His smile is tight. ‘I guess it shows how much she loves you.’
I don’t want to talk about my family, though. They’re their own unique brand of messed-up. I’ll deal with them later. After. Once all this over and I have breathing space to be me again.
‘Where do you go after this?’
I ask the question almost as though talking about it will desensitise me to the fact he is leaving. As though it will make the reality more pronounced.
‘For how long?’ Shit. Wrong question. It sounds needy.
‘A couple of weeks.’
He shrugs and my gut clenches. The idea of a couple of weeks without him is bad enough. Thank God we had the foresight to put limits on this when we did. I imagine being with him for any longer—for another month. Two. Three. And then having to end it. My heart shrivels.
I was supposed to be engaged to Jeremy, and yet I suspect leaving Ethan Ash would be a million times harder and worse. Strange, given how much I loved Jeremy.
Is it just the sex?
I don’t know, but I do know this is for best. It will still be hard. But it’s right to end it now, before we get too attached. Before we do anything stupid like fall in love.
Nothing good can come of love. One day, when I meet a guy I think I can settle down with, he will be my safe haven, not my storm.
Jeremy was a storm, and Ethan Ash is a cyclone...
THIS IS WORK. This is work.
I remind myself of this fact over and over and over again as I head towards Ethan’s townhouse. I tell myself to stop remembering the way he made love to me all night.
I mean all night. I think I probably got an hour’s sleep all in. We didn’t leave the restaurant until late. That surprised me. I was so full of need for him, and yet staring across at him, hearing his beautiful husky accent as he talked about his childhood, his family, his life, I was mesmerised by the details. I was mesmerised by him.
We were the last guests in the restaurant.
I had a glass of Prosecco when we arrived and nothing else, but I felt drunk as we left. No, not drunk. High. And so happy.
The second we got back to his hotel we were ripping one another’s clothes off.
And I slept over again.
Which makes the trifecta of rule-breaking complete.
But with three days to go—three more days of possible Ethan Ash consumption—I don’t much care. I don’t even care that yet another photo of us was running on the gossip sites this morning.
Nor that two of my clients emailed me to ask about my ‘relationship’ with him.
Nothing can dent my mood. And now I’m here, meeting with Ethan to discuss his art selection, and I’m determined to get through the meeting without doing anything inappropriate. Step one: prove that I can separate sex-life from work-life.
Grayson is waiting out front at Ethan’s place. I see him as soon as my cab pulls up.
‘Hey.’ I smile as I tap up the stairs.
‘Please, call me Ally.’
He nods. ‘Mr Ash is waiting for you.’
Yeah, that’s mutual.
‘It’s cold today, huh?’
His smile is tight. ‘Sure is.’
He pushes the door inwards and I move inside, my desire to befriend Grayson instantly consumed by a greater, stronger need to see Ethan. I stride down the hallway and pause just inside the living area.
What the hell...?
First of all, there’s furniture. And that’s fine. It’s great. It’s a welcome addition, in fact. But Ethan’s interior designer Natasha is also there, smiling at Ethan, nodding as he speaks.
I am mentally removing his clothes, and mine—good intentions be damned—and now we have a lovely third wheel to contend with?
‘Ah, Alicia. Wonderful.’ She clips towards me with an authoritative air, as though this was her idea—as though I’m meeting her, and Ethan being here is just a happy coincidence.
‘Natasha.’ I nod, accepting her air kisses even as my eyes lock accusingly with Ethan’s. His expression shows bemusement.
‘You’ll be thrilled to see my progress. Come—have a look,’ she invites.
I tamp down on my resentment. She’s the designer. She obviously feels a sense of ownership over the project. Her behaviour isn’t untoward. It’s only my expectations—first of being alone with Ethan and second of being given the tour by him, preferably naked and with his hands on my body.