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Saturday morning, as dictates our comfortable little routine, I find my parents having breakfast, bathed, perfect, and smiling. Maria, their cook, has the best breakfast in town, and having breakfast at Mom and Dad’s makes me happy because the table is always set with linens, silver, and the food is placed in such a perfect way that you feast with your eyes first before reaching into the offerings and serving yourself.
“Lanie!” Mom says as I walk in. “Your father and I were just talking about Brooke’s wedding. When did you say it was?”
“Less than a month.” I kiss her cheek and then hug my tall, handsome dad. “Hey, Dad, you look cute.”
“See? She noticed I cut my hair, unlike you,” he tells my mom, pointing an empty fork in her direction.
“You hardly have any hair, how am I supposed to notice? So tell us about the wedding. I still can’t believe she’s getting married before you. You were always prettier and so much more lively,” my mom says, squeezing my hand as I sit down.
“I’m sure her fiancé would disagree,” I counter. I hate when my mom always puts Brooke down merely to make me feel better. I don’t feel better—she feels better, making excuses as to why a good guy won’t want me. Sometimes I think her own desperation to see me happily married makes little ole Murphy poke his head out and lay down the law—the more she wants it, the less it’ll happen. Woe is me.
“Still doesn’t excuse why no decent man out there can see that my baby girl is about as good as they come. You’re fit, you have a beautiful smile, and you’re sweet just like your momma.”
“Thank you, Daddy. I’m sure my unmarried state has everything to do with the fact that all men are assholes except you.”
“Lanie!” Mother chides, but she doesn’t really chide, she laughs softly.
“Well, Ulysess’s son is running for senator and he always asks about you. He’s not the brightest nut out there, but he’s good looking and—”
“He’s gay. He wants a beard, Dad. A sham marriage to fool his constituents. I can do better than that on my own.”
“When I was twenty-five . . .” my mom begins.
“You were married and already had me, yeah yeah yeah. But I have a career. And I have a . . . very busy dating life. In fact, I’ve been dating so much I wouldn’t know who to pick to take to Brooke’s wedding,” I exaggerate.
My mom and my dad, what can I say? I love them. I like pleasing them. They’ve loved me my whole life. I have been showered with love. They not only love me, they want me to find the kind of love they share. I don’t ever want them to suspect what I already suspect myself—that for some reason, it’s just not happening for me.
“Just remember what I told you, Flea,” my mother says. “Choose the man who treats you best. The one who will not break your heart, who can be your friend, who you can talk to.”
I poke at my French toast. “You say that because Dad was your best friend. I, however, have a female best friend, and I would never marry my closest guy friend, Kyle. Ever.” I shudder when I think of my sexy Justin Timberlake-look-alike-BFF and me having so much as a kiss. Continuing to poke my food and softening my voice, I add, “I don’t think you can plan these things, Mom. I think they just happen and suddenly you’re standing on the side of the ring, meeting the man you’re going to marry when he winks at you. Or you find yourself standing in the rain, and all you pray for is that whatever feeling just struck you struck the man in front of you too . . .”
I look at my phone wistfully.
God, I’m such a fool fool FOOL!
The only thing that struck that man was lust, and now he’s been stricken with the Run-Away-From-Melanie syndrome.
A syndrome that’s much more common than you’d think.
“True, you cannot plan who you fall for,” my mother agrees. “But if you can step back so you can hear yourself think, you’d realize you don’t want to be out in the rain, hit by thunder. Always choose the path with sunlight, is what my momma used to say.”
“Naturally. Nobody picks an awful life out of wanting, Momma,” I groan. “Some people are just luckier.”
“It’s all about choosing wisely,” she insists.
I fall quiet as I wonder why I couldn’t have been wiser a couple of months ago, when I bet my life away on a single night, a single moment, one single outcome. I glance at my parents—so sweet and perfect, in our little bubble of happiness—I couldn’t bear to ask them for the money, could I? Disappoint them this way? How can I take their money and all their pride in me knowing how hard they fought to keep me alive?
♥ ♥ ♥
BY THE TIME I go home, I’m sad. I’m sad about my debt and about my man. I brush my teeth and look at my blank white wall and scowl.
