Home > Executive's Pregnancy Ultimatum (Kings of the Boardroom #2)(4)

Executive's Pregnancy Ultimatum (Kings of the Boardroom #2)(4)
Author: Emilie Rose


T here’s no place like home.

But this wasn’t her home, no matter how it felt, Renee reminded herself Friday evening. A knot of apprehension formed in her stomach as she stared up at the tall, Queen Anne Victorian house painted brick-red with cream-colored balusters and gingerbread trim.

The wooden front door with its oval, beveled-glass insert opened and Flynn stepped onto the porch. He must have been watching for her. In faded jeans and a blue T-shirt, he looked so much like the man she’d fallen in love with eight and half years ago that it felt as if someone had dropped a fifty-pound bag of sugar on her chest.

But that love had died. Painfully. And it wasn’t coming back. She wouldn’t let it.

A volatile cocktail of emotions churned inside her as he jogged down the steep stairs toward her, then stopped on the concrete driveway a foot away. “I’ll take these bags. You grab the rest of your stuff.”

Her gaze dropped briefly and involuntarily to his lips before she ripped it away. “This is all I brought.”

She’d only brought the minimal requirements. She was only a visitor here, and she didn’t want Flynn—or herself—to get the wrong idea that this was anything more than a temporary residence. “I’ll pick up anything else I need when I make my weekly visits to check on Tamara and CGC.”

He didn’t look pleased, but he didn’t argue. “Would you like to park your car in the garage?”

“No, thanks. Did you ever do anything with the rest of the basement?” They’d been debating what to do with the large space behind the garage after he finished using it for a workroom during renovations. Since the area was on the downhill side of the house and had plenty of windows overlooking the back garden, the empty space would be wasted as a storage room.

“Not yet, but I have some ideas.”

She scanned the exterior of the house, loving every line of the gingerbread trim and dental moldings, the steep roof and the round turret. “It doesn’t look like you’ve made any changes to the exterior.”

“It’s hard to improve on perfection. We did well with Bella.”

Bella. The pet name they’d given the beautiful house.

Flynn’s fingers covered hers on the handles of her suitcases, sending sparks shooting up her arm. He stood too close and he smelled too good and too familiar. Memories of happier times pushed their way forward. She battled them back, released her luggage and moved a safer distance away.

He carried her luggage up the steps as if the heavy bags weighed nothing. She followed him but paused on the porch to turn and look at the view. Other restored nineteenth-century Victorians lined the east-west ridge like a brightly painted rainbow of color. On days like today when the sky was clear, she could see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Marin Headlands to the north. The shopping and dining districts were down the steep hill and around the block.

“Come in, Renee.”

Dread slowed her reaction time. Turning her back on the gorgeous view that made real estate in the area so expensive, she stepped into the foyer. Nostalgia washed over her. She could have walked out just yesterday, instead of an aeon ago. The warm, rich, jewel-tone colors they’d chosen welcomed her exactly as she remembered. Even the scent of the vanilla and cinnamon potpourri she’d loved lingered.

Gleaming hardwood floors stretched in every direction. The staircase with its delicately carved ivory-painted spindles rose up the side wall from the center of the foyer. The formal parlor took up the front left corner of the first floor and the dining area the right.

She pulled her thoughts back to the present. “Have you finished the third floor yet?”

“There didn’t seem to be much point.”

Their children’s rooms would have been on the third floor. Three bedrooms and a playroom.

“You can’t quit, Flynn. Bella deserves to be finished.”

“Now that you’re back, maybe we’ll get around to it.”

We’ll. She rejected the word.

The house had been a wreck when Flynn bought it ten years ago. He’d been restoring the first floor when they met in a local paint store where she’d driven just to find a specific brand of unscented paint that the L.A. stores hadn’t carried. He’d asked her opinion on an exterior color, and the rest, as the cliché said, was history.

They’d spent many of their dates and the first six months of their marriage finishing the first floor and then the second. They’d been about to tackle the third when he’d lost his father and changed jobs, and renovations had ceased to matter to him. Just like their marriage and her. She’d continued working on the house, but it hadn’t been the same. Without Flynn by her side, her heart hadn’t been in the project, and when he’d refused to have a baby, there had been no point in finishing the nursery.

He climbed the stairs. “You have your choice of bedrooms—the guest room or the master.”

And sleep with the memories of making love with him in that big bed and in the master bath’s claw-foot tub? No, thanks. They had eventually “christened” every room in the house, so there were literally memories to suppress every way she turned, but she still wanted to be as far away from Flynn as possible.

“I’ll take the front room with the balcony.” The one where they’d made love on a paint-spattered drop cloth. She’d found paint in her hair and other interesting places for weeks afterward. But that day and the drop cloth were long gone.

