“Do you know how hard it was to find someone who I believed wouldn’t be lured to sell their story to the tabloids? Now I’m going to have to start all over. Did you think about that? For someone who is so concerned about his sister, you sure as hell didn’t stop and think about what this meant for her.”
Lucian’s eyes narrowed. “Nothing has changed. Ms. Hughes is perfect for the job.”
“Maybe she was, Lucian, but clearly, not anymore.”
“She still is.”
Dev raised a brow. “Seems to me that she is probably trying to leave this house right now.”
“I just need to talk to her,” Lucian advised. “But she’s not leaving.”
His brother tilted his head to the side. “I hope you’re not planning to try to keep her against her will.”
“I would never do such a thing.”
The expression on Dev’s face turned bland.
“Look, what I said was true. I found out her name from paperwork you had on your desk and I checked her out. We talked about why she was a nurse and shit like that.” He skated over how the evening ended, because that truly was none of his brother’s business. “She didn’t know who I was. That’s why she’s upset. I just need to . . . smooth things over and everything will be fine.”
Dev studied him for a moment. “Did you also do your own background check?”
“Figured she passed that if you hired her.”
Giving him a curt nod, Dev pulled his phone out of his pocket. “If she stays, I’m fine with it, but if she causes problems, I will deal with her.”
The last thing Dev would be doing was dealing with her, but he nodded so he could end this conversation. Turning, he headed out of the room. His brother had been right, though. Julia hadn’t made it out of the house. She hadn’t made it past the hallway.
“I know you’re trying to do your job, but I really need to step outside.” She was speaking fast, her voice pitching high. “I need to do—”
“Lucian,” Richard said, looking relieved as Lucian came around the corner. “I believe Ms. Hughes needs to speak to you.”
She spun around. Her cheeks were the prettiest pink he’d ever seen and those brown eyes were on fire. “Taylor is the last person I need to speak with.”
Richard’s brows rose quizzically.
“Could you give us a moment, Richard?”
Clutching the strap like she was about to use the bag as a weapon, she twisted toward Richard. “You do not need to give us a moment.”
Barely hiding his grin, Richard gave them a quick bow and then pivoted on his heel, rushing off with the speed of a much younger man.
“I don’t want to speak to you.” She spun back to him. “Actually, yes I do.”
Well, he figured that was a good start.
“You are a liar and a piece of—”
“When did I lie to you?” he cut in, clasping his hands behind his back. “Taylor is my middle name. I never said I wasn’t a de Vincent and everything we talked about was true.”
“Don’t you dare play semantics with me. You knew who I was and pretended that you had no idea.”
“I knew of you, but I didn’t know you.”
“Semantics,” she hissed, stepping into him and tipping her head back. “You came to the bar, talked to Anna so you could get introduced to me.”
“That is true. I wanted to talk to you.”
“For what reason?” she demanded and then rushed on before he could answer. “Were you trying to vet me for this job in the most creepy, inappropriate manner humanly possible? When you could’ve just introduced yourself like a normal human being and asked me all those questions. By the way, it now makes sense why you were so interested in my career choices.”
“I was interested in your answers—”
“Because your family hired me,” she pointed out.
“There is that, but I would’ve been interested nonetheless.”
“Oh yeah. I’m so sure about that. What you did was so incredibly wrong. Do you understand that?”
“Well, it doesn’t sound very appropriate when you phrase it the way you did,” he agreed, fighting a grin. As twisted as it was, he was enthralled by her anger and how she was going toe to toe with him. “But, yes, I was vetting you.”
She barked out a harsh laugh as she took a step back. “I guess I failed then, so why am I here? Just to make a fool out of me?”
“What?” Shock splashed through him like a dousing of icy water. “I need to make something real clear for you. If you failed, you wouldn’t be standing here. You wouldn’t have made it on the plane, and I’m not making a fool out of you.”
That beautiful chest rose sharply. “If you think either two of those things will make me feel better, they don’t. I don’t even know what to say at this point.”
At this point, Lucian decided honesty was the best route to go, but they were too close to his brother. He placed his hand on her lower back. “Let’s go—”
“Don’t touch me,” she snapped.
Tilting his chin to the side, he withdrew his hand as he said in a low voice, “That’s not what you told me last night.”
Her eyes widened. “You son of—”
“My mother was a lot of things, but she wasn’t a bitch. My father? He was a bastard, though.” Placing his hand on her shoulder, he ignored her protests and attempts to shrug off his grip as he steered farther down the hall. Reaching around her, he opened the door and guided her in.
“How many rooms does this house have?” she exclaimed, turning around in a slow circle as she took in the handcrafted chairs and couches. “Like who needs these many chairs and couches?” She ran a hand over an arm, which left Lucian feeling a little jealous of a chair. “Though this craftsmanship is amazing.”
A grin teased at his lips. “I’ve honestly lost count of how many rooms, but there are many.”
Julia dropped her purse on the couch and faced him, folding her arms. “I just need to get something off my chest.”
Hopefully it was her shirt.
He kept that to himself.
“If I had known who you were, I wouldn’t have let you into my apartment or done any of . . . any of that with you.” Her cheeks deepened in color, reminding him of the fact that last night wasn’t something she did often, and the knowledge still pleased him as deeply as it had before.
“So you’re saying you wouldn’t have let me rip your dress and fuck you with my fingers? Is that what you’re saying?”
She made a choking sound as she glanced around the empty room. “I cannot believe you just said that. I mean, I really cannot.”
“It’s what happened and I don’t regret it. At all.”
“Well, I regret it. Obviously,” she spat, throwing up her arms. “The one time I go home with a guy he turns out to kind of be my boss who was scouting me out for the job I was hired for.”
“You don’t regret it,” he said, stepping toward her.
She held her ground. “Just because you had your fingers in me doesn’t mean you know me.”
“That might be true, but I do know you want to save snakes and rats in your animal sanctuary.” He came closer, thrilled when she didn’t back up. He lowered his head so they were almost eye level. “And I also know how it feels when you come all over my fingers.”
Julia sucked in a sharp breath.
“And I also know exactly how your nipples fit between my fingers,” he went on, voice lower and lower. “And I know the hot as hell sound you make when you come. So, I know you don’t regret that.”
She looked away, exhaling heavily. Several seconds passed and then she said, “You left without even—you know what? It doesn’t matter.”
“No, it does.” When she started to look away, he caught her chin and gently guided her gaze back to his. “I wanted nothing more than to get inside you. Hell, it was all I could think about after I left, and no matter how many times I jerked off afterward changed that.”