“Alex already knows the profit potential. I doubt he’d bring you an insulting offer,” Blake said, breaking his thoughtful silence. “But the bigger question is whether it’s something you want to do.”

“I honestly don’t know. He said he wanted all of us to stay on board. For me, it could mean more flexibility to work on other projects.”

He cocked an eyebrow. “Geoff’s?”

“Maybe. Or others. It’s occurred too me that I could be spreading myself a little thin trying to do everything I want to do. Eventually something’s got to give.”

“What if he changes who we are though… I mean, the essence of the company.”

Alli raised a valid point. I could tell she was playing devil’s advocate, and for good reason. She’d uprooted her life in New York to come back and work for me in Boston. For her, Sid, and me, the business was a huge part of our lives. Changing any part of that could have an impact on all of us.

“I would hope that he doesn’t. He seems to really value what we’ve done already. But I suppose that’s a risk we take.”

“So what are you going to do?” Heath asked, pushing me further toward a decision I was in no position to make tonight.

I shrugged. “I’ve been thinking about it all day, and I can’t say I’m any closer to really knowing what I should do. I have to admit it’s a promising idea, though. I sent him the financials this afternoon to get things started. If the offer is fair, I think we should strongly consider it.”

Alli blew out a breath. “Wow.”

“Well, I think it’s a great opportunity. For both of you. You’ve both worked really hard, and if the time is right, go for it.”

When Heath smiled, Alli’s worry seemed to melt away, her eyes warming as she gazed into Heath’s. I looked to Blake beside me. His arm draped over the back of my chair and he rubbed my back gently. The gesture was a small reassurance of his support and approval. I had a feeling he had more thoughts on the topic that he wasn’t willing to share in front of Alli and Heath, but at least for now, I didn’t feel so off track considering Alex’s offer.

The waiter brought an enormous boat of sushi and placed it in the center of the table. We proceeded to stuff ourselves and down another mai tai each. After another hour of talking wedding details and business, Blake and I said our goodbyes to Heath and Alli.

We walked back to the apartment, which was only a few blocks away.

“Sounds like you had a big day,” Blake said, threading his fingers with mine as we walked.

I laughed. “No kidding.”

“I can talk to Alex tomorrow and feel him out for offers,” he said.

I stared down at my strides over the sidewalk. “About that.” I hesitated, bracing myself for the blowback. “I’d like to negotiate this myself.”

We slowed in front of the awning of our building.

“We’ve gone over this, Erica.”

His voice was quiet, but tension rippled off of him. I drew in a deep breath and prepared to hold as much ground as I could.

“I know. And I know it makes sense for you to work this out with Alex. Obviously you’re both sort of evenly matched when it comes to business. I’m still learning a lot, and I value your advice. I always do. But I’ve built this business from the ground up. With Alli and Sid, yes. With your investment to help us grow, yes. But if this is really the end of me being an owner, I want to be able to say that I wrote the final chapter.”

I looked up at him, pleading silently with him to give me the control I craved to take this next step on my own.

“You must want this chapter to be a good one, more than anything, right?”

I sighed. “Yes, of course. But I can do this,” I said quickly, not wanting to show any inkling of doubt. “And if I start to feel like I’m getting in over my head, I’ll be more than happy to send Alex your way. After our meeting in California, he probably already thinks I need your permission to order office supplies.”

He shoved a hand through his hair. “You know that’s not true.”

I shrugged. “I don’t take for granted that anyone respects me in this business. I’ve had to fight and prove myself every step of the way. Having you hovering, waiting to jump in when I falter, probably doesn’t help much. I appreciate it. I do.”

“This is what I do, Erica,” he pressed. 

My shoulders fell. “I know, but Blake…this is my baby.”

He cursed under his breath before meeting my imploring gaze.

“Fine. Negotiate the deal with Alex, but promise me you won’t commit to anything without running it by me first?”

“I’m fine with that. I wouldn’t anyway.”

“And if you decide you want to sell, we’ll have my lawyers draw up the agreement.”

I rolled my eyes at his persistence. “Blake, I have my own lawyers. They’ll do fine.”

He took a step forward, determination clear in his eyes. I stepped back, only to find myself pressed against the front door.

“You’re enough to drive a man insane, do you realize that?”

I trapped my lower lip between my teeth, trying to suppress a smile. I curved my hands over his shoulders, kneading them gently. “Yes,” I admitted.

He looked away, as if he were trying to hold on to his frustration. I kissed his jaw, the stubble from the day’s growth rough against my lips.

“I love you,” I whispered.

“My lawyers,” he said firmly, his eyes serious. “And I want you upstairs naked, on your knees, waiting for me. I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

I frowned. “Where are you going?”

“I have to make a call.”

“Who are you calling?” I tried to push him away, but he kept me firmly trapped between the door and his tightly wound body, catching my wrists, pressing them above my head. 

“Ask me again, and I can promise you’ll regret it.” His hips shifted, pinning me firmly against him, punctuating the husky promise.

I stilled, weighing the ratio of anger to lust in his words, and how much room I had to push him. I bit my lip for a second but couldn’t help myself.

“Are you calling Alex?”

His eyes darkened. The corners of his lips lifted in quiet mischief. “Oh, I’m going to have some fun with you tonight. Get your ass upstairs before I decide to punish you in a more public fashion.”

My skin warmed and my nipples pebbled against my shirt, my body’s traitorous reaction when he threatened the kind of punishments I was likely to sign up for any day of the week, whether or not they were inspired by any actual infractions. Damn him. Gradually he stepped back, allowing me to escape his clutches.

Tags: Meredith Wild Hacker Billionaire Romance
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