Only with You (The Best Mistake #1) - Page 18

He took another swallow of beer and made a concentrated effort not to scowl at the whole lot of them. Peter excused himself to the restroom, and Sophie fluttered into the vacated seat, filling his senses with…cinnamon?

She smelled like a freaking bakery. He’d noticed the sweet and oddly alluring smell the other night when he’d cornered her in his dark office like a creepy predator.

“You’re scowling, boss.”

“You think?”

She sighed as though dealing with a difficult child. “Really, this is the best thing. Peter is smiling, and Alistair…well…Jenna knows what she’s doing, right? I mean her humoring him will work in your favor, but she can’t possibly be attracted, can she?”

“Jenna knows how to handle herself.” He hoped.

“I’m guessing that’s your Mr. Darcy way of implying that I can’t handle myself?”

“Who’s Mr. Darcy?” he asked, his frown deepening. “And why does he get to go by his last name, while you’ve been calling me Gray since the moment you met me?”

She sighed again, wearily. Clearly he’d disappointed her somehow. Again. “Never mind about Mr. Darcy. I take it you haven’t told your siblings about our little elevator misunderstanding?”

“Tell them what, exactly, that I thought my assistant turned tricks? No, I didn’t mention it. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not exactly prone to chatting.”

“I noticed. But the tension is only because you’re sitting here in the corner like the freaking Grinch. They want to talk to you, but your body language is telling everyone to f**k off.”

“I am not having this conversation with you.”

“Why not? You owe me; I picked your sister up from the airport.”

“Which expressly disobeyed my orders! Town car! I said to get Jenna into a town car!” he exploded.

Several pairs of eyes landed on him. Even in the noisy bowling alley, his voice had carried. Jack gave him a reassuring smile, but Jenna just rolled her eyes in disgust. She abruptly pushed past a startled Alistair and stalked off to the bar.

Sophie looked at him with a censorious expression. “You really should go talk to your sister. Now she thinks that you just wanted to put her into an impersonal Lincoln.”

“That’s exactly what I intended. Then we wouldn’t be in this dreadful bowling alley,” he mumbled.

She poked him in the side. “Go. This is your sister.”

He glanced over his shoulder and saw Jenna flirting with the tattooed bartender. Knowing her, she’d go home with the man just to irk him, end up with hepatitis C, and blame Gray for the whole thing.

Avoiding Sophie’s eyes, he got to his feet to go talk with Jenna.

“Wait, you can’t go now.” She tugged at his pant leg. “It’s your turn!”

He smoothed away the wrinkle she’d made in his trousers and glanced up at the scoreboard. Sure enough, there was his name blinking next to the string of small, single digits. “You play for me,” he told Sophie.

She snorted. “And ruin your stellar average? I don’t think so.”

“Just toss it into those divots that run down the side of the path.”

“Those would be the gutters, bro,” Jack said. “And by ‘path,’ I’m guessing you meant lane?”

“Whatever,” Gray said. “Would someone just play for me?”

“I’ll take care of this,” Alistair said smugly.

“That’s wonderful,” Gray said. “Just great.”

He hesitated for a moment, the smell of fresh cinnamon buns wafting up to him and filling him with an odd sense of longing. Or was it nostalgia? Unable to resist, and propelled by a rare sense of impulsiveness, he bent down until his lips nearly touched Sophie’s ear.

“Why do you smell like Christmas morning?”

He felt the hitch in her breath, and felt a little unhinged himself by the closeness. Jerking back, he avoided her eyes and headed toward the bar.

“What were you expecting, harlot perfume?” she called after him.

Hiding a smile, Gray slid onto the bar stool next to Jenna. She didn’t acknowledge his presence. He debated his options. Jenna and Gray tended to communicate mostly in sarcasm. Jack was the only Wyatt to ever learn the art of friendly conversation. But he could feel Sophie’s eyes boring into his back and knew she wouldn’t be a fan of anything less than he and Jenna singing “Kumbaya” by the end of the conversation.

