Collide

By: Gail McHugh

Chapter Four

Unexpected Details

“Mr. Blake, the board is pleased with this quarter’s earnings. We’re also anticipating further growth next quarter for Blake Industries, considering the new Armstrong account you’ve acquired.”

Gavin stroked his fingers rhythmically across the sleek mahogany conference table. “That’s wonderful news, Barry. Have we heard anything on the Kinsman account?”

Ten pairs of eyes swung to the man as he nervously rifled through some files.

Another executive chimed in all too eagerly before he could answer. “Yes, Mr. Blake. They’ve accepted the offer and should be ready to move forward by the end of July, sir.” The man cleared his throat. “I gave all of the necessary paperwork to your brother.”

Gavin rose from his chair, gave a satisfactory nod, and called the meeting to an end.

As the last of the board members exited, Gavin sauntered over to a floor-to-ceiling window in his office. Peering down to the streets of Manhattan, he watched the chaotic lives of others rumble on below him. At the age of twenty-eight, he knew he had the world by the balls. Blake Industries was one of New York’s largest advertising agencies. Nevertheless, he lacked the most vital necessity ever—love. He inwardly knew it; hell, he knew it better than he knew his own facial features. Though he played the dating game after a long-term relationship ended, few—if any contestants—evoked feelings within him.

Finding someone who truly wanted him for who he was had become…interesting since the breakup.

Watching the tiny figures below scurry along the sidewalks, he found his thoughts racing back to Emily. It had been less than twenty-four hours since he was hit with the fact of whom she really belonged to. Gavin seethed at the fact that Dillon used him as a pawn with Monica. Yet, even though he had an attraction to Emily, Gavin knew he had to cover for his friend.

Still, his emotions volleyed back and forth between the lie he had been forced to tell and the upsurge of want for her snaking its way through his mind. Sure, some of it was a sexual attraction. Emily was beyond beautiful, and he couldn’t deny that fact. However, that wasn’t what fueled his desire for her. He couldn’t quite define exactly what it was, but he knew it was unlike any other attraction he’d ever had. He felt a connection to her—a deep pull within his gut that she was supposed to be with him.

Attracting, compelling, colliding, their chemistry—to say the least—was explosive. He felt it the first time he laid eyes on her, the drawing energy that radiated from her eyes as she stared into his. Standing among the empire he had built while the sun cast its rays against the steel giants lining the streets, he fought back the overwhelming urge to pay her another unexpected visit. Shaking his head at the insane thought, Gavin moved across his office. He sat down at his desk, went through some quarterly reports, and tried to rid the woman that could never be his from his mind.

It was then that Gavin’s older brother, Colton, walked into the office.

Crossing his arms in annoyance, Gavin glared at his brother with a displeased look on his face. “Where were you? Did you not receive the message I left with Natalie regarding the meeting?”

Colton gave Gavin a wry smile. “I must say you play the roll very well, little man,” he answered evenly, striding across the office as a muffled laugh left his lips.

“Stop being a wiseass. Really, what the fuck happened?”

“Jesus, Gavin, I got hung up on the home front with Melanie and the kids. Theresa and Timothy had a preschool musical.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He frowned, rocking back in his black leather chair. He had a soft spot for his niece and nephew. “I would’ve gone to see it.”

Colton waved a dismissive hand, his green eyes shimmering. “Don’t worry about it; they did just fine without Uncle Gavin.” He laughed and patted Gavin on his shoulder. “And I’m sure you did just fine without me during the meeting.”

Gavin snorted through his nose and muttered, “They’re fucking sharks if the numbers aren’t appealing to them.”

“That’s the business.” Colton shrugged and took a seat on the black leather couch. “We have people who invest in our company, and we need to produce the revenue they’re looking for in return.”

Standing up from his chair, Gavin effectively ignored his brother’s words and walked back over to the window.

“So are you ever going to secure an evening out with Alicia?” Colton probed.

Without turning around, Gavin crossed his arms and let out a chuckle. “I can’t deny that I don’t admire the way you’re able to seemingly transition from one topic to the next, Colton.”

