And it all went downhill from there.
The hour-long presentation was reduced to ten minutes, but it was still the most painful ten minutes for everyone in the room. Names that even kindergarten students would have no problems with were either misspelled or mispronounced, and project estimates miscalculated even though they could have been easily computed without a calculator.
It was one humiliating and inexplicable mistake after another, and by the time the president furiously got up to reschedule the meeting, Fawn’s heart had long broken for Grant.
“On behalf of Mr. Bennett,” the president bit out, “I apologize for this inexcusable waste of everyone’s time. We’ll have this meeting rescheduled next week.” He shot a hard look at Grant, saying coldly, “Let’s hope for a better outcome then.”
As soon as the meeting was officially adjourned, the president was the first one to stalk out of the room, followed by an irate-looking Lou, who hadn’t spared Grant a single glance. Everyone else filed out, including the prince’s bodyguards, but only after they had gotten their cue from Fawn.
The conference room was empty in less than a minute, leaving Fawn alone with Grant.
He was slumped on the chair next to the projector, and she approached him slowly, unsure even now of what she could say to him.
She might be his girlfriend, but it was nothing but a nominal title now.
When she was a foot away from Grant, she hesitated, wondering if she was doing the right thing.
What if Grant didn’t want her now?
What if he wanted Lou?
Lou wasn’t here.
And Grant was still a man she had once loved.
Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Fawn finally closed the distance between them. When he didn’t show any signs of being aware of her presence, she touched his shoulder gently, saying, “Grant?”
“I’m sorry for this.” Grant’s head remained bent as he spoke.
Ah. He knew she had been there all the while then, and yet—-
He had ignored her.
“I didn’t want you to see me like that.”
A lump formed in her throat, making it hard for Fawn to swallow. She had never heard him sound this…weak. Never. And if she had a choice, she would never have wanted to.
Then you’re being stupid. He cheated on you, remember?
Yes. I do remember. But I loved him once. Remember?
Before Grant became my boyfriend, he was my friend first, and how can I ever want to see a friend of mine be in this much pain?
Like I said, you’re being stupid—-
“There’s no need to do that, Fawn,” Grant suddenly muttered under his breath.
Startled and confused, she asked dumbly, “Do what?”
“Talk to yourself.”
“You only do that when you’re troubled.” And finally, Grant slowly raised his head, and she couldn’t stop her heart from crying out in pain at the empty look in his dull blue eyes.
“What happened?” she whispered. “What’s wrong?”
Grant shook his head, saying brusquely, “It has nothing to do with you.”
“Of course it has.” And she knew then she couldn’t make herself break up with him – or at least not now. Not when Grant looked like he was about to shatter any second.
Digging her fingers into her palms in an effort to stay focused, she reminded him forcefully, “I’m y-your girlfriend, remember?”
“Grant, say something.” Her fingers dug deeper in frustration. Why wouldn’t he tell her what was wrong?
And almost as if he had heard her unspoken question, Grant suddenly choked out, “I don’t deserve you.”
The words shocked her, but more than that, they hurt because once she would have done everything to hear him say them.
But it was different now.
“This i-isn’t like you, Grant.” She fought to keep her voice steady. “Why can’t you tell me what’s wrong?”
Grant only stared at her, repeating, “I don’t deserve you.”
“Last night—-” And then he started in his seat, terror flickering in his gaze.
Fawn stiffened. Last night?
Grant jumped off his seat. “I h-have to go.”
She managed to block his way, demanding, “What do you mean last night?”
Grant shook his head jerkily. “It doesn’t matter—-”
“It clearly matters. It’s written all over your face.” When he stared at her in horror, she asked shakily, “Is this about you calling me last night?”
“No.” And then he was walking away, and for one moment, all she could do was stare at him, unable to believe that he would end their discussion just like that.
When he was halfway to the door, Fawn finally got herself to move and running to catch after him, she said fiercely, “I don’t believe you. This obviously has to do with last night’s call.” She reached for his arm—-
He wrenched himself out of her hold hard, like her touch burned him, and shoved her away in the process.
A stunned Fawn staggered a step back, and Grant said brokenly, “I’m sorry.” This time, he was the one who reached for her—-
“No.” She backed away from him. Her eyes were burning, but she would die before she’d let the tears fall. She didn’t even know why she felt like crying, but one thing she did know was that someone like Grant Bennett—-