Annie seated her pretty self in the chair across from him and situated her skirts just so. She'd chosen hunter green for her stylish attire today and completed the ensemble with a matching cloak and hat. His guest removed her kid gloves and placed them in her lap, then rested her hands atop them.
There were times when they'd worked together that he'd managed to forget Annie had descended from royalty. Today was not one of those days.
"I see your conversation skills have not improved since the last time I saw you." She paused to fix him with a look. "Granny sent
"Granny," he echoed with a chuckle, "being Queen Victoria, sent you to see me?"
He'd known Annie several years and had fallen head over heels for her before she'd admitted her illustrious great-grandmother was the Queen of England. Even then, it had been a grudging admission to facts he'd gleaned himself. She'd made him swear he would never mention it again.
Until today he hadn't.
"Yes." She silenced any potential comment from him with a regal wave of her hand. "Well, actually, no. Not specifically you."
"Especially not me. As I recall, your great-grandmother was not amused when she discovered you had taken up with an American involved in 'the sordid and tawdry trade of information and such.'" He paused. "Did I get any of that wrong?"
"You did not," she said, her expression unchanged and her blue eyes studying him.
Ike leaned back in his chair and steepled his hands. "So why are you here?"
"A simple proposal," she told him.
"Last time there was a proposal between us, you said no."
Was that the slightest reaction he noticed beneath that cool upper-crust British exterior? Ike held his smile at bay by reminding himself of how easily she'd set him aside back then.
"Sticking to the project at hand," she said, ignoring his comment, "there is a situation in London that has not been remedied. Granny believes I might be able to offer some insight. I have, however, promised to remain out of the spotlight."
"Unlike last time."
Annie shrugged. "I've explained that the American press cannot be controlled. Not that the British press is any better, but they do understand the delicate balance of reporting when the monarchy is involved. And I've promised I will do my best to keep my face and name off their pages. But that is neither here nor there. As I said, I have a proposal. I wish to hire you."
The door opened and someone stepped into the outer office. Since he hadn't gotten around to hiring anyone to work for him just yet, Ike was doing double duty as boss and employee.
"Excuse me for a minute," he told Annie before stepping out of his office to find Theodora Rampling waiting for him.
Dora was a Texas beauty with a pedigree that would make any Austin mama of sons want her to marry into their family. The only child of a senator and his upper-crust Boston bride, the woman smiling at him was pampered, adored, and deserving of both.
For some reason, she also happened to be crazy about him. And she wasn't shy about admitting she was the jealous kind. The kind who wouldn't respond well if she discovered the only woman he'd proposed marriage to was on the other side of the wall.