“Are you in love with Kate, Drew?”
My eyes meet Alexandra’s. “Yes.”
“Is there a chance that she feels the same way?”
“I think so.” The more I thought about Kate’s words and actions that weekend, the more certain I became that Kate felt something for me. Something real and deep.
At least she did before I shot it all to hell.
“Do you want to be with her?”
“Then whether she’s back with her ex or not is irrelevant. The question you need to ask yourself is what are you willing to do—willing to risk—to make this right? To get her back.”
And my answer to that is simple: Anything. Everything. My throat is tight as I confess, “I’d give anything to have Kate back.”
“Then, for God’s sake, fight for her! Tell her.”
As her words sink in, Matthew grips my shoulder. “In times like this, I always ask myself, ‘What would William Wallace do?’” His eyes are serious. Stirring. Then his voice takes on a Scottish accent he doesn’t have. “Aye…run, and you won’t get rejected…but years from now, would you be willin’ to trade all the days from now to then for a chance—just one chance—to go back and tell Kate she can take your balls and hang them from the rearview mirror of her car, but she can never take…your freedom!”
Alexandra rolls her eyes at the Braveheart speech, and I actually laugh. The black cloud that’s been sitting on my shoulders all week long finally starts to lift. In its place is…hope. Confidence. Determination. All the things that make me…me. All the things I’ve been missing since the morning I watched Billy Warren sing.
Matthew smacks me on the back. “Go get her, man. I mean, look at you—what have you got to lose?”
He’s right. Who needs dignity? Pride? They’re overrated. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing left to lose.
“I have to go see Kate. Right now.”
And if I strike out? At least I’ll go down swinging. If I crash and burn and she grinds my ashes into the dirt with her heel? So be it. But I have to try. Because…
Well, because she’s worth it.
When Alexandra turned sixteen, my parents rented out Six Flags Great Adventure for the day. Excessive? Yes. But that’s one of the perks of a privileged upbringing. It was awesome. No lines, no crowds. Just our family, some business associates, and a hundred and fifty of our closest friends. Anyway, there was this one rollercoaster—the Mind Bender. Frigging insane.
Remember how I said I never ride the same coaster twice? This was the exception.
Matthew, Steven, and I rode it until we puked. Then we climbed back on and rode it again. The first hill was nasty. A long, torturous incline that ended in a four-hundred-foot vertical drop—straight freaking down. No matter how many times we rode that bad boy—every time we climbed that first hill—it felt the same. My palms got sweaty, my stomach turned over. It was the perfect combination of excitement and dread.
And that’s exactly how I feel right now.
See me there? The guy jogging through Times Square.
Just the thought of seeing Kate again…I’m pumped about it, I won’t lie. But I’m nervous too. Because I have no idea what’s on the other side of this hill, how far the drop might be for me.
No sympathy, huh? Tough crowd. You think I got what I deserved? Maybe I still deserve worse?
It’s a compelling argument. I fucked up. No question about it. It was a slump—all the greats have them. But those days are over now. I’m off the bench and back in the game.
I just hope Kate will give me another chance at bat.
Panting from the seven-block sprint, I nod my head in greeting to the security guard and make my way through the empty lobby. I use the brief elevator ride up to catch my breath and practice what I’m going to say. Then I step out onto the fortieth floor.
There’s only one place Kate Brooks would be at ten thirty on a Monday night. And that’s right here, where it all started. The offices are dark. It’s quiet, except for the music coming from her office. I walk down the hall and stop outside her closed door.
Then I see her. Through the glass.
She’s sitting at her desk, staring at the computer screen. She’s biting her lip in that way that brings me to my fucking knees. Her hair is pulled back, exposing every flawless feature on her face. I’ve missed looking at her. You have no idea. It feels like…like I’ve been underwater, holding my breath. And now I can finally breathe again.
She looks up. And her eyes meet mine.
See how she stares for a few seconds longer than necessary? How her head tilts to the side, and her eyes squint? Like she doesn’t quite believe what she’s seeing.
She’s surprised. Then the surprise morphs into distaste. Like she just ate something rotten. And that’s when I know. When I’m certain of what you’ve probably already figured out. That I am a complete fucking idiot.
She didn’t take Warren back. There’s no way.
If she had? If our weekend had meant nothing to her? If I meant nothing? She wouldn’t be looking at me like I’m the goddamn devil. She wouldn’t be affected at all. It’s simple guy logic: If a woman is angry? It means she cares. If you’re in a relationship and a chick can’t even be bothered to yell at you? You’re screwed. Indifference is a woman’s kiss of death. It’s the equivalent of a man not interested in sex. In either case—it’s over. You’re done.
So, if Kate is upset, it’s because I hurt her. And the only reason I was able to do that is because she wanted to be with me.
