“I live here.”
I shifted my glare to Fiona who visibly cringed, revealing that she was in on this the entire time.
“Sorry,” she mouthed before turning to leave us.
“You live here.” It wasn’t a question, but more of a confirmation of the worst-case scenario.
“Well, actually I own the building, but yeah, I live here too.”
I crossed my arms and my foot started tapping, a telltale sign I was about to flip out. How could I best articulate the absolute rage I felt toward this excruciatingly sexy man who could not keep himself from interfering with my affairs?
“You look angry. What can I do?”
He had the decency to look a little tentative, which was wise because I was considering physical violence to make my point. Words were wasted on him.
“For starters, you can stop meddling in my goddamn life, Blake!” I poked my finger into his rock hard pectorals. “What makes you think you can swoop in here and conveniently plant me in your downstairs apartment and think that’s totally fucking normal?”
“For a Harvard girl, you’ve got quite the potty mouth.”
“Cut the shit, Blake.”
“Did you really want to live in one of those fleabag apartments?”
“You are completely missing the point.”
Exasperated, I turned into the apartment and slammed the door behind me. He followed me in, coming face to face with Brad, who looked surprised to say the least. Blake was leaner and generally less beefy, but he had some height on Brad. Blake’s wide-eyed gaze narrowed at the sight of him, and his hands fisted at his sides.
“Uh, hey?” Brad looked uncomfortable.
I rushed to my purse, grabbed my wallet, and pulled out the fifty bucks I owed him. “Thanks so much, Brad. I think we’re good. Just throw the rest of the bags in the lobby, and I can bring them up.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Blake and I said in unison.
I’d likely never see Brad again, but I was still embarrassed by the situation.
He did give me a brilliant idea though.
* * *
Somehow in the process of fighting with me over the privilege of hauling my bags into the apartment, Blake talked me into having dinner at his place upstairs. I was starving and emotionally wiped out, so I reluctantly agreed.
We walked through the entryway and into an open room with a designer kitchen to the right and large sitting and dining areas to the left. The apartment, for the most part, was every bit what I would expect. Light and modern, the main room was filled with contemporary furnishings, cream microfiber couches, dark hard woods, and pops of ocean blue in the paintings and accents. I guessed someone else, likely a woman, had helped him decorate the space.
What surprised me most, especially after getting a load of his high-tech Tesla, was the complete lack of visible electronics, but perhaps he was simply so high-tech they were camouflaged into the room somehow.
“No gadgets and gizmos?” I asked.
“Not really. If I need to be wired in, I go to my office.”
“That surprises me.”
“Well you can probably orchestrate a small conference from your car’s touch screen. I didn’t figure your living space would be any different.”
“I’ve been staring at screens for fifteen years. Eventually it occurred to me that I get some of my best ideas when I’m offline for extended periods of time.”
“I guess I can see that,” I said, not quite able to come to grips with my own technology obsession. I needed to be accessible at all times, just in case. The thought of being off the grid for more than an hour, especially for someone like Blake who must be in much higher demand, was unthinkable.
Today had been hot, exhausting, and stressful. I wanted nothing more than to end it with a cool glass of white wine, but that was a one-track journey into Blake’s bedroom—a place I was determined to avoid, especially under these new living circumstances. Now that we were neighbors, thanks to the one-year lease I’d very recently signed, I had to enforce new boundaries.
“Water,” I said. “So what’s for dinner? Can I help with anything?”
“Uh—” He hesitated, and then opened a drawer and pulled out a stack of take out menus. “Take your pick. I highly recommend the Thai place down the street. The best you’ll ever have.”
I shook my head, a little amazed that he’d made such an effort to invite me up for dinner without having a game plan. For him, that seemed unusual. He was always five steps ahead of me, a quality I’d never underestimate again.
“Let me guess. You don’t cook?”
“I have many talents, but cooking isn’t one of them, no.”
“Have you ever tried?”
“Not really.” He shrugged.
“Okay, where’s the nearest market?”
He raised his eyebrows. “A couple blocks away.”
“Okay, I’ve got an empty fridge and I’m guessing you do too. How about we go pick up some things, and I’ll show you how to make a proper meal for the next time you invite a girl over to your place.”
He paused. I wasn’t sure if he was annoyed or considering my offer. Regardless, he’d crossed the line with me too many times. I refused to walk on eggshells around Blake, billionaire or not.
“Fair enough,” he finally said.
Blake was completely out of his element in the market. I’d never understood why mothers failed to teach their sons how to at least prepare basic meals for themselves. I felt him out for likes and dislikes, and then collected all the ingredients for one of my specialties, linguine and clams, one of the first dishes my mother had taught me to make.
Since I still lacked basic household items, like pots and pans. I set to work preparing the meal in Blake’s gourmet kitchen, while he stood on the sidelines. I felt out of practice, but gradually I found my bearings. After four years of communal living with bare bones kitchenettes, I missed being in a real kitchen, and Blake’s lacked for nothing.
“Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to help me?” I asked, only half serious.
He joined me at the counter, and I gave him his first task.
“Here, dice this.” I handed him an onion. I watched him out of the corner of my eye, pretending not to notice as he blinked away the tears.
I made myself at home, narrating along the way for his sake. Though mostly silent, Blake was an attentive student. A little too attentive at times—I caught him staring at my ass when I went hunting for a strainer in his cabinets. I took full advantage of the power swap, schooling him on a few pasta cooking basics, like identifying al dente pasta and the critical difference between freshly grated versus jarred parmesan cheese.