“Bastard,” I mumble. “You ruined my whole week, you fucking bastard. I bet you’re fucking some triple-D blonde right now and her triplets all at the same time, aren’t you? You’re not even a two-timer, you’re like a three-timer, liar, feeding me an I’ll-take-you-to-the-movies fucking line. I swear I was fine until you came back like you ‘got’ me, like you ‘got’ me even if I looked like a hungover mess. God, I can’t believe myself!”
I kick the tub as if it’s the tub’s fault, then yell, “OUCH!”
Scowling, I walk into the bedroom, grab my sleep clothes, pad outside to my living room/kitchen combo to grab some ice cream, slide on my The Princess Bride DVD, and turn on the TV. A couple of pounds of fat, here we go. I plop down and a vibration buzzes across the couch. I scowl and feel around for my phone. I find it way in between the two couch cushions, pull it out, and set it aside so I can scoop out some ice cream. I almost choke on a mouthful when I see a text I hadn’t noticed before.
Be home tonight.
What? My stomach vaults. I read who the text is from and suddenly I want to throw my phone into a WALL. Greyson. I scowl at it and throw it down to the couch and start pacing. I’m not going to answer him. Why would I? He seemed in no hurry to talk to me before, and now he orders me? Like an almighty king? No thanks. I’ll pass on our second date, thank you.
But I check and notice the text was sent hours ago. I tell myself I am not going to respond, I will wait a gazillion days like he did. I set the phone aside and put a big spoonful of ice cream in my mouth, letting it melt on my tongue, but my stomach is squirming and now I can’t watch the TV, I can only stare at my phone and suck on the spoon. Then I bury the spoon in the tub and grab my phone, squeeze my eyes shut, and type.
I’m home but that doesn’t mean I’m staying home. Just depends . . .
On? comes the reply, and quickly.
Whoa, was he waiting, with phone in hand, to answer? It seems like he was.
I wait one full minute. Trembling. Type: On who’s visiting
I don’t mean that as an invite. I mean it as in: I’ll hightail it out of here if he sets foot in my building. But his answer is lightning fast and my heart starts pounding as it keeps staring back at me.
Crap! I have to leave. I have to leave; I can’t see him! I can’t be this easy! A line must be drawn. He’s already shown what our night together meant to him, and I won’t let myself be devalued by him or any other moron again.
I should leave before he arrives, or when he does, yell through the door, without opening it even an inch, and tell him that I’m NOT INTERESTED! You stood me up, you didn’t get in touch soon enough, I am not your booty call, have a good life!
Yeah. That sounds right.
Determined, I head over to close the living room blinds. When I glance out the window and reach for the string I see a dark sports car pull over and a man in black step out of the driver’s seat. He looks up toward my window and all my systems stop when our eyes lock, hold, recognize. My insides go into chaos mode. A strange excitement makes my knees knock.
Fuck me, it’s really him.
What is he doing here? What does he want?
He heads into the building and I turn to face my closed door, panicking because I haven’t changed, I didn’t change. I’m in my pj’s, if hardly that.
Noticing the pint of ice cream still grasped in my hand, I run to shove it back into the freezer, spoon and all. I start pacing around in circles, trying to come up with a new plan, but unable to think for shit. I consider telling my building guard not to let him in, but I hear the ring of the elevator and realize the guard must have recognized the motherfucker from when he brought me home last week.
Deciding not to delay the inevitable, I swing the door open as he steps out of the elevator. He looks straight at me and his gaze drills into me, making a hole straight in my thoughts. One of my neighbors and her husband pass along the hall toward their door.
“Well, hello there, Melanie. A little chilly out.” She gestures to the white silk shorts and near-transparent camisole I’m wearing in complete disapproval and continues on.
Greyson follows behind her and fills up the space one foot away from my threshold with muscle and beauty and testosterone and, I swear, god, I swear, he’s as lethal as a nuclear bomb. My knees, oh, my knees. My heart. My eyes. My body feels both light as a feather and heavy as a tank. How can this be? He’s so stunning I can’t even move. Or blink, or hardly stand; I’m leaning on the door frame.
I’m fully sober. Something I might regret. He’s no longer blurred by the rain, by vodka, or by my stupid illusions of Prince Charming.
