Defiant Mistress, Ruthless MillionaireBy: Yvonne Lindsay
Auckland’s typically humid spring air had already begun to play havoc with her hair. Wisps that had strategically been pulled free from her ponytail to smoothly frame her face now began to curl flirtatiously. Not exactly the image she’d wanted to project, but short of an interlude in the ladies’ room with a hair straightener there was little Callie could do.
Finally, she approached the green canvas awning that heralded the entrance to the restaurant. It was one of Auckland’s longest-standing and finest eateries—mind you, she didn’t expect anything less from Josh Tremont. A man like him commanded the best at all times, and he wasn’t afraid to pay for it. She should feel flattered, she supposed, that he’d requested a meeting with her. Obviously, he thought her integral enough within Palmers that her leaving would cause more of his signature range of trouble.
Callie paused at the threshold to the restaurant lobby. Her reflection in the highly polished glass door showed that, aside from the recalcitrant strands of hair and the slight shine on her nose and cheeks from her power walk to the venue, she looked just fine. She drew in a deep breath and tucked her slim brown Vuitton document case under one arm.
The sudden gloom of the entrance forced Callie to push her sunglasses up onto her head and she scanned the dining room beyond for a sign of Tremont.
“Can I help you, madam?”
Callie fought back a smile at the hoity-toity demeanour of the maitre d’. She doubted he’d be as polite if he knew that twelve years ago she’d dined frequently from the Dumpster at the back of this kitchen and others like it, but then the insides of places like this were all about appearances, and she knew all about how important such appearances were. She arranged her features into a screen of patronising calm before responding.
“I’m meeting Mr Tremont.”
“Ah, yes, you must be Ms Lee. Please, come through. Mr Tremont is already waiting.”
His implication that she was late and that Mr Tremont wasn’t in the habit of being kept waiting was painfully clear in the disdainful glance he cast her. Callie followed the stiff-backed maitre d’ as he preceded her through the nearly full dining room, toward a private alcove near the rear. She fought the urge to poke out her tongue at the man’s back. But at the sage old age of twenty-eight she knew better than to give in to impulses that could lead you into trouble.
“Ms Lee for you, sir.”
Callie had seen pictures of Josh Tremont in the gossip columns as well as in business magazines, but she was unprepared for the sizzling power of being pinned by his electric-blue eyes when he lifted his gaze from the PDA in his hand. Now she knew what people meant when they referred to that “caught in the headlights” moment. That time in space when you froze, unsure of whether to flee or fight.
She’d come prepared for the latter, but face-to-face with the man himself she wished she’d been in a position to have refused his invitation outright. A flutter of something she didn’t want to admit might be attraction shifted in the pit of her belly.
“Mr Tremont,” Callie said, deciding to take the initiative and offer her hand.
Josh Tremont uncrossed his leg and placed his PDA on the crisp white linen tablecloth in front of him before standing to accept her hand. Callie’s heart jumped a beat as his long fingers closed around hers and irrationally she wondered how his hands would feel on other parts of her body. Strong, capable, warm. Another tiny pull threaded through her body and yanked, hard.
No wonder the man featured so widely in all the papers. His allure was overwhelming and, she realised, he’d yet to utter a single word.
He let go of her hand and gestured to the seat opposite, waiting for the maitre d’ to pull out her chair and see her settled before he sat again himself.
The dark silver-grey suit he wore, teamed with a black shirt and tie, befitted his outlaw-type dark good looks. And, even though it was only one in the afternoon, already he’d begun to sport a shadow on his cheeks—just enough to take the completely polished edge off the man who she knew was ranked right up there on New Zealand’s rich list.
“I’m pleased you could make it, Callie Rose.”