“There’s a true compliment somewhere in that statement. But seriously, man, Melanie’s been bothering me about hooking you two up for a while. Just come out with us one night and decide if she’d be someone who would interest you.”

“I see you two are on the finding-Gavin-a-secure-relationship mission again.”

“Mission—not quite. But I think it’s about time you get over her.”

Snapping his head in Colton’s direction, Gavin’s eyes lit up with raw amusement. “Do you think I’m honestly not over her?” He almost laughed. “It’s been two years.”

“Well, she definitely caused you to draw back from forming other attachments—long-term attachments, that is.” Colton rose from the couch. “They’re not all the same, little man. She was just in it for all the wrong reasons.”

Gavin’s jaw tensed almost imperceptibly. “I really have no desire at all to talk about this,” he said, his voice holding a warning.

“Fair enough. Are you coming to dinner tonight at Mom and Dad’s?”

Shrugging into his suit jacket, the barest suggestion of a smile played on his lips. “Yes, I’ll be there—with the exception that you and my wonderful sister-in-law are not hiding a secret date for me under the table.”

Colton dug his keys from his pocket, gave an impish smirk, and walked out of the office.

By the time Gavin left, it was gridlock in Manhattan. Sighing, he rubbed a palm over his face as he gripped the steering wheel of his black BMW. While waiting for a herd of pedestrians to cross the street, he realized he was at the corner beside the restaurant where Emily worked. The blood drained from his face at the sight of her opening the door to leave. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he contemplated pulling over to say hello, but as soon as the idea entered his mind, a horn cut through his thoughts. Flipping the bird to the impatient driver, Gavin slid into first gear and navigated his way through traffic. He averted his eyes to the rearview mirror, trying to catch one last glimpse of her. It was then that his father’s far-fetched story about love at first sight slammed into his mind.

“She’s out there, son, and when you find her, you’ll know it the very second you see her. She’ll pull at your every instinct. Without any regard to the natural order of things, she’ll just…appear.”

“This is utterly fucking hilarious,” he laughed, tapping his finger on the steering wheel. “I’ve got to be out of my mind thinking about this girl.”

With so many conflicting emotions, over the next hour, Gavin thought about his beliefs carefully. As Manhattan’s skyline disappeared from view and the sprawling trees that layered upstate replaced it, he swore to himself that he would try to rid Emily from his mind—though he wasn’t quite sure if that was possible.

Applying the last bit of mascara to her lashes, Emily tore her attention away from the mirror. The slamming door signaled Olivia’s arrival home from work.

She hurried into the living room. “I’ve been calling and texting you all day,” Emily let out breathlessly, slipping on a pair of red heels. “Why didn’t you call me back?”

Olivia tossed her purse on the couch. “I left the damn thing here.” She walked into the kitchen and yanked it from the counter. Looking over to Emily, she beamed a smile. “You’re looking hot. What’s the special occasion?”

“Mine and Dillon’s nine-month anniversary. He’ll be here soon,” Emily hastily replied, walking over to her. “You were sleeping when I got home last night. You have no idea who I met.”

“Yeah, I was wondering why you were gone when I returned.” Olivia stabbed her passcode into her phone. “Okay, let me guess. Uh, Brad Pitt?”

“I’m being serious, Liv. You’ll never guess, so don’t even try.”

“No! I want one more shot.” Olivia paused. “Hmm, President Obama?”

“This is going nowhere real fast.” Emily laughed and sank into a seat at the table. “I met the one and only…wait for it…wait for it…Gavin Blake.”

“Totally hot, right?” Olivia asked, bringing her phone up to her ear.

Emily smiled. “Yes, completely.”

“Now admit my description of the walking god was on point, since, if I recall correctly,” Olivia tapped her finger on her chin, “when I gave you the prior mentioned walking-gods description, you begged to differ that any man could be that delicious looking.”

“Yes, you pretty much hit the nail on the head,” Emily laughed. “But I’m more than sure you want to hear the details of our prior meetings.”

