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Read Beautiful Bastard Book 1 – Page 63

Beautiful Bastard is a web novel produced by Christina Lauren.
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Read WebNovel Beautiful Bastard Book 1 – Page 63

“She’s only a master’s student, Mr. Ryan. Of course it’s a tiny account. Only someone in love with her would let her work on a million-dollar, ten-year marketing contract.” Without looking back at me, she turned and left my office.

Chloe didn’t answer her cell, her home phone, or any e-mails I sent to the personal account she had on file. She didn’t call, come by, or give any indication that she wanted to talk to me. But when your chest feels like it’s been cracked open with a pickax and you’re unable to sleep, you do things like look up your intern’s apartment address, drive over there on a Sat.u.r.day at five in the morning, and wait for her to come out.

And when she didn’t emerge from the building after almost an entire day, I convinced the security guard that I was her cousin and was worried about her health. He escorted me up and stood behind me as I knocked at her door.

My heart was going to slam its way out of my chest. I heard someone moving around inside, walk to the door. I could practically feel her body just inches from mine, separated by wood. A shadow moved through the peephole. And then, silence.

“Chloe.”

She didn’t open the door. But she didn’t walk away either.

“Baby, please open up. I need to talk to you.”

After what felt like an hour, she said, “I can’t, Bennett.”

I leaned my forehead against the door, pressed my palms flat. A superpower would have come in handy at that moment. Fire hands, or sublimation, or even just the ability to find the right thing to say. Right now, that felt impossible.

“I’m sorry.”

Silence.

“Chloe . . . Christ. I get it, okay? Berate me for being a new kind of p.r.i.c.k. Tell me to go f**k myself. Do this on your terms—just don’t leave.”

Silence. She was still right there. I could feel her.

“I miss you. f.u.c.k, do I miss you. A lot.”

“Bennett, just . . . not now, okay? I can’t do this.”

Was she crying? I hated not knowing.

“Hey, buddy.” The security guard definitely sounded like here was the last place he wanted to be, and I could tell he was p.i.s.sed I’d lied. “This isn’t why you said you wanted up here. She sounds fine. Let’s go.”

I drove home and proceeded to drink a lot of scotch. For two weeks, I played pool at a seedy bar and ignored my family. I called in sick and only got out of bed to grab an occasional bowl of cereal, or refill my gla.s.s, or use the bathroom, whereupon I’d look at my reflection and give myself the finger. I was a sad sack and, having never experienced anything like this before, had no idea how to snap out of it.

Mom came by with some groceries and left them at my doorstep.

Dad left me daily voice mails with updates about work.

Mina brought me more scotch.

Finally, Henry came by with the only known set of spare keys to my house and dumped a pot of cold water on me, then handed me some takeout Chinese. I ate the food while he threatened to tape pictures of Chloe all over my house if I didn’t get my s.h.i.t together and come back to work.

Over the next few weeks, Sara surmised that I was incrementally losing my mind and needed a weekly update. She would keep it professional, telling me how Chloe was faring in her new job with Julian. Her project was coming together well. The folks at Sanders loved her. She pitched the campaign to the executives and got their go-ahead. None of this surprised me. Chloe was better than anyone they had, by a mile.

Occasionally Sara would let something else drop. “She’s back at the gym,” “She looks better,” or, “She cut her hair a little shorter—it looks really cute,” or, “We all went out on Sat.u.r.day. I think she had a good time, but she left early.”

Because she had a date? I wondered. And then I discarded the thought. I couldn’t imagine seeing someone else. I knew what it had felt like between us, and was fairly sure Chloe wasn’t seeing anyone either.

The updates were never enough. Why couldn’t Sara pull out her phone and take some covert pictures? I hoped I would run into Chloe at the store, or on the street. I trolled La Perla a few times. But I didn’t see her for two months.

One month flies by when you’re falling in love with the woman you’re using for s.e.x. Two is an eternity when the woman you love leaves you.

So when the eve of her presentation rolled around and I heard from Sara that Chloe was prepared and handling Julian with a fist of fire, but also looked “smaller and less like herself,” I finally found my b.a.l.l.s.

I sat down at my desk, opening PowerPoint and pulling up the Papadakis plan. Beside me, my desk phone rang. I considered not answering it, wanting to focus on this, and only this.

But it was an unknown local number, and a significant portion of my brain wanted to think it could be Chloe.

“This is Bennett Ryan.”

A woman’s laugh rang through the line. “Beautiful, you are one Stupid b.a.s.t.a.r.d.”

    Twenty

Director Cheng and the other members of the scholarship board filed in, greeting me amiably before finding seats. I checked my notes, triple-checked the connection between my laptop and the projector system, and waited for the last few stragglers to make their way into the conference room. Ice clinked in gla.s.ses as people poured themselves water. Colleagues spoke to each other in low voices, the occasional louder laugh breaking through the quiet.

Colleagues.

I had never felt so isolated. Mr. Julian hadn’t even bothered to show up to the presentation to support me. Big surprise.

This room was so much like another boardroom, in a building seventeen blocks away. I had stood outside Ryan Media Tower earlier that morning, silently thanking everyone inside for making me who I was. And then I walked, counting the blocks and trying to ignore the twisting pain in my chest, knowing that Bennett wouldn’t be in the room with me today, stoic, fondling his cuff links, eyes penetrating my calm exterior.

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