The Billionaire's Embrace Page 62

“Wow,” I said, unsure how else to respond.

“Yeah,” Hernandez said. “It’s big. Anyway, we were planning to try this in the local courts, but now that a Congressman’s implicated, it’s at the national level. Congress is going to be hearing testimony later this week.”

“And you want me to go down there,” I said.

“If you can,” Hernandez said. “I know it’s an inconvenience, but you’re a credible witness, and frankly, we could use the celebrity factor. The press will eat it up. Wall Street taking out its own garbage, et cetera.”

“Right,” I said, and sighed. “All right. I’ll do it. Email me the details and I’ll take the jet down. Tax-deductible, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” Hernandez said, obviously not paying close attention to what he was agreeing to. I would have to be sure to get it in writing. “The hearing’s on Thursday. Thanks, Sutton. See you in a few days.”

We hung up, and I closed my eyes for a few moments. It wouldn’t be so bad. I could take the jet down and come back the same day; and it wasn’t a criminal trial, so I doubted that Hackett would be there. But I hated D.C., and I hated talking to politicians, and I didn’t want to leave Regan.

I was truly pathetic: reluctant to leave my girlfriend even for less than twenty-four hours.

Somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to mind.

Hernandez emailed me the information he’d promised, and I groaned when I read through the schedule. The hearing was set to take place first thing in the morning, so I would have to fly down the night before.

There was no helping it. On Wednesday afternoon, I went directly to Teterboro from the office, and was in D.C. in time for a late dinner. I spent the evening in my hotel room, watching the news and texting Regan while I pretended to catch up on work. She was at Sadie’s watching a movie, and kept texting me things like This guy looks funny and ewwww he just kissed the slutty cheerleader! I had no idea what they were watching, but the lack of context only made her messages more amusing.

I had seen her that morning, when we woke up in my bed and ate breakfast together before work, but I missed her already.

In the morning, I woke up early and walked the half mile to the Capitol from my hotel near Union Station. It was a cool, foggy morning, and I used the walk to mentally review my testimony. I had notes, of course, but I preferred not to use them. I had found that people were more inclined to believe you if they thought you were speaking off the cuff; and I very much wanted to be believed. I didn’t want to waste the hard work of all the agents involved with this case.

When I arrived at the Capitol, an aide directed me to a chamber where I waited until the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was ready for me. I reviewed my notes and told myself that I wasn’t allowed to be nervous. Carter Sutton, CEO, billionaire, man about town, was never nervous. Fear was for lesser men. Testifying before Congress was old hat.

It was possible that I was a little nervous. Or not nervous, precisely; public speaking had never caused me much anxiety, but I always felt a rush of adrenaline a few minutes before, my body’s fight-or-flight reflex kicking in. My heart beat faster. My hands shook a bit. That was all. Perfectly normal.

The aide came back into the room. “They’re ready for you.”

I took a deep breath and stood up. As my father always said, there was nothing to do but to do it.

After, I couldn’t recall many details about the testimony. Regan, who watched it live on C-SPAN, told me that I was “super confident and relaxed,” but I had only vague impressions of the audience, the rich color of the carpet, the glass of water set in front of me. I spoke without referring to my notes, answered a few questions, and was finished within fifteen minutes. It was, all in all, about as painless an experience as I could imagine.

When it was over, I went back to my hotel to pack my overnight bag, and then headed directly to the airport. I would be back in New York in time for lunch.

I tried to work on the flight, but instead spent most of my time gazing out the window at the puffy cumulus clouds and thinking about Regan. I couldn’t wait to get home to her, to kiss her and tell her about the hearing and take her into my arms. She made everything in life better, simply by existing. Her presence transformed the most mundane tasks—making the bed, watering plants—into delightful adventures.

I never wanted to be without her.

I landed with enough time to make it to the office for a few hours of work, and so I went there first, and returned to my apartment after 6:00. I was weary; traveling always drained me in a way that other activities didn’t, and I was glad to step into the elevator, with the promise of home and comfort a few floors away.

When the elevator doors slid open, Regan was there, smiling at me.

I set down my suitcase and wrapped my arms around her, bending down to kiss her upturned face. “This is a surprise,” I said.

“I missed you,” she said. “Are you hungry? I made dinner.”

“Marry me,” I said.

It wasn’t planned. I didn’t have a ring; I didn’t even know I had been thinking about it until I said the words. But as soon as they left my mouth, I knew that I meant it. I wanted Regan to be my wife. I wanted to wake up with her every morning, and fall asleep with her every night. I wanted to raise children with her, and argue about whose turn it was to do the laundry, and grow old together.

She stared up at me, eyes wide.

“I mean it,” I said. “Is this crazy? I don’t care. I love you. I want to be with you for the rest of my life. Say that you’ll marry me.”

“Yes,” she said. “Oh my God. Do you mean it?”

“I absolutely mean it,” I said. “So you will?”

“Yes,” she said, “of course I will,” and started crying.

“Don’t cry, little one,” I said, kissing the top of her head. “We’ll go shopping for a ring this weekend.”

“I’m not crying,” she said, which was a blatant lie, but I let it pass. I was too happy to quibble.

I held her and waited for the tears to pass. She quieted, finally, and wiped her eyes. “Sorry,” she said.

“No need to apologize,” I said. “I understand the impulse. I feel a little like crying myself.”

She gave a watery laugh and looked up at me. “Carter Sutton, crying? I don’t believe it.”

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