Restless by Khloe Summers

Chapter One


My stomach turns as I bite down on the corner of another saltine. The crumbs spill down over my blazer and onto the bed. I’ve been sitting here too long. We’re due to a meeting in ten minutes downstairs, one that we drove all the way out to Rugged Mountain for. We can’t be late.

“What are you doing?” Tag barks, stepping out of the bathroom. He’s wearing his navy suit and a thin red tie, his dark hair slicked back. He’s an intense guy, no doubt about it. It’s partly what attracted me to him in the first place. He knows what he wants, and he never has any trouble getting it. Three years later and I’m starting to question my judgment. The aggressive nature I found so intriguing has now manifested into micromanagement that often leaves me feeling dumb and helpless. It probably doesn’t help that we work together.

“I’m getting up,” I say, standing from the bed. Another wave of nausea bubbles as I move, bile crawling up my throat. The local cuisine I had is not at all sitting well in my stomach. “The documents are already in my bag,” I manage, pushing back the acidic taste that’s curling my tastebuds as I make my way to the bathroom.

“Well… let’s go then,” he says, biting. “We’re going to be late.” He’s barking the order as though he doesn’t notice the sickness on my face, his attention on the clasp of his watch.

I nod. “I’ll meet you in the conference room in a few.”

He looks away impatiently before glancing back, his eyes narrowed and downturned like he’s angry that I’m not doing as he’d like.

Vomit pushes its way up my throat. I bend into the toilet and wretch, gripping my stomach. It’s a small hotel room. There wasn’t much choice in accommodations here. It’s one of the main points of progress Tag is trying to sell the landowners on. They want money to expand their tattoo shop. Tag wants to expand the tourist area to make it more inviting to outsiders. It’s a win-win for all. Right now, though, I’d just like a little more privacy.

“Fuck, Cami. Get it together. This meeting is worth millions,” he says, his voice strained.

I don’t look up to see what he’s doing. I’m too busy trying to hold my hair and blouse out of the way of the fluids making their way up. God, what a mess. My face burns with embarrassment. This is not sexy, not in the least, and we really need a sexy trip. I can’t be vomiting on day one. Everyone has been under so much stress to get this deal done, I can’t mess it up.

“I’m sorry,” I say, holding the bathroom door shut. “I’ll meet you downstairs in a minute.”

He doesn’t answer. I only hear the heavy hotel door slam closed, an immediate relief settling into my stomach. At least I can vomit in peace.

I lift my head from the toilet and move to the sink, splashing water over top the makeup I’d carefully applied thirty minutes ago. At this point, it’s not worth saving. My mascara is running, my foundation is cracking, and I look like I’ve just rolled up out of a trash can. Shit! Tag will be so angry if I show up looking unprofessional. He’s been working on this deal tirelessly for months. Some nights, he didn’t even come home until after midnight. One small mishap and no doubt these guys will be spooked off.

My phone buzzes on the bathroom counter. I’m sure it’s Tag hounding me again to get downstairs, but it’s not. It’s Tag’s intern, Sara.

Sara: Everyone is waiting on you.

Why the hell is she texting me? She’s worked for Tag nearly a year and she’s never once sent me a message.

I don’t reply. Instead, I wipe off my face, straighten my pencil skirt, and spray perfume over top my clothes, hoping it masks any weird smells I might have from feeling sick. I wish I could just crawl back in bed and binge reality tv all day while taking intermittent naps. That sounds much more my speed right now than a client meeting where I’ll inevitably do something wrong that Tag will remind me of all the way home.

I should stop being so negative. He gave me a job right out of college, he taught me everything I know, and he welcomed me into his family’s business. Besides, everyone has flaws. I’m sure mine are glaringly obvious to everyone but me. Sure, he’s just a little gruff, but that’s mostly when we are swamped with business. When we’re alone, he’s usually not so bad.

I grab my work bag off the bed and notice Tag left his phone on the table just in front of the doorway. It’s lit up and flashing as though he’s getting a message. I swipe the phone off the table with intentions of pushing it into my pocket, but I notice the screen is unlocked, a message from Sara front and center, unread.

Sara: Hey, get your ass down here. The landowners just pulled in. Besides, I miss you! ��

My heart flips in my chest. She misses him? What’s there to miss? They’re work colleagues. My mind runs a mile a minute as I slide the phone back into my bag. Should I go through the other messages? Why was his phone unlocked? It’s almost like he wanted me to see it. Then again, maybe it’s nothing. I mean, Sara is twenty-one years old and her professionalism isn’t the most polished. Maybe she and Tag have become friends, and she doesn’t know where to draw the line. I mean, there aren’t any hearts on the message. Besides that, Tag is a lot of things, but he’s not a cheater.

