Because of His Fortune (For His Pleasure, Book 25) (6 page)

She also sent Easton an email telling him
about Red’s visit and asking him to contact Red immediately.

The hours ticked off, and she tried her
best, creating a set of meeting minutes that were surely wrong and messy, but
at least they were complete.
 
She
forwarded them to Easton and asked for feedback.

More time went by, and soon the workday
was almost over.

Red checked in again, calling and asking
her for an update.
 

“No update yet,” she informed him.

“I swear,” Red told her, “you guys sure
are running a strange ship over there.”

“I’m so sorry,” she repeated.

“I don’t need an apology.
 
I just need to speak to my number two,”
he explained, and she tried to laugh and not take it personally.

But it was personal.
 
Red thought she was failing.

Easton definitely thought she was
failing.

Even Kennedy seemed to consider her a
loser, somehow—and that had been within seconds of their meeting one
another.

It’s
not my fault
, she wanted
to scream.
 
But who would care?
 
Who would listen?

As far as Red was concerned, she didn’t
know where her boss was, and ultimately, that was her main job.

Grace wrapped up the day at around seven
o’clock that evening, feeling totally and completely wiped out emotionally.

She left the suite and went outside,
looking around as if expecting to see someone—but there was no one, of
course.
 
Then she got on the subway
and took the train to within a few blocks of her apartment.

When she finally arrived at her apartment,
she had the sense of just wanting to fall into bed and forget everything from
that day.

Opening the front door, she instantly
knew something was different, as the smell from inside the house greeted
her.
 
It smelled like home
cooking—gravy, chicken, and another smell…cinnamon.
 

The living room was empty, but she could
see part of the kitchen, and movement and sound from around the corner.
 

“Hello?” she called out, feeling suddenly
uncertain.

And then she noticed a few candles
burning on the living room table and end tables.
 
Those must have been what gave off the
cinnamon smell she’d noticed.

Grace stepped inside and closed the door
behind her.
 

Eliane
must be cooking—maybe she’s having her boyfriend over for dinner.

But it wasn’t Eliane in the kitchen.
 
It was Liam who emerged, wearing an
apron over his slacks and dress shirt.
 
He pulled an oven mitt off his hand and looked at her with eyes that
weren’t completely dry.

Grace felt suddenly short of breath.
 
“What are you doing here?” she asked.

Liam watched her, his expression soft and
concerned.
 
“I’m treating you like
you deserve to be treated,” he told her.
 
“Come, sit on the couch.
 
Let
me get you a glass of wine.
 
Put
your feet up.”

“I don’t think I can do that,” she
replied, feeling pain in her stomach and tightness in her chest.
 
Seeing him there, so close, physically
hurt her—it was pain that she couldn’t handle after the day she’d
experienced.

“Grace,” he said, almost a whisper,
stepping towards her.

“No,” she told him, shaking her head.
 
“You need to leave, Liam.”

He stared at her, his eyes wounded.
 
“But I’m in the middle of cooking you
dinner,” he said, trying to smile.

“I’m sorry.
 
It’s too late for that.”

“Look, I know I’ve been a real jerk.
 
The way I treated you is wrong.”
 
He squeezed the oven mitt, his hands
twisting it so hard it looked like he might tear it apart.

“I can’t let myself be treated this way,”
Grace said.
 
She hated seeing that
look on Liam’s face—those wounded eyes.
 
She felt so much need for him, but at
the same time, she also felt completely used up.

“That’s not going to happen anymore,”
Liam told her.
 
“Just hear me out,
Grace.”
 
He stepped towards her
again.

“No, Liam.
 
You need to go.”
 
She pointed at the door.
 
“Please.”

He stared at her for a long moment.
 
“You’re sure?”

“Just go,” she cried, in a strangled
voice.
 
She looked away from him
then, because the pain in his eyes was too much to bear.

“Fine,” Liam replied softly.
 
He undid the apron and pulled it off,
then folded it and laid it on a chair.
 
He dropped the oven mitt on top of it.
 
“It was nice seeing you,” he told
her.
 
He started for the door, and
as he went passed her, she yearned to reach out and touch just his sleeve, just
a piece of him.

Liam turned at the door and looked at
her.
 
“It was worth it just to know
you for a little while,” he said.
 
“I’ll always love you, Grace.”
 
And then he opened the door and started to go.

She watched him with dawning horror that
this really was going to be the end, that he’d accepted her decision.

A voice deep inside her shouted.
 
WHAT
ARE YOU DOING, GRACE?
 
YOU’RE GOING
TO REGRET THIS FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!

The voice spurred her into action.
 
Liam was out the door when she ran to it
and screamed his name.

He turned and saw the look on her face.

“Please don’t go,” she told him.
 
“I can’t lose you.”

He came back to the door, stepped up and
reached for her.
 
They embraced, and
it felt like she hadn’t seen him in a year.

Feeling his warm body against hers was
like a life giving elixir.
 
She
grabbed onto him as if he was a life preserver, and maybe—in more ways
than one—he was exactly that.

“Grace,” he murmured against her ear as
they held each other.

“I’m drowning,” she whispered.

“I’ll never let you drown,” he told her,
and then he kissed her, his lips conveying the passion, the desire, the love
she needed so desperately.

