Sara and I had an interesting conversation when she’d called and informed me of the status of my replacement. I’d laughed hysterically hearing about the revolving door of temps. Of course Bennett was having a hard time keeping anyone around. He was an ass**le.
I was used to his mood swings and gruff attitude; professionally our relationship ran like clockwork. It was the personal side that was a nightmare. Almost everyone knew it; they just didn’t know the extent of the situation.
I thought back often to our last day together. Something in our relationship was shifting, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. No matter how many times we said it would never happen again, it would. I was terrified that this man, who was all wrong for me, had more control over my body than I did, no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise.
I didn’t want to be the woman who sacrificed her ambitions for a man.
Standing in the arrival area, I gave myself one last pep talk. I could do this. Oh, God, I hoped I could do this. The butterflies in my stomach were working overtime and I briefly worried I might throw up.
His plane had been delayed in Chicago and it was after six thirty before he finally touched down in San Diego. While the time on the plane out had been good for thinking, the seven extra hours waiting afterward had only reignited my nerves.
I stood on my tiptoes trying to get a better view through the crowd, but didn’t see him. Looking down at my phone, I reread his text again.
Just landed—see you in a few.
There was nothing sentimental about the text, but it made my stomach flip anyway. Our messages last night had been the same. It wasn’t that we said anything special: I’d simply asked how the rest of his week had gone. That wouldn’t be considered unusual in any other relationship, but it was totally new for us. Maybe there was a chance we could actually get past the constant animosity and actually be, what—friends?
With my stomach in knots, I paced back and forth, willing my mind to switch gears and my heart rate to calm. Without thinking, I stopped midstep and turned toward the oncoming crowd, searching through the sea of unknown faces. My breath caught in my throat when a head of familiar hair appeared above the others.
Get ahold of yourself, Chloe. Jesus.
I tried once more to get my body under control and looked up again. Fuck. I am so screwed. There he was, looking better than I’d ever seen him. How the hell does someone get better looking in nine days, and coming off of an airplane no less?
He stood nearly a head taller than anyone around him, the kind of tall that stands out in a crowd, and I gave thanks to the universe for that. His dark hair was a nightmare as usual; no doubt he’d had his hands in it a hundred times during the last hour. He wore dark slacks, a charcoal blazer, and a white dress shirt that was unbuttoned at the neck. He looked tired and had a bit of stubble on his face, but that wasn’t what had my heart beating a mile a minute. He’d been looking down at the ground, but the moment our eyes met, his face split into the most genuinely happy smile I’d ever seen. Before I could stop it, I felt my own smile explode, wide and giddy.
He stopped in front of me, a slightly tenser look taking over his features, while both of us waited for the other to say something.
“Hi,” I said awkwardly, trying to ease some of the tension between us. Every part of me wanted to pull him into the ladies’ room, but somehow I doubted that was the proper way to great your boss. Not that that had ever mattered before.
Fuck, snap out of it, Chloe! We both turned, heading toward the baggage claim, and I felt goose bumps spread across my skin just being near him.
“How was your flight?” I asked, knowing how much he hated flying commercial airlines, even if it was first class. This was so ridiculous. I wished he would just say something asinine so I could go back to yelling at him.
He thought about it for a moment before answering, “It was pleasant enough, once we actually got off the ground. I don’t like how crowded the planes are.” We stopped and waited, surrounded by bustling people, but the only thing I noticed was the tension building between us, and every inch of space between our bodies. “And your father’s health?” he asked a moment later.
Minutes passed in uncomfortable silence and I was more than a bit relieved when I saw his luggage slide down the conveyor belt. We both reached for it at the same time and our hands touched briefly on the handle. Pulling back, I glanced up to find he was watching me.
My stomach dropped at the familiar look of hunger in his eyes. We both muttered apologies and I looked away, but not before noticing the slight smirk on his face. Fortunately, it was time to pick up the rental car, and we headed to the parking garage.
He looked pleased as we approached the luxury rental, a Benz SLS AMG. He loved to drive—well, he loved to drive fast—and I always made a point of ordering something fun for him when he needed a car.
“Very nice, Miss Mills,” he said, his hand sliding along the hood. “Remind me to think about giving you a raise.”
I felt the familiar desire to punch him spread through my body and it calmed me. Everything was so much clearer when he was being an outright douche.
Pressing the button to release the trunk I gave him a reproachful look and stepped aside for him to put his things away. He took off his jacket and handed it to me. I shoved it into the trunk.