Beautiful Bastard (Chapter 16 OUI)

She loved me.

Sighing deeply, I nuzzled against her warm skin, shifting to move closer to the sound of her beating heart.

Every night we spent together, I found myself waking in this same position: lying atop her, my face pressed against her breasts and my arms wrapped tightly around her. I was drawn to Chloe even as we slept, as if my body craved her even when my conscious mind dozed.

In my twenty-eight years, I'd spent the night with various women, often holding them as we slept, but it was never like this. Just as when we were awake, I couldn't get close enough, as if my body believed that holding her so tightly against me would bind her to me forever. I had to admit that image sounded better each time it came to mind.

Sitting up slightly with my weight on my elbow, I watched her. The full moon outside the window lit up her room just enough to see, painting images of rustling trees along the walls and casting her in soft blue glow.

She sighed in her sleep, pursing her lips and frowning slightly as she readjusted her position. Dark hair tangled from my own hands spread across the white pillows, her right hand rested next to her head, the left against her breast. I would never stop being overwhelmed with how beautiful she was.

Absentmindedly, I reached for her left hand, tracing my fingers along the soft skin. I raised it gently and placed a kiss against her palm, admiring her long, delicate fingers adorned with no polish or jewelry. A soft moan escaped her lips as I lightly massaged her palm. I marveled at how small her hand felt in my own and stilled as my eyes focused on her bare ring finger.

A sudden image passed through my mind. I saw myself on one knee, slipping a beautiful ring on this finger, asking her to take me as hers forever and to let me have her in return. The clarity of that picture was so overpowering it nearly took my breath away.

Pressing my forehead against her chest I closed my eyes tightly, willing myself to calm down, to force back the odd mixture of panic and elation that image evoked. I was struck by how different this feeling was now as opposed to the past.

For the first time ever, an unclear future lay before me, and I was terrified.

As if sensing my struggle, Chloe curled her fingers around mine as she slept, calming me without even realizing it. A few deep breaths and thirty-two beats of Chloe's heart later, I felt calm… and also wide awake.

Lifting myself off of her, I rolled onto my back; gazing at the darkened ceiling without really seeing it.

I was lost in thoughts of Chloe, of us, of what I wanted to give her. Within seconds she shifted, curling herself into my side, her head on my shoulder and her leg draped over my hip. I pulled her to me, turning my body towards hers and closing my eyes again, focusing on how perfectly she fit against me. Running my fingers absentmindedly through her hair, I thought back on how close I came to screwing everything up.

Shifting slightly, I reached over the edge of the bed, retrieving my pants to pull the long thin Dior box from the back pocket.

Lying back, I tightened my hold on her again and opened the box, running my finger along the delicate links that made up the simple bracelet with the word "Oui" connecting the two halves. The moonlight shone on the polished surface and although it was plain as far as jewelry went, it represented everything that Chloe was: effortless, elegant and beautiful. The simple word, engraved in simple script in the smooth platinum, represented us: our connection, our passion, and our promise to each other.

Hopefully, she would understand the meaning.

Removing it from the box, I fastened it around Chloe's wrist, fumbling slightly with the tiny clasp in the dark. I worried momentarily that she would object or take issue with my giving her a gift, but the sense of pride I felt at seeing her sleeping next to me in nothing but my bracelet quickly overshadowed my fears.

After the fiasco with Emmett in my apartment yesterday morning, I'd known I needed a way to show her how I felt, something tangible that would remind her of what we meant to each other. I'd spent the remainder of the day in my home office calling up a few old colleagues from LVMH, trying to get my hands on this exact bracelet. It had been no simple feat to receive it on such short notice, just one of the benefits of having money and power.

My stomach twisted remembering her pained and detached expression as she'd left my apartment yesterday, knowing that I'd been the one to cause it.

I'd stood helplessly across from Emmett, knowing she was in the other room and listening to every word. Even I was surprised at how easily the lies came; now naturally I slipped back into that cold, heartless persona I used to hide behind on a daily basis.

I knew Emmett felt that I was acting suspiciously but I had no idea he'd actually figured it out. I considered briefly the possibility that Rose had said something, but quickly discounted it. She'd given me her word and regardless of our differences, I believed her.

Even as children, Emmett had always been the one who knew me the best, always seeing more than I wanted him to. Yesterday he'd been relentless, convinced that I was behaving inappropriately.

It killed me that he was right.

Suddenly feeling angry and cornered I'd snapped, shouting that she meant nothing to me. The moment the words left my mouth a crushing sense of guilt and dread settled deep within my chest, knowing without even seeing her face that I had hurt her.

Finally convinced, Emmett had turned to leave, stopping as the sound of a cell phone filled the room.

I'd watched as the realization dawned on him that I was not alone. He'd surprised me though, assuming that I had some random woman with me, apologizing repeatedly before finally leaving.

He wasn't the one who needed to apologize.

When I went to her, I knew instantly that the damage had been done. She was distant and removed, and avoided my eyes as she dressed, making up an excuse about needing to see her friend.

I tried to calm her fears, reminding her that I had only said those things because I promised to keep our secret. I had been so ready to fight her on that, to suggest we just tell him. Judging by his reaction, it was a good thing she had stopped me.

She tried to tell me that everything was fine, but by now I knew her too well, and she was unable to dissemble for me anymore. I managed to convince her to spend the night with me again, playing on her weakness to my touch. I'd said a silent prayer when she reluctantly agreed, promising myself I'd make things right.

I would make things right because I needed her, because I loved her.

For the first time in my life, I knew the depth of those words.

The sound of my empty stomach reminded me that we'd never had dinner. I smiled as it occurred to me that that seemed to happen a lot.

Placing a soft kiss against her breast and one on her lips I climbed out of bed, careful to not wake her.

I almost laughed as I tried to count how many times I'd imagined being in her bedroom. One of my recurring fantasies had been of laying her across her bed and fucking her into oblivion, second only to the one I had of taking her on top of my desk.

Finding my boxer briefs in a chair near the bed, I pulled them on and made my way into the living room, closing the door softly behind me.

The room was larger than I had realized, and the wide windows lining the deep chocolate colored walls prevented me from having to turn on any lights. The floors were the same cherry wood as the bedroom, and also covered by a large area rug. It was obvious that great consideration had been put into each detail of the room; from the black and white portraits that adorned the walls, to the crystal chandelier that hung over two large, comfortable-looking couches arranged in front of the ornate fireplace.

