“Okay, your smug, short answers are starting to bug,” I say, grabbing my fork and stabbing the lettuce much like I saw Wendy do a moment ago. Damn it, I’m going to eat even if it kills me. “And they’re totally not helping my situation.”
“Well, what are you going to do then? You and Archer Bancroft have a past. A history. There’s tension there and it finally resulted in the two of you having hot, amazing, outrageous sex.”
I don’t answer. I’m not going to give her the satisfaction of an acknowledgement.
“Now you’re all mopey and sad. Wishing you could see him. Well, go see him then. Call him up. Greet him with, ‘Hey sexy, let’s do that again.’ See what he says.” Wendy smiles. “I bet he’d take you up on your offer.”
But what if he didn’t. “I would never call him and say something like that.”
“Maybe that’s half your problem.”
I glare at her and she bursts out laughing. “It’s not funny,” I insist.
“I think you like him more than you want to admit, and you don’t know how to deal with it. I’m trying to tell you how to deal.” Wendy offers me a sympathetic smile. “Maybe you need to fess up to your feelings. Why are you acting this way? Is it because you’re disappointed in yourself for doing something so crazy?”
“Partly.” I shrug. “I don’t know why I’m acting like this. Why he has me all twisted up in knots.”
“I’ve already told you why,” Wendy says gently. “There’s nothing wrong with you contacting him. I’m sure you’re waiting for him to call because that’s your usual MO. Well, guess what. Having a one-night stand with Archer broke your pattern. Calling him will continue to break that pattern. And there’s nothing wrong with doing things a little different.”
Sighing, I stare at my still-full plate. My appetite has completely evaporated. “I was about to tell him that maybe I wanted to see him again, and he called our one night together a mistake. He doesn’t want me, not like that.” I should confess I called it a mistake too, but I can’t. I hate to admit how much it hurt, him saying that. It’s one thing for me to think it, another thing entirely to know he feels the same way.
But do I really feel that way?
“Ah, honey . . .”
I interrupt her. I really don’t want any sympathy. There’s no one to blame for this but me. “Yeah, I might’ve changed up my pattern, but look where it got me? Miserable. Angry at myself for making such a stupid, stupid decision. He’s not the one for me. Not that I ever really thought he was.” I shake my head. “I need to focus on my anger over this.”
“Yeah, you do,” Wendy agrees.
“Not sit around wishing he would call.” Whoops, wish I hadn’t admitted that part.
“Forget him. Screw this guy,” Wendy said vehemently.
“I already did.” I scrunch my lips together.
We stare at each other across the table for a few seconds before we both burst into laughter.
“You sure did,” Wendy says after she gets herself under control, slowly shaking her head as the occasional giggle escapes her.
Yeah. I sure did. What a mistake.
The realization hits me like a swift kick in the ribs. Yet again, I did it. I went after a man who has no intentions to do right by me. Heck, I have no intention of doing right by him. To do so would be utter foolishness. The man is a mess. He’s a complete and utter mess and I have no one to blame but myself for getting involved with him.
I almost want to laugh at my mental choice of words. Involved. As if what we shared contains any sort of involvement beyond the quick and dirty sexual kind.
Archer Bancroft is my ultimate failure. That Humpty Dumpty of a man can never, ever be put back together again. I won’t even bother trying.
“HEY, WHAT’S UP? Haven’t heard from you in a while.”
“I’ve been busy.” So damn busy I can hardly breathe. Not so busy that I haven’t been thinking of a certain someone constantly. Hence my reason for calling her brother—I’m digging for information. “You make that deal you told me about?”
“I sure did. Purchased the property for an absolute song. Already have a buyer lined up, and my end of the deal isn’t even closed yet.” Gage chuckles, sounding pleased with himself. “It all came together way too easy.”
“That sort of thing usually makes me nervous.” Struggles and roadblocks actually make me feel better when it comes to business. And life. When it’s too easy, there’s always a catch.
“I’ve been working this guy for over a year. This was definitely not an easy deal. I finally got him to cave. I’m a persistent motherfucker when I need to be.” Gage full blown laughs.
Wasn’t that the truth? One of the many traits Gage and I share. “Congrats man.”
“Thanks.” He pauses. “There must be another reason you called. You’re not one for chitchat.”
I blow out a harsh breath, working up my nerve. “Listen, I need Ivy’s work number,” I say as nonchalantly as I can, leaning back in my chair so I can stare out the window.
“Why? Call her cell.” Gage sounds distracted. “Or are you afraid she won’t answer you.”
Damn Gage for being too perceptive. “I need to talk to her about a business proposition.” Not a lie. The new location is going into fast-forward mode and the interior designer I hired to transform Hush is unavailable. I need someone quick.
