It had taken everything in me not to return to Collins’ house yesterday and take back everything that I’d said. I was officially losing my mind, and I had no idea how to find it again. No matter what I’d said to her yesterday, my feelings for her hadn’t gone away simply because I had chosen pride over love.
A knock at the door drew my attention, but it wasn’t like I’d been getting any work done anyway. Ever since yesterday, my mind’s been consumed with picking apart everything that had happened between me and Collins, plus trying to figure out where I’d gone wrong. Now, granted, paying the woman for sex might have been the first wrong step, but that night together should have changed that.
“Got a second?” Holden asked as he stuck his head in the doorway.
“Yeah, sure.” I let out a deep sigh. “What’s up?”
I watched as Holden opened the door all the way, and my heart stopped when I saw Collins standing next to him. “She didn’t have an appointment, and reception wouldn’t let her up because you’d been specific about not being interrupted this morning.”
Immediately getting to my feet, I asked, “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” he answered. “When she gave her name, then asked for me, I went downstairs to get her.”
I just stared at my brother as I said, “I was asking her, Holden.”
My brother grinned. “I know.”
I shot him a look. “You’re a dick,” I told him, not caring that we had an audience. “I hope you know that.”
Holden just kept grinning. “Never said that I wasn’t,” he returned before giving me a tight nod, then ushering Collins inside. With another tight nod, Holden left and locked the door behind him.
“Is everything okay?” I asked her again, certain that something must be wrong for her to be here. Collins had been very clear yesterday on where she stood with us.
“Uh…” She looked extremely uncomfortable. “Yeah. I mean, yes. Everything’s fine. Thank you for asking.” Her eyes were roaming all over the place, checking out my office, looking at everything but me.
I walked around my desk, then gestured towards one of the chairs sitting between us. “Do you want to sit down?”
“No, thank you,” she said, that extreme politeness still coming through.
I leaned back against the edge of my desk, then slid my hands in my slacks. “What are you doing here, Collins?” I finally asked. “I seriously never expected to see you again.”
Collins’ expression fell as she took a deep breath. “I can leave,” she offered.
Shaking my head, I went with honesty. “I don’t want you to leave. I want you to tell me why you’re here.”
“I’m here to tell you that you were right,” she said, putting all her vulnerability out there. “I am scared. I am a coward.”
“Hey, don’t do that,” I quickly interrupted. “I never should have called you-”
“No, it’s okay,” she insisted. “I…whether you realize it or not, you’re a little too good to be true, and I’m fighting this because none of it makes sense.”
“And I’m fighting for this because of that same reason, baby,” I told her, taking my hands out of my pockets as I walked towards her. “I’m thirty-five-years-old, and I have never been struck dumb by a woman before, Collins.” If she was going to be honest, then so could I. “What I feel for you is real, and I don’t care how it happened. I only care that it did happen.”
Collins started shaking her head. “I don’t even know how to date, Evander,” she blurted. “It’s been so long, and I work so many crazy hours that…I’m not even sure that I’d know how to go to dinner with you.”
“Who needs to eat?” I countered, and that got a quiet laugh out of her. “And if it’s any consolation, I can’t remember the last time that I took a woman to dinner.” I didn’t want to mention that I’ve paid women for sex because I could see that taking me a million steps backwards with Collins. Still, I knew that I needed to give her something more. “I haven’t dated in ages, Collins. I had arrangements that suited my needs when work finally let me come up for air.”
“That’s another thing,” she remarked. “With as much as we both work, how in the hell would this even work? Our responsibilities-”
“You quit your jobs,” I easily suggested, even though I knew that she never would.
“I’m serious, Evander,” she sighed.
“So am I,” I countered. “I know that you have no reason to trust me just yet, but I’m not an asshole, Collins. What kind of man would have his girlfriend quit all her jobs, then leave her out in the cold?” I eyed her. “C’mon, you gotta give me more credit than that.”
“That’s part of the problem though,” she replied. “I don’t know, Evander. Apart from what you can do in the bedroom, I know nothing about you.”
“That’s why we date, Collins,” I told her. “That’s the whole point of dating.”
“I can’t quit my jobs,” she repeated. “I…I’m willing to give this thing between us a try, but I will not quit my jobs. I can’t.”
“So, I’m just supposed to sit back and let you work yourself stupid, even though I have more money than I will ever spend in my lifetime?” I asked, knowing that her point was valid, but masculinity was a motherfucker of a burden. A real man didn’t let his woman carry that heavy of a weight on her shoulders. It just wasn’t done.
“I don’t want your money, Evander,” she shot back. “I know…I know that it might seem that way because-”
“Don’t fucking go there, Collins,” I warned her. “This isn’t about you taking my money or being a kept woman. This is a simple case of me being a chauvinistic caveman and feeling the need to take care of the woman in my life. It doesn’t matter if you are poor as dirt or as rich as Croesus, it’s my job to take care of you and all your needs.”
Her brows furrowed. “Who in the hell is Croesus?”
“He was a king known in history for his obscene wealth,” I absently explained.
“Oh,” she mouthed.
“Can we forget about Croesus for a moment?” I drawled out.
Collins fought the grin, but it came out anyway. “He’s seems rather interesting though.”
I shook my head, but the weight on my shoulders evaporated with that grin. “I love you,” I told her. “Now, you don’t have to say it back because I know that you like to live in reasonable reality, but I love you, Collins. I love you, and we’re doing this.”
She didn’t comment right away. When she finally did, she asked, “And my jobs?”
“I’ll give you six months,” I bargained. “After six months, we move in together, and since our new place will be bought in cash, you’ll no longer need to worry about rent, so you can give up at least one of your jobs.”
“That’s not how this works, Evander,” she said seriously. “Nan goes where I go.”
Stepping closer towards her, I wrapped my arms around her waist. “I know, Collins.” Her eyes got a little watery, but she was reining in her emotions well. “In all honesty, after meeting her, I wouldn’t let her live anywhere else than with us.”
“Six months,” I repeated. “After six months, you quit one of your jobs, then after a year, we get married, and you quit all three.”
“You quit all three, then take your time finding something that you really enjoy, Collins,” I bargained. “Nan will be fine. I will take care of the both of you.”
Collins let out a shaky breath. “That’s not how it works in the real world,” she stubbornly argued.
“That’s how it’s going to work in our world,” I argued back. “Plus, what are you going to do once we get pregnant? There are only twenty-four hours in a day, baby.”
Her eyes sparkled with the mention of children, and that’s when I knew I’d won. “How do you do that? How do you know all the right things to say?”
That was easy. “Because they’re coming from my heart,” I answered. “This isn’t a game for me, Collins. These aren’t lines.”
“Well…Nan will be happy,” she muttered. “She thinks you’re cute.” I threw my head back and laughed. “You’re going to have to make sure that you lock the bathroom door whenever you shower. I hope you know that.”
Looking back down at her, with the biggest smile on my face, I said, “Not a problem.”
Then her eyes flared as she said, “You know…like the way the door’s locked now.”
She was definitely going to be the death of me.