Chapter Ten

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"What's the huge emergency?" Poppy strolled up to the three-story brownstone, an address Asprey had texted her with the brief but compelling message, Meet me ASAP. Unlike most of the brownstone houses she was familiar with, this one went beyond the skinny one-car length in width and spanned almost a quarter of a block. The neighborhood, all leafy trees and happy dogs, matched the grandeur of it. "I was supposed to meet Todd to get him to come to the racetrack tomorrow."

Asprey, clad in dark jeans and a French blue button-up that fit snugly across his shoulders and chest, ignored her remark and surveyed the house with detached interest. "I need your help with something."

"An emergency, right?" She fought a wave of irritation that had more to do with how charming he looked set against the upscale city sidewalk than being forced to delay her dinner with Todd. "That's why you called me all the way out here?"

"Well, it's not an emergency according to the standard definition of the word." As he spoke, Asprey at least had the decency to look sheepish, rubbing his finger along the side of his nose.

"Really? What definition would you use?"

"Think of it more like a strong urge."

She laughed. "I imagine you've had a lot of strong urges in your lifetime, haven't you? And you're the exact type of person who gives in to each one."

"You think I have no self-control?"

"I think you're used to people giving you what you want. Money has a way of opening doors and pandering to strong urges." His eyes flashed a warning, but Poppy ignored it. "Am I wrong?"

"Nope—you're completely right." Asprey crossed his arms and nodded up at the house. "I'm a spoiled, selfish reprobate who doesn't know how good he has it. I should be living it up in a palace like that instead of sleeping next to Graff in an airport hangar with no heating. It's my birthright. I deserve it."

Dammit. She'd hurt his feelings. Lifting a hand to his arm, she said, "Hey—I didn't mean it like that."

"You did, and it's okay."

"No, it's not okay." In the distance, a dog barked, and an elderly couple strolled by, nodding a friendly greeting toward Asprey as they went. She waited until they passed before speaking again, glad for the chance to gather her thoughts. It had been a mean thing to say, and if there was one thing Poppy strove for in all of her endeavors, it was to avoid cruelty. Maybe she didn't always do the right thing in terms of society's views, but she always did the right thing for her. "I'm sorry. If anyone knows how unfair it is to judge someone based on their situation, it's me. It was a crappy thing to say, and I take it back."

He studied her carefully before finally settling into a small smile. "Apology accepted and appreciated—you have no idea how much. So does that mean you're willing to help me with my, ah, emergency situation?"

Poppy was so grateful to see the smile back on his face she didn't hesitate. "Absolutely. What are we doing?"

"There is something I need inside that house, and you look like you could use a little fun. So I propose we go in there and get it."

"Oh yeah? This is your idea of showing me a good time?"

"Yes, it is." He looked supremely proud of himself. "I spent most of the day debating between this or letting you try to break my arm again. I'm not ashamed to admit I chose the former."

She rolled her eyes and scanned the building's exterior, looking for clues. Based on the size and location, she'd say they were looking at five million dollars in real estate, easy. Whoever these people were, they had money and weren't afraid to announce it to the neighborhood.

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