Just To Be With You (Page 30)
Of course, a big part of her hoped that if she did, then maybe she could also figure out how to get him to give their attraction a chance to blossom into something more. But more than that—even if he never let himself fall for her the way she’d already fallen for him—she wanted to see him smile, to hear him laugh…and to know that he was happy.
Truly happy, with or without her.
As Tatiana walked into his living room, she immediately noticed several touches that she guessed had come from the women in his family who loved him. A quilted throw over his couch that looked like it had been made by his cousin Chase’s wife, Chloe. A beautifully sculpted bowl displayed on the center of the coffee table that was obviously one of Vicki Bennett’s creations. The first-edition leather-bound classics that his librarian cousin Sophie had likely helped him find through her contacts in the book world. And, of course, a big new box of chocolates that Brooke must have given him as a gift to welcome him back to Seattle.
The finely crafted miniature ship on the mantel above his fireplace was so unique she had to take a closer look, and was amazed when she saw Dylan’s name scrawled on the base in black ink. She knew he built full-size sailboats, but she hadn’t realized he was just as skilled with models. A few prints were hanging on the walls, each of them drawings of historic Seattle houses. Something told her it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume that they were a few of the homes Ian’s brother Adam had brought back to life.
Yes, Ian’s penthouse condo had high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. There was the requisite Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezer and marble countertops. If you didn’t look any closer, it might seem like the typical CEO domain.
But Tatiana knew that there was nothing impersonal about it. Not at all.
Because he’d surrounded himself with pieces of the people he loved in every corner of his home.
Maybe, she suddenly thought, Ian wasn’t nearly the mystery he seemed. Because when family was at the heart of everything a man was, surely he’d soon realize that he wanted the same thing for himself.
Ian felt that they had both made a valiant effort to keep things from being awkward as Tatiana continued to shadow him after the scene with his ex-wife. It was a particularly busy couple of days for him at the office, between plans for the big new acquisition, and the fundraiser less than thirty-six hours away. Too busy for them to have time to talk more about almost-kisses, or for her to offer him any more hugs. And he was glad for it.
Or, rather, he should have been glad.
The problem was that even though Tatiana had made more than good on her promise to stay out of the way while she shadowed him, trying to concentrate on work with her nearby hadn’t gotten any easier. She was careful to remain quiet and unobtrusive while he held his meetings, and yet the whole time he was on his conference calls and in video meetings, he could sense her intelligent and perceptive eyes on him. He could smell the vanilla of her shampoo. And he could feel the innate sensual heat of her radiating out to him even from across a large conference room.
He had always been a man who was attuned to and aware of beautiful women, and there wasn’t a person alive who would question Tatiana’s stunning beauty. But even that wasn’t an excuse for the way he continually reacted to her presence. At thirty-eight, Ian had more than enough physical self-control to keep from getting a hard-on around a woman just because she had a pretty face and a knockout figure.
Except when it came to Tatiana.
She’d been so fun, so open, so damned beautiful when she’d been hanging out with her fans at the warehouse a short while ago. And when he’d seen her laugh and play with the little girl who had been so in awe of her…well, Ian wasn’t made entirely of stone, even if his ex had said more than once that he was.
One day, Tatiana was going to make someone a great wife, and she was going to be a beautiful mother, too. He just hoped like hell that the guy she ended up choosing would be worth it and be good enough for her.
His brothers, and his single cousins out in Maine and New York, were among the only guys on the planet who might be good enough for her. And yet the thought of her with any of them made his gut clench tight, then tighter still.
Again and again, he found his gaze drifting to where she sat on the leather seat in his home office, her head bent over her notebook, her pen moving steadily across the page. He wondered what she thought of where he lived, if she thought his neat and tidy living room was impersonal and cold compared to the well-lived-in mess of hers. Did she think he was a hard-ass? Did she find his intense business focus boring?
And did she have even the faintest clue that it was taking absolutely every ounce of self-control he possessed not to lift her into his arms, carry her to his bed just down the hall from his home office, and take her?
Damn it, he thought with a hard shake of his head as Larry, his vice president stationed in Japan, formally thanked everyone for attending the meeting. Ian needed to keep his mind on business, if for no other reason than to keep it out of the gutter.
He shut down the conferencing system and looked up to find Tatiana staring at him, her gaze unfocused. Her ponytail had come partway free and several thick tendrils of hair softly curled around her face. Her mouth was slick and pink as if she’d been licking it.
Sweet Lord, how he wanted her. He wanted to taste her wet lips, wanted to grasp her curves in his hands and drag her against him and just take and take and take.
The ringing of his private cell phone yanked him from his utterly inappropriate thoughts. He looked down and saw that it was his cousin Smith calling. Guilt hit him square in the chest again, as though Smith had caught him red-handed mentally stripping away her clothes. Figuring it must be another question about Serena for Tatiana, he picked up and said, “Do you need to talk to Tatiana again?”
“I do. Is she with you?”
“She is.” Ian got up and came around his desk to give her the phone. “It’s Smith.”
After saying hello, she frowned at whatever Smith said. “No, I didn’t get any of your messages. I left my cell phone at home again. At least,” she said with a small smile for Ian, “I hope that’s where it is. What’s up? Do you want to chat more about Serena?”
A moment later, she shot up from the couch, her eyes wide with shock. When she looked up at Ian, her breath was coming faster and her skin had flushed a deep rose. “Wait a second, Smith, I think I need you to say that again so I can be sure I heard you right.”