Lucas slipped into his father’s study to make the call and smiled when he heard Emma’s voice on the line.
“Hey, Em,” he said, feeling more nervous than he’d been the first time he’d asked a girl out in the seventh grade.
By the time Emma made it to the office on Monday, she was able to go for more than two minutes without thinking about Lucas and getting mad all over again. There was no doubt in her mind that he had driven all the way back to the mountains yesterday and that there was no chance of her running into him at the office.
By noon she had pretty much snapped at everyone who worked in the building and when poor, unsuspecting Rose asked her if she wanted her to bring back lunch, Emma turned on her too. “No, Rose, I do not want you to bring back lunch for me. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself!”
Then she felt like crap because Rose merely nodded and walked away with her head down, a suspicious sniffle coming from her as she left the office.
“Emma? May I speak with you?”
Great, just what she needed, her boss calling her into the office. “Sure,” she sighed and followed William into his office. Emma didn’t wait for him to ask her to take a seat; she sat down where she always did and looked at him defiantly.
William arched an eyebrow at Emma. “Is everything okay, Emma? You seem a little on edge today.”
That was the understatement of the year. How was she supposed to explain to him what was wrong when it was his son that had her ready to spit nails? Taking a deep breath, she faced her boss with something close to sincerity. “It’s a personal matter, sir, and I’m sorry for bringing it with me to the office. I’ll be sure to apologize to everyone after lunch.”
William sat there and said nothing, simply watching Emma until she began to squirm in her seat. “Was there something else?” she asked, itching to get back to her desk.
“Lucas left for home yesterday,” he stated blandly.
“Yes, well, that’s what he does, right? He leaves.” Emma was proud of the fact that he voice didn’t crack.
William merely nodded. “It was nice having him here for the whole week last week. I was hoping he’d stay longer.”
Emma sighed and looked everywhere except at her boss.
“Still, I guess it’s progress.” He hoped Emma would say something, anything, but she could barely make eye contact with him and that really told him all he needed to know. She was just as upset as he was about Lucas leaving. He hid the smile that threatened to cross his face. Emma was the key to keeping Lucas home where he belonged; now all he had to do was figure out how to fix whatever was going on with them so that Lucas would come back.
“Is there anything else you needed, sir? There’s no one manning the phones since Rose is out getting lunch.” It wasn’t a complete lie and it was one that Emma hoped would get her off the hot seat.
“Thanksgiving is coming up,” William said by way of response.
Emma hung her head and mentally counted to ten before raising her face to his. “Yes it is.”
“Any big plans?”
“I’ll be spending it with my parents and their families.” When William looked at her funny, she explained. “My parents have been divorced since I was ten. They’re both remarried with new families, and so the holidays are a bit hectic for me because I have to make sure I spend equal time with both of them.”
“They love you, Emma; I’m sure they just want to share the holiday with you.”
She shook her head. “Not really; it’s more about annoying each other. This year I’ll have dinner with Mom and her family and then go to Dad’s for dessert. Mom will, of course, run late with dinner and then cry when it’s time for me to leave. I’ll arrive at my dad’s late and he’ll be annoyed because he knows my mom did it all on purpose just to ruin his Thanksgiving. It’s a vicious cycle, really.”
“Sounds exhausting,” he said, relaxing into his chair and resting his chin in his palm.
“You have no idea. I long for the day when I don’t have to run around on a holiday, when I can just do my own thing.”
“I’m sure it’s very stressful for you. Maybe you should take a couple of days to prepare yourself.”
Emma made a face at him. “I’m beginning to get a complex here, sir. I’ve taken more time off in the last couple of weeks than I have in the last couple of years. Is there a problem with my work?”
William let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, no! For heaven’s sake, Emma, how could you even think that?”
“Well, you’ve been trying to get rid of me an awful lot and—”
“No, no, no,” he denied. “I just know that I’ve been working you too hard and that if I don’t nudge you, you won’t take the time yourself. You’ve been a model employee, Emma, it’s just that…”
Emma leaned forward in her seat. “Yes?”
“Well, I had hoped that by now you would have relaxed a little more around me and as my assistant, you’d feel comfortable calling me William.”
She looked at her boss as if he’d lost his mind. Seriously? He was upset because she addressed him with respect? “Oh, I couldn’t do that, sir. Sorry. I don’t believe that I should be on a first name basis with my boss. You own the company, and as such, you should be spoken to with respect.”