Grabbing an apple from a bowl on the coffee table, I took a moment to admire some of the photos, recognizing Chloe instantly. There were photos of who I assumed were her parents, some of a group of teenagers, and several more recent ones. I paused as I came across one I knew I had seen before.

The same photo that graced my desk for years in a digital frame was here on her fireplace.

A beautiful young brown-haired girl standing between my parents smiled back at me. I'd known the girl in the photograph was Chloe since we began working together, but seeing it here in her home was surreal.

I'd always known that Chloe spent time with my family, but I'd obviously underestimated their importance in her life. I thought back to seeing her with Carrington. They had seemed so comfortable, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to be in Chloe's arms. Seeing them together evoked a strange longing I'd never felt before. For the first time in my life the thought of having children of my own seemed like a possibility, rather than some vague event set in the distant future.

My body tensed and I stood upright as two arms encircled my waist.

"There you are," she whispered quietly, placing a kiss on my back.

"I was hungry," I murmured, turning in her arms and motioning to my half eaten apple. "I tried not to wake you up."

"Hmm. Well, my blanket was gone," she answered, tightening her hold on me and lifting her chin. "I miss you when you're not there."

I smiled and leaned over, placing a soft kiss against her lips and loving that she was referring to the way I held her while she slept.

"Let's see what we can do to make sure you don't have to miss me," I whispered against her lips.

She nodded, and I lightly brushed the back of my hand along her cheek.

"Remember the rule about my not being able to leave without kissing you goodbye?"

"Yes," I said, as I continued to stroke her face.

"I'd like to make the same rule for you," she spoke softly, an undertone of sadness to her voice. My hand stilled and I looked into her eyes. Did the fact that I had left worry her?

"I promise I will never leave without kissing you goodbye. I'm not going anywhere, baby…and I did kiss you. Right here," I whispered, tracing my thumb across her bottom lip, placing a soft, lingering kiss there.

"And here." I pulled away slightly and leaned over, placing an open-mouthed kiss against her covered breast as she moaned. "Have I told you how much I love seeing you in my shirt?"

"You may have mentioned it," she sighed, as my mouth moved from one breast to the other. Her hands threaded into my hair, holding me to her. My tongue traced her hardened nipple through the thin cotton, and I bit down lightly, feeling myself harden at the sound she made.

"Didn't you say something about eating?" she asked breathily, her fingers now moving more forcefully against my scalp.

"Oh, I'm getting there."

I dropped to my knees in front of her, pushing up the bottom of the shirt and wrapping my hands around her hips, pulling her to me. Her stomach muscles tensed under my lips as I kissed a trail down towards her navel.

"But-" she began to protest.

"Shh," I answered, pushing her back slightly, the sound of the leather cushions creaking as she fell against them. "I can't wait."

"Bennett," she whispered softly, her eyes meeting mine in the dark.

Placing my palms on the inside of her thighs, I pushed them apart, leaving her open and exposed to me. My eyes traveled down her body, illuminated perfectly in a narrow stream of moonlight. Sliding my hands to her hips, I pulled her to the edge of the couch, causing her to gasp quietly. Not wasting any time, I lifted her legs and placed them over my shoulders, turning my head to kiss along her thigh.

"Tell me, Chloe," I murmured against her skin. She moaned loudly and tugged on my hair, urging me forward.

"I love you," she whispered. Hearing those words again broke through my last wall of restraint.

The moment my lips touched her I was unable to stop the groan that emanated from deep inside my chest. I brushed my lips from side to side along the delicate, bare skin, closing my eyes against the sensory overload. Everything about her overwhelmed me: her sounds, her smell and especially the way she tasted. Inhaling deeply, I groaned again, literally able to taste her seconds before my tongue made contact.

Her body seemed to vibrate beneath me and I tightened my hold on her hips.

"Easy, baby. Be patient," I whispered, my lips hovering just above her. "You already know how good I can make you feel." I lifted my eyes to hers. "Don't you?"

I could see the dark shape of her hardened nipples straining against the damp, thin material of my shirt, her breasts rising and falling rapidly with her quickened breath. The sight of her so aroused and physically affected by the mere anticipation of my touch sent a surge of arousal to my already painfully hard cock.

"Don't you, Chloe?" The warm breath from my words fanned over her slick skin, causing her hips to lift off the leather cushion. Increasing my grip, I held her more firmly, thrilled when a whispered 'yes' left her lips, the sound more a plea than an answer.

Ever so gently, I traced the tip of my tongue against her, slowly circling, but not touching her clit.

She whimpered softly but with a smile on her parted lips as I tasted her in long strokes, finally giving her what she wanted.

"Yes. Oh God, Bennett, Yes."

The sound of her voice, so unrestrained and raw urged me on and I hummed in pleasure against her.

"Oh fuck, Bennett!"

God, if she kept this up I was going to come just from listening to her.

"I want you inside of me," she pleaded, her fingers brushing along my face.

"You mean like this?" Removing a hand from her hip, I held her open and slipped my tongue inside, moaning at the faint taste of our lovemaking.

"Fuck, baby," I began, pulling away to replace my tongue with my fingers. "I can taste us both. Do you have any idea how fucking hot that is?"

I became insatiable, licking, sucking and tasting, letting her sounds and the unrestrained movement of her body as she sought release, overwhelm me. Lifting my eyes, I waited, wanting to see the exact moment her orgasm took hold of her.

She was so beautiful. Eyes closed, mouth open, completely lost to everything in the world for that one moment but the pleasure I was giving her. I wanted so badly to thrust myself inside of her, to relieve the almost painful need I felt, but wanted this to be for her. One small, insignificant thank you for all that she had brought into my life.

Taking her clit into my mouth, I sucked lightly, watching in awe as her body arched and tightened around my fingers. Her hands pulled my hair roughly and she called out my name as she came.

Placing a kiss on each of her trembling thighs, I set her feet on the floor, kissing my way up her body.

"You're so fucking beautiful when you come," I whispered against the soft skin below her ear.

Gripping my hair she pulled me to her, kissing me deeply and moaning into my mouth as she tasted herself. Her hands moved down my chest and stomach and I shuddered as her fingers grazed my cock. Gathering her hands in mine, I shook my head.

"No, baby."


"No, no buts. This is all about you," I whispered against her lips. "I'm usually like this when I'm with you anyway." We laughed and I moved my hand to run through her tangled hair. "Just let me give this to you."

She looked thoughtful for a moment, before cupping my jaw and kissing me softly.

