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Terms and Conditions: Chapter 16

IRIS

If someone told me a month ago that Declan would hand me his black card and tell me to plan a honeymoon, I would have sent them to the nearest hospital to get their head checked. But low and behold, Declan does just that.

“Money is no object,” he says before disappearing behind his double doors.

I squeal as I spin around in my chair.

“Keep it down,” he calls out from the other side of the wood door.

I clamp down on my lips while I grab my cellphone and text Cal.

Me: Guess who is going on a honeymoon after all?

Cal: How did you make him crack?

Cal: Waterboarding?

Cal: Sleep deprivation?

Cal: Sex???

Cal: Wait. If it’s the last one, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

I laugh as I type up my response.

Me: Your father.

Cal: *Pretends to be shocked.

Me: Do you want to help me plan something?

Cal: I’ll be there in 15.

.


“No.” I shove a dumpling into my mouth.

“But it’s Bora Bora,” Cal replies with an exasperated look.

I shake my head. “Sounds boring.” Good thing Cal can’t see the way my cheeks burn from the lie.

“What is wrong with you?”

More like what could be wrong with me if I were to choose a honeymoon location that would require Declan to walk around shirtless and wet all day long. Even I know my limits, and that is one of them. After the little show I got last time Declan was shirtless, it’s best we don’t test the waters.

Cal uses the computer mouse to scroll through the newspaper article recommending the Top Ten Honeymoon Spots in the World. “How about Maui?”

I scrunch my nose. “No.”

“Fiji?”

“Pass.”

“I swear, with the way you’re acting, it’s as if you don’t want to go on a honeymoon at all.”

“I do!” Just not anywhere that might require us to take our clothes off.

He stares me down. “What about South Africa?”

Huh. Now that is an idea…

“Tell me more.”

He looks absolutely horrified by my interest. “You can’t be serious. You would choose a safari over Bora Bora?”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not romantic.”

I frown. “This might be a honeymoon, but it isn’t meant to be romantic.”

“Clearly or else you would have chosen something else.”

The more Cal pushes me on it, the more I find the idea of going on a safari appealing. Nothing says hands off quite like bug spray, motion sickness, and watching animals devour each other. With a busy trip like that, the risk of Declan and I doing something stupid is slim to none.

I throw my napkin on the table and pat my distended belly. “That’s it. We’re going to South Africa.”

Cal groans, and I smile.

Case solved.


Planning a trip to Africa at the last minute is stressful. I need to juggle Declan’s busy schedule, doctors’ appointments so we can get our shots, and calling safari lodges to see who has availability at the last minute. I do all this while working from nine to nine every single day.

Declan is absolutely useless when it comes to planning anything, so I’m stuck doing everything on my own. Flights. Travel itineraries. Sleeping arrangements. Everything falls on my shoulders since Declan doesn’t care where we go, so long as I post a few photos and make it seem like we are having a good time. His words. Not mine.

Because of his attitude, I don’t feel bad booking the most expensive safari lodge on our list. I even book a trip to the salon to get my hair braided—all on his personal card. That’s what he gets for being so cold and unfeeling about the whole process. The least he could have done was ask me if I needed any help. Or even thanked me for putting all this together at the last minute, all so he could prove to everyone how we are some happy couple.

It’s the smallest things that make people feel appreciated. Not that Declan cares.

I sigh as I stare out the car window.

“What’s wrong?” Declan doesn’t bother looking up from his phone.

“Nothing. Just thinking about how I need to finish packing for both of us tonight.” The lie easily rolls off my tongue. It’s not like Declan cares about my feelings on the matter.

Declan remains silent.

“Is there anything in particular that you want me to pack for you?” I ask.

“No.” He frowns as he types against the screen.

Is this how my life is going to be for the next three years? Speaking to someone who is permanently attached to their cellphone?

The emptiness in my chest intensifies as the minutes go on. Declan remains oblivious, and I only sink further into my funk.

What did you expect? To get married and for him to instantly have a change of heart? The world doesn’t work like that.

At the very least, I thought Declan would give me a bit of his time, given the fact that I’m his wife now.

Don’t go wishing for things that will never happen.

I sigh again. This time, Declan doesn’t bother commenting on it. How can he when he is too busy answering the phone and yelling at someone on the other end?

Story of my life.


My phone buzzes in my hand. I unlock it to find Cal’s latest text message.

Cal: Did you ever get around to thanking my father for your impromptu honeymoon yet?

