would not make for herself ever again.
FALLING FOR THE ENEMY, a Silhouette Desire by Shawna Delacorte, is a Harlequin reissue in ebook available at http://ebooks.eharlequin.com (do search for author name Shawna Delacorte). Also available at Barnes and Noble in NookBooks www.bn.com and Amazon for Kindle www.amazon.com Information is available on my website www.shawnadelacorte.com
Paige Bradford intended to expose Bryce Lexington for the ruthless shark he was. But when they started working together, the sparks they gave off jettisoned her best intentions…. Paige knew this corporate hunk wasn’t what he seemed—but was she losing her heart…to the enemy?
Hiring oh-so-sexy Paige might have been the biggest mistake Bryce had ever made, but he had to learn what she was after. Especially since she had Bryce—the man with everything—wanting something far more precious: Paige’s love.