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Can he see through me? "Excuse me?" I stop our waitress as she passes by. "Can I get another margarita?"
"That’s not why, Grace."
Jesus. I need that drink. "Of course that’s why. I think I know my own reasons."
He’s shaking his head as I defend myself. "You don’t want to marry because then you might have to actually be happy."
"What? Seriously, Asher. You’re totally wrong. I was—I am—a very happy woman. I was socially complete before I met you, believe it or not. I realize I’ve been all over the place emotionally since the island. But that’s not me. I’m happy, and well-adjusted, and, and, and happy."
"But that was the fantasy, right? The fantasy made you happy. This is reality and you’re lost in reality."
"Why are we talking about me? The deal was that we talk about you."
“What do you want to know? Ask me anything."
But nothing seems safe. Everything feels like a trap that will throw me backwards into the past. That will unravel all the raveling I’ve done over the past ten years and leave me frayed and filled with holes.
"I want to get married," he says. "And I don’t need her to be a princess, Grace. I just need her to love me for who I really am. And then I want a bunch of kids. And I want them to have the perfect childhood filled with jumping in puddles, and playing in mud, and bad grades because their personalities require them to rebel and be themselves. I want school plays and coaching football, and standing out in the rain to watch a track meet. I want to bring my wife breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day and I want to receive handmade gifts of painted macaroni from my three-year-old."
I just stare at him.
"I want normal. I lived the fantasy and it’s not as perfect as it seems."
I have no idea what to say, but luckily, the waitress brings my drink. So I take a really long sip and then set it down on the table and stare at it.
"What do you think of all that, Grace?"
"I think…" I look up at him. My eyes are watery from the alcohol or maybe from the serious conversation that makes me think of my own childhood. "I think I’d like to give the fantasy a try first."
"Take it for a test drive?"
"Yes. Just to see what it’s like."
"You need to be able to compare?"
I nod.
"Because you’ve lived normal and it’s not as perfect as it seems?"
"Come upstairs with me, Grace. And let me give you a free sample."
I huff out a laugh. "Does it come with spankings?" I try and joke to break the seriousness of his offer.
"No," he says, shaking his head slowly. "No, the fantasy doesn’t come with spankings. It comes with gentle, tender lovemaking. And flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries. Soft sheets, and softer music. No dirty talking or blindfolds or sexy lingerie."
"Sounds pretty boring."
"Mmmm. It is. Come upstairs and let me show you how boring."
And then he stands up and comes around to pull my chair out. I stand up and he hooks my arm in his. "Grand Lakeview Suite," he tells the waitress as we walk out. "Bill it to the room."
Chapter Ten
"I CAN be romantic," I tell Grace as I open the door to my suite and flatten my hand on the small of her back. "But everyone’s definition of romance is different." I close the door and watch her as she moves forward through the foyer and into the large room.
"Nice view," she says in a low voice.
"Yes, I always enjoy a room with a view. And doesn’t everyone want to see the Bellagio fountain when they come to Las Vegas?” She just shrugs. “Sit, Grace. I’ll be right back with a drink."
"I’ll have a margarita," she calls out as I retreat back to the foyer and call the butler service using the control panel by the door. I meet him outside in the hall and give him my requests, then go back inside. Grace is standing at the windows, her back to me.
“Tonight is not a night for margaritas. Do you like pink champagne, Grace?"
She turns and smiles. "Doesn’t everyone?"
I take her in as I approach. Her dress, for being something she wears regularly to work, is a beautiful dark blue that hugs her curves and makes me crazy. Her hair is still piled up on her head, but there are long spiraling strands that have fallen out. They frame her face, making her look just the tiniest bit unkempt.
I love that. I love that her oh-so-together persona has a crack in it.
Her face is flushed pink. Maybe from the alcohol or maybe from being alone with me. Her skin is glowing in the low lights and she looks like a vision of perfection one might only see behind the lens of a specially filtered camera.
"You are the most beautiful woman, Grace."
"I might be drunk."
I smile wide as I walk up to the bar and check the refrigerator for some champagne. Inside is a selection they stock based on my personal preferences. "Do you want to skip the champagne?" I ask her as I pull out two crystal flutes.
She walks over to me, her shoes clicking lightly on the marble floor. "No, I might need more than usual."
"You can’t be around me unless you’re drunk?" I ask with a smile as I pop the cork on the bottle and pour.
"It helps me keep things in perspective. And when I wake up tomorrow I’ll have a reason to push this night away and forget it ever happened."
I stop pouring and just look at her. "What?"
"You want to dominate me, right? I don’t want to admit I want to give in. So a few more drinks will give us both what we want, but in the morning I can justify my behavior. Blame it on too much alcohol."
I shake my head. "No more drinks for you then." She laughs but I’m serious. "I’m not on some conquest, Grace. That’s not what this is about."
She joins me behind the bar, reaches past me, and grabs a champagne glass. She lifts the pink bubbly to her lips and takes a delicate sip. "Mmmm. This is good, what is it?"
"Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose 2002. It’s one of my favorites."
She takes another sip and licks her lips. "I like it. If I stay and have sex with you, will you spank me?"
My smile is tight. She’s got the wrong idea and I don’t know how to change that. I’ve set our relationship up this way, after all. I’m the one who gave her all these preconceptions. Preconceptions I’m desperate to change right now.