Author:Gail McHugh

Chapter 8: To Hell with Self-Control

Over the next few weeks, Emily fell into her routine at the restaurant with ease and was happy that Dillon found himself in a more normal schedule. He wasn't getting in as late in the evenings. For Emily, things started to calm down. Dillon pulled a few strings with a client of his, who held a position high up in the New York City school district, landing Emily a full-time teaching position located in Greenwich Village. She was excited that in less than a month she would finally start her career at what she had spent so many years in college for and was even happier that she'd be surrounded by first graders. It was the grade she had wanted to teach because she felt the beginning of a child's educational start in life was their most important.

"Are you almost ready, babe?" Dillon called out impatiently while waiting on her couch.

"Just give me two more minutes." She pinned up the last few strands of her hair.

She studied her reflection in the mirror and decided that even though the auburn mess was uncooperative on this particular afternoon it would have to do. She threw on a green-and-brown boho summer dress with spaghetti straps, grabbed a pair of brown heels, and slipped into the living room.

"You look quite delicious," Dillon remarked with a smile on his face as he moved toward her. "Are you excited?"

"I am, but you don't have to do this." She snaked her arms around his neck, her heels dangling from her fingertips. "I have enough clothing."

"Yes, but you don't have any from the boutiques on Fifth Avenue." He pulled her closer and breathed against her cheek. "And, not to mention, I'd love to get you some more sexy lingerie from there, too."

"I bet you would," she replied, arching her brow.

He tilted her neck back, feathering kisses against it. "You have no idea."

Olivia cleared her throat, interrupting them from the intimate moment. "Where are you two lovers off to today?" she asked, rolling her eyes.

With a smart-ass smile on his face, Dillon walked over to Olivia, slinging his arm over her shoulder. "Well, if it isn't my favorite person in the world."

"Get off me, Douche," she spat, ducking her smaller frame out from beneath him.

"Dillon's taking me clothes shopping," Emily quickly interjected. She curled her arms around Dillon's stomach and pulled him away. She slipped her feet into her heels. "What are you doing today?"

"I'm finishing up the last of my painting and taking it to the gallery for the show," she replied as she poured herself a cup of coffee. "You're still coming, right?"

"I wouldn't miss it for anything, chick."

"Do you want to come with me tomorrow to get our nails done?" Olivia asked. "I so need a pedicure, too."

Dillon slid his arm around Emily's waist, leading her toward the door. "I hate to break up this female conversation, but I have places to take my girlfriend to, Ollie."

Emily kinked her neck back to look at Olivia. "Yes, Liv, it's a mani-pedi date. I'll see you later."

Olivia shook her head, and watched the two of them walk out of the apartment.

"You know, you really need to stop being such a jerk to her," Emily said, settling herself into the seat of Dillon's car. "She's been nice to you the past few weeks."

"I'm just kidding around with her, Em." He closed the door. Emily watched as he made his way around the car and slid into his seat. "She needs to learn how to take a joke," he said, starting the engine.

"I know, but please - for my sake - just leave her alone, okay?"

Grabbing for her hand, he maneuvered himself into traffic. "Alright, alright, I'll leave her alone."

"Thank you."

He brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it. "No problem. Do me a favor though. There's a file in the backseat. Can you grab it for me?"

She unbuckled her seatbelt and reached for it. After adjusting it over her body again, she glanced down at the file. Her heart skidded across her chest when she saw the name Blake Industries on the top-right corner. Although not graceful by any means, she had somewhat managed to keep her "new friend" from her thoughts the past several weeks, and now out of nowhere, she was essentially holding him in her hands.

"Here," she said, attempting to hand the file to Dillon.

"Just hang onto it for now. We're stopping by his penthouse before we go shopping. I have some papers I need him to sign before the weekend's over." He laughed, running his hand through his dirty-blonde hair. "He's a pain in my ass, I have to admit. The motherfucker's always adjusting his damn stocks."

