The Billionaire's Embrace Page 27

Then he flipped me over, a wild look in his eyes, and drove into me, fast and hard, until he shuddered and gasped in my arms.

After, he spent a long time kissing me and stroking my hair, telling me how good I had been, how well I did, how he was proud of me. I felt so warm and safe and wanted, cared for, lying there as he softened inside me and told me how perfect I was.

To my horror, I started crying.

Carter instantly pushed up onto his elbows, gazing down at me with concern. “What’s wrong? Oh, Regan—”

“Nothing, nothing,” I said, sniffling, trying to get myself under control. “I’m just—I feel so...” I trailed off. I didn’t know how to describe what I was feeling.

“Hey,” he said. He leaned down and kissed me on the forehead. “It’s okay. I know.”

Chapter 9

I woke up early the next morning, so early that the sun hadn’t yet risen over the buildings to the east. Carter was asleep beside me, lying on his back with his mouth open and snoring slightly. It was sweet. I smiled and slid out of bed very carefully so that I didn’t wake him up.

I padded into the living room, lit with pale gray light. I had to work that evening, and I really needed a few more hours of sleep, but I didn’t think I would be able to fall back to sleep. I had that wide-awake bushy-tailed feeling. We had gone to bed pretty early last night—we’d tried to watch some television, but I kept drifting off.

I went into the kitchen and poked at Carter’s coffee pot. It was huge and shiny and covered in buttons, and I wasn’t sure what any of them did. Maybe I would have to wake him up after all. Coffee was definitely an emergency.

I heard a noise, and turned to see Carter leaning in the doorway of the kitchen. “Someone’s up early,” he said, smiling at me. He was wearing low-slung sleep pants and nothing else, and he looked so rumpled and sleepy that I wanted to crawl back into bed with him and never leave.

“I couldn’t sleep,” I said sheepishly. “Did I wake you?”

He shrugged. “I’m not sure. I just woke up. I thought maybe you had left.”

“I wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye,” I said. “You thought I snuck out?”

“Last night was... kind of intense,” he said. “I didn’t know how you would feel this morning.”

“I don’t regret anything,” I said, and it was true. I was a little sore, but it was like a memento, a reminder of what had passed between us.

He came forward then, and slid one hand into my hair and kissed me. “I’m glad.”

We sat at the dining table and drank coffee. Carter made toast for himself, but I didn’t feel like eating anything. “But breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” he teased.

“Actually, I read something about how that isn’t true, and it’s a false correlation because people who eat breakfast are more invested in their health in other ways,” I said. God, I sounded like such a know-it-all.

But Carter didn’t look annoyed. He cocked his head at me and said, “You know so many random things.”

I hunched my shoulders, feeling uncomfortable. “I just read stuff.”

He leaned across the table, fixing me with his piercing gaze. “What’s your dream in life?” he asked. “I know you don’t want to work at the club forever. What do you really want to do?”

I swallowed. “I don’t know.”

“Pretend that money is no object,” he said. “If you didn’t have to worry about that. If you could do anything you wanted to. What would it be?”

Dreams were dangerous. They gave you big ideas; they made you think that your life could be bigger, more meaningful, than was actually possible. I had spent my entire life deliberately tamping down my dreams, like useless soil underfoot.

Carter was someone who dreamed big. For him, anything was possible. He didn’t understand that most people’s lives had limits, borders: this far, and no further. Saying it aloud would make it real, would make me hope. Hope was dangerous.

But how could I explain that to him? The way he was looking at me, so steady and open, made me want to give him what he was asking for, no matter the risks.

“I’d like to be a lawyer,” I said, the words dragging out of me. “Maybe a public defender. Help people who need it. I worked at a law office for a while and I—liked it. The work. It was interesting.” I shrugged, painfully. “But I’d have to finish college, and then law school, so. It’s never going to happen?”

“Why not?” Carter said. “Why can’t it? I would pay your tuition myself if I thought you would accept it. I know you never would, so I won’t offer. But there are financial aid programs, loans—”

“I know,” I said. The thought of going into debt made me feel physically ill. I had seen what debt did to my parents. The payday loans, the endless calls from collection agencies... I never wanted to owe anyone money. I’d racked up a few thousand dollars on my credit cards right before I started working at the club, when I had no money and was desperate, and that had been a burden on my shoulders that didn’t lift until I paid off every last cent. Law school would require hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans—more money than I could fathom.

It was an impossible dream.

“I know some people at CUNY,” Carter said. “That’s where you were before, right? I can make a few phone calls—”

“No,” I said sharply. “I don’t want you arranging things for me. I can take care of myself.”

He held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Okay. I’m sorry. I know you can.”

I sighed. “I’m sorry. I know you’re just trying to be nice. But I can’t just—let you fix everything about my life. I don’t want anyone to ever be able to imply that I’m just using you for your money.”

“So conscientious,” he said, and squeezed my hand. “Okay. I won’t bring it up again. But think about it, okay? You shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than what you really want.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said.

That seemed to placate him. He smiled at me, and finished his toast.

“What’s your dream, then?” I asked him. Turnabout was fair play.

He leaned back in his chair and looked at me, considering. “I want a family,” he said. “Kids. I always knew I would end up running the company. I’m glad to do it; it’s interesting work, and I’m good at it. But I don’t want it to be the only thing in my life.”

Prev Next