Insatiable Part 23

Chloe arrived at her office the next morning aching with fatigue and weighed down with sadness. She’d half hoped Tyler would come to her last night, even if it was late, to tell her he loved her and didn’t want anyone else. The other half of her had dreaded the thought of another confrontation. It was too emotionally draining, too scary. If it was going to end, better that it end calmly. Even though she’d known this day was going to come, she felt like her heart had been ripped out of her chest and stomped on.
She made coffee and while she waited for it to brew she looked at the reservation book for that evening to see how busy it would be. Full, as usual. She sighed, took her coffee upstairs sat down at her desk. Five minutes later she realized she was sitting there staring at a dark computer screen. As she reached for the button on the computer, her eyes fell on the magazine article sitting on her desk. Tyler must have looked it over already.
She picked it up to fax it back to the magazine, then saw it had already been faxed. She frowned, flipped a page, and the red ink on page two jumped out at her. Tyler had drawn thick lines through an entire paragraph and scribbled notes.
“My girlfriend Chloe is the most important thing in my life,” she read. “She’s the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. I love her more than anything.”
She stared at the words, her breath stuck in her throat, heart thumping, insides trembling. She lowered the papers to the desk with shaky hands.
What did this mean? This was totally contrary to the explicit instructions Joe had given him to maintain his single playboy image.
She looked down at the papers again. Tyler had to have put them on her desk after they’d talked last night. What the...?
She lowered her forehead to her desk. Oh God. Now what was she going to do?
She didn’t even know if he’d come in yet, but she picked up the article, stood and marched downstairs to his office. He was sitting at his desk as if he was waiting for her. She tossed the papers on his desk in front of him. “Are you out of your mind?” she demanded.
His smile faded and his brows drew down. “Huh?” His mouth fell open.
“Those are the changes you want to make to the article?” She fisted her hands on her hips, planted her feet and glared at him.
His eyes met and held hers. “Yes. Is there a problem with that?”
“Of course there’s a problem! Joe told you specifically not to say anything like that. And why would you? Now? When we’re done?”
His fierce scowl startled her. “We’re not done.”
“Oh yes we are. After last night...”
He surged to his feet, slammed his palms down on the desk and leaned forward. She took a small step back. “Nothing happened last night.” Sparks shot from his dark eyes. “Other than in your imagination. Although now that you mention it, if you trust me so little, you clearly don’t love me like you said you do.” He bit out each word.
Chloe swallowed hard, her mouth dry. Her heart fluttered wildly in her chest. “Well, then we’re even,” she retorted, hating the way her voice quivered. “Because I never did believe you loved me, like you said.”
Tyler moved from behind his desk with scary speed. With one hand, he slammed the door of his office shut so hard the air in the room vibrated. She glanced nervously at the door, back at him.
“What the fuck is going on, Chloe?” He advanced toward her and she took another step back. The ferocious intensity on his face alarmed her. Her entire body shook so hard she though she might fall down.
“Wh-what do you mean? J-Joe is not going to be happy. That’s not the image he wants to sell.”
“I don’t give a shit what kind of image he wants to sell.” His voice was soft as whipped cream. He stopped in front of her, crowding her back against the wall with his big, hot body. “I’m me, and I want you. That’s it.”
Her lungs seized up.
“But that’s not what I’m talking about,” he continued. His breath warmed her forehead. “I’m talking about why you’re picking this fight.”
“I’m not picking a fight!”
“Yes, you are.” He laid his hands on the wall on either side of her, pressed against her. She swallowed a moan. “Nothing happened last night. I love you, Chloe.” His eyes focused intently on her. “I told you that. I don’t know how else to convince you that I love you. I don’t want anyone else. Ever.”
She squeezed her eyes closed against the tears that burned there as he pressed against her, and she felt his heart thumping as loud and hard as hers. The hands on either side of her head trembled slightly – was he as terrified as she was?
“It’s like you’re pushing me away,” he groaned. “For no good reason. Please, Chloe, what’s really going on?” He gave a mirthless laugh. “Last night, I was almost hoping you were jealous, because that would mean you really feel something for me.” She stared up at him. Oh God, of course she felt something for him. Didn’t he know that? Hadn’t she shown him that over and over again?
Well, no. Not last night. Last night she’d been careful to keep her emotions all wrapped up, nice and tidy. With a bow on top. Like she always did. Her heart felt a little stab. Was she driving Tyler away because she was afraid to show her feelings? Because she was afraid to have feelings?
“You have to trust me,” he said, his voice low and husky. “I’m sorry about my past, but I can’t change that. I don’t know what else to do to convince you.” “I do trust you,” she whispered, sagging between him and the wall. She rested her hands on his chest, warm and strong under his T-shirt. “I do.” She closed her eyes. “I’m just so afraid, Tyler.”
He slid one arm between her and the wall to support her, then tipped her chin up. She lifted her eyes and met his warm gaze. “Ah, Chloe. What are you afraid of?” She closed her eyes against the tenderness in his eyes. “I’m afraid of feeling. Of feeling too much.”
