The Billionaire's Embrace Page 40

“We’re having this problem at the office,” he said. “New kid, real smart, thinks he knows more than he does but don’t they all, seems like he’s got real promise.”

“That doesn’t sound like much of a problem,” I said.

“Yeah, well, he tried to screw the secretary, and when she told him to get lost, he told her that, and I quote, women are too stupid to work anywhere but on their backs. I mean, he’s right, but you can’t say that anymore what with all of the feminazis.”

God, I despised him. “Sure,” I said, forcing myself to nod in agreement. “Feminazis.”

“So anyway, now the kid needs a new job,” Hackett said. “And I thought, he’s smart, maybe Sutton can snap him up. He’d be a real asset, Carter. I had a chat with him about keeping it in his pants at the office, and I thought maybe you could—”

“I’ll try,” I said, seething inside. “You know I’m not directly in charge of personnel decisions, but—”

“Right, of course,” Hackett said. “I know that, but I thought, maybe you could put a good word in—”

“Send me his resume, and I’ll make sure it goes exactly where it needs to,” I said. I meant my trash folder, not HR, but Hackett didn’t need to know that.

“Thanks, Carter,” he said, looking relieved. “You’re a real champ. The kid’s dad is one of my best clients, you see.”

Ah, and there it was: nepotism at work. Hackett had likely promised to get the son a job to secure the father’s continued business, and with the job suddenly vanished into thin air, Hackett was concerned that the business would disappear as well. “I’ll do what I can,” I said.

“Yeah, I know you will,” Hackett said. “Okay. Great. Problem solved. Let’s drink.”

And drink we did: five martinis for Hackett over the next hour, while I sipped my Scotch and listened to him rant about his job. His co-workers were idiots, his superiors were incompetent, and whoever hired the black guy was taking affirmative action way too seriously. As he drank more, he talked less and spent more time staring at the dancers on the stage; and so I encouraged him to get refills as soon as he emptied his glass. A silent Hackett was, in my opinion, the only good Hackett.

My plan was so successful that he staggered to his feet around 9:30 and slurred, “Gotta get home. Work in the mornin’. Seeya later, Sutton.”

“Take care, Richard,” I said, and he stumbled off toward the door.

Christ. Another wasted evening. I was beginning to think that I would never get anything useful out of the man. Maybe I should start billing the FBI at my hourly consulting rate and donate the proceeds to Nelson’s robotics team.

I finished my drink and stood up, preparing to head home and get to bed at a reasonable hour. I looked around the club one last time, trying and failing to pretend that I wasn’t looking for Regan, when I noticed that Germaine’s office door was cracked open.

I hesitated. I had resisted the temptation to call Regan, or to show up at her apartment in a fit of deranged masochism, but surely speaking with Germaine...

Well. It likely counted as stalking. But I was here already, and I was—I missed her. That was all there was to it. I couldn’t explain the pull she had on me. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman I had ever met, or the wittiest, or the easiest to talk to, but being with her had been uncomplicated and right in a way I had never experienced with any of the other women I dated. Not even with Prentice, whom I had asked to marry me.

And I had screwed it up somehow, and lost her.

I wished I knew what had happened while she was in California.

Germaine’s open door beckoned to me. The light was on; she was in there working, and the temptation proved too much for me to resist.

I went over.

I knocked on the door.

“Come in,” Germaine said, and I pushed the door open and stepped into her office.

“Mr. Sutton,” she said, looking surprised but pleased. She stood up to shake my hand. “I haven’t seen you in a while. I hope everything has been going well for you.”

“Yes, just fine,” I said. “It’s good to see you again, Germaine. I was hoping you could answer a question for me.”

“I’ll certainly do my best,” she said. She sat down again and folded her hands on top of her desk.

“There’s a waitress who works here,” I said. “She served my private parties a few times. Regan, I think?”

“Yes, of course,” Germaine said. Her face was carefully blank. A polite fiction on both of our parts, then. She knew I had been dating Regan.

“I didn’t see her here tonight,” I said, “but I was hoping she would be available for a party later this week.”

Germaine sighed. “I shouldn’t tell you this, but I will. Regan doesn’t work here anymore.”

I held very still, forcing myself not to react. “That’s a shame,” I said. “She was very discreet.”

“Yes, it’s a shame that she decided to quit,” Germaine said. “But I believe she was happy with her decision.”

She said it with such finality that I knew I wouldn’t get any additional information from her. “Well, thank you anyway,” I said. “I’ll leave you to your work.”

“Good evening, Mr. Sutton,” she said, already turning back to her paperwork.

That was it, then. Regan had quit to avoid running into me at the club.

It was a clear message: she never wanted to see me again.

It shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did, but I never seemed to learn the fundamental lesson that life had been trying to teach me, over and over again, for the last twenty years: everyone would leave me in the end. My best friend would sell me out to the tabloids, my fiancée would have an affair while planning our wedding, my father would walk out with no warning. My money was enough to lure people to me, but it wasn’t enough to convince them to stay.

I had thought, foolishly, that Regan was different, that she saw me as a person instead of a bank account; that maybe she was interested in me, the person, as opposed to Carter Sutton, the CEO.

But I had been mistaken. She was the same as everyone else.

I needed to forget about her and move on with my life.

* * *

I didn’t end up going to bed early, like I had planned. Instead, I stayed up far too late, drinking and watching horrible reality television, and the next morning was far from pleasant. Like most people, I hated Mondays, and a Monday with a slight hangover and far too little sleep was more unpleasant than most. I didn’t even enjoy television. I had no idea why I maintained my cable subscription. Masochism? Blind loyalty to the American dream?

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