"Speaking of giving me something," she began, motioning to the jewelry that now wrapped around her wrist. "Care to tell me where this came from?"

Taking her wrist, I placed a kiss against the delicate chain and gazed into her eyes. "I wanted to give you something," I started, suddenly unsure of myself. "Something that would remind you…of what…" I trailed off, not sure of how to phrase it.

"I understand," she whispered. "And it's beautiful. I'll never take it off."

Words couldn't express how much I loved this woman. Twisting my hands into her hair I pulled her to me, trying to convey everything I felt as I kissed her passionately.

As I pulled away, my breath labored, I rested my forehead against hers.

"I love you, Chloe. Always remember that." She nodded, her chest heaving with the same excitement I felt.

"I love you, too. Will you let me feed you now?" She giggled at my raised eyebrow. " Food," she emphasized.

"Please," I laughed, kissing her forehead before offering her a hand and pulling her to her feet.

"There's the kitchen," she motioned. "I'm just going to get cleaned up and I'll be right out."

I watched her walk towards the bedroom, admiring the way her long legs were displayed in my shirt, and couldn't help but smile. Being with her was so effortless, so different than any relationship I'd ever had in the past. She understood me, often finishing my sentences before I'd even completed the thought in my own head. The same vision I'd had as I'd watched her sleep returned to me and I wondered what it would be like to spend every day this way.

Shaking my head, I realized that I was getting ahead of myself; we still needed to tell everyone. My stomach twisted and I quickly swept the thought away. I would just focus on now. We were here together, and I was fucking happy. For once I would stop being so obsessive and just enjoy it.

Entering her kitchen, I turned on a small lamp sitting on a desk near the door and looked around. The space was large and obviously designed by someone who spent a lot of time in here. Like the other rooms it was light and airy, filled with things that were both practical and loved. Huge expanses of light maple cabinetry covered the walls with a matching butcher block in the center of the tiled floor.

It was beautiful and elegant, and I imagined the look on my mom's face if she ever saw it. Another pang of guilt flashed through me as I let myself wonder for the first time what she would think if she knew about us.

I heard water running down the hall and moved to the stainless steel refrigerator, opening it to examine the contents. At the sound of her footsteps I pulled out a frozen pizza and looked up to see Chloe walking in wearing a pair of ivory boy shorts edged in lace and a matching camisole. Apparently the look on my face betrayed my thoughts because she laughed. I fucking loved hearing that sound.

"I figured if you got to run around in your underwear," she said motioning to my black boxer briefs.

"Then so did I."

"I think we should make that a new rule," I answered mischievously, my eyes traveling up and down her body. "I love you in my clothes, but you won't find me complaining about this."

"Deal," she answered quietly, rising on her toes and kissing me, smirking playfully against my lips. "I'll add it to the list. And we're not eating this." She took the pizza from my hands and returned it to the freezer, pulling items out and placing them on the counter. "If you want pizza, we'll make one." She stopped and looked at the clock. "Unless you're tired, that is."

I followed her gaze to the iron clock on the wall that read 1:15a.m.

"I'm anything but tired," I said quickly, my heart skipping slightly at the bright smile that lit up her face. "Tell me where you want me."

She cocked an eyebrow as her gaze wandered hungrily down my body and I shook my head, smirking.

She turned on the large oven and retrieved a pizza stone from a cabinet, placing it inside to preheat.

"We'll just use a prepared crust I have. Do you want to chop or grate?"

For the next twenty minutes we worked together and, just like at work, it was effortless. We talked and laughed; I stole kisses and caught her staring at my chest on more than one occasion. I cleaned up while she gathered plates and silverware, placing them on a tray. The timer went off just as we finished and I followed her with our meal and a bottle of wine into the living room to eat.

An hour later, with full stomachs and an almost empty bottle of red wine, we sat on together on the floor. Chloe leaned against the couch and I lay with my head in her lap, my eyes closed as she ran her hands through my hair.

"So what did you want to be when you grew up?" she asked, continuing the game of twenty questions we'd been having. The answer was easy.

"My dad."

"Really? That's it? I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. He's an amazing man and I love him as much as my own father, but most little boys want to be a fireman or super hero or something."

"No," I said wistfully. "He's always been the type of man I wanted to be. Besides loving him for the obvious reasons, I respect him more than anyone. I watched him build our family's company from the ground up. Nobody has more integrity than him… he's everything I wish I was." My voice trailed off, the sound of my own words almost mocking me.

Chloe was silent for a moment.

"I think you underestimate yourself. Your father beams with pride when he talks about you. The day he offered me my promotion, he told me how proud he was of you. How hard it was to watch you leave but knowing that you were different from your brother and felt the need to make it on your own. I wish you could have seen the look on his face when he announced you were coming home."

"Really?" I turned to her in shock. My father asked me several times throughout the years to return to Chicago, but I'd always refused, not wanting to coast on the Ryan name. The day things ended with Rachel, I'd known it was time to go. The impending retirement of the current CFO presented an opportunity that seemed almost fated. Within twenty four hours I'd given notice to LVMH, and began making plans to leave Paris. I'd never dreamed it meant so much to my father to have me back.

"Really," she assured me, leaning over and kissing me softly. She continued to play with my hair as I thought about what she said. Minutes passed before the sound of her voice broke through my thoughts.

"I love your hair," she sighed, more to herself than me.

"I need to get it cut," I answered, my hands instinctively running through it.

"No, not yet. You usually let it get a bit longer," she replied absentmindedly, twisting the strands around her fingers.

"I do?"

"Mmhmm," she nodded.

"You notice that?"

"Of course. Your hair was one of the first things I noticed about you… even before we met.

I sat up and turned to face her, pulling her between my open legs so our faces were only a foot apart.

"What do you mean before we met?"

She looked slightly embarrassed and I tilted her chin up, forcing her eyes to mine.

"Well, I spent a lot of time at your parent's house and your mom has a lot of photographs of you around. I remember asking about you, thinking how beautiful you were."

" You did?" I asked dumbfounded. I continued to watch her, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that she thought about me even before we met.

"You're insanely beautiful, Bennett. You know this," she said with a smile. "In fact…never mind," she added, shaking her head.


"No. It's nothing. Just something silly." She averted her eyes, suddenly interested in a non-existent thread on the edge of her top.

What the? And then it occurred to me.

"Is this about my nickname?"

Her eyes widened, and shot up to mine.


"How did you know?" She breathed, horrified. I had to laugh at the mortified expression on her face.

