What did this mean for our relationship? What if this was it? The end? How could I go on without him? A little part of me had wanted him to leave, or at least let up on the investment subject, but now that he was gone I couldn’t explain the strange emptiness I felt.

I tried to convince myself that once everything was said and done tomorrow, we could find a way to work through it. I prayed we could.

I tossed and turned all night. I woke in a cold sweat, disoriented when I realized Blake wasn’t with me. I ached for him, to have all this upset behind us.

I fantasized about sneaking into his apartment with the key he’d given me, seducing him. Everything made sense when he was inside me, fucking me with reckless abandon, taking us to a place where nothing else mattered. Now nothing made sense. I ran my hands over my misted skin, wishing his hands were on me. If I could just feel him with me, maybe I could know that we weren’t through. That he still loved me as much as I loved him, despite his maddening disposition.

I fought the urge to go to him as the night rolled into the dawn. A surge of anger sliced through me, that he could do this to me. He’d possessed me like no one ever had. Exhausted and overwrought, now I was sick with need, literally losing sleep because I couldn’t—wouldn’t—give him what he wanted.

I wanted to give him what he wanted, more than he could handle even.

But at what price?

* * *

I poked into Sid’s room where he slumbered noisily. I didn’t bother to whisper. “Sid, I need a favor.”

He turned over and grumbled, “What?”

“I met with my dad yesterday, and he invited me to his place on the Cape this weekend. I’m not sure if I’m going to stay over, but I was hoping I could borrow your car to get down there?”

He got up, still fully dressed from the previous day. “Here,” he said, handing me the keys. “You don’t really know him that well yet. Are you sure this is such a good idea?”

“He’s running for public office. I’m pretty sure he’s not an axe murderer, Sid. But I appreciate your concern.”

He shook his head and fell back onto the futon, disappearing under the blanket.

I threw an overnight bag into the silver Audi and adjusted the seat to accommodate my much smaller frame. Sid lived on next to nothing, but he spared no expense with vehicles. I eased gently out of the space where he was parallel parked. If a knick or ding resulted from my borrowing the car, he’d grieve for weeks.

I found a space close to Max’s office and celebrated inwardly. This was a good sign. I checked myself in the mirror. Closing the deal wasn’t contingent on my presentation anymore, but I wanted to look great for the occasion so I wore a tight white sheath dress, cinched with a thin belt, and nude pumps.

I stepped into the reception area of Angelcom, looking and feeling like the fully-funded CEO I was about to become. The receptionist escorted me into the boardroom where I’d first presented.

I found myself alone in the room again, remembering how Blake had driven me crazy from that first day. I winced at the thought that what happened today could change us forever.

Max entered the room, and his bright white smile pushed away my doubts.

“Today’s the big day!” he said.

A giddy laugh escaped me. Max’s enthusiasm was easily contagious. I met him for a polite hug and he kissed me on the cheek again, but I was feeling so jovial I didn’t care.

“So where do we begin?” I clapped my hands together, eager to sign something, until I saw the stack of papers he dropped onto the table that rivaled an issue of Italian Vogue. Dozens of multi-colored sticky tabs stuck out from the stack, indicating where signatures were needed. A wave of anxiety seized me. “All of that?” I asked.

“Unfortunately, yes. This is why these things take so damn long to prepare.”

“I’m not signing away my first born, am I?” I settled into a chair across from him, worried now that I wouldn’t have the time I needed to actually review any of this. What if I found something that could be a deal breaker? What if I had no idea what the hell I was signing?

“I wouldn’t put it past him,” a voice said.

I swiveled in my chair as Blake entered the room. Dressed in jeans and a navy button V-neck, he looked ruthless despite his casual attire.

“What can I do for you, Landon?” His voice was clipped and his lips thinned into a tight line.

“You can give me a moment with Miss Hathaway.”

“Certainly. We’ll be finished here shortly.”


“Is there a problem?” Max said through gritted teeth.

“You’re the problem.”

With that, Max stood. His chair rolled back and hit the glass window with a thud. He glared at Blake, then left us and shut the door behind him.

My heart beat wildly, a combination of the sheer relief of seeing Blake superseded by a gnawing fear that the deal with Max now hung in the balance. If Blake was going to be this difficult with my affairs, why would Max even want to bother with me now? He’d be signing on for months of irritation.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I snapped.

“I didn’t want to do this, but you didn’t leave me much choice.”

“I told you, I’ve made my decision. It’s basically done.”

“Not nearly. You haven’t signed anything yet.”

“I fully intend to, so I suggest you take your compulsive tendencies and leave us be.”

“It’s too late for that.”

Oh no. I hesitated. A sinking dread overwhelmed me. “Too late for what?”

“I’ve wired double the funds you need into your business account.”

I tried to formulate words, questions that needed to be asked, but instead I stood there, slack-jawed and gaping at his audacity, which true to form, never failed to completely amaze me.

“Don’t bother figuring out ways to give it back, because I’ll block you from getting investors anywhere else in the city,” he continued. “You know I can.”

“What if Max still wants to invest?”

“He won’t,” he said with finality. “No deal goes through here without my authorization, and he won’t be getting it.”

“Why are you doing this?” My voice quivered. He’d effectively backed me into a corner. I could think of other avenues, but I knew he’d already out-thought them.

“I care about you more than Max ever will, though God knows he’ll try to tell you otherwise.”

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