"Oh...well...I'll just wait in the car while you go up then." She tried to appear casual as she glanced out the passenger-side window.

"You're not going to wait in the car. One, it's going to take a while because I have to go over a few things with him, and two, I want you to see what we will eventually be living in one day. His place is off the hook."

Emily let out a sigh. Nevertheless, fifteen minutes later, she found herself stepping out of the car in front of the building that housed her worst nightmare and her wettest dream.

After tossing his keys to the valet, Dillon pointed to the top of the massive structure. "You see that?" he asked Emily.

She tilted her head, her eyes following the slender ribbon of blue sky all the way up to the top of the building.

She nodded.

"That's where he lives like a fucking king overlooking all of this." He spread his arms open, gesturing over the Lenox Hill area of the Upper East Side. "One day, we'll be living like him," he smiled, placing his hand on the small of her back.

With the tip of his hat, the door attendant greeted them, acknowledging Dillon by his last name like an old friend. When they walked into the Italian Renaissance-style lobby, Emily noticed a few people milling around, swathed in some of the most expensive clothing and jewelry she had ever laid eyes on. Looking down at her summer dress from Walmart and heels from Payless, to say she felt a little out of her comfort zone was an understatement.

The elevator ride up to the seventy-fifth floor was torturous for her. When she heard the cheerful ding before the doors slid open, she wanted to melt into the walls and camouflage herself into the grains of the wood. The long walk down to the end of the hall had her feeling as if she was a bloody piece of meat suddenly cast out into a sea of awaiting sharks.

One particular shark that is.

As they approached the door, Emily wiped her hand across her now sweat-beaded forehead, her heart drumming in her chest erratically.

Dillon gave a quick knock, and after what felt like forever, it opened. Behind it stood a buxom redheaded bombshell. Other than her smile, she was wearing nothing but pink-laced panties and a matching bra hidden beneath one of Gavin's white button-down shirts.

Unbuttoned nonetheless.

"Wow, you look great." Dillon beamed a smile at the woman, but it quickly dropped when Emily shot him a look.

"Hey, Dillon," the woman rasped, pulling him in for a hug. "Like, seriously, long time no see."

Crossing her arms, Emily shifted in her heels and plastered a smile across her face.

Dillon quickly eyed Emily, cleared his throat, and returned his attention to the woman. "It has been a long time, Natasha. I'm assuming the big man's home? I never called to let him know I was stopping by."

"Yeah, he's out on the terrace with his laptop. Like, you know how he is, all work and no play," she laughed. "I just happened to be coming out of the bathroom when you knocked."

Dillon nodded. "Yeah, I know how he is with work."

"Who's this?" Natasha asked, closing the door behind them.

"This is the future Mrs. Parker," Dillon smiled and curled his arm around Emily's waist. "Emily, this is Natasha Bradford. She's Gavin's...friend?"

"I'm Gavin's flavor of the month," she giggled. Emily's mouth hung slightly agape at the woman's statement. "But it's okay with me. I get things like this," she giggled again as she playfully fingered a diamond necklace.

"Well, you're lucky little duck." Emily replied, trying to will herself not to throw up.

"I am, I am," Natasha smiled. She then cocked her head to the side. "So, like, really, you two are engaged?"

"So, like, we're really not," Emily quickly answered.

"Oh, wait...I thought," she looked to Dillon confused and smacked him on his arm. "You silly man, you had me thinking, like, you were engaged when you said she was the future Mrs. Parker."

"Eventually she will be," Dillon smiled, looking over to Emily.

She smiled back, inwardly praying she didn't have to hear the word "like" again.

"Okay, well, like, come in. I'll let him know you two are here," Natasha laughed.

Emily sighed.

Natasha walked away to get Gavin.

"Babe, I have to use the bathroom," Dillon said, walking down a long hallway. "I'll be right back."

Emily nodded.

