“Because the last thing I needed was you in there watching me throw up,” he replied almost grumpily, and I rolled my eyes, offering him the bottle of water.
“I could have done something. You don’t have to be such a man.”
“Don’t be such a woman. What could you have done? Food poisoning is a pretty lonely business.”
“So what should I tell Gugliotti?”
He groaned, rubbing his hands over his face. “Shit. What time is it?”
I glanced at the clock. “Just after seven.”
He started to get up but was easy enough to shove back down into the bed. “No way in hell are you going to that meeting like this! When was the last time you threw up?”
He gripped my arm before I could walk over to the desk and grab my phone. “Chloe. You do it.”
My eyebrows inched to my hairline. “Do what?”
“Fuck off,” I said, laughing and pushing him gently. “And I’m not doing it without you.”
“Why not? I bet you know the account we’re offering as well as I do. Besides, if we reschedule he’s just going to take a lavish trip to Chicago and send us the bill. Please, Chloe.”
I stared down at him, waiting for him to break into a teasing grin or take it back. But he didn’t. And the truth was, I did know the account, and I did know the terms. I could do this.
“Okay,” I said, smiling and feeling a surge of hope that we could figure this—us—out after all. “I’m in.”
His face grew harder, and he used the voice I had barely heard in days. It sent small waves of hunger through me. “Tell me the plan, Miss Mills.”
Nodding, I said, “I need to make sure he’s clear on the project parameters and timelines. I’ll watch out for overpromising; I know Gugliotti is notorious for that.” When Bennett nodded, smiling a little, I continued. “I’ll confirm the contract start dates and the milestones.”
When I ticked all five of them off on my fingers, his smile grew. “You’ll be fine.”
Two hours later, if you asked me if I could fly, I would have answered yes in an instant.
The meeting had gone off perfectly. Mr. Gugliotti, who had initially been peeved to find an intern in the place of a Ryan executive, had softened when he heard the circumstances. And later, he seemed impressed with the level of detail I was able to provide.
He’d even offered me a job. “After you finish with Mr. Ryan, of course,” he’d said with a wink, and I carefully demurred.
I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to be done with Mr. Ryan.
On the way back from the meeting, I called Susan to find out what Bennett liked when he was sick. Just as I suspected, the last time she’d been able to spoil him with chicken noodle soup and Popsicles, he’d been wearing a retainer. She was delighted to hear from me, and I had to swallow the guilt I felt when she asked if he was behaving. I assured her that all was fine and that he was only suffering from a mild stomach bug and that, of course, I’d have him call. With a small bag of groceries in hand, I walked into the room, stopping in the small kitchen area to drop off the food and take off my tailored wool suit.
Wearing only my slip, I moved into the bedroom, but Bennett wasn’t there. The bathroom door was open, and he wasn’t there either. It looked as if housekeeping had been in; the linens were crisp and neat, and the floor had been tidied of our piles of discarded clothes. The balcony door was open, letting in a cool breeze. Outside, I found him sitting in a chaise, elbows propped on his knees, his head in his hands. He looked like he’d had a shower and was now dressed in dark jeans and a short-sleeved green T-shirt.
My skin hummed, warming at the sight of him.
He looked up, eyes taking in every curve. “Holy f**k. I hope you didn’t wear that to the meeting.”
“Well, I did,” I said, laughing. “But I wore it beneath a very prim navy suit.”
“Good,” he growled. He pulled me close, wrapping his arms all the way around my waist and pressing his forehead into my stomach. “I missed you.”
My chest twisted tightly. What were we doing? Was this real or were we playing house for a few days and then returning to normal? I didn’t think I could do our normal after this and wasn’t sure I could see several steps into the future to how this all played out.
He looked up at me, his stare burning hot on my face as he waited for me to say something. “Are you feeling better?” I asked.
His face fell but he hid it quickly. “Much,” he said. “How did the meeting go?”
Although I was still on a high from the meeting with Gugliotti and was dying to tell him every detail, when he asked this, he removed his arms from my waist and sat back, leaving me feeling cold and hollow. I wanted to hit the rewind button and take us back two minutes to when he told me he’d missed me, and I could answer, “I missed you too.” I’d kiss him, and we’d get distracted, and I’d tell him all about Gugliotti a few hours from now.