Authors: Renna Peak
© 2015 by Renna Peak
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wo weeks of bliss
I looked over at him. The sweet smile on his sleeping face told me he felt the same. Bliss. An amazing word for an even more amazing feeling. How had I never known what it was like to feel this way? How had I not known how much I had been missing? Heat radiated to my chest just looking at him. He took my breath away, made me feel lighter than air. Everything was perfect. I should have known then that it was
I stretched my arms over my head and tried to move myself from under his arm without waking him up. The memory of our first night together, when I had done almost the same thing, floated through my mind. My life was so different now; I was almost a different person from the woman who had the one night stand with the man lying next to me. Well, what I had assumed would be a one night stand. I smiled to myself. If I hadn’t taken that risk, the one that scared me to death—going home with a man I didn’t know--I wouldn’t be here in his arms now. Thank God I had found my spontaneity streak; well, the little bit that I had.
My breath caught when his arm moved over me, his touch sending a pulse thrumming through me again. His hand grazed over the side of my breast, caressing down to my waist where he stopped and pulled me closer to him.
His blue eyes fluttered open. “Going somewhere?” He lifted his head and gazed down at me.
I caught his hand as it began to slide down to my thigh. I was already a puddle of liquid heat, but I didn’t have time for it right then. I needed to get up. And somewhere inside of me, I knew it was going to piss him off.
He stared down at me, his gaze burning into me like it always did. His eyes twinkled as he gave his wrist a gentle shake to try to free it from my grasp. He rested his head back down against his other hand, his eyes admiring me.
My gaze flicked over him before returning to look into his eyes. God, he was perfect. It was all I could do to keep myself from running my tongue across his sculpted chest, to stop myself from tangling my fingers into his silky, black curls. I couldn’t let myself melt—I really did need to get out of bed. I tightened the grip on his wrist and tried to wriggle away again.
He flashed a sly smile and caught my legs with his, his gaze never moving away from mine. He searched my eyes again.
I found myself matching his silly grin. Our eyes locked for another sweet moment until I tore my gaze away. “Brandon, I need to get up.”
He had me pinned underneath him in one swift movement, his legs straddling me. He pulled my other hand into his and lifted both over my head as he lowered his body onto mine.
My neck bowed when his lips met the tender spot under my ear and a small sigh escaped my lips. My body almost cried in protest when my brain took over. I twisted my wrists free and pushed against his shoulders. “I really do have to get up.”
His voice was a low growl against my neck. “Why do you get more beautiful every time I see you?” He pressed his lips against that spot beneath my ear again. “I can’t get enough.”
I pushed harder and he rolled off to my side, sitting up. I pulled the covers up over my bare chest and sat up myself. “I’m sorry. I have to get up.”
“That’s what you said. Something you need to tell me?”
The smile fell from my face and I chewed on my lip for a moment before looking up to meet his gaze again. I picked at the cuticle on my thumb and my voice dropped. “I need to go to Sacramento.”
“Mind telling me why?”
I forced my mouth into a tiny smile, the one I knew he hated. The forced smile my mother always had on her face any time my father was around. The one that hides all emotions, the good, the bad and the really, really terrible. Considering the world now knew she wasn’t really my mother, I knew it wasn’t genetic, just a learned response. And I had learned from the master, Marian Hennessey Davis, queen of the forced smiles. I had a brief thought that my life story would be perfect for some psychologist to study nature versus nurture. I gulped down the dry knot that had formed in my throat. I forced my lips up just a bit, just enough to make it not seem like that prim smile. “I have a meeting with the governor.”
His eyebrow arched and I saw his lips twitch, but he didn’t say a word. He sat up on the side of the bed and pulled on his underwear. I couldn’t see his face, but I could see him shaking his head from side to side.
“They called yesterday while you were out. They offered me a job in the communications office.” I pulled the covers more tightly across my chest and folded my arms to hold them in place. I picked again at my thumbnail and cleared my throat. “I couldn’t say no…”
I heard a phone ring from inside my closet with an unfamiliar ring tone. I thought maybe it was Melissa’s, that maybe she had left a phone in there when she moved out, but I didn’t think hers sounded like that, either.