“I’m sorry I didn’t pick you up at the airport,” he said quietly, gesturing to the bartender

for another beer.

Her body stiffened slightly, and he knew she was debating whether to accept the olive branch or rake him over the coals. He was betting the coals. It was easier than dabbling in emotion.

But she surprised him.

“It’s okay,” she said finally. “I know you’re busy trying to save the world one precious hotel at a time.”

Gray bit his tongue to keep from snapping that it had been his precious hotels that had put her and Jack through law school and enabled the purchase of the designer purses he bought her every year on her birthday.

“Yeah, well, this is one hotel that I won’t be able to add to my collection,” he said bitterly, nodding back toward the Blackwells.

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Jenna snuck a cherry from the garnish tray and winked at the bartender. “I suspect that perv and his old man might be warming up to the idea of selling to you,” she said.

He set the bottle to his lips and shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’ve tried every angle, and they just won’t bite.”

“Not every angle.”

He raised an eyebrow.

She gestured toward her chest. “You lack these. The only numbers men like the Blackwells deal in is cup size.”

Gray choked on his beer. “Aside from the fact that I absolutely do not want to be hearing about my little sister’s breasts, is that why you’ve been letting that buffoon dry hump you out there? To help my company?”

She shrugged, looking unsure of herself. “It seemed the least I could do. Sophie mentioned that you were in the middle of a tough deal, and when she orchestrated this entire charade, I thought maybe I could lend a hand. Or a boob.”

Gray’s head spun, both with the idea that the deal could be saved and that his sister had actually gone out on a limb for him. The only thing that didn’t surprise him about this conversation was Sophie’s interference.

“So you’re doing this because my pesky little assistant ambushed you in the airport? How did she even find you?”

Jenna smiled and snagged another cherry. “She was standing there at baggage claim holding a sign with my name on it. You know, kind of like a town car driver would have done?” She shot him a side look.

“At least a town car driver could have delivered you to my condo or wherever you wanted to go. Sophie’s meddling got you trapped into bowling.”

“Well, actually,” she said, spinning around on her bar stool to look at their group, “it’s been oddly fun. Sophie’s great.”

Gray grunted.

“Are you two…you know…?” Jenna wiggled her eyebrows.

He sputtered on his beer. “She’s my assistant, Jen. That would be…No. She’s an employee.”

“So? Does your company have a policy about coworkers dating?”

“What? I don’t know.” He did know. They didn’t have a policy.

She kept pressing. “How about subordinates dating bosses? Is that off-limits?”

“Who cares? Why are you bringing this up?”

She smiled her cat smile at him, and got to her feet. “Call it feminine intuition.”

“Or I could call it…delusion. And have you not noticed how much she resembles a certain almost-sister-in-law of yours?”

Jenna gave him a disgusted look. “I told you from day one to stay away from that one. And sure, they look a little alike, but it took me all of five minutes to see that Sophie is nothing like Jessica. Not in the way that matters.”

Gray’s stomach knotted as he considered Jenna’s words. If business had taught him anything, it was that tingling sense you got in your hands when you knew you’d made a mistake.

He flexed his fingers. Yup. Definitely tingling.

“How are things in New York?” he asked, annoyed to realize that his voice sounded gruff.

Jenna’s smirk showed she was on to him, but she’d apparently finally done some maturing because she let it go instead of pushing his buttons like she would have a year ago.

“You know, New York is pretty great. It feels like this one might stick.”

Gray had his doubts. Jenna thought every city would stick, but she rarely lasted more than a year. Still, if she could let things go, so could he, so he just nodded.

“Boyfriend?” he asked casually.

His sister gave him a look. “If I tell, are you gonna arrange for a background check?”

Gray winced. She knew about that?

“No,” he lied.

Jenna stood and dragged him to his feet. “No big-brother prying tonight. My life isn’t the one in deep crap right now. Come on,

let’s go land you a hotel deal. And maybe improve your bowling skills. You’re embarrassing the Wyatt name.”

