“Remind me, husband number five is the Hollywood director?” The tabloid press was how he kept tabs on his mother, and Jonas liked it that way. Actually, he’d prefer it if Sian didn’t even tell him what she read, but she liked to torture him.
“Yep. Apparently she’s having an affair with Mervin Kline.”
Sara, so faithful.
“Kline is said to be the tenth richest man in the country...”
“Ah.” Now Sara’s actions made sense. Her main ambition, Jonas was sure, was to be the wife of the richest man in the world. His father, Sara’s first husband, had just been a practice run. She hadn’t even stuck around long enough for him to be a practice child. She’d just bailed, saying that motherhood wasn’t her thing. Seducing and then marrying rich men—that’s where her talents lay.
It shouldn’t hurt that the last time he’d spoken to her was when he’d turned thirty, five years ago. He’d called her on his birthday, not the other way around. Jonas was pretty sure she’d wiped the memory of giving birth from her mind. After all, you couldn’t say you were in your early forties when you had a son in his midthirties.
“We need to get back to work, Sian, so get off my desk.”
“Oh, touchy.” Sian saw something in his face and she winced. She held up her hand, her expression requesting his patience. “Why don’t you ask Kat out to dinner, see if you like her enough to temporarily marry her?”
He couldn’t get Kat to cash his check. She’d yelled at him after they’d kissed. She was a basket of complicated. She had issues, and Jonas tried, whenever possible, to avoid issues. He needed this search for a wife to be complication-free, easy, businesslike. An emotion-free zone.
Kat was independent, mouthy, annoying—sheer hard work. She was trouble. He should be running from her as fast as he could. She was the last person he should marry.
But he thought that, probably, he was going to anyway.
Sian, reading his mind, patted his arm. “Good luck, boss.”
He was going to need it. Jonas rose and bent to drop a kiss on her cheek, grateful that he had her in his life, standing in his corner. He rested his forehead on hers. “Are you sure you won’t marry me?”
Sian patted his cheek. “Darling, not even for you.”
* * *
Kat was glad for the madness of Friday lunch service. It kept her from worrying about Cath, from thinking about her money problems and the fact that she was going to have to leave her beloved apartment.
But mostly, being busy kept her from thinking about Jonas Halstead and how she’d felt in his arms. Kat stared down at her reservations book and tried to concentrate on who she would seat where. She had reservations for both the current and ex-wife of a famous producer, former best friends, and, in the interest of peace, she needed to keep them on opposite sides of the restaurant and out of each other’s sight...
Kat’s thoughts wandered back to Jonas.
He knew exactly how to kiss her, how much pressure to apply to her nipple with his thumb. His kisses had been pure magic... He was all heat and power. Six foot two of pure masculinity. Broad-shouldered, muscled, powerful, he just had to look at her with heat in those smoky green eyes and she felt the urge to strip and climb all over him.
What the hell was wrong with her? Okay, sure, she’d been celibate for a while, but she wasn’t the type to go all dizzy over a man. With the few lovers she’d had and even with Wes, getting naked had required a mental shift, a deliberate decision. With Halstead, her much-neglected libido had been calling the shots. Her body wanted to be against his, skin to skin.
Why him? Why now?
And why couldn’t she get him out of her head?
Kat glanced at her watch, saw that she had another ten minutes before the restaurant was due to open and mentally allocated clients to tables, trying to keep her mind on her much-needed job. It wasn’t as if she would see him again anytime soon!
Unless he came back here.
Crap! Kat bit her lip and quickly flipped through the reservations book. She hadn’t booked a table for Jonas, but she was one of four hosts and he could’ve spoken to any of the others. Kat ran through the reservations for the next month and didn’t see his name, but she knew there were many women who’d booked a table for themselves and a “guest.” It wasn’t an impossibility that Halstead could be a dinner companion. A model, an actress, the lead singer of an indie pop group—these women were his type. Actually, Kat suspected that any woman breathing was his type. Halstead made no bones about his disinterest in settling down.
On that score, Kat couldn’t fault him. Marriage and commitment were games for fools and she’d never play again. Wes had ruined vows for her and ruined them well. She’d gone into their marriage in a starry-eyed haze, flying on a magic carpet of attention and compliments. The sex hadn’t been great, but having someone so solidly in her corner, so deeply supportive, had more than made up for the infrequent, fumbling, lets-do-it-with-the-lights-off sex.
Their sex life would get better after they were married, she’d told herself. She’d been wrong. Nothing improved. In fact, everything had started sliding downhill a scant week after they’d returned from their two-week honeymoon. They might be married, Wes had informed her, but he had no intention of carrying her, financially or emotionally, anymore. He expected her to pull her weight.
Since she was now living with him, he’d said, all expenses were to be split equally. The fact that she was a full-time student and he had a corporate position held no bearing on the situation. She believed in women’s rights, didn’t she? Well, it was time to stand by her principles.
Not recognizing the man she’d married, and determined to keep up the pretense of being happy, Kat had taken two part-time jobs to cover her financial obligations, thinking that one day soon things would improve. They were getting used to each other, she’d thought. Everyone said the first year of marriage was the hardest.
Then her father had died. Six months later she was divorced and one month after that Cath was diagnosed. Kat’s world fell to pieces.
Her dysfunctional marriage—and her father ignoring her in his will—created a pit inside where cynicism flourished. Kat was unable to trust a person’s words, knowing actions were what counted. No, it was better to be independent, to sort out her own problems, to do it herself. That way no one could disappoint her and no one could hurt her.
But, damn, Jonas reminded her that she could really do with some hot, messy sex. A man’s hard body on hers, strong fingers pressing into her flesh, masculine lips kissing her lips and throat and heading lower to suck her nipples, to make tracks over her stomach, to—
“Hey, Kat, are you going to open? It’s time.”
Kat jerked her head up and snapped out of her daydream, embarrassed that she was fantasizing about Jonas Halstead at work. God, this had to stop, she thought, walking over to the front door to slide it open. Jonas was out of her league. He was a billionaire and she was a restaurant hostess, someone who was only noticed when things went wrong.
Besides, he’d forgotten about her already. He’d handed her a check, appeased his conscience and moved on to his next blonde. It was time she moved on, too...
Kat put her shoulder to the heavy wood-and-glass door and frowned when it easily slid on its track. She felt the heat of a masculine body behind her, inhaled the scent of lime and sandalwood from an expensive cologne and looked up to see a strong hand on the frame above her head, cuffs rolled back and a Rolex watch she immediately recognized.
Kat leaned her forehead against the wooden frame of the door and counted to ten and then to twenty. Jonas was back. He didn’t have a reservation, so the only reason he could be there was to see her.