“No doubt, because you don’t tell me anything.”
She sighed and twisted her hair. “I said I was sorry, okay? I admit it. I should have told you about Sophia. If you introduced me to someone Heath had history with, I’d want to know.”
I relaxed a little, satisfied that I wasn’t completely going off the deep end. Alli shielding me from the truth wasn’t doing me any favors. I was falling hard for Blake, and I needed to know if that was a reckless effort. She had loyalty to Heath now, but protecting him, and Blake, at my expense wasn’t going to work.
I slept in the next morning, feeling nearly as drained and confused as I had when my head hit the heavenly thread count pillow. I checked the clock and forced myself up. I assumed Alli had made it to work all right. She and Heath had gone out for drinks after dinner while I headed back to the condo. We’d made plans to go out on the town the following night, but maybe they needed alone time. Restless, I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours but finally fell asleep, never hearing their return. How she kept up like this I would never know.
I made myself at home in the kitchen, brewing coffee and frying up an omelet. I looked up some local yoga studios on my phone and found a class I could walk into just before lunch. As I devoured my breakfast, Heath came from the adjacent bedroom, looking more than tired. The long night had left heavy bags under his eyes, and for the first time, I noticed he actually looked older than Blake, fine lines fanning out from his dark hazel eyes.
He had the same toned chest and intense eyes as Blake, but while I could appreciate his obviously quality looks, I felt no attraction to him. Blake’s appearance had sparked my attraction from the start, but so much more kept that flame alive. Other men had become invisible to me.
Shirtless, he shuffled to the coffee maker, filling an oversized mug to the brim, emptying it to a halfway point before he finally acknowledged me with a nod.
“Morning,” he said, looking into his coffee cup.
“Yeah.” He rubbed his face and sighed.
“How was Alli this morning?”
“Uh, fine. She—” He paused. “She came home earlier than I did.”
Something wasn’t right.
“Is everything all right?” I asked gently, tiptoeing since I was prying into his personal life, though everyone seemed to think that was all right when it came to my personal life.
“Yeah, definitely. You know how it goes.” He shrugged.
A tired and overused smirk that I had started to peg as bullshit marked his face. He was obviously trying to downplay something.
“Do you love her?” I blurted it out, surprising myself even as I said it. It was a bold enough question, let alone one to ask someone in as bad a shape as he was.
His gaze shot to mine, burning with an emotion I couldn’t name, all trace of the bullshit smile gone.
“Obviously,” he said.
He set his mug down hard on the counter. He sounded bitter about it, though. As if the reality of it stung him. The tone spurred me, my protectiveness kicking in.
“I hope so. Because she’s hopeless over you. I’ve never seen her like this.”
A tell tale twitch in his jaw appeared. The same one that tipped me off when Blake was on the edge.
“If you hurt her, Heath...” I lifted my chin, ready to make a point, but my empty threat fizzled as I delivered it. How could I hurt him back? Shielded by his billionaire brother and the lifestyle he afforded, he was sheltered. Threatening him was beyond pointless.
“I won’t,” he said, his voice clipped with fatigue and irritation.
When our eyes met briefly, I recognized a flash of pain behind them before he turned to go. I finished my breakfast and retreated to the bedroom to change while Heath slept off whatever had him looking so harrowed.
* * *
The yoga studio filled quickly and the instructor wasted no time warming us up, mentally and physically. I needed this. I needed to burn off all the decadent New York meals I’d been treated to, but what I needed more was clarity, to be centered. I couldn’t ever seem to empty my mind of the constant chaos that Blake created within me.
By the half hour, I was straining for perfection in a wheel pose, my torso bending up toward the sky. I breathed through the discomfort. I was sorely out of practice. The challenging movements drained me but awakened me at the same time, as each muscle activated to keep me in good form. In an audience of a dozen or so other attendees, I refused to falter.
The class ended just as I was ready to give up. We lay in relaxation and my thoughts floated to Blake. So much for emptying my mind. When we devoted our practice, I sent love and light to him. I missed him terribly. No sooner had I rolled up my mat, when my phone vibrated next to me, a quiet intrusion into my hard-earned calm. I fumbled for it, too eager. I hurried out into the hallway for some privacy.
“Erica, it’s Max.”
“Hi, how are you doing?”
“Great,” he said.
“Is everything okay? I mean, with the deal?”
“Absolutely. That’s why I called, actually. The legal prep is taking a little longer than expected, but everything is still on track.”
I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. “That’s great. Thanks for letting me know.”
“No problem. How’s everything with the site?”
“Going great. I’m actually in New York doing some networking. It’s going really well.”
“Excellent, that’s what I like to hear.” Someone was talking to him in the background. “I’ve got to go, Erica, but I’ll keep you posted, all right?”
“Wonderful, thanks again.”
“See you soon.” He hung up.
We were so close to hitting this milestone, I could taste it, but even with his reassurances, I would worry until everything was absolutely finalized. I tried to ignore all the ways it could fall through, but knowing about the rivalry between Blake and Max now added exponentially more possibilities to the list.
* * *
Alli fussed over me to the point of ridiculousness. We went through a series of outfits before settling on a strapless black cut out mini dress. The dress was scarce in the fabric department, but the evenings were hot and the club was bound to be even hotter. Reluctantly, I agreed. We primped and polished until we were both satisfied. Heath let out a little growl when he saw Alli, scooping her up into his arms and giving her a chaste kiss, at least compared to the others I’d borne witness to the past few days.