“That"s your explanation? Sorry, sis, that"s weak.”
“It is not weak. He wants to protect me.”
“Yeah, right. What he wants is you. For himself.”
When her phone beeped, Rachel checked the caller ID. Her heart bumped.
Time to address this matter once and for all. “Mor, that"s Shawn now. Let me get back to you.”
As soon as Morgan clicked off, she demanded, “Why did you kiss me?”
The dead silence on the other end vexed her for a moment, until his smooth chuckle reassured her the world had not turned on its axis and left Shawn speechless. “Why does a man usually kiss a woman, Rachel?”
“I"m not just any woman.”
“No kidding. If you were, you"d have opened your lips instead of behaving as if I were trying to molest you in the middle of Stacia Winter"s party.”
Now it was her turn to slip into silence.
“Don"t you want to say how could you again?”
“No.” Her gaze latched onto the copy of Publishing Monthly. She wouldn"t be deterred now, not when an impulsive affair was within her reach. Especially when Shawn just wanted to be right, so she would be wrong. “You only kissed me because of Ryan. Don"t deny it.”
When Shawn didn"t answer immediately, she smiled in satisfaction. Here it comes.
But what came made her smile vanish.
“I kissed you because it needed to happen. Just so you have time to prepare yourself, it"s going to happen again. Next time, you won"t get away so easily.” He paused long enough for her to inhale a startled breath. “See you in New York, darlin".”
Then he hung up on her.
* * *
Shawn arrived in New York early in the evening. Though he knew he should have been thrilled he"d found a flight at all on such short notice, he"d spent his four-hour layover in Chicago dwelling on Rachel"s lengthy lead. With the head of mad she"d exhibited earlier, she could"ve bedded Ryan already for all he knew. Why wait for a masquerade ball when you could strike while the intention burned hot?
Which meant he needed to move fast.
The interminable flight had given him time to ferret out the location of her hotel. She"d booked a single at the Conquistador in midtown, conveniently located several blocks away from the Zenith publishing gala being held twenty-four hours from now.
After renting the last Caddy—a far cry from his own convertible Porsche, affectionately nicknamed by Rachel the Hoochie Patrol—left on the rental car lot at La Guardia, Shawn used the car"s GPS to help him learn the city. While he traversed the bottlenecked streets, he shamelessly used the Griffin name to secure a suite at the Barclay, two blocks from Rachel"s own modest accommodations.
Why the woman never spent the money at her fingertips boggled his mind.
Yeah, he got that she wanted her own, even admired her for it. God knew he"d worked at building his own name, but that didn"t mean he wouldn"t take advantage of the benefits being real estate magnate Dillon Griffin"s son afforded him.
Especially when it came to indulging the stubborn, prickly, obtuse woman he loved. The woman he prayed to any and all deities he"d convince to share his bed during this impromptu sojourn.
“Hey, watch it!” he yelled to an errant cabby who not only cut him off, but nearly removed the Cadillac"s front bumper. The cabby flipped him the bird and careened down the congested street, aiming his black Towncar toward the center of the action, aka Times Square.