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Just To Be With You (Page 2)

Finally, he cleared his throat. But her feet didn’t stop tapping out the beat and she didn’t turn the chair around. Her evocative scent grew stronger when he moved closer, and he gritted his teeth against the potent impact it had on him as he reached for the top of his chair to turn her to face him.

He’d only just begun to spin the chair when she let out a little shriek and jumped halfway out before falling back into it. One hand was pressed over her mouth, the other over her chest, her legs tucked beneath her on the big leather seat as she stared up at him with big green eyes.

Before he could stop himself, Ian was drinking in the gorgeous expanse of skin on display from the way the skirt of her dress rode up her thighs. Her long hair was loose around her shoulders and her skin was flushed from the fright he’d given her.

Was there another woman on the planet this beautiful?

By the time she pulled out her earbuds and slid her legs out from beneath her, she was laughing. “You scared me.”

If he’d thought she was beautiful before, watching her laugh, so free, so easy, showed him he’d had no idea what real beauty was until now. He’d been the one to startle her, but just looking at her had his heart beating too fast.

“How long have you been waiting in my office?”

“A little while. Your assistant wanted to let you know that I was here, but I asked her not to interrupt your meeting. Of course, that was before I knew that you have absolutely nothing worth snooping through in your office.” She paused to look more closely at him. “You look pleased, so I’m hoping that means your meeting was a good one.”

“It was,” he said, even as he worked to bank his surprise that she could read him so easily, or so accurately. “Jake and I had a lot of final details to iron out before the contract of our new agreement can be drawn up, so our meeting went longer than we planned.”

“Are you talking about Sophie’s Jake? You’re investing in McCann’s Pubs?”

“I’ve been interested in his company for a while and the timing was finally right.” Wait a minute—he didn’t need to give her any explanations about why he hadn’t been in his office to greet her. Especially since she hadn’t let him know she was coming in the first place. “Why are you here?”

Her lips curved up at the corners, just the slightest bit. Almost as if she thought his total lack of manners was…cute. “It’s nice to see you again, Ian.”

Damn it, she was right—he was being a jerk. But only because she threw him off in a way no one else ever had.

“You, too.” But he knew that wasn’t good enough when his cousin Smith would be getting married to Tatiana’s sister, Valentina, soon. With any other member of his extended family, Ian would have been friendly, regardless of the circumstances under which he was seeing them. He shouldn’t be treating Tatiana any differently. “You look lovely.”

She flushed slightly, looking down at her dress and smoothing a hand over a lock of hair. In that moment, it struck him that she seemed a little uncertain. As if she wasn’t actually sure he meant it. As if she wasn’t one of the most in-demand and sought-after movie stars in the world who could have any man she wanted falling at her feet.

When he’d met Tatiana at his cousin’s wedding, Ian had been surprised by the air of innocence she had about her. And just as he had then, he reminded himself that anyone who had come of age in Hollywood couldn’t possibly be innocent. It was simply part of her skill as an actress that she was able to make even a cynic like him believe in innocence that wasn’t there.

“Thank you,” she said softly, as if his compliment had meant something more to her than just a polite greeting. Her eyes were shining when she smiled up at him. “I’m excited about being in Seattle to work on my next film. Which is actually why I’m here. I’d like to ask you for your help with something.”

Ian ran his company—and his life—using a combination of calculations, well-thought-out strategy, and what he felt in his gut.

Right now, his gut was telling him to prepare for trouble.

Instinctively sensing he should put space between himself and Tatiana, he gestured for her to have a seat on his couch while he moved to the chair behind his desk. But it was yet another miscalculation where she was concerned, because now he could not only smell her perfume, he could also feel her warmth on the leather where she’d been sitting.

“Is there an issue with financing for your new movie?” Over the past few years he’d worked with Smith to help finance several films, and it was one of the areas where Ian and his executive staff had agreed to increase their focus in the coming year. But investing in a film that was having issues wasn’t part of his plan, and even as he asked Tatiana the question, Ian was already working out how to make this clear to her in a way that wouldn’t upset her.

“No, everything is going great on the back end with the production. That’s not what I need your help with.”

Ian should have been relieved that she hadn’t come to ask him for money. But instead of relief, his tension only grew. Because if she didn’t want his money, what could she possibly want?

Trouble, he thought again as she came to her feet, a whirl of irrepressible passion and energy.

“Each role I play is different, and I love learning about new careers, new worlds. I’m not a method actor by any means—I can’t imagine putting my real life on hold so that I can stay completely in character while filming—but it is really important to me that I fully understand the character I’m playing, inside and out.” She stopped and smiled at him, clearly reading his mind as she said, “I know you’re probably sitting there wondering why I’m telling you all this.”

He would have had to forcibly repress the urge to grin at her breathless monologue were it not for the fact that his gut was still churning with a sense of impending danger. “I am.”

“The character I’m playing next becomes a billionaire overnight when she inherits a huge company and ends up having to run a multinational corporation much like yours. I’d like to shadow you, Ian, for the next couple of weeks as research for my role.”

She wanted to shadow him?

Of all the things he thought she might want from him, he’d never have come up with this in a million years. But that didn’t mean he didn’t immediately know what his answer had to be.

No.

Of course, because she was nearly family, he’d temper his refusal with kindness. Not only would he and Tatiana be seeing each other at family events for the next sixty years, but if his sister Mia found out he’d done something to hurt Tatiana’s feelings, she’d forever crucify him for being an unhelpful jerk.

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