A week after I start my new position at McCord Media, Jen, Angel, and Chelsea take me out to dinner to celebrate.
Chelsea made no comment when I said I wanted to go to the hotel bar in Beverly Hills again, but I could tell she was wishing I’d get over it.
Get over him.
Because that’s about as likely as my apartment building taking a direct hit from a meteor, I’ll keep coming to this damn bar until one day I see Cole here again. Fate didn’t bring us together and put us through so much only to leave us strangers.
If there’s one thing that Love in the Time of Cholera taught me, it’s that true love always wins in the end, even if it takes fifty fucking years and enough heartache and tragedy that it can be accurately compared to a plague.
Life would probably be a lot easier for me if I wasn’t such a diehard romantic.
“So how’s the new job, Ms. Big Shot CFO?”
Angel grins at me from across the table. She’s got that newly-in-love glow, and I’m trying not to be bitter about it.
“It’s unbelievably hard, and the workload is ridiculous, and pretty much all day every day, I feel like I’m in way over my head. Other than that, I’m loving it. How’s it going with your new boyfriend? Chelsea seems to think it’s pretty serious.”
She nods. “It’s serious all right. I let him bang me in the butt.”
Jen bursts out laughing. Chelsea rolls her eyes. And I fight off the vivid memory of Cole and me on the lounge bed beside his pool the night he decided to use melted butter as something other than a condiment.
I’ll never be able to look at lobster the same way again.
Sighing, I take a sip of my whiskey, then listen absently as Jen and Angel debate the merits of butt sex versus condoms in preventing pregnancy. The trio of businessmen sitting at the table next to ours is riveted.
Chelsea lightly kicks my foot under the table to get my attention.
I think about it for a moment. “Define okay?”
“That’s a no. Anything I can do?”
I smile at her and shake my head. “You’re already doing it.”
She chews on the straw in her skinny margarita in silent contemplation for a moment. “Any word from you-know-who?”
“I had an idea. With all this money you’re making now, you could hire a private detective to find out where he is.”
I sigh, shaking my head. “Wouldn’t do any good if he refuses to see me. Takes two to tango, right?”
“I suppose. Though I’ve had several relationships where the guy didn’t even know we were dating.”
“You always did like the aloof ones.”
“What fun is it if they fall at your feet? There’s no challenge to that.”
I say sadly, “I don’t want a challenge. I want someone so obsessed with me, he can’t think of anything else.”
I want Cole.
Chelsea reaches over and squeezes my hand. “It’ll work out how it’s supposed to.”
“I know. But as we all know, patience isn’t my thing. Anyway, let’s talk about something else. How’s it going at the hospital? Are you still short staffed?”
Chelsea doesn’t answer. I glance up at her. She’s staring over my shoulder with big, unblinking eyes, as if she can’t believe what she’s seeing.
She says faintly, “Um. You might want to turn around.”
Frowning, I look over my shoulder. Then I see what she’s looking at, and my stomach drops, my lungs seize, and my pulse skyrockets.
The dark-haired man in the booth is gorgeous, but I can tell with one glance that he’s also trouble. A wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. In a conservative black suit and white dress shirt, he could be any other businessman enjoying a drink with friends after work.
Except he’s alone.
And he’s not enjoying himself.
He looks how I feel: miserable.
Tears well in my eyes. My chest constricts. With the ragged pink scar snaking down the side of his face and his hair buzzed short like Axel’s, he looks so much the same as the last time I saw him but also very different.
But dear God, how those blue eyes still burn.
To the right of his booth sits an empty wheelchair.
I’m on my feet without making a conscious decision. I run across the bar, dodging tables and almost knocking a waiter off his feet, then throw myself into Cole’s outstretched arms and burst into tears.
I cry as he holds me tightly, rocking me and murmuring my name over and over like a prayer.
Still sobbing I say, “It’s you. You’re here.”
He answers in a voice impossibly warm and soft. “Callum sent me your memo with a courier. I figured since I’d carved my name on your heart, I should probably claim it.” His voice drops to a whisper. “Forgive me. Please forgive me for being such a fucking idiot. I don’t know what made me think I could live without you because I can’t.”
I want to pound a fist on his shoulder, but only cling to him instead, relief and euphoria burning through me. “But how are you here?”
“Just lucky timing, I guess.”
Wet faced and hiccuping, I pull away and look at him.
His smile is small and breathtakingly beautiful. “Okay, fine, I called the chief and had him put one of his guys on you.”
“His guys? You mean a police officer?”
“You had me tailed by the police?”
“It sounds bad when you say it.”
“Because it is bad.”
“It was only the one time. I just needed to know where you’d be today so I could come see you.”
I decide it doesn’t matter how he found me. Right now, I’m too overwhelmed to do anything but cup his face in my hands and kiss him.
Against my mouth, he murmurs, “I’m fucked up, baby. I’m really fucked up.”
“Don’t care. Stop talking and kiss me.”
“It’s not gonna be easy. I’ve got a long road ahead. I won’t ever be the same as I was.”
“You’re alive, Cole. You’re alive, and I love you. Everything else is details.”
I kiss him all over his face, not caring that people are probably staring or that our lives will be complicated or that I might never get to feel him inside me again.
The only thing I care about is him.
After a moment, I stop kissing him and frown. “Cole?”
“Did you by any chance forget to take anything out of your pockets?”
“It’s just that something hard is poking me in the butt.”
When he smiles a knowing smile, I lose my breath.
“But I thought…”
“It’s happened a few times. The first was when this nurse was giving me a sponge bath in the hospital. It was pretty embarrassing, but he told me not to worry about it.” His smile grows wider. “I mean, he was pretty cute, though. Way cuter than a hairless Chihuahua.”
I’m crying again. Crying and laughing at the same time. Then he’s crying too, and kissing me, and telling me over and over that he loves me.
And that I don’t look like a hairless Chihuahua, not even a little bit.