He frowned. “Are you sure? The guest room’s on the street side.”

“One of us has to sleep there, and it’s not like you have a lot of traffic noise here. I always thought the balcony would be a great place for guests to sit and sip coffee in the morning. You have to admit the view is incredible.”

He carried her luggage into the guest quarters and set it on the iron bed. “You know where everything is. Help yourself.”

“Thank you,” she said as stiffly as if she was a stranger, instead of the one who’d chosen the decor of this room—right down to the wedding-ring quilt on the bed and the rug beneath her feet.

“When you’re finished unpacking we’ll have dinner at Gianelli’s.”

Memories of the quaint Italian restaurant lambasted her. “Don’t even think of trying to act like everything is the same, Flynn. It isn’t.”

“Those who know us will expect us to celebrate our reconciliation at our favorite restaurant.”

Unfortunately, Flynn was right. To make this look real she was going to have to face the demons from her past.

“Our pretend reconciliation,” she corrected.

He inclined his head.

Resignation settled over her like a cold, wet tablecloth. The charade was going to force her into places she didn’t want to go.

“Give me thirty minutes.” Maybe by then she’d find the courage to do what she had to do.

Flynn loved a good plan and thus far his was coming together nicely. Renee was home. She wasn’t in his bed yet. But she would be. Soon.

He laced his fingers through hers as they strolled to Gianelli’s the way they’d done so many times before. She startled and tried to pull away, stumbling over an expansion joint in the sidewalk in the process. He tightened his grip, halting her fall and pulling her closer to his side.

Her wide, blue-violet eyes found his. “What are you doing?”

“Holding your hand. You can tolerate that for appearances’ sake, can’t you?” Having her close felt good.

“I guess so.”

He inhaled, letting her familiar Gucci Envy Me perfume wash over him. He wanted to tangle his hands in her long, blond curls and kiss her until she melted against him like she used to, but that would have to wait until she was more receptive. The initial kiss had answered his primary question. The chemistry between them hadn’t faded, and as long as they had chemistry to work with, he had a good chance of fixing what he’d broken.

He could feel Renee’s tension through her fingers and sought a way to distract her. “I’ve done some research on available properties in the area for you to lease.”

Her beautiful, blue-violet gaze flickered his way. “And?”

“There are a few prospects, but everything depends on your budget. I’ll show you the data when we get back, along with my ideas for the basement.”

Genuine interest brightened her face. “What did you decide to do with it?”

“That will have to wait until we get home.”

“Tease,” she said with a smile that faded almost instantly.

She no doubt remembered the occasions when she’d used the same word in the past—times when he’d aroused the hell out of her but delayed her pleasure repeatedly until she’d begged for mercy.

His skin flushed with heat and his groin grew heavy. He focused on what he planned to show her after dinner. Drawing the blueprints for her business had filled him with an energy and excitement he hadn’t experienced in a long time. He’d wanted to share them with her earlier when she’d asked about the space. But first he needed to ply her with good food, good wine and good memories to make her more receptive.

He opened the restaurant’s heavy wooden door, and Mama Gianelli, thanks to a heads-up text from him, waited by the hostess stand. The women had bonded years ago when Renee had asked the restaurant owner’s advice on a recipe.

Mama Gianelli squealed and bustled forward to hug Renee and kiss her cheeks. “When Flynn asked me to reserve your table, my heart overflowed. It makes me so happy to have you back where you belong, Renee. I’ve missed you and that beautiful smile,” she gushed in her heavily accented English.

Renee’s smile made its first appearance since she’d come back into his life. Too bad it wasn’t aimed at him, because like Senora Gianelli, he’d missed it and the way it made Renee’s eyes sparkle. “I’ve missed you, too, Mama G.”

“And this one.” Mama G pointed at Flynn and he stiffened. “He has not been eating like he should. Look at him. Skin and bones.”

Flynn shifted uncomfortably, then Renee’s gaze coasted over him, slowly, thoroughly. The appreciation he saw in her eyes made him stiffen for an entirely different reason.

Mama G linked her arm through Renee’s. “Come, I have your special table ready.”

He followed the women to the back corner, taking the time to admire his wife’s petite shape from behind. Renee had gained a little weight since their split, but it had landed in all the right places, and her white wraparound sweater and gray trousers that accentuated her figure awakened his libido in a way no other woman had been able to do since Renee had left him.

“I will bring a bottle of your favorite Chianti to the table,” their hostess said.

Renee shook her head. “None for me, thanks.”

Surprised, he studied her face, but he could roll with her decision. “I’ll pass, as well.”

Mama Gianelli departed and Renee opened her menu. He didn’t know why she was wasting her time unless hiding behind the menu was her way of avoiding him. She’d ordered the same dish each time they’d eaten here in the past, claiming no one made spinach manicotti as well.

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