Chapter 8

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"Where's Stephen tonight?" Liam asked as he poured a newly opened bottle of wine through an aerator into a decanter, then poured a glass for Lorelei.

"Stuck in New York, business trip. All the hotels were booked so I called your assistant, hope you don't mind. She got him in at one of your properties."

He handed her the dark glass of zinfandel he knew she liked, affably laid a warm hand on her shoulder, then returned to his seat. "Whatever works. Glad he got a place. I thought you guys were going to the Alps for a late honeymoon."

"Next week, if we can fly out of here." Lorelei sipped. "My favorite, fantastic, thank you. Genevieve, how are things at City Council? Heard you got in front of a certain bill about water rights. Nice work."

Liam held up a hand. "No politics tonight."

Lorelei's face gleamed in the lights. "Oh, that's right! Did you decide to run for Governor? Governor Wyatt. I like it. Nice ring to it."

"You must keep the Boys and Girls Club in the mix for your platform," Caroline added. "You've done a lot of work there, done a lot of good."

The women around the table murmured in agreement.

"Well thank you for you for your support, but that's enough for now. It's storming, we have wine, food—you hungry Lorelei?"

"No, thanks. I'm here for warmth and light and company. And wine." She purred into her glass.

A friendly grin pulled on his face. "You meet Emerson?"

Eyebrows wiggled. "New girl in town, eh?"

"Lives in California. But if I'm lucky, maybe she'll move here. Know where she disappeared to?"

"Putting away my coat. Plus she probably got lost. I keep telling you to give breadcrumbs to people upon arrival. So what's the story with her?"

All eyes landed on him.

"I like her. A lot."

Ooo's and aaah's and a whimsical whistle echoed in the room.

He shook his head, let out a laugh.

"Well this is quite the development. Liam Wyatt declaring he likes someone. A lot. Never heard such a thing from you."

"Not true. I like each and every one of you."

"You know what I mean," Lorelei said, knowing that'd he'd once liked her a lot too. Just not love, she thought without sadness. It hadn't been love for her either—and she was madly in love with her husband now.

"So tell us what it is that you like about her. Quick before she gets back in here. We want the scoop."

"I'd tell you you're all hopeless and to mind your own business but you outnumber me at this point." His smile faded as he thought through his words. "I don't know how to describe it. It's like... It's like I know her, have known her for ages, and yet I just met her and can't wait to get to know her. That makes no sense."

The teasing stopped and the women listened with care and protection over the man they considered one of their own.

"That's the most lovely thing I've heard in a long time. Are you in love, honey?" Grace asked as a mother might.

He took a deep breath, exhaled. "I don't know. But I want to find out the answer to that with her."

Possibilities lulled the room into wistful silence.

"Unless she fell through a trap door and into the dungeon on her way back from the coat closet," Hannah's soft voice teased.

"Well no one here's allowed to push her in the dungeon. She's had a rough day already." Liam's gaze zeroed in on the woman who'd seated herself at the head of the table. "Grace."

She lifted both palms into the air. "Had no idea how you felt, darling. I'm a schooled woman now and your heart is important to me, just as your head is. Need both to get you into office and keep you there, the way I see it."

"As I said, I'm a lucky man."

"You are that. Plus I don't think she'd appreciate you protecting her like a king protecting his queen. I get the sense she can handle herself."

Pride warmed him at the idea that Emerson's strength was seen by Grace, a woman he considered to have resolve of steel. "You're right about that."

"How does anyone survive the labyrinth of hallways around here?" Emerson asked as she burst into the room. "I can't tell you how many ridiculous doors I've pushed through. You have a nice library, by the way. Found that on accident. Also, Darwin the dog seems to have his own playroom that's bigger than my entire house. I was starting to feel sorry for him, wandering around by himself, but he's in doggy heaven in there."

She paused, glanced around the room. "Why is everyone staring at me? Do I have spider webs in my hair or something?"

"Actually, yes." Liam walked to her before she sat, gently lifted a few stray strands of web from her face, then found her fingers and intertwined them with his. "Brandy in front of the fire?"

He felt Emerson's hand pull from his but he held tight, warm palm to warm palm. "Lorelei, you know your way around the bar; pour for everyone? We'll be right in."

"Great, what'd I do now? Ruin your chances of one day running for President or something?" She asked once they were alone.

His lips found hers before she could continue talking. The shared heat, mouths meeting, tongues touching, pulled them both in. Bodies pressed together silently while the sounds of life echoed down the hallway.

"Well," she said, catching her breath, "that was quite a kiss, Mister President."

"You're quite the woman."

"And you held my hand in front of your parade of women. What was that all about? Need rescuing? I'm happy to play along."

He caught her lips, hovered, nipped again, then deepened the kiss into something else entirely. Something not at all playful, but something that spoke of more.

"No playing. I like you, Emerson. I want to know you, more of you." He ignored her reference to the other women, focused only on her, and felt her breath hitch against him.

"I...Well, I guess I'm here until tomorrow so ask whatever you'd like if you want to get to know me." She let out a breath. "That sounds stupid compared to what you just said. I just...I don't really know what to say."

His eyes that had gone a silvery gray studied her. "I've never met anyone so immediately expressive. You fascinate me."

Her face pulled into a dismissive scowl. "I'm not fascinating, I've just got Irish in my blood. We're an expressive lot."

Lips lingered close, breath mingled. "I like that about you. A lot."

Alone in the dining room, the long table stretched before them, desire humming between them.

"You have guests," she pointed out, watching his mind consider the table, consider her.

"They can entertain themselves," he decided as he picked her up, set her on the end of the thick plank of wood.    

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