At first glance, she noticed that the decor was a stark contrast from the warm setting of his house in the Hamptons. Although extraordinary in its own way, it felt cold and impersonal to her. Marble floors stretched from one end of the area to the next. Black leather couches, abstract stone sculptures, and colossal-sized pieces of black-and-white photos of the city consumed the enormous penthouse. No hint of color was anywhere. Holding a sense of business superiority throughout, it was exactly the space Emily had envisioned he lived in when she first met him. This wasn't a home; this was simply what the city expected him to look like. Another one of Gavin Blake's many layers came to her mind.

As Emily chided herself for analyzing his surroundings, Gavin stepped into view, wearing a pair of blue cotton pajama pants - shirtless. He - and his dragon tattoo curling the side of his ribcage - warmed the space almost immediately. Emily watched breathlessly as he whispered something into Natasha's ear. She giggled at whatever he said, kissed him on the cheek, and whisked down the hall into one of the rooms, closing the door behind her.

Gavin's eyes roved over Emily as he tried to mask the excitement he felt bleeding from his pores at the sight of her. He thought the last time he went without seeing her was an eternity; this longer stretch felt as if it was his certified death sentence. Feeling his body relax by her mere presence, he approached her with a smile.

"Sorry about that," he ran his hand through his hair. "She has distaste for clothing or something."

"But she has love for the word 'like,' so it all evens out, I guess."

"Mmm, I never noticed that," he replied, scratching his stomach.

"Are you kidding?" Emily laughed, trying to keep her attention on his face and away from the still lingering thought of where that tattoo begins.

He moved closer and whispered in her ear, "Of course I'm kidding. It's annoying, but don't tell her I told you that."

Between the close proximity and his warm breath brushing against her skin, she thought she was going to pass out for sure. "My lips are sealed."

In one swift motion, his gaze flicked down to her mouth then back to her face. "Do me a favor and try not to bring any attention to those pretty little lips," he whispered, his blue eyes intense.

Emily's mouth dropped opened and then snapped shut.

"Would you like something to drink?" he asked casually, slightly ducking his head to conceal the smile on his face.

"Are you going to watch me drink whatever you give to me? Because, I may be wrong about this, but I think I have to use my lips in order to do so."

He cocked a brow and smirked. "It would be my absolute pleasure."

"What would be your absolute pleasure?" Dillon's voice cut through the air, returning from the bathroom.

Emily backed away from Gavin, almost stumbling.

"I was just telling Emily it would be my absolute pleasure to give her a tour of my place," Gavin replied as calm, cool, and collected as could be.

"Well, before you start giving out tours, let's get this shit done first." Dillon handed him the towering stack of paperwork. "I need your John Hancock on every single one of these bad boys. I also want to talk with you about a few risks that I feel you are taking dropping CMEX."

Dillon walked into the kitchen to get a drink.

Gavin gazed directly into Emily's eyes. "I'm all about taking risks. I think it makes life a little more...exciting. Wouldn't you agree?"

Knowing exactly what he was referring to, Emily's heart tripled over into a somersault as she stared back at him.

"I just don't think it's a good idea to drop them," Dillon replied, popping the top off of a bottle of beer. He made his way back over to them. "CMEX is your security. You have so much invested in hedge funds right now; it may not be a good move."

"You are the professional," Gavin said with a smile. "Let's take care of this in my office." He then turned to Emily. "By all means, make yourself at home. Natasha should be out in a minute. I'm sure she'll keep, busy." He winked and then disappeared down the hall with Dillon.

Emily stood mute like a statue in the living room for a moment as she tried to catch her breath. She licked her lips slowly as the tingles that Gavin evoked from within her body worked their way up from her toes to the top of her head.


Sighing, she moved out to the terrace, hoping the fresh air would soothe the chaos wreaking havoc in her mind.

Being that the penthouse was a corner unit, stunning wraparound views of Central Park and the East River immediately awed her. The terrace alone was larger than her and Olivia's living room and both bedrooms put together. She cautiously peered over the edge to watch the city below her. Her hair whipped around in the wind as she breathed in the hot, humid August air. Although she was afraid of heights, Emily found the stillness, the assurance of solitude, and the lack of people that high up to be a calming force in that moment. The serenity of being outside alone was short-lived when Natasha strolled out of the French doors.

