“Having control over me makes you feel better though,” I whispered.
He nodded. “I need to change that.”
“What if I don't want you to?”
My favorite redheaded barista set to work preparing our lattes-to-go as Alli tapped her nails on the counter.
“How was your night?” I asked.
“Good. Just a few drinks with the old crew. Yours?”
“Good.” I glanced around the café, avoiding eye contact with her.
Blake had tried valiantly to avoid the topic by fucking me right out of my mind. Even though he was holding back, his strategy had worked famously. I didn't remember falling asleep, too tired and wasted to think about anything.
I wasn't sure how to navigate the gulf between us now. Blake had been a mystery to me in so many ways, but the more I uncovered about him, the more I fell hopelessly in love with the man. We had to figure our way through this somehow. Pulling away from me wasn't going to work.
I looked back to Alli. She lacked the usual glow of energy that added to her natural beauty. Today her eyes were swollen and tired. “Is everything okay?”
She brightened a bit. “Yeah, I'm fine.”
“Were you out late?”
“No, actually I came back early.”
I shook my head, confused, and waited for her to continue.
She slouched a little in defeat, letting the fatigue show in her features once more. “Heath didn’t call yesterday. I’m worried.”
“I’m sure everything is fine.”
“We haven’t gone a day without talking since he left. I was waiting up for his call, but nothing.”
“I'm sure he'll call today. Don't worry.”
She nodded and chewed her lip.
“Do you want to do the marketing meeting later so you can get some rest?” I placed my hand over hers, wishing my happy, exuberant friend would resurface. I barely recognized her this way.
“No, I'm fine. You're right. I'm sure it's nothing.” She offered a weak smile.
Simone delivered our java and I paid, adding a generous tip. She waved as we headed back out.
We made the short walk upstairs. Risa was already there. I checked my watch. She was early. She greeted us with every ounce of vivacity that the two of us lacked. She wore black patterned crop pants and a black button up that came across as impeccably professional. In dark jeans and a Portofino blouse Alli had lent me, I'd taken advantage of the decidedly casual dress code that the guys had established.
“Alli, this is Risa Corvi, our new marketing director.”
Risa held out her hand. “Alli, great to meet you. I'm so glad we could catch up today.”
We settled at the small conference table at the far end of the office, and I brought Alli and Risa up to speed.
We had been at it for nearly an hour when Blake walked in, six-feet of delicious. My eyes fixed on him, as if his entrance had somehow sucked all the oxygen out of the room and I was waiting for permission from him to breathe again. I stopped staring long enough to catch Alli and Risa gawking too.
“Am I interrupting?” He flashed me a crooked grin and walked toward us with his hands in his pockets. He was in his usual work uniform, blue jeans and a snug fitting T-shirt advertising the conference we’d been to in Las Vegas. That had been a good trip.
Risa nearly tipped her chair over, jumping out of it to shake his hand, her eyes alight with obvious appreciation. “You must be Mr. Landon. I'm Risa Corvi.”
“Call me Blake.”
“We were running over some of the membership numbers, if you want to join us,” I said quickly.
“Sure, let me talk to Sid first.”
I nodded and watched him walk away, fully appreciating how fantastic his ass looked in jeans, and how they strained around his thighs. Get a grip, Erica. You’re at work. Had I not gotten enough of him last night? Jesus, what was wrong with me?
I shook my head back into reality. Risa’s gaze was riveted where mine had been. I cleared my throat to get her attention.
She turned back to me quickly. “Sorry. He’s… Wow.” She sighed and sifted through her notes.
Alli rolled her eyes. My body immediately tensed, going into irrational protective jealousy mode. I clicked my pen anxiously as I ran a few choice phrases for Risa through my mind. Unfortunately none of them were remotely appropriate to utter out loud. I bit my tongue, not wanting Risa’s first meeting at work to be about her boss pulling a nutty staking claim over their investor who she also happened to be dating.
I took in a slow breath and tried to focus on my notes. Blake was gorgeous. He turned heads wherever he went, and this was no different.
“Where were we?” Alli interrupted me, apparently eager to wrap up.
Before I could get us back on track, my phone rang at my desk. “Excuse me a minute. You two carry on.” I ducked behind the partition and searched for my phone in my purse. I froze when I saw the number. I snapped out of it quickly and picked up the call.
“Daniel, hi,” I rushed, hoping I’d caught him before he hung up. I hadn’t spoken to him since I'd left his house on the Cape a couple weeks ago, under circumstances that he was completely in the dark about. I wasn't sure if the lapse in time had been as awkward for him as it had been for me.
“Erica, how are you?”
I smiled at the sound of his deep and confident voice. “I’m doing well. How are you?”
“Oh, you know, busy with the campaign. But I wanted to ask about your plans for Friday. The firm is sponsoring the Spirit Gala this year and we have some extra tickets. A lot of important people will be there, maybe even a celebrity or two. Might be a good networking opportunity for you.”
“That sounds wonderful. Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. I’d like to see you again.”
“Thanks, same here. I meant to call, but…” In truth, I didn’t really know how Daniel felt about staying in touch with me. Sure, he was my biological father, but we'd only recently discovered this. We barely knew each other. Outside of running into his stepson and my living nightmare, Mark, our visit had been pleasant and meaningful. I wanted a relationship with him, but between his run for governor and the corporate machine that was his life, I wasn’t sure where I could possibly fit. We’d both agreed I should stay under the radar as his illegitimate daughter.
“No worries. I’ll courier some tickets over. Invite Landon and anyone else who you’d like to mingle on your behalf.”