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Just To Be With You (Page 21)

“Rafe and I were wondering how it’s going, too,” Brooke said. “Do tell.”

Feeling slightly flustered at the sudden attention, plus the glass of wine on a fairly empty stomach, Tatiana said, “It’s going fine.” Ugh, that didn’t sound right. It was just that the day had ended on such a weird note, and she was still reeling from it. “I mean, it’s going great.” She took a sip from her glass before repeating, “Really great.”

Everyone remained quiet, as though they were waiting for her to say something more. Tatiana had promised not to share any information about what happened in Ian’s office with anyone. And she would never spill his business secrets. But she had to know, “What’s the deal with his ex-wife?”

“Chelsea?” Mia made a face. “Why do you ask?”

“I met her today.” Tatiana held up a hand. “But I promised Ian I’d keep everything that goes on in his office private, so that’s all I can say. I shouldn’t even have brought it up, and I don’t mean to gossip, especially about your family—”

“We know that’s not why you’re asking,” Mia said, cutting off her apology. “You’re probably just wondering, How could he have married her?”

Tatiana had to reluctantly nod. “When I saw them together…well, I just couldn’t see them together.”

“I’m probably not the most objective person in the world when it comes to Chelsea,” Mia admitted, “but I swear to you that when he brought her home for the first time, we all tried to like her. We really gave it everything we could, all of us—my brothers, my parents, my cousins. But in the end she never wanted to be any closer to us than we did to her. I think she was used to getting what she wanted…and she wanted my brother all to herself. No family always in the way. No work commitments eating up both his days and nights, when she was dying to have her picture taken for the society pages in the couture dresses he bought for her.”

“But family and work,” Tatiana said, “that’s who Ian is. He loves you guys to pieces and running his business gives him a rush, every day, every part of it.”

“He used to be a lot of fun, too, though you might not see it.”

“I saw it when he was playing football with your brothers on Friday night.” She smiled. “And when he was teasing me about falling asleep in a meeting this afternoon, neither of us could keep from laughing.”

“You fell asleep in a meeting?”

“Evidently,” she said, embarrassment flooding back, “I was snoring.”

“And Ian teased you about it?” Colbie asked, sharing a look with Mia and Brooke that Tatiana couldn’t quite read.

“When he realized I felt really bad about it, he made me feel better by telling me he’d once done the exact same thing.”

All three women looked surprised, but none more than Ian’s sister. “Let me make sure I have this straight. First he laughed with you in his office and then he went out of his way to make you feel better? Amazing.” Mia took a large gulp of her drink, then refilled everyone’s glasses. “Anyway, back to Chelsea. I think she planned on changing him. Standard female fantasy, so I guess I can’t totally blame her for that.” Though it was clear to Tatiana that Mia wanted to. “When he didn’t magically change to suit her, from what I could see from the outside looking in, she decided to blame him for not being good enough to her. For not treating her the way she believed he should treat her. And for, and this is a direct quote from a hissy fit of hers that I accidentally walked in on, ‘stealing the best years of her life.’”

Everything Mia said resonated with what Tatiana had seen and heard in his office that afternoon. And it also helped to explain why he’d looked guilty and written Chelsea that check. Clearly, he felt bad that he hadn’t been able to change who he was for the woman he’d married.

“She’s a fool for not loving him just the way he is.”

“No kidding.” Mia muttered. “But, you know,” she said with a speculative glance at Tatiana, “I’ve always believed there was someone out there who would love him exactly the way he is.”

Just then, Ford walked onto the patio. “Hey, beautiful.”

Mia turned to kiss him, and Tatiana barely held in a sigh at how perfect they were together.

“I can see there’s some serious girl talk going down here, so I won’t stay.”

“Is your guitar calling to you from the tower again?”

He grinned, but there was a sensuality behind his smile that Tatiana couldn’t miss—as if the two of them shared a sexy secret about his guitar. “You could come play it for me later if you’re in the mood.” One more hot kiss and he headed off with a wave good-bye.

All four of the women watched him walk away with healthy doses of female appreciation. But even though Tatiana couldn’t deny that he was definitely good-looking in his dark jeans and T-shirt, Ford felt more like a brother to her than anything else.

Only Ian had ever made her heat up the way Mia did when Ford kissed her, or light up the way Brooke did when she talked about marrying Rafe, or blush the way Colbie did when telling them about her honeymoon with her new husband.

As the conversation shifted to the best places in town to find good deals on shoes and purses and all the things Tatiana should do and see now that she’d be living in Seattle for a while, she realized just how glad she was that she’d come tonight. Now that Valentina was traveling with Smith so much, and especially while they were gone scouting locations for their new movie, she’d missed their girls’ nights. Especially at a time like this when she felt off-kilter and needed an attitude reset.

Okay, she thought now that she’d had some distance from what had happened in Ian’s office, so she’d told him that she was falling for him. But since it wasn’t her nature to hold her emotions in, Tatiana decided she wasn’t going to keep feeling weird about it, or be angry with him for the way he’d told her to forget those feelings.

Because Mia was right—there was someone out there who would love Ian just the way he was.

Her.

CHAPTER TEN

On Wednesday morning at 7:59 a.m., Ian stood in his office and looked down at his watch for the dozenth time in the past several minutes.

Where was she?

Uncomfortable with the thought of Tatiana waiting outside the building, Ian had given her a temporary employee badge. She’d been in early again on Tuesday, waiting in his office with a cup of coffee just the way he took it. Today, she knew his first meeting with his executive staff for their weekly review and planning session began at eight, which meant she should have been here fifteen minutes ago.

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