Sid’s response punched me in the gut.
“Okay, how about you get the guys squared away with their work for the day and you can take the day off. Come back refreshed, and hopefully I’ll have some answers tomorrow.”
I tried to keep my voice steady even though I wanted to tell him to grow the fuck up. Work was full of challenges. I had taken on the brunt of the ownership responsibilities, leaving him with the task of focusing on only what interested him—the development. Yet he marched around like the entire world was plotting against him. True, a small faction was in fact plotting against us, but he was being a little dramatic.
He huffed and left my pseudo-office. He mumbled some things to the guys and slumped back into his chair.
I smiled. Deep down, Sid was just as obstinate about giving up as I was. We had that in common.
Alli brushed on some bronzer while we got ready in my bathroom. She let me borrow a tight leopard-print skirt that fit like a glove. She took the liberty of pairing it with a black off-the-shoulder top. I had a feeling Blake might be stripping this outfit off me with his teeth in a few hours. God, I wanted him to.
After two days of dedicated girl time, Alli was venturing out to get dinner and drinks with some friends so Blake and I could catch up. My skin was crawling from missing him so much.
We’d survived brief periods of separation before, but usually those were colored by me being totally pissed at him, which helped stave off the unbearable attraction I had toward him. All I felt toward Blake right now was epic longing, especially after the mind-bending sex we'd had in the office a few days ago.
I loved spending time with Alli, and I was glad for the time away from our respective boys if it meant reviving the friendship that we’d spent the past three years building. Between the Landon brothers, we had plenty to work through. I’d brought her up to speed with everything that had happened, from Blake blowing up my business deal with Max, to the total mindfuck of having Mark show up out of nowhere.
Heath came up in our conversations with a frequency that made me question how much she was really appreciating their time apart. Tonight she’d been quiet, though.
She smiled too quickly. “Yeah, definitely.”
I finished sprucing up, and when I walked out, Blake was lounging on the new living room set I’d purchased for the apartment. In a white collared shirt rolled up at the sleeves and dark blue jeans, he looked so fucking delectable that I thought seriously about straddling him right then and there.
When our gazes locked, his jaw dropped a fraction. The feeling was mutual.
I smiled. Alli joined us and interrupted my laser focus on Blake’s amazing body. He rose to greet her and brushed a quick kiss on her cheek.
“You look great, Alli. It’s good to see you.”
“Likewise.” Her smile was tight, seemingly strained by some emotion that was bubbling under the surface.
I tried to read her body language. Was she nervous or embarrassed about seeing Blake after the Heath situation in New York?
“So I guess we’re off,” I said quietly, trying to break the awkwardness that hopefully only I was picking up on.
We said our goodbyes, and Blake ran his hand down my back and gave me a gentle push toward the door. The power and suggestion of his touch had my skin tingling, my nerves alert. I was suddenly cursing our dinner plans when I wanted nothing more than to drag him upstairs to his apartment and rock his world straight into the dawn.
We stepped out of the apartment and Blake led me upstairs, his fingers interlaced with mine.
“Did you forget something?”
Before he could answer, we walked through the doors of his apartment and the smells of a home-cooked meal filled the air. Blake had cooked without any help from me.
“Whoa.” The kitchen was a mess, but by contrast the dining room table was neatly covered with several matching pottery serving dishes filled to the brim with pasta, salad, and bread. The room was dimly lit, the mood enhanced by flickering candles set throughout.
“I thought we could stay in,” he murmured.
“But I got all dressed up.” I leaned back into his embrace, letting his arms wrap around me.
“I'm glad you did. You look amazing. We'll be lucky to make it through dinner.”
I bit my lip and my appetite wavered. Blake was by far the most mouth-watering item on any menu, but I needed fuel if I was going to ravage him all night like I'd planned.
“Everything looks great. I can't believe you did all this by yourself.”
“I hope you like it.”
We settled down at the table, and he poured us two glasses of wine as I helped myself to a plate of Blake's soon-to-be-famous spaghetti Bolognese, so he assured me. I took a bite and was pleasantly surprised. Spaghetti was hard to screw up, but with as little cooking experience as he had, I was prepared for the worst. A comfortable silence settled between us as we ate, but I was still thinking about Alli.
“How are things going with Alli?” Blake asked, as if reading my thoughts.
I bit into my garlic bread before answering. Alli was in a tough place right now, both lovesick and heartbroken by her turbulent relationship with Heath. I wasn't sure how much I should say.
“I think she's just going through a lot right now. With Heath and the move.”
“She moved out of the condo.”
“I hope she didn't do that on my account.” His gaze rose to meet mine.
I shook my head, remembering Blake's once fervent insistence that I maintain some distance with Alli while she was involved with Heath. I had swiftly refused and ignored his wish, and thankfully that had been the end of the discussion. With everything I’d been going through at the time, the last thing I needed was to isolate myself from the few people I could go to for support.
“No. I think she needs some space to figure things out while Heath is gone. I don't think she’s had a chance to be very independent since she moved to the city.” I hesitated with the last thought. I wanted to tread lightly. Blake and Heath had their issues, but they were still brothers. I didn't want to cause problems between Heath and Alli if he didn't know about the move yet.
He nodded. “How's work?”
“Good and bad.”
I finished my last bite of the spaghetti before choosing my words.
“I hired a marketing director. She starts Monday and Alli is going to help me bring her up to speed with where she left off.”