“What if I said that you had to call me William instead of ‘sir’ or ‘Mr. Montgomery’?” he asked, carefully watching her expression.
“I’d fight you on it,” she stated point-blank.
“I see.” William studied her for another moment and then gave a weary sigh. “Well then, I guess there’s nothing left to say. You’d better get back out there to the phones, and hopefully by the time Rose comes back, you’ll be back to your usual sunny self.”
“Thank you, sir,” Emma said as she stood and then blushed.
“No worries, Emma,” he said, a smile on his face. “Someday you’ll be able to be a little less formal.”
Emma sincerely doubted it but she smiled and went back to her desk, closing the office door behind her.
William sat back down in his chair and thought about their conversation. Emma really was the model employee, but he’d much rather see her in another position altogether, as his son’s wife.
Lucas was miserable. It had been more than a week since he’d stormed out of Emma’s place, and he’d spent most of that time cursing himself. Now he had to head to his parents’ for Thanksgiving and try and pretend that he didn’t remember that Emma lived only twelve minutes away from them, or that he’d rather spend the day alone with her than with a houseful of relatives.
It was only Tuesday morning, and Lucas knew that he could be at Montgomerys’ offices by the afternoon, and maybe start paving the way to apologizing for reacting so badly to the story in the newspaper. Emma was right about what she had said. He was living a hollow existence and avoiding life.
He was hoping to fix that soon.
His mind made up, Lucas packed a bag and got the house closed up, not certain how soon he’d be returning. With any luck he’d be able to patch things up with Emma, spend Thanksgiving with both her and his family, and start easing his way back into living in the city again and coming to terms with being part of the corporate world on a permanent basis.
But when he arrived at the office, things didn’t go as planned. For starters, Emma was nowhere to be found. He said a quick hello to Rose before heading into his father’s office.
“Lucas!” William said with surprise. “I had no idea you were coming into town early. We weren’t expecting you until Thursday. Your mother is going to be thrilled.” He grabbed Lucas and hugged him before pulling back and studying his son’s face. “What’s the occasion?”
“It’s Thanksgiving,” Lucas said simply.
“Not yet it’s not,” William corrected. “Sit, sit. You feel okay?”
“No reason, just thought maybe you were here for an appointment or something.”
Lucas wasn’t stupid, he knew his father was hoping, just as Emma was, that he’d just fix the problem and jump back in the game. “No appointments, Dad. I just thought I’d come home a little bit sooner. They were talking about snow up by me and I didn’t want to take the chance of missing Mom’s turkey dinner.” It wasn’t a complete lie; there was always a chance of snow in the mountains and, as Lucas had recently learned, his father didn’t really pay attention to the weather reports.
“Smart man, Lucas. So, what are your plans while you’re here? It’s a holiday week so there’s not too much going on here. As you can see, we’re on a bit of a skeleton crew.”
Lucas had noticed that but didn’t want to ask specifically about Emma. He wasn’t ready to answer any questions about what was going on with them until he had time to talk to Emma herself. “Well, I noticed that Rose is out there but I just assumed Emma was at lunch.”
“No, she took the whole week off.”
“Is she okay?” Lucas couldn’t hide the alarm in his voice; ever since her accident and her return to work, Lucas hadn’t bothered to ask how she was feeling or if she had any lingering effects from the concussion. He was such a bastard!
“Oh, she’s fine. She had some personal matters to attend to with her family and was a little distracted so I told her to take the week off; it’s a short week so we were fine.”
“Well,” Lucas began a little more calmly, “that’s good. Hopefully she’ll get things taken care of.” He looked around the office awkwardly and wasn’t sure what else he was supposed to do or say.
William watched his son with amusement. He was looking around just as Emma had the week before, doing everything humanly possible not to look directly at him. Two of a kind, just as William had hoped. “Well,” William boomed, scaring Lucas out of his reverie, “I do have some work to do, so if you’ll excuse me…”
“Oh, right. Sorry, Dad. I guess I’ll see you at home later.” He walked around his father’s desk and gave him a hug before walking out of the office. He stood still for a moment, unsure of what to do with himself. Did he go to Emma’s? Did he need to call first? Screw it, he wasn’t going to obsess about it, he was just going to go and see her.