The man standing at my door is very real, very big, very tan, and his smile is very, very charming. There is no word for the way he stands there, his eyes dark and glimmering, his cheekbones hard and his jaw smoothly shaven, his mouth so beautiful, tipped up mischievously at the corners. His suit is perfect, playboy perfect, and his tousled hair run with wayward streaks of copper that makes me want to rake my fingers straight through. And he’s here, looking at me as if waiting for me to let him in. A memory of the night he brought me home flashes through me. Where I felt sore because of the way he’d loved me all night. The little mark behind my ear that I found the next morning.
Hanging on to my every instinct of self-preservation, I hold the door only halfway open when he catches it in one big, powerful hand.
“Invite me in,” he says softly, holding the door in his firm grip.
“My car doesn’t need a tune-up, it’s fine, but thanks for checking in on it,” I say, pushing it closed with more effort.
He shoves the door open and strides inside, and I’m frustrated over my inability to keep him out. Now he’s on the wrong side of the door, shutting it behind him like he owns my place. “This building has a laundry chute?”
“That’s your line?”
He crosses the room and pulls all the blinds shut, then he sweeps his gaze across my space with such thorough intensity my insides quiver.
It’s almost like he’s making sure there is no other man here.
He can’t possibly be jealous, can he?
And now . . . now that he seems assured no one is here but me, he starts walking over to me and looking at my mouth, and I’m walking away because every instinct of self-preservation in me tells me to walk away.
“You’re here. Why are you here all of a sudden? Some other date canceled on you last minute?” I demand.
“I have a date I’d like to schedule with you.” His eyebrows pull low over those brilliant, hawklike eyes. “You’re not nearly as excited to see me as I’d hoped.”
“Maybe I thought you were a drunken hallucination. Maybe I hoped you were.”
I back into my kitchen island and he locks me in with his arms, his eyes hungry and almost desperate. Then he cups my face and sets his mouth to mine like he thinks—mistakenly—I belong to him.
“I’m not,” he says softly, then he kisses me again, so deeply I lose my train of thought until he speaks against my mouth again. “A hallucination. And if you need me to, I’ll spend all night reminding you of what it feels like to have my tongue and my cock buried deep in you and how much you liked it.”
He leans over as if to kiss me again. My voice trembles as I turn my head. “Don’t, Greyson.”
“I don’t like that word, ‘don’t,’ ” he rasps against my cheek. “But I do like you saying ‘Greyson.’ ”
He tilts my head around with the tip of one finger and stares at me like he loves the look of me. I lift one of his arms and he lets me, and I start easing away again, free of him, but not free of his stare. The first night he just kept staring at my eyes like he couldn’t tear his gaze free, but now, now he’s seeing all of me. I’m wearing shorts and a camisole yet my body starts heating as his eyes rake me up and down.
“I gave you a chance and you blew it,” I breathe.
“I want another one.”
I shake my head, but I can’t stop the stupid wings of some huge living thing batting around in my stomach. Suddenly my place smells like leather, like forest, and Greyson freaking King stands there looking like he does, confident, self-contained, his presence somehow demanding all my attention.
“Why are you here?”
He signals to the TV as I watch my dear, perfect Westley whisper to Buttercup, “As you wish,” then he looks at me, smiles as if at himself. “Are you watching a movie?”
“Not now, right now I’m watching you.”
He just smiles that rather sexy, rather annoying almost grin of his and sits on a side chair like some mighty king. I can feel myself frown because he just managed to shrink my place with his presence. Feeling little pinches in my stomach, I sit down on the couch, Westley forgotten, Buttercup forgotten, everything but HIM forgotten. I wait.
“How are you?” he asks softly, signaling at me.
“How do you think?” I sullenly ask.
“Looking pretty damn good from where I sit.”
“Do you always make yourself at home in places you’re not wanted?”
His soft laugh runs across my skin like a feather, pricking the little hairs on my arms. He leans back and crosses his arms behind his head, watching me with cool, knowing eyes. “I’m here to prove to you that, no, Melanie, you didn’t imagine me.”
The way his sensual tone combines with that brilliant narrowed gaze tells me we both know that I am definitely wanted here—and makes my toes curl. Fuck, he turns me on.
“I was about to eat a thousand pounds of chocolate because of you,” I accuse.