I need Ivy.
“Are you serious? She’s just a junior associate, you know. I have no idea if she’s up to snuff with what you might need.” Gage mutters something under his breath, and I hear a female’s soft laugh.
“Way to bag on your sister.” I shake my head, irritated with him. “And where the hell are you anyway?”
“Work. Where the hell are you?”
Doesn’t sound like he’s at work. And he’s awfully quick on the defense. “Come on, just give me her number.”
“Hold on, I need to scroll through my contacts. Give me a minute.”
Tapping my fingers impatiently against the edge of my desk, I wait. I can hear Gage say something, hear the light tones of a woman answering him, and I wonder who he’s with on a Monday afternoon. Can’t help but feel a little jealous too.
Jealousy is an emotion I’m not used to and definitely not comfortable with. There’s no need to get jealous if I’m never with a woman beyond a night or two, right? I move through life with no entanglements, no relationships beyond my friendships, and even then I don’t let many into my inner circle. Hell, I don’t even stay in regular contact with my mom, not that she cares. She’s too busy hitting the bottle or fighting with my father. And I deal with him only because I have to.
More than one woman has described me as a loner. Fairly accurate. I surround myself with plenty of people but it’s meaningless. A good time for a few hours before I go home alone. Socially I’ve withdrawn as I become more consumed with work. This latest project has kept me constantly going these last few weeks.
I miss Ivy. I regret calling what happened between us a mistake. It wasn’t. Screw the bet, forget my friends, forget everything. I want to see her. It’s been over three weeks. Three long weeks without seeing her pretty face, that gorgeous smile. Hell, I miss hearing her all exasperated with me, insulting me, telling me to leave her alone.
I miss the way her body felt beneath mine. How she tugged on my hair tight, the hot little words she panted against my lips just before I made her come.
“All right, here you go,” Gage says, interrupting my thoughts as he rattles off a number. I scribble it across a notepad, my mind still foggy with images of Ivy, and I blink hard, banishing her as best I can. She is the last thing I need to think of while I’m talking to her brother.
“Thanks,” I mutter, dropping the pen on my desk and scrubbing my hand over my face. I need to get a grip.
“You’re serious about wanting to hire her?”
“I am. The new Hush location’s completion is ahead of schedule and I’m pushing it forward. Our previous designer is heavily involved with another project, so she’s unable to get on board. I thought I’d ask Ivy if she’s available,” I say this as casually as possible, not wanting him to figure out my other motive for contacting her.
“I know her boss would probably like a chance at it,” Gage says.
Sharon Paxton probably would. But I know for a fact she’s beyond busy with her own clients. She has a waiting list, for the love of God. This probably doesn’t bode well with getting Ivy’s help, but I’m willing to pay whatever it takes to have her work with me on this project.
I want to see her that badly. This is the perfect excuse. That I have to use my business as a way to get her back into my life is probably underhanded, but I don’t care. I’m to the point that I’ll do anything to see her again.
Prove to her that maybe I am worth being put back together again.
“I’m sure she would,” I say. “I’d rather have Ivy.”
Gage is quiet for a moment before he finally asks, “Do you have a thing for my sister?”
“Not at all,” I say easily. “Hell, we argue most of the time when we see each other.”
“Then why would you want to work with her if all you do is argue?”
Valid question. Shit. “I trust her. I’ve known her for years. She’s your sister. She’ll do a good job and not try and screw me over.”
“Huh.” Gage doesn’t sound like he believes me so I push forward.
“This project, this location, it has to be handled delicately. Discreetly. I can’t hire any designer off the street. I need someone I can trust to keep their mouth closed and not leak what I have planned.”
“You haven’t even told me what you have planned,” Gage points out.
“Exactly, and I’m not going to either. That’s why I think Ivy is the perfect fit.” This part is true. I do want her to work for me. I trust that she won’t blab what I have planned for the remote location. An even sexier, more intimate resort than Hush, it will cater to wealthy couples that want an indulgent getaway with their significant other.
Private gourmet meals, couples massages, the small hotel will be exclusive to only eight couples at any given time. The location will be the ultimate in intimate, quiet luxury.
“Well, good luck. Give her a call. I’m betting she’ll say no.”
“Why does everything circle back to a bet?” I ask irritably, not needing the reminder. “And how do you know she’ll say no?”
But she doesn’t count toward the bet, right? Didn’t Gage and Matt count her out? After all, she’s just Ivy.
“She doesn’t particularly like you, Archer. You know this.” Gage makes it sound like common knowledge. “And besides, I’m going to guess her boss won’t let her take on the project. Sounds like it’ll be over Ivy’s head.”