Lia gasped. “She must have been old enough to be your mother.”
“I think she was around thirty at the time. She was beautiful, experienced, and generous. What more could a boy ask for?” He smiled. “She taught me a lot.”
“Do you and she still…”
“Sleep together? No.”
He got up and poured himself a drink. “You want one?”
Lia shook her head.
“I’ll see you at dinner then.” He took his drink and disappeared into his office, leaving Lia alone to brood. But not for long. Thirty minutes after Luc arrived, the doorbell rang. When Luc didn’t emerge from his office, she went to answer it herself. Her mouth fell open when she saw who was standing on the other side.
“I went to see Kelly,” Pete said. “She gave me this address. She said you were staying with a friend.” He peered around the opulent hallway, his eyes widening.
“She’s staying with me,” Luc said from behind her. Lia swung around; she hadn’t realized Luc had emerged from his den. He came up close behind her and slipped a hand around her waist, pulling her against him in a gesture that was blatantly possessive. Lia felt the heat of him through the thin silk of his shirt.
“The security guard phoned up from the lobby, otherwise your employer wouldn’t have gotten this far,” Luc whispered in her ear. The rush of his breath against her skin gave her goose bumps.
The two of them eyed each other up and down like two stallions sniffing over the same mare.
Pete appeared shocked at the arm around her waist. “I just wanted to check that you were okay. And we need to talk about that business we discussed. I’ve cleared it with the bank.”
“Come in,” Lia said. She pulled out of Luc’s embrace and took a step toward Pete. Luc’s eyes bored into her, but she ignored him as best she could and led Pete into the sitting room. Luc followed and stood lounging against the wall inside the door, arms folded across his broad chest, watching them.
“Well,” Lia said after a couple of minutes of uncomfortable silence. She was doing her best not to squirm under the intense scrutiny of two sets of eyes. “It’s lovely to see you, Pete.”
“Er, yes.” Pete looked around him in obvious amazement.
Luc pushed himself off from the wall. He smiled, a smooth sophisticated smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m being remiss as a host. Let me get you both a drink. Scotch okay?”
Not waiting for an answer, he strode across the room and poured three drinks. He took two across, handed one to Pete, then put the other in Lia’s hand, closing her fingers around the glass. He went back for his own, and took a sip as he continued to watch them.
When nobody else said a word, he turned to Pete. “I’m having a party next Saturday night,” he said. “We’ll be announcing our engagement. Perhaps you’d like to come. I’m sure Lia would like to have an old friend present.”
“Announcing your what?” Pete whirled around to face Lia. “You’re engaged? Since when?”
She opened her mouth to deny it, and Luc shot her a sharp, warning glance.
“It was sudden,” Lia said weakly. She hated Luc for mentioning it like that; Pete was clearly shocked, and she glared at Luc. “Luc, I’d like a word with Pete. Alone.”
“I wasn’t asking,” she said.
Luc looked at her in amazement. She got the distinct impression that he wasn’t used to people standing up to him and wasn’t sure how to react. “I’ll be in my office.”
“Who is he, Lia?” Pete asked when the door shut behind Luc.
“He was an acquaintance of my father’s. I thought he might be able to help me find him, and we just…”
Pete seemed perplexed, unsure as to what to say, as if he was thinking his words out very carefully, which was totally unlike Pete, because he was the most straightforward person she knew. “Lia,” he said, “you know what your father was like, don’t you?”
“Of course I know, I lived with him, and he wasn’t a nice man,” she said stiffly, “but that doesn’t mean Luc is the same.”
Pete raised an eyebrow. “My point is, considering what your father was like is it sensible to trust an old friend of his?”
“Luc wasn’t a friend, just an acquaintance.”
“And that makes it better? What do you know about him?” He waved a hand, encompassing the apartment. “Or is it just his money you’re interested in?”
“Oh, I know you’re not interested in money for yourself, but you’d do anything to keep that house.” He took a sip of his drink. “You know I said I’d help.”
She sighed. “It’s not that simple, Pete.”
“So tell me.”
But how could she? She certainly wasn’t going to bring up those pictures. Pete would probably go bananas, and she didn’t want him getting into a fight with Luc. Despite the men being around similar size, Pete was a gentleman, while she’d bet Luc could fight dirty. She also knew now that she was never going to return Pete’s feelings; her reactions to Luc had shown how impossible that would be, and she couldn’t let Pete go on thinking there was a future for them. She had to be ruthless.
“Luc’s the first man I ever wanted.”
Pete winced. He turned away from her and stood gazing out the window for long moments. When he turned back, he seemed composed, but the hurt lingered in his eyes. “I was waiting for you to grow up. I guess I waited too long.”
“I’m sorry, Pete.” What else could she say?
Pete shoved his hands in his pockets; she saw the tension in the stiff line of his spine. “I guess that’s it then.” He placed his glass on the table.
Lia led him back to the door.
“Just remember,” he said, “I’m here if you need me, and the offer of the land is still open.”
He stood for a moment then took her in his arms and gave her a hug.
“Let her go.”
Luc’s voice came from behind. Lia stepped away from Pete, her fist clenching at her side. Going up on tiptoes, she kissed Pete’s cheek. “Thanks for coming.”
She watched as he walked away, then stalked back and plunked herself down on the sofa, turning to glare at Luc. He smiled and crossed the room to pour himself another drink before sitting opposite her.
“What’s this business he was talking about?” he asked.