“God, you’re pathetic,” Henry groaned as he walked past me.
“You should both shut up, if anyone wants my opinion,” Mina added, following her husband into the dining room.
Sofia was the first grandchild and the princess of the family. As usual, she preferred to sit on my lap during dinner and I tried to eat around her, doing my best to avoid her “help.” She definitely had me completely wrapped around her finger.
“Bennett, I’ve been meaning to ask you,” my mother began, handing me the bottle of wine. “Would you invite Chloe to dinner next week, and do your best to convince her to actually come?”
I groaned in response and received a quick kick in the shin from my father. “Christ. Why is everyone so insistent on getting her over here?” I asked.
Mom straightened, wearing her best Firm Mother face. “She’s in a strange city all alone, and—”
“Mom,” I interrupted, “she’s lived here since college. She’s twenty-six. It’s not a strange city to her anymore.”
“Actually, Bennett, you’re right,” she answered with a rare edge in her voice. “She came here for college, graduated summa cum laude, worked with your father for a few years before moving to your department and being the best employee you’ve ever had—all while she attends night school to get her degree. I think Chloe is pretty amazing, so I have someone I’d like her to meet.”
My fork froze in midair as those words sank in. Mom wanted to set her up with someone? I tried to mentally file through all of the single men we knew and had to discount each of them immediately. Brad: too short. Damian: f**ks anything that moves. Kyle: g*y. Scott: dumb. Well, this was odd. I felt something constrict in my chest, but I wasn’t sure what it was. If I had to put a name on it, I’d call it . . . anger?
Why would I be angry that my mom wanted to set her up? Probably because you’re sleeping with her, dumb ass. Well, not really sleeping with her so much as f**king her. Okay, f**ked her . . . twice. “Fucking her” would imply an intent to continue.
Oh, also, I felt her up her in an elevator and was hoarding her shredded panties in my desk drawer.
I pressed my hands to my face. “Fine. I’ll talk to her. But don’t get your hopes up. She’s about as charm-free as they come, so that’s a hard deal to close.”
“You know, Ben,” my brother chimed in, “I think everyone here would agree that you are literally the only one who has a hard time getting along with her.”
I looked around the table, frowning at the heads bobbing up and down, agreeing with my idiot brother.
The rest of the night consisted of more talk about how I needed to try and be nicer to Miss Mills, and about how great they all thought she was, and about how much she would like my mom’s best friend’s son, Joel. I had completely forgotten about Joel. He was nice enough, I guess. Except he’d played Barbies with his little sister until he was fourteen and cried like a baby when he took a baseball to the shin in tenth grade.
I laughed to myself at the thought.
We also talked about the meetings we had lined up for this week. A big one was planned for Thursday afternoon, and I would be accompanying my father and brother. I knew that Miss Mills already had everything all planned and ready to go. Much as I hated to admit it, she was always two steps ahead and anticipated everything I needed.
I left with the promise that I would do my best to convince her to come, although to be honest I didn’t even know when I would see her in the next few days. I had meetings and appointments all over the city, and I doubted that in those brief moments I was actually in the office I would have much good to say.
Glaring out the window as we crawled down South Michigan Avenue the next afternoon, I wondered if my day would ever improve. I hated sitting in traffic. The office was only a few blocks away, and I was seriously considering just having the driver take the car back and getting out and walking. It was already after four, and we’d managed to travel only three blocks in twenty minutes. Perfect. Closing my eyes, I rested my head on the seat and recalled the meeting I had just left.
Nothing in particular had gone wrong; in fact, quite the opposite. The clients had been thrilled with our proposals, and everything had gone off without a hitch. I just couldn’t shake my horrible mood.
Henry had made a point of telling me every fifteen minutes of the last three hours that I was behaving like a moody teenager, and by the time the contracts were signed, I wanted to beat the shit out of him. Every chance he got he asked what the hell my problem was, and frankly, I couldn’t say I blamed him. Even I had to admit I’d been a prick the last couple of days. And for me, that was saying something. Of course Henry declared as he left to head home that my problem was I needed to get laid.
If he only knew.
It had been one day. Just one day since the event in the elevator left me rock hard and with an itching desire to touch every inch of her skin. The way I was acting you’d think I hadn’t had sex in six months. But no, nearly two days of not touching her and I felt like a lunatic.
The car stopped again and I thought I would scream. My driver lowered the separator between the front and back seats, tossing me an apologetic smile. “Sorry, Mr. Ryan. I’m sure you’re going crazy back there. We’re only four blocks away; would you rather walk?” Glancing out the tinted windows, I noticed we’d stopped right across the street from La Perla. “I can pull over just—”