"It was Angela, wasn't it? God, I knew she couldn't keep a secret if you smiled at her."

She let her head fall back against the couch and covered her face with her hands.

"Chloe," I started, failing at my attempt to keep the laughter from my tone. "Chloe, look at me. It wasn't Angela who told me. Come on, sit up."

Reluctantly she let me pull her upright, her face red with embarrassment.

"First of all, it wasn't Angela, it was actually my family. And second, there's nothing to be embarrassed about. I was a bastard. A cold, arrogant bastard who made your life miserable and I'm more sorry than you know." With this she looked at me from the corner of her eye, the color fading from her cheeks a bit.

"Actually, when they told me, my first reaction was to be flattered. You, the most sexy, intimidating woman I'd ever met, thought I was beautiful. You have no idea what that did to me." One corner of my mouth turned up as she looked at me fully for the first time. I brushed my fingertips along the insides of her arms and scooted a bit closer to her.

"Really? You weren't furious?" she asked skeptically.

"No, baby. I'll admit I got a little pissed when I found out that even my mom knew. But I can't tell you how many nights I laid in bed, jerking off thinking about you calling me that." She smiled and I continued. "And I have a confession of my own, I saw your picture before too."


"In a group of pictures my mom sent me one year." I motioned to her fireplace. "You actually have the same photo over there, with my parents. I was so intrigued by you," I whispered, my hand moving up her arm and shoulder to her hair. "You were so gorgeous…and yet there was something more, something deeper I couldn't even name. The first time I saw you, you took my breath away."

Our faces drifted closer, our mouths only a breath apart.

"Sometimes I wonder," I murmured, brushing my lips lightly against hers. "How long I've actually loved you."

The next morning I woke in her arms, exhausted, sore, and happier than I'd ever been in my life. I looked at the clock on the bedside table and down at Chloe, who was still fast asleep. We'd been up until four in the morning; maybe stamina really wasn't a problem. I brushed the hair from her face and leaned over, placing a line of kisses along her neck to her ear.

"Chloe, I have to go," I whispered softly.

She moaned sleepily and turned into me. "No, don't go. Stay and sleep."

"Baby, I have to. I don't have any clothes here and I have a meeting downtown in three hours."

"Shit," she grumbled. "So do I. What time is it? I feel like I just went to sleep."

"That's because you did," I chuckled against her collarbone. "It's seven."

"You know, I used to be much more regimented, going to the gym every morning before work. You have seriously cut into my workout routine," she teased.

"Oh, I think you've been getting plenty of exercise," I growled. She moaned loudly as I worked my way down between her breasts.

"Didn't you say something about a meeting?" she questioned, even as her hands began tugging me closer.

Groaning in frustration, I placed one last kiss against her breast and cursed my ever present hard on.

"Yes," I sighed exacerbated.

Rolling onto her side, she propped herself up on her elbow as I climbed out of bed. I searched the floor for my underwear but couldn't seem to find them.

"Looking for these?" I turned to see her long leg in the air, the sheet hitched up around her hip and the black fabric hung from her foot. God I loved this woman. Well two could play at this game.

"No," I said nonchalantly, picking up my pants from the floor and pulling them on. "I'll let you keep those this time." The look on her face was priceless as I grinned at her from over my shoulder. I finished dressing quickly and sat on the edge of the bed to put on my shoes.

I heard a rustle of fabric and felt her arms wrap around my shoulders. The heat of her body pressed against my back radiated through the thin cotton. Turning my head, I kissed her, my hands moving behind me and finding only warm, bare skin.

"Mmm, Chloe. You don't fight fair."

"I believe someone once said, as long as it gets me you, I don't care."

Standing up, I turned to face her as she knelt on the bed, her naked body now pressed against my clothed one.

"You have me, don't ever doubt that", I said, my thumb purposefully tracing over her bracelet.

"I don't," she whispered, as she finished buttoning my shirt. "I'll see you in a few hours."

"A few hours," I smiled, reassured by the words. "I love you."

I kissed her long and slow before reluctantly dragging myself away.

One hundred and sixty three minutes later, I sat across from my father, brother and one other executive in the back of a company limo, only half listening as they discussed the status of his current replacement. Apparently my lack of focus had caused me to miss the hiring announcement of a new executive. With a resigned sigh, I promised myself not to make that mistake again.

That promise was shot to hell the minute a pair of long legs and gold strap heels appeared in the open car door. Was she.. ? My cock began to harden at the mere thought that she could be wearing that dress again. I heard her voice just outside the car and I had to physically restrain myself from getting out to see her.

Angela entered first moving past me to take a seat next to Emmett. Despite my distraction I did my best to greet her, only taking my eyes away from the door for the briefest of moments. I could hear Chloe speaking, attempting to say her goodbyes to the young driver now. What was his name? Jared?

Jeffrey? Whatever it was, I didn't like the way he was always looking at her. I was about to step out and throw her over my shoulder, when my brother spoke.

"Boy, that kid sure has a thing for Chloe," he said in a hushed tone, his body leaning towards me.

"Yes," I mumbled, attempting to look uninterested. "I can see that."

Moments later, she appeared in the doorway and I was unable to tear my eyes away. She slipped into the seat next to me, and my heart and dick surged at the sight of her in that white dress again. The door closed behind her and I continued to look down at my paperwork, trying to ignore the way her scent engulfed and obliterated me.

"Gentlemen," she said quietly, nodding to each of the other men in the car.

"Chloe, how have you been?" my father asked amiably. It was clear from his tone how happy he was to see her.

"I've been great, Carlisle. How are you?"

I continued to watch her out of the corner of my eye as she spoke to everyone, noticing the way she crossed her legs, the way her eyes engaged with whomever she was speaking, and how her fingers absentmindedly traced the bracelet that now adorned her wrist.

My bracelet.

We arrived a short time later and I motioned for her to stay behind, explaining to the others that we would be right behind them. The moment the door closed, I pulled her to me, my hand gripping her hair, my lips hungrily seeking out hers. She gasped as I pulled her roughly to me, the sound quickly turning into a moan as her body melted against mine.

"Do you know how badly I've wanted to do that?" I said against her neck. "That dress… I don't think I can make it through the day with you in that fucking dress."

"This dress?" she asked confused. "Bennett, this is one of the most modest dresses I own."

"God, I know, it makes no fucking sense. There's just something about it…the color and the way it looks on you…wondering what you have on underneath." My hands began moving up her thighs, bunching the fabric in my fingers as I went.