Brandon stood up and crossed the room, opening the closet door. “Fuck.” He reached in and pulled a phone out from a jacket pocket. It wasn’t his phone, not the black one I had seen him use a thousand times before. He flipped it open and held it to his ear. “Yeah.” He paused for a few moments. “Yeah. Okay.” He flipped the phone closed and put it back into the jacket. He pulled a white dress shirt and a pair of pants from the closet before turning to face me.
There was something different about the way he looked at me. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was definitely there, a glint, maybe. I didn’t know what it was, but that feeling I had always had that told me I could trust him was gone. His eyes grew wild, searching mine before he looked back down at the floor. I watched him pull his pants on.
“I can’t let you take that job, Jen.” He sat back down on the edge of the bed, buttoning his white dress shirt. His voice was different, almost threatening.
me?” The memory of tearing a shirt almost identical to the one he was buttoning flashed into my mind for a brief second. “I don’t remember asking permission.” I blew out a noisy breath.
He turned to face me for a moment, flicking his head to the side to remove a stray curl from his eyes. His eyes narrowed and he turned back around to pull on his shoes. “It isn’t safe. You aren’t taking it.”
I tightened my arms against my chest. My stomach hardened and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. “Brandon, I didn’t ask. I was telling you because I thought you should know.” I shrugged a little and angled my body away from him. “You can’t stop me. I’m taking the job. It’s a great opportunity…”
He stood up and turned to face me, cutting me off. His jaw clenched and there was something dark in his eyes. Anger. “You may not have asked, but I’m telling you. You
be taking that job. It isn’t up for discussion.”
I sat, stunned, not believing what I was hearing. “Are you daring me? Because I’m telling you…”
“Jen, no. No political jobs. Not now.” His face softened just a little. “It isn’t safe.”
I pulled my knees up to my chest and arranged the covers around myself. I wished that I had even a stitch of clothing on, because there was a part of me—a huge part of me—that wanted to stomp off and punch something. Brandon, preferably. I pressed my lips into a line and tried to swallow the dry lump in my throat. “Well, it’s a good thing you aren’t my father. Or my husband. Or any other blood relative that has a right to tell me what I can or can’t do. I’m taking the job. And I’m not discussing it…”
“Jenna. I said no.” It was more than anger in his eyes this time. The fact that he had called me Jenna signaled he was more furious with me than just angry.
The edge in his voice sent a cold shiver down my spine. My breath caught in my throat and my jaw dropped open again. I had never seen him like this before, not with me. He had been so gentle before, caring. This wasn’t him. There had to be something else going on, but my gut was now screaming at me to run. The dangerous man everyone had warned me about was now standing in front of me. And I was naked and vulnerable in front of him.
I considered my words carefully. I took a deep breath and sat up straight, squaring my shoulders. I held the covers tightly against my chest to give myself some barrier, some amount of protection. “I think I deserve more than a ‘because I said so,’ Brandon. I’m not a child. If you know something, you need to tell me.” All this over a job? Something wasn’t adding up.
The edge of his mouth twitched, his eyes narrowing to slits. He paused, glaring at me for a long moment. “I’ll be back in a few days. A week at most. I have some business I need to take care of.”
“Business? That’s who was on the phone? Business?” I shook my head again. I felt my cheeks and ears burn. “Right. We’re back to that, are we?”
. Just thinking about his “business” made me want to stab hot pokers in my eyes. His “business” was what had brought on all the trouble. And what had led him to me, not that it mattered now. His business was manipulating people. Maybe that was all our relationship had been. One big, fat, ugly manipulation. “You told me you were done with that. Were you lying about that, too?”
He gritted his teeth, and pulled his matching suit jacket with the phone in the pocket from its hanger in the closet. He turned and walked to the bedroom doorway. The door frame looked like it might snap, he was clenching it so tightly with his hand. He kept his back turned to me as he spoke. “I love you. I’ll see you in a few days. Make the call, Jen.”
