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07.03.2019

Plus, you know that saying “Mother knows best”? Yes, it’s annoying. But is it accurate? Abso-f**king-lutely. I’ve never known my mother to be wrong. About anything. So at this moment, her opinion is my most valuable resource. I know what I think I should do to fix things with Kate, but I want confirmation that it’s actually the right thing to do. This is new territory for me. And I can’t afford to screw it up.

Again.

My mother starts talking about chicken soup and cold compresses. But I cut her off.

“Mom—I haven’t been sick. Not like you think, anyway.”

With a sigh, I dive into the whole sordid tale. The abridged, G-rated version.

Sort of feels like confession.

After I describe the morning in my office where I screwed the pooch with Kate—okay, you’re right, where I pretty much f**ked the whole kennel—my mother lets loose a sorrowful “Oh, Drew.”

My stomach flips with regret and disappointment. What I wouldn’t give for a time machine.

I finish the story of my downfall and go on to explain my plans to unfuck myself tomorrow. After I’m done, she’s quiet for a few seconds. And then she does the last thing I’d expect my polite, reserved mother to do.

She laughs. “You’re so much like your father. Sometimes I wonder if you got any of my DNA at all.”

I’ve never really seen any similarities between my dad and me. Except our love of business—our drive to succeed. We’ve always been evenly matched in that respect. Otherwise, my father’s as straight-laced as they come. A dedicated, loyal family man through and through. Pretty much the opposite of me in every way.

“I am?”

She’s still chuckling. “One day I’ll tell you how your dad and I really ended up together at Columbia. And I’ll include all the dirty little details he never wanted you to know.”

If that story involves sex in any way, I don’t want to hear it.

Ever.

As far as I’m concerned, my parents have had sex two times in their entire lives. Once for Alexandra and once for me. That’s it. On some level I realize I’m deluding myself, but this is one topic where I prefer to live in denial.

“As for you and Kate, I imagine she’ll be quite…impressed with what you have planned. Eventually. At first, I’m guessing she’ll be livid. You should be prepared for that, Drew.”

I’m kind of counting on it. Remember that fine line Matthew talked about?

“I have to ask you though, dear—are you sure? Are you absolutely positive that Kate Brooks is the young lady for you? Not just as a lover but as a friend, a companion, a partner? You need to be certain, Drew. It’s wrong to toy with someone’s feelings; you don’t need me to tell you that.”

There’s reproach in her voice now—the same tone she used when I was eight and got caught reading Alexandra’s diary.

“I’m a hundred percent sure. It’s Kate or…nothing.”

I’m still shocked by how true this is. And, frankly, scared shitless.

I mean, even before I nailed Kate, my interest in f**king any other woman had started to fade. Drastically. And it wasn’t really because they were a bad lay. It was because they weren’t Kate. If, by some catastrophe, Kate won’t take me back, I might as well shave my head and move to frigging Tibet.

I hear the monks are hiring.

“Well then, here’s my advice: Be relentless. Unyielding. Absolutely persistent in your pursuit. If your confidence wavers at all, Kate will take that as a sign that your affection may waver as well. You’ve already given her several reasons not to believe in you; don’t let your insecurities give her more. Be sweet, Drew. Be honest. Act like the man I raised you to be. The man I know you are.”

I smile. And just like that, I know—without question—that somehow, some way, I’ll make this right.

“Thanks, Mom.”

As I’m about to say goodbye, she adds, “And for goodness’ sake, as soon as you clear up this situation, I want both of you over at the house for dinner. I want to meet the woman who’s got my son wrapped around her finger. She must be extraordinary.”

A hundred snapshots of Kate jump into my head at once…

Kate at her desk, glasses on. All brilliance and determination. A force to be reckoned with.

Kate laughing at one of my inappropriate comments. Introducing Matthew to Dee-Dee. Helping Steven out of a jam.

Kate in my arms—so f**king passionate and giving. Trusting and open. Her below me, above me, around me, matching me move for move, moan for moan.

I smile wider.

“She is, Mom. She really is.”

Time for a history lesson, kids.

Back in the olden days, when two clans were at war, they would send their noblemen onto the field before a battle to try and negotiate a nonviolent resolution. If the lords could figure out a compromise, then there wouldn’t be a fight. But if they couldn’t reach an agreement—it was on.

And I’m talking old-school battle axes, flaming arrows, cannonballs-that-will-take-your-legs-off-at-the-knee kind of on.

Yes, this was a scene in Braveheart. But it’s still historically accurate.

My point is, for every goal, there’s two ways of reaching it: the hard way and the easy way. The men back then understood that. And so do I. Which is why I’m standing outside my office building waiting to catch Kate before she walks through the door. To extend the olive branch. To work out a peaceful solution.

We’ll call this my “easy way.”