That may seem like a twisted way to think—but it’s the way it is. Trust me, I know. I’ve spent my life screwing women I felt nothing for. If they fucked another guy right after me? Good for them. If they told me they never wanted to see me again? Even better. You can’t get blood from a stone. You can’t get a reaction from someone who doesn’t give a shit.
Kate, on the other hand, is overflowing with emotion. Anger, distrust, betrayal—it simmers in her eyes and shines on her face. The fact that she still feels something for me—even if it’s hatred—gives me hope. Because that I can work with.
I open the door to her office and walk in. Kate looks back to her laptop and hits a few keys.
“What do you want, Drew?”
“I need to talk to you.”
She doesn’t look up. “I’m working. I don’t have time for you.”
I step forward and close her laptop. “Make time.”
She turns her eyes on me. They’re hard. Glacial, like black ice.
“Go to hell.”
I smirk, even though there’s nothing remotely funny about any of this. “Been there. All week.”
She leans back in her chair, looking me up and down. “That’s right. Erin told us about your mysterious illness.”
“I stayed home because…”
“Cab ride take too much out of you? Needed a few days to recover?”
I shake my head. “What I said that day was a mistake.”
She stands up. “No. The only mistake here was mine. That I ever thought there was anything more to you. That I actually let myself believe there was something…beautiful underneath all your cocky charm and big-dick attitude. I was wrong. You’re hollow inside. Empty.”
Remember when I said Kate and I are a lot alike? We are. And I don’t mean just in bed or at the office. We both have the uncanny ability to say just the right things—to wound. To find that weak spot inside every one of us, and nail it with a verbal frigging grenade.
She cuts me off. And her voice is tight. Clogged.
“You know, Drew, I’m not stupid. I wasn’t expecting a marriage proposal. I knew what you were like. But, you seemed so…And that night at the bar? The way you looked at me. I thought…”
Her voice breaks, and I want to fucking kill myself.
“…I thought I meant something to you.”
I step closer, wanting to touch her. To comfort her. To take it all back.
Make it all better.
“You did. You do.”
She nods stiffly. “Right. That’s why you—”
“I didn’t do anything! There was no hook-up. No goddamn taxi ride. It was all bullshit, Kate. It was Steven on the phone that day, not Stacey. I just said those things so you would think it was her.”
She goes pale, and I know she believes me. “Why…why would you do that?”
I blow out a breath. My voice is soft and strained. Begging her to understand.
“Because…I’m in love with you. I’ve been in love with you for a long time. I didn’t know it until that Sunday night. And then when Billy showed up here…I thought you took him back. And it fucking crushed me. It hurt so much that I wanted to make you…feel as bad as I did.”
Not my best moment, huh? Yeah, I know—I’m an asshole. Believe me, I know.
“So I said those things on purpose, so you would think you were nothing to me. That you were just another girl. But you’re not, Kate. You’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. I want to be with you…really be with you. Only you. I’ve never felt this way about anyone. And I know I sound like a freaking Hallmark card, but it’s true. I’ve never wanted all the things I want to have when I’m with you.”
She doesn’t say anything. She just stares at me. And I can’t take it anymore. I put my hands on her shoulders, on her arms. Just to feel her.
She stiffens, but doesn’t pull away. I bring my hands to her face. My thumb smoothes over her cheeks and her lips.
Her eyes close at the contact, and the lump in my throat feels like it’s strangling me.
“Please, Kate, can we just…go back? Everything was so good before. It was perfect. I want us to be like that again. I want that so much.”
I’ve never believed in regret. In guilt. I used to think they were just in a person’s head. Like a fear of heights. Nothing you can’t get past if you have the determination. The strength. But I’ve never had someone—hurt someone—who meant more to me than…me. And to know that I messed this up because of my fear, my fucking stupidity, it’s just…unbearable.
She knocks my hands away. And steps back.
Kate picks her bag up off the floor.
“Why?” I clear my throat. “Why not?”
“Do you remember when I first started working here? And you told me your father wanted me to put together a ‘practice’ presentation?”
“You said that because you didn’t want me to get the client. Right?”
“And then the night we met with Anderson, you told me that I was shoving my tits in his face because…how did you put it? You wanted to ‘get a rise out of me.’ Yes or no?”
Where’s she going with this?
“And then last week—after everything—you made me believe that you were talking to that woman because you wanted to hurt me?”
“I did, but—”
“And now, now you’re telling me you’re in love with me?”
She shakes her head softly. “And why on earth should I believe you, Drew?”
I stand there. Silent. Because I’ve got nothing. No defense. No reasons that would make any real difference. Not to her.
She turns to leave. And I panic. “Kate, please wait…”
I step in front of her. She stops but looks past me—through me. Like I’m not even here.
“I know I fucked up. Badly. The taxi-girl thing was stupid and cruel. And I’m sorry. More sorry than you’ll ever understand. But…you can’t let that ruin what we could have.”
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