The young man’s jaw was tight, his motions jerky under a tense smile and wide eyes, like he’d consumed all of the coffee in Boston this morning.
“That was me a few months ago,” I said. “It’s terrifying, and you’ll never know what that feels like. Plus I probably have post-traumatic stress disorder from all the shit you put me through in this room. Twice.”
Blake’s amused expression lacked all the remorse I was trying to elicit from him. Only months ago we’d come face to face in this very room, a meeting that set off an unexpected series of events—our life together as we knew it.
“I can see you’re really broken up about that,” I added, trying to sound annoyed as I blew a puff of steam off my coffee.
“I was a jerk. I admit it.”
“A complete asshole,” I corrected.
A cocky grin curved his lips. “Fine, but you couldn’t get me to take a single second of it back, because now I have you.”
His green-eyed gaze locked to mine as he stood in front of me, his stance wide and casual. He had me all right. As my anxiety slowly melted, I fought the impulse to kiss the smirk off his face in front of all these men in suits. The man drove me wild, in more ways than one.
“What do you think? Any regrets?” he asked.
His eyes darkened as if he could read my thoughts, the amused, cocky man replaced by the lover who held my heart in his hands. I drew in a breath of air through my nose, waiting for the touch that often followed that look. A simple reassuring touch that held in it all the love we shared for each other.
He trailed his fingertips lightly along my jaw, lowering his face to the side of mine. The soft kiss brushed against my cheek could have been mistaken for a quiet exchange between colleagues and filled the air between us with his scent. My breath caught, trapping his essence in my lungs. I wanted to be immersed in it, bathed in that uniquely masculine aroma.
He retreated, returning to his casual stance in front me. His coffee cup occupied his beautiful lips once more when I wanted them against me again. God, the sensual torture I’d endured at the mercy of those lips.
Closing my eyes, I shook my head. There were no words. No regrets. He was right. All the ups and downs, however painful, had been worth it. We’d made mistakes. We’d hurt each other, but somehow we’d come through it stronger. He knew my heart, and I knew his. I couldn’t speak for the future, but I couldn’t imagine it beside anyone but Blake.
“Still nervous?” he murmured.
I opened my eyes to find his amused smile returned, new warmth in his eyes.
“No,” I admitted, too aware of our lack of privacy and conflicted by the sudden shift in the air between us. I tried to ignore the way my heart swelled against the walls of my chest, that nameless reminder of how desperately I loved him. I was a slave to this man and the body that repeatedly shattered my ability to comprehend life beyond our bedroom. I wished now that we were alone, that I could be free to touch him. I ached to touch him.
“Good. This will be fun, I promise.” He moved to my side and slid his arm around me, stroking light circles at the small of my back.
Maybe this wasn’t casual anymore. Blake had a way of letting the world know I was his no matter where we were. Boardroom or bedroom, he never left much doubt. I can’t say I minded. I wanted to lean into him now, breathe him in, and let the world melt away in his arms.
“We’re starting in a few minutes. Do you want to eat something? You didn’t have breakfast,” he murmured, his breath warm against my neck.
I shook my head. “No, thanks.” I paused, unable to ignore the little seedling of doubt that grew within me. “Blake...”
“What is it, baby?”
His voice was soft as his pet name for me rolled off his gorgeous lips. And the way he looked at me... I could ask for the Hope diamond on a silver platter and I had little doubt he would figure out a way to bring it to me.
“Are you sure you want me here?”
He winced, marring his beautiful features with a small frown. “What do you mean? Of course I do. I put you on this board for several reasons, and they weren’t all selfish. You deserve to be here as much as any of these guys. ”
I rolled my eyes. “I doubt that.”
“You have your own experiences—failures and successes—that you’re bringing to the table today. You know that.”
The reassuring presence of his palm on my back disappeared, replaced by a gentle caress up my arm and back to my cheek. He tilted my chin up until he was all I could see, all I could think about.
“Don’t doubt it, Erica. Don’t ever doubt your value.”
I shook my head slightly. “I guess I’m worried those reasons have more to do with...us, than me deserving to be here. What if I don’t have anything to contribute? I don’t want to embarrass you in front of all these people.”
He pivoted his impressive body, squaring with mine. “Listen to me. This is your first pitch as a prospective investor, so it’s okay to be a little nervous. Just ask the questions that come to mind. If none do, it probably has a lot more to do with the poor guy over there who’s about to toss his breakfast than you. He’s the one with his ass on the line, so do yourself a favor. Drink your coffee, waltz over there like you own this fucking place—because in a few weeks, when you’re my wife, you will—and do what you do best. Be a boss. Look for talent and decide if this guy’s venture is worth a second look.”
I swallowed over the emotion that burned in my throat. How he could have that kind of faith in me blew my mind. Then again, not much about Blake wasn’t completely overwhelming and mind blowing. “You’re incredible, you know that?”
His serious expression softened into a smile that met his eyes. Blake’s happiness meant everything to me. I wanted to hold onto it, bind it with my own, and stay that way as long as we could. Hopefully forever.
I closed my eyes, cherishing the brief moment between us. His lips met my forehead with a soft kiss.
“Now, let’s go find our seats before I send everyone home and make passionate love to you on that table. I’m having a hard time keeping my hands off of you right now.”
I looked up, trying not to let my thoughts run away with the fantasy. “It’s a little early in the morning for idle threats,” I teased with a half smile.
His tongue slid out, traveling a sensual path across the bottom of his teeth. “Not an idle threat, and I think you know that. Now get your sweet ass over there and impress me.”