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Terms and Conditions: Chapter 25


I thought Iris’s idea of going on a fake date was ridiculous until I actually sat down and realized I have her undivided attention for at least two hours. It reminds me of our honeymoon and the dinner we had together. Except this time, she is solely focused on putting on a show while I’m more interested in getting to know her. Not the person she is during work hours or the hidden glimpses I get when she lets her guard down, but the real her.

“If you didn’t have to work, what would you do on weekends?”

She rears back. “Like if I had a day off?”

“You have Sundays off.”

“I’m usually too dead to move by then, so I prefer vegetating in my bedroom. I’ll only come out for water and food.”


“Because I’m exhausted. Working for you sucks up all my energy so by the time I get to the weekend, I’m running on fumes.”

This conversation is quickly taking a turn back to work, and for once, I have no interest in speaking to Iris about business.

“Fine. What would you do if you weren’t tired or working?”

She laughs. “Honestly, I have no clue. The things I used to do don’t really apply anymore.”


“Grabbing brunch with friends. Spending the whole day movie hopping. People watching at the zoo. The options are endless really. I’m pretty easy to entertain, so long as it isn’t anything that requires much thinking.”

“When’s the last time you did any of that?”

She looks up at the ceiling. “Huh. Cal and I went to the movies a couple months ago.”


“No. We went to separate theaters and called each other afterward to discuss the plots.” She laughs. “Of course we went together. Who else do I have to go with?”

“A boyfriend?”

“After the last one ended in a rejected proposal, no.”

A pity. “What about a friend?”

“Cal is my friend.”

“Another friend? Preferably of the same gender?”

Her laugh comes out sad. “I don’t have any more of those.”

“Why not?”

She looks down at her plate. “Turns out people stop inviting you places when all you do is say no.”

“Why did you say no?”

“We lived two very different lifestyles. Most of my friends had nine-to-five jobs and worked only five days a week. At first, I tried to keep up with them, but eventually I was burning myself out. I had to choose between my job and my life, and we know how that went.” She motions toward me.

The look on her face stops me from asking anything else. A strange feeling in my gut comes to life, and I can only label it as one thing.

Guilt. It’s my fault she has no friends. Well, none except for Cal and me, that is.

You’re the one who told her you don’t want to be her friend.

My stomach churns as I consider how I rejected her friendship. With so few left, I’m sure she takes them very seriously.

That’s why she helped you in the first place. She really does consider you a friend.

Except I don’t want to be her friend. Not when she elicits all these feelings inside of me that are nothing close to platonic.

Who said you can’t be both?

I should have never ordered another drink after our empty plates were removed from in front of us. The amber liquid serves as a reminder of my moment of weakness. Iris was ready to go the moment the reporter paid her bill and left, but I was the one who wanted to stay.

The thought alone pains me more than I ever care to admit.

I take a sip of my drink, only allowing the smallest amount of liquid to slip past my lips. Iris seems somewhat perturbed at how I make an ounce of whiskey last longer than all her past relationships combined. I’m selfish for keeping her out this late on a weeknight, but I can’t help it. Watching her speak about topics besides work is fascinating.

She talks until she’s breathless, filling the silence I have grown accustomed to with her endless chatter. There isn’t a single subject she speaks about that isn’t filled with passion and intrigue.

A dilapidated house she saw while driving home that seemed perfect for a renovation. How much fun she has visiting her mother’s classroom. Her plan to attend Nana’s cornhole championship coming up next week at church.

I didn’t even know there was such a thing as cornhole championships, let alone that Nana was the reigning champ.

I’m thoroughly enjoying my time with Iris, to the point that I don’t want it to end.

“Are you almost done?” Iris shatters my thoughts with the stark reality.


She glares at my drink. “Your overpriced glass of whiskey.”

“I can afford it.”

“You have the same bottle at the house for half the cost.”

But would I have the same company? Probably not. The thought of drinking alone tonight seems unbearable. I’ve spent an entire lifetime by myself, and while it was never a problem before, it is slowly becoming intolerable.

“I’m enjoying the view.”

She glances out the window. “Says the man who hasn’t even looked outside once.”

“That’s not the view I’m talking about.”

Her eyes find their way back to mine. I’m startled when she drops her head back as a laugh explodes out of her. It’s rough and raspy, drawing the attention of multiple patrons. Warmth rushes through me at the sound despite knowing her amusement is at my expense.

By the time she looks back at me, her eyes have a watery shine to them and she can’t seem to take enough deep breaths.

My hand tightens around the glass as I take another chug. “What the hell was that?”

She dabs at the corners of her eyes. “The reporter left. You don’t need to pretend anymore.”

