He just needed some damn space, Acheron thought grimly, to work the jealous kinks out of his system.
And for all intents and purposes, it was a good plan, if only it weren’t too easy to misconstrue. The words itself, made worse by the coldness of Acheron’s tone, had Pippi in shock. To her ears, it had sounded very much like he was asking for them to break up, and this devastated her. She had never imagined he could be so selfish and immature – so blasted unreasonably uncompromising that Pippi had an urge to throw up, realizing just what kind of man she had so willingly given liberties to her body.
“You know what?” Pippi found herself gripping her phone so tightly it was a wonder the device still hadn’t shattered. “You can have all the space you need,” she heard herself say, “and you don’t even have to get back to me after.”
Stunned at the way Pippi had suddenly hung up, it took Acheron several moments to realize how gravely she had misunderstood his words.
His anger evaporated in an instant, and all thoughts of making Pippi admit the truth were forgotten. At that moment, even having Pippi say ‘drop dead’ to his face would’ve been enough. All he wanted was the assurance that his foolish blunder hadn’t cost him the most important girl in his life.
Desperation nipped at his heels as he redialed Pippi’s number, but when his call went straight to voice mail, Acheron knew she had already blocked him from contacting her. He had the ruinous urge to throw something against the wall, followed by an equally ill-advised urge to march straight into Evans’ office and leave her no choice but to face him.
But if he did that, Pippi would only have more reason to despise him – and transfer her affections to someone else.
Pippi might insist on seeing Evans as harmless, but Acheron had seen the way the other man had looked at Pippi, following her like some stalker as she headed straight into the lion’s den.
While Evans’ track record with women might be a lot less tarnished than Acheron’s, it didn’t mean the man was a saint, and Acheron was damn certain the asshole wouldn’t hesitate to pounce on Pippi the first chance he got.
The thought of any other man making a move on his woman had Acheron surging to his feet in a fit of impotent fury, and when his fist connected with the wall in one powerful blow, the frighteningly forceful sound echoed past the four corners of his office and had everyone outside jumping in their seats.
In all the years Acheron had taken up the company’s reins as its CEO, this was the very first time for his employees to witness the more violent side of his nature, and they found themselves looking at each other with trepidation and not a small amount of fear.
While Acheron had never kept his checkered past a secret, his polished and impressively urbane demeanor had made it easy for everyone to forget the darker truths of his life.
This time, however, was different.
When the CEO came striding out of his office, the deadly look on his handsome face had everyone cowering, and it was only when he disappeared into his private elevator that the employees sighed in relief.
Wickham didn’t bother hiding his surprise when Acheron came up to his penthouse apartment well before work hours were over.
The last time this happened, Wickham thought, the boss had ended up hospitalized. Then again, that was also because he had come straight from a remote region in Africa, and as far as he knew, the farthest Acheron had been to in the past few days was the picturesque beachside town of Isla de Flores.
Following Acheron inside, Wickham saw his employer yank his tie off in a rare gesture of edgy impatience, and his concern deepened into worry. “Anything I can help you with, sir?”
“Just keep everyone out of my way.” He still had four hours to kill before Pippi was set to clock out, and until then, burning calories at the fucking treadmill was the only likely thing to keep him from going insane.
I think I’m still in shock. The words echoed endlessly in Pippi’s mind while she went through the motions of acclimating herself with what would be her workplace for the next thirty days. The framed portrait of her family went to one corner while her wooden box of pens and highlighters went to another. She pulled her drawer open and started mechanically organizing the items that made up her survival kit at work. Her pad of sticky notes went to this side while her can of page tabs and metal clips went to the other. Her writing board went under this, and her dotted notebook went over that.