That evening, Jonathan couldn’t keep his mind off of a certain schoolteacher.
Tomorrow. Violet would be his again, starting tomorrow. He lounged in the backseat of the Lyons sedan as his driver headed to his hotel, a pleased smile on his face.
Oh, sure, she didn’t want to be at his side, but she’d come around eventually. She’d always been prickly at first meetings. He remembered the first time she’d met him, back when she’d had those long, beautiful braids and a tart mouth. At nineteen, she’d had no patience for fools, and he’d definitely been a foolish boy, utterly giddy just to be in her presence. She’d been snippy to him then, too. It was clear that Violet wore a suit of armor around her heart, and she didn’t let anyone get near.
She reminded him of one of his friends, Hunter, though he’d worn his scars on the outside. And so he’d decided to befriend Violet, because she was gorgeous and smart, and, hell, he’d been a horny nineteen-year-old. It had taken him about a week to get her to open up and let her defenses down, and then Violet had been a warm, teasing, delicious girl.
He remembered the way she smiled, as if she knew a secret no one else did.
She’d been giving that smile to another man earlier today, the one who sat next to her in the meeting. Jonathan’s hand clenched his phone, fury bolting through him. Violet had said she wasn’t married. That didn’t mean she wasn’t seeing someone. Jealousy snaked through him. If she wasn’t married, she was still fair game. He’d simply have to seduce her back to softness, back to smiling at him like that.
He wanted her. Pure and simple. He’d always wanted Violet. He’d never stopped.
The car pulled up in front of the hotel and Jonathan got out, still lost in thought. To think that he was in Detroit several times a year for auto industry meetings, and had never known that his Violet was right under his nose, teaching at a local school.
Fate worked in mysterious ways.
Jonathan headed up to his familiar hotel room. He tended to be in Detroit a lot for business, and though it probably would have been fiscally wiser to purchase a residence here, he stayed in the Townsend because he couldn’t be bothered with setting down roots. He didn’t want a house. Not if it meant coming home and finding it empty and hollow.
As he entered the suite, he noticed things were set out the way he liked, without having to ask. He was here often enough that his assistant simply faxed his schedule to the manager of the hotel, who made sure that Jonathan’s every need was met before he had to ask, and he was paid handsomely for it. Thus he had extra pillows, bottles of his favorite water at the bedside, and bath sheets instead of a robe.
He also had a hooker in his bed. As usual.
The woman sat up as he entered the room and tugged off his tie. Jonathan barely glanced at her. He didn’t have to. He knew what she’d look like. All the girls he got had a profile: Short. Dark haired. Jonathan didn’t like romantic entanglements. He hadn’t had a girlfriend since, well, since Violet. It was so much easier to pay someone for a quick f**k and then have them leave.
She sauntered over to him, dressed in nothing but thigh-highs and a corset. Her tits were huge and probably fake, but she had a pretty face. “Hello there,” she purred, coming over to help him unbutton his shirt. “My name is Sally,” she told him in a low, sultry voice. “And my safe word is ‘Kitty.’ I’m open for anything you might want to do.”
And she reached for his cock.
He stopped her, grasping her wrist. “I’m tired tonight, Sally.”
She looked surprised, and then hurt. “Oh. Do you . . . um, do you want me to call the agency and ask them to send someone else?”
“I don’t want anyone tonight,” he said gently. Well, he did want a particular someone, but she was probably sticking pins into a voodoo doll of him at the moment. The thought of f**king Sally instead of Violet was displeasing, like wearing brown shoes with a black suit. There wouldn’t be repercussions, but it just didn’t feel right.
The girl in front of him bit her bright red lip. “Oh.”
Sally still looked hurt, and he felt like an ass. He’d never turned down a girl before, and the agency had sent over just what he liked. She’d probably been filled with stories about how if she made him happy, he’d start asking for her on a regular basis, and he tipped well.
Jonathan guessed that Sally was probably more upset about the money than about not getting his dick. So he pulled out his wallet and began to flip hundred-dollar bills out of his money clip.
She put up a hand, trying to stop him. “Oh, Mr. Lyons, the agency pays me—”
“I know. And I want you to tell them that I was very pleased with your services tonight. Very pleased.” He pulled a total of two grand out of his clip and offered it to her. “My driver’s downstairs. Tell them at the front desk that you have his services for the rest of the evening. And I’d love for you to go shopping, on me. It’s my way of apology.” He waved the money at her.
Sally looked at it, then at him, and beamed with pleasure. “Thank you, Mr. Lyons.” She took the money from him and grabbed her clothing from the neat stack on a nearby chair.
“Enjoy,” he told her as she hauled her clothing on and left a moment later.
Then, he was alone. Thank God.
Shrugging his jacket off, he tossed it on the foot of the bed and sat down. He rubbed his jaw, thinking. Then, he pulled out his iPad and brought up a PDF of Violet’s letter from her father. He did a reverse search for the image on the Internet, but it brought up nothing recognizable. Huh. Frustrated, he tossed the tablet aside and lay back, thinking of Violet.
The pillows on his bed smelled like Sally’s perfume. It was a thick, musky fragrance, very different from Violet’s own scent. She smelled like coffee and, well, paper. Funny how he’d found that arousing. He thought of Violet again, but this time, instead of her cold response to him yesterday, she was raging with anger, anger that melted into raging hunger when he touched her.
