The Billionaire's Embrace Page 41

I spent the next few days doing my best to bury myself in work and avoid thinking about Regan. I failed, of course. My brain mercilessly replayed my conversation with Germaine, and—far worse—my final conversation with Regan. Anger and bitterness were tempting emotions, ready salves for a bruised ego, but when I was honest with myself, what I mainly felt was sorrow.

As I thought about it more, I was forced to admit to myself that I didn’t truly believe that Regan had never cared about me. I didn’t think she was that callous or manipulative. Her lack of guile was one of the traits that originally drew me to her, and I knew that I hadn’t misinterpreted our relationship so thoroughly. Regan had mattered to me so much in part because I mattered to her.

It was a moot point. My regrets didn’t matter.

It was over.

Thursday dawned gray and rainy, and nothing improved after I arrived at work. An actual yelling match broke out in my first meeting of the day, between two top executives who really ought to have known better. The coffee maker in my office broke. The accountants, hell-bent on filing taxes before April 15 for the first time in the history of the company, kept sending me endless, mind-numbing memos about minutiae of the tax code that I neither understood nor cared about. Nancy had called in sick, and her temporary replacement, while very sweet, couldn’t figure out how to transfer calls appropriately, and kept sending annoyed investors straight to my office line.

It was, in short, a beast of a Thursday.

And then, to cap it all off, I received an email from my cousin David, informing me that my aunt wanted to know if investing in Bitcoin was a good idea, and would I please give him a call to discuss the matter.

I sighed. I knew next to nothing about Bitcoin, but David would just keep emailing me until I succumbed. I checked my calendar. I had half an hour until my next meeting; plenty of time to give David a stern talking-to about keeping his mother off the internet.

I scrolled through my phone, looking for David’s phone number. The sheer quantity of my contacts bordered on the absurd. There were hundreds. I never called these people. I didn’t need to have their numbers on hand. That was why I had a secretary.

In a fit of pique, I went through and started deleting. Former housekeeper, ex-VP of Operations whom I had fired, someone named Candy—deleted. I had a million other things I needed to be doing, but this felt oddly satisfying. Getting rid of the old, making room for the new. Purging.

I was making good progress when I came to one name and stopped.

Sadie Bayliss.

It sounded oddly familiar. Sadie...

That was Regan’s friend. The girl with the hair.

Why did I have her phone number?

She had called me. I remembered now. The night we went to her apartment for dinner, she had called to ask me to bring some wine. I must have stored her number for someone reason. Habit, probably.

Without giving myself time to think, I fired off a quick text message: This is Carter Sutton. Would you be willing to speak with me about Regan?

Christ. Why had I done that? I needed to stop thinking about Regan altogether, not pathetically try to pump her best friend for information. What good would it do me, anyway? Regan had washed her hands of me. Pursuing the matter would accomplish nothing, save burdening me with yet more misery.

It was too late now. I had already sent the message. There was nothing to do but wait.

Sadie’s answer came a few excruciating minutes later. holy crap yes. I work in midtown want 2 do lunch?

I blinked. That...wasn’t what I expected. I had anticipated a quick “fuck off” and nothing more, but if Sadie was willing to talk to me, I wasn’t going to turn her down.

It was, no doubt, a terrible decision, but no matter how much I tried to convince myself that it was a lost cause, I couldn’t bring myself to let go of Regan just yet. Her final phone call had been so confusing and ambiguous that I knew there was more to the story, and I wasn’t ready to let it rest.

Also, I was a glutton for punishment. Why stop twisting the knife when I had an opportunity to cause myself further emotional agony?

Is tomorrow too soon? I’ll meet you wherever you’d like, I texted.

Starbucks on 6th near rockefeller ctr, high noon, come alone, tell no one, Sadie replied.

I grinned. Very secret agent. I would have to bring a black briefcase just to mess with her.

My smile faded. I was an idiot. Regan had made it very clear that she wanted nothing further to do with me, and I should respect her wishes and leave her alone. I had many words for men who pursued uninterested women, and none of them were flattering.

But—but. If Regan’s best friend thought there was something that needed to be discussed, maybe my gut feeling wasn’t wrong: that Regan had panicked, that something had happened to make her run scared, that maybe all hope wasn’t lost.

Alternatively, Sadie wanted to tell me off for being a creep who needed to leave well enough alone.

Well. I would find out soon enough.

* * *

The Starbucks on 6th was, of course, packed, but I was able to spot Sadie quickly enough, even though she had changed her hairstyle so that it was twisted in small knots all over her head. She saw me as I walked toward her and gave an enthusiastic wave.

That was a good sign, at least.

She had staked out a minuscule table in a corner. I set down my briefcase and slid it toward her.

She stared at me for a moment, brow furrowed, and then burst out laughing. “Seriously? Tell me there are fat stacks of hundred dollar bills in there.”

“There are fat stacks of hundred dollar bills in there,” I said. “Not really, though. I thought about filling it with Monopoly money, but that seemed like too much work.”

“I mean, can’t you just call the head of the Monopoly company and have it bike messengered to your door? Seems like laziness,” she said. “Have a seat. I got you a latte because all white people like lattes.”

I sat down and accepted the drink. “Is that a universal truth you’ve uncovered?”

“Are you denying it? You can’t, because it’s true,” she said.

“I do indeed like lattes,” I said. “Thanks. And thanks for agreeing to meet with me.”

“I didn’t do it for you,” she said. “I mean, nothing against you. You seem like a nice guy. But I’ve got an ulterior motive, and it’s Regan, you know?”

“I figured as much,” I said. “I don’t expect you to reveal any, ah, sensitive information. But I was hoping... well. I don’t know what Regan told you. She called me from California and broke up with me, and—”

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