"Okay, listen," she said, stopping my hands from further exploration. "If you can make it through the day," she paused and lifted an eyebrow. "I'll let you take it off me tonight."

" Shit Shit, " I groaned. My head fell back against the seat as I ran my hands through my hair. "I am so fucked."

Turning at the sound of her laughter, I looked at her through narrowed eyes. "This isn't funny."

She tried unsuccessfully to hide her smile. "Come on, we can do this."

"That's easy for you to say. You won't be the one walking around with a massive hard-on all day." At this point she wasn't even attempting to hide her laughter. I tried to glare at her but it was impossible. With a resigned sigh I cupped her face. "One more kiss?"

She leaned in and pressed her lips to mine softly before motioning towards the door.

Nodding, I grabbed my laptop and briefcase and exited before her, holding the door and assisting her as she stepped out into the bright morning sunshine. The light played in the colors of her dark hair, worn long and hanging in thick waves down the center of her back. My hand itched to touch her as we entered the building, to entwine my fingers with hers or place my palm on the center of her back.

Just one more bit of restraint I would have to muster.

The conference room was on the main floor and we entered only a few minutes after the others who were still greeting each other. I watched as my father smiled at Chloe, walking ahead of me and pulling out her chair. My stomach twisted with a mixture of guilt and jealousy at not being able to do it myself.

"Ms. Mills, do you have the PEG reports?" I asked quietly, taking the seat next to her. She'd begun sorting through files, immediately moving to the bottom of the stack and placing the correct one in my hand.

"Yes, Mr. Ryan." Our eyes met only briefly but her fingers lingered against mine for a moment longer than was appropriate, the pad of her index finger brushing along the back of my hand. The simple yet intimate contact caused my pulse to increase slightly.

"Thank you," I murmured, her eyes meeting mine again. I could already see this was going to be an interesting meeting.

The next hour ran like clockwork. Chloe sat mere inches from me, taking notes and handing me information at the appropriate time, but I was constantly aware of each of her movements. I hadn't realized how hard it would be to keep the distance once I accepted my feelings. I knew on a cerebral level it was best to keep it between us for now, but I was already feeling the strain emotionally.

I was proud to be in love with Chloe, and even more proud that she loved me in return. I didn't want to hide that. Despite our agreement, I could already see that we would need to make some changes soon.

I stood to give my own part of the presentation, discussing projected earnings and profit margins, conscious all the while that she was watching me. Even from across a darkened room, ostensibly focused on a PowerPoint presentation, I felt this unrelenting draw to her. It was unlike anything I'd ever known before.

As I returned to my seat to listen, my part done for now, my eyes drifted to her crossed legs. The tiniest hint of lace peaked out from under the hem of her dress; a sshit so thin and insignificant that no one else would even notice it. But I did. My fingers itched to touch it, to reach out to her creamy thigh and either cover it up or expose more; I hadn't decided which yet.

A few more minutes passed, and with each one, my attention grew more focused on the small strip of ivory lace. Looking around and satisfied that no one was paying attention, I slipped my hand under the table and straightened her skirt, removing the temptation from my sight.

"I'm not sure if that was for you or me," I whispered.

She bit her lip and smiled softly at me, as our eyes met in the dark. My hand had yet to leave her thigh, and I could literally feel the current passing between us. Conscious of others in the room, I gave her leg a light squeeze before removing my hand from her warm skin, my fingers tingling with the loss of contact.

I watched as she cleared her throat quietly and returned her attention to the papers in front of her. A small, slightly embarrassed smile pulled at the corner of her lips and I was thrilled to see that she was every bit as affected by me as I was by her.

At ten after twelve, with preliminary contracts in hand, we headed back to the office. Conversation was lively as Emmett told everyone the story of trying to teach Carrington how to catch a football over the weekend. Normally he would have had my undivided attention, but I busied myself on my Blackberry.

With one email I ordered Chloe a huge flower arrangement of pink orchids to be delivered tonight. I now knew they would look perfect on the table in her bedroom. I was unable to keep from smiling as I composed the message I wanted on the card. I glanced at her, now sitting across from me, seemingly lost in her calendar. She certainly appeared better at focusing and tuning out distractions than I was.

From under my lashes I watched as she tapped the pencil against her full lower lip before taking it gently between her teeth. I groaned inwardly and looked back at my phone, typing her out a message.

6 hours until that dress comes off.

The phone buzzed quietly in her hand and she pushed a series of buttons. I watched the expression change on her face the moment she realized it was from me. Raising one eyebrow she looked up at me before typing and returning to her calendar.

Actually, 5 hours 37 minutes. Trust me, I'm counting.

Fuck. She was good.

What are you wearing under that dress?

Once again, she was so nonchalant as she glanced at her phone and typed her response, I wouldn't have even known what was going on if I hadn't been in on it. She seemed to take longer to respond than she had before, but it was explained as soon as my phone buzzed. Instead of a message there was a simple link.

Sweet Shit. The link took me straight to the La Perla website and a photo of the exact panties she was wearing right now. Shit, that tiny sshit of satin and lace would be so easy to ri –

"Bennett? Are you okay" My father's voice broke through my thoughts and I lifted my chin to look at him. Five sets of concerned eyes looked back at me, including Chloe's.

What an actress.

"Of course," I answered, waving him off. "Just catching up on some emails." Appeased, he nodded and went back to his conversation. I didn't miss her smirk before returning to her work.

Will you come to lunch with me?

I waited, trying to watch her unnoticed.

I'd love to.

When we pulled into the parking garage and unloaded, I promised my brother I would see him later that afternoon for a meeting before we all separated.

"Hungry?" I asked, motioning towards my car.

"Starving," she grinned.

I opened the door for her, watching as she folded herself into the seat, silently promising that I would behave. We left for meetings and lunches all the time together, so I wasn't particularly worried about appearances.

There wasn't a dull moment in the conversation as we drove to a small Italian restaurant on the outskirts of the city. I held her hand the entire time, relishing in the simple act of just being able to touch her, and soothed by her thumb rubbing random, lazy circles on my hand.

As we parked, I shut off the engine and turned to her.

"Thank you for coming."

She smiled brightly, and I was consumed with how much I adored this woman.

"I'm glad to get you all to myself for a bit."

