The Billionaire's Embrace Page 52

Finally, my watch ticked over, and I climbed the steps to the front door. My mother had beaten into me from an early age that one was never early. Fashionably late was acceptable, under the appropriate circumstances, but to be early was both rude and communicated an unfortunate sense of desperation, as if one had nowhere better to be.

I didn’t have anywhere better to be, though. Not this time. There was nowhere I would rather spend my time than sitting in Regan’s cramped apartment, watching her chop cabbage.

I went into the foyer and rang the bell for Regan’s apartment, and then waited for her to come down and let me in. I heard her door open, and her feet clattering down the stairs, and smiled despite myself. It seemed absurd to me that she lived in a building that didn’t even have a working intercom system, but she was cautious with her money, and I wouldn’t change that about her.

At last she appeared at the foot of the stairs, and flashed me a wide smile as she came over to open the door to let me in. She wore a simple black dress—her work clothing, no doubt—paired with a ludicrous pair of shearling boots. She followed the direction of my gaze and said, a little defensive, “They’re really warm.”

“I’m sure they are,” I said, leaning in to give her a kiss. “How was your day?”

“Long,” she said, “but it’s getting better now.” She smiled at me. “Are you hungry? Dinner’s almost ready.”

“What’s the saying? I could eat a horse,” I said.

She laughed and led me up the stairs to her apartment. I was glad that I had been running so much lately; it spared me the indignity of breathing heavily as we approached the sixth floor.

The hallway outside of Regan’s apartment was filled with a delicious smell of food cooking, and it intensified when she opened the door.

“That doesn’t smell like cabbage,” I said, shucking off my coat and hanging it on a hook screwed into the back of the door.

“It’s not cabbage,” she said. She went over the to oven and opened the door to check on whatever was baking inside. “I made macaroni and cheese.”

“From the blue box, I hope,” I said.

She shot me an indignant look. “Not that kind! From scratch, with a bechamel. The good stuff. And roasted asparagus, because I know you like to eat your vegetables.”

“You know me too well,” I said ruefully.

She looked pleased, and I turned away so that she couldn’t see my expression, which I feared was one of sappy adoration.

While Regan took the food from the oven and fussed around with plates and silverware, I took the opportunity to poke around her apartment. This was only the second time I had been inside Regan’s apartment, and the first visit was so brief that it left me with few impressions other than a sense of general smallness.

It was a small space, one open room, but bright and well-kept, tidy except for the books stacked up on the coffee table. Her small bed was shoved against the wall beneath one window, sheer curtains draping over the pillow, and I thought of her sleeping there and waking up with the sun in her eyes, easing her into the day. I knew that Regan took pride in her apartment, and I saw evidence everywhere: the houseplants overflowing their pots, the shoes lined up neatly beside the door, the large print of a Klimt painting framed and hung above the television. Regan lived here. She wasn’t just existing.

“I like your apartment,” I said, joining her beside the table, which was so small that she had left the food on top of the stove for lack of room. I found a space for the wine bottle and set it down.

“It’s really small,” she said, and then furrowed her brow and said, “But I like it. My therapist told me I should stop apologizing so much. My apartment is small, but that’s okay, and I like living here.”

“Your therapist sounds very wise,” I said, and gave her a kiss. “Should we eat? I didn’t realize I was so hungry, but the food really does smell incredible.”

“Don’t heap on the praise too thick before you taste it,” she said, but her eyes lit up as she smiled at me.

Dinner tasted exactly as good as it smelled. I ate until I couldn’t force down another bite, and then we moved to the sofa with our wine glasses.

“Should we watch a movie?” Regan asked shyly, bending to pull off her boots.

I considered it. I planned to end my night with Regan naked and begging, but there was no harm in taking it slow and building her desire to a fever pitch. I had plenty of time to tease her until she pleaded with me for release. I asked, “What did you have in mind?”

“Well, um.” She got off the sofa and crouched beside her television, rummaging through a box of DVDs. “I have this one movie, about a boy and a girl who grow up together, and then he goes off to fight in a war and dies, but she still writes him a letter every single day. And there’s another one about a man and a woman who just got married, and they find out she has cancer, but before she dies she finds a new wife for him. It’s really sad.”

I stared at her, horrified. Was that really the type of movie she enjoyed? I could probably force myself to sit through one, maybe by falling asleep. But then I noticed her mouth twitching, and said, “My God, you’re pulling my leg.”

“You looked so afraid!” she said, giggling so hard that she tipped to one side and had to put out one hand to keep herself from falling over. She recovered and sat upright again. “I don’t actually have any movies like that, but I could run down to the bodega if you really want one.”

“Let’s not, and say we did,” I suggested. “Or we could skip the movie altogether and just cut straight to making out on the couch, since that’s what’s going to end up happening anyway.”

She looked down, cheeks darkening. “Maybe we could—do more than just make out,” she said.

She really had changed, if she was propositioning me, however obliquely. It was a change I welcomed. “Come here,” I said, hearing my voice drop into the commanding register I so often found myself adopting during sex.

And Regan responded to it just as beautifully as she always did. She rose to her feet and took the few steps to the sofa, and I reached out and seized her by the hips and drew her down on top of me.

She made a soft noise and settled against me, straddling my hips, her hair falling around both of our faces like a curtain. I squeezed her hips, mapping her curves with my hands. She was perfect, and mine. I said, “Little girl, you’re going to do exactly what I tell you to do. Aren’t you?”

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