"It's, like, completely breathtaking out here, isn't it?" She joined Emily and handed her a glass of ice water.

"Thank you," she said, accepting the drink. "It truly is beautiful up here." She studied Natasha's strapless, skintight black tube dress. "So where are you from?"

"California," she giggled.

"Really?" Emily mocked in shock. "I would've never guessed."

Natasha kinked her head to the side, her long crimson hair blowing in the wind. "Like, I know right? People tell me that all the time."

"I bet they do."

The two women sat down on a plush outdoor couch. Natasha tucked her feet underneath her legs. "So, like, how long have you been dating Dillon?"

"We'll be together a year next month."

"That's so sweet," Natasha smiled. "He's such a cutie, too."

"Thanks. So how long have you and Gavin, uh..." Not sure how to ask the question, Emily brought the glass of water up to her lips and took a sip.

"Been fucking?"

Emily choked mid-swallow on her water.

"Oh God, are you okay?" Natasha asked concerned, placing her hand on Emily's back.

"Yes, it..." She cleared her throat several times. "It went down the wrong pipe," she said, pointing to her throat. "I'm alright now, thanks."

"So, like, I was saying, let me see..." Natasha paused in thought and tapped her finger on her chin. "I met Gavin, like, two years ago when Blake Industries was running an ad campaign for a modeling company I worked for. We're by no means in a serious relationship at all, but we've been fucking around off and on ever since. Like, when he calls me, I come," she giggled again. "And I mean, literally. God, do I come. That man knows what he's doing in the sack. Like, the best I've ever had - no joke. And those lips and tongue...they are so, like, not only good for kissing. I mean, when he goes down and - "

"It feels like it just got hotter out here, right?" Emily interrupted and quickly stood up. She started fanning her face with her hand. "Yeah, it definitely feels hotter out here."

Natasha furrowed her brows. "Hmm, I don't feel it."

"I do. I'm going to go back inside to hang out in the air conditioning."

"Oh, okay, like, I'll join you," Natasha exclaimed, hopping up a little too eagerly.

Please don't...

Walking into the penthouse, Emily found Dillon sitting on the leather couch.

"You alright, babe?" he asked. "You look pale."

"Yeah, I'm okay." She walked over to him. "I need to use the bathroom before we leave."

Natasha pouted her lips and slumped into a chair next to Dillon. "Oh, no. I was, like, hoping we could all go get some lunch together. There's, like, this posh little Greek restaurant that opened up, and I'm so wanting to try it out."

"That sounds good to me." Dillon rose to his feet and walked into the kitchen to grab another beer. "I'm actually starving."

"Dillon, we're supposed to go shopping, remember?"

"We'll go afterward. Fifth Avenue will still be there when we're done," he replied, sliding open his phone to call someone.

Emily stared at him, her eyes fuming as he started his conversation with the person on the other end.

"Oh goody!" Natasha clapped her hands.

Gavin walked into the living room, still lounging in his pajama pants. He started massaging Natasha's shoulders from behind her. "What are you clapping for?"

"She's, like, really excited because we're all, like, going out to lunch together." Emily shot him a wicked smile, her eyes narrowing on him. "So, like, I need to use your bathroom before we go. Can you, like, tell me which one of these halls I need to go down to get to it?"

Natasha beamed a smile from ear to ear.

The corner of Gavin's mouth turned up. "It's, like, at the end of that hall, last door on your right." Pointing down the hall, he tried to stifle a laugh.

Without a backward glance, Emily headed in the direction he pointed. She shut the bathroom door behind her.

"Un-fucking-real," she murmured to herself as she studied her reflection in the mirror.

