“What are you going to tell him?”

I pulled the sheet up over me and shifted to my side. I drew tiny circles over Blake’s chest, tracing the beautiful curves of his body. I couldn’t imagine him in any pose that would diminish my complete and utter awe of his body.



His eyes were still lazy and low-lidded from sleep. “What are you going to tell Geoff?”

I hummed with a smile. “Sorry, I was just cataloguing your most gorgeous qualities.”

He laughed. “After last night, I wasn’t sure you’d ever talk to me again.”

“I can’t say I’d do it all over again.” I fell back against the pillow. “Well, maybe some of it.”

“Don’t do crazy shit like that anymore, okay? I mean it.”

I met his serious gaze with a tentative one of my own. Going to the club alone had been a stupid move. I could have let him come around with it, but there was something about knowing I was going to marry the man that made it impossible for me to handle secrets between us. No matter how far into the past they were lodged, no matter how far away we’d come from them. I’d shown him everything. Every scar, every insecurity. Finally, we were on our way to turning the tables and Blake trusting me with the shadows from his past too.

“I won’t as long as you make me a promise.”

He was silent for a moment. “We’re not back to ultimatums, are we?”

“I’m not a fan of ultimatums, but you wanted me to give you my trust. It’s a two-way street. I don’t want any secrets between us. If you don’t trust me not to do things like I did last night, don’t ever give me a reason to consider it.”

I looked down, running my finger along the edge of the sheet. The memory of Sophia’s words rattled through me. She’d sent me on this journey, and she’d threatened the validity of what Blake and I had. I hated her for it because she didn’t believe we’d survive if I knew Blake’s past. I wanted to prove her wrong in every way.

“I don’t know what was worse, listening to the terrible things she said to me or feeling like I was in the dark about your past.”

He toyed with a strand of my hair. “No more secrets.”

I looked up, hopeful. “Promise me.”

“I promise.”


The next couple days were filled with preparations for the sale. We broke the news to James and Chris, whose shock was soon followed with support. The decision had been made swiftly, and the execution of it was right on my heels. Everything was happening so quickly, a circumstance that made it easier to quell the anxiety we all seemed to have around the impending transition.

I was days away from signing a piece of paper that, to the rest of the world, meant that the business as we knew it no longer belonged to us, but to Alex Hutchinson. A seasoned businessperson, a mogul, a man with vision we could only hope aligned with ours.

When Alex walked into the office on Friday morning, the air was heavy with anticipation. An edgy energy rippled off him as he sifted through the papers we had to sign. The past couple times we’d met in person, I couldn’t get a read on him. Then again, I didn’t know him that well. He was Blake’s colleague more than mine, until recently.

Focused on the logistics of making the sale transition, I skimmed over the documents I’d already reviewed numerous times. Dozens of papers passed between us. I signed them all with trembling hands, trying to ignore the emotion tingling in my throat.

Maybe I was allowed to be emotional this one time, but I couldn’t bring myself to lose it. I still had to work with Alex, and I wanted him to believe I was stronger than I sometimes appeared. I’d made this decision on my own. I’d written this chapter, and I wasn’t going to end it in tears, at least not in front of him.

Then it was done.

The whole process took less than five minutes. I dropped my well-used pen and sat back. Alex held out his hand, the tension around him seeming to ease, the colleague I’d been used to shining through again.

“Congrats, Erica.”

I shook his hand firmly. “Thank you.”

“The funds were wired this morning, so they should hit your account sometime this afternoon.”

“Thanks. I’ll keep an eye out. Um, do you want to grab lunch or anything?”

He checked his watch. “I’d love to, but I have another meeting to catch this afternoon. Let’s touch base on Tuesday though. I’ll give you a ring. I have a few ideas I want to run by you.” He collected his copies of everything and stood to leave.

“Okay,” I said, feigning excitement, but I was already anxious about any impending changes that would be beyond my control from here on. I stood and showed him out.

The door shut behind him, and I gazed at the Clozpin logo etched into the glass. A rush of emotions hit me at all once. Relief, excitement, terror. I struggled to process the magnitude of what had happened in such a short span of time. My whole world shifting. Placing my trust in the hands of a man I hardly knew. I reached for faith and hope, believing along with Alli and Sid that this was the right decision for us, as hard as it may have been to make. I closed my eyes. Somewhere in the swirling of my mind and heart, I might have registered regret, but I pushed it down. 

* * *

I’d come home early to catch a nap before the big night out with the girls. I was eager to celebrate. Too much on my mind might make the champagne flow more freely, but I’d earned a little reprieve from the epic week I’d had. Navigating Blake’s intensity, selling my business, and dodging reporters thanks to Richard. I needed my girls. Some laughs, some drinks, and some memories to remind me I was twenty-two.

I took a shower and dressed for comfort. Sifting through outfits, I tossed a few options into my bag. We’d agreed to meet at Simone’s, so I would have to consult with Alli and dress there. Plus I didn’t want Blake to see me all decked out yet. I wanted to surprise him. I also didn’t want him going all over-protective on me before I could get out the door.

I heard the door open and close. I shuffled out to the kitchen to find Blake. “What are you doing home so early?”

“I had some shopping to do.” He set a plain brown paper bag down on the counter, a deceptively innocent look on his face. “I wanted to catch you before you left.”

I lifted my chin, trying to peer into the bag. “What’s in the bag?”

“We’ll get to that in a minute.” He moved it out of my view. “How did things go with Alex?”

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