Home > Shopping for an Heir (Shopping for a Billionaire #10)(10)

Shopping for an Heir (Shopping for a Billionaire #10)(10)
Author: Julia Kent

Grizzled vets often told her that life back home was too stretched out, like taffy (though that’s not the metaphor they’d used).

“Living life back home as a civilian is all stretched out like a whore’s hole after a ship come to port,” was the exact quote of the other NCOs had said during a rare clandestine drinking session on a brief R&R in Kabul.

She preferred the taffy comparison.

She spotted her date the second she walked into the restaurant.

Normally, she had a split-second judgment that kicked in when it came to people. One of three reactions:

The Hallelujah Chorus.

A sad trombone.

Radio silence.

Radio it was, then. Her date didn’t trigger any highs or lows inside, which meant this could go either way.

He was fine looking, with short middle-brown hair the color of a drab leather briefcase, stylish glasses without a frame at the bottom, and the scanning eyes of someone who knew how to work a room.

Or who thought he did.

“Suzanne?” He stood, one hand going up to the perfectly knotted red-checked tie, the move calculated. As she moved closer, she saw his eyes were a dark brown, perfectly even, as if someone took chocolate paint and spread it with precision.

She knew he was showing off his Patek Philippe watch and gold cuff links on his wrist with that move. Good for him. The items were a sign of success, an outward signal designed to convey a message.

Message received.

“Steve James?”

He grinned, holding out a smooth hand, with fingernails buffed and perfectly manicured. “That’s the name I use on the dating site. My first and middle name. I’m actually Steve Raleigh,” he said, looking around the room, his voice elevated. “So great to finally have the pleasure of being with you, Suzanne.”


He looked at her like he expected her to know who he was. As if Steve Raleigh were a celebrity, like he’d just announced he was Brad Pitt or Matt Damon.

Over the last year, a new breed of guy had emerged in Suzanne’s online dating foibles: the networking dater. He was less likely to find her on OKCupid and more likely to pick her because of her LinkedIn profile.

In other words, he wasn’t looking for a passion partner, with romantic walks on the beach, candlelit dinners, and weekends spent in bed on Nantucket.

He was looking for business connections, to rub elbows instead of lips, and to find a leg up in his corporate ladder-climbing.

As a partner at one of the biggest law firms in Boston, Suzanne was a prime piece of filet mignon in this dating meat market.

That turn of phrase—the pleasure of being with you—was a new one for her, though.

“Excuse me, I just have to tell you something,” he said suddenly, moving in front of her as if he were interrupting her. He wasn’t.

She was standing perfectly still.

“I just have to tell you how fabulous your hair looks.” He smiled, tilting his head, the move somehow practiced and genuine at the same time.

It threw her into a tailspin.

“Thank you.” Instinct kicked in and she reached up, touching a thick wave that fell over her shoulder.

He grinned, pulled out her chair, and she sat, flummoxed.

Was this guy a networker? Trying to study him without being obvious, she watched as he adjusted his tie again, angling his wrist awkwardly to make the entire face of the watch show.

“Nice watch,” she said, being polite.

“What, this?” His eyebrow arched. “Just an old family heirloom.” Eyes drifting to her breasts, he made it clear he liked what he saw. “Your pendant is beautiful.” He caught her gaze. “And so are you.”

“Thank you.” The direct approach often worked with her. He was intriguing.

“So tell me more about you,” he said, eyes on her face, searching. Then he reached into his pocket, grabbed his phone, glanced at it, and put it back.

“Don’t we need to order?”

He waved his hand. “Already took care of it.”

She looked askance, trying to decide how she felt about that. “How do you know what I like?”

“I’ll surprise you.”

“Let me guess—beef.” He looked like the type to order steaks because he thought they were more manly. To be fair, he also had the body of a guy following Paleo, with a tall, lean, hungry look.

“You know me so well.” When he smiled, he was a handsome guy, if guarded. “You’re from Oklahoma, right?” he asked abruptly.

Why the weird topic change?

“Minnesota, actually.”

“You don’t have an accent.”

She gave him a tight smile. “Military brat. My dad was a naval officer. We moved a lot. Minnesota’s where I finished high school.”

“You claim it as your home state?”

“Something like that.” She took a sip of water. “You from a military family, Steve? Did you serve?”

“Me? No,” he scoffed.

“Why not?” She withheld judgment from her voice, even if he wasn’t extending the same courtesy to her.

“Never needed to.”

“Define ‘need.’”

“Let’s talk more about you,” he insisted, saved by the introduction of a tray of cooked, chilled vegetables and dressings, the first course.

“I’m a combat veteran and a lawyer. What more do you need to know?”

“I’m sure you’re more than that.”

“I don’t need to be more than that.”

“You’re a woman, too.”

Never said I wasn’t, she thought, but didn’t say.

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