Suddenly, his expression shifted and the mask of stone was back in place.
“Turning down my dinner offer only to show up here signifies that you weren’t honest with me when you said you couldn’t dine with me tonight. I will not ask for your company again. Not until sufficient effort is made on your part.”
What? He thought I had lied and didn’t want to see him for dinner? The need to defend myself gathered, but Adam sounded like I had truly upset him. Like turning down dinner had sincerely bothered him.
He put up his hand, effectively shutting me up.
“No more excuses, Katelyn. The next time you come to me, it had better be with a yes or no answer.”
It was clear what this was now. He had said he wasn’t above working for me. If I wanted more of him, he was going to make me work for it back. It was all or nothing.
“What about the complex?”
He had already turned his back to me and was staring out the window. “Good day, Katelyn.”
I rose to my feet and bit my bottom lip to keep it from trembling. Adrenaline from what had just happened bottomed out. My skin was too tight and my pulse knocked like fists on the inside of my skull.
He was dismissing me.
Folding my arms over my chest, I turned, unlocked the door, and walked out of Adam’s office. I couldn’t look at his secretary. Would she know? Was this a regular thing for Adam? To have girls come up to his office and service him?
I pressed madly at the elevator button. My stomach churned and I focused all my energy to keep from vomiting. This feeling, this god-awful empty feeling, melted over my muscles like black poison. My body was on the far side of the sun, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t reach its warmth. Glancing over my shoulder at Adam’s closed office door, I was already craving that heat again. The boiling need that burned me up from the inside out. He brought it out in me, then stole it away.
I had a decision to make. The answer seemed easy. No.
The bleak, shameful pang of pain that came with Adam’s dismissal was eating away at me. I didn’t know this kind of contrition was possible, but I never wanted to feel this again.
The problem was, I wanted that moment back. The one right before I’d felt cold and bereft. The power and longing he made me feel was heady and…addicting.
And shameful or not, addictions were dangerous.
Saturday rolled around and I had spent most of it helping Grace prepare for that night’s party. She loved to host, especially when it was a more relaxed setting and group of people attending. I, however, was dreading being under the same roof with my uncle. Tim had been working all day, leaving the house to Grace and me, but tonight, I’d be forced into his presence.
I shook my head and turned my thoughts back to where they had been for the last few days. Adam. I craved him. Missed him. Part of me was terrified to call him or reach out. Rejecting a woman was probably something he did on a daily basis. But the more I thought about it, I realized that he hadn’t rejected me.
He wanted an answer. Yes or no. Which meant he wanted me still. He had also made it clear that I had to make the next move. The expression on his face before he dismissed me was chiseled into my memory. He’d looked almost hurt, as though he thought I had made an active choice to blow him off—only to actually blow him later.
It had taken me several days, but I had my answer. It wasn’t a simple yes or no. It came down to what I could handle: the possibility of Adam’s eventual rejection, or never being with him again.
My phone buzzed and I took it out of my back pocket. A voicemail from my mother. It was probably about finding her another apartment. Since I’d found out about Adam buying her complex, I had spent the last few days trying to find her somewhere suitable to live. So far, all the viable options were too expensive.
Grace frowned at me and lifted her chin at my phone. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah. I just need to find Mom another place to live and so far, it’s been a nightmare.”
“Didn’t she tell you? The owners aren’t tearing it down after all. They are actually renovating it and bringing it up to code.”
It felt like a dozen sparklers lit inside my chest. “Really? That’s great.”
Grace looked at me like I had lost my mind, probably because I was grinning like a fool, and went back to making crab cakes.
I walked out of the room and hit Kink in my contacts.
“Hello, Katelyn.” His breezy tone caught me off guard.
“Hi, Adam. I wanted to say thank you.” For some reason, rational thinking didn’t catch up to my mouth when it came to speaking to Adam. Instead, I tended to just blurt things out.
“You’re welcome.” There was a tense silence. He obviously knew what I was referring to. “Is that all?”
“No, I wanted to invite you to a party.” He didn’t say anything. Dread boiled up, but I forced myself to go on. “I know it’s short notice, but it’s a house party tonight at my uncle and aunt’s place.”
“Are you inviting me out of guilt or gratitude?”
“I’m inviting you because I want to see you.”
“Well, it depends—do you want to walk into a house of drunk people or super drunk people?”
“I want to walk into a house with you.”
My heart sped up a little bit. “Well, I’m already here. I’ve been helping set up. Most people are showing up around nine.”
“Text me the address.”
“Oh, okay.” I tried to hide the surprise and ridiculously happy tone in my voice but it was useless. “See you tonight.”
“Yes, you will.”
My aunt and uncle lived on a few acres on the outskirts of Chicago, just far enough away that the skyscrapers were no longer visible. The open air and space were beautiful.
I double-checked my reflection in the bathroom mirror.
My hair was loose and thanks to a lot of product, it looked sleek and shinny. The ends brushed my lower back and I reminded myself that I needed to get it trimmed. The black dress I wore was one of the only designer things I owned. Grace had given it to me two years ago saying that it didn’t fit her anymore. I was happy to take it off her hands. It was short and tight, but classy. My stilettos matched my hair and added a touch of color. After an application of cherry lipstick and some mascara, I took a deep breath and readied myself for the crowd downstairs.
That familiar sickness rose at the thought that I’d have to interact with Tim, no matter how briefly. But tonight would be different. Because Adam was coming. Just that fact made everything else seem easier. Calmer.