Cinderella Scandal(8)

By: Barbara Mccauley


He nodded. "I was."

"Then why?" Her voice trembled as she hugged the cold metal bowl close. "Why would you do this to me?"

"You are too young to open your own business, Katina." His voice softened a bit. "When you are older, we will talk."

"Stop treating me like a child. I'm twenty-four," she said through clenched teeth. "Me, Rachel, Sophia. We are older. Why can't you see that?"

"I am your apa," Ivan said firmly. "It is my duty to take care of my family. We have only each other."

"Dad." She struggled against tears. "Apa. I've worked in this bakery with you since I was ten. You know I can do it."

"It is too much money."

"Aunt Yana is going to help—"

"This is not Yana's decision." Ivan's voice rose. "My sister has the blood of the gypsies, running from city to city, country to country. What does she know about business and responsibility?"

"She's dedicated to her work," Tina defended her aunt. "Just because she travels doesn't mean that—"

"Enough!" He lifted a hand to silence her. "It is done. I have rented the space for one year. We will talk again then."

"But—"

"Be a good girl, Katina." Ivan patted Tina on her head. "Now you will take Mr. Danforth next door and show him what he has paid for."

"What?" Her mouth dropped open. "You expect me—"

"You will do as I say." He snatched the bowl of whipped cream from her arms. "And you will be nice to this man. Do you understand?"

Tina opened her mouth to protest, then closed it again. She knew it was useless to argue at this point. The deal with the Danforths had obviously been made. It was too late to change that, and if she pushed her father too far, he would never rent her the space.

And now she was supposed to be nice?

Setting her teeth, she marched back to the office. Outside the door she paused, then drew in a long, slow, calming breath. She'd already made a big enough fool of herself in front of Reid Danforth. She refused to add pathetic to his opinion of her, as well.

Certain her face might crack under the strain, she forced a smile and opened the door.

"Well," she said, breezing into the room and plucking a key from a hook beside the door. "It appears there was a wrinkle in our line of communication here, Mr. Danforth. When do you plan on moving in?"

"Tomorrow."

In spite of her determination to be calm, Tina felt her jaw go slack. "Tomorrow?"

"We're announcing my father's candidacy in a few days," he explained. "It's taken quite a while to find a space that meets our requirements, so I have to move quickly."

"I see." Regaining her composure, she nodded. "Well, shall we go have a look, then?"

The woman had certainly come back with a different attitude, Reid thought as he followed Tina into the hallway. She'd gone from Miss Tempest to Miss Hospitality in the space of about five minutes.

Not that he was buying her facade of serenity. Reid could see just a trace of tension in her eyes, hear the edge of stress in her silky-smooth voice. Under the surface of all that so-called calm, a storm was brewing.

No doubt about it, she intrigued him. Made him wonder what all that pent-up energy would be like in bed.

They stepped out the back door of the bakery into a lovely garden framed by high walls of aged brick and stucco. Lush ferns and plants surrounded stone benches, statues of smiling cherubs and a small rock pond.

"There's a private alley between the buildings," she said as they walked across the patio, her tone clipped and matter-of-fact.

She opened an iron gate and they stepped into the alley. Reid noted the wrought-iron stairs leading to the second and third levels above the space he'd rented. "Are the upper levels rented out?" he asked.

"My aunt's apartment is on the second floor and she has a photography studio on the third." They moved past the alley, stepped through a second gate into another garden. "She's traveling most of the time on shoots, if you're worried about her disturbing you."

As Reid followed Tina through the second garden to the back entrance of the building, he couldn't help but notice the sway of her slender hips and the fact that she had nice legs. Something told him that it wouldn't be Tina's aunt who would be disturbing him, he thought.

He forced his attention back to Tina, realized he'd missed part of what she'd been saying, something about the buildings being built in the early 1800s, then renovated in the 1970s.

Over the next year, there'd be numerous receptions for donors and volunteers, Reid knew. For the smaller, more private gatherings, the brick patio, with its stone benches and two-tiered fountain, would be perfect. "Will I have use of the garden area?"

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