The Billionaire's Embrace Page 45

“Okay,” Sadie said. “I give up. You win. Regan wasn’t exaggerating when she said you were perfect. Are you sure you aren’t a robot sent to earth by a technologically superior alien race to monitor the progress of our civilization?”

“Fairly certain, yes,” I said. Had Regan really told Sadie that I was perfect? “But I guess it’s possible that I’m a sleeper agent, so I can’t make any guarantees.”

“Ha,” she said. “Right, I’m going home now. Ben worries if I’m out too late. Let me know how it goes with Regan, yeah?”

“I will,” I said. “Thanks for all the help.”

“Good luck,” she said.

There was still one more thing I needed to take care of before I contacted Regan. It would be fairly time-consuming, and so I waited until the weekend, when I could more easily justify taking the time off from work. Nobody was tracking my hours, of course, but there were always more things that I could be doing. I existed in a constant state of guilt and denial.

On Saturday, I woke early and went up to the roof. It was a cold morning, but the sun warmed my face as it crested the roof lines of the buildings to the east.

I was going to make Regan a reading room: a sanctuary, somewhere she could hide when she needed to.

When I designed my apartment, I chose to sacrifice a certain amount of square footage—extra bedrooms, a dedicated home office—in favor of an extensive, two-story outdoor terrace, with abundant greenery and a sweeping view over the Hudson. Now, in early March, it was too cold to spend much time outside, but come summer, I would spend nearly every free hour outside.

I zipped up my coat and walked up the narrow staircase to the smaller garden on the roof of my actual apartment. There was a small garden shed on the upper level, tucked against the surrounding wall. When I first moved in, I had the notion that I would do all of the gardening myself. I didn’t have enough time, of course, and had been forced to hire a gardener, who came once a week and kept things in much better condition than I would have been able to do on my own. Consequently, the shed had sat vacant for the last two years, empty of everything but a couple of cracked terracotta pots and a small spade.

I cleaned it out: tossed the pots and the spade, dusted the shelves, wiped the corners free of cobwebs, washed the windows, swept the floor. I even got down on my knees and scrubbed the floorboards. And when all of that was done, when the shed smelled like a daisy and gleamed like fresh snow, I hauled in my favorite and most comfortable armchair. Then I brought up two boxes of books that I had ordered from Amazon, and arranged them neatly on the shelves. Regan seemed to read widely and indiscriminately, so I bought the entirety of several end-of-year “best books” lists.

By the time I had everything cleaned and organized to my liking, I was sweating and had shed my coat altogether. The work had been worth it: the shed looked cozy and inviting. I still planned to have an electrician wire the shed and install lighting and some type of radiant heat, but for now, it was good enough.

I hoped that Regan would like it.

There was nothing left to do but contact her, and hope.

Chapter 15

I spent several days dithering over the best way to get in touch with Regan. Showing up at her apartment was utterly out of the question, of course, and even a phone call seemed too intrusive. Text messaging was far too casual. Eventually, I settled on email as the best medium, and then agonized over the wording, drafting and redrafting until I finally got fed up with myself and hit send.

Regan would reply, or she wouldn’t. That I had used eager instead of excited wouldn’t make a difference.

After I sent the message, I spent fifteen excruciating minutes sitting at my computer refreshing my inbox, until I finally gave up on the possibility of getting any further work accomplished that afternoon. I changed in my office and went for a run down to Battery Park and then home along the Esplanade and the Greenway. It was one of those unseasonably warm March days, with fat white clouds scudding across the sky, and it seemed that half of New York was out enjoying the sunshine. I dodged parents with strollers, happy dogs, and darting children, and knew, for the first time since Regan broke up with me, that everything would turn out for the best. Even if Regan never replied to my email, I would have joy in my life again.

But I hoped Regan would share in that joy with me.

When I arrived at home, I forced myself not to check my computer immediately. Instead, I showered, and went outside to sit on the terrace with a glass of green juice and the latest issue of The Economist, which I never had enough time to read cover-to-cover the way I would like. I stayed out there until I got cold, and then I went in and finally checked my email.

Regan had replied to me.

Heart in my mouth, I clicked on the message.

It took me a few moments to process what I was seeing. It was a short email, only a few lines, but the words it contained would transform my life irrevocably, for good or for ill.

I took a breath, and read.

Dear Carter,

It’s really nice to hear from you. I agree that there are some things we should probably talk about. I work in the Financial District now. Maybe we could meet somewhere for lunch? Any weekday is okay with me.

Regan

I pushed the computer away from me and leaned my head into my hands, overcome. I hadn’t let myself spend much time considering the possibility that Regan would refuse to see me, but the relief I felt now, a buoyant lifting in my chest, told me how much I had feared that happening.

Regan would see me. She wanted to see me.

The thought occurred to me: Did I truly want to see her?

I fixed dinner, my thoughts churning. I had been so caught up in Sadie’s scheming that I didn’t take the time to work through how I really felt about the whole situation. Lunch with Regan wasn’t a guarantee that she was interested in dating me again, and even if she was, how did I know she wouldn’t leave me once more? There had been no warning the first time: everything was going swimmingly, and then she ended it, a bolt from the blue. I had little desire to put myself through that again.

Ultimately, I was facing a leap of faith. I couldn’t predict the future, and I certainly couldn’t predict Regan’s actions. Renewing my relationship with her was a risk. She could leave me again, as easily as she had before, and I would be left to piece myself back together.

Love was inherently risky.

That four-letter word. Not a subject I was willing to consider yet. I steered my thoughts away.

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