The Billionaire's Embrace Page 49

“Kaldereta,” I said. “It is. This is my version of wearing fancy clothes, I guess.”

“Wow,” she said. She stood in the doorway of the kitchen while I checked on the stew. “My mom used to make this all the time. I haven’t eaten it in years.”

“It looks like it still needs to cook a bit more,” I said. “Maybe half an hour. Why don’t we have some wine while we wait?”

“I’d like that,” she said.

We sat on the sofa, Regan with her legs curled beneath her, hair shining in the lamplight. Now that she was here, sitting in my apartment like she had never left, I didn’t know where to begin.

“You’ve made some changes to the apartment,” she said. “I like the houseplants.”

“Sadie,” I said succinctly.

Regan gave me a quizzical look. “What do you mean?”

“She didn’t tell you?” I asked. “She gave me a shopping list. Go look at that picture near the bookshelf.”

Brow furrowed, Regan stood up and went over to the photograph hanging on the wall. She leaned in, and I saw the exact moment she realized what it was. “This is in California,” she said.

“It is indeed,” I said. “Now go into the kitchen and look in the first upper cabinet on the left.”

She vanished into the kitchen. I couldn’t see her from where I sat on the sofa, but I heard the cabinet door open, and then she said, “You got the tea I like? And granola bars...” She came back into the living room, frowning, and stood at the end of the sofa, looking down at me. “And you’re making kaldereta... What did Sadie tell you?”

“Well, in retrospect, I think she was trying to make me prove my honorable intentions,” I said. “My apartment is now Regan-proofed.”

“I’m not a toddler!” she said. She touched my cheek. “Thank you. I feel kind of, um. You did all of these nice things for me, and all I did was dump you over the phone like a jerk. Sadie shouldn’t have made you do anything. Your honorable intentions were never in question. I should be trying to win you back.”

“Well, you have a lot to make up to me, then,” I said with a wink.

She smiled and looked down at her feet. “I guess I’ll have to try.”

“Sit down,” I said. “Talk to me. Tell me what happened. You said you got scared. Why aren’t you scared now?”

“Yeah,” she said. She sunk onto the sofa again. “I was scared. You’re an important person, Carter, and I’m nobody. I know you don’t think about it in those terms, but other people do. I could see your mother thinking it when we had dinner with her, how I’m not good enough for you, and she’s right.” She held up one hand, staving off my protest. “I can’t support your ambitions in the way you need me to. I just can’t. You were raised from birth to know how to talk to people and say the right thing, and I won’t ever know how to do it. So there was that, a lot. And sometimes I felt like you were pretty oblivious to how weird it was for me, the way you can just waltz in and get a table at any restaurant in the city. It’s weird. And it made me think that you wouldn’t ever be able to understand me.”

That stung. I took a sip of my wine and kept my expression carefully neutral. “Maybe you didn’t think so, but I did make an effort. Do you remember when we went to the art museum? I could have asked them to keep it open after hours, just for us, and we could have had the entire museum to ourselves. They would have done that for me. But I didn’t ask, because I thought it would make you uncomfortable.”

Regan looked down at her glass. “That didn’t occur to me,” she said quietly. “Anyway, I’m not saying that’s what I think now. But that’s what I thought at the time, and that’s why I broke up with you.”

“So what do you think now?” I asked. “What changed?”

“Me,” she said simply. “I did. I was so afraid of changing, but I had to. I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being screwed up. My childhood wasn’t the greatest, but it’s over now, you know? I don’t want to be afraid of my father forever. And so—this is embarrassing, but. I started going to therapy.”

Oh, Regan. I wanted to put my arms around her and never let go. “There’s nothing embarrassing about that,” I said. “I spent several months in therapy after my fiancée left me, and I found it to be an incredibly useful experience.”

“You had a fiancée?” she asked.

“Yes, I was engaged to be married,” I said. “About five years ago. A few months before the wedding, I found out that she was sleeping with another man. When I confronted her, she told me that she was only marrying me for my money. That she didn’t love me at all.”

“You never told me,” Regan said.

“You didn’t tell me about your high school boyfriend,” I said.

Regan winced. “Sadie told you about him?” she asked.

I nodded. “Not in any detail. She mentioned that he existed.”

She was quiet for a moment, and then said, “I think there are a lot of things we haven’t told each other.”

“We’ll have to make up for lost time,” I said, and she smiled at me like the sun breaking over the horizon. “I missed you,” I said, showing my full hand. “I still haven’t completely forgiven you, but I think I can. I would like to. I want to try again.”

“Oh God,” she said, and covered her mouth with the hand that wasn’t holding her wine glass. “Really? I thought—well, I hoped, but I didn’t think you would want to, I thought you would be mad at me forever, and.” She took a deep breath. “I really, really want to try again.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I set down my wine glass, took hers from her hand, and kissed her.

Everything about it was so familiar, like coming home after being away for far too long. I slid my hand into her hair and held her in place, kissing her gently and carefully—slow, exploratory kisses, reminding her of how perfectly our bodies fit together.

She made a soft noise and pressed closer to me, her hands settling on my shoulders, and everything, in that moment, was perfect.

I pulled away: quitting while I was ahead. “We should probably eat,” I said.

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