The Billionaire's Embrace Page 47

“You’ll be running the place within a year,” I said. “And you’re back in school, too?”

She nodded. “I’d like to finish my degree. It’s going to take me a while, but. I think it’s worth it.”

“That’s great,” I said again, and sounded like such a babbling fool, even to myself, that I forced myself to shut up and eat my sandwich for a little while.

We sat in silence, eating our sandwiches. Regan stared out the window, jaw working. I wondered what she was thinking about. I felt too far removed from her to ask. She was only on the other side of the table, but it might as well have been a thousand miles.

Lunch was definitely a mistake. I was glad that Regan was doing well, but I didn’t want to sit here and make awkward small talk with her. This wasn’t what I expected. I wasn’t sure what I had expected, though. Closure? Some type of explanation? For her to throw herself at me, sobbing, and beg me to take her back?

Whatever it was, it seemed that it wasn’t going to happen.

But then she turned back to face me and set her sandwich on her tray. She had a set to her chin that I recognized, a stubborn determination that was quintessentially Regan. “I want to say that I’m sorry,” she said. “For how I ended things.” She drew in a deep breath. “It was really—unkind of me, and cowardly, to break up with you over the phone. You didn’t deserve that. I’m sorry.”

Was that what I wanted? Maybe. With her words, I felt something hard and cold inside my chest begin to unravel. “Can you tell me what happened?”

She closed her eyes. “It was just—being home again. Seeing my mom. Seeing all my relatives. Nothing’s changed there. It’s all exactly the same as it was when I left. It was like going back into my past, and I started feeling like maybe I hadn’t ever left. Not really. Some part of me was still there, living in San Bernardino like a ghost. And I didn’t know how to reconcile that part with all the rest of me. So I guess I got scared. I didn’t know what to do. I was scared.” She opened her eyes again and shrugged. “Have you ever been scared like that? Like no matter what you do, you can’t change anything. You’re powerless.”

My whole life, I had been able to do anything I wanted, get anything I wanted, simply by being who I was. I could change everything. I had never been powerless.

Maybe I understood, finally, what Sadie meant when she said that Regan thought she wasn’t good enough for me. It wasn’t about inadequacy; it was about the sheer, insurmountable difference in our experiences.

Insurmountable wasn’t the right word. If I thought that, I wouldn’t be here. I would have given up already.

With absolutely no premeditation whatsoever, I said, “Why didn’t you tell me that you were a virgin?”

Regan moaned and covered her face with both hands. “Oh, God. Did Sadie tell you that? I didn’t think she knew.”

“She deduced,” I said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to bring that up. It’s probably not something we need to talk about right now.”

“No, it’s okay,” Regan said. Hands still hiding her face, she said, “I didn’t tell you because I was embarrassed, and I thought that if I told you, you wouldn’t have sex with me, and I was probably right about that. And I really wanted to have sex with you, so I didn’t say anything.”

“I wish you had told me,” I said. “I would have been—”

“What, gentle?” she asked dryly, finally dropping her hands. “Tender? I don’t think so. I didn’t want you to be.”

“Well. Maybe not gentle. But—slower.” I shook my head. I couldn’t think about making love with Regan. It was far too distracting, those memories of her body moving against mine. “This isn’t the right venue.”

She grinned at me. “Carter Sutton, embarrassed by talking about sex in public? I can’t believe it.”

“Mm, I wouldn’t say embarrassed,” I said. “More like unable to control myself in the face of temptation.”

“Oh,” Regan said, and touched her face the way she always did when she was nervous, her fingers pressed to her cheek. I wondered if she was aware that she did it. “Well. Never mind, then.”

I changed the subject. “Why did you agree to have lunch with me?”

She sighed. “Because—because Sadie told me that I’m an idiot, and that I never should have broken up with you, and that—if I didn’t at least meet with you, she would smack me silly.”

“So it was only that you’re afraid of Sadie,” I said, disappointed.

“No,” Regan said, shaking her head. “I’m—this is coming out all wrong. It’s because I missed you, so much, every day, and I—regretted it. Constantly. Breaking up with you, I mean. I don’t know why I did it. I mean, I know why, but it was for stupid reasons, and I shouldn’t have. I really am sorry.”

“Come over for dinner,” I said impulsively. “Tomorrow night. Do you want to? I’ll cook for you, and we can talk more.” That was all I was willing to commit to, at this point: dinner, and some talking. I wasn’t about to jump back in with both feet.

I ignored the inner voice that told me that having Regan in my apartment, mere steps away from the bedroom, was a temptation that I wouldn’t be able to resist.

“Dinner sounds, yeah. Really great,” she said. “What time?”

“7:00,” I said. “Bring some dessert, if you’d like any. I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Okay,” she said, smiling at me. She glanced at her watch. “I need to get going. My lunch hour is almost over.”

“Mine, too,” I said, although of course I had no set schedule. We wrapped up our sandwiches and went out to the sidewalk.

“I’m that way,” Regan said, pointing uptown, away from my office.

The urge to take her in my arms was almost overwhelming. I shoved my hands into my pockets, fighting the impulse. “I’ll see you tomorrow night,” I said.

“See you then,” she said, and turned to walk away from me.

I watched her go, admiring the way her body moved, and thinking what an idiot I was to get involved with her again.

I would be a happy idiot, though.

I went back to my office and spent entirely too long gazing out the window, trying to decide how screwed I was. Regan seemed interested, but I couldn’t say how long that would last. If only dating were as straightforward as negotiating mergers.

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