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Chapter One … continued
(If you missed yesterday’s post, you can find it here.)
“You think coming here is a mistake.” I snap the words at him, but it’s not Damien I’m irritated with, it’s me.
“No.” He doesn’t hesitate, and I take some comfort in the speed and certainty of his response. “But I do wonder if now is the right time. Maybe tomorrow would be better. After your meetings.”
We’ve come to Texas not so that I can torture myself by driving through my old neighborhood to visit my estranged mother, but because I’m vying to land a contract with one of the top web development companies in the country. It’s looking to roll out a series of apps, both for internal use among its employees and externally for its clients.
I’d submitted a proposal and am now one of only five companies invited to come to Dallas to pitch, and my little company is by far the smallest and the newest. I suspect, of course, that part of the reason I got the invitation is because I’m married to Damien Stark, and because my company has already licensed software to Stark International.
A year ago, that would have bothered me.
Not anymore. I’m damn good at what I do, and if my last name gets me a foot in the door, then so be it. I don’t care how the opportunity comes because I know that my work is top-notch, and if I get the job, it will be on the merits of my proposal and my presentation.
It’s a huge opportunity, and one I don’t want to screw up. Especially since my goal for the next eighteen months is to build up my receivables, hire five employees, and take over the full floor of the building that houses my office condo.
I’d worked on my business plan for months, and was a complete nervous wreck the night I handed it to my master of the universe, brilliantly entrepreneurial husband for review. When he’d given it the Damien Stark seal of approval, I practically collapsed with relief. My plan to grow my business doesn’t hinge on me getting this job—but landing it will mean I can bump all my target dates up by six months. More importantly, winning this contract will put my business firmly on the competitive map.
My shoulders sag a bit as I meet his eyes. “You’re afraid that seeing Mother is going to throw me off my game. That I’ll flub tomorrow’s meetings and hurt my chances of landing the contract.”
His brow furrows, but before he can ask what I mean, I rush to explain. “Just being in Dallas messes with my head—we both know that. She haunts this town. And having you here with me now makes it so much better. But you can’t always be with me, and before I make my pitch, I need to be certain that I can travel back and forth between LA and Dallas without being afraid I’ll see her around every corner.”
The pathetic truth is that lately I’ve been seeing my mother around all sorts of corners. I’ve imagined seeing her in Beverly Hills shopping centers. On Malibu beaches. In crowded streets. At charity events. I have no idea why this woman I’ve worked so hard to block from my mind is suddenly at the forefront of my imagination, but she is.
And I really don’t want her there.
I draw a breath, hoping he understands. “I need to lay all these demons to rest and just do my work. Please,” I add, my voice imploring. “Please tell me you understand.”
“I do,” he says, then takes my hand and gently kisses my fingertips. As he does, his phone rings. It’s sitting on the console, and I can see that the caller is his attorney, Charles Maynard.
“Don’t you need to take it?” I ask, as he scowls, then declines the call.
“It can wait.”
There’s a hard edge to his voice, and I wonder what he’s not telling me. Not that Damien keeps me informed about every aspect of his business—considering he pretty much owns and operates the entire planet and a few distant solar systems, that would require far too many updates—but he does tend to keep me in the loop on things that are troubling him.
I frown. It’s clear that he’s not telling me because I already have plenty on my mind. And while I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t like that—once again—my mother has come between my husband and me.
“You should call him back,” I say. “If he’s calling on a Sunday, it must be important . . .”
I let the words trail away, hoping to give him an opening, but all he does is shake his head. “Don’t worry about it,” he says, even as his phone signals an incoming text.
He snatches it up, but not before I see Charles’s name flash on the lock screen again, this time with a single word: Urgent.
Want more? Be sure to pop back tomorrow for more of Anchor Me, available April 11. Grab your copy now!
And if you’re just now meeting Nikki & Damien, why not grab of copy of Release Me, the book that started it all!