Olivia quickly slid her phone shut. “Prior?” She crossed the room in two strides and lounged into a seat. “You have my attention. Spill it!”

Leaning her elbows on the table, Emily tented her fingers under her chin. “Let me see…oh, yes…he’s the man I had the encounter with at the Chrysler Building while delivering the food that one day.”

Olivia’s brown eyes widened, but she remained silent, unwavering shock oozing from her face.

Emily dropped her tone huskily. “Yes, and he’s the little stalker who came to my job, leaving me his name and number—oh, and a pretty decent tip, too.”

“Shut the front door, woman! Mr. Tall, Dark, and Fuckable Handsome is Gavin?” Olivia squealed.

Emily nodded and laughed.

“Are you messing with me, Em? Cause if so, that’s seriously fucked up.”

Leaning back in her chair, Emily crossed her arms, a smirk tipping her lips. “I swear.”

“You should just go out with him,” Olivia shrugged. “Obviously, he’s made an impression on you, and you’ve made one on him.”

Her words, so seemingly casual, threw Emily off. “What do you mean?”

“You have this dopey, dreamy look on your face. I know you’re imagining jumping his bones.”

“You’re joking, right?”

Olivia rose to her feet and made her way to her bedroom. “Are you asking if I’m joking about the dopey look on your face, going out with him, or jumping his bones?”

“Olivia, you know what I’m talking about.”

“You’re acting surprised that I would say any of those things, Em.”

Shocked, Emily swiftly followed behind her. She leaned against Olivia’s door and placed her hands on her hips. “Are you really serious about what you just said?”

Olivia peeled off her clothes, strolled to the bathroom, and stepped into the shower. “It’s no secret how I feel about Douchebag.”

“Ah, that’s right. Because how you feel about my boyfriend is what matters here,” Emily interposed sardonically as she walked into the bathroom.

“Why not give Gavin a try?” Olivia asked coolly.

Emily ticked the reasons off on her fingers. “One, I love Dillon. Two, I love Dillon. And three, guess what? I love Dillon.”

Olivia mocked Tina Turner in her finest sultry singing voice. “What’s love got to do with it?” She laughed.

“You’ve completely lost it, Liv. And, even if I weren’t with Dillon, you’ve killed the ever-wanting-to-entertain-Gavin-Blake opinion from my mind.”

Olivia poked her head out from behind the shower curtain. “How did I kill your opinion of him?”

“Let me see…he’s a ladies’ man is the first thing that enters my memory.” Drawing in a deep breath, Emily paused in thought. “Oh, and you don’t think he’s capable of staying with any woman longer than a week is another. Shall I go on?”

Olivia shut the water off and stepped out of the shower. Emily handed her a towel. “Right, that was after his fiancée, Gina, broke up with him when he started acting like that. Before the infamous split, he was a total package.” Olivia wrapped the towel around her body.

“He was engaged?”

“Yeppers,” Olivia piped back, sliding into a pair of black shorts and a white tank top. “They dated for almost five years, then one day he came home, and she was gone. Packed her shit and moved out of his apartment while he was at work.”

Confusion creased Emily’s brows. “Why?”

“To tell you the truth, he never told my brother exactly what happened. And when I’ve asked him about it, he doesn’t want to discuss it, so I have no idea,” she replied, pulling her makeup bag out of the drawer. “But you saw him. That man’s been blessed by the proverbial fucking-hot-as-sin gene. He’s worth millions and—really, I’m not kidding—he’s a decent guy.”

“So why have you never dated him then?”

“Oh, Lord, I’ve known him way too long. Let’s just say it would be like me banging my brother.” Olivia crinkled her nose in distaste. “Even though I have the utmost respect for the glorious gene pool that fine piece of fuckable ass has been bathed in, I sort of look at him like an older brother. It’d be way too weird.”

“How long has he been friends with Trevor?”

“You sure have a ton of questions for a girl who’s not considering playing naughty,” Olivia quipped.

Emily dismissively waved her hand as she turned to the mirror to study her reflection. “I’m trying to get in the loop here. Dillon tells me nothing about his friends or coworkers.”

