FORTY-TWO

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With the knowledge that Spinelli was only a few feet behind her, Virginia's stomach did a little tap dance. Keep walking, she told herself.

Two more willing candidates were approaching, their freshly glossed lips forming sexy pouts that looked over-rehearsed. "You're not leaving are you, Mark?" one of them cooed.

"I will be soon." That deep voice seemed to float forward and wrap around her, heating Virginia up like a warm blanket. "I have to get my beauty sleep."

Virginia rolled her eyes.

"Awww. . . " they whined in unison.

Once reaching the elevators, Virginia pushed the down button before turning to face him. Crossing her arms, she refused to make it easy. Although to be honest, she was more irritated with herself than him over what had happened on the dance floor.

But he probably already knew that.

"Can we talk for a moment?" he asked as the elevator doors opened. "Privately?"

She grappled for an excuse—being alone with him was a bad idea. "I really should get going . . . "

His eyebrows shot up. "Janine?"

She moved onto the elevator. "Ah, no. She's at my parents' house."

He followed her inside and pushed G. "Five minutes—I promise—okay?"

For the life of her, she couldn't come up with another reason to rush off besides telling him the truth, that his close proximity weakened her resolve. No way was that happening. She tilted her head up. Maybe we do need to talk, to end this, whatever this is, once and for all. "Okay."

She followed when he exited the elevator and headed down another hallway. He stopped at a rustic wood door with stained glass panels—the lobby entrance to the hotel restaurant. The sign read CLOSED, of course, due to the lateness of the hour, but he pushed it open anyway. Inside, a man dressed as a maître d was attending to the linens on one of the tables when he turned to look at them.

"Can you give us a minute, Maurice?" Spinelli asked him.

The man nodded. "Certainly, sir."

Spinelli held the door as he left, then softly shut it. The click that came next sounded more like a warning than a precaution. They were alone, locked in. Shit.

Needing the distraction, she examined the room. It was a large space with tall ceilings and windows looking out over a small man-made lake at the side of the building. Chandeliers dangled from the ceilings, their delicate crystals turning boring white light into shimmering patterns that repeated throughout the room. Expensive tapestries were hung on the wall in place of paintings, giving the restaurant a warm, cozy atmosphere despite its size.

"Wine?" Without waiting for an answer, he headed to the bar. Walking behind it, he first leaned back before moving farther down and bending out of sight. The clang of bottles hitting into each other was a sign of his pickiness, but he reappeared with one in hand, making short work of the cork with the wall-mounted wine opener. He grabbed two of the glasses from the rack above his head.

"Stealing now, Spinelli?"

"Not really." He gave her a sheepish grin. "This restaurant is ours."

"Oh." The display of wealth took on new meaning. "Figures," she muttered.

"You'd like it. I picked the chef myself."

"A little out of my snack bracket, I'm afraid."

"As my guest, then. It's a date."

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