We sat in the car, under the shade of a large oak. The signs of summer were all around us  –  bright grass, vivid flowers, crowds enjoying the sun  –  but all I saw was her. Her eyes drifted quickly to my mouth as I smoothed a wayward curl, her breath hitching as my fingers traveled down the silky strand that brushed the top of her right breast.

"I can't believe how much I want you right now," I said, my voice raspy and strained. "Does this ever stop?" Sliding my hand through her hair, I gripped the back of her neck, pulling her towards me as my thumb brushed the soft skin along her throat.

"I hope not." Her whisper was spoken against my parted lips, and I closed my eyes as I tasted her warm breath on my tongue. Closing the distance, she pressed her mouth softly to mine, delicately taking my bottom lip between hers. I moaned as the simple, chaste kiss sent a surge of need throughout my body and I felt myself harden, cursing the fact that my car didn't have a back seat.

Pulling away, I pressed my forehead against hers, the feel of her rapid pulse racing beneath my thumb.

"As much as I'd like to sit here and kiss you all day, if we want to eat before my next meeting we need to get out of this car," I murmured.

She laughed and I kissed her hair, smiling at the familiar scent of oranges.

"Stay there," I instructed, sliding out of my seat and walking around to open her door. I helped her out, once again admiring the way that shit dress hugged her body, and placed a possessive hand on her lower back as we continued into the restaurant.

I requested a small, semi-secluded table near the back of the dining room and pulled out her chair as she sat.

"I've never been here," she mused as she read the menu.

"I love it. I come here when I need to get away from the people in the city," I added, not even needing to look at my own menu. "They have the best Ossobuco I've had outside of Italy."

She shook her head, smiling. "I've never had that."

"Good, then you can try mine." I helped her decide what to order and we continued our conversation from the drive over.

"Okay," she began, eyeing me appreciatively as I took off my suit jacket and hung it on the back of my chair. "Favorite family vacation?"

I reached across the table and laced our fingers. "Hmm…That's a tough one. We got the chance to travel a lot growing up, but I think my favorite memories are of the time we spent at our summer house on the coast. Playing in the sand, learning to swim in the ocean, just being a kid. What about you?"

She sighed. "I haven't been to the ocean in so long, I bet you were adorable."

"Well, you'd have to ask my mother," I laughed, rolling my eyes. "And I'm sure she'd love to talk about it. Now answer my question."

"I used to go to Chicago every summer to stay with my mom. I suppose that's why I stayed after she died, to feel like I was still close to her." I squeezed her hand.

"You have no idea how thankful I am that you did," I replied softly.

Our food arrived and I continued on with the questions as we ate.

"First time?" I was greeted with raised eyebrows from across the table.

"First time what?" she asked her eyes narrowing. I leaned forward with my elbows on the table, dying of curiosity.

" First, first time," I stated, emphasizing each word.



She cleared her throat and took a long drink of her water.

"I was seventeen and he was eighteen, we dated throughout most of my senior year." I was already feeling my blood pressure increase imagining some sleazy teenage boy touching the beautiful young girl I had seen in the photographs at her house.

"Actually you've met him," she mentioned with a casual wave of her hand.

"Excuse me?" I asked, staring at her dumbfounded.

"Yeah," she nodded, twirling her pasta around her fork. "David, the guy we ran into before Seattle."

Oh. David.

My hand went automatically to the bridge of my nose as I remembered the day we ran into her ex-boyfriend. The same David who put his arms around her and made her laugh. The same David she was thrilled to see, who was obviously still in love with her and who now lived in Chicago. That David.

"So David was your first." My voice was flat, and somehow it didn't quite come out as the question I'd intended. I had genuinely wanted to know about her first time but I simply didn't realize it would be so…real. "And?"

"And what?"

"Tell me," I said, trying to mask the hard jealousy raging through me.

"Well, it was in a corn field. I still remember the sound of the corn blowing in the wind."

"A corn field? That sounds like the beginning of a horror movie," I mumbled. What kind of douche takes a girl to a corn field to have sex for the first time?

"True, it does sound odd to hear it now," she replied laughing. "But it was sweet, and he was gentle.

All in all, not a bad way to lose one's virginity."

I paused as I considered my next question. Did I want to know?

"Did you love him?"

I lifted my eyes to hers, terrified of what I would find there. Terrified that this all consuming love I felt for her and only her, she had shared with someone else.

"I thought I did… but those feelings all feel very young and naive in hindsight. I don't think I truly understood what that word meant until I met you." She tightened her grasp on my hand as she spoke, attempting to soothe me. I obviously knew she'd been with other men before me, but knowing and actually hearing the details were two different matters. I could literally feel my Caveman tendencies bubbling beneath the surface.

"What about you?"

"What?" I asked, distracted. I'd been mentally calculating how long it would take to find David's office and strangle him.

"Your first time?" She reminded me gently.

"Oh, it was nothing as exciting as a corn field, I can tell you that much." I hated the snark in my voice but couldn't squelch it.

She narrowed her eyes again and glared at me.

"Okay, okay. I was sixteen and a sophomore. We'd been at a football game that night and a bunch of us went over to my friend's house to spend the night. Well he had this sister who was a senior and…well you know." I shrugged my shoulders. "So were you with him more than once?"

"Wait, wait, wait," she interrupted. "You were sixteen and she was what? Eighteen?"

"I guess? But you didn't answer my question."

"And you're not answering mine."

"There's not really much to tell. It took like two minutes. I was practically ready to come before she agreed. I'm glad you find this so amusing," I retorted sarcastically, glaring at her as she doubled over in laughter. "Now answer my fucking question."

"Oh God," she was barely able to get out. Sitting up, she wiped the tears from her eyes. "That is…just knowing the way you are now…God. That poor girl, if she only knew what she missed out on."

I fucking love this woman.

"And yes, I had sex with him more than once," she answered and my jaw clenched in response.

"How many is more than once?"

"Really, Bennett? How many women have you had sex with?"


"Did you love any of them?" The forwardness of her question surprised me.

"I love you," I stated, hoping that would appease her.

"I love you, too. But that's not what I asked."

My stomach twisted with guilt as it always did when I thought of her.

"Yes." I kept my voice even, hoping that none of the pain I felt was clear.

"Who?" I could see the same battle raging in her eyes as I'd felt a moment ago: Did she really want to know this?

"Her name was Rachel. I knew her when I lived in Paris."

"What happened?"

"It ended."

"Why?" She sipped her water, attempting casual.

"It just…did," I said with finality. "Why did it end with David?"

She looked surprised to suddenly be the focus again.