He let out a long breath. “Come.” He picked her up and carried her back to the chair behind his desk, sat down with her on his lap. “Chloe. Tell me about it.”
“I was jealous last night,” she confessed. “A little. But deep down, I knew you wouldn’t do anything.” She shook her head. “I’m just so afraid. You make me feel so much that I’ve never felt before. I’m so afraid of what will happen if it ends.”
“So you decided to end it first.”
She bit her bottom lip, pressed her face against the side of his neck.
“Everyone’s afraid of getting hurt, Chloe.”
“I know. But...”
“I know this is because of what you went through with your mother.” His hand smoothed down her hair.
She let out a long, shaky breath. “Sometimes when you’re in one of your moods it scares me a little.”
He went very still. Then he slowly tipped her head back so she was looking at him. “I’m not bi-polar, Chloe.”
“I know,” she whispered. “I know. But you’re so emotional, so brings back stuff...”
“Like that night in LA.”
She nodded.
“But you’ve never showed anything, Chloe.” His eyes searched her face. “You never seem afraid of me.”
“I’m not afraid of you!” she protested. “I’m afraid of all that emotion...all that passion. That’s what scares me.”
“Ah. But that’s the way I am.”
“I know. I know. And,” she choked a little on her tears. “And I love you for that. I do. That’s what scares me. I’ve never felt like this before – out of control, so high I’m afraid of coming down.”
He pressed his face against the top of her head. “That’s what life is Chloe. You can’t avoid the good stuff because you’re afraid of the bad stuff. Shit happens, but you’re strong. You can handle it.” He looked her in the eyes again, his face serious. “Look how you dealt after your mother died. You raised Carly.”
“And screwed it up,” she finished bitterly.
He shook his head. “No. You’re not responsible for her running away.”
“I might be.” She looked up at him through her eyelashes. “Maybe I drove her away. I was trying to be strong for her, but maybe she needed to see how scared I was, too.”
“Ah, sweetheart.” He pulled her close again. “You were just a kid yourself. You did the best you could. You had to survive, too. And we’re going to find her. I’ll help.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“But you’ve done so much for me.”
“Wh...what have I done for you?”
He smiled, tucked a strand of hair behind her shoulder. “You keep me from pissing people off.”
She choked out a laugh.
“You do,” he insisted. “Ups and downs are part of life, yeah, but sometimes I go a bit too far.”
She smiled at him through a haze of tears. “Yeah, you do.” He tapped her nose, but smiled. “You also love me for who I really am. Or should I say, despite who I really am...not because I’m some kind of celebrity. You have no idea how special that is.” He held her gaze, and warmth seeped through her. “You don’t need to be afraid, Chloe, because we’ll be together. I’ll always be there for you. I didn’t know how to convince you I love you, other than change the article. Or ask you to marry me.”
She drew back in astonishment and looked at him. “You want to get married?” she choked out. She lifted one hand to swipe at her eyes.
“God, you’re not supposed to be crying when I ask you,” he growled. “You’re supposed to be happy.”
“I am happy. I think. I’m so confused I’m not sure what I’m feeling! I love you, too Tyler. I just can’t believe this.”
He groaned and held her tighter. “Believe it. Please, believe it.” He held her tightly for a long moment, their hearts thudding together, then he loosened his grip.
“Since we’ve been together, I feel so different,” he said. “You make me better. You balance me. Keep me steady. Make me realize what’s important. Family is important. You’re important. I want us to be together, forever. I want to have babies with you.”
Her heart stuttered at his words. Never in her wildest dreams and fantasies could she have imagined this. Tyler wanting to settle down and have a family. With her!
His open vulnerability touched her deep inside. “I want to slow down a little,” he continued, stroking his other hand down her hair. “That Chef Wars thing...I don’t want to do that right now. I’ll do the Oprah show, and the cookbook. That TV show...I don’t know.”
She looked at him and touched his beautiful face. “I want you to be happy. Whatever you want to do is fine with me. If you want to be a superstar that’s okay. If you don’t, I’m okay with that too.”
“I think I’d like to buy a little winery.” He leaned his head back and looked up at the ceiling. “In the valley. Maybe have a restaurant there...what do you think of that?”
She smiled at him. “That sounds wonderful. Whatever you want. If you want me, I’m there.”
“God, of course I want you!” he growled, and his hand fisted in her hair and he kissed her hard. “Get over it Chloe. You’re mine.”
A thrill of excitement shot through her, her stomach did a little flip and heat built between her legs. She laid her hand on his cheek and met his eyes.
“I love you Tyler,” she murmured. “So, so much.”
He kissed her again, deeply, hungrily, tasting her with his lips and his tongue, drinking in her essence, opening her mouth under his. Their kisses heated, devoured, spiraled out of control but Chloe let herself go, reveling in the sensations. Then she broke the kiss, pressed her hot face to his neck and panted.
“You’re insatiable,” she gasped.
He laughed. “Oh yeah. I told you before, Chloe, I will never get enough of you.”
Life had been easy before, but it had been colorless, tasteless, bland. Until Tyler had given her...the spice of desire...the spark of heat...the vivid, bright, exciting taste of love.