258,724
07.03.2019

Kate rips the flower out of her hair and drops it on the floor. Then she shoves past me toward the elevator and gets in.

And the Three Man Band crowds in around her. Still playing.

She looks horrified, doesn’t she? As the doors close, I almost feel bad.

Almost.

I take the next elevator up to the fortieth. By then, the sounds of “Angel” by Aerosmith fill the air. Apparently, Kate has barred the Three Man Band from her office. So they’re stationed outside her closed door.

I stop at Erin’s desk. She hands me my coffee.

“Good song.”

“Thanks. Everything set?”

“Locked and loaded, boss.” Then she snaps her fingers. “Oh, and I brought this for you.” She hands me a medium-sized box filled with DVDs. Laying on top are Gone with the Wind, Say Anything, Beauty and the Beast, Casablanca, Titanic, and…The Notebook.

“What’s this?”

“Research. For you. I figured you might need it.”

I smile. “What would I do without you, Erin?”

“Spend the rest of your life miserable and alone?”

She’s not far off the mark.

“Give yourself another week’s vacation, okay?”

I take my box of goodies into my office and prepare for phase two.

Flowers. Lots of women say they don’t want them. But every woman is happy when they get them.

Which is why I’ve arranged to have them delivered to Kate’s office, every hour on the hour. Seven dozen at a time. That’s one dozen for every day we were apart.

Romantic, right? I thought so too.

And although I know Kate’s favorite are white daisies, I specifically told the florist to avoid them. Instead, I’ve chosen exotics—bouquets with brightly colored petals and strange shapes. The kinds of flowers Kate has probably never seen in her life, from places she’s never been.

Places I want to take her to.

At first I kept the notes simple and generic. Take a look:

Kate,

I’m sorry.

Drew

Kate,

Let me make it up to you.

Drew

Kate,

I miss you. Please forgive me.

Drew.

But after a few hours I figured I needed to step it up a notch. Get more creative. What do you think?

Kate,

You’re turning me into a stalker.

Drew

Kate,

Go out with me on Saturday and I’ll give you all of my clients.

Every. Single. One.

Drew

Kate,

If I throw myself in front of a bus,

will you come visit me at the hospital?

Drew

PS – Try not to feel too guilty if I don’t survive. Really.

That last batch was delivered forty-five minutes ago. Now I’m just sitting at my desk, waiting. Waiting for what, you ask? You’ll see. Kate may be stubborn, but she’s not made of stone.

My office door slams open, leaving a dent in the drywall.

Here we go.

“You are driving me crazy!”

Her cheeks are flushed, her breathing’s fast, and she’s got murder in her eyes.

Beautiful.

I raise my brows hopefully. “Crazy? Like you want to rip my shirt open again?”

“No. Crazy like the itch of a yeast infection that just won’t go away.”

I flinch. Can’t help it.

I mean—Christ.

Kate steps toward my desk. “I am trying to work. I need to focus. And you’ve got Manny, Moe, and Jack playing every cheesy eighties song ever written outside my office door!”

“Cheesy? Really? Huh. I so had you pegged for an eighties kind of girl.”

Well, you live and learn.

“I’m serious, Drew. This is a place of business; I can’t be the only one this noise is bothering.”

Good. We’re back to Drew. Progress.

And as far as disturbing the rest of the staff? I thought of that. I spoke with most of the people on this floor and gave them a heads-up about the entertainment for the day. They didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m serious too, Kate. You shouldn’t be working. You should be listening. I chose this playlist myself. It’s my grand gesture. To show you how I feel.”

“I don’t give a shit about how you feel!”

“Well, that’s harsh.”

She crosses her arms, and her foot taps on the floor.

“You know, I didn’t want to do this, but you’ve left me no choice. You’re obviously too immature to handle this like an adult. So…I’m going to tell your father.”

Right.

She’s the one who’s going to tell Daddy on me, but I’m being immature.

Of course.

And I thought of that already too. “My father’s in California for the next two weeks. I’m not overly concerned about what he might do to me via telephone.” She opens her mouth to try again, but I continue. “You could try talking to Frank. But he’s in the Hamptons, at that year-round golf course Trump just opened. George is in his office.” She turns, but my next words make her pause. “I should warn you, though…he’s got a real soft spot for romantics. I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you. And he’s my godfather.”

She stares at me a minute. She’s trying to think of a comeback. I’m just glad I cleared all the heavy objects off my desk.

You know, the ones she probably wants to chuck at my head right about now.

“You can’t do this. This is sexual harassment.”

I stand up and lean across my desk. “Sue me.”

Her mouth opens to spew what I’m sure will be a tirade of volcanic proportions. But I cut her off. And my voice is calm. Rational.

“Or, you can save yourself the trouble and just go out with me on Saturday. One date. One night, and all this goes away. After that, if you still don’t want to have anything to do with me, I’ll leave you alone. Scout’s honor.”

