"What do you want, Dixie?" Conn asked.
Opening her eyes, Val looked at him, relaxed and confident, as if all he had to do was stretch back on the picnic blanket and smile that slow, collected smile and women would crawl all over themselves to get to him.
She sighed. Probably most women would.
“I want my independence. I want my restaurant to succeed. And even if I’m not the status symbol they want me to be, I’m trying very hard to reconcile with my parents right now.” She shook her head, making her earrings jangle. “Though it’s tough building a mature relationship with a man who calls you ‘punkin.’”
“I can imagine,” Conn said dryly.
His blue eyes were bright with humor and dark with understanding. She felt his regard deep in her midsection, sweet as raspberry trifle and comforting as bread. A woman could learn to depend on the sustenance of that warm regard. Briefly, Val hungered for...what? His support? Approval? Love?
“What I don’t need,” she continued, “is a...a boyfriend looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do.”
“Or a lover?”
His deep, rough voice plucked at her nerves, making her insides quiver. “I tried that. I’m not some little innocent, you know. It didn’t work. It wouldn’t work.”
“Expectations. You let somebody into your bed, and all of a sudden he wants the keys to your apartment and a chance to run your life.”
“Your life? Or your business?”
“Either one.” Bravely, she met his eyes. “I won’t give up control, MacNeill.”
His thumb rubbed his jaw. “You know, it’s possible you’re letting your prejudices blind you to a good thing. You’re stuck with me, anyway. Why not use me? I’ve got expertise and I’ve got experience. Hell, I can get you references if you want.”
Her cheeks scorched. “Are we still talking about the restaurant here?”
He went very still. His stillness was an active quality, as unmistakable and expressive as another man’s shout. And then his slow grin sizzled clear down to her toes. “I was. But feel free to take advantage of any services you want. I won’t be in town forever.”
From The Comeback of Conn MacNeill