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Signed, Sealed, Delivered (SYTYCW winner)

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

The pain, when Lane woke the next morning, came in a rush.

Her mother. The hospital, doctors, Brad.

She remembered driving through the rain. Knocking on Adam's door. Virtually collapsing on his doorstep. And then, somehow, she'd been inside, her head on Adam's shoulder. Adam had tucked her into bed.

His bed.

She looked at her arms, noted the length of the sleeves.

His shirt.

She caught a glint of green on the bedside table. The jade apple.

Slowly, she got out of bed.

She loved this room. The scale of it - large and masculine. The solid, carved bed. The Persian rugs. The antique chair in the corner - she should get her damp handbag off that before the wood warped. The two bold paintings. They were amazing. So ... hmmm ... familiar. The paintings were ... familiar, somehow.

She walked closer to one of them.

Yes, she'd seen paintings like it online yesterday when she was researching her presentation for Beijing. The artist was Ding Yi if she was not mistaken. And - deep breath - the painting was probably worth a few hundred thousand dollars.

Her heart stated thumping uncomfortably.

She went to the other painting. A different artist, she thought Liu Wei. Possibly worth even more.

Oh. My. God.

There were artworks all over the house, but she'd had no idea any of them were valuable.

Valuable? More than that - probably worth millions if these two were anything to go by.

Not that she would have noticed, even if she were an art expert - because she'd been too focused on Adam to see past the bedroom.

She laughed, a little hysterically. She'd been paying a man with a multi-million dollar art collection for sex.

She could hear his steps outside the room, and turned to face him as he entered.

He was carrying a tray piled high with fruit, toast, pastries and coffee. "How are you feeling, darling?"

She flinched at the endearment.

Adam checked at her reaction, but then calmly set the tray down.

She swallowed. "You have a lot of money."

"Yes, you know that," he said, clearly puzzled.

"No, I don't. Your clothes. The jeep ..."

"My clothes are comfortable. And the jeep is my work vehicle. I like it, so I usually drive that. But I have another car. You've seen it."

Staring. "That was your car? The Jaguar? Not a hire car?"

"I can take you out to the garage and show you if you like." He watched her for a moment. "Lane, just because I don't drive around in a flashy convertible like some pretentious corporate banker-"

"He drives a Mercedes. Sedan, not convertible."

"-or wear a designer label suit every day, it doesn't mean-" He broke off, looking at her strangely. "I told you I didn't need your money, remember?"

"I didn't know." She gestured wildly towards the walls. "The paintings."

Adam was unsmiling. "So now you do know. I like art. It's not a secret."

She whirled away. Turned back. "How could you not realize I didn't know? Why would I think ... the money ... I was paying ..."

"I would have done it for free, but you made it clear that paying was important to you. Crystal clear."

"I knew there was an imbalance," she said, more to herself than to him. "But not this big."

"I received an inheritance from my grandfather, shared with Sarah. We don't go around broadcasting it, just like we don't go around talking about our parents' divorce. And I don't understand what the problem is."

"And I don't understand why you would give up three months of your life for some chickenfeed loose change."

"We didn't think it would come to that."

Ohhhhhh. No. No, no. "What does that mean?"

Adam had that watch-wait look again. Alert. Figuring out tactics. Wondering how she'd react.

"Don't give me that look, Adam. Just tell me what you mean."

"That night - the first night - I was supposed to put you off the idea. If I was unpleasant enough, Sarah thought you'd run a mile rather than go through with it."

Lane stared as her stomach pitched. "So Sarah never really intended to help me."

"She thought getting you to back out of it was the best help she could give. It didn't work, though. You were too determined and I- Well, I thought I was a better bet than anyone else would be." He gave a short, humourless laugh. "I felt protective of you even then."

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