I bite the inside of my cheek and chew as I make my way downstairs to the lobby. The hotel is more like a lodge with a pine log interior and a cozy little fireplace just outside the main meeting room, which overlooks the mountain range. I could easily see this being a great place for a wedding reception.

“Sorry I’m late,” I say, stepping inside the door.

Two bearded men with sleeves of tattoos sit at the end of the table. I’ve seen them on video chat before, but in person they’re much larger than I’d imagined. They stand and reach their hands out toward me with wide smiles that make me feel not so bad about running behind.

“Thank you,” I say, as the tallest of the men pulls out a chair for me. “It’s so nice to meet you in person. I’m Cami… and you’re Henry, correct?”

“Mr. Baxter, I’m so sorry for the trouble. My secretary is—”

“There’s no trouble,” Henry says, looking toward Tag. “I’ve got all day.” Henry helps me settle into the chair, the scent of pine and cedar surrounding him. He’s wearing a black button down with the sleeves rolled to his elbows and his hair is shaved on both sides, leaving just a few inches in the center which he’s pushed back. His features are sharp and intense, his beard long and groomed. He’s attractive, much more so than I remember seeing in the video. In fact, both men are. “Can I get you a bottle of water or a snack?” His eyes are fixed with mine as he leans into the table.

I start to shake my head, but Tag interrupts to answer for me. He’s even worse than normal today.

“She’s good. If we could get the meeting started, I hate to keep you waiting.”

Henry looks toward Tag, his brows narrowed, his voice deep, his large hand still resting next to me. “I think it’s important that I get to know the people I’m doing business with, Mr. Javelin.” He looks my way. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“No. Thank you. I appreciate it.” I glance toward Tag, his face tied up in knots. What the hell is wrong with him today? Maybe he didn’t leave his phone upstairs on accident. Maybe he and Sara do have something going on and he’s nervous about it.

“Do you have the paperwork?” Tag asks as he holds out his hand. I give him his cell phone and he looks at me with a grimace. “You said you’d grab everything before you came down.”

Damn it! I did say that. I know I said that. I reminded myself a thousand times over, but I was in such a rush to leave the room after getting sick that I forgot the file on the desk upstairs.

My heart sinks. I don’t want to tell Tag. He’s going to lose it. Not to mention how awful this is going to look to our client, who’s been extremely welcoming thus far.

I lean into the table. “I’m going to have to run back upstairs quick.”

His jaw locks. “Why?”

I clear my throat and decide addressing everyone is better suited than whispering across the table. “I’m so sorry. I haven’t been feeling well and I don’t have my head on right this morning. I’m going to have to run back upstairs quick and grab the paperwork.” I push away from the table. “I left it on my desk. I’m sorry, I—”

“Fucking hell,” Tag says under his breath. He’s pretending to be quiet, but he knows he’s loud enough that I’ll hear him. “Give me the key to the room.” His voice is louder this time, demanding, and I jump.

“The deal is off,” Henry says, standing from the table.

Shit, shit, shit. No. They can’t call off the deal. Tag will never let me live this down.

I stand up. “Mr. Baxter, I—”

He looks toward me. “It’s not your fault. It’s your boss. This land has been in my family for generations. I’m not selling to some asshole who doesn’t know how to talk to people.”

Asshole? How am I an asshole?” Tag seems genuinely shocked by the comment. Rarely do people call him out. Usually, people just let him rant, then go on with their lives. He’s easier to deal with that way, but Henry doesn’t seem like the sit down and take it kind of guy.

I glance toward Sara, her eyes wide and focused on Tag as though they have a secret language between them. Maybe she’s worried this will affect her internship somehow. Then again, maybe she’s been sleeping with him for months. At this point, I’m pretty sure he’s lost his mind, so either scenario could be in play.

“Well, you’re talking to your secretary like she’s a fucking dog. What does that mean for me? Am I going to sign these papers and wake up tomorrow answering to King Tag? I can tell you right now that’s not going to fucking happen.” Henry grabs his jacket off the back of his chair and walks toward me, his gaze never leaving mine to the point of awkwardness. “Let me buy you a cup of coffee,” he says, a low rumble in his tone.

My eyes narrow. “A cup of coffee? Why? The deal is—”

“This isn’t about a deal. You just look like you could use a cup.” Henry glances up at Tag again, whose arm is now gripping my waist, probably for the first time in months. He’s been so worried about the weight I’ve been putting on that he’s refused to be intimate until I take it off.

“She’s with me,” Tag growls, gripping me tighter. I shouldn’t like it. He’s acting like an animal right now, but it’s been so long since I’ve been desired like this that I fall right into his trap.

Henry crosses his arms in front of his chest, his biceps popping as he widens his stance. “You’re dating him?” His eyes dart back and forth between Tag and I as though I’ve done something wrong.

