Authors: J. Sterling
“Daniel,” she breathed out and wiped her tear-stained face.
I pushed past her, walking into her living room before sitting down. “What the fuck is going on with you, Kate? Why are you acting like this?”
She started spouting off at the mouth, “Did Elizabeth call you? Did she tell you to come see me?” She moved next to me on the couch. “I knew she would. She’s such a good person, but she doesn’t love you like I love you.”
The second Elizabeth’s name had left her lips, I wanted her to stop talking.
I stood up and started pacing. “First of all, how dare you call Elizabeth at her work. Her work, Kate! Second, calling her and talking to her about us…who does that? Do you not realize how crazy that is?”
Her head lowered into her hands as her shoulders began to shake. I hated seeing women cry.
“I just wanted to get her to break up with you, so you’d give me another chance.”
“You asked her to break up with me?” Her words spun around like a carnival ride inside my brain.
How had this become my life?
It was no wonder Elizabeth couldn’t handle this shit. I could barely handle it, and it was my own doing.
“I just wanted to see you again, but you wouldn’t talk to me.” Tears continued to spill down her cheeks as conflicted emotions raced within me. “You ignored all my calls. I just wanted to talk to you, Daniel. I need to know why. What did I do wrong?”
Sitting back down next to her on the couch, I pulled her against my chest and let her cry. “Kate?” I said her name softly, knowing that only expressing my anger wouldn’t solve anything. “Kate, look at me.”
I reached for her chin and tilted her face up. She batted her big doe eyes at me.
“I never lied to you, did I?”
She wiped at her face before shaking her head.
“From the very beginning, I told you what this was between us and what I wanted from you, did I not?”
“You did,” she choked out.
“Then, why are we here right now? Why are we going through this? Why are you ruining the best relationship I’ve ever had?” It was a low blow, but it was the truth. Sometimes, the truth hurt, and I needed to be crystal clear in this moment.
“Because I figured you’d change your mind. When we first started out, I knew that you saw me as just a friend, but I assumed, after time went by and you got to know me better, that you’d develop real feelings for me.”
I shook my head. “I told you that would never happen.”
“I know,” she agreed.
“You just didn’t believe me?”
“I guess I hoped for different.”
What the hell was it with women? Were they incapable of keeping things uncomplicated? Clearly, the answer here was no.
“I’m sorry that I hurt you, but I never lied to you. I never promised you a future, but I understand now how you could have wanted one.” I had to admit that my actions had been less than gentlemanly and certainly not always considerate even though I had intended for them to be both by being so honest upfront.
“After being with you for so long, I guess I just thought we’d never end.”
“To be honest, Kate, I had no idea that I’d meet someone like Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth had changed everything. My whole world had shifted the moment I found her. She was the one person who had tilted my world on its axis just by being a part of it. That was how it’d felt when Elizabeth stepped into my life. It wasn’t something I could control or talk myself out of. It was just one of those things where a part of me had been drawn to her in that unexplainable way. People would talk about experiencing that kind of thing all the time. I’d always thought it was bullshit until it happened to me.
“I want someone to feel that way about me. I think I always hoped it would be you.”
Knowing that I’d caused this pain forced me to try to make it better. I could be a complete asshole but not to her, not right now. She’d given me everything I needed for two years without complaint.
I hugged her tighter against me, rubbing her shoulder to help bring her comfort. “And I know, without a doubt, that you will find that guy, Kate. I’m just not him. You deserve someone who puts you first and wants to be with you all the time, not just when he needs sex.”
She laughed, and my heart lightened.
“I’m really sorry I called Elizabeth.”
“I know.” I squeezed her gently, letting her know I forgave her.
“Desperate women do crazy stuff,” she said with another laugh.
“You can say that again.” I moved her body away from mine, and I pushed up from the couch. “Come here.” I extended my hand and pulled her up. I hugged her long and hard, knowing it would be the last time.
I whispered, “You are an amazing woman. Don’t ever forget that, and don’t sell yourself short because of what we had, okay? You’re going to make some guy extremely lucky, and if he doesn’t know it or doesn’t treat you that way every single day, he isn’t the right guy.”
A smile spread across her face as my words sank in. “Thanks, Daniel. I’m really sorry again for all the drama I caused.”
“Do you want me to call her and apologize? I probably should.”
I briefly glanced away before meeting her swollen eyes. “No. This is something I need to do on my own, but thank you.”
Closing her apartment door behind me, I headed for home, wondering how the hell I was supposed to live my life without Elizabeth Lyons in it.
After getting off the phone with Daniel, I hung my head in my hands and bawled my eyes out, thankful that the studio would be virtually empty by the time I left. I would be mortified if anyone in the office saw me like this.