Only, he didn’t.
She wasn’t home.
Lucas sat and waited in his car for thirty minutes, but Emma didn’t come home. It was only then that he realized that he didn’t even know her phone number. He really was a piece of crap. What kind of man sleeps with a woman repeatedly and doesn’t even bother to get her phone number? It was amazing that she hadn’t brought that up in their last fight. She must think he considered her good enough to screw but not good enough to want to talk to once they were out of bed. He’d have to rectify that and soon.
Perhaps getting back into the swing of things and being amongst the land of the living wasn’t going to be as easy as he had hoped. With nothing else to do, Lucas decided that the best place for him to be was at his parents’. He could settle in, visit with his mother, and then maybe, just maybe, find a way of getting Emma’s phone number and seeing her tonight.
For something other than sex.
Less than two hours later, he had what he was looking for. Luckily his mother was having issues with her iPhone and while he was helping her with it, he’d scanned her list of contacts and found Emma’s number. Leaving him alone while she went to make dinner, Lucas slipped into his father’s study to make the call and smiled when he heard Emma’s voice on the line.
“Hey, Em,” he said, feeling more nervous than he’d been the first time he’d asked a girl out in the seventh grade.
“Lucas? Is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me,” he said awkwardly. “Listen, I was wondering if you were free tonight.”
The silence was killing him. “Em? Are you still there?”
“I’m here,” she said quietly. “I didn’t realize you were in town.”
“I got in this afternoon. I know it’s short notice and all, but I just wanted to see you.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Lucas.”
“Why?” His tone was deep and husky and Lucas realized that he wasn’t sure what he’d do if she turned him down.
“Because whenever we get together, it ends badly,” she said honestly. “I don’t want to fight with you anymore, Lucas. I can’t fight with you anymore.”
“Well then, we won’t fight,” he said simply. “I never did get to take you out to dinner. I’ll come by and pick you up, we’ll go and get something to eat, and then maybe see a movie or something. We won’t have time to fight. We’ll be out in public and having fun.” He was going for light and cheerful, but it didn’t feel natural.
“You don’t go out in public,” she reminded him, her tone wary.
“For you, I’m willing to make an exception.” Lucas heard her quiet laugh and knew he’d broken through her resistance. “What do you say, Em? I’ll pick you up at seven and we’ll go wherever you want.”
It was tempting, far too tempting, Emma thought. Maybe with them being out in public she could resist falling into bed with him.
And maybe pigs would fly.
“I don’t know, Lucas,” she hesitated again.
“Please, Emma? I’ll come over at seven. If you decide you don’t want to go out with me, I’ll leave,” was all he said before hanging up, not giving her the opportunity to turn him down. It was a risky maneuver, he told himself, but deep down Lucas knew that Emma would be waiting for him. He’d have to be careful to show her respect and let her see that she wasn’t merely someone he was sleeping with; she was more. They may have begun their relationship fast and out of order, but Lucas swore that by the end of the night, Emma would see that he was sincerely making an effort to show her how he felt.
Words may not be his strongest point but dammit, he sure as hell would show her in every way possible how much she was coming to mean to him.
Emma was ready at six-thirty. She berated herself for acting like a giddy schoolgirl and yet that was exactly how she felt. Lucas was taking her on a date. True, he hadn’t apologized for his outburst yet, but she was hopeful that at some point tonight that he would.
Where would they go? Where should she suggest they go for dinner? After their shopping debacle, Emma was more than a little cautious to avoid anyplace that was going to be too overwhelming for Lucas. She understood his fears, sort of, and wanted to respect his feelings. There was a small bistro on the outskirts of the city that would be perfect. A quick Internet search found the number and she quickly called, hoping that they wouldn’t need reservations. Luckily because they were still dining fairly early, the restaurant had an opening, and no sooner had she confirmed their time but Lucas was knocking at her door.
Emma stood and took a few deep breaths before checking her reflection in the mirror by her front door. Her hair was loose and wavy and she wore an indigo blue jersey dress that clung to her just enough to be sexy but not too over-the-top. She hoped that Lucas would like it and when she opened the door and he openly let his eyes caress her from head to toe, she knew she’d made the right choice. Stepping back and inviting Lucas in, she was stunned when he leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek before handing her a bouquet of lilies.
