The Boss Vol. 2By: Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott
My home was just a place for me to sleep when I wasn’t working. More often than not lately, I slept at the office anyway.
“You know who Brant is. I’ve only told you about him every time I called.”
“Your new boyfriend,” I said flatly, nudging aside the pile of newspapers on my coffee table. I’d intended to hire help since I moved in, but I was neat by nature and I didn’t like the idea of strange people invading my space. Recently, I’d started letting things slide, and my previously spartan home was being taken over by minutiae. Unread newspapers and magazines, dishes in the sink I’d neglected to wash, a metric ton of plastic water bottles on the kitchen counter, toted back from my runs and set aside for recycling.
I could trace my lackadaisical ways back a few short weeks, to when Grace had begun working for me. That was when I’d started spending every spare minute in the office. We had numerous projects going on, and some of them were reaching critical mass, but I refused to lie to myself.
She was the reason my well-ordered life was going to hell. That she had no clue didn’t seem to matter.
“He’s my boyfriend, yes, but he’s not new. Blake, why must you be so difficult? I could see it when you were a boy when I dated someone, but you’re a grown man now, and you never even see me. How can it possibly matter if—”
“Maybe I don’t want any more half-brothers who refuse to speak to me, how’s that?” As soon as the words were out, I pinched the bridge of my nose and tipped back my head. None of today’s clusterfuck had to do with my mother, so it wasn’t fair that I attack her. “Never mind. Ignore me. Brant, is it?”
“Sebastian and Donovan still won’t speak to you?” she asked quietly, and the pity in her voice was worse than anything else. I’d worked my ass off so no one would ever view me through that lens again, yet here I was, in the same damn place.
Put there by my so-called family.
“They’re busy men.”
“You’re their blood.”
“Not full blood, and that makes all the difference.” I undid my shirt and made my way down the hall to my bedroom. All I wanted was eight hours of uninterrupted unconsciousness. Since I’d told Grace to be back by one, I’d be lucky if I got three. “Listen, Mom, we’ll have dinner soon, all right? I just got home and I need sleep before I head back.”
Telling her that was a colossal mistake. Evidently my age didn’t squelch her attempts to smother. “You’re working yourself to death. You’re going to harm yourself if you don’t take some time to enjoy your life.”
A harsh laugh left me. Oh, I’d enjoyed, all right. And I’d be paying for it for the foreseeable future. “I’ll talk to you later. We’ll set up a time to get together soon. I promise.” I hung up before she could guilt trip me into next Tuesday.
She’d already gotten me to Monday, just from her petulant tone.
As I walked past my en suite bathroom, a shaft of sunlight through the glass brick walls that surrounded the sunken tub made me consider a shower. Not for pleasure. I needed her lilac scent off my skin.
But my neatly made bed with its hospital corners beckoned. I set my pone on the nightstand and shed the rest of my clothes, then climbed between the sheets, naked. And fell into a dreamless sleep.
I woke not to the alarm I habitually rose before but to the phone. I reached for it without checking the Caller ID.
“Carson.” My voice held no traces of sleep. I was nothing if not well-trained.
“Blake, this is Violet.”
I didn’t feel fear. She was my employee, after all, not the other way around. I also wasn’t embarrassed. I wouldn’t allow myself to be.
What had happened was over. Now we would move on.
I would move on.
A quick glance at the clock told me I had less than an hour to get back to the office if I was to be there when Grace arrived. Likely I’d be facing Violet’s inquisition as well. Even if she hadn’t been somehow alerted to my bad splicing job—and I couldn’t be certain of all the safeguards she might have in place—I know she would’ve seen me enter the security room this morning. She did spot-check reviews on our cameras each morning, and I’m sure something probably tipped her off to my presence.
While I would’ve preferred Violet not know I’d been there, I was glad she was so thorough. I also took small comfort in the fact that she would never see Grace in such a vulnerable position.
The one I’d put her in, unintentionally.
“Blake?” Violet prompted.
“I’m here. How can I help you?” I kept up with the game, because games were my life. I’d been playing them since childhood.