I peeked out to the street for his car. I considered texting him, but what would I say? I missed him, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.

* * *

I arrived at Angelcom a few minutes ahead of schedule. I entered the reception area and the same frumpy brunette greeted me with a tight smile and walked me down the hall into Max’s personal office. Like the conference room, it featured a wall of windows with a view of the Harbor and the skyline to the north. Dressed in an impeccable black suit, Max pored over some paperwork at his desk. He stood up when he saw me, circling the desk to shake my hand and give me a polite kiss on the cheek.

“Erica, you look beautiful.”

“Thank you.” I didn’t know what else to say, but I self-consciously smoothed back my hair, already tucked tightly into a twist. I wore black editor pants and a deep red shell blouse, figuring I could skip the suit now that we’d gone beyond first impressions. I tried to appear unaffected by Max’s new level of comfort with me. He motioned to a small round table in his office.

He peppered me with all the right questions, ones I had expected thanks to Blake. I answered them expertly, painting an accurate and hopefully attractive picture of the venture. After about an hour, he paused and looked at me for a moment.

“What?” Was this the end of the meeting? A ball of nervous energy settled in my stomach.

“I’m very impressed, Erica. You’ve covered all the bases. I really don’t think I can come up with anything more.”

I clicked my pen nervously. Fessing up about Blake’s involvement now would be better than Max getting wind of it later. “Blake’s been really helpful, actually. He worked through a lot of this with me, so I suppose I can’t take all the credit.”

“Is that right?”

“I can see why his businesses do so well. He’s extremely thorough.”

“He’s not as perfect as you might think.” A frown marred Max’s brow.

“Well, no one’s perfect.”

“Agreed, but Blake’s lucky he’s not rotting in a jail cell right now. Every success he’s had is because of the opportunities my father gave him. He’d do well to remember that.”

I bit my lip, scolding myself for bringing it up. What trouble could have landed Blake in jail? My mind raced through the possibilities. Clearly the two had history, and Blake, not surprisingly, had kept me in the dark despite all our discussions about investing with Max.

I had always thought of Max as Blake’s peer, a colleague. With this bad blood between them, why did they share a place on the board of the company?

“In any case, he missed his chance on this one, I suppose.” He changed again, back to calm, charming Max.

The transformation gave me an eerie feeling, but I tried to ignore it.

“That’s true,” I said. Admittedly, I was confused by Blake’s active interest in not only me, but my company, after such a dramatic review and refusal at the start.

“Let’s make this happen, Erica,” Max said abruptly. “I think there’s real potential here and I’d like to be part of it.”

The ball of nervous energy dissipated as relief and happiness flowed through me. “Wonderful. Where do we go from here?”

“Let me draw up the paperwork. There are legalities we’ll need to work through, but I should be able to have a term sheet ready to review in a week or two and hopefully we can get this off the ground quickly. If it ends up taking longer, I can arrange for rolling funds in the interim so you guys aren’t in a pinch.”

“That sounds great. I’ll follow your lead then.”

“Perfect. Keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll be in touch.”

We shook hands, and I left the building wanting to shout the good news off the rooftops. We did it! All the work, the stress, and the multitasking. God, the multitasking. Being able to juggle school and not give up on Clozpin as a side project had been a miracle in itself. I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my numbers, trying to decide who to call.

One name stood out.

I’d been hard on Blake. But would this have gone so smoothly without his help? I called him and it went to voicemail.

“Hey, Blake. I just wanted you to be the first to know that Max is moving forward with the deal. He’s drawing up the paperwork next week. So, great news. Thank you. For everything.”

I hung up and rang Alli next, but the call went to voicemail too. I checked the time. It was nearly eleven a.m., and I couldn’t fight the feeling that Heath was becoming a less than healthy influence on my best friend. Something was off with him, but I needed to get the bottom of it before I could pass judgment. In the meantime, I would figure out a way to visit sooner rather than later.

I switched out of my heels into some flats and walked home, wanting to get some exercise and take advantage of the mild morning that was growing hotter by the hour. Finally, summer had arrived.

* * *

The apartment was silent all morning. Maybe this cohabitation with Sid could work after all. We were on totally different schedules, which made it seem like I had the place to myself most of the time.

I wrote up an organizational chart for positions that we might want to fill in the next six months. A marketing director was a top priority. Getting out of my shell and networking was important and something I fully intended to continue, but I needed to be running the site and overseeing all operations. I couldn’t be responsible for pulling in all the paid accounts, keeping track of finances, maintenance, and now reporting back to Max with our periodic progress. Losing Alli from the team was a setback, but there were hundreds of eager professionals in the city waiting for an opportunity like this. I set to work drafting roles and responsibilities for the job when Blake texted me.

Congrats. Top of the Hub tonight to celebrate. Be ready at 7.

His communication threw me for a loop. Why didn’t he just call me? He was being distant for some reason, but apparently he was still in the mood to celebrate. At one of the best restaurants in the city no less, but not seeing him for a while made me worry about what he was actually thinking. Was it the good night kiss snub? Did he think I was being a tease because I couldn’t stop melting around him and then pushing him away? Stop psychoanalyzing.

See you at seven, I replied.

My focus immediately shifted from ideal marketing director qualities to what I would wear tonight. The irony of Blake implying that seeing someone would be distracting for the venture, when he was now in the very position to be that distraction, was not lost on me. Still, I sifted through the contents of my closet for something suitable to wear. I huffed. I missed Alli’s fashion sense and her ample wardrobe.

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