December 14, 2018
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“l don’t care what it takes to get those permits pushed through,” I snarl into the phone, sitting up straighter in my chair. “If you don’t have them by the close of business today, consider yourself fired.”
My voice carries through the doorway of my home office, causing the chatter of the two maids cleaning the living room to go abruptly silent.
“I’ll handle it,” Jay Maher, my residential development manager, replies tersely. My threats aren’t idle, and he knows it-just like he knows he fucked up on this deal big time. “Yes, you will,” I acknowledge quietly before disconnecting the call. I fully expect the permits to be obtained, even if Jay has to sell his soul to the devil to get it done. But that’s not my problem.
Glancing at the clock on my wall, I note there’s plenty of time to make my meeting across town. Punctuality is important to me. My father always says, “Respect of time will pay you back tenfold.” Not sure what he means by that, but he loves to drop little pearls of wisdom on me whenever he can. When Carlton Knight retired from Knight Investment Group two years ago, our yearly gross revenues exceeded just over fifty million. When he passed on the helm to his son-and that would be me, Asher Knight-he did so with expectations I would increase that figure substantially every year. I had no desire to disappoint him, but more than that, I wasn’t about to disappoint myself. My one major failure in life rewired my internal makeup. It made success and winning the only options. So far, they have served me well.
“What’d we miss?” Mark asked as he slid along the row into the empty seat next to his wife. Lily and Kim stared blankly at each other.
“Um…” Kim started to reply.
“Somebody pitched and someone else hit,” Lily said as she attempted to be helpful. Mark and Gideon groaned and shook their heads.
“Pitiful,” Gideon hid a smile. “That’s the best you could do?”
“Well, you didn’t tell me I was supposed to report back to you,” Lily squeaked as she tried to justify her actions. “Besides, Kim and I were busy talking.” She reached over and took a bite of Gideon’s hot dog. The smoky, spicy taste made her mouth water. He grabbed her wrist.
“Wait a minute,” he spluttered. “Are you crazy? First, you don’t pay attention to the game, and now you think I’m going to share my hot dog with you?”
“Yup.” She licked a speck of spicy mustard off the corner of her mouth.
He raised an eyebrow, entranced by the glimpse of her tongue. “And what makes you think that?”
“Because I’m so darn cute,” she retorted. Gideon pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, shook his head and with a sigh, handed over his hot dog.
I couldn’t stop tap, tap, tapping my passport against my hand. I knew it was a nervous habit, but I couldn’t help it.
I was nervous, after all.
The announcement overhead paged three people late to board their flight, and I took a long, deep breath to try and settle my nerves, my body.
I wasn’t afraid to fly-quite aside from the fact I’d just hoped off a flight to LAX from Madison, for as long as I could remember, Ild been traveling via airplane. My parents had family in two different states and lived in a third, so there was always somewhere to go, someone to see, something to celebrate.
No, I was nervous because this would be my first Christmas without anyone to join in the festivities. My parents and brothers would be staying in North Carolina, spending the holiday together with my brothers’ wives and children. My ex-husband, Mason, was still in South Africa, probably with his new girlfriend by his side.
And I was jumping on a plane and flying to Australia.
A familiar laugh. My eyes fluttered, and my feet refused to make forward motion. I begged reality to be lying. Not him. Please, no. And sure as shit, not now. My landlady had no doubt ushered him into our courtyard without hesitation. A handsome, well-dressed man, who smelled amazing and could charm a lamppost? She wouldn’t have been able to resist. Not many could.
I stopped at the green iron gate and saw my fears realized as Dimitri and Fern giggled poolside and sipped her self-proclaimed world-famous sangria. He had probably sold her a line like of all the sangria held tasted in Barcelona, hers was better. And Fern had probably bought it. Because Dimitri was smooth. Smooth like silk. Smooth like his divine, clean-shaven olive skin.
I glanced back at my current boyfriend, who was still in his Jeep and waiting for me to fetch our neighbor Richie. He bobbed his head from side to side and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. Blissfully clueless. If only I could freeze time. As I turned back to the courtyard, Fern’s dog, Archie-with his black-and-white markings and lopsided ears-spotted me and trotted over. Also clueless. Dimitri’s attention followed the adorable beast and landed on me. He bit his bottom lip, a habit I used to find sexy, and his hazel eyes gleamed behind thick lashes.
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