“I love her.”
He wasn’t aware he did until he said the words out loud. Now he couldn’t fathom how he hadn’t known. How could he not? He knew how he reacted to her. How his heart rate sped up when he saw her name on his phone’s caller ID. How a brush of her fingers against his was enough to arouse him, deep and heavy. How his knees turned to water when she took her hair down and shook the curls free.
He wanted her voice to be the last thing he heard at night. Her face the first thing he saw in the morning. To laugh and argue and sit in companionable silence after stuffing themselves too full during Sunday brunch. The thought of a toddler with golden ringlets took his breath away.
In the past, he might have cataloged these as mere physiological reactions to mental stimuli and nothing more. Even an hour ago, before the meeting with Nestor, he might have argued with himself not to allow intangible feelings to distract him from solid goals.
Now there was only one goal that mattered. He glimpsed a life without Danica and it was a dark and dreary place indeed.
He wasn’t his parents. He wasn’t his family and their interminable feuds. He could forge his own path, one of love and laughter and growing old with the grandmother of the babies crawling at their feet.
One of trust and commitment.
He strode to the conference room, leaving Irene in his wake. He signed the deal memo below Nestor’s thick scrawl, and made sure his lawyers had their copies before Nestor left for his flight to Los Angeles. Then he called Anjuli into his office.
He knew what he had to do.
Danica descended the stairs of her parents’ home and found her mother seated at the kitchen table. Amila Novak smiled a warm greeting at her, but her expression quickly turned puzzled. “I’m happy you put on a fresh shirt to visit Matt, but why do you need a suitcase?”
The handle of her carry-on bag in one hand, Danica held out her phone, the browser opened to the Silicon Valley Weekly website, with the other. “The Ruby Hawk board of directors approved the sale to the Stavros Group. But Luke is no longer the CEO. That wasn’t the plan. Something went wrong.”
Amila put down her coffee cup. “So you’re what...going to California? Now?”
“I have to explain. Get him reinstated somehow. Running Ruby Hawk is all he ever wanted.”
“I thought you left precisely because all he wanted was his company.” Her mom leaned forward, her chin cupped in her hand. “But I’m glad to see your eyes so alive again. When you showed up here out of the blue, it seemed nothing would get you out of your bed except visiting Matt.”
Danica dropped her gaze. When she boarded the plane in San Francisco, she had no intention of ever seeing Luke again. But then Mai called to say that Luke returned all of Danica’s things, in person, ensuring everything went back exactly the way she had it. Then he bought Mai dinner as an apology for invading her home—and donated fifty thousand dollars to Mai’s pediatric unit at the hospital. He was still an ass though, she was quick to add in female solidarity.
Aisha texted her when she ran into Luke at a local grocery store over the weekend. That was a shock in itself as Luke usually had all his food delivered. Aisha reported he was wandering the aisles, almost as if he was there just to get out of his house.
He came up to me as soon as we locked eyes to ask about you. He still had that hungry look, and it wasn’t for anything on the shelves.
Luke did call Danica a few times. She let the calls go to voice mail but sent him a text with her parents’ address, so his lawyers would know where to send the divorce papers. A clean break was the best for all concerned, she lied to herself. But ghosting him added to her current remorse. What if he’d needed her to be present for the Ruby Hawk sale? She wouldn’t put it past Nestor or Irene to pull a last-minute clause out of their bag of dirty tricks. The guilt of costing him the deal would eat her alive.
She raised her gaze to meet her mother’s. “All I know is if I can set things right for him, then I need to do it.” She picked up her bag. “If I leave now, I might make the next flight.”
“Wait.” Amila sprung to her feet. “You can’t leave now. What about—” She coughed suddenly. “What about Matt? You’re going to leave without saying goodbye to Matt?”