I glared daggers into his back. “I’m not making any calls. I start work on Monday. And I’m going to that meeting today.”
He turned back to face me, his grip on the doorway, his knuckles white. His nostrils flared and his jaw tightened. “Then
make the call myself.”
I turned my lips up into that same tiny smile. “How about I call and let the governor know not to take my resignation from anyone but
? That’s the only call I’ll be making today, Brandon.” I let the smile fall from my face. “Have a safe trip. Good luck with your
“You don’t need to be so god-damned stubborn about everything, you know? You can’t just take my word for it?”
My jaw dropped again. “Take your word? About what? You haven’t told me anything.”
“I’m not lying. I’ve never lied to you.”
I rolled my eyes up to the ceiling and shook my head, pounding a fist against my thigh. “Lies of omission are still lies. By that definition, you are lying now, Brandon. Either tell me…”
“Fine, I’m lying now. But you aren’t taking that job. I’ll make sure that the offer is rescinded, Jen. It’s your choice…”
“Fuck you.” I waved my hands, shooing him out of my bedroom. “Go, do your business. Whatever the hell that means, anyway.”
His jaw tightened again and he closed his eyes. He let go of the doorway and balled his hands.
I jumped at the crack of his fist hitting the wall.
He shook his hand out and cocked his head to the side. “Just believe me, Jen. Can you do that? I’m already having my arm twisted here. I don’t need you twisting the other one.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? You’re telling me what I can and can’t do and
the one twisting your arm?” I pulled the platinum ring from my right hand, the one he had given me only a few weeks ago. What the hell had I been thinking when I took it, anyway? A promise ring. The only thing he could promise was that he would always be a liar. A lying asshole who did god-knows-what on these all too frequent business trips. How stupid was I, allowing myself to trust that he had changed? “Twist this, Brandon. And get the hell out of my apartment.” I threw the ring at him with every bit of strength I could muster.
He caught it with his uninjured hand and shoved it into his jacket pocket. “You know, you don’t need to make this more difficult than it already is, Jenna.”
I clenched my teeth. “Get out.” If I had even been wearing underwear, I would have run over to hit him. “Get. Out.”
He shook his head and turned his back to me, walking through the doorway. A moment later, the front door slammed.
At least we were in my apartment
. I buried my head in my knees, still not sure that the past few minutes had really happened.
no idea what was going on. How could she? Not knowing was safer for her. Safer for both of us. If she didn’t know, she wouldn’t insist on being in the middle of it. I knew she hated it when I brought up my business. And God, I hated treating her like that, like a child. I knew it drove her crazy and I knew that she deserved better. More. She needed someone to be gentle with her, someone to show her how much he loved her, every single day.
I wanted nothing more than to be that man for her. I needed her, but not in the same way she thought she needed me. There was something about her that did things to me that I couldn’t even describe. She made me feel things I never thought were possible to feel. I felt alive with her, something I didn’t ever remember feeling before. How was it possible to go through a third of your life without ever having felt alive? It didn’t matter, though. None of it mattered. I should have given her up when I realized who she was. I should have let her go back to her old life, should have insisted on it. I had been so selfish because of how she made me feel.
I had been an idiot, and I knew I was going to have to answer for it.
I’d be paying for my past, for my choices, for the rest of my life. I never should have dragged her into this, not when she was already so much a part of it without even knowing. It was my fault that she was now entwined in something that I didn’t even really understand. It had been my vendetta, my anger that had gotten me in the middle of it. And now my love for her was endangering us both.
I fingered the ring I had just shoved into my pocket. I should never have given it to her. Not when I couldn’t really promise her anything. I didn’t even know if I’d be alive after this weekend. And I knew somewhere inside myself that it might be better for her if I wasn’t.
I looked up at her apartment from the driver’s seat of my car and forced down all the feelings that came up. The damned feelings that had already gotten me into a world of hurt. I knew her; she would be watching to see if I took off without apologizing. Without trying to give her back the ring. All that relationship bullshit was going to have to wait—dealing with feelings was
going to have to wait. I didn’t have time for any of it.