It Happened One Wedding Page 32

Cade stared at him, speaking slowly. “It’s Friday night. There are three attractive women checking you out, and this is the entirety of your response? That they’re too tan?” He looked Vaughn over with sharp eyes. “What’s going on with you? Are you sick? Bleeding internally in the head?”

Huxley rubbed his jaw, musing. “A similar thing happened the other day,” he told Cade. “The new cute barista at Starbucks was flirting with him, and he didn’t even notice.”

“What new cute barista at Starbucks?” Vaughn asked indignantly.

Huxley gestured to Vaughn. “See? It’s like his radar is broken or something.”

“Hmm.” Cade looked Vaughn over, folding his arms across his chest. “How long has he been like this?”

Vaughn glared at them while grabbing a couple of French fries. “Any time you two want to stop talking about me like I’m not here, that’d be cool. Really.”

“Two weeks,” Huxley said to Cade, ignoring Vaughn. “Ever since he came back from that weekend at his parents’ house.”

Hearing that, Cade raised an eyebrow. “How curious. Correct me if I’m wrong, Agent Roberts, but wasn’t that the last time you saw a certain vixen maid of honor?”

“Still with the vixen jokes?” Vaughn asked him.

“Remember how much shit you gave me when I first started dating Brooke?” Cade threw back in response.

Vaughn smiled fondly. No doubt, he’d been all up in his friend’s business over that for weeks.

Crap.

“And me, when I first got together with Addison?” Huxley added, referring to his fiancée, another agent in the white-collar crime group.

“A happenstance that still remains a bigger FBI mystery than who shot JFK,” Vaughn quipped.

Both Cade and Huxley stared at him unwaveringly.

Tough crowd.

“Whatever. This is completely different,” Vaughn said definitively. “I don’t even like Sidney. She’s everything I’m not looking for: argumentative, not remotely easygoing, and completely open about the fact that she wants a long-term commitment. I haven’t seen her for two weeks, and trust me—it’s been two of the most peaceful weeks of my life.” In fact, it had been a relief to throw himself into work since he’d been back from his parents’ house, and to be free of a certain redhead whose kiss was way hotter than it should’ve been for someone so cranky and difficult.

“You’re doing that thing again,” Huxley observed. “Like you want to say more.”

“I really don’t.”

“You know we’re not letting you leave until you give us something, right?” Cade asked.

Unfortunately, Vaughn did know this. His friends would fixate on the situation with Sidney and thoroughly annoy him until they got whatever answers they thought they were looking for. “Fine,” he said, figuring he might as well rip off the Band-Aid and get it over with. “I kissed her.”

“You kissed the maid of honor?” Huxley asked incredulously.

“No, I figured I’d plant one on the woman my brother’s going to marry,” Vaughn said dryly. “Yes, the maid of honor.” He held up his hand, seeing Huxley open his mouth. “And whatever you’re going to say, don’t. It was just an angry, impulsive thing.”

“An angry kiss, huh?” Cade asked. “How’d that go?”

Vaughn’s lips nearly curved in a smile. She bit me. An image flashed into his head, of him and Sidney kissing heatedly in the grass—an image that was quickly replaced by her wide-eyed reaction afterward.

Oh, no. You and I can’t . . . I mean, we so, so couldn’t . . . you know.

“Let’s just say, we agreed that it was a mistake,” Vaughn said.

With that settled, he steered the conversation away from his not-to-be-repeated dalliance with Sidney and back to the topic of his undercover operation into a group of corrupt cops transporting illegal firearms into the city.

Kind of a big deal, that.

Thirteen

TUESDAY MORNING, SIDNEY sat once again at a sleek gunmetal-gray granite table in one of the conference rooms at Monroe Ellers. This time, however, there were only three pairs of eyes staring back at her, belonging to the partners who made up the firm’s investment committee.

She and her team had done their research. She’d considered all the financials, she’d weighed the pro and cons, and she believed she’d found a company that would be a great investment for her private equity fund.

Now she just had to get her firm’s most senior partners on board.

This pitch signified her first real test since she’d joined Monroe Ellers. If the investment committee approved her idea, it would be a demonstration of their confidence in her. Not approving her idea, on the other hand, would mean they had doubts—which most certainly would be a shaky start to her career in private equity.

“So. Tell us about Vitamin Boutique,” said Michael, one of the investment committee’s three members. He gestured to the report Sidney had prepared, which sat on the table in front of him.

“Certainly,” Sidney said, with a confident nod. She felt comfortable being in the hot seat, and trusted her instincts. She’d been a little unsettled after her trip to Wisconsin and that wild kiss with Vaughn, but that feeling had since passed. Here, she was in control and in charge—and ready to do her thing.

“A few months ago, I read an article in the Journal about the retail industries that had performed best during the recession. The vitamin and supplement industry was included on that list,” she began. “It’s a twenty-five-billion-dollar industry, and one of the few areas of retail that actually thrived during the economic downturn. Currently Vitamin Boutique is primarily a Midwest retailer, but I think there’s a real opportunity to grow the company into a national chain.”

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