I ran a fingertip along my lower lashes, shook off the awful feeling beginning to consume me, and looked at Preston.
“I’ll need a copy of your medical records before we can begin. Proof of health and preventative contraception measures taken. Mine are already on file.”
I stood up and tried to get a handle on my shaking legs. There was a lot to think about and I hadn’t entirely made up my mind. Though part of me felt like a glorified prostitute, the other part really heeded what Preston had said.
We were being honest, mapping out what we both wanted and didn’t want, and what we stood to gain. We liked each other. Attraction wasn’t an issue. People got married for much less. And gold-diggers went about this thing all the time in secret. We were consenting adults discussing a contract.
Yet the mental fight I was waging wasn’t one hundred percent convincing. Still, my parents were floundering, and it was my fault. Even at the rate I was going with my job at the hotel, it wasn’t enough. My father needed serious care and my mother needed help.
I walked to the door and opened it. Preston was right behind me.
“If I say no, do I still have my job?”
“Of course. What we discussed here today stays between us. Your job will be safe. It’s not my desire to make your life difficult.”
I looked over my shoulder at him. A soft sincerity tinted his eyes and it hit me like a punch to the gut. There was something about him. And it was suffocating me, forcing me to beg for air only he could provide.
He followed me down the hall. We rode the elevator in total silence and once in the lobby, I faced him. My back was toward the massive front doors and the chill of spring air hit my shoulders as guests walked in and out of the hotel. To my right was the desk I would walk behind and start my shift. I tried not to notice the prying eyes staring at me.
Preston gently grabbed my hand in his and ran his thumb over my knuckles. The action was so sensitive, and so different from the all-business attitude of a few moments ago in his office. He was close enough that I could feel the heat of his body envelop mine and I wanted to reach out and snag that warmth. To find some kind of comfort in this whole mess and gain footing on the life I had been missing for the past six months.
“How long do I have to think about this?” I breathed. It was easy getting caught up in his presence—a fact I was learning the hard way.
He tilted his head down, his lips hovering over mine. I was lost. All I could focus on was his mouth and the memory of how good it felt on me.
He glanced over my shoulder. “About forty-five seconds.”
My eyes shot wide. “What? I can’t make a decision like this in—”
“This is crazy!” I whispered harshly. The smile he unleashed turned all my insides to puddles and I knew he had me.
“Is that a yes?”
“When would we start?”
He pulled me into his arms. “Right now,” and kissed the breath from me.
His kiss was firm, but his lips were soft against mine. It was a possessive. Controlled. Meant to knock a girl off her feet. And he had succeeded because my knees were weak and the only reason I stayed upright was due to his strong embrace.
He pulled away and barely touched the tip of my nose with his.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
I didn’t get a single word out because he spun me around to face two very confused-looking men with equally questioning glares.
“Father, how are you?” Preston said and shook the older man’s hand while keeping one on the small of my back.
“Preston,” he greeted back, his eyes floating to mine.
He was a tall man and in great shape despite the fact he had to be pushing seventy-five. Preston shared the same strong jaw and broad shoulders, but the older man’s eyes were a dim blue while Preston’s were a vibrant green—a trait he must have gotten from his mother.
“What is this?” the younger man asked, waving a hand in my direction as if inquiring about a stain on the carpet. “Another one of your pets?”
Preston’s hand on my back tightened, fisting the material of my shirt. His stare was locked on the man who, judging by the ass**le attitude and blatant insult, was Preston’s brother I’d heard so much about.
“I’m Megan Riley,” I offered, hoping to defuse the testosterone exchange.
“My fiancé,” Preston added with a smirk. “Megan, this is my father John and my brother Charlie.”
If Charlie’s distaste about my presence wasn’t already obvious, the creepy and unwavering glare was a dead giveaway. I tried to swallow the unease flicking up my throat.
“You can’t be serious,” Charlie said, crossing his arms over his chest. “Don’t your women usually stray before you get them locked down?” The grin teasing Charlie’s mouth was pure evil. I wasn’t exactly following the digs he was throwing, but I did recognize one thing: Preston. And he was pissed.
With a tight grip on me, his body hummed with tension, like any moment he’d shoot out of his skin and rip Charlie’s throat out.
“Is there a reason you’re being so rude?” I said to Charlie. My parents taught me that if you had a question, ask. They also taught me manners, which Charlie was clearly lacking.
“It’s because he’s threatened,” Preston said, his stare fused on his brother.
Charlie was shorter and not much to look at. His skin was showing signs of his age, which I’d guessed to be early forties. I knew he was older than Preston but I didn’t know by how much. Probably because I didn’t even know how old my “fiancé” was.
“Well, I think this is splendid!” John said and wrapped me in a hug.
Preston wasn’t kidding about him really wanting this legacy. But the tense interaction between his sons—accompanied by John’s obvious avoidance—told me that there was a lot this family buried and didn’t deal with.
“When did you two get engaged?”
“Recently.” Preston answered his father before I could.
“You should have called,” John said to Preston.
“You were in Paris.”
“Oh, I hear Paris is beautiful this time of year,” I offered, hoping this direction was leading to some kind of pleasant conversation.
“It was,” Charlie cut in. “The family reunion was grueling though.” He shot a sinister leer at Preston.