After taking a few minutes to grasp the fact that she was about to spend her afternoon in a very uncomfortable situation, she emerged from the bathroom and found Gavin casually leaning against the opposite wall with his arms crossed. She could hear Dillon and Cali-Girl laughing in the other room, but the conversation was inaudible.

"You find this whole thing funny, don't you?" she asked.

Smiling, he stepped closer. "You don't?"

She stepped back. "Not as funny as I think you find it."

Undeterred, Gavin stepped closer still. "We're pals, remember?"

Not saying a word, she took another step back, only to find she was now against the wall with her sweaty palms pressed against the cool surface.

He propped his hand just above her shoulder, angling his head to the side as he ducked down to stare into her eyes. "It's just lunch," he said, his voice low, seductive even. "Friends have lunch together all the time."

Closing her eyes, Emily tried to concentrate on the distant echoing of Dillon's voice in the other room, but Gavin's sweet breath so close to her was making it difficult. Goosebumps erupted all over her skin.

"You're fucked up," she breathed, her heart ricocheting in her chest so hard she swore he could see it.

"You think so?"

Swallowing hard, she opened her eyes and nodded.

He caught his bottom lip, dragging it slowly between his teeth. "Then, can I make a confession since I seem to be a pretty fucked-up guy to you?"

The husky sound of his voice made a fresh round of butterflies explode within her stomach.

Another speechless nod.

Softly running his fingertips down her bare arm, he slipped a bottle cap into her hand. He leaned in inches from her ear, his voice nothing but a whisper. "I completely forgot to give you this when you walked in."

Smiling, he backed away and walked into his room, closing the door behind him.

Emily let out the breath she was holding, trying to restore her jumping pulse to a normal rhythm. A knot swelled in her throat. After shoving the damn bottle cap into her purse, she made her way back into the living room and sat on the couch next to Dillon. Over the next fifteen minutes, while waiting for Gavin to get ready, she endured Natasha's mind-numbingly detailed explanation of her recent plastic surgery endeavor to lift her ass higher. Even though Natasha seemed to be a nice, slightly confused girl, by the time Gavin walked into the living room, Emily was more than happy to get the hell out of there.

If it were even possible, the elevator ride down was more torturous than the ride up. The sexual tension in the small space was so thick that Emily could feel it slithering across her skin. The two couples stood across from one another on each side. Dillon and Natasha talked about stock options that he felt she should look into purchasing. Smiling, Gavin casually leaned against the wall, snaking his arm around Natasha's waist, his eyes never wavering from Emily. She watched him just as intently. He was decked out in a form-fitting black shirt that strained around his muscled forearms and black slacks that snuggly hugged his tapered waist. When the cheery ding of the elevator rang on the bottom floor, Emily slipped out as fast as she could, finding retreat in the open-aired space of the lobby - away from him.

Stepping out from the building, the couples decided that they would all drive in Dillon's car over to the restaurant. As Natasha and Gavin sat in the backseat, Emily lost track of the amount of times she rolled her eyes at every giggle that escaped Natasha's lips, caused by something whispered by Gavin.

No doubt something sexual in nature.

When they arrived at the restaurant, Dillon helped Emily out from the car as Gavin did the same with Natasha. Although the savory smell of the Greek food lingering in the air surrounded Emily's senses, she didn't have much of an appetite once the host showed them to their table.

"So, Emily, you're really beautiful," Natasha remarked from across the table. "Have you ever, like, thought about getting into modeling? You're over eighteen, right?"

"Um, yes, I'm twenty-four. But I've never thought about doing anything like that. Besides, I like food too much," she laughed, handing the menu back to the waiter.

Dillon reached for Emily's hand and looked to Natasha. "I wouldn't want her modeling anyway."

"And why is that? She'd, like, make totally awesome money, and I have the best agent in New York that I would totally introduce her to."

"She doesn't need to worry about money." Dillon leaned back in his seat. "It's just something I'd prefer her not to do, that's all."

Natasha shrugged and flipped her hair to the side.

"So Dillon said that you'll be teaching in the city this year?" Gavin asked, glancing in Emily's direction.

