Only with You (The Best Mistake #1) - Page 33

She tried to force herself to focus.

Coming into the office after sleeping with Gray hadn’t been nearly as awkward as she’d feared. He treated her more or less like normal. And if he sometimes asked her to stay late and, ahem, “visit the copy room,” well, that was just fine by her.

Granted, nobody else in the office knew that they were bed buddies. Just the way she wanted it. And the way Gray wanted it. Which, okay, maybe bugged her, just a little. Not that she wanted their mattress acrobatics going out in the company newsletter or anything, but she couldn’t hide the suspicion that he was ashamed of her.

Knock it off, Sophie. Disparaging self-talk was so last year.

Digging through the papers on her desk, she looked for the notes Gray had left her after his call with Peter Blackwell this morning.

“Where the hell is it?” she muttered, rummaging through the stacks. Some people would call the mountain of crap “disorganization.” These people didn’t understand the appeal of structured chaos.

Finally she found the paper she was looking for. Under her coffee mug. And her water glass. She winced as she saw that the classy notepaper with Gray’s initials at the top now resembled a well-used coaster.

She bit her lip as she realized she’d have to ask him to rewrite the notes. He wouldn’t mind. She knew the information was locked up all neat and tidy in his database of a brain. But she hated having to ask. She didn’t want him to think she was getting careless just because she could.

Standing and adjusting her new yellow skirt that she’d blown most of her bonus on, she headed toward the kitchen to find Gray. Perhaps she could dump a little Baileys in his coffee to soften the blow. Or perhaps show a little cleavage…

Don’t be a floozy. She mentally saluted her inner voice. “Got it. Today’s to-do list: do not be a floozy.”

Sophie paused around the corner to the kitchen when she heard Gray talking to someone. It was Jeff Andrews. She felt a moment of panic. She hadn’t seen Jeff since the picnic, but if anyone suspected that something might be happening between her and Gray, it would be Jeff.

“You going to keep working on the Blackwell deal personally?” Jeff was saying.

Sophie relaxed. Nothing but a little harmless work discussion.

“Yeah, I promised Peter I’d stay on board until the end. He’s old-fashioned like that,” Gray responded.

“Makes sense. So what do you need from me?”

“I’m heading out to Maui at the end of the month. I’d like you to come along. Get your initial assessments of renovation and marketing costs.”

Jeff whistled. “You’re a tough boss. A work-related trip to Maui?”

“It won’t be all fun. I need someone to help run interference when Peter’s twit of a son tries to insert his obnoxious self in the middle of things.”

“Sure, no problem. But why not just have Sophie keep at that? Rumor has it she’s been running circles around the younger Blackwell.”

Sophie had been about to enter the kitchen once she’d established it wasn’t a confidential conversation, but she paused when she heard her name.

There was a pregnant pause, and Gray spoke again. “Sophie’s not coming.”

She frowned. Not at the words necessarily, although she’d have loved an expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. There was something odd about Gray’s tone. Like he was surprised and baffled that Jeff had even suggested that she go.

“Oh, sorry,” Jeff said, sounding sheepish. “I didn’t mean to imply anything inappropriate…I just meant that I thought Sophie would be going along for note-taking or dinner reservations or whatever. It’s the biggest deal of the year. Nobody would think twice if you brought your assistant.”

Sophie made a mental note to buy Jeff a coffee on their next Starbucks run.

Gray made a derisive noise that had Sophie’s spine doing a weird tingling thing. “I hardly think Sophie’s contributions would be worth the price tag of a round-trip plane ticket to Hawaii. I’m sure the Blackwells have some girl at the resort who can staple and push the buttons on the fax machine just as well.”

Something bright orange exploded in front of Sophie’s eyes and she realized it was anger. Or perhaps humiliation. She took a deep breath and tried to get ahold of her temper, but it was no use. She’d already rounded the corner and revealed her presence to both men.

“Hey, Soph,” Jeff said nervously. At least he had the decency to look guilty. Gray, on the other hand, looked completely unperturbed. Worse, his eyes looked almost affectionate. How dare he belittle her very existence in

the company and then give her a come-hither glance in the next instant? I’m just his plaything, she realized in horror.

“Sorry to interrupt,” she said. Gray’s eyes went instantly wary at the silky danger of her tone. “Mr. Wyatt, I was just coming to ask for some more information from your Blackwell meeting this morning. But I won’t worry about it, because I’m sure Mr. Blackwell has some other girl who can do it just as well.”

Gray’s eyes widened slightly, while Jeff made a choking noise and began backing out of the room.

“Sophie,” Gray said in a low voice, “let’s go into my office and talk.”

“Why, so you can f**k me and then give me menial tasks that apparently any little woman could do? Tell me, Gray, is it just in the office that I’m replaceable, or am I replaceable in your bed too?”

Sophie knew she was way over the line of appropriate corporate behavior, but she was beyond caring who overheard. She wouldn’t work here much longer anyway, and if it negatively impacted the employees’ perception of Gray, the jackass more than deserved it.

His lips pinched together and he gently took her elbow and led her out of the kitchen. She jerked her arm free, but followed him to his office. It was fitting, really. They’d done some of their best fighting in that office. Might as well have their last one there as well.

He calmly closed the door behind her before reaching out a hand. “Sophie, please. It’s not what you think.”

She made a scoffing noise. “You weren’t exactly vague, Mr. Wyatt. There really wasn’t much there that could have been misinterpreted. You think my job is useless.”

“No, of course not.”

“But you think any old person can do it.”

He hesitated for the briefest moment. “Well, no. Not anyone.”

There it was again, that big red anger ball of fire blowing up in front of her eyes so she couldn’t even see straight. “You made my job sound like a joke!”