"Um…David was great, he is great, but I was going off to college and I didn't want the long distance thing."

I felt my jaw flex, hard. "So it wasn't that things weren't working, or you'd lost interest?"

"No. I just figured, if it was meant to be, it would happen. We'd end up together somehow. That's why I was so surprised to see him that day."

My fist clenched under the table. Is that what she had been thinking? That he popped back into her life because of some "destined to be together" bullshit?

Abruptly tossing my napkin on the table, I glared at her.

"Are you finished?" My voice sounded a bit harsher than necessary.

"What?" she questioned, confusion clear in her expression. Closing my eyes, I exhaled deeply.

"I said. Are. You. Finished?"

Rolling her eyes, she set her glass on the table and stood. "Okaaay." Grabbing her purse, I gripped her elbow and led us out of the restaurant.

"What the hell is your problem?" she demanded, yanking her elbow from me as the confusion on her face was quickly replaced by irritation.

I avoided her question and her eyes as we walked to the car, her steps quickening to open her door before I could get to it.

Climbing in, I started the engine and peeled out of the parking lot, gripping the steering wheel so tightly my knuckles were white. Of course she'd thought that. How had I gotten myself in this fucking mess? I'd been lucky so far with Mike, and apparently with David, but someday, someone was going to walk in and claim her.

Claim her in a way that I couldn't as long as we were hiding.

My blood boiled as I thought about all the things I wanted to do with her but couldn't, all because of the situation we'd put ourselves in.

"Are you going to tell me what the fuck is going on?" she demanded from the passenger seat.

"Is that what you thought that day you saw him? That your Prince Charming had ridden back into your life to save you from your asshole of a boss?"

Her eyes widened in disbelief.

The shrill sound of my cell phone cut through the silence as she opened her mouth to speak.

"Fuck!" I shouted, retrieving it from my pocket. Taking a deep breath I answered, my tone leaving no doubt as to my current frame of mind.

The confused voice of a prospective client was on the other end. I did my best to calm down and smooth over whatever damage I had done by the time we pulled into the parking garage. Chloe didn't even wait until I'd completely stopped before she had the door open, slamming it roughly as she stormed off. Could this day get any fucking worse?

"Chloe!" I shouted to her retreating form. She didn't look back and disappeared into the lobby.

Quickly ending my phone call, I raced towards our office, knowing that's where she'd be. Sure enough, I heard drawers and files being slammed as soon as I stepped off the elevator.

"You. My office, now." I said as I brushed past her.

"Are you out of your shited mind?" she yelled behind me. I turned to face her after closing the door and stumbled back, her palms colliding with my chest. "You do not get to speak to me like that anymore."

"Let's get this straight, Chloe," I stated, stalking towards her. She took three steps backward, a small gasp leaving her throat as her body came in contact with the plate glass window next to my desk. I placed a hand on either side of her head, trapping her.

" You," I whispered roughly, my mouth hovering near hers, "are mine. Nobody, not Mike, not David, nobody is going to take you from me. It's my name you scream at night. It's me that makes you come harder than ever before. It's my cock you beg for. It's me you love, Chloe. Me."

Her eyes fell closed and she shuddered as my hand moved to cup her cheek, her chest rising and falling with her quickened breaths.

"Look at me," I growled, my hand trembling against her cheek. "I love you beyond all reason, Chloe.

Nobody is going to take you away from me."

With a shaky breath, she opened her eyes and slid her hands to my hips. Our eyes locked, our breath intermingling as she strengthened her grip and tugged slightly, pulling me closer. This moment was so close to where it all began and yet so different. Two stubborn people filled with needless rage and insatiable lust, standing on the edge of a precipice, knowing the next step would change everything.

The difference however, loomed larger than any emotion preceding it. This time my lust was not driven by my all-consuming need for control, but for the consuming love I felt in every breath and every heartbeat.

Would my life ever be complete while keeping my love for her a secret?

The answer was no.

My next step was decided, I would make this right.

But first….

I drove my hand into her hair and gripped it tightly, closing any distance between us. My pulse roared in my ears as I tasted her, a soft moan escaping as my tongue slid against hers, the sound going straight to my cock. Her fingers threaded tightly into my hair, leading me where she wanted.

Sliding my hands down her curves, I was met with warm skin as I caressed the back of her thigh. In one fluid movement, I hitched her leg onto my hip, pressing her further against the cool glass.

Her nails ran lightly along my skin as she pushed my jacket roughly off my shoulders, letting it fall in a pile at my feet.

She gasped as I lifted her slightly, the movement repositioning our bodies, my erection now pressing against her. My lips found her neck, sucking and biting along her throat, not caring if I marked her.

She was mine; her heart, her mind, and her body.

Pulling her away from the outside world, I gathered her closer, my lips never straying as I took the four steps to my desk. Loosening my grip, I sat her on the glossy wood and stepped between her parted legs.

"Nobody could ever take me from you," she whispered against my open mouth, her hands now frantically pulling my shirt from my pants. "I've never loved anyone like this…"

She gasped as I pushed her dress off her shoulder, exposing as much skin as I could; my teeth marring her perfect, creamy flesh.

"Its like I can't breathe until I'm with you." Her voice was raw and desperate as she loosened my tie with her hands and her words loosened the knot of jealousy in my chest. "I don't own my thoughts any more…everything…it all belongs to you."

Her fingers fumbled to undo my shirt, before pulling roughly, my chest now exposed to her feverish kisses as the tiny ivory buttons scattered across the floor.

Placing my hands on her hips, I pulled her towards me, groaning as I felt her heat through my pants.

Shaky fingers traveled down my stomach to my belt, the sound of the metal buckle and her frantic breathing echoing around us. Lowering my zipper she pushed my pants down my hips, placing open mouthed kisses along my skin as she went.

"I love you so much, Chloe," I whispered, guiding her back to lie on the desk.

This was the realization of every fantasy I'd ever had: her dark hair spread across my desk, her beautiful body open and waiting. Lifting her head, she gripped my shirt, pulling me over her.

"These have to go," I growled, pushing her dress higher up her hips, the tiny sshits of ivory lace finally visible to me.

"Oh, fuck yes," she begged. "Please."

The sound of her pleading, so needy and wanting, took my breath away. I wrapped the delicate straps around my fist, using them to pull her roughly against me, the length of my cock sliding against the soaked lace.

"Yes," she groaned, her hand reaching above her head and sending my keyboard crashing to the floor.

"Fuck, do that again."

