“Did you need to make a phone call?” she asked. “The pay phones are just out there.”
“I know what you’re up to,” he said, his eyes fixing on her lush mouth.
“Up to? I just needed to check on my kids.”
“Don’t think you’re fooling me. Both you and I know what’s going on here and if you hurt my father, you’ll have me to deal with.”
“Hurt your father? Why would I hurt him?”
Hell, she was good. He actually found himself fooled by that wide-eyed innocent look. So why did he want to yank her into his arms and find out exactly how that pretty mouth tasted. With a soft curse, Kit released her, then stalked toward the door. But an image of her stayed with him, swirling in his head, imprinting on his brain. When he reached his car, he sat down inside, gripping the steering wheel.
This was a great move. A lot of good he could do out here in the parking lot. Kit cursed again. There’d be plenty of time to convince his father against a relationship with Roxanne Perry. And while he was at it, he might take the time to convince himself that Roxanne Perry wasn’t the most beautiful and intriguing woman he’d ever met.
But until then, Kit was going to keep a close eye on her. Sooner or later, she’d show her true colors. And then he’d find a way to get her out of his father’s life for good.
“COMING UP NEXT, we have Roxanne Perry. Roxanne was recently chosen as a finalist for the ‘Mother of the Year’ contest, sponsored by Family Voyager magazine. We’ll be talking about the struggles of raising children alone and we’ll be giving away free subscriptions to Family Voyager. So join us after these messages.”
Roxanne wriggled nervously in her seat, the blinking lights and endless dials of the radio studio adding to her apprehension. She plucked the headphones off her head, ignoring the commercial for Big Bob Martin’s Used Cars. “I don’t know if I can do this,” she whispered. “Just because I was nominated, doesn’t mean I’m some shining example.”
Carl sent her a reassuring smile. “You’ll be fine. Just be yourself.”
“I was myself last night and your son wasn’t too thrilled that I’d be on the radio.”
“That was all just a misunderstanding.” Carl glanced up from his notes, a slow and satisfied grin sending a twinkle to his eyes. He leaned over and pressed a button on the board. “See? He’s come here just to listen.”
Roxanne spun around in her chair to find Kit Lawrence standing in the next room, staring at her through a plate glass window, his arms crossed over his chest, his expression unreadable. Her breath froze and, for a moment, she felt like slipping beneath the console and crawling out of the room. After her dinner with Carl, she’d gone home to a sleepless night, filled with images of a handsome, dark-haired man in a tailored business suit and silk tie-a man who looked a lot like Kit Lawrence.
She wilted under his stare, feeling as if he could read her thoughts. From the moment he’d walked up to their table last night, she’d had trouble keeping her eyes off of him. He had a dangerous air so magnetic and compelling that he made her heart flutter. He’d been the first man since her husband that she’d really looked at. And then, when she had, her pulse began to race and her mind spun.
Her cheeks warmed as she recalled the vivid dream she’d had last night. All morning, she’d tried to convince herself that it was only normal to have sexual fantasies about a man as attractive as Kit. After all, she hadn’t had sex in over two years, and then, it hadn’t been that great in the end anyway. The kids had pretty much exhausted her, so passion usually took a back seat to sleep.
But here was Kit Lawrence, gorgeous, successful and unmarried, the kind of man every woman found attractive. Was it any wonder he’d invaded her fantasies? Yes, he was rude and arrogant and he obviously didn’t think much of her, but in her dreams, he didn’t do a whole lot of talking. Just whispering…and moaning…and- She swallowed hard. “He looks angry. Maybe this isn’t a good idea.”
“This is my radio station,” Carl said, “and my radio show. I can do what I want.”
“But who would want to listen to me?”
“I would. I think your story will resonate with lots of single mothers out there.”
“What story? That I ran over my husband’s designer suits with the lawn mower? Or that I blacked out his face on every wedding photo I had? One night, I even sewed a little voodoo doll and stuck pins in the…well, in the groin area. Those really aren’t very positive messages to send out to the public. And I don’t think that’s going to win me any points in this contest.” She looked over at Kit Lawrence and saw a flicker of amusement cross his face. “Could you ask him to leave? Why is he staring at me like that?”
“He can hear you,” Carl said. “The intercom is picking up our conversation.”
