“Yeah, me too.” I hung up.
I texted Ethan a quick thank-you message, asking him if he wanted to grab coffee. It was the least I could do after his sweet gesture. His reply was immediate.
Ethan: I would very much like that.
I smoothed a blank page over my drawing board, blinking at it with a smile when I thought about my Dream Wedding Dress assignment. There was nothing that excited me more than a blank page. The possibilities were endless. It could be amazing or mediocre or bad or a masterpiece. The fate of the dress that was about to grace the page was yet to be written. It was my job to write its story.
“What am I going to do with you?” I whispered, tapping my charcoal pencil on my lips, grinning at the page.
“I’m thinking a good meal, followed by first base in the cab, followed by eating you out in the elevator up to my penthouse—sorry, I won’t be able to resist—followed by a fuck-fest that would make Jenna Jameson blush.”
I gasped, turning around to see where the voice came from. I recognized the deadpan, wry tone on impact. My knees buckled, but this time I didn’t fall off my chair.
“You cannot sa—”
“Not your boss,” he pointed out before I finished my sentence.
“Just because I don’t work for you doesn’t mean you’re not sexually harassing me.”
“Am I sexually harassing you?” He slanted his head sideways, cocking an eyebrow.
My face must’ve conveyed my answer, because he let out a deep, rumbling chuckle.
“What are you doing here?” I scowled at Chase. He matched his black suit with a burgundy tie, hand tucked in his pocket, his Rolex poking out. He was the closest thing to corporate porn I’d ever seen in my life.
“Seeking you out,” he said unapologetically, glancing at the three vases full of flowers by my desk. “One vase you keep because of your mom,” he said, making my heart jolt in surprise. He remembered? “Who sent you the other two?”
“Someone I sent a wedding dress to.”
“His are the lilies, right?” He approached the flowers, tugging at a petal. I flinched. “Nice choice. Is he mourning the premature end of your relationship?”
“The relationship with Ethan is not dead.”
He threw his head back, laughing carelessly. “Put him out of his misery, Mad. It’s game over for Dr. Seuss. A bunch of flowers aren’t going to change that.”
“A bunch of flowers change everything”—I slapped his hand away, protecting the flowers—“to a florist’s daughter.”
He cocked his head, looking at me funny now. I didn’t like his look. It was the look of a man with a plan, and I didn’t think Chase’s plans and mine were aligned.
“Is that so?” A glint of mischief flickered in his eyes.
I looked away as if hit by his beauty. I hated the giddiness that seeped its way into my gut every time his eyes were on me.
“Come with me.” He opened his palm. I didn’t take it.
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s not a request.”
“It’s also not the seventeenth century. You can’t order me around.”
“That’s true, but I can make a scene that would make you wish you’ve never met me.”
“I already wish that,” I quipped, lying.
“You’re wasting everyone’s time. Ethan’s, particularly. Martyr Maddie wants to have babies with Ethan. But the real you wants to take the plunge, drown with me. Come on.”
It was pointless to argue with him. Moreover, I couldn’t concentrate on creating the Dream Wedding Dress—DWD for short—when the mystery of what Chase wanted to show me hung above my head. It was disconcerting to think he had a sixth sense of when Ethan was making a move and had chosen the exact same day and hour to show up. I followed Chase to the elevator, dodging the curious looks of people around me. Sven had his back to us. He was tucked inside his glass office, talking on the phone animatedly with a fabric provider who had screwed up one of his orders. But Nina was there, poised elegantly in her seat, watching us while filing her nails. There were at least a dozen colleagues—designers, seamstresses, and interns—who eyed us curiously as we made our way out of the studio. Luckily, other than Nina, I considered most of them friends and knew they liked me enough not to think the worst of me. Still.
“People are going to talk,” I complained under my breath.
“As long as you are the subject and not the one doing the talking, I cannot see how this is an issue.”
We entered the elevator. “I’m not like you. I’m not untouchable.”
“Madison Goldbloom, I wish you were touchable to me,” he said earnestly as the elevator doors slid shut on us in slow motion. “I wish that very, very much.”
I took her to the biggest flower shop in New York City. A Midtown florist by the Empire State Building.
Mad dragged her feet and scowled the entire time like a pouty teenager, throwing looks over her shoulder to make sure we weren’t seen together. Most women I knew would pay good money to be seen with me. Not this one. Having her around felt liberating. Like taking a vacation from the chaos in my head. True, I was never going to offer her marriage, but I could still offer her a hell of a good time. This time, I was serious about making her mine.
Hell, she could even reclaim her girlfriend title.
Bonus points: I’d get to keep Julian off my fucking case.
The plan was bulletproof.
We passed the florist’s display window. Bouquets of colorful flowers and a sign that said LOVE IS A BIG DEAL stared back at us. No wonder she was so obsessed with marriage and love—her parents had crammed it down her throat since the day she was born. I pushed the door open, waiting for her to walk in. Once inside, Madison turned to me, crossing her arms over her chest. She wore a yellow chick-patterned dress with a darling collar and a black velvet necktie and a youthful blush. Which, unfortunately, made me look like her perverted older uncle.
“What now? You’re going to buy me all the roses in the shop and proclaim your undying love for me?” She rolled her eyes.
“Not quite. I’m buying Ethan flowers.”