“Well, if the answer you’re really seeking is if Dillon and Gavin have been friends as long as my brother and Gavin have been, the answer is no.”

“Oh, for some reason, I thought they all went to high school together.”

Olivia reached under the sink for the dryer, plugged it in, and turned it on high. Her voice rose as she dried her golden hair. “No, Trevor and Gavin went to high school together. They’ve known each other longer. Trevor works under Dillon at the firm; this you know.”

Emily nodded.

“When my brother started working at Morgan and Buckingham, Dillon was already a stockbroker there. That’s how my brother met your totally awesome dickhead boyfriend,” Olivia laughed and Emily rolled her eyes. “When Trevor was prepping to take his Series 7 Exam to become a broker, Dillon asked him if he knew anyone that had a decent bank account. Trying to impress a higher-up, my brother introduced Dillon to Gavin, and the rest is history. They’ve been friends for the last three years.”

“Very cool.” Or not, Emily thought to herself.

“And, supposedly, Blake Industries is the largest account Dillon handles.”

Emily shrugged. “So? Big deal.”

“So…you could thank Gavin for the money your boyfriend has.”

Emily thought about the countless nights Dillon spent at the office, landing different clients in order to earn a living. Even though Gavin played some part in Dillon’s newly acquired wealth, she knew her boyfriend worked above and beyond Blake Industries to make that money.

She simply bowed her appreciations. “Well, thank you for that very educational background of the three men’s histories together. You’re too kind.”

The two women laughed.

Emily went to walk out of the bathroom, but Olivia spoke up one last time. “Want to know something really funny, chick?”

Emily stopped in the threshold and waited for her to go on.

“It was Gavin who was supposed to come out and visit that one weekend with my brother when we were in school—not Dillon. Crazy to think that right now you probably would’ve been dating him instead.”

A faint smile tugged at Emily’s mouth as she stared into her friend’s eyes. The ringing of Emily’s phone broke through the few seconds of silence. She moved to the kitchen to retrieve the call. It was Dillon, announcing he was waiting for her downstairs.

Grabbing her purse, Emily strode to the door as Olivia blew her a kiss goodbye.

“You look amazing tonight,” Dillon breathed into Emily’s hair as they made their way into a quaint little restaurant nestled on the lapping shores of Liberty State Park. Placing his hand on the small of her back, he leaned closer and nipped at her ear. “And I have to admit that pretty red dress will come off by the end of the evening.”

Giggling at his obvious gesture, Emily pushed up on her tiptoes to kiss him. “And I have no disputes with it coming off.”

She took a quick moment to catalog Dillon’s features, sighing with warmth at his boyish good looks. His dirty-blonde hair was naturally mussed as if she had just run her fingers through it, and his light brown eyes reminded her of a perfect blend of caramel and chocolate.

He had made reservations for the special evening, making sure they had a table overlooking the water. It offered some of the best views of the Statue of Liberty in the distance. The waiter led them onto a lavish patio lined with trees and subtle landscaping. The view of the harbor swept Emily’s breath from her as she took in the sights New York had to offer under the stars. Although it was the first few days in July, the air held a crisp, cooling breeze on this particular night.

After placing their order and enjoying two glasses of red wine, Emily looked to Dillon. His gaze was transfixed on hers as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. She felt a blush dance across her cheeks, and she smiled.

“What?” she asked.

Sliding his arm across the linen-draped table, he reached for her hand, smoothing the pad of his thumb along her knuckles. “You really have no idea how beautiful you are,” he remarked, inclining his body ever so subtly over the table.

“Oh, you’re really trying your hardest to get some tonight.”

Chuckling, he held her hand tighter. “Touché. I already know that I’m getting some—willing or unwilling on your part.”

Emily shook her head and laughed. “You’re in a very frisky mood right now.”

He shrugged and casually leaned back in his seat. “Yes, I am. But how could I not be?” he said, gesturing to her slightly exposed cleavage with his head. “Although, I must say, I wish you would wear something that covered you up a little more.”