“And he thinks you’re a gold digger,” Carl added, before pushing another button.
Roxanne gasped. “What?” She looked over at Kit and noticed that the smile had faded from his face.
“And we’re back,” Carl said smoothly.
“He thinks I’m a-”
“And on the air,” Carl interrupted. “Joining me in the studio is single mom Roxanne Perry, and today we’re going to discuss the challenges that face single mothers. The phone lines are open. Give us a call.”
The next eight minutes passed in a blur. Roxanne listened to the callers and bumbled through her responses, trying to keep the mood light and positive. To her surprise, she shared many of the same experiences and emotions as the listeners. She’d always felt so alone, but now it was clear that there were a lot of women, young and old, who were dealing with the same problems.
When Carl finally announced a commercial break, she sat back in her chair and drew her first decent breath since the On Air light blinked on. To her relief, Kit no longer stood in the control room. She covered the mike with her hand. “What did you mean, gold digger?”
Carl chuckled. “He’s got some crazy idea that you and I are dating and that I’m about to drag you off to Vegas for a quickie wedding.”
Roxanne blinked. “Dating? A wedding?”
“I guess it’s not that far beyond possibility. A lot of guys my age find younger women attractive. I could never understand it, but now I do. I saw the way the men were looking at me in the restaurant last night. They were thinking what a lucky guy I was to be with someone as pretty as you.”
“But-but it wasn’t a date,” Roxanne said.
“I know that. But my son doesn’t. It’s a nice little ego boost that he thinks I could get a lady like you to go out with an old guy like me. So I let him believe what he wanted.”
“You’re not old,” Roxanne said.
“I’m old enough to know when you’re humoring me. And though you’re a very intelligent and captivating young lady, I’m not sure I could date anyone who doesn’t remember when there was no television, only radio.”
“All right, you’re not that old,” Roxanne said. “But you’re not really interested in dating me, are-”
Carl held up his finger. “We’re back with Roxanne Perry. Let’s take another call.”
The rest of the hour flew by. Roxanne wasn’t sure when it happened, but sometime during the show she found herself having fun. She relaxed and began to play off the comments Carl was interjecting into the conversations. He tried to defend the male point of view, and Roxanne and the callers neatly countered his defense. When Carl finally signed off, she wasn’t tired or stressed, she was giddy with exhilaration.
“Congratulations,” Carl said. He reached out and took her hand and gave it a gallant kiss. “You did very well.”
“It felt good,” Roxanne said. “At first, I was so nervous and then I forgot what I was doing and just started talking. It was like talking to my sister on the phone.”
“You’re a natural.” He picked up his papers and straightened them. “I’d like you to do another show. How about next week?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Roxanne said. “I’d have to get a sitter again and I’m not sure-”
“I’ll pay you,” Carl said. “The money won’t be great, but it’s more than enough to pay for a sitter. And who knows where this might lead?” He scribbled an address on a scrap of paper. “Why don’t we get together tomorrow night and toss around some ideas. Bring the kids along. I’ve got an indoor pool and I’m sure they’d enjoy swimming. We’ll send out for pizza.”
“Oh, they would enjoy swimming. We don’t get out much.”
“Around five?” he asked. “That will give the kids time to swim before dinner.”
Roxanne nodded. “All right. Five tomorrow afternoon. We’ll be there.” She stood up and grabbed her jacket from the back of the chair. “I’ll see you then.”
She quietly slipped out of the studio and started down the hall. When she reached the end, she turned to the right, then found herself in unfamiliar territory. The station’s programming played softly over the office P.A. system, and she listened distractedly to a cooking show, thinking how odd it was to have a cooking show on the radio.
When she reached another dead end, Roxanne realized she was lost. She glanced inside a well-appointed office and cleared her throat. “Excuse me. Could you tell me how to get out of here?”
The occupant in the high-backed leather chair slowly turned to face her and her stomach dropped.
“Hello, Mrs. Perry.”
“Come in. Sit down. I was hoping we’d get a chance to talk.”
“I really have to be going,” she said, uneasy with the predatory look in his eyes.
“I heard the show. Not bad.”
“Thank you,” Roxanne said, twisting her hands in front of her. “I was a little nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before.”
He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers in front of him, fixing his gaze on her. “I’d expect not. It’s not often you run across a man who owns his own radio station.”