My heart ached inside my chest with each breath I inhaled. Somewhere in me, I knew it was the right decision for my career to tell Daniel good-bye, but I hadn’t planned on him accepting it so easily. I hated to admit how much that part hurt. I’d never considered that Daniel would walk away without a fight, even though that’s exactly what I’d asked him to do.
I tried to accept the fact that all I needed was time when it came to getting over him. With enough of it, eventually, I would feel whole again. But I didn’t know if I believed myself. Daniel Alexander had reopened emotions in me that had been closed for so long. I wasn’t sure how to go through this experience without him here to guide me.
It had been ten minutes, and I already missed him desperately. That sentiment alone caused me to feel foolish.
I woke up the next morning, and I could still smell him on my pillow. Inhaling the scent of him only caused me further pain, so I tore the sheets from my bed and tossed them into the laundry basket. I’d never get over him if he constantly surrounded me.
How was I supposed to get over someone like Daniel?
“Oh my gosh, what happened? Why are you crying? Did something happen with Daniel?” Her rapid-fire interrogation refused to quit.
I nodded my head instead of answering, afraid of how saying the words out loud might affect me.
“I broke up with him,” I admitted before swiping at my eyes to stop the tears.
“Why? Why on earth would you do that? Did he do something?”
I glared at her, willing my sadness to be replaced with anger or annoyance or anything. Anything would be better than feeling less than whole.
“Yes, he did something! He invaded my thoughts and made me have sexual fantasies about him during the meeting with Mr. Kline yesterday! I totally spaced out while he was presenting! I’m surprised it didn’t come to drooling.”
Barbara was doubled over, laughing, her dark hair spilling down around her knees. I wanted to smack the living crap out of her.
She leaned up slightly. “I’m sorry. I can’t.” She continued to laugh. “Oh God, Elizabeth, that’s fucking hilarious.”
“Hilarious, my ass! Mr. Kline called me out in front of the entire meeting. He asked me what I was thinking about that was so much more important than listening to him speak.”
“Oh shit, it’s too much.” She laughed even harder, her eyes narrowing to a squint with the force. “What did you say to him? Did you tell him?”
“I lied through my teeth. Told him I was daydreaming about a book I’d started reading that I couldn’t stop thinking about.”
“Oh Lord, seriously, this is priceless.”
“It’s not. It’s really not,” I chastised her, my tone clearly irritated.
“Okay, okay.” She tried to level her breathing out by taking long inhales and slow exhales. “So, you got pissed at Daniel for this?”
“Yes, among other things.”
“Tell me again how that was his fault?” She flipped her hair off her shoulders and pinned me with her stare.
I tilted my head to the left and leaned the weight of it against my fingers. “It’s his fault for making me feel so much for him. I got stupid when it came to him, and my work suffered. I don’t know how to concentrate on both! Then, my conversation with Kate last night—”
“Wait! You ended up calling her? What did she want?”
“She cried the whole time on the phone with me, Barbara. It was horrible. She’s completely in love with Daniel. She asked me to stop seeing him, so they could have another chance.”
Her lips pressed tight into a straight line before she opened them. “Tell me right now, you did not break up with Daniel Alexander and his gorgeous face because some stupid girl he used to fuck is in love with him.”
of her, no. To be honest, I didn’t appreciate the bullshit being with him brought to my doorstep. Why do I have to deal with that crap? I don’t have time for that kind of drama in my life.”
“Elizabeth, everyone has baggage. Everyone. But some people are worth unpacking for—or at least helping with their carry-on luggage or something. Don’t you think he’s worth it?”
“I do, but I’m really overwhelmed, and I feel like a failure,” I admitted, feeling weak and pathetic—two qualities I despised.
“I know, sweetie, but you’re not a failure. You didn’t do anything wrong. You and Daniel are in that honeymoon phase where you can’t get enough of each other, but you shouldn’t punish him, or yourself, for that. You should be celebrating the fact that you found that kind of feeling in someone as amazing as he is. Seriously, you’re both so lucky.”
“I hate when you’re logical.”
“You just hate when I’m right, which is always, so you must hate me a lot.” She smiled, and I leaned toward her, needing a hug from my closest friend. “You need to call him and fix this. He’ll understand.”
Reaching for the phone, I dialed his office, but his secretary said he would be in meetings all afternoon. Defeated, I hung up the phone, wondering if I’d blown my chances with Daniel after all.
