Bossman by Vi Keeland

Chapter 22

Reese

I woke to the sound of Chase gasping for air. It was a gritty, raw, ear-splitting noise that felt like it should come after being pummeled in the gut. There was no hesitation before I woke him this time.

“Chase…wake up.” I shook him vigorously.

His eyes flew open, and he stared at me, yet I could tell he didn’t actually see me.

“You were having another nightmare.”

He blinked a few times, and his vision came into focus. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine. But you…sounded like you couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t sure if it was a nightmare or you were really having some sort of respiratory distress.”

Chase sat up. His face was damp with sweat, and he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “Sorry I woke you.”

Just like yesterday, he got out of bed and spent ten minutes in the bathroom with the water running. When he returned, he sat on the edge of the bed again, so I followed suit and straddled him from behind—only this morning I was wearing a T-shirt.

“You okay?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Anything I can do?”

“You could take off the shirt. Your tits pressed up against my back does a lot to stop the nightmares.”

I pointed out the obvious. “Umm…you’re already awake. I don’t think that would help with this morning’s nightmares.”

“Maybe not, but there’s always tomorrow.”

I smiled, leaned back, and lifted my shirt over my head. Pressing my bare skin to his, I asked, “Better?”

“Sure is.”

We stayed like that for a good ten minutes, our breaths synchronizing in the quiet, dark room.

“Peyton’s dad took off when she was little, and her, her mother, and her two sisters ate all their meals in a shelter for a while. When Peyton got older, she wanted to give back, so she volunteered at a few local soup kitchens. She made friends with this one guy, Eddie. He had issues with people coming too close to him, so he refused to sleep in the shelters. Eddie was being harassed by a group of teenagers. They’d show up at night at a homeless camp—where a lot of people who had nowhere else to go slept—and start trouble. It was a game they played. Every few days he’d come in with a gash on his head or bruises.”

“That’s horrible.”

“Yeah. Peyton went to the police, but they didn’t do much. Eddie didn’t speak more than a word or two here and there, and Peyton couldn’t let it go. She started following him at night to see where he was staying, thinking if she gave the police more specifics they might look into it further. I told her it wasn’t safe, but she didn’t listen. The day of our engagement party, Eddie showed up at the shelter with a broken nose and two black eyes. Peyton had figured out where he was staying, and went down there that night to see if she could pry more information out of others since Eddie didn’t talk much. She was supposed to wait for me at the train station.”

“Oh God.”

“I found her a few minutes too late. Eddie was cradling her and rocking back and forth, sitting in a pool of her blood. Knife wound. She must have gotten in the way of their game of beating up homeless people.” He took a deep breath in and out. “She was gone before they got her in the ambulance.”

My throat burned, and tears stung my eyes as they slid down my face.

Chase must have felt the wetness on his back. “Are you crying?”

The passage from my chest to my lips was clogged. It was hard to speak. “I’m so sorry that happened to you, Chase. I can’t even imagine what you went through.”

“I didn’t tell you to get you upset. I wanted you to know so there’s nothing between us. I hate that the nightmares came back at all, but this is the first time I’ve felt anything more than physical for someone since Peyton, and I don’t want to screw it up before it even has a chance to get started.”

“You’re not screwing things up—just the opposite.”

Chase turned, pulling me from behind him onto his lap. Pushing a piece of hair behind my ear, he said, “I’m not the hero your brother is.”

My eyebrows drew together. “What are you talking about?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t keep Peyton safe.”

“Keep her safe? What happened wasn’t your fault. How could it be?”

“I should have been there with her.”

“Chase, that’s crazy. You can’t be with someone twenty-four hours a day to protect them. It’s not like you put the knife in the killer’s hand. People need to take responsibility for their own protection. That’s why I’m the way I am. My own experiences have made me even more aware of that. ”

Chase looked into my eyes, like he was searching for sincerity. When he found it, which of course he did because I’d meant every word I said from the bottom of my heart, he nodded and kissed my lips gently.

He exhaled, and I actually felt the tension leave his body. Checking the bedside alarm clock, he said, “It’s not even five o’clock. Why don’t we try to get some sleep?”

I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate or not, but I wanted to make him feel better, get his mind off of the sadness of the past. Neither one of us could change what had happened in our lives, but we could leave it there and move forward and continue to live. My eyelashes fluttered before I spoke from beneath them. “I’m not sleepy.”

“No?”

I shook my head back and forth slowly.

The timbre of his voice dropped. “What did you have in mind?”

“Maybe a little of this.” Dipping my head, I kissed his pectoral muscle. Working my way up, I alternated between gentle licking and sucking until I reached his jaw. My tongue trailed from one end of his beautiful mouth to the other, planting a soft kiss at the corner of his lips.

Turning his head to catch my lips with his, Chase kissed me deeply. The kiss felt different than the others we’d shared—more intense, more passionate, more meaningful. If our kisses were each a story, this was the one where the hero got the girl, and they rode off into the sunset.