I repeated the action; her body sliding up the smooth wood and back down against me.

"Fuck, Chloe. All those months of wanting to touch you…wishing you would touch me. Maybe when I'm done I'll bend you over and take you again from behind. I know how much you like that. Don't you, Chloe?" Tightening my grip, I pulled sharply once more, the sound of her moans and the tearing fabric filling my ears as I tossed the tattered lace to the floor.

"I can't wait to get you home and rip this dress off of you," I panted, my hands teasing her cloth covered nipple. "I want you completely naked under me, your hair spread out on my pillows, and your gorgeous tits bouncing while I fuck you."

I pressed the head of my cock against her and gripped her hips tightly, watching as she took the length of me inside of her body. Closing my eyes I paused, relishing in the feel of being engulfed by her. She lifted her hips, taking me deeper and I groaned, pulling out before pushing into her again.

Placing her legs over my shoulders, I hovered over her, gripping the sides of the desk as I thrust deeply.

Within the blurry recesses of my mind, I was aware that we were in my office, that there were people just on the other side of these walls. There were footsteps in the hall, traffic on the street below and phones ringing in the distance. I knew it should matter, but it didn't.

"I can't get close enough," I panted. "It doesn't get any easier when I'm with you… or… fuck…even inside you."

Her body slid along the glossy surface with each of my thrusts, her hair tangling behind her, hands grasping to hold on. She arched her back, palms hitting the desk, sending a stack of files to the floor, a flurry of papers scattering around us. The flat monitor shook, threatening to topple, pens rolled across wood, one by one bouncing on the carpet below.

I kissed and bit along her bare legs, feeling her sexy shoes resting next to my head, and tilted my hips to slip deeper. She moaned in time with my movements, clawing at my open shirt, her body rocking up to meet me.

"Touch yourself, baby. Let me see you." My voice was strained and desperate, trying to hold out, to see her come first. She trailed a hand between us, her fingers brushing my abdomen as she found her clit.

I groaned as I watched her fingers slip between the bare skin to stroke herself, her muscles gripping ever so slightly as she found a rhythm. My arms trembled above her, my chest heaving with the exertion of our lovemaking. I felt my body tense in anticipation, the slow burn I'd been prolonging began to spread, the perfect friction I felt inside of her finally overwhelming me.

"Bennett," she whispered, her eyes meeting my face, the nails of her free hand digging painfully into my shoulder. The shock of it caused me to cry out, the beautiful sting pulling me back, allowing me to focus on her body.

She was close.

I roughly pulled the front of her dress lower, the seams of the perfect white material giving way slightly with the force. Her right breast free, my hungry eyes feast on it, my hand cupping the exquisite fullness as my fingers teased and pinched her hardened nipple. She swore, arching into me again, her body finally clenching around me.

"Right there, Bennett…right there."

"Fuck! Like this?"

"Yes…Oh God," she moaned, her voice no more than a whisper. My release began to surge through me and I was no longer able to hold it off. Gripping the edge almost painfully, I used the force of my entire body as I thrust, my cock pulsing deep inside of her. I placed a hand over her mouth, muffling her cries as she tensed, her body gripping and clenching around me as she came.

With trembling hands, I moved her legs down around my hips and collapsed on top of her, my shaking arms no longer able to support my weight. She pulled me to her breasts, her arms around my neck as her fingers wove into my hair. Her heart raced beneath my ear and I placed a kiss against her dampened skin.

"Come with me to Paris." The words were out of my mouth before I realized what I'd said; my heart sped up as I waited for her answer.

"What?" Her hands stilled in my hair and she tilted her head to see my face.

Lifting myself on my forearms I looked at her, my fingers sweeping the sweaty hair off her forehead.

"Let me take you to Paris. I want to take you to my cafe, hold your hand, and walk along the Seine," I said excitedly. "Please say yes, Chloe."

Pushing herself up on her elbows she looked at me with wide eyes, searching my face before smiling.

"Okay," she laughed. "Let's go to Paris."

I gripped her head and pulled her to me, smiling against her lips. "I love you."

"I love you too."

"We can go over Shitmas, when the office is closed for two weeks. That way we'll still get to see each other every day."

Her expression faltered slightly, her eyes drifting downwards.

"Chloe?" I asked, lowering my chin to meet her eyes. Before I could ask, the sound of my desk phone broke the silence.

Standing, I pulled up my pants and fastened my belt and helped her up before lifting the receiver.

"Bennett Ryan."

"Bennett, I need you upstairs immediately."

"Yes, sir," I answered, my attention focused on Chloe as she attempted to right her clothing. "I'll be up in five minutes." Hanging up the phone, I turned to her.

"I need to run upstairs." I paused, eyeing her skeptically. "Chloe, are you okay? I didn't hurt you, did I?"

Shaking her head she walked quickly into my bathroom, returning with one of my shirts I kept there.

"No, of course not. I'm fine. Just a bit…worn out." She smiled but something about it seemed off.

"You're sure?" I bent my head to catch her eye.

She nodded.

"Okay, why don't you go in and get cleaned up, I'll straighten things in here and run up and see what my dad needs. When I get back we can go home and start planning our trip." I pulled her to me, running my fingers through her hair, smiling as I attempted to tame it. "Will that work?"

"I'll be waiting," she whispered, her cheek resting against my chest.

I kissed her hair and turned her towards the bathroom, watching as she closed the door behind her.

Something was off, but for the life of me I couldn't figure it out. I shrugged out of my damaged shirt, slipping into the new one. Picking up the fallen items, I chuckled as I attempted to right the piles of papers that had scattered across the floor.

Apparently declarations of love hadn't helped our control any.

Rounding the desk, I picked up her torn panties, smiling as I opened the drawer and placed them inside with the others. When I came downstairs I would show her, I couldn't wait to see her reaction when she realized they were here all along.

"Chloe? I'll be right back. Okay?" I called through the door.

"Alright," she answered.

With a final chell of my office and a brief glimpse in the large mirror that hung near Chloe's desk, I made my way to the elevator. My mind was buzzing with the idea of taking Chloe to Paris, to show her everything I loved and see it through her eyes. I smiled and shook my head as the gold doors closed, realizing I was humming. I'd made my decision and nothing was going to keep me from following through.

I stepped off the lift and continued down the hall, smiling as my father's assistant waved me back into the rear office. Knocking I stepped into the room and smiled at him.

He did not smile back.

I knew in that moment that reality had finally caught up with us.