Me: I’ll be sure to send him a thank you basket when I get back.

Cal: Should I tell him to look out for a faint ticking noise?

Me: Don’t ruin the surprise! That’s the best part.

Cal responds with a row of laughing emojis.

Declan drops into the captain’s chair across from me. The flight attendant is quick to ask him if he needs anything, but he simply ignores her by tapping on his tablet screen.

“Sir, I’m here to service you in any way you need. Please don’t hesitate to ask for anything during the long flight.” She bats her lashes at Declan.

Service him? Gross.

Declan remains oblivious to her obvious innuendo. He doesn’t bother to look up at her despite the way she stands beside his chair, drooling all over the carpet.

I clear my throat. “Excuse me?”

She doesn’t even bother turning in my direction. “The captain said the trip should be a smooth one. I’m curious what made you pick South Africa?”

“I’ve always wanted to go on a safari.” As of three days ago, at least.

She dares to shoot me a scathing look over her shoulder. Is she really going to ignore me while flirting with him? He’s wearing a wedding ring for crying out loud.

“My husband and I will take two glasses of champagne, please.” I lift my left hand in the air to get her attention, and the diamond reflects a rainbow of colors across the ceiling.

She peers over at me with a raised brow. “Excuse me?”

Excuse youI grind my teeth together. “Actually, you might as well bring out the whole bottle. We’re in a celebrating mood.”

“You’re married?” Her eyes swing back and forth between us before landing on Declan’s ring. The way her smile falls elicits my own.

“Get my wife whatever she wants.” Declan doesn’t look up from his tablet.

My stomach flutters in a way that has nothing to do with flying jitters.

“Of course. Right away, sir!” She rushes to the back of the private jet.

“Right away, sir!” I echo her enthusiasm with a roll of my eyes.

The corners of Declan’s mouth lift as he feigns interest in whatever is on his screen.

I glare. “Are you enjoying yourself?”

“I do find your possessiveness entertaining.”

“I am not possessive.”

“Hmm,” he responds. His fingers go tap tap tap on the screen.

I shift in my seat, and the tips of my braids brush against the small of my back. “Okay, whatever. Even if I was, it’s warranted. She shouldn’t have flirted with you while you’re wearing a wedding ring.”

“I see.” He drags his index finger across the glass before tapping on the tablet screen.

“What aren’t you saying?”

“I’m curious why you feel the need to flaunt your marital status whenever you’re insecure.”

My mouth drops open. “I am not insecure!”

“I’m aware of your trust issues.”

Is he for real right now? He’s one to talk about trust issues when the man has a seventeen-digit code to unlock his cellphone.

“Is this the part of our relationship where we share our deep-seated daddy issues?” I coo in a joking manner despite the thundering pace of my heart. “Because I’m pretty sure we could spend the whole flight debating who had it worse growing up.”

He shrugs. “Defensive as always.”

This motherfuc—

Relax. He’s good at stirring up people’s insecurities and using them to his advantage. Instead of giving in to his taunts, I pull out my phone and busy myself with my email inbox. Sorting messages is a soothing task that keeps my mind numb.

Despite my best efforts, my thoughts drift.

Trust issues? Who is he to call me out on such a thing? Everything about him screams trust issues, from the thirty-page prenup I signed to the way he won’t open up despite my knowing him for years.

He readjusts his position in the chair. “You can trust me to remain faithful.”

“As if that was a concern,” I bite back.

His brow raises in silent question.

“Everyone knows about your sleeping habits.”

“And what are they?” His eyes lighten with amusement.

“You don’t sleep around and you don’t date. Half the company thinks you’re gay while the others think you visit a sex club to let off some steam every week.”

“I’m disappointed at their lack of creativity.” There is a tightness in his voice that wasn’t present a moment ago.

“I tried to help them all by spreading a rumor about a woman who secretly visited your office on Fridays, but it only lasted a year.”

“Why the hell would you say that?” His neutral expression morphs into something terrifying. If it weren’t for the crazed expression on his face, I would be proud to have ruffled his feathers like this. It is no easy feat to get under the great Declan Kane’s skin.

I become engrossed in pushing back my cuticles. “It forced people to send me their assignments earlier than usual because no one wanted to interrupt your sexy time for a signature. It was a win-win really. I was able to prepare your Monday briefing reports before the weekend and they earned promotions for their diligent work.”

He blinks at me. “You had them believe this for a year?”

“Are you proud of me?”

