WORTHY, Part 3 (The Worthy Series) (5 page)

“Two bunny chows it is,” Milo said, beckoning the lone waitress over to the table. He ordered us a bottle of red wine, which surprised me. Ganesh definitely didn’t seem like the kind of place you could order a bottle of wine.

“I told you I was a regular here,” he said after the waitress had poured our glasses and left again. “They’re pretty good at accommodating my tastes. I like wine with my Indian food, and they like my money.”

“Is this where you bring all the girls?” I asked, raising my eyebrows as I took a sip of wine. I wasn’t any judge on vintages or years or even all the different variations of reds and whites, but this one tasted all right to me. Milo was a little more discerning as he sniffed into his cup and rolled a mouthful around before swallowing it.

“This is where the magic happens,” he said, winking at me. “Tell me when it’s working, would you?”

“I think it’s well on its way,” I said, holding my wine glass out for a toast. “Cheers. To a fruitful relationship.”

“Hear, hear,” Milo said, nodding at me. He was a handsome man, but those eyes had a special kind of magnetism that made me genuinely interested in him.

“So, how long have you been working for my parents’ company?” I asked, toying with my wine glass.

“About five years,” he said. “I got the job on my thirtieth birthday. It was the best present I’d ever gotten. I never had the chance to meet your parents, though.”

“They were good people,” I said, my kneejerk response. “It’s a shame.”

“I’m really sorry about the circumstances of you and I meeting, by the way,” Milo said. “I don’t want to talk business with you here at dinner, but you just make sure and let me know whatever you want to happen with the estate. I can help you figure out everything.”

“I’m pretty sure we were supposed to be talking business here at dinner,” I said, smiling at him. “And thank you. I’ll keep that in mind if I encounter any hiccups with the estate.”

“So, what did you want to talk about?” Milo asked. “Business before pleasure. I always forget that.”

“You offered to spearhead the Wharton Group investigation,” I said. “Why? Felix was right. You do have a lot on your plate with my family’s estate. And if you’re an estate lawyer, it doesn’t sound like this kind of investigation would interest you very much.”

“Do you want my honest answer?”

I raised my eyebrows yet again. “Please.”

“Because something about you made me want to be near you,” he said. The answer downright shocked me. I’d expected something sexual, cloying, flirtatious. This was Milo ripping open his skin, cracking his ribs, and showing me his beating heart.

“That’s … gratifying,” I said, unsure of what words to use to describe what I was feeling. Flustered was right up there.

Milo shrugged. “Call it what you want,” he said. “But do you believe in love at first sight?”

Love? That word made me lean back in my chair in an attempt to get some space between the lawyer and me. That word put me off my appetite and made me want to flee.

“Attraction at first sight, maybe,” I allowed finally. “But not love.”

“A pragmatist,” Milo pronounced. “Not a dreamer.”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Definitely not a dreamer.” There had been a time when I’d had dreams, but too much had happened for me to allow my heart to be hurt like that anymore.

“I don’t know what I felt for you,” Milo said. “But when you walked into that boardroom this afternoon, all I wanted to do was be with you. In all meanings of the saying.”

Be with me? As in, physically and sexually? Emotionally? I couldn’t do emotionally. I’d been so sure that Milo would want just a carnal side to our business relationship that hearing all of this was a surprise. I’d underestimated the quality of his character. Milo Singh was a good man, and here I was good and prepared to use the hell out of him.

What was I becoming?

“I think you felt something, too, when you first saw me,” he said. “I’m a little sensitive to these kinds of things. But your eyes definitely lingered on me from across the table in there. I had your attention just as much as you had mine.”

Of course I’d enjoyed the view. I just never thought I’d be having a conversation about love at first sight with him at dinner.

“Would you look at that,” Milo said, grinning easily again. “Saved by the bunny chow.”

The waitress brought out two enormous plates piled with a steaming loaf of warm bread stuffed with fragrant curry.

