I put my hand on her arm, laughing a little. “Guys like Gugliotti have egos. He just needs to feel like the executives are listening to him. You did everything we needed. He just wants me to be the one to hand him the official contract.”
“But that’s absurd. And you perpetuated it, with me as the pawn.”
I blinked, confused. I did exactly what she said. But that’s how the game is played, isn’t it? “You’re my intern.”
A sharp laugh escaped her lips and she turned to me again. “Right. Because you’ve cared all this time how my career progresses.”
“How would you know I need seasoning? You barely looked at my work before yesterday.”
“Patently false.” I shook my head, getting a little riled. “I know that because I’ve watched everything you do. I don’t want to put pressure on you to do more than you can right now, and that’s why I’m maintaining control of the Gugliotti account. But you did a great job in there, and I was very proud of you.”
She closed her eyes, and leaned her head back against her seat. “You called me ‘kid.’”
“I did?” I searched my memory and realized she was right. “I guess I just didn’t want him to see you as this bombshell businesswoman he could hire away and try to f**k.”
“Jesus, Bennett. You are such an ass**le! Maybe he wanted to hire me because I can do the job well!”
“The possessive boyfriend thing isn’t new to me. It’s that you’re acting like you did me a favor. It’s how condescending you’re being. I’m not sure now is the best time to engage in more typical boss-intern interactions.”
“I told you I think you did an amazing job with him.”
She glared at me, her face turning red. “You never would have said that before. You would have said, ‘Good. Back to work.’ That’s it. And to Gugliotti you acted like you have me under your thumb. Before you would have pretended you didn’t even know me.”
“Do we really need to discuss why I was an ass**le before? You weren’t exactly Little Miss Sunshine yourself. And why is now the time to hash this out?”
“This isn’t about you being an ass**le before. It’s about how you’re being now. You’re compensating. This is exactly why you don’t f**k your boss. You were a fine boss before—you let me do my thing and you did yours. Now you’re the touchy-feely mentor who calls me ‘kid’ to the guy I saved your ass with? Unbelievable.”
“I can deal with you being a giant dick, Bennett. I’m used to it, I expect it. It’s how we work. Because beneath all the huffing and door slamming, I knew that you respected me. But how you were today—it puts a line there that wasn’t there before . . .” She shook her head, glanced back out the window.
“Maybe,” she said, leaning down to dig her phone out of her purse. “But I’ve worked my ass off to get where I am—am I risking all that?”
“We can do both, Chloe. For a few more months, we can work together and be together. This? What’s happening today? Is called growing pains.”
“I’m not sure,” she said, blinking away and looking past me. “I’m just trying to do the smart thing, Bennett. I never questioned my own worth before, even when I thought you did. And then when I believed you saw exactly who I was, and you belittled me . . .” She looked up, eyes pained. “I guess I don’t want to start questioning myself now. After everything I’ve worked for.”
The plane landed with a jolt and even still it didn’t rattle me as much as what she said. I had led discussions with the heads of some of the largest finance departments in the world. I had taken on executives who thought they could squash me. I could fight with this woman until the world ended and feel like more of a man with every word. But right then, I couldn’t find a single thing to say.
To say I couldn’t sleep that night would be an understatement. I could barely even lie down. Every flat surface seemed to have her imprint, and it didn’t matter that she’d never been to my place. The mere fact that we talked about it—and that I’d planned for her to come here our first night back—made her ghost as good as permanent.
I called her; she didn’t answer. Granted, it was at three in the morning, but I knew she wasn’t sleeping either. Her silence was worsened by the fact that I knew she felt what I felt. I knew she was in just as deep as I was. But she thought she shouldn’t be.
Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.
I got in at six, before I knew she’d be there. I got us both coffee, updated my calendar to save her some time she could use to catch up after being gone. I faxed the contract to Gugliotti, telling him the version he saw in San Diego was final, and whatever Chloe presented would stand. I gave him two days to return the signature pages.
At eight, my father came into my office, Henry close behind. Dad scowled often, but rarely at me. Henry never looked pissed.
But both of them looked like they wanted to murder me.
“What did you do?” Dad dropped a piece of paper on my desk.
Ice dripped into my veins. “What is that?”
“It’s Chloe’s resignation letter. She dropped it off with Sara this morning.”