Emily adjusted the straps of her dress, pulling it up higher on her chest. “Is it that bad?”

“Well, I like to keep what’s mine to myself.” He cleared his throat and took a sip of wine. “Okay, let’s talk about something else before I take you right here on this table. So how was your day?”

Not meeting his eyes, Emily traced the rim of her glass with two fingers. “It was okay.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I feel self-conscious now, Dillon,” she replied, glancing around the patio.

“Emily, I didn’t mean it like that.” He reached across the table and lifted her chin with one finger. Her eyes came to rest on his. “I just don’t like when other men stare. You look stunning, but like I said, you’re mine.”

“Okay, I’ll pay more attention to what I wear from now on.” A faint smile tugged at her lips. “But, to be honest, I actually like when other women stare at you.”

“Oh, do you?”

“Yes, I do. I know you’re with me, and that’s all that matters.”

“Well, you’re a woman, that’s why. Men have other things in mind when they stare like that.”

Interrupting the conversation, the waiter arrived with another bottle of wine and two plates of Beef Wellington. The rest of the evening’s talk focused on Dillon taking Emily to do some sightseeing around the city. It was something that she had looked forward to since she had yet to do it—at least not with him.

Picking up the empty plates, the waiter looked to Emily and handed her a dessert menu. His thick, French accent slid from his tongue. “The chef recommends the crème br?lée medley, consisting of chocolate, vanilla, and banana.”

“That sounds good to me,” Emily replied, handing the menu back to him.

The faint sound of an infant crying caught Dillon’s attention. He glanced at Emily. “That baby is driving me nuts. Do you really have to get dessert?”

Emily sheepishly smiled, flicking her eyes in the direction of the couple who were trying to soothe the baby. “It’s just a baby, Dillon. And no, I don’t have to get dessert, but I want to.”

Dillon’s head snapped up as he glared at the waiter. “Fine, bring her the medley. But is there a possibility of removing the people with the screaming child?”

Emily’s smile fell.

“I apologize, sir, but I’m not able to do that,” the waiter answered, noticeably uncomfortable by his request.

Dillon’s eyes hardened on the man. “Surely there’s a manager that I could speak with then.”

Stupefied at his remark, Emily interjected immediately. She looked up to the waiter. “Please, there’s no need to do that. You can just place it in a to-go box for me. Thank you.”

“It may make for a mess in a to-go box, Miss. May I recommend our cheesecake if this will not be enjoyed here?”

“Yes, that’s fine. And thank you again.”

The waiter nodded and whisked off to the kitchen.

Emily’s jaw dropped open as she yanked the napkin from her lap, tossing it on the table. “Jesus, Dillon, what the hell was that about?”

He shifted in his chair, trying to drag his attention away from the couple and the now screaming baby. He rubbed his fingers against his temples. “I’m sorry. It was a long day at work.”

“Still, that was completely mortifying,” she huffed, leaning back against the seat.

“I said I’m sorry, Em. I’m just exhausted from working all of these late nights.”

A wave of guilt coursed through her as she reached across the table for his hand. “I know you’ve been working hard lately. But, honestly, what are you going to do when we have children?”

The waiter returned with both the dessert and the bill. Dillon retrieved his credit card and handed it to the man.

A small smile crept over Dillon’s face. “I wouldn’t want you messing up that gorgeous body by having children.”

“Well, I do want children eventually, so I guess you will have to endure a messed-up body on my part one day.”

Rising from his seat, he buttoned his suit jacket and offered his hand to Emily. She stood up with him. “We have time for children, babe,” he whispered against her cheek. He signed his name on the receipt when the waiter returned. “Come on, I have something special for you.”

Emily followed him out to the docks that lined the restaurant, her eyes feasting on the skyscrapers towering over them. The sparkling of lights from the windows, indicating the presence of others so high in the sky, amazed her. A cool breeze swept across her skin as she slipped her heels off, so they wouldn’t get caught between the boards.

Walking hand in hand, Dillon held her heels as he led her to the end of the docks.

