Lon Bartlett had long ago assigned a ranking system to the women he encountered in his life and had often alluded to that in his weekly column. He was looked up to by the multitude of male readers who bought the magazine where his column was featured for his no-nonsense approach to handling the weaker sex. His draw was strengthened by the fact that he spoke from a reputed vast stockpile of experience.
At first Lon thought her reserve might be fear so he asked her to dance at the club almost as a challenge. He was surprised when she accepted without hesitation. She even allowed him to hold her close, but she was still holding back. It wasn’t often, and certainly not recently, that a woman seemed impervious to Lon Bartlett’s charms. Paige Andrews frustrated him and intrigued him at the same time.
“So, tell me a little about yourself, Paige.” He smiled for her benefit. The entire evening had passed and he knew very little about her. There was no way Lon was willing to get out of the limo, say good night, and still feel so empty. “Personally, I mean. Not business.”
She had done her best to court him for her boss and their conversation through much of the evening had been both relaxed and non-committal. But she felt much more comfortable not including any personal details about either one of them. The tabloids had already provided too much personal information about him. And she already considered him far too dangerous. “There’s not much to say. There’s certainly nothing that’s relevant.” She looked forward at the window that shielded their conversation from the limo driver. The young man was sitting patiently while he waited for a signal from her to open the door for their guest.
“Come on, I know this evening was all a show to keep me happy so your company can buy the magazine.” Lon knew that this purchase would benefit the new publisher even more than it would him so long as he remained on board. “It would make me very happy to know a little bit more about the woman Paige Andrews.”
This was what she had promised Jeanmarie. “And if I tell you my life history, will I be able to tell my bosses that you will remain on the masthead?” She found herself getting lost in the depths of his silvery grey eyes.
He chuckled. “Wow, you really do stay focused. Just how far would you be willing to go to keep me happy?” Lon noticed that Paige suddenly looked guarded. The smile she had been wearing, even if a bit reserved, faded. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to pressure you into anything improper. I didn’t mean it that way.” He didn’t understand why her retreat bothered him so much.
It took a few moments before Paige was able to meet his eyes again. But even Lon could see she was wearing a mask. She sighed. “I grew up in upstate New York on a farm. I have two older brothers. I also have a baby sister. I went to a community college here in the city and studied business. Until six-weeks ago I worked in the secretarial pool at By-Lines Publishing. I just earned a promotion into their Public Relations department. And when my boss called me into her office yesterday to tell me I had to wine and dine you, I balked.”
Lon laughed. “I take it you are not a fan.” Not many women were quite that frank around him.
“No.” There was no hesitation. “Did I make you happy?” She smiled for his benefit.
He just smiled back at her. “I like your honesty although I am wounded that you aren’t an adoring fan.” She looked away again. “Why did you decide to move to the city?”
Paige swallowed. “I got engaged and my fiancé wanted to live here.”
“Oh.” He looked down at her left hand and didn’t see any ring. “Are you still engaged? Or married?” Lon was hoping the answer was no and he was pleased when she shook her head. “What happened?”
“That’s none of your business.” Paige hadn’t meant to snap. She caught her breath. “I’m sorry. I just would rather not discuss that.”
“I’m sorry if I intruded. But I am still happy the answer was no.” He noticed the surprise in her eyes. “May I see you again?”
She wasn’t prepared for his request. “Uh, I’d have to speak to Jeanmarie and...”
“No.” He cut her off. “You misunderstood me. I wasn’t asking about business. I’m asking you out on a date. Me man, you woman, we go out.”
“A simple yes would be nice.” Lon smiled teasingly as he ran a finger along her cheek. “I like you and I would like to get to know you better.” He leaned forward and placed a very light kiss on her lips. “Friday night... dinner and maybe a movie. I’ll call you tomorrow at your office to get your address.”
It wasn’t until Lon had swung the door closed behind him that Paige realized she had never signaled the driver to open the rear door. She also realized that she had never told him she would go out with him. But she knew she would.