“I’ve been reading the papers,” Zach said. “All of New York is buzzing about you. I mean, come on. Christian was the most eligible bachelor around. I am sure there are a lot of women who would kill to take your place. Better watch your back.”
Bianca twisted her fingers until they hurt, tired of hearing about how Christian didn’t want to get married. The fact he didn’t want to have children made him perfect for her. If they fell in love, she wouldn’t have to worry about him breaking her heart and dumping her as soon as she told him the truth.
“Do I need to apologize again?” Zach asked. “You’re as white as a sheet. What did I say?” He grinned sheepishly. “I’ve been told I run off at the mouth so fast my brain doesn’t have time to catch up.”
For a moment she forgot she wasn’t dressed for company and started to relax. A genuine smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She settled back in the corner of the couch and hugged the pillow while talking to the young man. In no time they were talking and laughing like old school chums.
Christian would be pleased to know his buddy was loyal to a fault. Every time she tried to gently nudge Zach into revealing something personal about Christian, he danced around the subject. They went back and forth for what seemed like hours.
Upon hearing they’d known each other since their first year at boarding school, she asked, “What was Christian like back then? Was he a studious boy or athletic? A shy boy with the girls or the arrogant guy he is now?”
“Who can remember that far back?”
“What sort of childhood did he have?”
Zach shrugged. “Better than some, not as good as others.”
“Did you ever meet his family? What were they like?”
“I didn’t pay much attention to adults back then.”
“What about his first love?” she asked. “Did he ever get his heart broken?”
If a young girl had crushed him at a tender age, that would explain a lot about his attitude towards her gender. Her last question was met with the same basic answer as the rest. He could have just used the tired “no comment” for all the useless information she’d gathered. Frustrated, she realized there was only one way she’d get anything out of Christian’s tight-lipped friend.
“You’re hiding something from me.” She stood, turned her back to him, and crossed her arms as if angry. “Christian is hiding something, and you’re helping him. How am I supposed to marry the man when he’s obviously keeping secrets?”
“No, no, no, no, no.” Zach hurried around her so they were face to face again. “I didn’t mean to be so mysterious. It’s just that I shoot my mouth off sometimes and cause problems. If I say anything that makes you think less of Christian, he will never forgive me.”
She put her arms down and tried not to look excited. “Tell me something about his past, maybe something from your time at boarding school. What was it like there?”
They returned to the couch, and Zach told her about life at the preppy academy for boys that he’d attended with Christian. Born into wealthy families meant certain things were expected from them, especially since they were both firstborn sons. He told her a few long stories about a life of privilege that wasn’t all it was meant to be and tall tales she found hard to believe. A couple of times she suspected he was giving her the plot to some funny teen movie that she’d missed.
Neither of them heard the elevator open or saw Christian had come home early until he cleared his throat. Bianca froze with her hand on Zach’s arm, and she realized how they must appear to him. The situation looked more intimate than it was with the two of them sitting close, laughing, and touching. Zach had a hand on her shoulder, but it was completely innocent.
Zach grinned from ear to ear, appearing oblivious to the tension in Christian’s shoulders and the tight smile on his mouth. “There you are,” Zach said. He leaped off the couch and greeted his best friend with a quick hug and a single clap on the back. “I was just getting to know your beautiful fiancé.”
“So I see,” Christian said.
Christian leaned in to place a quick kiss on her mouth. His lips compressed into a tight line as he backed away, and he locked eyes with her. She read the distrust in them and sighed. The man was determined to believe the worst of her. In fact, she was beginning to think hewantedher to be the kind of person who slept with every man she met.
“Was there something specific you needed?” Christian asked.
Zach did a double-take at his friend as if finally picking up on the tension in the room. “Did I come at a bad time?”
Bianca crossed her arms and glared at Christian, daring him to tell his friend the truth. Or maybe she should tell Zach how their engagement was a fake, and his good buddy was lying through his perfect teeth. They continued to stare at each other, no one talking until Zach cleared his throat.
“It’s been a long week,” Christian said in way of explanation. “Bianca just moved in, and she’s trying to transfer the magazine here from London. We’ve been dealing with the intrusive press and trying to juggle numerous other problems. Perhaps you and I can catch up after things settle down.”
“I heard about your father,” Zach said. “I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am.”
“Don’t be,” Christian said. “You know he was my father in name only.”
Zach shrugged. “Still, it must have been quite a blow.”
Christian’s jaw tightened. “His death has been... inconvenient.”
Bianca’s jaw dropped. No matter how bad their relationship was she couldn’t believe Christian’s callous comment. She wanted to blast him for his poor word choice, but she couldn’t do it in front of a witness. Their charade might be exposed. So she held her tongue and waited for their visitor to leave.