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My phone buzzed again just as Hanna walked in the door. Excitement shot down my spine when I saw Kent’s name on the message. Before I could open to read it, Daniel called from where he helped Hanna with the groceries.
“You wanna stay for dinner tonight? Hanna is trying a new recipe.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to say no because I had to get home and finally open up to my husband, but then I saw the message.
Kent: Got called away to Chicago. I won’t be back until next week. Sorry, babe. Love you.
As soon as it came, the excitement crashed. Was he sorry? Or was he grateful for a chance to escape his crazy wife? The fears from this morning came flooding back. Rather than shoving them back and feeding the monster, I let them wash over me. It hurt. Yet, at the same time, oddly, it didn’t weigh on me like it had before.
Like it was there, but it also left room for the hope that, even if it had to wait until next week, I’d still be able to talk to Kent, and we’d fix it. We had to because anything else wasn’t an option.
Until then, I decided to celebrate at least the one win for the day.
“I’d love to stay for dinner.”
Chapter Eight
“You look like shit,” Carina greeted.
“Why, thank you so much,” I deadpanned.
She eyed me cautiously from her side of the table as I pulled a chair out and collapsed into it.
“How do you like the chairs?” she asked.
“They’re chairs.” She rolled her eyes and waited for me to try again. “They’re nice. Firm but comfortable.”
“Exactly,” she beamed. “We kept them similar to the chairs in the lobby but a little different. And research shows that you want guests to be comfortable enough to linger and spend more money, but not so comfortable that they stay all night, preventing you from turning over the table.”
“This is why I hire you.”
“Because I’m smarter than you,” she taunted.
“Probably. Also, because you care about all this. I just want to get the hotel built and make the money.” And get back to my wife. The plan had been to run into the office for a half day and then head back to finally talk to Olivia after last night. Instead, Carina called, letting me know she needed me in Chicago to finalize plans. I’d rushed home, hoping to find Olivia still lounging naked in bed, only to find the apartment empty.
Not wanting to hear the disappointment when I told her I had to leave again, I opted for a text message. Last night had been amazing—passionate—but doubt still lingered. Gaps still hung empty between her explanations.
And that was how they’d stay until I got this trip over with.
She preened. “Happy to oblige. Now, what has you looking like you haven’t slept in a week?”
“Other than being asked to fly to Chicago on a whim?”
“Yeah, other than that.”
“Nothing. I’m just tired.”
“Oh, bullshit,” she scoffed loud enough to halt the conversation from over by the restaurant entrance.
The group of construction workers looked up from whatever plan they had spread out on a piece of wood between two easels. I smiled and nodded before looking away. Not quite ready to face Carina and her inability to let me off the hook, I cast my gaze around the room. It really had come a long way. As much as I didn’t have the knowledge to pick the best details for marketing, I did love watching it all come together.
I couldn’t wait to bring Olivia and show her the clean, high arches between the lounge area and the restaurant. She hadn’t been assigned to the project, but she’d been my sounding board through it all. After having her intern when we built the hotel in Cincinnati, I couldn’t imagine setting up a new location without her.
The rolling tap of nails on the table between us pulled my attention back to an expectant Carina.
“I honestly didn’t get much sleep last night.” There, at least a little bit of honesty.
Carina’s posture dropped with her heavy exhale. If I thought her softening would lead to her letting it go, I would’ve been wrong. “Olivia.”
I nodded, even though it wasn’t a question.
“Are you guys okay?”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
I thought over what to say, watching my middle finger bounce on the black wood.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“I think we will be.”
“Is this about last night? She did seem a little…combative at dinner.”
I snorted. “She’s been a little combative a lot lately. Has she not been that way at work?”
Carina’s brows pinched. “No. Not that I’ve noticed. Maybe a little quieter, but she’s been knocking out projects, so I assumed she was just trying to shoot for a promotion or something.”
“What happened when you guys got home?”
Carina and I had become fast friends when she first worked for us on our bar project, Voy. Daniel was my best friend, but it was hard to talk about your wife to your best friend when said wife was also his niece. Carina also offered a woman’s input, which never hurt. Add in that she was always discreet and respectful, and I found myself divulging more than usual.