“You don’t gamble huge amounts of money, do you?”
“Why gamble otherwise? The thrill is in the risk. Not in actually winning.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Only a non-gambler would say that, Shannon.”
“I thought you play to win?”
“Then isn’t winning the goal?”
“Sure. But the bigger challenge comes from taking the biggest risk possible and seeing it pay off. Sometimes you have to tolerate some losses along the path to reaching that ultimate achievement.”
“And losing giant piles of money is an acceptable way to learn?”
He shrugs. “It’s the only way.”
“Did you ever lose a lot of money?”
He’s immediately uncomfortable. There’s my answer.
Declan finds one of the keys the parking attendant gave him and waves it in front of a wood panel, which opens magically. This should impress me, but it doesn’t. I’ve seen almost every form of hospitality technology you can imagine in my work with Anterdec.
The suite is splendid, with a breathtaking view of the enormous fountain below. Gold is the dominant color, that rich shade of oak trees turning to foliage in a New England fall. Dark, stained wood and tasteful bronze accents round out the room, with abstract art that focuses on burgundies and texture, each framed oil painting signed.
Original art. This ain’t no fifty-nine-buck-a-night motor lodge.
Two years ago I would have been gobsmacked. Living with a man who walks through life in a cloud of money has changed me, though, even if I’m loath to admit it. The suite is beautiful. It smells like piped-in vanilla. The minibar is well stocked and Declan casually opens the tiny refrigerator, pulls out a soda, and cracks it open.
Five bucks, I think. That’s a five-buck soda.
I tuck the thought away, because why linger over it? I don’t live my old life anymore. I have to get used to this new reality. And I have. Slowly.
One luxury at a time.
One area where I have no problem living large is transportation. Not having to worry about driving, or parking, or fighting through airport security turns off the little piece of self-doubt that reminds me of five-dollar sodas. Am I a hypocrite? Yep.
That’s the price I pay for not having to worry about my underwire bra setting off the metal detectors.
He opens the minibar again and points to it. “Here. Grab something. You must be parched.”
I walk over to him, pluck an empty glass off the counter and walk into the bathroom to fill it with tap water. His eyes follow me and he knows exactly what I’m about to do. While I’m in there, I take a minute to drink, pee, and freshen up, which is loosely defined as taking the “Self-Care Kit” and running a comb through my destroyed hair.
When I come back out into the living room, the table behind the couch is covered in soda pop cans, candy bars, mini wine bottles, small wheels of brie, and three berry bowls.
“What is this?”
He smirks. “I emptied the minibar. Now you have to eat it.”
“I know what you’re doing, and it needs to stop. Shannon, just take whatever you want.”
I sip my water. “I’m fine.” But man, I’m eyeing that stack of Butterfinger bars like I’m on death row and this is my last meal.
“Eat. Drink.” He cracks open a tiny little bottle of wine and drinks it in three long gulps.
There must be two hundred dollars worth of snacks here. That the hotel will charge eight hundred for.
“It’s my company’s hotel,” he says, reading my mind.
“I work for Anterdec, too!”
“It’s your company’s hotel,” he intones. “Act like it. Enjoy.”
“This isn’t business,” I say primly.
“What do you mean?”
“We’re not on a business trip, so I can’t treat this like a deduction.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Life isn’t one big business trip.”
“Quit acting like you don’t get what I’m saying.”
“I’m not acting. Life is business. The time I spend with you is what I squeeze in between work.”
Stunned into silence, I listen to the sound of my breath. The fizz of his drink in the can. The noise of candy wrappers as I lower myself to sit on the bed, a few stray delights from the minibar strewn on the bed like bedtime decorations. A ventilation unit goes off. A woman’s throaty laugh is muted out in the hall.
He looks at me, brow darkening with increasing concern, as I let his world circumnavigate my mind a few hundred times.
“Will it always be that way?” I ask.
His turn to be stunned. He’s blinking harder than an owl in a sandstorm.
“That sounded really bad, didn’t it?’ he says as his frown deepens, his fingers going to his chin, his eyes troubled.
“I didn’t—that’s not—” He stops and starts a few times, finally taking a long, slow breath and saying, “Can I have a do-over?”
“Like a reboot?”
Declan’s so self-assured, so precise and confident in pretty much every way possible, that this is interesting to watch. I am not at all above the schadenfreude that comes from observing his verbal klutziness right now.
“You don’t get a reboot,” I say, my words regal and pompous. “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”