“Oh, Lucas, thank you!” she said sincerely. “They’re beautiful!”
“No, you’re beautiful, Em,” he said solemnly. “You take my breath away.”
Well, how was she supposed to respond to that? Her initial instinct was to grab him by his expensive suit jacket and drag him into the bedroom, but then she remembered that they were going on a date and that all of the good and yummy parts of their relationship could be explored later.
The evening was everything Emma could have wished for and more. Their dinner was delicious and the conversation flowed. There was a small jazz trio playing softly in the restaurant bar and they sat and had coffee while enjoying the music. Lucas suggested a movie but Emma found herself to be enjoying simply talking to him, so they opted to stay longer at the bistro before heading back to her place.
Lucas parked the car in the driveway, unsure what he was supposed to do from here. He knew that he’d walk her to the door but if she invited him inside, he didn’t know if he’d be able to resist. And would she even want him to? Unwilling to keep the debate going in his head, Lucas walked around to Emma’s side of the car and helped her out before walking her to the door.
“Tonight was wonderful, Lucas, thank you,” she said shyly, clearly unsure of what they were supposed to do next as well.
“Thank you for being willing to go out with me on such short notice.”
Emma fumbled with her keys before finally sighing heavily, as if she’d just made a monumental decision. “Would you like to come in?”
“Are you sure, Em?”
Emma opened the door and stepped inside, holding the door open for him. “Yes, I’m sure.”
It was all the encouragement he needed.
They continued to talk until well after midnight, seemingly unable to find a stopping point. They discussed their childhoods, their families, her career at Montgomerys, and Lucas even opened up about his football career. All in all, Emma became more and more entranced with the man, which was a dangerous thing. No, the more she learned about Lucas, the more she found that what she was feeling was not just a crush or an attraction, but that she was falling in love with him.
“You know,” Lucas was saying, “I wasn’t sure you’d agree to go out with me tonight.”
“You didn’t really leave me much choice,” Emma replied, her tone seductively light.
He chuckled. “Well, I figured if I gave you too much time to think about it you’d probably tell me no.” He stopped and studied Emma’s face, her beautiful face with those expressive blue eyes that told him more than he should know. “I have no excuse for my behavior, Emma. My career is a very sensitive subject and I’ve gone to great lengths to keep my private life private. I’m not sure that’s going to be something I can overcome right away.”
“I do understand, Lucas. I just want you to see that everything people say or do or ask is not negative. The only one looking at you in a negative way is you.”
In that moment, Lucas knew that she was right. If he was going to be able to move forward with his life and break free of the walls he’d built around himself, then he was going to have to change his entire mindset. “I wish I could tell you that I was going to change, and that what happened that weekend was never going to happen again, but I’m sure that at some point, old demons are going to surface and I’m going to struggle with it all again.”
Emma reached forward and took one of his hands in hers. “No one expects you to change overnight, Lucas, or to be perfect. Just be you.” The need to kiss him became too great and before she could question her own sanity, Emma leaned in and placed a kiss on Lucas’s cheek.
Instantly he changed the angle of his head and gently captured Emma’s lips with his own. When she sighed and leaned further into him, Lucas shifted so that he could take her in his arms and hold her close. “I’ve wanted to do that all night.”
She hummed with pleasure. “Why didn’t you?”
“Because I wanted to show you that I am interested in you, Emma Taylor, as a person and not just as someone I want to sleep with. Although I do. A lot.”
Emma smiled against his neck and nipped at it. “That’s good, Lucas, because I feel the same way.” Raising her head, she met his gaze. “I really enjoyed tonight, getting to know you and just spending the time talking.”
“And the sleeping with me?” he asked huskily.
“Oh, I enjoy that too. A lot.” They continued to stare at one another and Emma knew what Lucas was asking without words. He was quickly becoming an addiction.
For far too long Emma had lived cautiously, never taking any risks or chances. Right now, she was willing to live a little dangerously and open her heart just a little more to the man sitting before her. He may not love her, he may very well break her heart and destroy her; but for tonight he was all hers and she was willing to live in the moment and take that chance.
Without a word, Emma simply rose to her feet and extended a hand to Lucas. Never breaking eye contact, he accepted her hand and came to stand beside her. Emma led Lucas to the bedroom and said a silent prayer that the risk would pay off.