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Terms and Conditions: Chapter 6

IRIS

If I expected my work responsibilities to lessen because I need to plan an entire wedding in two weeks, I was wrong. Pretty much everything is business as usual which is exactly my problem. I’m drowning. In work. In expectations. And in a bunch of pointless questions like what color napkins I want, and which style cursive is the best for place cards.

I can’t even read cursive.

“I need you to revise this report for Yakura.” Declan stops by my desk.

“Again?” I groan. “This is the third time in six months.”

He drops a stack of pastel orange papers on my desk.

“Are you still struggling with the printer? I could show you how it works if you have a second.”

He doesn’t bother entertaining my question. “I expect to receive your notes by the end of the day.”

Today?”

“Is that a problem?”

“Nope. I’ll just fit it in between planning our wedding, picking out a dress, and going to a cake tasting tonight.” I shoot him a tense smile.

“Perfect. Have it on my desk by nine.” He walks past me and toward his private office door.

Have it on my desk by nine. I slam my fingers against the keyboard as I type out my password.

You can do this, Iris. There’s a reason you’ve lasted this long on the job.

My phone lights up with a message from Tati confirming our first dance choreography session for tomorrow afternoon.

Freaking fantastic. Is there anything else the universe wants to throw my way?

“Iris?”

An irritable breath escapes me before I have a chance to catch it. “Yes?”

Our eyes connect. The nerve endings at the back of my neck tingle. I break contact first, ending the strange feeling before it has a chance to spread.

“Thank you for everything.”

My eyes snap back to his.

Thank you for everything?! I’ve never heard Declan express any gratitude without an ounce of sarcasm.

I struggle to find the right words. My silence only adds to the strange tension building between us. Thankfully Declan ends it by entering his office and shutting the door.

I snap out of my stupor and text the only person who could help me process whatever is going on in Declan’s mind.

Me: Your brother just told me thank you.

Cal: Rowan? What for?

Me: No. DECLAN!

Cal: What did you do wrong?

Me: Nothing.

Cal: So he actually said “thank you” and meant it?

Me: Yes!!

Cal: Did you hold him at gunpoint?

I laugh as I type out my reply.

Me: No.

Cal: Dagger to the throat?

Me: While the letter opener you bought me is tempting at times, no.

Cal: Shit.

Cal: Maybe you caught him in a good mood.

Me: Was there a global tragedy that gave him the warm fuzzies this morning?

Cal: According to the news, there’s a shrimp shortage that has people throwing hands but that’s all.

Declan hates shellfish so that can’t be it. In fact, there’s nothing I can think of that would explain his irrational behavior.

Nothing but the one idea that seems ridiculous enough to make my stomach flip.

He actually meant it.


“Your fairy godfather has arrived with reinforcements.” Cal drops a takeout bag on my desk.

“Oh God. Yes.” I rip the paper bag open and pull out a sub. “I love you.”

“I know.”

“Do you mind? I’m having a private conversation here.” I point at my lunch.

Cal laughs as he takes a seat. “How are the revisions going?”

“Terrible. I’m not sure what Mr. Yakura wants from us. This is the hundredth time he’s sent back our Dreamland Tokyo proposal—this time with one single comment.”

Cal leans in. “What?”

Something’s missing.”

His brows rise. “Seriously? That’s it?”

“Yes! But I can’t figure out what’s lacking.”

“Did you talk to Rowan? He could look at your latest ideas.”

I shake my head. “Declan and I met with him a month ago, but it didn’t end well.”

“Declan’s still pissed at him about the whole Dreamland thing?”

Ever since Rowan decided to remain the director of the original Florida theme park, Declan has been icy toward him. It’s obvious that Declan is offended that Rowan turned his back on family expectations for a woman he loves. But with Declan trying to develop his own Dreamland park in Tokyo, we might need to try again.

I sigh. “Yeah. I think the pressure from Mr. Yakura is getting to him. We’ve been working on this deal for months already without any payoff.”

“You could find another sponsor willing to sell their land. Many people would kill for a cut of Dreamland’s profits.”

I shake my head. “Declan insisted it has to be this property. I’m pretty sure Yakura can sense how badly Declan wants it, so that’s why he’s being so difficult about everything. Maybe he wants a bigger payout.”

“Either that or he likes being one of the few people who can make Declan sweat.”

I laugh. “Possibly. Doesn’t make the rejection any easier to handle though.”

“Don’t take it personally. Your ideas are great, so it’s only a matter of time before he gives in.”

“Easier said than done.” My imposter syndrome always rears its ugly head whenever we receive another rejection email from Yakura.

As if Cal senses my shift in mood, he perks up. “Want me to help?”

“No, we don’t.” Declan’s voice cuts in. He leans against his doorframe with his arms crossed and his jaw clenched.

Cal tips his chin in Declan’s direction. “Hello, brother. How are you this afternoon? Make anyone cry yet?”

“No, but it’s only noon.”

Cal turns his attention back to me. “I don’t know why you agreed to marry him. He’s insufferable.”

I shrug. “His personality has grown on me.”

“I swear you’re suffering from some kind of workplace Stockholm syndrome. There’s no other explanation.”

Declan drags Cal out of the chair across from my desk. “Get lost. Some of us actually have work to do around here.”

“Being the Kane family disappointment is a full-time job, thank you very much. Benefits are shit though.”

My laugh makes Cal smile.

“I swear you were only put on this earth to make my life miserable.” Declan jabs the elevator button.

Cal fake sniffles. “I finally found my life’s purpose all thanks to you.”

Declan all but shoves Cal into the elevator once the doors open.

“Bye, Iris! See you at the cake tasting tonight.” Cal waves at me while flipping Declan off. Declan doesn’t move away from the elevator bank until the doors slide shut.

