over?" I'm mildly offended by the assumption that Ansel's success would somehow impact my desire to marry him. "What does that have to do with anything?" The question immediately catches him off guard. His hands fist in front of him. "I don't want us to get involved if there's a chance he's going to pop back into the picture." The chances of Ansel and I getting back together are about the same as the chance of me having sex with Landon Beckett today. "I've told you that it's over. I mean that." "He's in love with you, Tess." He looks down at my left hand. "I read that letter. He wants to marry you." He read the disjointed offering of a man who panicked when he feared that I'd reveal one of his secrets to his devoted fans. It was a bribe, pure and simple. It wasn't based in love or the desire to build a life with me. I hadn't even seen him in the four months before he asked me to meet him in Milan. Ansel Rinaldi loves himself and he'll do anything he can to protect his precious image. "Landon," I say his name calmly as I push past him. "I thought you brought me here to fuck me. I was hoping you brought me here for that." I stop when I realize how brazen those words sound. It's what I'm feeling and trying to temper that right now seems unnecessary given the fact that we're wedged in the middle of a conversation about my ex-boyfriend with no ending in sight. "You're very attractive." I stare up and into his face. "I thought we could have some fun but you're stuck on who my ex is, and I'm trying to put my past in the past, so I'm going to take off." "I like you, Tess." His hand reaches for my elbow, stalling me mid-step. "I don't want you to go." Of course he doesn't. He's probably got another hundred questions related to Ansel lined up. "I'm not going to stay." "Why not?" he asks genuinely, his jaw tightening. "I'm just trying to understand what happened between you and your ex." "Honestly," I begin before I stop to rest my hand on my stomach as I pull in a heavy breath. "Honestly, it's none of your business. He's part of my past. The relationship has been over for a long time. Besides, I don't generally tell the men I casually sleep with about my ex." He can't contain the small smile that courses over his lips. "The men you casually sleep with?" "I don't care about your past girlfriends, or lovers or even your ex-wife if you have one." I turn to face him directly. "I didn't come here to find out about any of that." "What did you come here for?" There's absolutely no mistaking the challenge in his voice. I want to say it. My body needs to say it. I want him. I want him to take me to his bed and fuck me into tomorrow. I want to forget that he read that letter. I want to forget that he knows that Ansel exists, but I'm not about to give him that satisfaction. "I came here for lunch." His entire face shifts as he throws his head back in raucous laughter. "Lunch it is then."
"Why didn't you tell Gabriel about this when you saw him earlier?" He motions towards my smartphone with the fork he's holding between his fingers. "You should have told him." After Landon had prepared a spring lettuce, cranberry and feta cheese salad, we'd settled into a conversation about my work. I had explained, with no shortage of details, my plan for the opening of the Liore boutique in Los Angeles. He may not be a fashion expert, but he's a close friend of Gabriel's and if I can impress him that will hopefully translate into him singing my praises the next time he's in the offices of Foster Enterprises. "Were you on your way to see him when we bumped into each other?" I ask before I take another drink from the glass of white wine he poured for me. He nods as he chews. He swallows hard, his eyes never leaving mine. "I told him I'd stop by. We don't see each other a lot anymore." It's a perfect segue into a conversation focused solely on him. "Have you known Gabriel a long time?" "Years," he says gruffly.