Nate dived back into the cool water and swam—determined not to go to Roisin until he could get the painful emotions threatening to overwhelm him under control.
At least the exercise took the edge off the desire still pounding through his body.
But as he swam, the questions began to pile up. Why hadn’t she demanded anything? Why hadn’t she told him the price he would be forced to pay? And instead of calculation, why had he seen only panic and regret and the longing that matched his own?
And why couldn’t he stop recalling all the ways over the last few weeks she had captivated him, all the things which had drawn him to her, other than the sex?
He flipped into a turn and ploughed on. His muscles flexed and burned, the exercise energizing him but also clearing away the anger, the defensiveness, the panic, until all that was left was the connection he’d been so determined not to acknowledge.
He’d seen the lie in her eyes when she’d said she was using contraceptives. She was so damn transparent it had been impossible to miss. But again, why hadn’t she used that against him? And why didn’t the thought of an unplanned pregnancy scare the crap out of him the way it should? In truth, it only made the need pulse in his chest all the more as he ate up the laps. The image of Roisin heavy with his child so erotic, and so right, he could hardly bear it.
The sun had started to burn his shoulders as he levered himself out of the pool. Grabbing a towel, he headed down into the penthouse.
He had to talk to her, to work it all out.
He frowned after searching his rooms. Where was she? After taking a lightning-fast shower, he dressed in sweats and jogged down to the living area, ignoring the flicker of panic.
Chill out. She’s probably just cooking lunch.
But the delicious scents he’d become accustomed to were replaced by the clinical aroma of air freshener, the empty kitchen transformed back into the alienating space it had been before she arrived.
The panic in his gut tightened around his ribs.
He arrived at the door leading out of the apartment and down the emergency stairs. A door he hadn’t been able to walk through for six months. The familiar fear made his pulse accelerate, but he shoved open the heavy metal door, the fear of losing Roisin so much worse.
He stepped into the empty stairwell, gathered a fortifying breath of the stale air into his lungs, and jogged down the concrete stairs to the hallway below. She had an apartment on this floor. It had to be the same apartment his housekeeper had once inhabited. He banged on the door.
“Roisin, it’s Nate. Let me in, damn it.”
No answer. The panic gripping his ribs turned to anger. Why had she run?
A doorman appeared in the hallway. “Mr. King?” he said, looking confused—no doubt because, like most of Nate’s employees, he hadn’t seen his boss in the flesh for six months. “Is everything okay?”
“No, it’s not,” he said. “Do you know which of these apartments is Roisin Fitzgerald’s?” Perhaps he’d been banging on the wrong door.
“The one you’re in front of,” the man said. “She left about a half hour ago, sir,” the doorman added, dashing his last hope. “She asked me to give you this note.” He lifted an envelope out of his pocket.
Nate snatched the letter and ripped it open. Then scanned the contents. His stomach twisted, and the clutching pain returned.
You asked me why? Mr. Charles promised me a $5000 bonus to become your friend—which seemed more than worth the cost of my virginity.
The letter dropped to the carpet. He looked blankly at the man in front of him as the darkness closed in on him again.
She’d screwed him, both literally and figuratively, gotten him to fall for her when she’d only ever been after his money.
He couldn’t go back to the penthouse, where all the memories of her lurked. The place which had once been his sanctuary would be a prison without Roisin there to share it with him. Damn her.
But he would get over her. And eventually, he would be grateful she had never been the brave, generous, captivating, artless woman he’d believed her to be.
He’d direct Brett to pay her every cent of the money too. As long as his COO promised never to mention her again. The searing bitterness went some way to disguise the agonizing pain in his chest.
After all, she’d earned it… For helping him get over his sex drought. And breaking him out of his dumb, self-imposed isolation.
And five grand was a small price to pay to have his wall back where it belonged. Protecting him from feeling anything, for anyone, ever again.
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