He circled his arms around her waist. “Happy anniversary,” he said, handing her a black velvet box. “I love you very much, Em.”

Emily’s heart quickened with anxiety as her body trembled with anticipation. She licked her lips slowly. “Dillon…I…we…” she stammered, unable to finish the rest of her sentence.

Cocking his neck to the side, a low laugh escaped his lips. “You were just talking about having children with me, Em.” He tenderly brushed the hair from her face. “But it’s not what you think it is.”

Letting out an audible breath, Emily stared at him. His familiar brown eyes gazed back as she opened the box, revealing a pair of stunning, one-carat diamond earrings. Emily gasped at their beauty. Dillon took them from the box, removed the earrings she was wearing, and secured them on her lobes.

Looking down to the ground, Emily lightly fingered one of the diamonds.

Dillon brushed her cheek with the back of his hand. “They look beautiful on you.” He dipped his head, forcing her to stare into his eyes. “Though, I have to say, you looked like you were about to pass out when I gave you the box.”

She raised her hand and traced her fingers against his jaw. “They’re beautiful. Thank you so much. I just got a little…nervous, you know? I’m not sure if I’d be ready for marriage just yet.”

A slow smile curled his lips as his warm fingers splayed across her lower back. He pulled her to him. “Be ready soon enough, babe,” he crooned softly against her ear. “Because I’m marrying you one day.”

With his breath in her ear, he ran his tongue along the curved edge, gently sucking her lobe into his mouth.

The hair on her nape stood on end from his rapt attention to the spot he knew would send her over the edge. Thrusting her fingers into his hair, she pressed her lips against his. Their lips moved together as he swept his tongue through her mouth. He smoothed his hands down her waist and pulled her closer, his kiss growing hungrier by the second.

With her inner senses becoming too hot for the public onslaught of affection, Emily pulled back and slowly grabbed him by the hand. “Let’s go,” she breathed out, trying to contain the spiked level of need running through her. “Okay, let’s talk before I take you right here on the docks,” she laughed.

“Alright, but the talking ends once we get back to my place.” He eyed her seductively as his grip on her hand tightened. “Okay, something to talk about…something to talk about. Oh, you took off for this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, right?”

Emily came to an abrupt stop; her brow drew up in confusion. “For what?”

“Gavin’s Fourth of July party. We told you about it last night.”

“Right, but that’s Saturday. Why do I need off all three days?”

Dillon snaked his arm around her waist and continued to lead her to his Mercedes. “Because Gavin Blake doesn’t throw what you would consider a normal Fourth of July party.” Smiling, he opened the door for her. “We party the whole weekend. We’ll sleep there Friday and Saturday night and then head back here on Sunday morning.”

Emily settled herself into the seat of his car, and he closed the door. Once again, she felt her pulse jump but for something completely different now. Her stomach felt nauseated at the thought of having to spend an entire weekend at Gavin’s home in the Hamptons. She had prepared herself to see him again—she had to because he was Dillon’s friend, and there was no doubt they would run into each other from time to time—but this…this was different.

Dillon lounged into his seat, and the engine purred to life.

Biting her lip, Emily looked over at him. “It’s already Wednesday night, Dillon. I can’t get off all three days. I told Antonio about Saturday, and he was fine with that, but I’m pretty sure he won’t be fine with me taking the entire weekend off.”

“Then, I’ll go in and say something to him,” he stated, his voice holding a tone of superiority.

“Dillon, you will do no such thing,” she replied, her tone showing aggravation. “I’ll ask him when I get to work tomorrow. Don’t you dare go there and say anything.”

“Whoa-whoa,” he laughed, taking his hands off the steering wheel momentarily and holding them up in surrender. “Damn, Emily, it was just a gesture.”

Rolling her eyes, she leaned her head against the window. She wondered two things. One, if she could actually get off work all three days on a holiday weekend, which seemed near impossible in her mind. And two, if she was able to get off, how on earth was she ever going to make it through an entire weekend around Gavin without absolutely losing her mind?


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