He stands and then comes to drop his body right next to me on the couch. “Well now, two hundred twenty pounds of me are right here. With you.”
“We’re not sleeping together again.”
“Considering I’ve been inside you, you should at least let me put my arms around you while we watch . . . what are we watching?”
“The Princess Bride. My favorite movie of all time.”
He stretches his arm along the back of the couch, and my heart thumps like mad.
“Buttercup is engaged to Prince Humperdinck but her true love, Westley . . .”
His lips curl, and I shut up when I notice how amused he looks. Secretly amused by . . . me. It’s hot. And frankly, it bothers me. I whisper, “You’re a playboy. I know you are.”
“You know nothing about me.”
I roll my eyes. “I know your name. Greyson.”
“You mock my name with that evil glint in your eye like you love it, all it does is make me want to fuck you until you moan it.” He pulls my face to his. “I know every time you lie because I’ve been taught to detect liars since I was very, very young. You learn it when your father lies all the time,” he breathes, his hot breath on my lips causing a fire to stir inside my stomach. “I think of you, Melanie. I see your face in every woman. I flew here just to see you. Communication. Relationships. Those aren’t things I’m good at. There are other attributes I have that are far better. Like I see I’m good at making you pant. I see your pupils are dilated, you keep looking at my mouth instead of your favorite movie, and it’s taking all of my self-control not to give us exactly what it is we both need right now. It’s been a week, but as far as I’m concerned”—he cups the back of my head and nibbles on my lower lip—“I’ve been waiting a lifetime to sink myself in you.”
He presses me close, and I ache so much, I’m scared. By him, by this, this need to claw into his skin, press my lips to the hard line of his jaw, touch his thick, silky hair.
“Let me watch my movie, let go,” I protest feebly.
When he chuckles, his breath moves a couple of tendrils of loose hair at my temple. “If you want me to let you go, you need to stop pressing your pretty nipples against my chest as you say so, stop getting closer when you ask me to let you go,” he murmurs, rubbing his nose against mine, and his closeness, his scent of forest, his warm breath, his lips so close I can almost taste them, trigger a flood of need between my thighs and a hot, aching ripple in my sex.
I gasp as we almost kiss, and he groans and gives me space to breathe. He lifts his head, and I see him appraise me like a connoisseur would appraise a jewel or some antiquity. Why does he look at me like this? Why like THIS? Like he wants inside me as much as I want him. Like he wants more than my body, like he wants to suck the blood out of me, eat my soul up, and then pray to me.
Quietly, I close my eyes, trying to pretend we’re just dating, have never had sex, are just watching a movie. I force my muscles to relax and watch the TV, and I sense him relax gradually too. He stretches his big body suddenly down the length of the couch and pulls me up against him. Oh my. I hate how he assumes control of things that pertain to me, but I love it too.
I feel his gaze on the top of my head. Pretending to watch the movie, I weave my fingers in his hair and bring his arm around me, complaining, “Your elbow’s digging into my rib cage.”
His chuckle—I can’t even explain how much I love the sound of his chuckle—tells me he knows I just want to get more comfortable. And I do.
“Better?” he asks, shifting that lean, hard, long body of his underneath me.
“Shh. I like it when he fights with the Spaniard.”
I’m pretending to watch, but really, I’m struggling with how much I want to give him a second chance. But what if I fall? What if it gets out of control, and not only do I fall, but plunge into him?
That night with him?
It was incredible. He was incredible. He still feels, smells, sounds incredible.
His muscles flex and I fear he will pull away, but he doesn’t. He tucks me closer, cocooning me in his arms. I breathe softly in a nearly overwhelming sense of contentment, engulfed by the feeling of security he gives me, and I finally succumb to the urge to set my cheek on his chest. “This feels good,” I murmur. Beyond good.
Suddenly nothing feels righter than this. On my couch. With this man. His spicy, comforting scent is like a drug, and I can’t help but take deeper, more conscious breaths of him.
“Princess,” he says in my ear, conspiratorially.
A shiver runs through me as I close my eyes. “What?”
“I wasn’t going to call.”
“I know, douche bag. Why did you?”
Westley and my Spaniard are at it with swords but it feels like the real action is in my ear, in his whisper: “You need me.”
