EVEN in her exquisitely tailored designer suit, Chloe Spiridakou felt out of place in her ex-husband’s swank office waiting area.
Like their marriage, the classic pink tweed skirt and blazer were two years past their runway date and didn’t quite fit any longer. Stress and grief had taken their toll and peeled pounds she couldn’t afford to lose from her already willowy figure.
She’d never had the best relationship with food, but after leaving Greece, Chloe had found it nearly impossible to force herself to eat at all. Some days had gone by when she simply hadn’t.
But Rhea had stepped in, literally saving Chloe’s life. And Chloe wasn’t going to let her sister down now.
No matter how hard this meeting was for Chloe. No matter how ill-equipped she felt to deal with her ex-husband again.
It didn’t help that she felt awkward and unattractive. Rail-thin, she’d also hardly slept since making this appointment and had dark circles under her eyes to prove it.
Not that Ariston was likely to notice how she looked. The fact that he was seeing her at all was still hard to fathom. Chloe had the distinct feeling that somehow her sister had got it wrong. Ariston had made no move to contact her since the day she’d walked out on their marriage—not even to ask why she’d done it.
Rather par for the course in a relationship that was by turns scorchingly passionate and emotionally distant.
Her husband had been attentive in his own way, even borderline kind at times and definitely an amazing lover, but Ariston had kept his feelings to himself. Period.
Chloe had this awful feeling that his secretary, Jean, had made the appointment and somehow forgotten to mention to Ariston who it was with.
Chloe was not looking forward to getting kicked out of his high-rise corner office once he realized it either. The urge to flee strong, she rubbed her damp palms down the pink tweed.
After everything, she’d been absolutely certain she wouldn’t ever see him again, no matter how she might wish otherwise in the deepest recesses of her heart.
Yet, here she was. Waiting in his anteroom and feeling very much as if she’d like to throw up.
Neither was an option.
“Ms. Spiridakou …”
Chloe was already standing from the first sound of Jean’s voice. She swallowed convulsively. “Yes?”
“Mr. Spiridakou will see you now.” Jean smiled, the expression one she reserved for the “real” people in Ariston’s life.
Not feeling all that “real,” Chloe returned the smile—her own effort not nearly so natural. “Thank you.”
It was only a matter of a couple dozen feet to the tall double doors that led to Ariston’s inner sanctum. Yet the time it took to cross the plush office carpet felt both too long and too short for Chloe’s rapidly beating heart and the thoughts whirling like a dervish in her head.
The older woman opened the door on the left and ushered Chloe inside with another warm, encouraging smile.
Chloe wanted to say thank you again, for that smile, for the sympathy lurking in the older woman’s eyes, but couldn’t make her throat work. So she simply nodded before turning to survey her ex-husband’s domain.
Easier to maintain her composure if she focused on the room and not its occupant.
Ariston’s New York office was exactly as Chloe remembered it. An imposing dark mahogany desk the size of a small dining table sat in the center. Two leather armchairs faced it with an occasional table between them.
On the other side of the large room, two deep burgundy leather sofas faced one another across a large hand-stitched Turkish rug that had taken a group of four women six months to finish, working on it daily. Chloe had bought it for Ariston on their honeymoon and was surprised he’d kept it, but then she shouldn’t be.
He wasn’t a sentimental guy and it did match the perfectly appointed office decor just as well today as it had five years ago.
Near the corner wall of windows, the sofa grouping made an unexpectedly intimidating place to hold a meeting. Ariston had once told her he used the psychology of it to set to the tone for certain business dealings.
Chloe was marginally relieved that Ariston’s cerulean-blue gaze met her green one across his monolith of a desk instead. That tiny bit of relief did nothing to strengthen suddenly water-weak joints in her knees as their eyes met for the first time in two years.
She’d missed him. A lot. The constant ache inside her had barely diminished in its intensity in the twenty-four months spent trying to forget him.
The psychobabblers claimed time healed all wounds, but Chloe’s felt nearly as raw and excruciating as they had the day her marriage ended. She could feel every inch of ground she’d gained sliding away as emotions she didn’t want to experience, much less acknowledge, washed over her.