He spends the majority of his travel time on the phone, his son’s little face filling up the screen.
“Daddy! Did you know that today Dorota took me to the pond to feed the ducks?”
That’s Henry’s newest thing, asking him did you know questions that he obviously couldn’t possibly know already, but he smiles and nods anyways.
“That’s great, Henry. Did you have fun? Tell me about the ducks.”
They FaceTime until his plane lands in Paris and he promises to call back when he’s settled into his hotel room.
“Tell mommy I love her,” is the last thing he says to his son. He watches Henry beam before he waves goodbye and ends the call.
It’s been less than nine hours since he’s seen his family but there is already an ache in his chest that won’t go away.
He promised himself, and Blair, that he would never end up like his father. Not just in attitude but in work ethic as well. Where his father was okay spending weeks, or even months, away from his family Chuck is determined to spend as little time away as possible.
But there are deals to be made, their empire is expanding more and more every year, and this Parisian hotel is the first of many that needs his attention.
This trip will be the longest he’s taken since Henry was born, six weeks total.
He’s booked the penthouse of a rival hotel under a false name so he can scope out the competition. When he gets up to his room he’s pleased to see that it’s definitely not up to the standards he keeps for his hotels.
“Piece of cake,” he says out loud to himself as he makes a mental note of the room’s amenities or lack thereof.
He’s just toed off his shoes when his phone rings and he sees his wife’s smiling face looking up at him from the screen.
“Hello, love. I was just about to call you.”
“I wanted to beat you to the punch,” she says with a quiet laugh. “How’s the room?”
“Subpar. Let me show you.” He turns the phone towards the mirror to snap a picture and sends it to her in a text. “Far too small for a penthouse, and the cost was astronomical.”
“It’s got one thing going for it.”
He narrows his eyes and looks around. “And what’s that?”
Her voice turns soft and flirty. “The handsome man sitting on the bed.”
Chuck laughs. “I don’t think that comes with the room but I’ll keep that in mind.”
They talk for a few minutes before he hears his son talking in the background. “Henry wants to say hi,” Blair says seconds before putting him on the phone.
“Hi, daddy! I miss you!”
Chuck loves that his son is so excited to talk to him, even though they spoke only a couple hours before. This is what he always wanted and never thought he’d be lucky enough to have.
“Hey, son. I miss you too.”
A week turns into two and two turns into three.
Hotel renovations are moving ahead of schedule, which is a good thing, but he’s never been one to compromise quality. His days are spent on site overseeing construction and meeting with local investors. He visits nearby businesses to build a rapport so when the hotel is finally open he’ll have friendly neighbors.
Being six hours ahead of Manhattan makes talking to Blair and Henry more difficult but he always finds a way.
Even if it means not falling asleep until one or two in the morning.
“Chuck, you should really get some sleep.”
He’s FaceTiming Blair, who’s still dressed from her day even though it’s almost eight o’clock her time. She knows how much he loves to watch her undress at the end of the day so she props the phone on her vanity and lets him take in a view even more beautiful than the Paris skyline. He watches in fascination as she takes out her earrings and slides bracelets off her delicate wrists.
“Why would I do that when this is so much better?”
She blushes a little but he knows she’s not shy. If she were she wouldn’t be peeling off the layers of her work clothes slowly one at a time for his benefit.
“You’re a heathen,” she says with a laugh as she sits on their king sized bed and slips one heel off before the other.
“You love it,” he says as he gets comfortable on his bed. It’s nowhere near as plush as theirs but it’s not exactly their bed that he’s missing right now. “Stand up for me.”
Blair does as he asks, and he takes in the sight of her in black lace, his favorite. “Like what you see?”
He groans because he hates phone sex more than anything in the world but he’s here and she’s there looking like that and what other choice does he have?
“Get on the bed and I’ll show you how much.”
Every day he’s away is one day closer to him being home.
He goes to dinner with Harold and Ramon one night, and they grill him about how Blair and Henry are doing the entire time.
“It must be hard, being away from your family,” Ramon says over a glass of wine. “We know the feeling well.” He reaches over for Harold’s hand and smiles sadly.
Chuck stares into his glass of scotch, a small comfort that reminds him of home. “It is. But just think, soon we’ll extend our empire to Paris and knowing Blair and her love for this city, you may never get rid of us.”
“As if that’s a bad thing,” Harold says and they all laugh over their drinks under the clear night sky.
“Did you know that today I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but it was hot because Dorota made it on the stove?”
Chuck laughs, listens to his little boy’s voice and wishes to hell he was home already. Five weeks have somehow flown by and taken forever at the same time. What his wife doesn’t know is that he finished up his work a week ahead of schedule. The hotel isn’t complete, won’t be for at least six more months but his work here is done for now.
Next time he plans on bringing Blair and Henry with him since it’ll be in the summer when Henry is out of school and he knows how much they would love to see both sets of Blair’s parents.
Henry is still talking, asking if Chuck knew that there was a new neighbor one floor below them that has a dog too.
“Maybe Monkey could have a new friend to play with!” Henry says, even though Monkey is getting up there in age and much prefers sleeping in front of the fireplace to running around the dog park.
“You’re right, maybe he would.”
They talk as Chuck packs his suitcases, and then still as he takes a car to the airport.
“Henry, I have to go but I love you very much. Tell mommy I’ll talk to her tonight, okay?”
He’s going to do more than just talk to her but he wants that news to be a surprise.
Their house is dark when he lets himself in the front door at almost midnight. He’s jetlagged, it’s almost six am to him, but the desire to see his family outweighs his exhaustion. He drops his bags quietly into the foyer, slips off his shoes and heads up the stairs, stopping at Henry’s room first.
His son is fast asleep, legs kicked out of his plaid bed sheets and brown hair sticking up every which way. Chuck doesn’t want to wake him so he just stands there and watches him for a minute or two before pulling his door closed softly behind him.
Blair is sleeping soundly when he opens the door to their bedroom. Her shoulders are bare and he can see that she’s wearing his favorite nightgown, white lace that always makes him want to tear it off with his teeth or something equally as barbaric. Something about seeing his angel in white makes him want to be the devil she’s always said he is.
His fingers ache to touch her so he does, trailing a finger lightly over her shoulder, then her cheek before tucking her dark hair behind one ear. She stays asleep and he chuckles, she’s always been a heavy sleeper, but he knows just how to wake her up.
After shedding his suit jacket and slacks he climbs into bed behind her, wraps one arm around her small waist and pulls her into his body.
“Chuck?” Her voice is thick with sleep and he’s positive that she’ll think she’s dreaming.
He nods his head into her shoulder and kisses the skin of her neck. “Yes, sweetheart. I’m home.”
She moves in his arms until she’s facing him, her eyes doing this slow blink that might just kill him. God, he’s fucking missed her.
“You’re early,” she says with a sleepy smile. “I missed you.”
He kisses her instead of speaking because he’s always been better with his mouth than his words. They make love quietly, despite the weariness of his bones and when he finally falls asleep with her in his arms he sleeps better than he has in weeks.
His eyes open hours later to his son flinging himself on top of him.
“Daddy, you’re home! Did you know you were coming home early?”
Chuck grins and pulls Henry into bed between him and Blair, and drops a kiss to his forehead.
“Yes, son. That one I knew.”