Joey pulled over along the side of the road and stopped the car. He then got out of the car and walked over to the railing. Zoe followed behind him. “I’m going to do something that I’ll probably regret in five minutes.” Joey stared out into the night.
“Oh?” Zoe asked. “And what is that?”
Joey retrieved his cell phone and tossed it into the ocean water. “That.” He turned to Zoe and grinned at her. “It’s a good thing I have a backup of all of my pictures and contacts or I’ll really be in trouble right now.”
“You didn’t have to do that to prove a point to me, Joey.” Zoe said with a half-grin. “I know what this is and I know what you are.”
Joey stepped closer to Zoe and caressed her arms. “And what am I?”
“The Italian Hugh Hefner,” Zoe replied as Joey chuckled, “a reputation you’re very proud of. Tell me I’m lying.”
“I’ll admit I like to play the field and see what’s out there. Not too many women understand that my business comes before them and that’s a hard sell. It’s not that I can’t do a relationship; I just don’t want to. I’ve canceled more dates at the last-minute due to meeting with vendors and scouring locations for events than I would like to admit. Madre’s used to be one out of ten floral shops in town. Now we’re one out of fifty. And you know what? All those shops are copycat knockoffs of what we’re doing. They go to an event, see a design that Eli did and the next thing we know, we see that exact same design a few weeks later at some social event. We’re constantly upping our game to be ten steps ahead of the curve. That means I’m working insane hours. That means I’m up at seven in the morning and I might get home around seven at night, if I’m lucky. That means my weekends won’t be filled with picnics and shopping trips but overseeing a wedding or celebration and helping out my mom and Eli.
“So why am I telling you all of this? Why did I just toss my very expensive cell phone out into the water? I just upgraded that phone last week and now it’s going to cost me a small fortune to get another one. I promise I’m not going to play you. I’m not going to lead you on and have you believe we’re going to get married and have babies when I’m not even thinking that. I will be honest with you and say that now, right here and right now, you’re the only one I want to spend time with. So yes, I might have to fly to L.A. And yes, you’re going have to fly out to New York.”
“I can’t afford to see you as much as I want to, Joey,” Zoe interrupted.
“I got you covered.” Joey nodded. “Just let me know when you want to see me and I’ll make it happen.”
Zoe wanted to believe what Joey told her. Hearing stories from Kieran and confirmed by Joey himself made the doubt rise within her. He was promising her everything and absolutely nothing at the same time. “I have my own life here in L.A. I’m your brother’s assistant and he depends on me to run Fits and Giggles when he’s not there. He and Tiana briefly mentioned how they want me to be a designer for that children’s clothing line they’re coming up with so my hands are tied there. I can’t just stop everything at the drop of a hat because you want to see me.”
Joey smiled. “I love a woman who has her own ambitions and goals, who doesn’t rely on me giving her money for some $200 jeans or some expensive handbag she can’t pronounce. Been there, done that, don’t want to repeat. I’m not asking you to give up your career for me, Z, and I wouldn’t want you to.”
Zoe relaxed her shoulders and dropped her stance. “It’s going to be difficult. I haven’t done a long-distance relationship in a long time, J.”
“I haven’t done anything like this at all, Z!” Joey smiled. “You might have to help me with protocol and all that stuff.”
“Protocol?” Zoe smiled.
“Protocol. When I can call, when I can’t call, when I should act a fool when I hear another man in the background…you know, protocol.” Joey winked.
All I’ve Ever Wanted is available on All Romance, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Amazon.