Tangled (Tangled #1)

267,503
07.03.2019

That may seem like a twisted way to think—but it’s the way it is. Trust me, I know. I’ve spent my life screwing women I felt nothing for. If they f**ked another guy right after me? Good for them. If they told me they never wanted to see me again? Even better. You can’t get blood from a stone. You can’t get a reaction from someone who doesn’t give a shit.

Kate, on the other hand, is overflowing with emotion. Anger, distrust, betrayal—it simmers in her eyes and shines on her face. The fact that she still feels something for me—even if it’s hatred—gives me hope. Because that I can work with.

I open the door to her office and walk in. Kate looks back to her laptop and hits a few keys.

“What do you want, Drew?”

“I need to talk to you.”

She doesn’t look up. “I’m working. I don’t have time for you.”

I step forward and close her laptop. “Make time.”

She turns her eyes on me. They’re hard. Glacial, like black ice.

“Go to hell.”

I smirk, even though there’s nothing remotely funny about any of this. “Been there. All week.”

She leans back in her chair, looking me up and down. “That’s right. Erin told us about your mysterious illness.”

“I stayed home because…”

“Cab ride take too much out of you? Needed a few days to recover?”

I shake my head. “What I said that day was a mistake.”

She stands up. “No. The only mistake here was mine. That I ever thought there was anything more to you. That I actually let myself believe there was something…beautiful underneath all your cocky charm and big-dick attitude. I was wrong. You’re hollow inside. Empty.”

Remember when I said Kate and I are a lot alike? We are. And I don’t mean just in bed or at the office. We both have the uncanny ability to say just the right things—to wound. To find that weak spot inside every one of us, and nail it with a verbal frigging grenade.

“Kate, I—”

She cuts me off. And her voice is tight. Clogged.

“You know, Drew, I’m not stupid. I wasn’t expecting a marriage proposal. I knew what you were like. But, you seemed so…And that night at the bar? The way you looked at me. I thought…”

Her voice breaks, and I want to f**king kill myself.

“…I thought I meant something to you.”

I step closer, wanting to touch her. To comfort her. To take it all back.

Make it all better.

“You did. You do.”

She nods stiffly. “Right. That’s why you—”

“I didn’t do anything! There was no hook-up. No goddamn taxi ride. It was all bullshit, Kate. It was Steven on the phone that day, not Stacey. I just said those things so you would think it was her.”

She goes pale, and I know she believes me. “Why…why would you do that?”

I blow out a breath. My voice is soft and strained. Begging her to understand.

“Because…I’m in love with you. I’ve been in love with you for a long time. I didn’t know it until that Sunday night. And then when Billy showed up here…I thought you took him back. And it f**king crushed me. It hurt so much that I wanted to make you…feel as bad as I did.”

Not my best moment, huh? Yeah, I know—I’m an a**hole. Believe me, I know.

“So I said those things on purpose, so you would think you were nothing to me. That you were just another girl. But you’re not, Kate. You’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. I want to be with you…really be with you. Only you. I’ve never felt this way about anyone. And I know I sound like a freaking Hallmark card, but it’s true. I’ve never wanted all the things I want to have when I’m with you.”

She doesn’t say anything. She just stares at me. And I can’t take it anymore. I put my hands on her shoulders, on her arms. Just to feel her.

She stiffens, but doesn’t pull away. I bring my hands to her face. My thumb smoothes over her cheeks and her lips.

Jesus.

Her eyes close at the contact, and the lump in my throat feels like it’s strangling me.

“Please, Kate, can we just…go back? Everything was so good before. It was perfect. I want us to be like that again. I want that so much.”

I’ve never believed in regret. In guilt. I used to think they were just in a person’s head. Like a fear of heights. Nothing you can’t get past if you have the determination. The strength. But I’ve never had someone—hurt someone—who meant more to me than…me. And to know that I messed this up because of my fear, my f**king stupidity, it’s just…unbearable.

She knocks my hands away. And steps back.

“No.”

Kate picks her bag up off the floor.

“Why?” I clear my throat. “Why not?”

“Do you remember when I first started working here? And you told me your father wanted me to put together a ‘practice’ presentation?”

I nod.

“You said that because you didn’t want me to get the client. Right?”

“That’s right.”

“And then the night we met with Anderson, you told me that I was shoving my tits in his face because…how did you put it? You wanted to ‘get a rise out of me.’ Yes or no?”

Where’s she going with this?

“Yes.”

“And then last week—after everything—you made me believe that you were talking to that woman because you wanted to hurt me?”

“I did, but—”

“And now, now you’re telling me you’re in love with me?”

“I am.”

She shakes her head softly. “And why on earth should I believe you, Drew?”