He followed her back to the group and tried to avoid looking at Sophie. She’d either give him a smug I told you so look, or she’d be grinning at him like a proud mother. But as usual, he lost the battle, and couldn’t seem to help glancing at her. What he saw was neither gloating nor pride. She looked almost…affectionate.

Which might have lifted his mood if Jack’s arm hadn’t been around the back of her chair.

Maybe it didn’t even matter if he’d been wrong about Sophie. Even if she lacked Jessica’s more manipulative qualities, they had one very important detail in common.

Neither one wanted him.

“Gray, my man,” Peter said in a whiskey-soaked boom. “Let’s get over here and discuss what you did in that fancy Chicago-based company of yours. Sophie and Jack tell me that a couple years ago you were responsible for turning around that set of fancy resorts on Barbados? Hell, those are five-star celebrity destinations now! I had no idea you had that kind of experience.”

Gray shot a glance at his brother and Sophie, who sent matching winks his way.

He couldn’t hide his victorious smile. Finally he was back in his element. He might suck at apologies, gratitude, and chitchat, but this? This he could do.

By the time the group was sitting at a long bench table at a nearby pizza parlor, Gray was feeling the best he’d felt in weeks. The Blackwells had just left to return to their hotel, but they were going to sign. He knew it. His business instincts were buzzing with victory, and they were never wrong.

He wondered if he should thank Sophie. It never would have happened without her interference. If it was up to him, the meeting would never have left the conference room and would have ended hours ago. Probably with the deal dead in the water.

“So, Sophie,” Jenna was saying as she wound a piece of mozzarella around her finger. “You seeing anyone?”

All eyes fell on Sophie, and Gray was annoyed to realize that he wasn’t the only one who seemed extremely interested in her response. Jack had gone completely still and was watching her carefully.

“Um, no. Not really,” Sophie said.

Gray squinted. Was she blushing? The Sophie he knew didn’t blush, but there was a distinct pink tint to her cheeks. He wondered what caused it. Or who. Not Alistair, certainly. Jack? The two of them had been inseparable most of the evening.

A fact that depressed him more than he wanted to admit.

“I can’t believe that,” Jenna was saying. “You’re so sweet and pretty.”

Gray’s eyes narrowed in on his sister. He knew that tone. It was the same one she’d used when she’d brought three puppies home without warning. The same one she’d used when she’d wanted to borrow his car without her driver’s license. That tone meant trouble.

“What about my brother?” Jenna asked, her gray eyes all innocent curiosity.

Gray and Jack exchanged a wary glance. Both knew they should shut up their sister. But both wanted Sophie’s answer first.

“Oh, um, you mean Jack?” Sophie asked, her voice coming out on a squeak.

Gray felt a funny twist somewhere in the middle of his chest. He should have been prepared for it. Of course she’d assume that Jenna had meant Jack. Who would think of dowdy, grumpy Gray when they could have the funny, charming version?

“Ugh, not Jackie,” Jenna said with a face. “He’s still reeling from Avery.”

“Don’t,” Jack said, his voice uncharacteristically curt.

“Uh-huh—so you never see each other?” Jenna pressed.

“We’re…friends,” Jack said with narrowed eyes.

Sophie nibbled at a breadstick and watched them curiously.

“Anyway,” Jenna said, waving away her brothers’ glares. “Jack’s no good for you, Soph. I was talking about Gray.”

He froze with his beer halfway to his lips and wondered if it would be inappropriate to drag Jenna out to the parking lot by her hair and put her in a cab. He wanted to look at Sophie, but didn’t think he could bear to see what kind of amused disdain would be written all over her face.

“Gray’s my boss,” she said quietly.

A good, safe answer. A disappointing answer.

“Oh, sure, but if he weren’t, you’d go for it, right? He’s cute,” Jenna said. She leaned over to pinch his cheek, and Gray batted her hand away with a warning look. Which she ignored.