I nod. “For just about a year. I think we’ve all gotten off to a terrible start. If we can talk about this land, Mr.—”

“The land is off the table.” He looks toward Tag. “Are you going to tell her, or am I?”

“Tell her what?” Tag grumbles. “If the land deal is off, I don’t think there’s anything else to talk about—”

“So you’re not going to tell your girlfriend that you were hanging all over this woman down at Skully’s?”

I glance toward Tag. “You said you were going out for a beer. You didn’t say Sara was going.”

Tag’s eyes are dark and searching, his breath heavy. “I didn’t expect her to be there.”

My stomach drops as the realization of what’s happening hits. The text, the bar, the way his words trickle through his lips like he’s hiding, the way he insisted on Sara sharing a ride with us up the mountain.

“So she’s there, and you talk to her. Why did you have to hang all over her?” My stomach turns and my face goes warm with heat. It’s the same feeling I had earlier, the one just before—

Vomit spills from my mouth and onto the meeting table without warning. My hands curl around my middle and my ears turn red, a light-headedness tightening my chest.

“Fuck, Cami.” I don’t have time to look up, but it’s Tag speaking and backing away from me as though I’m spewing fire.

If I could’ve controlled this in any way, I would have. Trust me, throwing up in front of four people isn’t my idea of a fun time.

I try to apologize between the involuntary gags, but I’m not sure anyone can hear me through the unfortunate noises my body is making.

God, if it’s possible, you can take me now.

A warm hand touches my back, the scent of pine overpowering again. It’s Henry. “You’re okay,” he says, rubbing the small of my back as he gathers my hair away from my face. “Maddox, can you grab her a bottle of water?”

Henry’s soothing comfort immediately calms me, and the reflex to gag stops triggering as though he’s magic.

“I’m so sorry. I—”

Maddox walks back toward me. I haven’t gotten a good look at him until now. He’s pretty big too, and muscular. The bottle of water nearly disappears in his grip as he hands it toward me with a towel he snagged from the housekeeping cart just outside the door.

“Thank you,” I say. “I’m not contagious. I think I’m just stressed, and I ate something bad. I can get someone to clean this—”

“Let’s worry about you for a second,” Henry says, his hand still on my shoulder. “Are you okay?”

I take a sip of water. “Aside from mortifying embarrassment, I think I’ll be fine.”

My eyes scan the room for Tag and Sara, but they’re nowhere in sight.

“They left a few minutes ago,” Henry says. “I’m so sorry.”

I nod, fighting back tears. “No. I’m so sorry you’ve had to see all this. Thank you so much for helping me. I can pay you for your trouble—”

Henry grins. “Pay me for my trouble? How much exactly is my trouble worth?”

I shrug, my lip quivering.

“Oh, honey,” he says, his voice deep and raspy. “It’s just a joke.” He runs his hand down over his beard and pulls me into his side, comforting me. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

Normally, I wouldn’t get this close to a man so fast, but this feels like extenuating circumstances… like when a fireman saves you from a burning building. Right now, my house is burning down.

“If you’ve got this,” Maddox says, “I have a client at noon, so I’ve got to head back to the shop.” He peeks his head toward me. “I’m so sorry about how today went. If we can do anything to help, just give us a call.”

Henry nods toward Maddox. “I’ll see you later then.”

“It’s okay, really. I’ll be fine. I—”

“I know you’ll be fine,” Henry says. His tone is deep, but his delivery is gentle. “But I feel like this is my fault. You’d make me feel better by letting me help you.”

“It’s not your fault, trust me. I’m just going to go—”

The thought of my next word gets caught in my throat. I’m not sure where I’m going to go. Did Tag leave me here? Do I want to go with him even if he didn’t? I know no one in town. My parents are all the way in Wyoming. It would take them ten hours to get here and I’m not sure we have the best relationship right now… at least not one that should be asking for favors. Not only that, but I was supposed to check out of the hotel at eleven. The receptionist made it loud and clear there were no rooms available after today in anticipation of the long weekend. Apparently, a lot of skiers come up to the area this time of year.

My breath quickens as reality hits.

“You’re going to go where?” Henry asks, his hand still on my shoulder. “Look, let me get you back up to your room and I’ll—”

“I was supposed to be out at eleven.” I daze forward, trying to think of where I’ll go, desperation forcing me to dial Tag’s number. He doesn’t answer, and tears begin to choke me.

“That’s okay,” Henry says. “You’re fine. I live just a few miles from here. I can take you back to my place to clean up, then I’ll drive you back into town.” He says something about a storm, but my brain is on shut down and I’m not sure I’m comprehending much of anything.

“No, I couldn’t let you do all that. I’ll just wait here. He has to come back. He wouldn’t just leave me here.”

Henry spins around the room, then looks back at me with soft, caring eyes that somehow feel like a hug… a hug I desperately need. “Honey, I’m sorry, but I think he already did.”