“This looks incredible,” I said, taking another sip of my wine to keep from gaping at the concoction in front of me. I was hungry, honest to God hungry, and all I wanted to do was tear into the bunny chow immediately. I forced myself to wait until the waitress left, at least.

“Dig in,” Milo said. “If you think it looks good, just wait until you taste it.”

He was right. I tore off a chunk of the innards of the loaf of bread, which had been conveniently placed on the plate, and used it to sop up some of the red sauce seeping out of the curry. The moment I popped it in my mouth, my taste buds exploded at the flavor. It was spicy and sweet both at once, exotic and highly addictive. All I could do was stare at Milo with wide eyes as I snagged another chunk of bread and dipped it in the curry again, chewing as fast as I could so I could eat the next bite of heaven.

“And I would call this Ganesh’s most pedestrian fare,” Milo said, spearing a few chunks of meat with his fork.

I laughed after I washed down a bite with wine, which played perfectly off of the blend of spices in the wonderful sauce.

“Did you just call me pedestrian?”

Milo spluttered on his mouthful of curry, forced to bring his napkin up out of his lap to cover his face as he laughed and choked at the same time.

“Sorry,” I laughed, reaching across the table to pound on his back. “God knows I didn’t mean to try and kill you.”

“You are the exact opposite of pedestrian,” he said after he’d finished coughing. His green eyes were watering as he smiled. “You are so enchanting, April, that I can’t even put it into words. There’s something different about you. I can’t put my finger on it, but I’ll do my best, if you’ll permit it.”

The way he licked the curry off of his fingers, one by one, made me realize the double entendre. Oh, I had a place I’d like his fingers very much — a place that was slowly awakening between my legs, driven by the wine and the handsome company and the promise of a very delectable dessert indeed.

I ate nearly half of the entire curry-filled loaf before giving up for good.

“You can’t be stopping,” Milo scoffed, polishing his off with a flourish. “This is why you’re so skinny, isn’t it?”

“Small stomach,” I said innocently, patting it. “This’ll keep, right?”

“Nope,” Milo said, yanking my plate across the table before setting it on top of his. “The bread will get soggy, and you’ll lose the mystique that is bunny chow. This is a sort of carpe diem meal.”

“Well, give me one more bite, then,” I said, parting my lips. “I was looking forward to revisiting the magic later tonight or tomorrow morning, but now that’s not an option.”

Milo’s eyes shone as he tugged the curry-encrusted loaf apart and used the bread to pick up a little bit of meat. He reached across the table, offering me the little bite of heaven with his fingers. I’d expected him to use a fork, but this was even better.

As delicately as I could, I took the morsel from him, my lips gliding over his fingers. When it was safely in my mouth, Milo started to draw back, but I kept hold of his hand lightly with my teeth. I worked my tongue over the tips of his fingers, clearing them of sauce before leaning back in my chair and releasing him, chewing the bit of bread and meat thoughtfully, basking in Milo’s smoldering stare.

“I was going to ask you if you wanted to try an Indian dessert,” Milo asked, his voice a little hoarse.

“I think I have a dessert in mind already,” I said, lowering my lashes. “It’s back at my loft, though.”

Milo swiftly settled the bill with the waitress, and we were off again in his convertible, tearing through the streets, Milo resting his hand on my thigh instead of the gearshift. The weight of his palm on my leg, the occasional tickle of his fingers against my skirt were promises of a close encounter. This was what I’d wanted out of this all along, but it had been Milo who had continued to surprise me. I’d had a wonderful time at dinner. He had been charming and sexy and sensitive all at once. I’d never dated anyone before, not in any traditional understanding of the word. Jonathan and I had sort of tumbled into each other’s lives without any chance of courting or going out to dinner or getting to know each other over glasses of wine.

Milo was so different.

We parked in my building’s garage, and I led him up to my entrance before he turned me around and kissed me.