“I’m not pretending.”


“I don’t see it as such.”


No?” What the hell is she even talking about?

“No,” she speaks with a firmer voice this time. “That’s not how this is supposed to go.”

“How exactly is this supposed to go?” I won’t admit I’m confused, but damn I feel it. Everything about her confuses me. From the pinched feeling in my chest whenever she laughs to the draw I feel toward her at all hours of the day.

“We work together.”


Her deep sigh echoes the one building inside of me. “We have a deal.”

“Are you stating the obvious solely to annoy me?”

“Of course not. I’m simply pointing out the stakes. There is far too much riding on our relationship for us to screw it up because we’re horny and confused.”

I don’t miss the way she says we, although I think she did.

“I’m not confused. Far from it, actually. I know exactly what I want.”

“And what is that?”


The way she laughs makes me want to stifle it with my lips against hers. I settle on latching onto her hand, which sobers her enough to stop laughing at my expense.

She tries to rip her palm out of mine, but I hold on.

“This has to be some kind of sick joke.”

The muscles in my jaw ache from the way I grind my teeth together. “How so?”

“You can’t want me. Not like that at least.”

“Why not?”

“This isn’t meant to be anything but a contractual obligation.”

“It’s what we say it is.” I trace over the diamond on her finger, drawing a sharp breath from her.

Her eyes widen. “Oh my God. Are you actually suggesting that we hook up?”

I’ve always been a straight shooter—to a fault. “Yes.”


“Because I want to.”

Her bitter laugh sends a wave of uneasiness through me. “Then I’m sure it will be extremely difficult for you to accept that my answer is no.”

“Why waste time denying what we both already know?”

“Because the last thing we need is to further complicate things.”

“Hate to break it to you, but our relationship is nothing but complicated.”

“No, Declan. Our relationship is nothing but a façade.”

Her words land their blow, and I’m struck speechless as I process her words. She stands and grabs her purse. The small smile she shoots my way feels all kinds of wrong. I don’t want her to leave. That much I know is true, yet she doesn’t seem to acknowledge the silent plea in my eyes.

“I think it’s best if we pretend tonight never happened. For both of our sakes.” She bends down to kiss my cheek, and she might as well have burned the impression of her lips onto my skin. “I’ll meet you in the car. Take your time.”

A tightness in my chest grows with every step she takes away from me. I hate the feeling sprouting inside of me like a weed, tangling around my heart like a vine, almost as much as I hate Iris walking away from me.

Tonight might not have gone like expected, but I am not the kind of man to admit defeat.

I plan. I act. I conquer.

Iris might have rejected my first offer, but I will rise to the challenge and prove just how good things can be between us if she were to give me a chance.

Our marriage might be fake, but these feelings burning inside me are anything but. It’s only a matter of time before I make her mine. She just doesn’t know it yet.

The car isn’t even parked before Iris escapes the garage.

Harrison opens my door with his lips pressed together.

“How long have you been married for?” I exit the car and button my jacket.

His head rears back like I have never spoken to him before. We might not be confidants, but he has been my driver since before I ever had a license. Of course I interact with him. He even has my personal number strictly for coordination purposes.

“Forty years and counting.” He smiles to himself as if the idea pleases him.


As opposed to what? A contractual agreement like yours?

He laughs. “She might say no if you asked her.”

My head tilts. “Why?”

He looks at me as if he’s questioning my IQ. “Because marriage is hard, and apparently I’m not the easiest person to get along with. Plus, I snore.”

A laugh gets trapped in my throat. “Makes sense.” I turn toward the door, but Harrison’s words stop me.

“Mind if I offer you some advice?”

I sigh and look over at him. “Only if you feel that it’s absolutely crucial.”

His eyes wrinkle at the corners as his lips turn up into a small smile. “You might have gone about all the steps in the wrong order, but that doesn’t mean you can’t restart from the beginning and try again.”

The back of my neck prickles like tiny needles driving into my skin. “You know.”

“Of course I know. I’ve been driving you around since before you could reach the pedals. If you owe me anything, it’s to not insult my intelligence like that.”

“You signed an NDA.”

He gives his head a shake. “I’m not interested in selling your story. If I was, I would have taken the money your father offered me and retired with Gerty on a sandy beach in Mexico.”

My mask of indifference slips. “He wanted to pay you?”

“That’s not the point.”

“How much?” I tuck my clenched fists into my pocket.

He shuts the back door. “Also not the point.”

“Why wouldn’t you accept his deal?”

“Because I wasn’t about to give you one more reason to hate the world.”

“You should have taken the money because nothing you could ever do would change my opinion about humanity. I can guarantee it.”

