They talked a minute longer and when they disconnected she felt more like herself, more in control. Setting the phone on the countertop, she turned to find Graysen leaning against the island, looking all casual and sexy as he watched her.
“Emerson sent us updated info. And…I need you to go, Graysen.” She needed space from him. Having him sprung on her for this job wasn’t as easy to handle as she’d thought it would be. Yes, she could be professional. “We need boundaries. Showing up here? I’m not okay with that.”
His jaw tightened once but he nodded. “Okay. I’m sorry.”
She blinked, surprised he’d acquiesced so easily.
“Have dinner with me this week?” he continued. “We can meet somewhere.” The slight edge of desperation in his voice took her off guard, almost made her say yes.
But… “I just want to get through this job.”
He nodded once, let out a short whistle then Peaches raced back into the kitchen, her nails clicking on the tile. Instead of running to Graysen, she charged Isa again.
Heart melting, Isa picked her up, snuggled her against her chest.
“I’m not giving up on us.” His quiet words had the effect of a grenade going off.
There is no us she wanted to shout at him, but the words stuck in her throat. Somewhere, deep down, though she didn’t want to acknowledge it, she knew they could have something incredible together.
But she was terrified of all the ugly baggage between them. Worried that she’d never be able to move past his betrayal and would just resent him if she let him back into her life again. If she did that and things spiraled downward…
She just didn’t know if it was worth the almost guaranteed heartache. She wasn’t a masochist.
She glanced away from him, used Peaches as an excuse for a distraction and grabbed another treat for her. “I’ll walk you to your SUV,” was all she managed to get out.
Because telling him anything else wasn’t an option.
Stepping into her dad’s office, Isa leaned against the doorframe as her dad spoke into his phone. Even on a Sunday afternoon he was working; no surprise. Larger than life, her dad smiled at her and held up a finger that she should wait before he continued his conversation.
Isa had to get up early for a meeting tomorrow and her place was in DC. Sometimes she stayed over at her dad’s but his estate was in Virginia and while the drive wasn’t terrible, her boyfriend Michael had asked her to stay at his place overnight. Had said he wanted to talk to her about something. Whatever that something was had butterflies dancing in her stomach. She was actually running late, but she’d call him as soon as she was on the road.
“You leaving, baby girl?” Her dad’s booming voice cut through her train of thought. Everything about him was loud, larger than life.
Shaking herself, she nodded and stepped farther into the room. “Yeah. I’ve got some work to do before my meeting tomorrow.” And okay, she wanted to get plenty of naked time with Michael. Not like she’d be saying that out loud, however.
“Thanks for coming over for lunch,” he said, standing and rounding his desk. “I don’t see you enough lately.”
“I know.” They’d always had weekly lunches or dinners, either in the city or at his house. Usually in the city, since he worked for a big defense contractor. “I’m hoping after Christmas things will slow down.” Usually January and February were her slowest months, and from what she knew, her dad didn’t have a big contract coming up.
“Well, I’ve got to head out the day after Christmas. Probably going to sign a new contract soon. Which will mean travel.” He winced slightly, looking guilty.
Disappointment filled her but she hid it. “It’s okay. I always understand work.” And she did. Her mom had died in childbirth, so it had just been the two of them from the beginning. She knew he dated, but he’d never brought anyone home. And he’d worked incredibly hard to send her to the best schools. He’d given her everything she’d ever wanted or needed. When she was younger she hadn’t appreciated how much he’d done—what kid did?—but now she understood how much he’d sacrificed for her and how many opportunities she’d been given.
“I know that you do.” He looped his arms around her, pulling her into a bear hug before he kissed the top of her head. “Text me when you’re home. I want to know you made it safe.”
“I will.” She was almost thirty but it didn’t matter to her dad. She’d always be his baby girl. And she was okay with that.
“So is that man of yours planning on proposing any time soon?” he asked, stepping back and eyeing her.
“Ah, I think it’s too soon.” Though if Michael asked she would say yes. Which seemed insane to admit, even to herself. The chemistry she had with him was unlike anything she’d ever experienced before, and when they were together Michael had eyes for no one but her. She felt treasured and safe in a way she’d never expected or thought possible. None of her previous boyfriends held a candle to Michael. He could be a little overprotective and worried about her safety, but there were a lot worse qualities she could have in a significant other.
“Four months isn’t too soon. I knew your mom was the one after a month.” His dark eyebrows pulled together, his brow furrowing.
Shaking her head, she just gave her dad another hug. She’d heard the story a million times, it felt like. Her mom had been waiting tables at a diner and he’d been one of her customers. He’d been smitten from the start, but it had taken a week to convince her mom to go out with him. “I’ve really got to run, but I promise to let you know when I’m home.” She’d told Michael she’d leave a while ago, had even packed up her car—including her cell phone. He’d probably called her, wanting to know where she was.
Stepping out into the hallway, she started to head for the front door but caught herself at the stairwell and headed back up it instead. She made her way to one of the guest rooms where she’d left her laptop. As she picked it up, something caught her eye. She glanced out one of the windows onto her father’s huge estate and frowned. The two buttercream curtains were pulled back, revealing acres and acres of rolling green grassland. The front of the property was covered in trees, mainly live oaks. But she’d thought she’d seen a flash of black dart behind one of the trees.