Chapter 5 : An Invitation

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"Have you ever been in love, Kate?"

It's a completely inappropriate question but somehow I know Raul isn't just making small talk.

"Yes." The reply comes out before I could think better of it. Damn it. I should really get his focus back on the problem at hand, but I have a feeling this question has to do with what we're dealing with. Raul does this sometimes, approaches a problem from a direction no one expects. I've gotten used to it.

The corner of his mouth quirks up in amusement. "Who is he?" he says, then adds, "She? They?"

"No one you know." I avert my eyes. "What you going to do?"

"Did it work out?"

So much for getting him back to the topic. "No, it didn't."

"Do you still love them?"

"Him." I don't know why I had to throw in that bit of unnecessary information. My love life has nothing to do with finding a suitable wife for him. "And... it's complicated."

"Is he married?"

There's a touch of sympathy in his tone, and not a bit of judgement. Sometimes I wonder why this man, whom I suspect doesn't have an ounce of selfishness in him, chooses casual one-night-stands over any kind of romantic relationship.

"He wasn't interested in me," I say. "I'm over it. What does this have to do with anything?"

"I think you might understand why I don't want to do this." His chin is down, his brown eyes peering at me through his ridiculously long eyelashes.

"Get married, you mean?"

"Marriage is..." He sighs. "I thought that if I ever did get a wife, she would be someone I cared for. Someone I trusted."

"Don't you trust your friends?" I did suggest he marry one of his female friends.

"I know them well enough to know they would never say yes." He grins. "You know, I proposed marriage to Hui Yin last night."

My heart stops. I suck in a breath, trying to look calm. "What did she say?" She turned him down, I assume. Or he and I wouldn't be here right now.

"Turned me down. I knew she would. Her parents would never allow her to marry an American, not even if we promised to break up after five years."

I frown. "But you asked her anyway."

"I thought I'd... practice." His eyes flick over me. "You don't drink?"

"I do. Just not at work."

He pours wine into a glass. "We're not at work."

I stare at the drink he pushed toward me.

"Please, Kate," he says. "My life's about to change. At least don't let me drink alone."

I breathe in as I lift the glass to my lips. The pinot noir smells delicious. I love wine, but I rarely ever get to have anything as expensive as this. It was good. I close my eyes briefly, savoring the taste of the drink in my mouth.

"Thank you for all the work you've done," he says. "I'm sorry it was all for nothing. I'm going to talk to my aunts tomorrow."

I raise my eyebrows. "You think you can convince them to not go through with it?"

"I can try."

My heart sinks, but I nod. Because what else could I do? I know he doesn't have a prayer of dissuading his aunts from pushing through with their agenda. I suspect he knows this too.

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