The Billionaire's Embrace Page 13

“What are you thinking about?” Carter asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “Dinner. I’m hungry. Sadie’s boyfriend is making Indian food. Did I tell you that?”

“She did, when I spoke to her earlier,” Carter said. “She sounds very nice.”

“She didn’t say anything embarrassing, did she?” I asked. That was exactly the sort of thing Sadie would do—go behind my back and tell Carter all sorts of humiliating stories about me.

“Not at all,” Carter said. “We spoke very briefly.”

I squinted up at him, suspicious, and even more suspicious when he gave me a look like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “I’m not sure I should believe you.”

He leaned down and kissed me. “I cannot tell a lie.”

“Okay, George Washington,” I said. Sadie probably told him about that time I got really drunk and threw up on the subway. She always told that story.

He laughed. “Is there anything I should know going in? Sore subjects to avoid?”

I thought about it. “Not really. I don’t want to tell you too much about them because then you won’t have anything to talk about.” Maybe Carter didn’t have that problem, though. He had probably been glad-handing since before he could walk.

The car pulled up in front of Sadie’s house. We got out, and I stood on the sidewalk while Carter spoke to the driver. The car pulled away, and Carter took my hand and smiled at me. “Ready?”

“I guess so,” I said, and we climbed the steps of the brownstone.

There was a note on the front door: “Buzzer broken, come on in!” The door was propped open with a brick. I rolled my eyes. The buzzer had been broken for at least a month. Sadie’s slumlord tried to cut corners whenever he could. I kept trying to convince her to move out, but she said the rent was so cheap she would put up with just about anything. It was like her landlord didn’t realize that Carroll Gardens had been gentrified.

Carter was holding the wine, so I opened the door. We went inside and climbed the stairs to the top floor, where Ben and Sadie lived. Well, technically Ben didn’t live there, but he only went back to his place to pick up clean clothes. I wondered if they were ever going to bite the bullet and officially move in together.

I knocked on the door, and it swung open immediately, letting out a wave of curry-scented air. Sadie must have been waiting just inside.

“Welcome, welcome!” Sadie said, beaming. She had combed her hair out into a fro, and her highlights made it look like a golden halo around her head. Between that and her red lipstick and her teal dress, she looked like someone in a magazine.

“You look incredible,” I told her, leaning in to give her a hug.

“Hey, what about me?” Ben asked, coming up behind her.

“Don’t you think Sadie looks incredible?” I asked him, and gave him a hug too.

“And this must be Carter,” Sadie said. I moved aside and let her and Ben shake hands with Carter.

“Thanks very much for having us over tonight,” Carter said.

“Regan’s been trying to hide you,” Sadie said. “Can’t have that! Come in, come in.” She ushered us into the living room. “Dinner’s almost ready, I think.”

“Ten minutes,” Ben said. “Speaking of.” He disappeared into the kitchen.

“I brought wine, as requested,” Carter said, handing Sadie the paper bag he was carrying.

“Aren’t you a doll,” Sadie said. “I’ll open it right now. You two sit down.” She followed Ben into the kitchen.

I sat on the tufted green velvet sofa—we’d rescued it from the sidewalk, three summers before—and patted the cushion beside me. “Best seat in the house,” I said. “Sorry she’s so intense.”

Carter sat beside me. “I think she’s delightful.”

I pursed my lips, unconvinced. Seeing Sadie through Carter’s eyes, as a stranger, made me all too aware of how high-energy she was, and sort of bossy. Sadie and I got along great because I was a follower, not a leader; but I didn’t know how Carter would react to being gently ordered around.

Sadie came back into the room, somehow carrying three full wine glasses in her hands. I was glad I always got to use a tray at the club. “This wine looks awesome,” she said to Carter, handing him a glass, and then moving one to her now-empty right hand before she passed it to me. “Did you go all out? I thought I told you not to go all out.”

“Don’t worry,” Carter said. “It came from the liquor store, not my private cellar.”

Sadie laughed. “Do you really have a wine cellar? Is it underground? Regan, you didn’t tell me anything about this!”

“It’s a crypt,” Carter said. “Medieval. I had it imported from France.”

“I like him,” Sadie said to me. She sat down across from us. “Tell me everything. Do you know George Clooney? I would leave Ben for him in a hot second.”

“I heard that!” Ben yelled from the kitchen.

“I’ve met Mr. Clooney, yes,” Carter said. “I think he has a girlfriend, though.”

Sadie made a dismissive gesture. “That won’t last. They all start talking about marriage, and then, well...” She shook her head. “Women really need to stop viewing marriage as the be-all and end-all of female aspirations.”

I rolled my eyes. Sadie was really into feminist theory, and I found it interesting and worthwhile, but maybe not the best topic of conversation when you were meeting your best friend’s new boyfriend.

Was that what Carter was? My boyfriend?

Man companion?

Boy-toy?

Whatever he was, he said—to my surprise—something about Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique, and then he and Sadie were off and running. I sat there like a useless lump while they debated the merits of third-wave feminism and intersectionality. I didn’t know enough about it to have anything useful to contribute. All of my reading couldn’t compensate for the fact that I didn’t have a college education, and college seemed to be where people learned how to argue. At least, that was the impression I’d gotten in my two semesters at CUNY.

Before I could really start feeling sorry for myself, though, Ben came into the living room and announced that dinner was ready. “And no more talking about feminism,” he said. “Arguing during dinner gives me indigestion.”

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