Hardline

Author: P Hana

Page 31

   

“Erica.”

Pausing at the door leading up the office stairwell, I spun to find a familiar face. Dressed professionally in gray slacks and a light V-neck shirt, Isaac Perry stood before me. Fucking great.

“What are you doing here?”

I could barely mask my annoyance. Of all the days to show up uninvited, he had to pick today. He had the decency to look a little uneasy.

“I emailed you. I didn’t hear back from you, so I thought I’d swing by since I was in town.”

“You could have called and given me a heads up.”

“I know, sorry. Was a bit of a last minute decision.”

He worked his jaw a bit. He didn’t look like the man who’d groped me months ago. He looked like the man with a boyish smile who’d talked me into a private dinner that started it all.

“I know you have things to do. I won’t take much of your time,” he said.

“If Blake knows you came here...” I was thankful for once that I didn’t have to worry about Blake stopping in on me today. At least I didn’t think he would. After last night, I figured we were destined for some more time apart.

He winced slightly, looking down to his expensive loafers. “I know. I realize he’s not my biggest fan. I was hoping you’d take mercy on me and give me a chance to explain though.”

I took a step away from the door, folding my arms around my chest. We were in public, but the last time I’d seen him, he’d had his unwelcome hands all over me. I couldn’t and wouldn’t trust him.

“I’m not sure there is anything we really need to discuss, Isaac.”

He exhaled, looking more human and less tentative than he had before. “I’m sorry, Erica. I really am. Please, let me buy you a coffee. It’s all I’m asking for. Five minutes.”

His soft blue eyes pleaded with me, and I remembered the Isaac Perry who’d been charming. Also, he was promising coffee.

“Fine.”

His eyes lit up, but I was less than excited. I cringed inwardly as I pushed through the doors of Mocha with him behind me, hoping for a miracle that Simone wouldn’t be working this morning. That would have been asking a lot since I’d not once graced the establishment without the vivacious red haired barista greeting me.

She was helping another customer as we settled into our seats. I sat back, tracing the edge of the table. Isaac was going to press me about the advertising, and I still hadn’t decided what to do. Blake would be furious, of course, but maybe I’d be an idiot for turning down an account like Isaac’s if it meant moving the business forward quicker. With so many emotions tainting the situation, I wasn’t any closer to deciding how to approach his offer.

Lost momentarily in thought, I almost jumped when Simone greeted us.

“Hey,” she said with a soft smile. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Hey, Simone. Um, yeah. Sorry,” I said. Worlds collided, and I couldn’t get into it with her right now. I should probably just tell her what happened with James and be done with it.

“The usual?” she asked, jarring my thoughts back to the present.

“Sure.”

Her gaze slid to Isaac, who seemed to be casually appreciating her figure the way most men did.

“Make it two,” he said with a polite smile.

I sighed, all too ready for my next shot of caffeine. “So…what did you want to talk about?”

“I wanted to explain—”

“What is there to explain, Isaac? Really. I’m not a fan of men groping me, or touching me in any way without my explicit permission.”

“I took things too far, I realize that.”

“Way too far. And it’s a little hard for me to look past that and jump into wanting to do business with you. Hopefully you can understand that.”

His lips went tight. “I do. I made a mistake. My behavior was beyond reproach.”

The simple confession settled over me, and just as I considered forgiving him, he spoke again.

“I shouldn’t have been drinking.”

I frowned, unwilling to accept his excuse. “Are you kidding? We shared a bottle of wine.”

“I was on meds. Meds that severely impair my judgment when mixed with alcohol. You couldn’t have known that, and it’s not an excuse.”

“You’re right, it’s not.”

He stared at the table.

“I want you to understand that’s not who I am. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted to you, but if I’d been in my right mind, I wouldn’t have approached you that way.”

I studied him carefully, wondering where all this was going. His need to seek my forgiveness seemed sudden, and I couldn’t help but be suspicious.

“What do you want from me, Isaac?”

He sighed and straightened. “It’s a small world. We have several mutual connections. I know Blake’s written me off, but it’s likely that our paths will cross again at some point. Despite all this,” he said, gesturing between us, “I was hoping we could work together still. Call it a peace offering.”

“A binding financial arrangement is an odd kind of peace offering.”

He barely suppressed a smile. “Perhaps, but I figured you’d see more value in that than flowers and chocolates.”

“I’m engaged. You’d be wasting your money.”

His eyes stilled, narrowing slightly. “I didn’t realize that. Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” I said dryly.

“In any case, I do genuinely want to work with you. Before the alcohol got the best of me, I was intrigued with what you proposed. I’d love to give it a try if you think we can get past my epic fuck up.”

I shook my head. If he only knew what I’d been through. “I don’t know...”

He sat back in his seat and lowered his head.

“It’s okay. I understand, Erica. No hard feelings. I just thought it was worth a try. For what it’s worth, I am exceedingly sorry. I’m appalled at my behavior. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to see you and apologize. I hope if we see each other again, and I expect we will, we can at least be cordial.”

I sighed, wishing I didn’t feel sorry for him. I tried to read his body language for signs that he was bullshitting me, but he was as disarming as he’d been the day we met.

“I’ll think about it, okay?”

He smiled. “That’s all I’m asking for.” He rose quickly. “Listen, thanks for meeting. I didn’t mean to take you off guard, but some things are better said face to face.”

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