from The Comeback of Conn MacNeill

Conn leaned forward out of the deep leather chair. “Look, Miss Cutler... I’ve got a Harvard degree and ten years’ experience. I advise small businesses, I put together plans for them, I help them secure funding and ensure they’re on solid-enough financial footing to succeed. If you’ve got a cash flow problem, odds are I can help you.”

He honestly thought she might be...not grateful, exactly, but...impressed. But the restaurant owner was made of stronger stuff than Conn had given her credit for.

“How nice,” she murmured. “Do you wash dishes, too?”

“Only if you need me to,” he replied.

Startled, she looked at him, really looked at him, for the first time since they’d sat down. Slowly, those clear gray depths warmed and filled with amusement. Her pale pink mouth curved in a wry smile. Conn’s breath rushed to his throat and lodged there.

Edward Cutler drummed his fingers on his desk. “My other offer still stands, punkin.”

The girl didn’t blink at the repeated use of the demeaning pet name. Maybe she was used to it. It set Conn’s teeth on edge.

She stood, surprisingly dignified in her flirty skirt and clunky heels. Conn did the same, keeping his hands quiet at his sides, although the tension in the room had him balancing on the balls of his feet like a boxer.

Val Cutler tugged thoughtfully on one of her long silver earrings. “So, my real choice is between the devil I do know, or the qualified devil I don’t, is that it?”

“Unless there’s a door number three nobody’s told me about,” Conn agreed, straight-faced.

Edward stiffened.

His daughter laughed, and the sound loosed something warm in the center of Conn’s chest.

“We open for lunch at eleven,” she told him. “Why don’t you stop by around ten tomorrow and I’ll give you the tour?”

“Ten o’clock,” Conn confirmed.

“You call your mother,” Edward said. “She’s waiting to hear from you.”

“Yes, Daddy.”

Conn watched her exit with small, firm steps, her short skirt riding those curvy hips and flirting with the tops of her thighs. She looked even better in the Lady of the Lake getup than she had in jeans.

He was out of his head to even notice such a thing. His interest in her was business, he reminded himself. Strictly business.

In the back of his mind, he could hear his brothers laughing.

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