With Violet on his mind, he undid his trousers and began to jerk off.
The next morning, Violet looked out the window of her condominium to see a limo waiting outside. She rolled her eyes at the sight, but hefted her carry-on and her purse. Here goes nothing.
She’d festered with resentment all night at Jonathan’s high-handedness, but today she was full of acceptance. She could fight this, or she could accept that he’d outmaneuvered her and was just being a jerk. She could go along with things, get it over with, and then go back to her life. So she would, and she’d smile through gritted teeth the entire time.
She locked her apartment and headed down the elevator and then out to the street. As she emerged from the building, a man got out of the driver’s side of the limo and approached her. “Miss DeWitt?”
She sighed and handed him her bag. “Thank you.”
He nodded and opened the back door of the limo for her, and she got in.
It wasn’t surprising to her that Jonathan was in the back seat of the limo, waiting. Somehow she’d guessed that he’d be there to pester her every second of this trip. “Hello, Mr. Lyons,” she said in a coolly polite voice. She noticed he was dressed rather casually this morning, a blue Superman T-shirt under his blazer, and jeans. His dark hair was slightly messy, as if he didn’t care how he looked that day.
She didn’t know what to make of that. Part of her was glad that she didn’t have the super-expensive-suit-wearing Jonathan with his impeccable grooming and pricey wristwatch and even more expensive shoes. But to just not give a shit about what he looked like when he was with her? Not even brushing his hair? Really? Didn’t she warrant a little self-grooming?
“Morning, Violet,” he said, and held out a lidded cup to her. “Three sugars, extra cream, right?”
Her eyes narrowed. He even remembered how she liked her coffee? Was this all so he could charm her back into his bed? Not a f**king chance. “Thanks.” She took the cup from him but didn’t drink.
He noticed that. “I didn’t poison it, you know.”
“Of course not. I imagine it’s hard for even a billionaire to hide a body.”
“That, and you’re far more useful to me alive.” He lifted his own cup to his lips. “We’re heading straight for the airport, if you’re ready.”
“Ready?” She snorted. “You’re the one kidnapping me.”
“It’s not a kidnapping, Violet. Your father stole a one-of-a-kind stele from one of my digs—”
“Yes. You know, one of those stone tablets with a ceremonial inscription on it—”
“I know what a stele is, Jonathan!” Like she was uneducated. The nerve.
“Yes, well, then you know it’s very important from me. You’re the only person who might have known how to get it back.”
“You keep saying he stole from you.” Phineas DeWitt was a heartless prick, but he was a devotee of archaeology and a huge supporter of museums. Violet wasn’t sure that she bought the whole “thievery” angle. “Why?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it? It’s important mostly because of where it’s from—Cadiz. Here.” He pulled out a laptop and began to type. A moment later, he flicked the camera on and dialed a call. “Are you there, Sergio?”
A rattle of Spanish came through the speakers of the laptop, mixed with feedback. The picture on the screen swung back and forth. Violet winced and rubbed her ear as Jonathan adjusted the volume.
“Sergio, I have Ms. DeWitt in the car with me,” Jonathan yelled at the camera. “Can you show her where the missing stele came from?”
“In the hole?” Sergio yelled, accent thick. The camera bounced around dizzily, as if someone was walking.
“Yes, in the hole!”
“In the hole?” Sergio repeated, clearly missing Jonathan’s commands.
“In the damn hole!”
Violet’s lips twitched with amusement. “So much yelling about holes. Should I leave you two alone for a private moment?”
Jonathan shot her a quelling look.
“Okay, in the hole,” Sergio said, and he barked something in Spanish to someone, then changed to English again to address Jonathan. “I’ll put on the headgear.”
“Thank you,” Jonathan said tersely.
The camera shifted again, and Violet caught a glimpse of a golden-skinned man with amber eyes and a curly mop of black hair before it swiveled around. “Camera is on. Can you hear me?”
Jonathan looked over at Violet and then nodded. “We can hear you.”
Curious, Violet leaned forward to watch the picture on the laptop as it bounced with every step. Even though it was morning where she was at, the sun was late afternoon bright in the picture. Pixels bounced around as Sergio maneuvered through a busy encampment.
“Where is he?” Violet asked, her voice pitched low so the computer’s microphone wouldn’t pick it up. She found herself interested in spite of her irritation at Jonathan.
“A dig I’m jointly sponsoring with a friend of mine. We’re looking for what might be the ruins of Atlantis.”
“Yes. Recent data has shown that there was a very large civilization on a coastal plain that was wiped out due to a tsunami at the right time. We’re looking for anything that would link it to Atlantis instead of, say, Tarshish, which is the current theory. Your father was supervising the dig last year, until he got too sick to continue.”
“Mmm,” Violet said noncommittally. Was that supposed to be a jab at her? She hadn’t known that her father had cancer until it was too late. She’d barely spoken to him in the last ten years and only found out his situation after he’d died. Then, she’d resented the fact that he’d prevented her from seeing him one last time. She’d always suspected that family wasn’t important to Phineas DeWitt, but denying his daughter her final good-bye to her erstwhile father? That made her irrationally upset, and when she was upset, she locked her emotions down and went cold.