“Probably not, but there is one person who might.”

My body goes rigid underneath my suit. “Not possible.”

He releases a deep belly laugh.

“Am I missing something amusing about this conversation?”

He wipes his eyes with a handkerchief. “It’s comforting knowing that the smartest man I’ve ever met is an idiot like the rest of us when it comes to women.”

My brows tug together. “Do you even care about keeping your job anymore?”

“You could try to fire me but we both know Iris would hire me back first thing tomorrow morning.”

I glare at him, which only makes him smile.

“I was only trying to offer you some advice because something told me you might need it. But I see that isn’t the case, so have a good night, sir.” He tips his hat and turns back toward the car.

“Harrison,” I call out before I can stop myself. Since I already embarrassed myself, I might as well take advantage of his advice.

He pauses. “Yes, Mr. Kane?”

I must be having some kind of mental crisis because nothing else explains what I do next.

“What would you do if you’re attracted to a woman who wants nothing to do with you?”

He laughs in a way that makes me feel like I’m missing the second half of a joke. “Mrs. Kane can say what she wants, but she’s interested in you. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.”

“With or without corrective lenses?”

He taps his thick-rimmed specks. “The bifocals don’t lie.”

“Regardless of what you’ve seen, she claims otherwise.”

“Oh, I’m sure she does. But that’s where you come in.”

“And do what exactly?”

His frail lips break out into a genuine smile. “You chase.”

Harrison’s words linger at the forefront of my mind as I walk up to my bedroom. I have spent my entire life chasing after anything I want, so while the concept isn’t anything ground-breaking, my desire to do so with Iris is new.

Bullshit. You’ve always been interested in her.

Except my thoughts never went past just that. Interest. Pursuing Iris was never an option before, but there is no way I can continue on the same trajectory. I will drive myself mad fighting the urges threatening to consume me whenever she enters the room. Lately, I seem to be driven by the burning sensation in my gut.

I rip off my tie and dump it on my dresser before making quick work of my button-down. I chuck it in a corner of my bathroom, along with my pants.

I hoped a shower would calm me down, but I was wrong.

My mind wanders, making up an entirely different scenario of what could have happened after our date if Iris was willing to take me up on my offer. To me cornering her and kissing her until she loses the ability to do anything but drag me toward my room.

I try to avoid touching myself. My hand is nothing but a temporary fix for a lifelong problem. One that has plagued me for years, never quite scratching the itch I crave.

My cock lengthens as I imagine Iris exploring all of me with her hands. Of how she would be greedy with my body, raking her nails across my flesh.

I grab my hardened cock with my right hand. I promise myself this is the last time I’ll use my hand, but I know it’s a lie. A hiss escapes me as I pump it once before rubbing the bead of arousal at the tip. My mind conjures up a series of sounds Iris might make when my hands grip her hips. A moan when my tongue strokes against hers. The sharp hiss as I scrape the hollow of her neck with my teeth. Her breathy groan when my fingers embed themselves into her ass like I could brand her skin with the marks of my fingertips.

My hand grips my cock like a vise, each angry tug sending a shot of heat down my spine. It’s easy to fantasize about what could happen between us if I push her to accept her new reality. How Iris would beg me to take her right then and there like a mindless animal.

I picture her touch turning desperate as I memorize her body with my lips. Of her returning the favor, learning every dip and curve of me with the tip of her tongue. My arousal leaks from the tip as I consider her nails digging into my skin with each thrust of my cock. I’d wear her tiny half-moon marks like a proud battle scar, knowing what I did to earn them.

Heat spreads through my veins that has nothing to do with the hot water streaming down my body. I slap my other palm against the tile, trying to support my weight as my legs tremble. The burning sensation becomes unbearable as my yanks become sloppier.

The bedroom fantasy shifts to her catching me in the shower, touching myself like this. Her hand would replace mine as she looks up at me with her big brown eyes. The way she might hesitate as she grips me, learning how to please me the way I like.

Only a taste, she would whisper before getting down on her knees and taking me in her mouth.

It wouldn’t take much to push me over the edge. A few slow licks up my shaft. The hollowing of her cheeks as she sucks on my cock until she chokes. Her moan as I grip onto the back of her head and shove myself down her throat, making her scratch at my thighs for reprieve.

The illusion is shattered as my release hits me. Spots darken my vision, and hot cum shoots out. It splashes against the tile before being washed down the drain. I jerk my cock, taking my anger out on the softening shaft.

My breathing is ragged by the time I’m done. I lay my head against the tile and curse to myself, knowing damn well I will never be satisfied until Iris is mine.

Not even close.


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