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Just To Be With You (Page 65)

Now, she needed to protect him from giving up everything he loved for her.

“Tatiana!”

She was surprised to see Mia stepping out onto the sidewalk. Looking up, she saw that the restaurant where she and Ian and his professor had eaten was just a couple of doors down from Sullivan Realty, Mia’s office.

“I was just going to call you about Friday night and here you are walking past.”

Oh God, Tatiana had forgotten all about the party at Mia and Ford’s house to celebrate her and Smith’s Oscar nominations. When Tatiana had first suggested it, the family celebration had seemed like a great way to make sure Ian wouldn’t be able to avoid her. But now, after she’d made him promise on the plane to keep his distance…

She sighed. Hadn’t she known there would be family parties? In fact, it was one of the reasons he’d been so hesitant to start anything with her in the first place, because of how awkward—and horrible—it would be to constantly see each other if things didn’t work out.

Somehow, she told herself, she’d have to figure out a way to deal with seeing him at Mia’s house tomorrow night.

Mia had been all smiles when she came out of her office, but her grin quickly fell away when Tatiana lifted her sunglasses and she got close enough to see Tatiana’s face.

“You know what,” Mia said, “let’s go into my office so that we don’t cause any more pandemonium out here on the sidewalk than Ford already did this morning when he decided to go out and pick up coffees for us.” Mia put an arm around Tatiana to direct her inside. “I know falling in love with a rock star is every woman’s fantasy, but let me tell you, the reality can be a little nuts sometimes. One woman actually stripped off her underwear in the middle of the sidewalk to give to him.” Mia made a face. “Can we say yuck?”

“Serious yuck.”

“People probably do weird stuff like that to you all the time, don’t they?”

“Not that weird, thankfully,” Tatiana said with a laugh. One that sounded so rusty she realized she hadn’t laughed since she’d been in Ian’s arms on the island and they’d been dancing around Legos on the floor of their perfect little barn room.

As soon as they stepped into Mia’s office, Ian’s sister closed the door and then the blinds to make the glass-walled space private. “What’s wrong?”

Yesterday, though Valentina had clearly been extremely worried about her, Tatiana’s sister had accepted that she wasn’t yet ready to say more. Since then, of course, Valentina had sent a half-dozen text messages checking in, and they were meeting in a little while at her place so that she could finally tell her sister everything.

But now that she was sitting with Ian’s sister, who loved him as much as she did, Tatiana knew she wouldn’t be able to keep it all from spilling out another second. And if she was going to tell it, she figured she might as well start from the beginning.

“When we were at your parents’ house for dinner and I was helping your mom in the kitchen, I told her I had fallen for Ian.”

“Wow.” Mia’s eyes were wide with surprise. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that my mom loved hearing that.”

“I think she did,” Tatiana said with a small smile. “She gave me a big hug…and then told me to stay determined and not to give up on him.”

Emotion swamped Mia’s face. “We all love him so much.”

“I know you do. How could you not when I fell in love with him the first time I met him in Napa at Marcus and Nicola’s wedding? Partly,” she admitted, “because he’s gorgeous, but mostly because of how much he obviously loves you and wanted to make sure you were safe and happy.”

“Love at first sight,” Mia said with a sigh. “That’s so romantic. Only you don’t look happy, and I’m guessing that if I went to see my brother right now, he wouldn’t look happy, either.”

Knowing her voice would break on any words she tried to say, Tatiana simply shook her head.

“I was so sure things would turn out differently with you,” Mia said. “Hoping, praying that he’d finally open up with you, even though he’s isolated himself more and more from all of us over the years.”

“Me too,” Tatiana confessed in a hollow voice. “I kept thinking that if I didn’t back down or give up or go away, if I was just there for him, if I could just smash through all of his boundaries, he’d let me in. And when we were on the island, for a while…”

“Island?”

Realizing no one but her sister and Smith knew about their aborted trip to Alaska, she explained, “We were headed to Alaska for one of his meetings, but when that bad storm hit, we had to land way on the north end of Vancouver Island. While we were grounded there for three days without cell phones or Internet connections, I got to see another side of your brother when he actually let down his walls for a little while.” Tatiana didn’t realize she’d put one hand over her heart until it was already there. “Far enough that he started talking about wanting to try with me. He even said he’d give up the big deal he’s been working on for the past two years so that we could have more time together.”

Mia looked shocked. “He’s been obsessed with investing in that company.”

“He should be. I met the founder and the guy’s a genius. And that’s just the problem. If I let Ian give that up for me because he thinks there’s some sort of rule about how much time and focus you can give to someone you love versus your company—”

“He’d be miserable.”

Tatiana nodded.

“But if he didn’t walk away from it all,” Mia said, “if he still worked crazy hours, would that ever be enough for you?”

“After spending the past week and a half with him, and seeing how well he juggles it all—better than anyone I’ve ever seen—I know it would be. I don’t want him to change. I don’t need him to change. He’s perfect just the way he is. But—”

“He doesn’t see that, does he?”

“No, he doesn’t. And if we were together, he would live in constant fear of hurting me, and feel guilty every time he thought he was letting me down.”

“Ugh.”

Tatiana nodded. “Double ugh.”

Mia reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a box of Brooke’s chocolates. “This definitely calls for my emergency stash.” Once both of them had popped truffles into their mouths, Mia asked, “So, are you going to be okay with seeing him on Friday night?”

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