His words were said so coldly it sent a shiver down her spine. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“I think we both know. My father is a wealthy man and you’re a woman looking for someone to provide. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together.”
“How dare you!” Roxanne said, taking a few steps toward him. “You don’t know anything-”
“I do dare. Carl Lawrence is my father and I won’t see him hurt by a woman like you.”
“A woman like me? You mean a gold digger? That’s what you think, isn’t it? Well, you’re wrong. We’re not romantically involved and don’t intend to be. Your father has been very kind and encouraging to me.”
“I’m sure he has,” Kit said. “And if you stick around long enough, he may start giving you expensive gifts or taking you on luxury vacations. He’s done that before. But sooner or later, he’ll realize what you’re after. He always does.” He slowly stood, pressing his palms flat on his desk. “Don’t waste your time with Carl Lawrence. Stay away from my father, Mrs. Perry.”
Her temper flared. “Go to hell, Mr. Lawrence.” With that, she turned on her heel and stalked out of his office. Let him think what he wanted. Let him believe that she and Carl were having a torrid affair. He obviously didn’t want to listen to her. It served him right for acting so arrogant.
When she reached the lobby she stopped and pressed her hand to her chest. Her heart hammered inside. She tried to rationalize the anger she felt at his outrageous assumptions, but then realized that it wasn’t anger making her heart beat faster. It was excitement and exhilaration. She moaned softly. And, if she were totally honest with herself, it was desire.
“Don’t be an idiot,” she muttered to herself as she walked outside into the cold. “How can you possibly want a man who thinks you’re nothing more than a greedy little hussy?”
As she strode to her car, she considered calling Carl and telling him that she wasn’t interested in a job at the station. The prospect of another encounter with Kit Lawrence was enough to smother any interest in a radio career. But she wasn’t about to go back to crying in the closet. This was her life and she was going to start living it. And if that meant shoving Kit Lawrence aside to do something she enjoyed, then that’s what she’d have to do.
KIT BRACED HIS PALMS on the edge of the pool and pulled himself up out of the water. His hair dripped as he grabbed a towel from a nearby lounge chair and toweled his chest dry. An hour-long swim, some Chinese food delivered and a hockey game on ESPN were exactly what the doctor ordered after a stress-filled day.
It wasn’t that work had been so bad. He wasn’t even bothered that a deal to buy a station in Newark, New Jersey, was about to go south for no good reason. He’d occupied most of his day trying to figure out what to do about his father and Roxanne Perry. What was it that he really objected to? That she was so young? That she was incredibly beautiful? That if his father married her he’d have step-siblings young enough to be his own children?
Or was it that he was incredibly attracted to Roxanne himself? There was no use denying it. Every time he thought about her, he didn’t think “stepmommy.” He thought about yanking her into his arms and kissing her. Or pulling her down onto his bed to explore her perfect body. Hadn’t Shakespeare written a play about this very problem? His thoughts were turning a bit too Oedipal for his liking.
The doorbell rang and Kit looked up at the clock. The housekeeper had left at four and he wasn’t expecting visitors. The only person who came over to the house on a regular basis was his father and he had a key. But considering what was going on in Carl Lawrence’s life lately, Kit wouldn’t be surprised if he’d forgotten it-or lost it.
He cursed softly and wrapped a towel around his waist. It was obvious, even to himself, that he was making a mess of this whole affair. Maybe he just ought to let it run its natural course and stay out of the way. Though his father seemed fond of Roxanne Perry, he didn’t seem so besotted that he’d become completely irrational. But it wasn’t his father he was worried about. Women like Roxanne Perry were always hovering around men like Carl. Young, pretty, avaricious women who saw the bank account behind the man.
He shook his head. Surely his father would have to see Roxanne Perry for who she really was. Women her age didn’t date men nearing sixty. Hell, she had four young kids. If he took her on, the kids would be part of the package and he’d be coaching soccer when he was seventy. At least Kit would have the whole evening to try to convince him to cut her loose.
The bell rang again and Kit jogged through the spacious foyer, his bare feet silent against the marble floor. He grabbed the door and yanked it open, ready to chide his father for his forgetfulness. But it wasn’t Carl Lawrence who greeted him on the other side. Instead, he came face-to-face with Roxanne Perry. To make matters worse, her four children were with her.