And here she comes. See her down the block? Apparently, I’m not the only one who came to work today ready for war. Kate definitely has her armor on.

She’s wearing a black pantsuit and heels so high she’ll be eye level with me. Her hair is twisted into a tight bun with just a few wisps caressing her face. Her chin’s raised, her eyes are hard, and she’s walking with fierce, purposeful strides.

Fucking magnificent.

My heartbeat speeds up, and my c*ck rises to half-mast, but I ignore it. True, it’s been a freaking millennia since I’ve gotten any, but I’ll get into that later. Right now, my focus is completely on Kate and my next move.

I push off from the building and meet her halfway.

“Hi, Kate. You’re looking especially edible this morning.”

I smile and hold out a purple lavender flower. She doesn’t take it. Instead, she brushes past me without a word.

I backtrack so I’m still in front of her. “Morning, Kate.”

She tries to go around me, but I block her in. And I smirk.

Can’t help it.

“What? You’re not speaking to me? You really think that’s feasible considering we work together?”

Her voice is flat and rehearsed, like a robot. “Of course not, Mr. Evans. If you have business to discuss with me, I’d be happy to converse with you. But if it’s not regarding work, then I’d really prefer—”

“Mr. Evans?” I don’t think so. “Is this like a kinky role-play thing? I’m the bad boss and you’re the sexy secretary?”

Her jaw clenches, and her hand tightens on her briefcase.

“Or you can be the boss, if you like. And I could be the submissive assistant who needs punishing. I could definitely get into the dominatrix thing.”

She makes a disgusted sound.

And walks away.

I easily catch up to her. “No, wait, Kate. I’m kidding. It was a joke. Please wait. I really do need to talk to you.”

Her voice is sharp—annoyed. “What do you want?”

I smile and hold out the flower again. “Have dinner with me on Saturday.”

Her brow wrinkles. “Are you taking some kind of medication that I’m not aware of?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Did I not make myself clear last night? Why would you think I would ever consider going out with you again?”

I shrug. “I was hoping you’d be in a better mood this morning. That maybe after a good night’s sleep you’d realize that you still…like me.”

She snorts. “Don’t hold your breath.”

She takes a step. Then stops and turns back to me.

“No, on second thought—do.”

I keep pace beside her as she continues toward the building. I’ve got two minutes here, maybe less. I talk fast.

“Seriously, Kate, I’ve been thinking—”

“Will wonders never cease.”

Was she always this much of a smartass?

“I want to start over. Do things right this time. I want to take you out. Tell you all the things I should have said before. About how amazing I think you are. How important you are to me. Oh, and I’m never going to lie to you again.”

Ever.

I mean it.

Ten years from now, if Kate asks me if a certain pair of jeans makes her ass look fat—and they do? I’m going to take my life in my hands and say yes.

I swear.

She looks straight ahead as she answers, “Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. Being made to feel stupid and used really isn’t high on my to-do list this week. Been there, done that. Not looking for a repeat.”

I grasp her elbow gently and turn her toward me. I try to catch her eyes, but she refuses to meet mine. My voice is low. And sincere.

“Kate…I panicked. I got scared, and I screwed up. It’ll never happen again. I learn from my mistakes.”

“What a coincidence.” She looks me up and down meaningfully. “So do I.”

Then she walks away. And I blow out a big breath.

Okay.

Hard way it is.

Why am I not surprised?

Chapter 21

WHEN KATE OPENS THE DOOR to the building, I’m right behind her. As soon as she crosses the threshold, the music starts.

And she stops dead in her tracks.

They’re called the Three Man Band. They’re traveling musicians. Literally. The lead singer’s got a guitar hanging from a strap across his shoulders and a microphone attached to his chest. The drummer has a six-piece set harnessed in front—like a kid in a marching band, but much cooler. The last guy has a combination base guitar and keyboard sitting on a platform at his waist.

It’s really not as corny as it sounds. They’re good. Like one of those cover bands that play down the Jersey shore in the summer. And they’re playing “Caught up in You” by .38 Special.

Kate hisses at me through her teeth, “What the hell is this?”

I shrug. “Well, I don’t know how to play the guitar. And I can’t sing. So…”

I know what you’re thinking. Music, Drew? That’s the big plan? Didn’t Billy already try that? Yes, Warren tried this strategy and failed. But this will be different.

Better.

Longer.

The Three Man Band is mobile. Which means they can—and will—follow Kate all day. Serenading her with not just one but dozens of carefully chosen songs. And no—this isn’t the whole plan. This is just the first step. There’s more.

“I hate you.”

No she doesn’t.

I slide my unclaimed flower behind her ear. “Listen to the words, Kate.”

The singer croons about a man on his knees, who’s so in love he wants to change, to be better—more. For her.

❮❯