I wanted to do the same thing. I wanted to curl up and disappear into the concrete. I wanted to feel nothing—not an inkling of what that vindictive woman was putting us through.
“I can’t believe you left,” she said quietly, bringing me back to the moment when I’d given up.
I shrugged, surrendering to what had unfolded over the past hour. “I had no other choice.” I stared down at my feet.
Alli came up to me and squeezed me tight.
“We’ll get through this. Right now it doesn’t feel like we will. But I have to believe that tomorrow will feel a little less horrible.”
I hugged her tighter and fought the tears, not wanting to break down where Sophia might still be able to see us. We’d get through this. Right?
Alli pulled back and brushed away the tears crawling down her cheeks. “Okay. God, I need to get it together. Let’s talk tomorrow, but call me if you need anything tonight, okay? I need to go home and try to figure this all out.”
“I will. And I’m sorry, for what it’s worth, which unfortunately, probably isn’t a lot right now.” I stared down at the ground, wishing it would swallow me up and take this all away.
“You don’t have to be sorry, Erica. Please, don’t blame yourself for this. Go home and talk to Blake. Maybe we can find a way out of this.”
She shot me a sad smile and turned, walking toward home.
Seemingly paralyzed by the afternoon’s events, I felt around my purse until I found my phone. I dialed Alex’s number and began walking down the street. His receptionist picked up and I asked for him.
“Mr. Hutchinson isn’t available at the moment.”
“You tell him this is Erica Hathaway, and I will call you all damn day if I have to. Put him on the phone.”
“One moment, please,” she mumbled with an agitated tone.
A minute later the line picked up.
“Erica.” Alex had the decency to sound a little tentative through his greeting.
“You sold my business to Isaac Perry. Is that right?”
He sighed. “Yes, I met with him after you on Friday.”
“Well, he and his pal Sophia Devereaux fired my marketing director on the spot.”
He was silent for a moment. “I didn’t realize that was in their plans. I was clear that you wanted the team to stay.”
“This isn’t about what I want. This is about revenge.”
“Not for me, it wasn’t.”
“Then what is it about?” I harnessed all my energy not to shout at him through the phone.
He paused. “This is business, Erica. It’s about creating opportunities and taking profit. Companies change hands every day. I realize this has been an emotional process for you—”
“Fuck you, Alex.” I couldn’t hold it back any longer. His condescending tone. As if the sole reason why I was unraveling right now was because I was some over-sensitive woman, floundering in a man’s world.
“It’s just business,” he said flatly.
“Business, huh? What about morals, and ethics?”
“I did nothing unethical. I negotiated a fair deal.”
“You misled me. You withheld critical information that has my best friend and me unemployed at the moment.”
“Yes, I left.” What other choice did I have? Sit there and take orders from my fiancé’s diabolical ex-girlfriend? Not in this lifetime.
He sighed loudly. “There’s nothing I can do now, Erica. I’m sorry things panned out this way for you. It’s just the way it is, I guess.”
“That’s just great, Alex. Pleasure doing business with you.”
I hung up, knowing the longer I stayed on the phone with him the more I was going to lose my cool. Already I regretted half the things I’d said. My desperation for a way out of this nightmare had me sounding emotional and vulnerable. The problem was he simply didn’t care. Not the way Blake or the people I’d surrounded myself with would care.
I walked a few more blocks, not knowing where I was going, no aim in sight. With shaking hands I dialed Blake’s number. He picked up after the first ring.
My lip trembled as I searched for the words to explain what had just happened. Then the tears began to fall. Everything that pride had cooped up inside of me was letting loose. I was falling and I needed a soft place to land.
“Erica, are you okay? Talk to me.”
I suppressed a sob, wanting to crumble at the sound of his voice.
“I need you.”
After two hours of solid crying and a glass and a half of Blake’s most expensive scotch, the rage had dulled to a numb sort of hopelessness. Blake had held me and promised that we would get through it. But the more I tried to believe him, the less convinced of it he seemed. He paced the living room, looking repeatedly at his phone as if he were holding back from launching into action at any moment.
“I’ll fucking ruin him,” he muttered.
Under any other circumstances I might have pitied the person Blake wanted to ruin, but not today. Ruin away. But deep down, I knew there was nothing to be done. Even in the tired haze of my mind, I knew Isaac wouldn’t have dropped all that money on a business only to have his lawyers leave a convenient loophole for me to hold any of it back. No, he would have covered all his bases. The way men like Blake always did.
“Why bother? He’s wasted enough of our time.” I shrugged, the motion nearly imperceptible from my slouching position on the couch.
“Because he deserves it.”
“It’s just business,” I sang softly, mimicking Alex’s earlier words, except there was nothing funny or cute about the position he’d left me in. And I hated him for it. I lifted the lowball to my lips, acutely aware of how much less I hated him the more I drank.
Blake leaned down and took my glass. “You’ve had enough.”
I slapped my empty hand down onto the couch. “I have a very long shit list right now. Do not make me add you to it.”
“You’re going to be on your own shit list tomorrow if you don’t slow down. I’ll get you a water.”
I sank back into the couch, defeated. Utterly defeated. I wanted to drown myself until I couldn’t think about today anymore. If I couldn’t permanently erase Sophia’s face from my mind, I wanted to blur it out thoroughly for the next few hours.
Blake returned with a glass of water. I wrinkled my nose at it, but held it obediently in my lap. He sat on the coffee table across from me, framing my legs with his.