“Yes. Yes, I did.” She tapped the page of her open notebook as if to confirm her words, and when his eyes followed the movement, she hastily closed the book, not wanting him to see her scribbles. His brow lifted and his head tilted as his eyes burned into hers, and she smiled breezily up at him. She’d just check his Dictaphone later to figure out what it was she’d missed. No problem.

“Well?” he asked. Crap. Now what?


“Yes, I got it,” she repeated slowly, as if to an inattentive child. His eyes narrowed dangerously. God, he was scary when he did that. Okay, so maybe this was something he wanted done right away. That wasn’t good at all. She’d have to cop to the truth. She leaned in toward him and was a little offended when he leaned in the opposite direction.

“I didn’t quite get the last bit,” she confessed, and his eyes flared with what looked like disgust. How was she supposed to know they’d suddenly switch to English? Okay, so she should probably have been paying closer attention, but after three hours of nothing but Japanese, she was bound to have zoned out at some point.

“I want you to arrange a meeting with Craig, Josh, Ryan, Tanaka-san, Inokawa-san, Watanabe-san, and myself for three thirty this afternoon.” Cleo ducked her head as she quickly scribbled the information on a blank sheet in her notebook.

“You may use this conference room for the meeting, Knight-san,” Ms. Inokawa said in her breathy little voice, shocking the hell out of Cleo with her English. Could they all speak English? If so, how rude of them to not once acknowledge her lack of Japanese. Then again, she was just the assistant, who couldn’t even do the only thing that had been required of her at this meeting efficiently.

The meeting was apparently adjourned, because the men bowed and shook hands, Ms. Inokawa was speaking in that charmingly girlish voice, all the while smiling sweetly, while Cleo was left to her own devices, alone at the table. She got up—ostensibly to stretch—and finally made her way over to the fly-tainted, stale-looking pastries.

“Knight, get on those phone calls,” Dante growled from the other end of the room. Cleo swallowed down her resentment before fishing out the company phone to contact the architect, the contractor, and Ryan Blake—the company’s legal representative—all of whom were staying at the same hotel as Cleo and Dante. After a series of meetings with the three men the previous day, the boss had wanted to meet with the Japanese alone this morning in order to straighten out the mess he believed the other men had created. So if he was calling them back in, it must mean he’d made some headway in that morning’s meeting.

The speed at which they all answered their phones attested to the fact that they’d probably been anxiously awaiting her call, and Cleo set up the meeting within minutes. Dante was still amicably chatting with the Japanese trio, but the moment she disconnected the second call, he looked at her with a raised brow. She nodded in response to the question she could see in his eyes, and he went back to his conversation without acknowledging her affirmation. Stifling her irritation at his rudeness, she started compiling a list of all the documentation they would need for the second meeting. She was well engrossed in that task when Dante’s voice, coming from directly behind her, startled her back into the present.

“Are you coming? Inokawa-san has arranged lunch for us,” he informed her, and Cleo bit back a groan of relief. She jumped up quickly before he could revoke the invitation, and swayed slightly as the lack of food and jet lag hit her. His hand caught her elbow and steadied her.

“What’s going on with you?” he hissed.

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“I haven’t eaten much of anything since the in-flight meal yesterday morning,” she hissed back. “So excuse me for feeling a little light-headed.”

“Nonsense. You had dinner last night and breakfast this morning.” He waved his hand dismissively, refuting her claims with innate arrogance.

“No, you had dinner and breakfast. You told me we’d have a dinner meeting and ordered only enough for yourself, and if you consider that one piece of bacon and mouthful of eggs I gobbled down this morning breakfast, then you and I have seriously different ideas of what constitutes a healthy meal.”

His brow lowered as he considered her words; then he tilted his head toward the pastries on the nearby table.

“And this is why you’ve been staring at that table like an addict eyeing her next fix?” Okay, is that a glint of laughter in his normally enigmatic gaze? That was . . . different.

“I’m starving,” she said flatly, unamused by his amusement.

“We’ll remedy that immediately,” he assured her, squeezing her elbow briefly before letting her go completely.

Cleo tried not to cry while she stared down at the minuscule serving of sushi in front of her. Ms. Inokawa had reserved a trendy sushi restaurant for lunch, and though Cleo wasn’t a huge fan of Japanese food, she’d eat it if she was desperate enough. However, she hadn’t been expecting a child-size portion of food. She wasn’t the biggest of women—dancing kept her lean, and her frame was ideally petite for a dancer—but she had a healthy appetite, and the prettily decorated plate in front of her barely contained enough food to feed a gnat.

She was about to dig in when a hand clamped down on her thigh and squeezed painfully. Her shocked gaze flew to Dante’s impassive face, and he turned his head to glare at her before nodding toward Mr. Watanabe, who was speaking. She belatedly recalled the cultural etiquette booklet she had speedily read through on the plane, and remembered eating or drinking before your hosts was considered extremely rude. Apparently Mr. Watanabe was going to ramble on for a while before giving the go-ahead to eat.

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