“So what’s on your agenda today?” I ask Damien as we both stake out the coffeemaker, waiting for it to finish brewing. “Buying a small country? Building your own space station?”
“I considered spending the day colonizing Mars, but then Rachel reminded me that I have a lunch meeting with Dallas about some tech project he wants to pitch.”
“Really?” I’m a little amazed. “A tech project? That’s kind of outside the department store milieu, isn’t it? What kind of tech?”
“No idea,” Damien says. “But he assures me it won’t be a waste of my time.”
“Because nothing that man does is ever a waste of time.” I glance around the kitchen. “Did Gregory leave the Sunday paper in here?” I ask, referring to the man who’s worked for years as Damien’s valet, butler, and all-around house management guru. “Because I’m betting there are at least three candid shots of Dallas in the life and style section. And that conservative number is only because he was on the island and out of the public eye for the weekend.”
“You’re probably right about that,” Damien says. “But that doesn’t mean he’s not serious about this project, whatever it is. Besides, I figure I owe him the chance to pitch his idea to me. After all, he’s invested a lot in my various projects. And his own money, not funds from his family trust.”
“Well, I’m dying to hear what he’s pitching. Maybe it’s an app to help keep track of his many women.” I tap my fingertip to my lip as if considering. “Something subtle on his phone so that he can keep notes on their favorite foods, wines. A scheduler so that he doesn’t accidentally double-book.” I remember that Dallas had two women with him on the island and backtrack. “Actually, double-booking probably wouldn’t concern him. Even so, it’s a solid idea. Maybe you should convince him to develop it with me.”
As I’d intended, Damien laughs. “I’ll have him call you for an appointment. In the meantime,” he continues as he pours us both cups of coffee, “what about you? What’s filling up your plate today?”
“I’m prepping for tomorrow’s meeting with Preston,” I tell him, referring to Lisa’s fiancé and the head of acquisitions for Stark Applied Technology. I recently licensed a web-based app I’d developed to the company, and I’ve been working with Preston on customizing the app for Stark International’s particular needs. “And then I’m meeting Jamie for lunch—she’s covering a story at the CityWalk, so she’s just down the street from my office. And after that I have a meeting with a new client.”
“Who’s the client?”
“Frank somebody—I don’t recall offhand. He emailed me. New to Los Angeles. Has an idea for an app he wants to develop but no skills. Wants to talk to me about the cost of putting it together for him.”
“Busy woman,” he says, taking my free hand and pulling me close. Then he takes my coffee from me and sets it aside so he can pull me even closer. “My wife is taking the tech world by storm.”
“I don’t know about that,” I counter. “But my balance sheet is looking pretty good these days.” I don’t bother to add that most of this year’s profit is coming from the license to my husband’s company.
“Worth every penny,” he says, and I have to laugh.
“Damn right,” I say. Damien had been wanting to license the app ever since I told him the idea, back when I’d barely even written a line of code. I’d held off, though, wanting to get my business off the ground on my own first.
I’m glad I did, too. I proved to myself that I have the talent to build my own business, and that’s just rounded out the whole package of what has turned into an exceptionally good life. A business that challenges me. Good friends. A roof over my head that can only be described as amazing. And a view of the world from the peaks that Damien has climbed that I can’t deny I like.
All in all, it’s more than I ever expected.
But what I am most grateful for is the man beside me. A husband who loves and cherishes and protects me.
I think about my mother and my scars and all the demons that have tormented me. Sure, I’m still fighting them, but they really are mostly in the past. And that’s because of Damien. Because he fights with me, not for me, just like he said.
He understands me, and that simple reality is so, so precious.
“Damien,” I say. It’s enough—I can see in his eyes that he knows where my heart has wandered. And when I rise on my toes to kiss him, he holds me close and kisses me long and deep and slow.
“Me, too,” he says, when we pull apart.
“I could cancel everything,” I suggest, only half kidding.
“Don’t tempt me. Then again, you always tempt me.” He kisses me again. “Go. Before I take you up on that very appealing offer.”
“I’ll see you tonight.”
“And every night after,” he says, making me smile.
I’m still smiling as I pull Coop, my bright red Mini Cooper, into my parking space by my office. The building went condo recently, and now my unit is all mine. And that simple fact makes me grin even wider as I head into my personal, private space.
The morning flies by, and when I finally take a breath and look up from the code I’d been tweaking after a conversation with Preston’s assistant, I realize it’s already after noon and I’m supposed to meet Jamie in ten minutes.