“We’ve all been invited to a party by another of the wealthy set. One that I believe is interested in cultivating new business interests?”
Cristoff’s eyes fell onto Phillip, and I felt him straighten up. I looked over at him and watched his eyes finally come to life. There it was—the man I hadn’t gotten a glimpse of yet. For the workaholic he was, he really did take pride and joy in what he did. The way his entire demeanor changed on a dime was something I took in with great care, because I wasn’t sure if I’d get to see it again.
“Then, I believe this is where I come in,” Phillip said.
“I know that we’ve been putting off talking, and I’m glad you indulged me for a little while. Part of me felt your beautiful fiancée deserved a nice couple of days here in the city of romance before you and I got to talking shop,” Cristoff said.
“She deserves a great deal more than what I can give her on occasion,” Phillip said.
I studied his profile intensely. The tone of his voice suggested something I wasn’t willing to admit to myself for fear that maybe I had misread the sound of the situation.
“Trust me, Phillip. The first thing you will come to understand as a husband is that there is nothing we can ever truly do to repay the women in our world,” Cristoff said.
And for the first time all day, Phillip’s eyes glanced over at me.
He seemed to be a little disappointed with himself, even though the conversation turned to work. The two men at the table started talking about things I didn’t understand: GPS systems and military installments and war ships and the like. And even though he had a smile on his face, his posture didn’t seem as bright as it had the first time “business” had been mentioned.
Was I seeing things? Was he really disappointed?
Could our time together have affected him like it had me?
I sat there and sipped on my wine, knowing my place in all this. I was done schmoozing Cristoff and his round stomach, and now it was time for Phillip to step in and take the lead. Which gave me time to study him and think. Despite the mistake I felt it was sleeping with him, I really did enjoy our time together. That dinner. The way I unleashed on him the way I did and the way his eyes seemed to twinkle at my fervent emotion. The way he told me not to apologize, where most men would have expected one.
I wondered what a future with Phillip would look like.
It was obvious that disappointment was on the horizon for me. I was enjoying my time a little too much at his side, which meant it would be hard to walk away from him in a few days. My gaze volleyed between him and Cristoff as their conversation morphed. They went from talking about GPS to talking about software, coding, programs, and smoothing “bugs” over. I didn’t understand much of it. I got the gist of what they were talking about, but the second Phillip launched into technical phrases, he lost me.
Which tossed me back into my thoughts.
Could I hope for something with Phillip? The more the conversation went on, the more relaxed he became. His hand slid over to my leg. His finger stroked the fabric of my dress. He was opening up again, and part of me allowed myself to think that maybe he wasn’t acting, with the way his thumb stroked my skin, his hand comfortably splayed out over my knee. It was comforting, his touch.
Was it possible that Phillip might feel the same way I do? Or should I have known better than that? So much in my life had gone so wrong over the years, the universe would have to address a rebalancing of sorts, right?
My eyes danced along the profile of Phillip’s face, and he turned to me, tossing me a smile that lit up his eyes.
And my heart fluttered in my chest when he met that smile with a squeeze of my knee.
I stood in my room at the penthouse suite and tightened my bow tie around my neck. Black-tie attire for a formal dinner party was a must, which meant Elizabeth needed a cocktail dress. I sent her out shopping after we got back from Cristoff’s countryside estate so I wouldn’t have to be cooped up in the room with her. Even though the penthouse was sprawling, it would still feel cramped with her perfume and her scent trailing throughout the rooms.
The only thing I could think about the entire car ride back was how I’d get my own bed again. How I wouldn’t have to sleep next to her and be teased by her warm body all night. But once I began getting ready for the party, all I could think about was how much I would miss being closer to her. I smoothed my hands over my black tuxedo and bit down on the inside of my cheek. I needed to nip this shit in the bud. This dinner party was going to be very important. Not simply to snag Cristoff’s contract, but to possibly make another business connection going forward. That kind of thing was invaluable in my line of work, and I had to be at my peak performance.