For the next hour, we shared more than just our bodies. The sun had begun to rise, casting a golden hue across the room as Chase slowly moved in and out of me. It was beautiful and tender, and I felt it in a place I never knew another human being could touch—my soul.

We had an evening flight home after the second day of focus groups wrapped. After working side by side during the day and sleeping wrapped in each other’s arms, a feeling of melancholy washed over me as we drove to the airport. I looked out the town car window, lost in thought, as Chase spoke on an overseas conference call with one of his manufacturers.

He covered the phone and leaned toward me, pointing to a large billboard up ahead. “You want to go, don’t you?”

It was an advertisement for the Wizard of Oz Museum.

After he hung up, he surprised me by reaching over and hauling me snugly against him. “You’re awfully quiet.”

“You were on the phone.”

“You’ve been sitting as far away from me as you can possibly get and staring out the window. What’s on your mind, Buttercup?”

“Nothing. Just a long day.”

“You sure?”

I thought for a minute. I wasn’t the least bit tired; that’s not what was casting a shadow of gloom over me. So why was I lying? Why hide what I was thinking about?

I turned to face him. “Actually, no. I’m lying. Something’s been on my mind all day.”

He nodded. “Okay. Lay it on me.”

“Well…I enjoyed my time here with you.”

“I enjoyed my time inside of you as well.”

I laughed. “Not exactly what I said, but let’s go with it. I guess…I’m concerned about what happens when we go back to reality.”

“I thought we’d already discussed that. Bending you over my desk, underneath it on your knees, conference room table—you have a full schedule once we’re back in the office.” He tugged at the material of his slacks. “Fuck. I can’t wait to get back to work. Maybe we should go in when we land tonight.”

I playfully nudged his shoulder. “I’m serious.”

“So am I. I treat fucking you with the utmost sincerity.”

“Well, utmost sincerity or not, I don’t think any of it should be happening in the office.”

His face fell as if I’d just told him there was no Easter bunny. “No office sex?”

“I’m not sure it’s a good idea that anyone finds out.”

“I’ll close the blinds.”

“It would probably be safer if we kept our distance at work. Obviously, we’ll be in meetings together at times, but no inappropriate touching.”

“Safer for whom?”

That was a pretty damn good question. “Me?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

“I’m new. I want to earn people listening to what I have to say, not have them nod their head because I’m screwing the boss. And…when…you know, we aren’t together anymore, it’s going to be weird enough between the two of us. Having the entire office watching our interactions would just make it worse.”

Chase grew quiet. He looked out the window, and the distance between us widened, even though we were sitting side by side. “Whatever you want.”

Arriving at the airport, we breezed through security and had more than an hour to kill before we boarded our nine p.m. flight, so we went to the first-class lounge. Chase had gone to the men’s room while I ordered us drinks at the complimentary bar. A nice looking, young guy walked up next to me as the bartender opened a new bottle of Pinot noir.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

I smiled politely. “They’re free.”

“Damn. I forgot. I’ll buy you two then.”

I laughed. “I’m good. But thanks anyway, big spender.”

The bartender set my glass of wine on the bar and went to work making Chase’s drink. I studied the electronic flight board hanging above the bar to check that ours was still on time.

Watching me scrutinize the chart, the guy next to me said, “My flight’s been delayed twice already. Where you heading tonight?”

I was about to respond when a deep voice behind me beat me to it. “My house.”

The guy took one look at Chase, who stood close at my back, his hand wrapped possessively around my waist, and nodded. “Got it.”

Taking our drinks, we sat at a quiet booth in the corner.

“I didn’t take you for the possessive type.”

Chase looked at me over his drink as he sipped. “I’m not usually. Yet I feel very greedy when I look at you. I don’t want any other man to even come close.”

Our eyes met. “Is that why you’re upset with me? Because you’re feeling territorial, and I don’t want anyone in the office to know about us?”

“No.”

“Then what is it? You’ve been quiet for the last half hour, ever since we talked in the car.”

Chase looked away, his eyes roaming the room as he collected his thoughts before he looked back. “You said when, not if.”

I furrowed my brow.

“In the car. When you were talking about how you didn’t want things uncomfortable in the office, you said when we aren’t together anymore…not if we aren’t together anymore. You’ve already planned our breakup in your head and how it will impact you at work.”

“I did n—” Oh my God. He’s right.

I’d skipped right past the relationship part and was already worried about how our demise was going to affect me. Talk about not giving something new a chance.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. It’s just that I don’t exactly have a good track record with relationships. And I left a job I loved over my last office romance. I guess I’m using my past to set expectations about the future.”

Chase watched me intently. “No expectations, no disappointment?”

I don’t know why, but admitting that as the truth made me embarrassed. I looked down. “I guess.”

Chase leaned in. Touching my chin, he gently lifted. “Give it a chance. I might be the one who doesn’t disappoint you.”

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