Page 25

Author: Emma Chase


She laughs in my face. “What we could have? What do we have, Drew? All we’ve ever had are arguments and competition and lust…”


“No. It’s more than that. I felt it that weekend, and I know you felt it too. What we have could be…spectacular. If you just give it a chance. Give us—me—one more chance. Please.”


You know that song “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by the Rolling Stones? It’s my new theme song.


Her lips fold against one another. Then she moves around me.


But I grab her arm.


“Let me go, Drew.”


“I can’t.” And I don’t just mean her arm.


She jerks away. “Try harder. You did it once. I’m sure you can manage it again.”


Then she walks out the door.


And I don’t follow her.


Chapter 20


OKAY. SO THAT DIDN’T GO VERY WELL.


You’re right—it was a goddamn disaster. You think I should have gone after her? Well you’re wrong. Have you ever read The Art of War by Sun Tzu? I have. It’s a book about military strategy. A good general knows when to attack. A great general knows when to pull back. To regroup.


I’ve told Kate what I needed to. Now I have to show her.


Actions win wars. Actions heal wounds. Not words. Words are cheap. Mine, in particular, have the combined value of pocket lint at the moment.


So…I have a plan. And failure’s not an option. Because this isn’t just about me, about what I want. Not anymore. It’s about what Kate wants too. And she wants me. Sure, she’s fighting it—but it’s there. Like it’s always been.


No one will ever be to Kate what I can be. And—before you take my head off—I’m not saying that because of my overdeveloped sense of confidence. I’m saying it because behind the anger, under the hurt…Kate is just as in love with me as I am with her.


Looking at her was like looking in a goddamn mirror.


So I won’t quit. I won’t throw in the towel. Not until we both have what we want.


Each other.


Hey—you know what else a great general knows how to do?


Call in the reserves.


Here’s a fact for you: Most men can’t multitask.


It’s true.


That’s why you won’t catch many guys trying to make a full-course Thanksgiving dinner. That’s the reason mothers all over the world come home to a disaster area when they leave their kids with the hubby for a few hours. Most of us can only really focus on one thing at a time.


Most of us—but not me.


Before I’m out the door of the office, I’ve got Erin on the cell. No, I’m not a slave driver. If you’re an assistant to one of the most successful I-bankers in New York City, late-night calls are part of the job description. Now that my head has been removed from its weeklong vacation up my ass, I need to find out if I have any clients left to work with.


Lucky for me, I do.


“I hope you can grow a third kidney, Drew,” Erin says. “Because if Matthew, Jack, and Steven ever need one at the same time, you’re going to have to hand them over.”


Apparently, they’re the ones who’ve been covering for me while I was making that permanent dent in my couch.


“Book Jack a table at Scores this weekend. On me.”


Nothing says thank you like a prepaid stripper.


As for Matthew and Steven—I’m going to need to think about that one. I have a feeling titty bars are outlawed on the Dark Side.


After Erin updates me about work, I tell her to clear my schedule and give her a list of the things I’ll need for tomorrow. I’ve got a hell of a day planned—but it’s got nothing to do with investment banking.


By the time we hang up, I’m walking through the door of my apartment. Jesus Christ. I cover my nose with my hand. How the hell did I live with that smell for seven days?


Oh, that’s right—I was a vegetable.


I take a good look around. Garbage bags line one wall. Empty bottles are stacked on the table. Dirty dishes fill the sink, and the air reeks like that stale scent that seeps through your car vents when you’re stuck in traffic behind a garbage truck. Alexandra did her best to clean up, but it’s still a disaster.


Kind of like my life at the moment, huh? How’s that for symbolism.


I walk to the bedroom where I can actually breathe through my nose. I sit on the edge of the bed and stare at the phone. Remember those reserves I mentioned? Time to call them up.


I pick up the phone and dial. A soothing voice greets me after the second ring. The perfect combination of strength and comfort, and I answer back.


“Hi, Mom.”


You thought I was calling someone else, didn’t you?


Deep down—I’m a momma’s boy. I’m man enough to admit it. And trust me, I’m not the only one. Explains a lot, doesn’t it? That’s the reason your boyfriend can’t manage to get his socks or underwear actually in the hamper—because he grew up with mommy doing it for him. That’s why your pasta sauce is good, but not great—because his taste buds have been finely tuned to Mom’s Sunday gravy.


Plus, you know that saying “Mother knows best”? Yes, it’s annoying. But is it accurate? Abso-fucking-lutely. I’ve never known my mother to be wrong. About anything. So at this moment, her opinion is my most valuable resource. I know what I think I should do to fix things with Kate, but I want confirmation that it’s actually the right thing to do. This is new territory for me. And I can’t afford to screw it up.


Again.


My mother starts talking about chicken soup and cold compresses. But I cut her off.


“Mom—I haven’t been sick. Not like you think, anyway.”


With a sigh, I dive into the whole sordid tale. The abridged, G-rated version.


Sort of feels like confession.


