“What’s gotten into you?” I laugh.
“Can’t a guy kiss his fiancée before he goes back to work?”
Not like that. But again, I’m hit with a wave of guilt over our mismatched feelings. I love Julian, I do. But I love him as a friend, and as someone I’ve agreed to have a partnership with. Though our relationship has involved sex from the beginning, it’s never been passionate. It’s weird to feel like he’s making it into something it’s never been before. I guess that’s a conversation we need to have when we’re alone.
When I don’t answer, he backs away a few inches. “Let me come over tonight. I’ll make you and Cami dinner. She’s been begging me to make chicken and noodles again.” He holds up a finger. “And before you say anything, I’ll make you a salad.”
Right. No excuses. But I shouldn’t be looking for excuses. I should be looking for ways we can spend more time together to prepare for our marriage. “I’d love that. Thank you.”
“Great. See you then.” He kisses me on the cheek then turns to go. Only then do I see Marston, stopped halfway down the hall and staring lasers at me.
“Hey, Marshall,” Julian says as he passes, offering his fist to bump.
I shake my head. Julian knows his name and got it wrong to piss Marston off. I’d bet The Orchid on it. I don’t care for this side of Julian, and the list of issues we need to hash out before the wedding is growing by the day.
* * *
I ignore Julian’s offered fist and open the door for him in my best silent get the fuck out. It’s one thing to know this asshole regularly puts his hands on my wife. It’s quite another to see it for myself.
“Later, babe,” Julian calls one last time before finally heading out into the lobby.
I let the door close behind him before slowly stalking toward Brinley. “Was that little show for me?”
“What?” Her lips are swollen from his kiss, but there’s nothing in her eyes that says she was swept away by it. A curl of satisfaction twists in my chest.
I take another step closer. Then another. “He knew I’d be here, right? So he practically dry-humped you in the hall?”
She shakes her head, cheeks blazing red—not from Julian’s kiss but from me. “You’re one to talk,” she snaps.
“Me? I haven’t touched anyone but my wife since we were married.”
She laughs. “Bullshit.”
I stop in front of her and slowly look her over. I want to be disgusted, but what I feel when I look at Brinley isn’t even in the same galaxy as disgust. “No. Just the truth. How many times do I have to tell you I keep my promises?”
She swallows, and the pulse point in her neck flutters faster.
I move closer until her breath catches. There’s less than an inch between our mouths. I could close that space and remind her what it’s like to kiss a man she can lose herself in. I wonder if she’d even stop me this time. “Does he make you as wild as you feel with me? Do his kisses make you forget who you are? Where you are?” I skim the bridge of my nose along her neck and breathe in the smell of her there. “Does his touch make you so wet you spread your legs in public? So wet you beg him to make you come in a dark corner?”
She’s so still, eerily so. Until she’s not.
I don’t even see her hand coming until her palm connects with the side of my face—so hard and fast I feel every fingerprint.
She backs away, eyes blazing. “Don’t speak to me like that again.”
She spins on her heel and stomps into her office, slamming the door behind her.
I cradle my cheek in my hand and head to the kitchen for ice, focusing on the sting to distract me from the pain of seeing her kiss him and the feeling that I’ve already lost her.
“Julian’s coming over tonight,” I tell Cami as we pack up to leave for the day. “He’s making us chicken and noodles.”
Her eyes go big. “My favorite! Is he making dessert too?”
Laughing, I throw my purse over my shoulder. “Don’t push it, missy!”
She giggles and slides her backpack on as she follows me out of my office.
On the days she doesn’t ride the bus to gymnastics after school, Cami rides the bus to The Orchid. I used to send her to an afterschool program, but now that she’s older, I’d just as soon have her at work with me. I have a small desk for her in my office, and she does her homework while I wrap up emails and phone calls for the day. On the days I have meetings, she hangs with one of the girls—either in the kitchen to help Abbi with prep, or the group fitness room to help with Savvy’s fitness classes. Sometimes, she joins Stella at the front and plays receptionist. If I lose The Orchid and the new owner isn’t understanding about me having Cami here, we could lose these extra hours together. And that is assuming the new owner doesn’t fire me altogether.