He tried to move toward her again, but she took another step back.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” he said. “I didn’t mean anything against you personally. I was just thinking in terms of the expenses and the necessities, and…”

“And you don’t need little old me to do something a monkey could do?”

“Stop it,” he said sharply. “Don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what? Don’t call attention to the fact that you’re being completely demeaning?”

“No, I mean don’t take all of your personal issues with your family and put them on me. I’ve never considered you inadequate.”

“I heard you, Gray. You think this job is unimportant. You think I’m unimportant.”

“I would have taken you with me to Maui in a personal capacity,” he said quietly.

It was the wrong thing to say. “Oh, would you have?” she asked sweetly. “What would you have done, kept me stashed in your hotel room while the important people had important discussions?”

“Sophie, try to be rational. Do you really think this Blackwell deal requires your presence on a professional level? If so, then I’ll be glad to hear your case. But don’t try to use your employment as your entire sense of validation. Don’t do that to yourself. Do you even like this job? I hardly get the sense that filing is your life’s passion.”

He had her there. She didn’t dislike her job. The pay was good and she liked being around the man she loved all day long even when it was painful. But the job itself didn’t thrill her. It had long ceased being a challenge.

Still, she wanted her job to matter. This was supposed to be her path to respect. Instead she was no better off than she had been mopping up tequila. Why did everyone seem to think it was okay to treat her occupation as some sort of insignificant hobby? She’d never given Brynn crap for fitting metal to teeth all day. And she’d never told her mom that knowing twelve ways to explain the benefits of a walk-in closet hardly was going to change the world. Who were they to decide what was worthy and what wasn’t?

“I thought you were different,” she said finally, feeling some of the fight go out of her. “I thought you understood.”

“Different how? Understand what? Help me out here,” Gray said impatiently, spreading his hands to the sides in exasperation. “You want me to tell you that being a secretary’s the most important job in the world? News flash, it’s not. None of our jobs are. If you want to base your entire self-worth on your paycheck, go ahead, but don’t expect me to walk on eggshells and

blow smoke up your ass.”

“I’ll grant you that we’re not exactly saving the world here, but how am I supposed to spend my life with a man who thinks I’m disposable?”

She closed her eyes in dismay as she heard what she’d just said. She’d implied lifetime togetherness with a man who didn’t want marriage. Sophie prayed that he’d missed her slip. Or at least would ignore it.

He didn’t.

“That’s another thing, Sophie. I’ve never promised a lifetime. What we have is special. It’s fun. But you’ve known that I don’t want to get married, so I don’t know where you get off acting like I’ve just threatened some grand happy ever after. You’ve known this wasn’t forever. I’ve never lied about that.”

Sophie reeled. She hadn’t even realized how much she’d thought the night after the company picnic had changed things between them. But here he was telling her otherwise, in what was probably the longest speech of his life.

And it told her everything she needed to know.

“Gray?” she said sweetly.

“What?”

“I quit.”

“What? Now? I didn’t mean you had to quit effective immediately. We’ll need time to find a replacement, and for you to train them…”

The fact that his first thought was business solidified her decision even as it broke her heart.

But she knew what she had to do. “That’s not my problem, Gray. If you insist on me coming in for the next two weeks, I will because it’s standard business protocol, but I should warn you that they’ll likely be very awkward for both of us.”

“Why’s that?”

She smiled thinly. “Because I’m not just quitting Brayburn Luxuries.”

His eyes went cold and flat, and she saw that he understood.

“I’m also quitting you,” she said softly.

She hadn’t been expecting a reaction, and she didn’t get one. He stood there staring at her, his expression unreadable.

“You know the worst part of all this?” she said, making her way toward the door.

He said nothing, but steadily returned her gaze as she continued to speak. “I’ve been spending the past several months hating Jessica. Hating her for what she did to you. The cheating thing…well…that was still wrong of her. But her assessment of you as lacking was dead-on. There’s nothing beneath that suit but ice.”

Something stark and hopeless flashed across his features and almost had Sophie wanting to take back her words. Almost.

But she was done letting people spit all over her existence like she was some vapid butterfly who wouldn’t care. Everything was becoming clear to her now. That moment in the Las Vegas elevator had felt like rock bottom only because she’d let other people make her feel that way.

No more.

She was done living for other people. They could take the stingy, withheld respect that she’d been so desperate to earn and shove it up their ass.

Without a backward glance, Sophie opened Gray’s office door, and stopped only long enough to grab her purse. She didn’t bother to look back and see if he was watching her. It didn’t matter.

Sophie Dalton was taking her life back. Even if it meant walking away from the man she loved.

CHAPTER TWENTY

Sophie clung to her anger like a security blanket. It was the only way to stave off the soul-sucking pain that lurked beneath the rage.

And by Sunday night, that anger hadn’t abated. In fact, it had expanded. And it was no longer just Gray who was in its crosshairs.

“Mom, Dad, I’m here!” Sophie called, wiping her feet on the mat to remove the mud.

Seattle residents loved to brag about how great their summers were, but the truth was there was still plenty of rain. Even in June. And tonight’s storm was a doozy. Perfect for her mood.

“Sophie, dear, you’re late,” her mother said, coming into the foyer and putting a spatula-holding hand on her hip. “And you know I hate those jeans. I was so relieved when that ‘worn’ look went out of style, but you still insist on—”

“Mom,” Sophie said. “My jeans are just fine for a family dinner. And I’m not even ten minutes late. Brynn and Dad show up late all the time and you don’t so much as blink at them.

Marnie blinked rapidly, clearly surprised at having her lecture interrupted. “Well, honey, they do run late from time to time, but it’s different. They have very…”