Julia’s eyes widened once more.
“I didn’t seek you out last night to do that. That’s me being real. That wasn’t my intention,” he said, and hell, he was telling the truth. He hadn’t flown to Pennsylvania to hook up with their newly hired nurse and in honesty he had no idea why he hadn’t gone through with it when he had her right there, more than willing. He did know that maybe he’d gone about it the wrong way. “I probably should’ve told you who I was beforehand, but then I doubt you would’ve showed up here if you knew.”
She swallowed and then stepped back, out of his reach. “I think the best thing at this point is for you to pay for the flight I’m going to have to book to go back home.”
Lucian did not like the sound of that. “Go back to what? You’ve quit your job, correct? You don’t even have an apartment anymore,” he reminded her. “There’s nothing but your family to return to.”
Her brows lifted. “Not like I’ve forgotten that, but thanks for reiterating it for me.”
“I don’t think that you have, but I feel like I need to remind you that this well-paying job is yours and if you don’t take it, you don’t have a job.”
Shaking her head, she pressed her lips together. “This is unbelievable. Is there even someone that I was hired to care for?”
“Yes, of course. It’s someone I care very deeply for, which is why I wanted to check you out.” He paused, wanting—no, needing her to understand. “My brother isn’t really good at making decisions where there should be emotion involved. I had to make sure you were a good choice for the job.”
Her gaze flickered to him. Another long moment passed. “I don’t see how this is going to work. I’m . . . this is embarrassing,” she said, and he saw the truth of those words in the sudden glimmer in her eyes. “I don’t know how I could take this job after what has happened—after feeling like I’ve been set up.”
An acidic knot formed in his gut, a feeling vaguely familiar. Was it guilt? Perhaps, a little regret? A muscle flexed in his jaw. He needed to apologize. Not because he should, but because he needed to.
He took a breath. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t.” Shaking her head again, she turned to the side and started to reach for her purse.
Cursing under his breath, Lucian stepped forward. He caught her hand. “I am sorry. That isn’t a fake apology. I’m sorry that I’ve made you feel like you were set up. That wasn’t my intention.”
Her gaze flew to his as her fingers curled helplessly around air.
“But I don’t regret what we shared.” His eyes searched hers. “I’m not going to take that back. I have absolutely no desire to do so.”
Something else filled those beautiful eyes of hers. Something he’d seen in many, many women’s eyes before, but seemed so entirely different when he saw it in hers.
“We have two options. We can be mature adults who had a moment together and are able to move on from that or you can make a really bad decision because you’re uncomfortable.”
“Had a moment?” she whispered, and then yanked her arm free. She lifted her chin. “It was barely a moment.”
A surprised laugh almost escaped him as he stared down at her. Damn. He liked that. He liked her. He was smart enough to keep his expression blank, because at least she wasn’t trying to grab her purse and storm out.
Lucian didn’t want her to leave and he wasn’t fool enough to even lie to himself that he had purely altruistic reasons for wanting her to stay, reasons that had nothing to do with his sister.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, she lowered her chin. Damn it. She wasn’t convinced. So he did want de Vincents always did. He sweetened the deal.
“How about we offer you a . . . a completion bonus,” he said.
She dropped her hand and looked up. “What?”
“A bonus that you’d receive upon completion of this job.” Now he had her attention. “Once we are no longer in need of your services, you would receive a sizeable bonus.”
Julia was quiet, and he could see her working it over in her head. “How much.”
Fighting a grin, he bent over and whispered an amount in her ear. Her soft curse made him chuckle as she jerked back and stared up at him with wide eyes. “I think that bonus would be suitable?” he said. “After all, it would be more than enough money for you to use as a down payment for a nice farm with lots of land for your animal rescue.”
One hand rose to her chest. “You . . . you can’t be serious. That is a lot of money.”
He raised a shoulder. “It’s really nothing.”
She blinked like she was coming out of a dream. “Maybe to you, but to me that’s the kind of money I can’t even count to.”
His lips twitched. “Will you stay, Ms. Hughes?”
“Will I have that completion bonus in writing?” she shot back.
Clever girl. “Of course. I’ll have the ratified contract to you by the end of the day.”
Julia studied him for several seconds, and for a moment, he really thought she was going to turn him down. Then he’d have to add another number. He’d keep going until she said yes.
She exhaled roughly. “All right. I’ll stay.”
Lucian opened his mouth.
Julia cut him off by raising her hand. “But we’re not going to talk about last night. Again. All right? We’re going to pretend it never happened.”
He inclined his head.
Her eyes narrowed, but then she turned away and picked up her purse. With her back to him, Lucian didn’t fight the smile curving his lips. He didn’t promise to not talk about last night or to pretend that it hadn’t happened. Lucian was a lot of things, but he didn’t make idle promises, ones he would have no intention of keeping.
As Julia followed Lucian Taylor de Vincent back to the room she’d originally been placed in, she kept silently screaming the amount of money he’d whispered in her ear. He couldn’t be serious.
A million dollars?
A million dollars might not be much to him, but to her, based on her spending, that was the kind of money she could live off for decades.
She was in a daze—had been since she realized that she’d be working for the de Vincents and then even more thrown off when she saw who Lucian was. Now this? Being offered a million dollars to not say forget this and get the hell out of here?
In all honesty, there wasn’t a single part of her that wondered if she should turn the money down. Who would? Seriously? It wasn’t like he was offering her a million to have sex with him or to murder someone.
And she didn’t even have the brain space at the moment to figure out how he felt about what had happened between them the night before. She didn’t even know how she felt about it now. This morning she was all “no regrets” but now? Julia couldn’t quite claim that. She still felt like she’d been tricked. It was asking a lot for her to believe that he’d had no intention of almost hooking up when they first met.
Lucian’s hand landed softly on her shoulder again, stopping her from walking past the room. She shot him a look of warning.
That was what he was. An insufferable jerk who just offered her a million dollars to complete the job she was hired to do.
An insufferable jerk who’d also given her the first not self-induced orgasm in many, many years, but that was not something she was going to focus on.
Devlin was still in the room. Turning to her, he said something into the phone and then slipped it into the pockets of his pants. His expected gaze settled on her.
Julia knew it was time to pull it together. Inhaling deeply, her back straightened. “Let’s try this again.” She offered her hand to the oldest brother. “I’m Julia Hughes.”
Dev took her hand, shook it, and then dropped it like any normal human being. “So, I am assuming that everything with my brother is . . . settled.”
Praying that she wasn’t blushing, she nodded.
“Then, please have a seat.”
She sat back down, and much to her displeasure, Lucian dropped back down on the couch beside her. “I’m sorry about the earlier incident, but I was caught a little off guard by, well, everything.” She squared her shoulders. “I was under the impression that I would be caring for Mr. Besson’s daughter. I had no idea that it was, well, that you . . .” She peeked at Lucian. He was back to watching her with that smile. “I had no idea I would be working for your family.”