She opened up to him then, her body
receiving him naturally, her hands grabbing his muscular back and pulling him
closer.

Yes
, she thought.
 
Yes,
please.
 
Please always hold me
close.

They kissed in the doorway as the
darkness outside tried and failed to get into the warmly lit apartment.
 
And then the two of them walked back inside
and closed the door, shutting the darkness outside.

Grace sighed with contentment.
 
“Where’s my roommates?”

“Come on into the kitchen,” he said,
waving at her as he went and grabbed his apron and oven mitt off the
chair.
 
“I’ll explain everything.”

She followed him into the kitchen, which
was large enough to fit a decent sized table and four chairs.
 
Liam had already set the table, and it
was covered with a white linen tablecloth.

There were two candles, not yet lit, two
sets of plates, silverware, cloth napkins and wine glasses, with a bottle of
wine opened in the center.

“I came over a couple of hours ago and
knocked on the door, spoke to your lovely roommates,” Liam said, as he opened
the oven and checked on the chicken.

Grace smiled, watching him play
chef.
 
“My lovely roommates?
 
Are you sure you met them?
 
Or maybe we’re talking about two different
people.”

Liam took a digital thermometer off the
counter and knelt down, then inserted it into one of the chicken breasts that
were sitting in a pan in the oven.
 
“I convinced them to spend tonight in my hotel, in the best rooms
available.
 
They were happy to do it
in order to give us a nice private, romantic evening together.”
 
He checked the thermometer.
 
“Almost ready,” he said, and then shut
the oven door and stood up.

“Nice deal for them,” Grace said, shaking
her head.
 
She picked up the bottle
of wine and saw it was a 2005 Château Pétrus.
 
“You didn’t have to do this, Liam.”

He looked at her evenly.
 
“Yeah, I did.”

Grace sniffed the wine and then put it
back on the table.
 
She didn’t know
much about wine, but suspected this was no $10 bottle from the local package
store.

“The food smells delicious,” she told
him.
 
“How did you learn to cook?”

He shrugged, taking a spoon and stirring
something in one of the pots on the range.
 
“Growing up, food’s always been a big deal in my family.
 
Of course, we had servants and personal
chefs and all of that.
 
But I used
to hang out in the kitchen, especially with Chef Garson…I called him Gar.
 
He was almost like a father to me,” Liam
said, smiling as he remembered the man.
 
“Gar would cook and tell stories and I learned just from being in the
kitchen with him so much.
 
As I got
older, he’d have me do a few things, show me some little tricks.”

“That’s so cute,” she said, picturing a
young Liam running around a kitchen, precocious and curious as he must’ve been.

Liam took a quick taste of what was in
the pot and then tossed the spoon into the sink, before covering the pot
again.
 
“Gar was a wonderful
friend,” he said, his voice changing.
 
“And then, when I was fifteen, he died of a heart attack in his sleep.”

She put a hand over her mouth.
 
“Oh, Liam,” she said.

He nodded, looking down, as he wiped his
hands on the front of his apron.
 
“It was tough to lose him.
 
I
really loved him,” he finished softly.
 
And then he turned back to the stove, seeming to shake off the sad
memory of his loss.
 
“Anyway, that’s
how I learned the little bit I know about cooking.
 
What I know wouldn’t even fill the first
page of a cookbook, but I can do one or two meals if I get lucky.”

“Well, that’s more than I can do,” Grace
laughed.
 
“I’m pretty useless in the
kitchen.”

“You’re pretty, that’s true,” Liam
said.
 
“Now go sit down.
 
I’m going to make us up a couple of
plates.”

Grace sat down at the table, and Liam
came and lit the two candles, poured each of them a glass of wine.

She watched his graceful movements and smiled,
wondering at how much emotion she already felt towards Liam Houston.
 
They hardly knew each other, but in some
ways she felt as though she’d always known him.

Am
I just fooling myself?
 
One second I
feel like we’re meant to be together always and nothing could ever hurt
us.
 
And the next, I’m convinced
that the whole thing is a sham and Liam doesn’t care for me at all.

Grace sighed, her confusing mix of
emotions bubbling up inside her.
 
She took a long sip of the wine and felt her body instantly relax.
 
“This wine is amazing,” she said,
tasting the fruitiness of it on her tongue and immediately taking another long
sip.

Liam went to the stove and began
preparing their plates.

When he came back and put her plate in
front of her, Grace knew he’d been far too modest about his talents.

The food smelled incredible.
 
The plate was like something she’d have
expected to see on the Cooking Channel, or perhaps from the kitchen of a
five-star restaurant.

He’d made a chicken breast with a zesty
wine sauce, and a mushroom risotto, along with a vegetable medley.
 
Everything looked fresh, perfectly
cooked, and her mouth was watering just looking at it.

Liam sat down across from her and raised
his own glass of wine.
 
“To the most
beautiful, most caring, most insightful woman I’ve ever met,” he said.
 
“I’ll never let anything stand in our
way again,” Liam said.

Grace felt tears in her eyes, but this
time they were happy tears.
 
She
clinked glasses with Liam and said, “thank you for saying that.”
 
She took yet another long sip of wine
and then put the glass down and dabbed at her eyes.

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