After I describe the morning in my office where I screwed the pooch with Kate—okay, you’re right, where I pretty much fucked the whole kennel—my mother lets loose a sorrowful “Oh, Drew.”


My stomach flips with regret and disappointment. What I wouldn’t give for a time machine.


I finish the story of my downfall and go on to explain my plans to unfuck myself tomorrow. After I’m done, she’s quiet for a few seconds. And then she does the last thing I’d expect my polite, reserved mother to do.


She laughs. “You’re so much like your father. Sometimes I wonder if you got any of my DNA at all.”


I’ve never really seen any similarities between my dad and me. Except our love of business—our drive to succeed. We’ve always been evenly matched in that respect. Otherwise, my father’s as straight-laced as they come. A dedicated, loyal family man through and through. Pretty much the opposite of me in every way.


“I am?”


She’s still chuckling. “One day I’ll tell you how your dad and I really ended up together at Columbia. And I’ll include all the dirty little details he never wanted you to know.”


If that story involves sex in any way, I don’t want to hear it.


Ever.


As far as I’m concerned, my parents have had sex two times in their entire lives. Once for Alexandra and once for me. That’s it. On some level I realize I’m deluding myself, but this is one topic where I prefer to live in denial.


“As for you and Kate, I imagine she’ll be quite…impressed with what you have planned. Eventually. At first, I’m guessing she’ll be livid. You should be prepared for that, Drew.”


I’m kind of counting on it. Remember that fine line Matthew talked about?


“I have to ask you though, dear—are you sure? Are you absolutely positive that Kate Brooks is the young lady for you? Not just as a lover but as a friend, a companion, a partner? You need to be certain, Drew. It’s wrong to toy with someone’s feelings; you don’t need me to tell you that.”


There’s reproach in her voice now—the same tone she used when I was eight and got caught reading Alexandra’s diary.


“I’m a hundred percent sure. It’s Kate or…nothing.”


I’m still shocked by how true this is. And, frankly, scared shitless.


I mean, even before I nailed Kate, my interest in fucking any other woman had started to fade. Drastically. And it wasn’t really because they were a bad lay. It was because they weren’t Kate. If, by some catastrophe, Kate won’t take me back, I might as well shave my head and move to frigging Tibet.


I hear the monks are hiring.


“Well then, here’s my advice: Be relentless. Unyielding. Absolutely persistent in your pursuit. If your confidence wavers at all, Kate will take that as a sign that your affection may waver as well. You’ve already given her several reasons not to believe in you; don’t let your insecurities give her more. Be sweet, Drew. Be honest. Act like the man I raised you to be. The man I know you are.”


I smile. And just like that, I know—without question—that somehow, some way, I’ll make this right.


“Thanks, Mom.”


As I’m about to say goodbye, she adds, “And for goodness’ sake, as soon as you clear up this situation, I want both of you over at the house for dinner. I want to meet the woman who’s got my son wrapped around her finger. She must be extraordinary.”


A hundred snapshots of Kate jump into my head at once…


Kate at her desk, glasses on. All brilliance and determination. A force to be reckoned with.


Kate laughing at one of my inappropriate comments. Introducing Matthew to Dee-Dee. Helping Steven out of a jam.


Kate in my arms—so fucking passionate and giving. Trusting and open. Her below me, above me, around me, matching me move for move, moan for moan.


I smile wider.


“She is, Mom. She really is.”


Time for a history lesson, kids.


Back in the olden days, when two clans were at war, they would send their noblemen onto the field before a battle to try and negotiate a nonviolent resolution. If the lords could figure out a compromise, then there wouldn’t be a fight. But if they couldn’t reach an agreement—it was on.


And I’m talking old-school battle axes, flaming arrows, cannonballs-that-will-take-your-legs-off-at-the-knee kind of on.


Yes, this was a scene in Braveheart. But it’s still historically accurate.


My point is, for every goal, there’s two ways of reaching it: the hard way and the easy way. The men back then understood that. And so do I. Which is why I’m standing outside my office building waiting to catch Kate before she walks through the door. To extend the olive branch. To work out a peaceful solution.


We’ll call this my “easy way.”


And here she comes. See her down the block? Apparently, I’m not the only one who came to work today ready for war. Kate definitely has her armor on.


She’s wearing a black pantsuit and heels so high she’ll be eye level with me. Her hair is twisted into a tight bun with just a few wisps caressing her face. Her chin’s raised, her eyes are hard, and she’s walking with fierce, purposeful strides.


Fucking magnificent.


My heartbeat speeds up, and my cock rises to half-mast, but I ignore it. True, it’s been a freaking millennia since I’ve gotten any, but I’ll get into that later. Right now, my focus is completely on Kate and my next move.


I push off from the building and meet her halfway.


“Hi, Kate. You’re looking especially edible this morning.”


I smile and hold out a purple lavender flower. She doesn’t take it. Instead, she brushes past me without a word.


I backtrack so I’m still in front of her. “Morning, Kate.”


She tries to go around me, but I block her in. And I smirk.


Can’t help it.


“What? You’re not speaking to me? You really think that’s feasible considering we work together?”


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