Just To Be With You (Page 66)
Tatiana figured there was no point in lying. “It’s going to be really hard to see your brother.” She sighed before admitting, “But—and I know this probably doesn’t make any sense—it would be worse not to see him.”
Mia’s lips had moved up into a little smile as she held out the box of chocolates. “Want another?”
Tatiana shook her head. “No, thanks. And I’d better get going or else I’m going to be late to meet up with Valentina. She’s already worried enough about me.”
Mia gave her a warm hug. “See you tomorrow night. And if you need to talk again before then, you know you can call or come by the house anytime, don’t you?”
“I wish my brother knew it.”
“He does, Mia.”
“Then why has he been shutting me out for so many years?”
“I don’t know. But maybe,” Tatiana said with a small smile that she knew wouldn’t make any sense to anyone but Ian, “it’s finally time for you to ask him.”
* * *
It had taken years of work, of focus, of dedication for Ian and his executive team to close the eAirBox deal. They’d celebrated last night, all of them, including Flynn and his team. But, for the very first time ever, Ian’s professional triumph wasn’t enough to make up for his personal loss.
There wasn’t a moment when he had stopped thinking of her during the past twenty-four hours. Hell, during the past several months since the wedding, if he was being honest with himself. Again and again he replayed every one of her beautiful smiles, the sweet sound of her laughter, the softness of her mouth on his, the bliss of feeling her skin heat and dampen as she came apart in his arms…and the honest emotion that he’d seen in her eyes every time she looked at him.
He’d gone around and around in his head trying to figure out a way that they could make things work, what he could do to convince her to give him another chance, but every time he was stopped by Tatiana’s voice in his head: It’s exactly what you did with your ex-wife. You tried to make a relationship work around your job and what she wanted from you. But it didn’t work. And I love you too much to let you make those mistakes again.
Ian was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t realize his sister had walked into his office until she threw her arms around him and said, “I love you, big brother. You were gone so long that I didn’t get to tell you nearly enough. Now that you’re finally back home, I’ve got lots of lost time to make up for.” After a long while, she finally drew back to sit on the edge of his desk. “But before we get to the heavier stuff, I need to remind you about the party at our house tomorrow night. You’re in charge of the bubbly, so you’d better not be late or we won’t be able to toast Smith and Tatiana.”
Damn it, he’d forgotten about Mia and Ford’s party on Friday night. How could he go when he’d promised Tatiana that he’d—
Wait a minute, Ian thought, as he rewound back to the exact promise he’d made: not to answer her calls, or let her shadow him at work anymore, or take her away for a business trip on his plane. But he’d never made even the slightest promise about staying away from her at a Sullivan family event.
“Have you seen her?”
His sister nodded, looking far more serious than usual. “She just dropped by my office, actually, on the way back from her set.”
“How is she?”
He was surprised by his sister’s faint smile. “Head over heels in love with you. And I just found out that she talked to Mom about her feelings for you, too.”
Mia’s smile grew even bigger. “She did.”
“Wait a minute,” he said, his brain feeling even more muddled now than it had since he’d watched Tatiana walk away from him the previous afternoon. “If you just saw her, and you obviously know what happened, and she’s talked to Mom, then why aren’t both of you yelling at me for screwing everything up?”
“Seems to me,” she said softly as she studied his face, “that you’re doing a good enough job of that yourself.”
But he knew his sister, knew there was plenty she wanted to say to him, and that there had been for a long time. “I didn’t hold back with you when you were getting together with Ford in Napa. You promised me that it would go both ways.”
She looked like she could hardly believe what he was saying. “Wow. I can’t believe you actually just asked me to butt into your private life when you’ve held back so much from all of us for so long. Not just since your divorce, but before that. Before you met and married Chelsea, even. I actually think it happened once you left college and started working to support us all. Tatiana was the one who suggested I come here to ask you why.”
“Of course she was,” he said, easily able to see Tatiana encouraging his sister to push past the walls he’d put up around himself. “I’m sorry, Mia. I’m sorry I shut you out.”
“No, it wasn’t your fault, Ian. At least, not all your fault. Because we let you do it. We let you pull away. And now I can see just how wrong we were—one of us should have gotten in your face a long time ago and just stayed there until you had no choice but to lower your walls.” She put a hand over his. “Tatiana did exactly that, didn’t she—what we were all afraid to do? She stood up to you and every time you pushed her away, she didn’t give up on you. Instead, she came back again and again.”
His chest clenched tight as he told his sister, “She did.”
“She’s braver than every last one of us.”
“She is brave. And brilliant. And beautiful.” He ran his hands over his face and admitted, “It’s only been one day, but I already miss her so damned much, Mia.”
“I know things with you two are a big mess right now,” his sister said as she squeezed his hands, “but I still have to tell you how completely amazing it is to know that you’re as head over heels in love with her as she is with you.”
Easily able to see every one of his sister’s hopes and dreams for him on her face, Ian had to tell her, “If I were the right man for her, if I could give her everything she needs, if I could do it all—I would.”
“When we were kids,” his sister said softly, “you proved again and again that you could do, could achieve, could have anything you set your mind to. I know you’re convinced that you can’t possibly find a way to balance work and a relationship, because you never could before now. But I think there’s a simple reason for that: You never wanted a relationship with a woman enough to give it your all.” She paused for a moment to let her words sink in, before adding, “You’ve never truly loved a woman before Tatiana, have you? Not the way you love her—with everything you are.”