"Yes," she replied, placing a napkin in her lap. "Over in Greenwich Village."

"Yeah, she's teaching first graders, so I don't have to worry about any of her students developing a crush on her," Dillon laughed and leaned over to kiss her neck.

"Ah, but you may be incorrect on that, Dillon," Gavin said. "I had a thing for my first-grade teacher when I was a kid."

Dillon took a swig of his whiskey on the rocks and laughed. "Are you for real?"

"I am," Gavin leaned back in his chair. "If I recall..." He paused for a second and smiled. "Her name was Miss Molly. And, man, let me tell you, I had it bad for her. She drove something in me that I couldn't quite understand."

Emily shot him a wry smile and rolled her eyes.

Natasha laughed, playfully smacking him on his arm. "Like, you were totally after women even then, huh?"

"Apparently, he was." Emily tented her hands under her chin and eyed him from across the table.

Smirking, Gavin drew up a brow but remained silent.

"Holy shit, if it isn't Dillon Parker!"

Emily turned around and observed a tall man around their age beaming a smile, his brown hair slicked back with a good amount of gel.

"No fucking way!" Dillon stood up, rounded the table, and shook hands with the man. "Where the hell have you been hiding?"

The man smiled. "Down in Cancun with the luscious senoritas, but I am back and hotter than ever."

Dillon turned around to Emily. "Babe, this is an old buddy of mine from college, Keith Jacobs. Keith, this is my girlfriend, Emily."

She shook his hand, and Dillon introduced him to Gavin and Natasha. Small talk was briefly exchanged, and Dillon excused himself from everyone to go chat it out with Keith at the bar for a few minutes.

Figuring she could play the game just as good - if not better - Emily smiled and turned to Natasha. "So, Natasha, have you had the chance to visit the New York City Public Library yet?"

"Oh, well, not yet, but I like to read magazines. I'm sure they have some there, right?"

Gavin smiled in Emily's direction, thoroughly enjoying her wiseass remark. He knew exactly the conversation she was referring to by bringing up the library.

"Absolutely they do." Emily widened her green eyes. "Hundreds, if not thousands, of magazines would be right at your fingertips." She took a sip of her much-needed Cosmopolitan and smiled. "I bet there's a ton of Vogue magazines as well."

Natasha smiled. "Thanks for the suggestion. Like, I'll totally have to check it out one day," she giggled. "But, right now, I have to powder my nose. I'll be right back."

She stood up, dropped a chaste kiss on Gavin's temple, and scooted her way across the restaurant, her ass chucking firmly from side to side as she adjusted her tube dress.

"That was pretty funny," Gavin laughed as he slightly leaned across the table. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again, you're a pretty funny girl."

"Really, Gavin? A man of your stature dates a ditz like that? I guess you weren't kidding when you said you attracted the all-beauty-and-no-brains type."

"I told you we all have ways of filling voids in our lives," he shrugged. "She gives me what I need, and I give her what she needs. It seems fair to me."

"Oh, that's right, 'cause who could honestly miss the rock hanging from her neck?"

"You seem...upset?" he replied, his voice monotone and his face impassive.

Emily inwardly flared but kept her tone to a whisper. "You want to know what I'm upset about?" He nodded, not taking his eyes off her. "I'm upset that you blatantly go out of your way to make me uncomfortable. What happened to your whole wanting-to-be-friends gesture?"

"Am I making it that hard for you?" he asked mockingly.

"Yes, Gavin, you are," she quietly spat, her fingertips white-knuckled around her glass.

With his need for her trapped inside - blistering hot, sweltering, ready to explode - he leaned in closer, dropping his voice. "Good, because whenever you're near me, I fucking lose every bit of self-control I have left."

Emily's throat tightened at his unexpected words. She breathed out heavily, the sound hanging in the air as the tingles coursing through her entire body came in crashing waves. And, to top it off, with every second he stared at her the way he was, she was getting hotter. The impact created an explosion between her legs, causing a chain reaction of anger mixed with more desire for him than ever before.

