“Like I said, it doesn’t matter,” I pushed back. “She said no. She doesn’t want to leave Ludwig.”
Alice rested her head against the window and whistled. “Wow,” she said. “That must have hurt.”
“Can we push past the fact that you think I’m in the middle of some high school crush?” I asked. “I met Ashlyn, liked her a lot, asked her to move back with me, and she refused. End of story. There’s nothing more there.”
“Then why are you acting like a child who can’t get to the cookie jar?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I mean, it explains a lot,” Alice said. “The way you looked when I picked you up, the outbursts, the fact that you punched Dennis as if you’d caught him sleeping with your wife.”
“He did worse than that.”
“Be that as it may,” Alice countered, “you are definitely not yourself. And it’s pretty clear why.”
I didn’t answer her, but a part of me knew she had a point. I had believed I could somehow bottle my feelings until
I solved things in the company. I had convinced myself that I could push Ashlyn back to the darkest recesses of my mind, handle my business, and then circle back to her, if I wanted to. But she had been on my mind all through the drive back, last night and even this morning. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and in a way, I didn’t feel like that was so bad.
It was definitely throwing me off my game, but it wasn’t bad.
I rapped my knuckles on the thick glass, watching the lights of Austin and wondering if the stars outside Ashlyn’s house were this beautiful tonight.
“Well, it’s all under the rug now. No use talking about it.”
“What do you mean, why?” I asked. “I just told you, she doesn’t want to come to Austin.”
“And when has that ever stopped you?” Alice asked. “For as long as I’ve known you, the one thing I could always bet my money on was if Chance Ridder wanted something, he would go through hell or high storm to get it.”
“You can force someone to move from their home, Alice.”
“Then bring home to her.”
I frowned at her, wondering what the hell she was talking about. The look on my face must have been amusing, because Alice laughed and shook her head at me.
“You saved your company today, Chance,” she said. “And did away with the guy who was trying to screw you over. If anybody can convince some silly country girl to move to Austin to live with a billionaire, it’s you.”
“Again, it’s not that easy.”
“Then you’re a fool,” she said.
“If she doesn’t want to leave Ludwig, then why don’t you go there?” Alice asked.
“Are you out of your mind?” I scoffed. “Look what happened when I left for a couple of days. You want me to relocate?”
“Not relocate,” she said. “Commute. You don’t have to be here every day, and you don’t have to be there every day. In a couple of weeks, everything here will be back to normal, and you can plan it all better. Maybe even set up an operational branch out of Ludwig.”
“Business advice, Alice? Really?”
“Relationship advice,” she replied, “because you sound like you have no idea what to do beyond the skimpy brunette or the bimbo blonde you’re used to screwing around with.”
“Think about it,” she said. “We already have a unit in Houston. Open a smaller one in Ludwig. Better yet, build a company retreat there so you can write it all off. I doubt the cost would even put a dent into the company’s finances.”