The Billionaire's Embrace Page 48

When it came to business, I considered the available evidence, weighed my options, and made a decision; and once I decided, I never looked back. There was no room for second-guessing. But when it came to relationships, I doubted myself at every turn. I disliked the unpredictability, the margin of error. It was possible to do everything right and still fail to close the deal.

God. I needed a hobby.

I was wasting my time. In lieu of accomplishing anything work-related, I decided to head downstairs to the company gym. A good workout would provide me with a distraction, and maybe I would be able to focus on work for a few hours afterward. It was worth a shot. I grabbed my gym bag and left my office.

Nancy, seated at her desk outside my office door, raised her head from the paperwork in front of her. “Heading out early, Mr. Sutton?”

“Just downstairs for a workout,” I said. “I’ll be back later. I don’t have a meeting that I forgot about, do I?”

“Nothing of the sort,” she said, shaking her head. “Enjoy your workout.”

I shouldered my gym bag, preparing to head for the elevator. Then I hesitated. “Nancy... how long have you and your husband been married?”

She raised her eyebrows at me, reminding me very much of my terrifying sixth grade math teacher. I had hired Nancy in part due to that resemblance. “Nineteen years next month,” she said. “Are you taking a poll?”

“An informal poll of one,” I said. “Feel free to tell me to buzz off if you prefer not to answer. But you seem to be happily married, and I’m wondering how you knew that your husband was the right person for you.”

“Well,” Nancy said. She looked up and to the left, visibly thinking. “You’re right that it isn’t any of your business, but I’ll tell you anyway. We met at a time when I was, for various reasons, very dedicated to the idea of dating around and not getting too serious with any particular man. I had a different boyfriend for every day of the week, and it was delightful. Well, then I got the flu, and Jack came over every day to bring me supplies and check in on me, and none of the rest of them so much as called. So I figured, any man who still wanted to see me when I was feverish and hadn’t showered in three days was a man worth sticking with. And I think I was right.”

“After nineteen years, I would say so,” I said. “Thank you, Nancy.”

“I’m glad I could help,” she said, still looking a bit puzzled.

I took the elevator downstairs, thinking about what Nancy said, and about Regan. I was sure that she would bring me soup and orange juice if I were sick, check on me every day until I felt better. She was endlessly affectionate and attentive—as long as we were alone. In public, she froze up. I’d seen it at the charity ball, and at the museum, and told myself that she was just shy, that she would get over it.

I wasn’t sure that she would, though. Or could. My life was inescapably public, lived fully in the limelight. If the only solution was to walk away from my company, to abandon everything and plunge myself into anonymous mediocrity, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I knew myself to be a citizen of the earth, and I felt an obligation to everyone I shared the planet with, from ditch-digger to emperor. The good that I could do, as the head of Sutton Industries—well. It would be incredibly difficult to walk away from that.

I hoped Regan wouldn’t ask me to.

Chapter 16

I slept for ten hours that night, deep and dreamless, and it cleared the dark thoughts from my head. I woke feeling well-rested for the first time in several weeks, and easily banged out a few hours of work, sitting at the table in my bathrobe, coffee mug at my side. Only when I had cleared my inbox did I allow myself to consider the fact that Regan would be arriving for dinner in less than twelve hours.

Shit. I should have scheduled the housekeeper to come that morning, but it hadn’t occurred to me in time. I took a quick inventory of the apartment. Not dirty, certainly, but not as tidy as I would have liked. I spent some time loading the dishwasher and tossing dirty socks in the hamper.

I realized that I was nervous. How absurd. I made grown men cry on a daily basis. Well, not daily. Once a month, perhaps. And it was usually some incompetent executive who more than deserved it.

Disgusted with myself, I put a stop to my ridiculous fussing around and settled into my armchair with a novel I had been meaning to read since the summer. After a few false starts, I was finally able to lose myself in the narrative, to the point that I lost track of time and only realized the afternoon was drawing to a close when the room grew too dark to continue reading.

I set my book aside and looked at my phone. Already after 5:00. Shit. I needed to get a start on the kaldereta.

I turned on some music and got to work.

It was a fairly labor-intensive recipe, but I had it simmering on the range by the time my intercom buzzed a few minutes after 7:00.

I checked my reflection in the mirror in the foyer while I waited for the elevator. I had never been able to accurately evaluate my own appearance, but my hair wasn’t sticking out strangely, and I hadn’t dripped any food on my shirt. Good enough.

The elevator doors slid open, and Regan stepped out.

Her face was flushed from the cold, and she had a scarf wrapped around her neck that she began to unwind. “Sorry I’m late,” she said.

“You’re hardly late,” I said. “Let me take your coat.”

She shrugged out of it and handed it to me. She was wearing a low-cut white t-shirt and jeans, the most informal clothing I had ever seen her in, and she looked, frankly, incredible. She had never seemed very comfortable in the clothes she wore to work at the club, but dressed like this, she was relaxed in a way that I didn’t associate with her.

“You look great,” I said, stowing her coat in the closet.

She laughed. “I was going to dress up, but then I decided we’re probably past the stage where I can impress you with fancy clothes. I mean, I already freaked out and dumped you, so it’s not like I can just lure you back in with a nice dress.” She kicked off her shoes and stood on my carpet in her bare feet.

“You can wear anything you want,” I said, oddly charmed. “Shorts, pants, nothing at all...”

She covered her smile with one hand. “Maybe not that.”

“We have to eat first, anyway,” I said, leading her toward the kitchen. “I cooked.”

“It smells incredible,” she said. “It smells sort of like—”

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