Emily returned his hot gaze with one of her own, showing a streak of defiance as she tried to catch her breath. "What do you want from me?"

"I want you to give in to what I see behind your eyes every time I'm near you." Slowly - so slowly - he licked his lips as his brilliant blue eyes hardened with palpable lust. "I want you to give in to the way you trembled in my arms when I touched you...the way your breathing becomes faster when I look at you."

Staring at him, her heart ricocheted in the cavity of her chest, but she was unable to form a sentence.

"I loved the way your lips felt against mine, and I'm pretty sure you did, too. I also enjoy the way I can almost feel you becoming wet for me right now." Leaning in closer, he dropped his voice to a hard whisper. "Are you going to pretend that you don't feel anything for me, Emily?"

He wasn't even touching her, yet he was correct - her panties were damp. She hated that he was right; she hated that he could notice every physical and emotional reaction she had toward him. And she hated that she wanted him so bad she could taste it.

Damn him.

"I'm not answering your question," she breathed out.

Their eyes seductively bored into each other like two charging bulls relentlessly ramming against a cage.

"You don't like answering questions," he stated through gritted teeth, trying to fight his urge of dragging her clear across the table and into his arms. He could've devoured every inch of her body right there. Like a tornado ripping through anything in its path, her presence alone was pulling him into her.

Damn her.

"No, Gavin, I don't like answering your questions," she quickly whispered. "And it looks like I don't have to because your void-filler is walking this way."

Gavin's pupils lost her gaze and dilated with awareness of what she said. Casually leaning back in his seat, he plastered a fake smile across his face as Natasha approached the table.

Before taking her seat, she leaned down and pulled him in for a kiss. Emily was foolish not to peel her eyes away from their open-mouth exchange. She felt a nauseated pang deep in the pit of her stomach at the sight of Gavin sliding his hot tongue over Natasha's mouth. She didn't know why she was having such feelings, but in that moment watching them, she felt pissed, and she knew she had no right to. When the kissing skit finally ended, Gavin's blue eyes flitted over to Emily; his gaze was unsteady with a strong hint of something akin to an apology shimmering behind them.

One corner of Natasha's mouth tipped in a satisfied smile before she took her seat next to him. "Sorry I took so long. Like, I had to totally empty out my purse to find my lipstick."

Emily drew in a long breath and almost jumped up when she felt a large hand squeezing her shoulder gently. She turned around, and it was Dillon. Meeting his gaze, she tried to get her heart to slow from its frantic shock of the conversation that had just ended.

The waiter eventually brought their food. Heated glances exchanged between her and Gavin for the remainder of the meal kept Emily's hands nervously dancing with her silverware.

After being forced to endure an hour of mind-fucking conversation regarding Dillon's concern over Gavin's stock portfolio choices, Emily was elated when the couples finally retreated to Dillon's car, putting an end to the afternoon that had left her stomach in knots. She was practically silent during their drive across the city to drop off Gavin and Natasha at his place, but if Dillon noticed her sudden change in demeanor, he didn't comment. When they arrived at Gavin's high-rise, Emily claimed she wasn't feeling well, grasping for any excuse to stay in the car while Dillon walked them up to the entrance. He politely kissed Natasha's cheek and bade his farewell to Gavin with a firm shake of his hand. While Dillon was heading back to the car, Emily's eyes were magnetically drawn to Gavin, who was holding the door open for Natasha as she sauntered into the lobby flipping her hair. Before he followed Natasha into the building, Gavin turned around with both of his hands buried in his front pockets and threw Emily one last longing, piercing stare that would stay burned into her memory for the rest of the afternoon.

Dillon lounged into his seat and smiled. "Ready for some Fifth Avenue shopping?"

Although feeling like she had just escaped from a psychiatric ward, Emily plastered one of her own fake smiles on her face and nodded to Dillon. "Yes, let's get out of here."