“No.”

“You should be. I was so committed to the storyline that I even hired a few women to leave your office at 5 p.m.” I waggle my brows.

“Please tell me you didn’t charge this to my personal card.”

I grin. “Nope. Considered it a business expense.”

He rubs his eyes. “Sometimes I feel like I know everything about you, and then you open your mouth and say something like that.”

My cheeks heat and I hide my bashfulness with a smile. “Keeping tabs on me?”

“It’s expected.”

“Because I’m your wife?”

His response is interrupted by the flight attendant showing up with our bottle of champagne. She pops the cork and moves to pour us a glass, purposefully leaning forward. One peek at her cleavage pushes me into action.

I interrupt her. “I got it.”

Her face reddens as she places the bottle on the table and leaves.

“Jealousy looks good on you.”

“Oh, shut up.” I fill the glasses and swipe one for myself.

Declan rewards my brazenness with a deep chuckle so low, I can barely hear it over the hum of the plane’s engines.

I smile in return as I lift my flute in the air toward Declan. “To the vacation I desperately needed.”

He begrudgingly grabs the other. “And the honeymoon I never wanted.”

I tap my flute against his. “Cheers!”


It takes me two whole days to recover from a severe case of jet lag. By the third morning, I am feeling better than ever. My head brushes against my silk pillowcase as I turn on my side and stare out my panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bush. The moon glistens off the surface of our private pool, and I’m tempted to dive in to wake myself up.

I stretch my legs before doing a celebratory wiggle in bed. I haven’t had a vacation since before I started working for Declan, so the idea of spending ten days off the grid has me wanting to dance my way through my morning routine.

The sound of my alarm breaks the silence. If I wasn’t used to waking up early for work, the 5 a.m. schedule here would have sucked big time. I’m quick with getting ready given my limited choices of safari-appropriate clothing.

By the time I make it to our living room, I expect Declan to be annoyed that I’m ten minutes late. Except Declan isn’t here. I spin around in a circle before making my way through our private villa. His room is located on the opposite side of the place, giving him an equally beautiful view of our pool outside.

A muffled noise comes through the bottom of his bedroom door. I turn the knob and push his door open, finding Declan bent over a desk, looking fresh as a daisy in a three-piece suit. I try my best to ignore the way his ass sticks out, but my eyes linger on his form-fitting pants because I’m not blind. Although the little jolt in my heart concerns me enough to avert my gaze back to his face.

I frown at his attire. “You can’t go out like that. The lions will eat you alive.”

He ignores me as he scribbles something down on a notepad.

I check the time on my phone. “We’re supposed to meet with the ranger in five minu—”

“Sorry, Mr. Kane, what was that?” a woman’s voice cuts me off.

He glares at me as he holds a finger to his mouth.

“Just my assistant checking in on me. Carry on, Ms. Tanaka.”

Tanaka. Of course Declan would answer a call from Mr. Yakura’s assistant. She and her VIP boss are one of the few people who have direct access to Declan’s personal line.

Ms. Tanaka spouts something off in Japanese and Declan responds without missing a beat. Watching him shift between languages always impresses me. Whether it is Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, or Japanese, the way the words roll easily off Declan’s tongue is something to be admired. I’ve tried to pick up on a few words here and there while listening in on his conversations, but I never had a knack for any kind of words—let alone foreign ones.

While Declan speaks to Ms. Tanaka, I enter his closet and start unloading his luggage. I make quick work of the job since I was the one who packed everything anyway. The suit was a surprise, and I’m somewhat peeved Declan thought to pack it in the first place. We were supposed to be on the same page about all this, including no work.

Because really, what is the point of going through this entire sham of a honeymoon if he is going to work the entire time. That doesn’t scream happily in love.

Ms. Tanaka finally ends the call, and I exit his closet with a safari-approved outfit. “Here. Change into this.”

“We’re not going.”

I blink at him. “I’m sorry, what?”

His eyes shift from my face to my trembling arm holding onto his clothes with an iron grip. “Mr. Yakura wants to meet in a few hours to discuss the latest proposal.”

“You’re joking.”

“No. The man is impossible. I’m close to abandoning the land and sending the scouts out to find me a new location.”

“But—”

He doesn’t let me finish. “I refuse to give up when I’m this close to securing the deal, especially after I promised the board I would follow through on delivering Dreamland Tokyo.” He paces the width of his room. His large body makes me feel as if the walls are closing in around me.