I hadn’t been expecting it — well, I sort of had. I just thought I’d have more time to prepare for it, time to fix a cocktail inside my loft, time to show him around, time for him to do a little more wooing before we cemented the deed.

My mouth opened in surprise, and he deepened the kiss. I relived the bunny chow intimately but not unpleasantly, the flavors still mingling on our tongues. My body stirred in a way I had never thought I’d experience again, but my heart and my mind were racing.

The last time this had happened … the last time … oh, God …

“I’m sorry,” I said, pulling away. “I can’t do this.”

Milo paused for half a beat before snagging my hand and kissing it.

“I would never want you to do anything you didn’t want to do,” he said.

It was just too soon. Too fast, and too soon. I wanted to move forward, I wanted to go through with my plan.

But the last time I’d had sex had been with Jonathan, on the night when I lost everything. It was just too close, too close and too much.

I grabbed Milo’s hand and pulled him closer before kissing him on the lips. He still tasted like the wine we’d enjoyed, and I deepened our contact, plunging my tongue into the lawyer’s mouth.

We lingered there, kissing, at the door to my loft. Could I do this? Could I invite him in? Could I do what I thought necessary to move forward with my life and make Jonathan feel just as much loss as I did?

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Milo said, ending our kiss and making a move to walk away.

“Wait,” I said quickly, then thought better of it. “Be careful.”

“Of course,” he said, turning and giving me a grin that almost made me reconsider everything. I felt my insides soften, felt myself wonder if I could really pull it off. I was all Michelle right now, and April was screaming at me to go through with it. The only way to ride again was to get back on my horse. If I wanted to spend the rest of my life afraid of living, I wasn’t worth anything. I could just stop fighting to go on. I couldn’t give this up. I’d come too far and lost too much.

“Milo.”

He stopped again, turned around again, heard the change in my voice.

“I think you’d better come inside,” I said.

“You’re the boss,” he said, rejoining me as I unlocked the door.

“Drinks are in order, I think.” My heart pounded as I flicked the lights in the kitchen on, and my hands shook as I got the glasses down from the cabinet. The bottle of vodka was already conveniently located on the counter rather than in the liquor cabinet. I hoped Milo didn’t read too much into it.

The truth was that I needed the extra liquid courage to do this. As attracted as I was to Milo — with the added bonus of knowing just how attracted he was to me — I was ridiculously nervous. Jonathan had been my first and only. Being with another man was a whole new ballgame.

Of course, everyone thought I’d bedded Brock. But if I didn’t remember it, it didn’t happen. And I was almost certain that it didn’t happen.

“This is a really nice place,” Milo said, looking around at the loft. “You just move in?”

“Yes,” I said, taking a longer draught on my cocktail than I intended and spluttering a little. “Less than a month, now.”

“It’s very minimalistic,” he said, touching a bare wall lightly. “I imagine you pack light, too.”

“All I need are the bare necessities,” I said, stepping out of my Louboutins and allowing my aching feet a little peace against the cool tile floor. They were beautiful shoes, but wearing them all day was just a pretty hell.

“You should get some art for these walls,” Milo urged. “Your ceilings are so high, and you have great space. In the daylight, I bet you get great light.”

“Maybe you’ll stick around long enough to see,” I said, trying at suggestiveness again. I felt more confident if I was playing the active role in this little show. It was too much to only depend on reacting to Milo. I needed to be assertive, to be in as much control as I could muster.

“Maybe I will,” he agreed, taking a small sip of his cocktail, his green eyes watching me over the rim of the glass. “Want to finish giving me the tour?”

Ah. He wanted to see the rest of the loft, which meant my bedroom. I led him upstairs by the hand, aware that his face was right at my ass, padding on my bare feet up each step. Milo was right. Now that I noticed it, the loft was extremely bare, to the point of being impersonal. All of my personal items had been left at the cottage on that horrible night — the last time I’d seen Jonathan. Everything here at the loft was new, the price tags practically still on.

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