He turns on his heels and glares at me. “What is he talking about?”

I turn my attention to my computer screen to escape his darkening gaze. “I asked Cal to go with me to taste wedding cakes.”

“You didn’t think to ask me?”

My brows raise. “Umm…no. You didn’t seem interested when I mentioned it earlier.”

“I didn’t think you would invite my brother.”

Oh my God. Is he jealous?

No. That’s not right. It can’t be right. In fact, it feels as wrong as the hint of excitement I get at the idea of Declan reacting that way about his brother.

What is going on with you?

I clear my throat. “He invited himself when I told him I was going alone after work.”

Declan’s chest heaves as he lets out a heavy breath. “Tell Cal he’s not needed anymore.”

I shake my head in denial. “No.”

“What time is the cake tasting?” He ignores me as he pulls out his phone.

“Why?”

“I’m going. Send Harrison the address.” He doesn’t leave any room for disagreement as he walks back toward his office. His door clicks shut, leaving me grappling with questions I’ll never get any answers to.


“Iris.” Something nudges my shoulder.

“Go away. I’m sleeping.” I throw my hand out to shove the noise away.

“We need to get going.”

Ugh. Now you’re bothering me in my dreams too? Will I ever catch a break?”

A deep chuckle in my ear has me bolting upright. My foggy vision clears to find Declan standing beside my desk, wearing the smallest smile known to man.

“We’re late.” He reaches out and pulls a sticky note off my forehead.

“Late? What for?” I rasp.

“The cake tasting.”

“Oh no!” I stand on wobbly legs. “What time is it?” I open my bottom drawer and pull out my purse. I’m quick to shove my heels on despite my swollen toes protesting.

“Ten.”

“Ten?! We were supposed to be there at nine!”

He shrugs. “I called and told them we would be late.”

I freeze. “You called?”

“It took me two seconds.”

“Why not just wake me up?”

Silence.

“How long have I been asleep?”

“Two hours.”

“Two hours!”

Oh no. The revisions. “Declan, I’m so sor—”

He holds up his hand. “Just send them tomorrow morning.”

My mouth falls open. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep—”

“Drop it.”

“But—”

“You want me to get angry?” His voice sounds far more agitated now.

“Honestly? Yes.”

“I’m not a total asshole. I know you have a lot going on,” he snaps.

“Stop it.”

“What?”

“Stop being so…understanding. It’s weirding me out.” An irritated Declan I can work with. A nice Declan who doesn’t mind me falling asleep on the job and missing deadlines? That kind of unpredictability gives me crippling anxiety.

His jaw ticks. “Let’s go. I don’t have time for your shit.”

Now that reply makes me smile. “Ahh. There’s the big, grumpy man I know and like.”

“One day that mouth is going to get you in trouble.” His voice lowers.

I’m not sure what’s more dangerous—his unspoken promise or the way something flutters to life in my stomach from the one sentence.


“I’m in heaven.” I sigh before taking in another deep inhale. The different aromas surrounding us have my mouth watering in anticipation.

A bell chimes as Declan enters the dimly lit bakery behind me.

A back door swings open, basking us in bright light as a blonde woman about my age comes out. “Welcome! I’m so happy you actually made it!”

“I’m sorry we’re late.” I wince.

“Oh, please! It’s no problem at all. Why don’t you have a seat over there and I’ll get you some samples?” She gestures toward a small candlelit table for two before disappearing back into the kitchen.

“Isn’t this cozy?” I try to break the awkward silence, only to be cut off by romantic music playing softly through hidden speakers.

Declan pulls out one of the chairs for me. The exchange between us is fluid, practiced hundreds of times. Something I realize I have grossly overlooked over the years.

“Thank you.”

The wooden chair groans under the pressure of his grip. “For?”

“Always doing that. You know—with my chair.” I stumble over the words.

He doesn’t say anything as he takes the seat across from me.

And now I remember why I stopped saying thank you in the first place when he does something nice.

“Here we go!” The baker brings out a platter covered in mini cakes. “I’ll leave you both to try everything out in private. If you need anything, feel free to give me a shout.” She scurries away again.

My mouth waters as I scan the tray. “Do you have a preference for what kind of cake you want to try first?”

“Whatever you like is fine.” He pulls out his phone and starts scrolling through emails.

“Seriously? Do you ever take the night off?”

“No.”

“Then why bother coming in the first place?”

More silence. I’m starting to hate how he closes up whenever I ask anything that requires more than a basic one-sentence answer.

Instead of pulling back, I push harder. “You know what I think?”

“I’m sure you plan on telling me regardless of what I say.”

I kick the leg of his chair. While it doesn’t move a centimeter, it does draw his attention back to my face. “I think you didn’t want Cal to come with me tonight because you are jealous.”

He scoffs. “There’s no reason for me to be jealous of my brother.”

“Really? No reason at all?” I raise a brow in a silent taunt as I dangle my missed call notification in his face.

“Nope.” He grabs a mini cake off the tray and stabs it with a spoon.

“Great. Then let me FaceTime Cal and have him weigh in on this debate. If you wanted to be friends with us, all you needed to do was ask—”

He steals my phone straight from my hand. “I already told you I don’t want to be your friend.” His right eye twitches, giving his nerves away.

“Oh my God. You totally do!”

“Stop talking.”

But I can’t. Not with this precious gem of information at my disposal. “Cal might be opposed to welcoming you into our duo, but I’m sure he would be willing if—”

My eyes bulge as he shoves a spoon full of cake into my open mouth. “I finally found the perfect way to shut you up.”

I glare at him as I taste the most delicious dessert I’ve ever had.

His gaze remains glued to my lips as he drags the clean spoon past them. “All I need to do is keep your mouth permanently occupied.”

I graciously proceed to choke.


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