I shake my head. “I don’t think I’m understanding you.”

“He finally gave me some concrete feedback about my proposal and would like to meet to discuss it further—”

“I’m not talking about the proposal!” I throw his clothes on the bed, wishing I could chuck them at his face instead.

Declan’s brows pull together. “You’re upset.”

“No, Declan. I’m disappointed.”

“You of all people should understand how important this is to me.”

I throw my arms in the air. “That’s exactly my problem. I understand your needs even at the expense of my own.”

I instantly want to take back the words, if only to erase the scary expression on Declan’s face.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’ve spent three years of my life making sure you’re taken care of, even if it meant sacrificing my happiness to do so,” I blurt out.

So much for keeping yourself in check.

His lips flatten, turning the pink color white from the pressure of his grimace.

Abort mission. “Never mind—”

“Is that how you really feel?” he cuts me off.

It takes all my willpower to not break eye contact. “Yes.”

“Why?”

His question throws me off. Does he actually care about how I feel? He has never made it a point in the past to check in with me about my needs, and there have been plenty of opportunities. Like the Christmas I missed because he planned a business trip or the hundreds of plans I had to cancel last minute because of some Kane Company emergency.

Over the last three years, my life slowly disappeared until my identity became Mr. Kane’s assistant.

This is your chance to confess how unhappy you’ve become with your job. I open my mouth to speak my mind but something in his gaze stops me. The skin around his darkening eyes tightens.

His phone rings, cutting through the silence. The hand clutching onto it hesitates.

He doesn’t want to deal with your shitty mood right now when he has more important things he needs to handle.

I put on my best smile that doesn’t quite reach my eyes. “Forget it. I’m being extra grumpy from jet lag and waking up earlier than usual for our safari. It’s nothing a cup of coffee can’t fix.”

His phone stops chiming. “Listen—”

“It’s fine.”

“I didn’t expect—” The shrill ring interrupts whatever he was about to say.

“You better get that. Sounds important.” I nod my head and offer him a tense smile.

His mouth opens, but I don’t stick around. The last thing I hear before shutting his bedroom door behind me is his deep rumble of a voice barking an order at an innocent caller.


Declan, like the complete asshole boss he tends to be under most circumstances, sends me a recorded voice note requesting that I make a PowerPoint just in case Mr. Yakura wants a visual aid for his meeting.

The only visual aid I want is of my hands wrapped around Declan’s neck, stopping his airflow.

Okay. Turn it down about ten notches.

Once I rein my temper in, I get back to work. It takes me two hours to create a PowerPoint based on our combined messy notes. What would take a normal person an hour to compile takes me double because I have to triple-check each slide for errors. The last thing I want is for Declan to berate me for a silly typo or incorrect punctuation mark.

After I finish the slideshow, I send Declan a message sarcastically asking if he needed anything else from me. I should have expected it would backfire. Declan throws task after task my way, each more irritating than the last.

Check in with our Tokyo sponsors to make sure they are still interested.

Contact the head of marketing and have him send me an estimated expense report.

Schedule me a last-minute meeting with Rowan before Yakura jumps on the video call.

The more demands he places, the stronger my anger becomes. I’m supposed to have ten days of vacation time. After being denied three years’ worth of paid time off, I want my break.

need it.

Maybe you want more than that.

My head drops into my hands as I let out a frustrated groan. While I appreciate my job and the many opportunities Declan has given me, I don’t know how much longer I can do this.

Better yet, I don’t want to do this.

I’m turning twenty-four this year and what do I have to say for myself? Most of my life revolves around Declan and making sure he has everything he needs to be successful. I even married the man so he achieves everything he dreamed of—all because I care about him way more than he could ever reciprocate. He gave me a chance when no one believed in me, and for that, I owe him.

My actions say more about me and less about him. I put my needs aside because I thought it would make me happy to help others. And while it feels great to see everyone else achieve their dreams, it leaves me with a gaping hole in my chest.

Nothing will change unless you do.

Maybe Cal was right. If I keep making excuses for myself, I will never find the right time to take the next big step in my life.

Yet you tried already and failed.

I sigh. Despite all the failures in my life, somehow not being hired for an entry-level HR position stings the most.

So what if you failed? You’re never going to accomplish anything worthwhile if you keep to your comfort zone.

But what about Declan? The voice that has had far too much say over my past decisions speaks up. And like always, I listen, pushing aside my thoughts as I get started on Declan’s next task.


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