I scoff and sit up to glare at him. “I don’t need you.”
He sits up too and his eyes flash in challenge. “Maybe I need you.”
When I only stare, he shoots me an adorable grin that’s cocky but also sad. “Do you know what it feels like to carry the weight of a dead heart with you your whole life, like you’re just looking for your grave?” He waits for me to answer, but I’m speechless. “I live the moments I’m with you. I live a lie, but this isn’t a lie, watching this stupid movie with you.”
“Stupid!” I gasp.
He laughs and stands, and says, “When I go out, lock up. I’ll be back with food.”
“If I fall asleep, I’ll be too tired to come open it again,” I warn, but the truth is, I just don’t want him to leave!
“I can open your lock without you so much as waking,” he says easily, then he comes back and slides his gloved hand under my camisole. “But lock up anyway.”
“And you’re fucking sexy in what you’re wearing right now.” His thumb traces the underside of my breast and my breath snags when our eyes meet, and there’s no shutter in his eyes, no filter. What I see galvanizes me, the roiling tumult in the very depths of his gaze taking me for a spin.
“I’ve been told I have a photographic memory. That some images just stick with me with extreme clarity . . . but that night, Melanie, I remember everything about that night more clearly than any other moment in my life.” He grasps the back of my neck in a big, square hand and gives a little squeeze. “Your red thong. Your perky little nipples. The way you looked at me like a princess and told me your name was Melanie. I remember it too well.”
I’m transported there for a moment. It’s all a haze of passion and desire and teeth, tongues, hands. I ache, but I don’t want to be his toy. I don’t want to be his booty call. My throat hurts when I take his hand, pry it off my neck, and start guiding him to the front door.
“I think . . . Greyson, I think you should leave. I can’t think when you’re around. I don’t know what you want from me but I can’t play these games with you . . . not with you . . .”
He looks at me when we reach the door, almost as if he wants me to kick him out. Almost as if he wants ME to be the one to tell him I never want to see him again. Will he feel relieved? Well, he won’t be! I can’t even begin to explain what that touch of gold tan does for his looks. How I can’t stop admiring the intriguing angles and planes of his face. How long I’ve waited in my life to feel something, a sparkle, a tingle, like this.
“My best friend gets married in two weeks,” I whisper, then I tell him the church as I start pushing him out, all the while holding his gaze. It’s hot, hungry. THE LOOK. “If you want one more chance, if you’re serious about this, you can come to church,” I tell him, then I lean over and kiss his lips, very softly, hearing his low, rumbling groan, then I step back and close the door.
I lean on it, squeezing my eyes shut as I struggle to breathe. God that kiss was nothing and yet it made every inch of my body shudder.
After a minute, I hear him growl “Fuck” on the other side of the door. Did it take him that long to recover from that kiss too? Then I swear I can feel him lean on the door. I close my eyes and breathe slowly. When he whispers, “Melanie,” it’s right where I have my cheek pressed against the door. I tremble down to my toes, struggling to get my voice level.
“Yes?” I say.
“I’ll be there.”
I hear the elevator a good while later. I lift my fingers and touch the door, and for the first time in my life, I’m terribly afraid about meeting him, the one man I’ve been waiting for.
Suddenly every fiber in my body, my sober body, tells me he is the one.
He is the one.
The one who’s going to wreck me. Hurt me. Demolish me. The one who is going to remove every inch of the girl in me. He will be the memory I will never forget, and good or bad, he will be THE one I dream of.
Except he’s all wrong.
There’s something exciting and alarming about him.
The dark in his hazel eyes, the brilliant gleam that makes him so attractive to me, the way he smells of leather and metal and forest and danger to me.
I think of my mother and I always thought I’d do her proud. I remember my best friend, concerned that a Riptide would sweep her away. Greyson won’t be a riptide. I don’t know what he’ll be, but I’m thinking tsunami, hurricane, something natural and unstoppable.
I wonder if he will show up at the wedding. If he is as helpless to this pull as I am.
I plop back down with my movie and curl into a couch pillow, my thoughts no longer with the most beautiful fairy tale ever written. I whisper into the emptiness of the room, “Please, if you’re just going to hurt me, please, please, don’t come to Brooke’s wedding.”
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-09-13; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 9; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