“You let me buy you clothes before,” he points out.

“That was when it was a condition of my employment,” I retort, leaning an arm on top of the desk. “That is not the case now.”

“You let me buy you a mattress,” he counters, his smirk telling me he’s enjoying this exchange.

“That was for your benefit, not mine,” I reply primly, grabbing my sub so I can finish my lunch. But I lift my eyes briefly to add, “And you can take it with you if we ever break up.”

“Plotting the demise of our new relationship so soon, Miss Robbins?” he asks in a mocking tone.

“Not at all,” I reply with a sly grin. “Just setting boundaries.”

“Fine,” he replies on a drawn-out exhale. “Can I at least buy you sexy lingerie?”

I stare at the ceiling with exaggerated contemplation before giving him my attention with a brilliant smile. “Yes. You may do that.”

Laughing, Declan picks his sub back up. He went with turkey on wheat, way healthier than mine, which is loaded with olive oil vinaigrette, plus mayonnaise. But my working theory is he works so many calories off me each night in our lovemaking, I can afford it.

We finish our lunches. I quickly clean up the wrappers, wiping the desk off with Lysol I keep at my cubicle, while Declan pulls out a binder from his back credenza.

He opens it just as I’m sitting down to take notes on my iPad using the sleek new Bluetooth keyboard that appeared on my desk this morning.

“I’ve decided on the next Blackwood project,” he says, scanning inside the binder.

“San Francisco,” I guess, because I’ve watched him hammer out the pros and cons with his executive staff during meetings over the past few weeks. I can tell which way he’s leaning.

“Yes,” he says, pinning me with an appreciative smile. “You’ve been paying attention.”

“I’m not just a pretty face,” I quip, pulling up a clean screen to start typing notes.

“Or a fine ass,” he teases.

I ignore it. “So what’s first on the agenda?”

For the next hour, Declan dictates the various phases that will occur, in a rough format, of course. He’s already got the property firmly in mind, and he’ll begin negotiations on that soon. Then it will be about getting our primary contractor committed, who will then slate out the subs with a potential construction start date in about six months.

“At what point in this process will you be moving there?” I inquire, trying to sound professional in my desire to have this knowledge, but knowing deep in my gut I want to know because it probably means we have a finite end to our relationship. I always knew he’d be leaving at some point, but I wasn’t quite prepared to think about it.

Declan’s attention stays within the binder, but he answers, “I usually like to be there when we break ground on the site.”

So six months, give or take. I’m not even sure if I should consider that a lot of time or not. Compared to a lifetime, it’s the blink of an eye.

Compared to what we had yesterday, it’s enough.

Maybe.

I clear my throat, putting on my most business-like expression. “Any idea where the next project will be after that?”

Declan shrugs, giving me a brief glance. “I guess wherever I decide to open the first boutique resort.”

I frown, not over the fact he’ll be opening the sex club-themed resort after the San Francisco Blackwood, but rather by his tone, which makes me wonder if that will happen.

“You don’t sound overly excited about it,” I say hesitantly.

His eyes snap to mine, his expression surprised. “What makes you say that?”

It takes a moment for me to put it into words. “You sound like you’ve lost your passion for the project.”

Declan tilts his head. He ponders it before giving a slow shake of his head. “I honestly don’t know now that you’ve brought it up. I’ve been focused on making the decision to move forward in San Francisco, so I haven’t been devoting much creative energy to it, but…”

His words trail off as he considers his feelings. I remain quiet, letting him come to his own conclusion.

Finally, he says with a bit of a helpless shrug, “I don’t know what I want to do with it. I still have to talk to my dad about it… let him know my idea. I had planned to do that when we were in Chicago, and that got pushed to the side by circumstances.”

Yeah, his family being unbelievably rude and unwelcoming, but I don’t belabor that point. “Would your dad try to stop you from doing that project?”

“He couldn’t,” Declan says with a hard bite. “I know he won’t like it… he wouldn’t possibly understand why I’d want to do this, nor would he care enough about me personally to try to. So it’s more of a formality—a courtesy you could say—on my part to tell him.”


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