“Hello, Kelsey,” Cruz replied barely glancing up at her.

Kelsey smiled as if our greeting had been much warmer. I felt awkwardness that didn’t make sense hanging over us. “Hello,” I said trying to make up for Cruz’s response.

Kelsey barely glanced at me. “Your father wants to see you,” she said to Cruz. Her tone was annoyed. She didn’t seem to care much for him. I wondered if she felt threatened by his position at the club. I could imagine she wasn’t excited about answering to someone twenty years younger than her in the coming years.

She was trying to cover her sudden anger. But I could see it behind her fake smile. “That may be so, but he wants you to come back. I’m sure,” she glanced at me with a tight smile. “Miss Carter can finish lunch alone.”

I started to tell him I could just head back to the studio and work, but Cruz spoke first. “I’ll eat my lunch, and then see what Dad needs in his office.”

Kelsey Torrent wasn’t pleased. She was more than annoyed. When she spun around and walked away, I let out a breath I’d been holding. I thought the two of them were going to cause a scene. Which would have probably gotten her fired, and Cruz in serious trouble.

“I don’t think she likes you very much,” I said quietly once she was out of the dining room.

He shrugged as if he didn’t care, but he was tense. That had bothered him. I felt bad for him. Having to join a company like this and deal with employees who didn’t like that he’d be their boss eventually. “She’s uptight,” was all he said.

We ordered our food and Cruz tried to relax unsuccessfully. I wished he’d just find out what his father wanted instead of worrying about ignoring him or putting him off. I glanced at my phone and decided to fib to Cruz to relieve him from this lunch with me. He would worry the entire time if he didn’t answer to his father.

“Oh, that’s the decorator I need to meet with. She’s available now but won’t be again until Thursday. I need to see what she can do and get a quote. Do you mind?”

“No, that’s fine. You need to meet with her. I’ll be there later today. I need to deal with my dad first.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry. I can just ask the kitchen to pack up my food to go.”

He stood then. “I’ll get it from the kitchen. They’ll take their time otherwise.” He was being helpful, but his head was somewhere else. We were new. Our relationship and being seen in public was new. So, I didn’t feel like I could question him too much about what was distracting him. I would have to let him tell me what was going on when he was ready.

I got my purse and drank the rest of my tea before he walked back with a bag containing my lunch. It was hard to miss the eyes that followed him as he walked through the restaurant. Many spoke to him. Others watched him like he was a meal they wanted. I couldn’t blame them. He was so very easy to look at.

When he reached the table, I stood up, and he kissed me. Right there for everyone to see. It was like he was making a claim. Letting them all know. But in reality, he was showing me he was serious. I took the bag once the kiss ended and felt my cheeks turn warm.

“Yes,” I whispered. “These people may not all know me, but they all know you.”

My cheeks were flaming now.

“God, you’re cute,” he said, grinning now. His earlier tension had eased. “I’ll see you shortly.”

With a nod and a shy smile, I left with my gaze straight ahead, afraid to make eye contact with anyone. Cruz had already disappeared in the other direction.

“Lila Kate,” a female voice stopped me. I turned to see Adelle Boyd giving me a calculating look. She sat at a table with her mother and younger sister. They were all three in tennis skirts as if they’d just come inside from the courts. Which they probably had.

“Hello,” I said to the table already knowing what this was about. That kiss was sweet, but I knew it would get me some attention I didn’t want. Or I should say, drama.

“Are you dating Cruz?” she asked a touch of disbelief in her tone

Her mother made a strange sound in the back of her throat. I didn’t look at her.

“It’s new,” I told her sweetly. What I wanted was to be rude and tell her it was none of her business though.

Her mouth turned up into an amused grin. “It’ll also be short.”

Both mother and sister made muffled laughs. I didn’t have time for this.

“Y’all have a wonderful day too,” I said before I walked off hoping no one else stopped me.

They didn’t. Once outside I breathed a sigh of relief. That was just the beginning. I had to learn to handle people’s reactions better.

I TURNED AND went the other direction as Lila Kate left the Club. My stomach clenched as my demons chased me. The reason I had kept my distance from Lila Kate, the reason I had wanted her and now knew I loved her but would never get close enough was breathing down my neck. I’d taken this chance and gone after her even though I had shit that could destroy us before it ever began. I had sworn to her I wouldn’t hurt her. I was about to make sure I kept that promise.

Turning left instead of right, I headed for Kelsey’s office. My father hadn’t sent her for me. She’d seen me with Lila Kate, and she’d come after me. Normally, she didn’t interfere with my sex life. She was a married woman after all. But she knew . . . Lila Kate Carter was different.

I didn’t knock on her door. I just walked inside. She was standing on the other side of the room with a glass of ice water in her hand staring out the window.

“You can’t date her,” was all she said. She didn’t even turn around.

“I can do whatever the fuck I want to do, Kelsey,” I replied angry that she thought she had some magic pussy that could control me. Maybe that was true when I was sixteen and she’d brought me in this office one night late after a ball and sucked my dick for the first time. She’d had some power over me. But I wasn’t a boy anymore. I’d had many women since she introduced me to sex.

“I don’t care about all your whores. That’s all they are. You’re a man. Men like sex. They like variety. I’m okay with that. But not her. You know she’s not a whore. You want more with her,” she turned to me then. “Am I right?”

“Yes, you’re correct. What we did wasn’t right. You’re married. We should have stopped a long time ago. Hell, we never should have started. But I was a horny teenage boy, and you took advantage of that. I didn’t care about your husband then. I should have, but my sex drive was running the show. We are done. I love her. There is only her for me.”

Kelsey was a beautiful woman. Tall, slender, generous breast size and a freak when it came to sex. I’d fucked her right on that desk many times in many different positions. And she’d watched me fuck other girls and had waiting to fuck me after because it turned her on. That had been fun. Before. But the past year, she’d gotten clingier. Needier. More possessive.

“Is that what you think? That you can fuck me for five years then just walk away. Just like that?”