I stand there. Silent. Because I’ve got nothing. No defense. No reasons that would make any real difference. Not to her.

She turns to leave. And I panic. “Kate, please wait…”

I step in front of her. She stops but looks past me—through me. Like I’m not even here.

“I know I f**ked up. Badly. The taxi-girl thing was stupid and cruel. And I’m sorry. More sorry than you’ll ever understand. But…you can’t let that ruin what we could have.”

She laughs in my face. “What we could have? What do we have, Drew? All we’ve ever had are arguments and competition and lust…”

“No. It’s more than that. I felt it that weekend, and I know you felt it too. What we have could be…spectacular. If you just give it a chance. Give us—me—one more chance. Please.”

You know that song “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by the Rolling Stones? It’s my new theme song.

Her lips fold against one another. Then she moves around me.

But I grab her arm.

“Let me go, Drew.”

“I can’t.” And I don’t just mean her arm.

She jerks away. “Try harder. You did it once. I’m sure you can manage it again.”

Then she walks out the door.

And I don’t follow her.

Chapter 20

OKAY. SO THAT DIDN’T GO VERY WELL.

You’re right—it was a goddamn disaster. You think I should have gone after her? Well you’re wrong. Have you ever read The Art of War by Sun Tzu? I have. It’s a book about military strategy. A good general knows when to attack. A great general knows when to pull back. To regroup.

I’ve told Kate what I needed to. Now I have to show her.

Actions win wars. Actions heal wounds. Not words. Words are cheap. Mine, in particular, have the combined value of pocket lint at the moment.

So…I have a plan. And failure’s not an option. Because this isn’t just about me, about what I want. Not anymore. It’s about what Kate wants too. And she wants me. Sure, she’s fighting it—but it’s there. Like it’s always been.

No one will ever be to Kate what I can be. And—before you take my head off—I’m not saying that because of my overdeveloped sense of confidence. I’m saying it because behind the anger, under the hurt…Kate is just as in love with me as I am with her.

Looking at her was like looking in a goddamn mirror.

So I won’t quit. I won’t throw in the towel. Not until we both have what we want.

Each other.

Hey—you know what else a great general knows how to do?

Call in the reserves.

Here’s a fact for you: Most men can’t multitask.

It’s true.

That’s why you won’t catch many guys trying to make a full-course Thanksgiving dinner. That’s the reason mothers all over the world come home to a disaster area when they leave their kids with the hubby for a few hours. Most of us can only really focus on one thing at a time.

Most of us—but not me.

Before I’m out the door of the office, I’ve got Erin on the cell. No, I’m not a slave driver. If you’re an assistant to one of the most successful I-bankers in New York City, late-night calls are part of the job description. Now that my head has been removed from its weeklong vacation up my ass, I need to find out if I have any clients left to work with.

Lucky for me, I do.

“I hope you can grow a third kidney, Drew,” Erin says. “Because if Matthew, Jack, and Steven ever need one at the same time, you’re going to have to hand them over.”

Apparently, they’re the ones who’ve been covering for me while I was making that permanent dent in my couch.

“Book Jack a table at Scores this weekend. On me.”

Nothing says thank you like a prepaid stripper.

As for Matthew and Steven—I’m going to need to think about that one. I have a feeling titty bars are outlawed on the Dark Side.

After Erin updates me about work, I tell her to clear my schedule and give her a list of the things I’ll need for tomorrow. I’ve got a hell of a day planned—but it’s got nothing to do with investment banking.

By the time we hang up, I’m walking through the door of my apartment. Jesus Christ. I cover my nose with my hand. How the hell did I live with that smell for seven days?

Oh, that’s right—I was a vegetable.

I take a good look around. Garbage bags line one wall. Empty bottles are stacked on the table. Dirty dishes fill the sink, and the air reeks like that stale scent that seeps through your car vents when you’re stuck in traffic behind a garbage truck. Alexandra did her best to clean up, but it’s still a disaster.

Kind of like my life at the moment, huh? How’s that for symbolism.

I walk to the bedroom where I can actually breathe through my nose. I sit on the edge of the bed and stare at the phone. Remember those reserves I mentioned? Time to call them up.

I pick up the phone and dial. A soothing voice greets me after the second ring. The perfect combination of strength and comfort, and I answer back.

“Hi, Mom.”

You thought I was calling someone else, didn’t you?

Deep down—I’m a momma’s boy. I’m man enough to admit it. And trust me, I’m not the only one. Explains a lot, doesn’t it? That’s the reason your boyfriend can’t manage to get his socks or underwear actually in the hamper—because he grew up with mommy doing it for him. That’s why your pasta sauce is good, but not great—because his taste buds have been finely tuned to Mom’s Sunday gravy.

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