Home > Any Time, Any Place (Billionaire Builders #2)(14)

Any Time, Any Place (Billionaire Builders #2)(14)
Author: Jennifer Probst

“What about the time restrictions? Can you really get all this done?”

“Yes. The booths will only add two days, which will still give you plenty of time.”

She tapped a fingernail against the table while she flipped through the estimates and pictures. “I love the idea. Just don’t know if it’s smart to lay out the extra chunk of money right now.”

“I’m happy to put you on a monthly payment plan. I just think this is a move you won’t regret.”

A ghost of a smile touched her lips. “Why do I feel you’ve used that line many times before?”

“Because I have.”

“Did it work?”

This time, he gave her a playful wink. “Every time,” he drawled.

She dropped the papers back onto the table and studied him. Dalton felt that touch of connection buzz through the room again. Like they’d known each other before, in another life. Not that he believed in that silly stuff. “Well, I guess your line worked again. I’ll do the booths, too.”

“You won’t regret it. I’ll make it so good for you.”

This time she laughed out loud. The deep, husky sound made him shift uncomfortably in his chair with raw hunger. A sense of pride zapped through him. He wished he could make this woman laugh more often.

“How soon can you start?” she asked.

“I’ve cleared my schedule. I’ll pick up the supplies tomorrow and start in two days. I’ll need one full week for the pub to be closed.”

She nodded. “I’ll post it on Facebook and put out signs tomorrow so everyone knows we’ll be closed. I already spoke to my staff. I’ve decided to do a grand reopening once the work is done. It’ll draw more crowds and press, and I’ll be able to unveil some special cocktails I’ve been working on.”

“Great idea.” Curiosity burned through him. “Have you always wanted your own restaurant?”

“God, no. I was going to be a movie star. I always felt like I was meant for big things.”

“So your family doesn’t own a chain of restaurants and begged you to run the dynasty?”

It was meant as a teasing remark, but Dalton noticed the raw grief that flickered over her face before she settled back into the familiar, distant chill. “No. My father was an artist. My aunt is an actress on Broadway. I never really knew my mother.”

“Amazing gene pool. No wonder you longed for Hollywood. Do I know any of your father’s work?”

“He’s dead.”

Dalton jerked back. Suddenly her dark eyes burned with a tinge of raw emotion and something he couldn’t define. Almost as if she blamed him for asking the question. “I’m so sorry.” She didn’t answer, just stared at him, unblinking. “My parents are gone, too,” he offered.

She dropped her gaze and studied the floor. “How?”

Now he was the one who stiffened. “Heart attack.”

“Both of them?”

The lid on the memory gaped open. He slammed it closed. “Lost my father to a heart attack last year. Lost my mother a while ago in a car accident.”

“I’m sorry.” Her tone held . . . mockery? Anger? “Were you close to your mother?”

Oh, hell no. He never went there with anyone other than his brothers, and he planned to keep it that way. He reached into the pocket of his jeans and popped out two mini Hershey bars, deliberately closing the subject. “Want one?”

“No, thanks.”

He unwrapped the foil and popped one in his mouth. Immediately, the creamy morsel melted on his tongue and gave him a tiny sugar bump, soothing his nerves. He got the second one ready to go. Time to direct the conversation back to its original roots. “What made you want to buy this place, then? Movie star never worked out?”

She paused, as if recognizing his deliberate attempt to avoid the subject of his family, but then she seemed to relax. “Nah, I liked the idea of being a star, but I didn’t want to actually take acting lessons, voice lessons, dance lessons, and spend my youth waiting in audition lines while I waitressed. I was a bit of a hobo. Traveled, took odd jobs, bummed places to live.”

He popped the second Hershey bar into his mouth. “Not many people have the guts to do that. We’re too tied to a college education and a job so we can raise our two-point-four kids with a BMW in the driveway.”

She wrinkled her nose. “I was never interested in having children young, and I despise BMWs. Unless it’s a convertible, of course.”

“Of course. Where’d you travel?”

She gave a little sigh. “Italy. Spain. Paris. Amsterdam. I did a cross-country trip from California to New York, hitting every hidden spot I could possibly find. I wasn’t tied to anything but the thought of what was around the next corner.”

A woman after his own heart. He’d been ruthlessly trained to be a part of Pierce Brothers Construction since he was two years old. He’d rarely questioned it because there had been no other option, and thank God he liked the work. But heading out to California for five years had soothed his wild soul. Imagining a trip across the United States and the world was a dream for the very brave who rolled the dice and took the gamble. Raven was a rare breed of woman. Why did she want to ruin her freedom by getting married? Wouldn’t a husband crush the beauty of her need to be free? He wanted to ask but figured she’d retreat back to her iciness, and he was enjoying her openness too much.

“It sounds amazing. Are you originally from Harrington?”

She shook her heeled foot, then abruptly stopped. Funny, she definitely wasn’t one to be chatty about herself. It only made him want more facts about her past. “A few towns over,” she finally said.

“What made you stop traveling?”

“I needed to stop running,” she said simply.

Her answer shook him to the core. Needing more, he leaned forward, locking his gaze with hers. “Why?”

Too late. Obviously spooked from what she had shared, Raven jumped up from the chair in a flurry of activity. “I have to go. We’re good here?”

“Yeah. We’re good.” Dismissed, Dalton rose, filing his papers back into the organized folders. “I’ll see you Tuesday morning. Text or call if you have any questions. My private cell number is on here.” He plucked a card from his wallet and pressed it into her outstretched palm.

A shock bolted right through him the moment his fingers brushed hers.

WTF?

She jerked back, eyes wide as a strange energy enveloped both of them in an almost misty fog. His dick roared to life, aching hard, and Dalton gripped her hand as he tried to figure out why his heart twisted in a longing ache for something he didn’t know.

“Raven?”

Her name ripped from his lips as a question.

Pure fear flickered over her face. She snatched her hand from his, cradling it tight to her chest, and whirled away from him. “See you Tuesday.”

He opened his mouth to call out for her, but she’d already disappeared.

Chapter eight

Raven woke up with test stomach.

Holding back a groan, she tried to breathe past it. It was a condition that had plagued her all through school, even though she’d never been a nerd or obsessed with perfect grades. It was more like being at the mercy of a lousy number. One wrong answer, even though she knew the material, could skew an entire letter grade. Her father used to make her plain toast with a touch of marmalade to help soothe her stomach. He’d always known test days and anticipated her needs.

God, she missed him.

Fighting back a sigh, she checked the mirror before she headed out to the bar. She donned her usual outfit: jeans, tank, and Skechers sneakers with high wedges. She left her hair loose and messy, since she wasn’t serving food, and deliberately veered away from makeup. No need to impress the man. They were both there for business, and maybe she’d gain more traction on his past. The image of his face turning cold and hard when he told her about the car accident haunted her. She’d been so intent on digging for information, she hadn’t prepared for the emotion behind it. He was someone who understood what it felt like to lose a parent in an accident. Somehow, she’d kept her idea of him separate from any feelings, as if his accusations against her father had numbed him to the power of grief. She was just beginning to realize it was going to be harder than she thought to revisit the past.

   
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