Maddie: IT. WAS. JUST. A. HUG!
I felt like Ross yelling at Rachel, “WE WERE ON A BREAK.”
Maddie: Wait, why am I defending myself to you?
Chase: Because I’m your fiancé.
Maddie: FAKE FIANCÉ.
Chase: Tell that to the real engagement photo shoot my mother had scheduled for us next week. I’ll email you the details in a bit.
“Gawwwd,” Nina drawled behind me at the top of her voice. “You even type messages loudly. Do you realize you whisper everything you write? You’re so basic.”
I dropped my pencil, before storming to the elevators. I slipped into a closing one, kicking my leg inside to pry the doors open, then hit the button leading to the top floor—Black & Co.’s management. I’d never set foot in there before, and the prospect of storming in raising hell was less than appealing. But I couldn’t take it anymore. It was obvious Chase was breaking all the rules in our agreement. I tapped my foot throughout the entire ride, imagining all the ways I was going to kill Chase when I finally got to him. Knife. Gun. Arson. The possibilities were endless, really.
The elevator dinged open. I purged myself out of it, advancing straight to the biggest fishbowl office on instinct.
“Do you have a pass?”
Stuttering receptionists and flustered secretaries were on my heels, stumbling behind me on their sensible wedges. A sleepy herd of suited men watched from the sidelines of the office, holding stacks of papers and files. I slapped the glass door to Chase’s office open with my palm.
Bastard didn’t even look up from the documents he was reading. Just turned a page very slowly, making a show of frowning at whatever he was reading. I took it as an invitation to walk right in. Two receptionists popped up behind my shoulders.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Black; she just burst in—”
“—didn’t even see her name tag! Security’s on the way.”
“It’s fine.” He cut them off in a way that implied it wasn’t fine. “Leave.”
The two of them shared a confused look, then bowed their heads in unison and scurried out of his office. Chase finally looked up from his documents. He looked shockingly composed for someone who’d just gotten called out in the middle of his office.
“Miss Goldbloom, how may I be of help?”
I slammed the glass door behind me, refusing to take in the thrilling richness of his work environment. The chrome desk, huge Apple screen, floor-to-ceiling window overlooking Manhattan, and gray-and-white furniture.
“I—” I started, but he stopped me, lifting his palm up, then opened a drawer in his desk and retrieved a remote control he used to close the black shades in his office automatically. I blinked. Now we were alone and completely hidden from the world. His colleagues could see nothing, and I could only guess what they were thinking.
Office sex. Lord, I hated him and his games.
“You were saying?” He sat back, amusement flashing in his eyes. That was a good question. What was I saying? I shook my head.
“You’re taking advantage of the goodness of my heart. I told you we were done after that dinner. You have no business kissing me or agreeing to photo shoots with me.”
“I’ll walk Daisy every day.”
“Until when?” I scoffed.
“Until my dad dies,” he replied flatly.
I tried not to let the weight of his sentence sink into me but felt my shoulders slumping nonetheless. “Chase,” I said softly. “We both want him to live as much as he can. It’s not fair on both of us.”
“The hell with what we want—he has a couple months, at best,” he growled, looking away from me. “Less, probably.”
“This is not sustainable.” My voice was so quiet it sounded more like a breath.
“We don’t need to be sustainable. We’re not fucking plastic bags.”
“I would rather wrap one around my head than play house with you,” I muttered, immediately regretting my words. He was hurting. His entire being bled this fact. The way he talked about his dad, had looked at him from across the table over dinner.
Chase rose from his seat, smirking darkly at me. “You’re a terrible liar.”
“I’m not lying.”
“When you told Katie our breakup story, you had tears in your eyes. You’re not over me.” He leaned forward across his desk, only a breath away from putting his lips on mine. “However, contrary to your predictions, you will be under me.”
I felt my lower lip wobbling and crossed my arms over my chest. I wanted to get out of here. I wasn’t even entirely sure what had made me come to his office in the first place. Chase rounded his desk, every inch of him the cool businessman I loved to hate.
“Madison.” My name was a command.
I jutted my chin out defiantly as he leaned against his desk, ankles crossed, hands shoved inside his pockets. “I would like to restart our fake relationship,” he said.
“Too bad it’s not a Windows PC.”
“If it were, I’d reformat it completely and backdate it to seven months ago,” he surprised me by saying. A waft of his scent made its way into my system. Pine and wood and male and richness that couldn’t be bought. He was the sun. Beautiful and blinding and capable of burning you alive. And I was a mere star in his constellation. Small and insignificant, utterly indistinguishable to the naked eye.
“You screwed up long before I caught you with her.”
But even as I said it, I knew it wasn’t the truth. Not entirely, anyway.
I’d been a watered-down version of myself to appease him, forever a martyr.
And he was an egomaniacal, self-centered playboy who’d regarded me carelessly and never bothered to get to know me. But the thing was . . . the old Maddie had let him treat her this way. The person I was now, however, wasn’t having it. Not at all.
My eyes dipped from his gaze to his mouth, determined not to show him what was behind my pupils. I wondered why he couldn’t show me a fraction of the sympathy I showed him and leave me alone. The very existence of him was tearing me apart.
“Madison,” he croaked.
His fingers fanned across the side of my neck, his gaze holding mine, penetrating the thin wall of determination I’d put between us. I wanted to die. Die because Chase touching my neck felt more sexually maddening than being fully kissed and groped by Ethan.