He filled her line of vision and everything inside of her went still.
“Jenny?” her mother questioned, but Jenny couldn’t respond. Something told her she’d just gotten her first glimpse of Blue Sky’s newest client.
He strode into the restaurant as if he’d been there a thousand times before, pausing only when he reached where the hallway ended and the restaurant began. As he scanned the interior, Jenny couldn’t help but take a thorough look at him.
He was tall—at least six two—and in his black leather jacket he looked like a walking ad for Bad Boys USA. His hair was as black as a starless night and short, almost as if he’d only recently begun to let it grow out. The short cut was probably the only thing that kept it from being a rumpled mess since he’d been wearing a helmet. Then, again, Jenny got the distinct impression he was one of those men who always looked good; whether they’d just gotten off of a motorcycle, out of the shower or out of bed.
The jolt hit her unexpectedly. It was the first time in over nine months her mind had gone down that path and she felt a pinch of guilt.
He was one of those rare individuals who commanded attention whether they were in a boardroom or on a boardwalk. Or in a tiny bistro on the edge of a lake.
Her mother leaned close, whispered, “Sit up straight, Jennifer and smooth your hair.”
She barely heard what her mother was saying because at that moment his gaze connected with hers. “Ms. Beckinsale,” he said when he reached her table. His voice was deep and low.
“Y-Yes.” She cleared her throat. He was so close she could see the faint lines that fanned out from the corner of his eyes; but something told her those creases hadn’t been caused by laughter. More than likely, judging by his tan, they’d been caused by a life spent outdoors.
“Hello.” He flashed her a killer grin, showing off his perfect white teeth. Spellbound, all she could do was stare. Dimly, she became aware of a movement to her left and belatedly remembered her mother. “This is my mother, Catherine Beckinsale.”
He turned, gave her mother that same bone-melting smile. “Ma’am.”
Jenny was surprised to see that her mother seemed rattled.
Catherine cleared her throat. “How do you do, Mr…?”
The visitor looked at Jenny when he responded. “Worth. Jared Worth.”
He waited, as if his name would have some effect on her but all she was thinking about were his eyes. They weren’t brown, as she’d originally thought, but a deep, deep midnight blue framed by full, spiky lashes. And they seemed to reach inside to a part of her she’d kept buried for a long time.
There was a short pause and then her mother filled in the silence. “Well, Mr. Worth, may I offer you something? A cappuccino? Espresso? Latte?”
He looked at her mother as if she was speaking Greek. “No.” And then as an afterthought, tacked on, “Thank you.”
Belatedly, Jenny’s business manners kicked in. “Please, Mr. Worth. Won’t you have a seat?” She motioned to one of the empty chairs at their table.
He continued to stand.
Seated, she tried not to feel at a disadvantage. Tried and failed. He was too tall. Too muscular. Too good looking. “I’m sorry I wasn’t at the office when you arrived. I hope it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience for you.”
“No trouble at all.”
“Were you able to find the restaurant all right?”
“Mr. Phillips mentioned that you needed to speak to me right away.”
He glanced at her mother and then back to her. “I didn’t realize you were busy. I can come back later.”
She was never too busy for a client. “No, no. Now is just fine.”
For a moment she forgot her discomfort as she imagined her company’s bottom line floating away from the red zone and up towards the black. And her mother was here to witness it all.
He looked around the room. “Is there somewhere private we can talk?”
And have her mother miss this? No way.
“My mother is aware of my business dealings, Mr. Worth. Feel free to discuss whatever you need to in front of her.”
“I think it would be best if we talked somewhere private.”
“Truly, Mr. Worth. There’s no problem.”
He let out a barely perceptible sigh and it seemed to Jenny as if some of his bone-melting-megawatt-smiling-good-ol’-boy-charm left him. “You’re Jennifer Beckinsale, correct?”
“Yes.” Hadn’t they already established that?
“The Jennifer Beckinsale who was engaged to Steven Harmon?”
Jenny wasn’t sure if it was her or her mother who drew in the sharp, quick breath of air at the mention of Steven’s name. It had been months since anyone had said his name out loud to her and just the sound of it hurt. “Y-Yes.”
“The Jennifer Beckinsale who was partnered with Steven Harmon in a seaplane charter business known as Blue Sky Air?”
She tried to ignore the pain at hearing Steven’s name again—tried to ignore her growing sense of unease—but she failed on both accounts. “I’m sorry, Mr. Worth, but I’m not sure what this has to do with anything. I thought you were here about a charter. About Blue Sky Air.”
“Oh. Why don’t you tell me when your travel plans and I’ll have my associate get in touch with you. With summer just around the corner, I’m sure you can understand that our schedule is not as open as in the winter months.” Lies. Lies. Lies. “But we will do everything we can to accommodate your travel needs. Blue Sky offers a wide range of travel options from local trips in the Puget Sound area to frequent charters to the San Juans and British Columbia.”
“I don’t seem to be making myself clear. I’m not here to schedule a charter.”
“No. I’m here to discuss Blue Sky Air.”
“You want to discuss my charter business?”
“No, Miss Beckinsale, I want to discuss our business.”
He let out another sigh, this was louder and more noticeable than the last. “I’m your partner.”
She laughed, but somehow her laughter fell flat. “I don’t have any partners. I am the sole owner of Blue Sky Air and I don’t think this little joke of yours is very funny. If you’re not here to book a charter, I think you should leave—”
“Christ.” He rubbed his hand across his face, then zeroed in on her again. “You really don’t have a clue what I am talking about.”
“You have no clue what you’re talking about, Mr. Worth.” He was sick. Demented. He needed help. Any other day of the week she might have offered to drive him to a doctor’s office … a hospital … a padded room with no door. But not today. Not with her mother sitting less than five feet away.
“I’m afraid it’s you who doesn’t have a clue,” he said. “Look at the contract, you’ll see that what I’m saying is the truth.”
“I don’t need to look at any contract. I am the sole owner of Blue Sky Air.”
He muttered something under his breath and Jenny had the sinking feeling she should be glad she hadn’t been able to understand what he’d said. “You’re exactly like Steven described,” he said.
“Just like Steven said. All package; no product.”
For a moment, she couldn’t breathe.
He was lying. Steven would never have said anything like that about her. He’d loved her as much as she loved him. Anger jumped in front of her pain. “You need to leave. Now.” She tried to keep her voice steady. Strong. But her emotions were too raw and she felt the start of tears burn the back of her eyes.
She stood up, knocking her chair over in her haste. Without bothering to right the chair, she headed straight for the door; couldn’t get away from him fast enough.
But before she could reach it, he was right behind her.
“This isn’t over.” His voice was low and sent a shiver down her spine. “Instead of doing your nails tonight, read the contract. I’ll be in touch tomorrow.”
Without looking at him, she wrenched the door open and ran.
If you’d like to learn more about Kimberly Fisk and her debut novel, we encourage you to visit her website at http://www.kimberlyfisk.com. Kimberly is also giving away a signed copy of Lake Magic to one lucky winner. Due to shipping costs, she asks the winner be a US resident (or if you live outside the US and have someone in the US who would mail it to you). To enter the drawing, leave a question or comment for Kimberly, and don’t forget to include your email address. If you’ve already won a contest this month, you’re not able to win again… and if we don’t have a qualifying winner on Sunday, December 19th the contest will move to our Facebook page.