"You love me."
"Oh, right," she snapped even as her heart beat faster. "Do the words hypocrite, liar and gold digger mean nothing to you?"
"Yeah, but all those things are a drop in the bucket compared to the fact you love me and you think I betrayed you."
"You’re forgetting I know all about betrayal," she responded coolly. "It no longer has any shock value for me."
He shook his head. "You didn’t love Carter. But you do love me."
His arrogance took her breath away.
He regarded her perceptively. "What if I said there was never any payment from your father?"
His eyes held hers. "I never received a stake in Tremont REH in return for marrying you."
"That’s impossible," she said, holding on tenaciously to the facts as she knew them. "My father just said he offered you shares in Tremont REH."
"Offered, yes. Accepted, no."
She frantically replayed the conversation in her parents’ mansion. Her father had said offered. It was a fine distinction.
She stared at Griffin. "He purposely misled me."
Griffin nodded, and her stomach plummeted. All at once, she felt deflated and teary.
"I’m sorry," she managed finally. "I can tell my fight isn’t with you."
Blindly, she turned toward the door, but before she could take a step, Griffin grasped her arm.
She looked at him in a blur. "Why? Why did he mislead me?"
A faint smile curved Griffin’s lips. "I suspect because he thought it would send you straight back to confront me and we’d patch things up between us."
"A nice sentiment, but I’m still furious with him for even having made the offer of money."
"I don’t think he ever intended it as a straightforward deal, with the Tremont shares conditional on my marrying you," Griffin countered. "I’m guessing he thought I could take some of the credit for Tremont REH’s recent success—"
"Well, that’s definitely true."
"—and offering the shares was more of an acknowledgment of past performance than, ah, let’s say, future endeavors."
"You mean staying married to me, and with any luck, starting another generation of Tremonts?" she asked piercingly.
Griffin nodded, his thumb making circular motions on her skin where he still grasped her arm. "I think he was relieved when I turned him down."
Despite herself, she began to feel soothed.
Griffin smiled a little. "You have to admit, he had reason to be concerned after your brush with one fortune hunter."
She wavered. "I’d like to believe you."
"Believe it," Griffin said. "Marcus only mentioned handing over a part of the company to me after I told him I’d proposed to you. It was an after-the-fact offer on a done deal. He’s offered me a stake in the company a number of times to ensure I’d stay on as CEO."
She looked at him in surprise. "He has?"
Griffin nodded. "And I’ve always turned him down."
As she tried to process all his revelations, a teasing glint entered Griffin’s eyes.
"I didn’t need that carrot to marry you," he said. "You’ve always been my favorite heiress."
Tears welled, and she blinked to hold them back.
She tried to break free of his grasp but he pulled her into his arms.
"No, let me go…I—I have to—"
"No, no, that’s not what you want. This marriage was just to get me pregnant."
"Maybe I’m not in it to get you pregnant. Maybe I’m not in it for a slice of Tremont REH."
"Well, you certainly don’t need the m-money!" she choked out.
"Maybe I’m in this marriage because I love you."
"You can’t," she cried, even as her heart flipped over.
Griffin laughed. "Are you going to stop telling me what I do and don’t want?"
"You didn’t even like me."
"The truth is I fought against wanting you for too long. When I almost lost you to Carter, I knew I had to take action."
His expression became wry. "I figured if you were willing to settle for Carter, then you damn well could settle for me."
"You were going to let me divorce you."
"Not a chance," he contradicted. "Even if California does have no-fault divorce laws. I was going to fight for you. For us."
She sighed tremulously. "I wondered sometimes why I had such a hard time finding Mr. Right, even though I knew I had less time than most women to have kids. I think I cut it down to the wire and latched on to Carter because he happened to be around at the right moment."
"You’ve got that right," Griffin said dryly.
She gazed into his eyes. "Because all along it was you, and I didn’t want it to be you. You were my father’s right-hand man for so long, and I hated it. I even had a secret name for you—Mr. Fix-It."
Griffin sighed but his expression was understanding. "Can we separate Tremont REH from us?"
She nodded and sniffled. "Now we can."
"Can you give me the words?" he asked, suddenly intent. "Because I need them."
He was strong, she realized. Strong enough to lay out his vulnerabilities—strong enough to give her courage.
She searched his expression, and felt a heartbreaking tenderness. "I love you, Griffin."
He expelled a pent-up breath and his lips quirked up. "For the record, I love you, too."
His hands dove into her hair, and he pulled her head back for a deep kiss. And he proceeded to demonstrate just how mutual her feelings were.
It was only much later, when they lay in a spent embrace in their bed upstairs, that either of them felt like doing much talking again.
"Ever wonder where the name Evkit comes from?" Griffin asked while she idly drew circles on his chest with her index finger.
He smiled crookedly. "Ev from Eva, and kit for kitten."
She raised her head from his shoulder to look at him fully. "No."
He laughed at her tone of disbelief. "Like I said, you’ve always been my favorite heiress."
She punched his arm playfully. "I thought you didn’t like me—or my job, for that matter. You were never at any of the parties that Occasions by Design planned."
"I purposely avoided them," he admitted, "because I didn’t want to be tempted by you."
The man did wonders for her self-esteem, Eva thought in wonder, loving him all the more.