Technically, this isn’t a lie. We’ve already established Boy Scouting was not my thing. Loopholes, remember?

Her face contorts into a mask of disgust. “Absolutely not. I won’t be blackmailed into going out with you.”

I sit back down. “That is the strong choice. The feminist, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar decision. I’m proud of you, Kate.”

Her eyes narrow suspiciously.

Smart girl.

“Plus, I can’t wait for you to see what I have planned for tomorrow. I wouldn’t schedule any meetings, though. Might be too loud.”

Her voice rises with every word. Like thunder from a storm that’s moving closer. “You are a manipulative, childish, vindictive bastard!”

“I’m not trying to be.”

She makes her way around my desk, and I stand up to meet her.

“A selfish, self-centered, egotistical son of a bitch!”

“I know.”

She hits me on the chest with both fists.

Whack.

“I wish I’d never seen you at that stupid club!”

Whack.

“I wish I never got this job!”

Whack.

“I wish I never met you!”

I grip her wrists and pull her close.

Now here’s when we usually start kissing.

Were you looking forward to that part? Sorry. Not gonna happen. Because this isn’t just about me and my raging hard-on. Not anymore. And I have to prove that to Kate.

So I hold back. But don’t think it’s easy, ’cause it’s not. There’s nothing I want more than to mold my mouth to hers and remind her of how good it was between us. How good it can still be.

I lean in and rest my forehead against hers. She closes her eyes. I brush my nose against hers and inhale, needing a fix. She smells even better than I remember. Like warm cookies in the Garden of f**king Eden.

And then I whisper, “I’m sorry I hurt you. I didn’t mean any of it. Not a single goddamn word. Please believe that.”

Kate opens her eyes. There’s surprise in those brown beauties. And fear, like a deer that just caught a hunter’s scent. Because she wants to believe me. And she knows I know that.

Then she blinks. And her eyes go hard. It’s difficult to tell if she’s more pissed at me or herself.

Probably me.

She shoves my chest, and I fall back into my chair.

“Fuck you!”

She stalks back around my desk toward the door.

“Here? Now?” I look up at the ceiling, like I’m debating the prospect. “Well…okay. But be gentle. My couch is a virgin.”

I loosen my tie and start to unbutton my shirt.

She stutters. Then she points her finger at me and practically growls.

Yeah—it’s f**king hot.

“Ugh!” Then she walks out of my office. She stops in front of the Three Man Band, who’ve been waiting outside. “And don’t follow me!”

As she disappears down the hall, the lead singer looks at me.

I nod.

And they follow in Kate’s footsteps, belting out “Heat of the Moment” by Asia.

Hey—what’s wrong? You look worried. Don’t be. I know what I’m doing. It’s all part of the plan.

Chapter 22

I BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS, but lots of guys have a thing for Ariel. You know, from The Little Mermaid? I’ve never been into her myself, but I can understand the attraction: she fills out her shells nicely, she’s a redhead, and she spends most of the movie unable to speak.

In light of this, I’m not too disturbed about the semi I’m sporting while watching Beauty and the Beast—part of the homework Erin gave me. I like Belle. She’s hot. Well…for a cartoon, anyway. She reminds me of Kate. She’s resourceful. Smart. And she doesn’t take any shit from the Beast or that douchebag with the freakishly large arms.

I stare at the television as Belle bends over to feed a bird. Then I lean forward, hoping for a nice cl**vage shot…

I’m going to hell, aren’t I?

I can’t help it. I’m desperate. Frustrated.

Horny.

I said I’d get to this later, remember? Well, it’s later. I feel like a shaken can of soda that’s about to explode. I know my previous record is twelve days—but this is different.

Worse.

I’ve gone cold turkey. Completely. I haven’t even jerked off. Not once. In nine frigging days. I think the buildup of sem*n is starting to affect my brain. Like sugar to a diabetic.

Why haven’t I used the hand God gave me, you ask?

It’s a new rule. My own self-imposed penance for my stupidity. I refuse to come until Kate comes with me. Seemed like a good idea yesterday. But after seeing her today, I’m pretty sure the wait is going to kill me.

Don’t roll your eyes.

You don’t understand. Unless you’re a guy, you can’t. You have no idea how important regular sexual gratification is for us. It’s crucial. Vital.

I’ll explain.

In 2004, UCLA conducted a survey to determine how highly women valued getting off in relation to other daily activities. You know what they found? Eight in ten—that’s eighty percent—said if given the choice between sex or sleep, they would choose sleep.

In that same year, NYU conducted its own study. With rats. They implanted electrodes in the brains of male rats and put two buttons in their cages. When the lucky little bastards pushed the blue button, the electrodes triggered an orgasm. When they pushed a red button, they were given food.

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