The Billionaire's Embrace Page 59

“I’ll be thinking about your pussy the entire time,” I said.

She made a strangled sound and hung up, and I laughed in my empty office, eternally delighted by the way she responded to me.

As soon as I ended the call, my phone buzzed again. I answered without looking at the screen, assuming that Regan had forgotten something and was calling me back.

“The prodigal son finally answers his phone,” a voice said.

It wasn’t Regan. It was my mother.

Oh, Christ. As fond as I was of my mother, she was the last person I felt like dealing with at the moment.

I cradled my face in one hand, bracing myself for the conversation that was about to ensue. “Hello, Mother,” I said.

“Yes, hello yourself,” she said. “I’m shocked that you’re still alive and haven’t succumbed to some exotic disease.”

Was that a dig about Regan? But my mother didn’t know that I had started seeing Regan again. “I’ve been busy with work,” I said. “Mergers. Hostile takeovers. You know how it is.”

“You wouldn’t know a hostile takeover if it bit you on the posterior,” she said tartly. “Carolina tells me you’re back with that dull girl.”

Oh, Christ. Of course they were conspiring against me. “I’ve never dated a ‘dull girl,’” I said.

She made an impatient noise. “You know who I’m referring to. You brought her to dinner, for some incomprehensible reason. I thought we agreed that she wasn’t a suitable partner for you.”

I rolled my eyes, grateful that she couldn’t see me. My mother had little patience for eye-rolling. “No, you decided that, with no input from me whatsoever. And yes, Carolina told you the truth. Although why the two of you feel the need to discuss me behind my back, I’ll never understand.”

“Well, how else are we supposed to figure out what you’re up to?” she asked. “After all, it’s not like you ever call me or come to visit, and me alone in this big apartment—”

“Yes, all right, I’m very inconsiderate and neglectful, I agree,” I said. “I’ll have dinner with you tomorrow night, if that will somehow ease the pangs of your widowhood.”

“How kind of you to offer,” she said. “I accept. And bring that girl with you.”

“And subject her to your disapproval? I don’t think so,” I said. “I happen to like her quite a bit, and I don’t want you scaring her off.”

“I would never,” my mother said. “I’m a delight. All of the best people agree. If you’re seeing her again, you’re obviously serious about her. I want another look at her. Maybe there was something I missed, the first time.”

I sighed. If I put her off now, she would just keep bothering me about it until I gave in. But Regan had been so unhappy after her first meeting with my mother that I had little desire to ask her to do it again. “We’ll see,” I said. “I’ll mention it to her. I’m not making any guarantees, though.”

“So I’ll see you both tomorrow night at 6:30,” she said, as though I hadn’t spoken. “Wonderful. Don’t worry about bringing anything. All my love.”

And then she hung up before I could protest further.

I took my phone away from my ear and stared at it as though it was a junior executive who had just fumbled his first merger. My mother really was becoming impossible to deal with in her old age. I would have to be sure to tell her that.

I set my phone down and scrubbed my hands over my face. On the upside, I wasn’t angsting over Hackett any more. On the downside, I would have to ask Regan to brave the dragon’s den again, and I had a feeling she wouldn’t be pleased.

I strategically waited until after we had made dinner and made love, and were lying together in bed in the afterglow, Regan resting with her head on my chest. I stroked her hair and said, “I spoke with my mother today.”

She stretched her legs out and rubbed her cheek against my sternum. “Oh?”

“She wants us to have dinner with her tomorrow night,” I said.

Regan went very still, and then she sat up and stared down at me, expression unreadable. “What?”

“Look, I know,” I said. “She can be... difficult. But she’s my mother, and I love her despite her foibles, and it would mean a great deal to me if the two of you were able to get along. And she specifically requested that I bring you. She told me that she might have misjudged you the first time you met.”

Regan made a humming noise. “I don’t know,” she said.

“If she’s truly awful, we’ll leave,” I said. “I won’t tolerate her treating you poorly. But if you would just give her a chance—”

“Oh, how can I refuse when you look at me like that?” Regan asked, and covered her face with both hands.

My sweet girl. I drew her hands away and kissed her until she was smiling again.

* * *

The next evening, we arrived at my mother’s a few minutes late. It was a deliberate move on my part: I wanted to assert my independence, and remind my mother that I while I would always be her son, I was no longer a child, and no longer required to march in lockstep with her notions of propriety. If I didn’t feel like showing up to dinner on time, I damn well wouldn’t.

She was waiting for us when we exited the elevator, dressed relatively casually in a pantsuit and minimal jewelry. I raised one eyebrow, surprised. I had half-expected her to be dressed to the nines in an effort to intimidate Regan as much as possible. Instead, she seemed to have gone in the opposite direction.

“Wonderful to see you again, my dear,” my mother said, giving Regan a firm handshake, and only then turned to me to give me a hug and accept the kiss I planted on her cheek. I glanced at Regan and saw that she looked surprised and pleased. Already off to a good start, then.

My mother led us into the dining room, where the table was set with the everyday china, for use with family instead of guests. Even the flower arrangement at the center of the table was subdued: a simple array of pink tulip buds. She was making an effort, then—but for what purpose? I found it hard to believe that my mother would do anything without some ulterior motive. Was she planning to set Regan at ease, then corner her and demand that she steer me into politics? Would she offer to pay Regan some large sum of money if she agreed to never see me again?

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