She’d tilted my world on its axis, and I refused to act like that didn’t mean anything. Dealing with Elizabeth meant finding a balance between not scaring her off and also not really giving her a choice. I knew I needed to walk the tightrope between being understanding and being demanding. If she wanted to run, I’d hold on even tighter. This girl would not be pushing me away anytime soon, and I’d help her work through her fears because I had some of my own.
After charming a young girl into letting me inside Elizabeth’s building, I waited outside her front door with a bouquet that was a single rose lighter and an overnight bag. I was optimistically presumptuous. I had no idea how long I’d be waiting for her to get home from work, but it didn’t matter. I’d wait for-fucking-ever. It was cliché and cheesy as shit but so true.
When the elevator doors opened, she stepped out, wearing a tight-fitting dark blue skirt and a light-blue shirt, with her blonde hair falling down to her breasts. I almost fell to my knees at the sight of her. She was so beautiful. The look on her face when she noticed me made my heart leap inside my chest. Elizabeth was surprised but not mad.
I watched as she dropped her purse to the ground and ran straight toward my arms. Allowing the roses to fall to the floor, I reached for her and lifted her off the ground, holding on tight, as I inhaled her scent.
“I’m so sorry,” she breathed against my neck before finding my lips with hers.
Her tongue wasted no time in entering my mouth, and I instantly hardened. I cupped her ass with one hand while my other hand pulled her shirt free before stroking the length of her back. I wanted her.
Her head pulled back, and a smile appeared. “I shouldn’t have said what I did last night. I was hurt, upset, and confused.”
“I know,” I said with confidence.
“I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Of course I’m here.” I smirked at her. There was never any other option. There would be no other choices for me again.
“Let me get my stuff, and we’ll go inside.” She turned to pick up the contents of her spilled purse, and I watched her ass sway from side to side.
Once inside her place, I forced myself to have some control. I’d have my way with her after we sorted this out. I placed the roses on her kitchen counter, and she sniffed at them.
“They’re beautiful. Thank you.” She inspected them, finding the one red rose. “One red?” she asked, unsure of the meaning.
“I thought you might be getting tired of all the white roses.”
She stepped toward me with purpose. Grabbing my tie, she pulled my body against hers. “Never. I’ll never get tired of getting white roses from you.”
I waved my hand toward her couch. “I’m having a hard time concentrating on anything but imagining you naked, Elizabeth, but we need to talk.”
“Well, that’s a first—a guy who wants to talk before screwing. Aren’t you full of surprises?” she teased me and I squelched my desire to spank her for it.
“I talked to Kate,” I started off, figuring I might as well lay all my cards on the table right away.
“When?” Her head cocked to the side, exposing her neck, and I shifted my position.
“Last night, I went over to her place. She was a mess, but I honestly think we got it sorted out.”
“How? She sounded pretty torn up on the phone.” Her eyes creased together, almost as if she were channeling Kate’s pain as her own.
“She was at first, but we talked.”
“Just talked?” she asked as disbelief filled her tone.
I scowled with her question. It was completely unjustifiable. Elizabeth just hadn’t realized that yet.
“I’m never fucking anyone else again, Elizabeth. Don’t you get that?”
Her eyes looked away as a slight smile formed.
I continued, “I made her see that I never lied to her or led her on.” I paused before clenching my jaw. “At least not on purpose. I can see now how my actions might have led her to believe that we could have had a future even though my words never said as much.”
“That was big of you,” Elizabeth complimented me, and it filled me with a sense of pride.
“Anyway, I told her what she deserved when it came to a man and how she should never settle for someone like me, and she agreed. She realized that I would never love her because she knew I could never feel about her the way I feel about you.”
Elizabeth gasped softly, and her breasts pressed tighter against her blouse. She slowly moved back. “How do you feel about me?”
I leaned toward her, my hands reaching for hers. “I’m fucking crazy about you. I refuse to live without you, and I’m not letting you push me away. We both have fears, but we’re going to work through them together. I told you before that I wouldn’t let you sacrifice your work for me, and I meant it. I never want to give you a reason to resent me or hate me. But you can’t shut me out. Just because I don’t live here doesn’t mean that you get to run away from me or stop communicating with me. As you can tell, I’ll just come down here and get you.”
She laughed, and her whole face radiated like the sun. “I’m crazy about you, too, and that’s what scares me. I had the most explicit fantasy during a meeting, and I got caught. That’s why I was so pissed off.”
“Wait—you had a fantasy about me?”
She bit her bottom lip. “Oh, yeah.”
“Is that why you said you got in trouble?”
“Uh-huh.” She nodded.
“Keep talking, but in a minute, tell me every single detail, so we can re-create it.” My dick started to harden again, no matter how many times I’d mentally told it to calm down.
“It’s hard for me to admit being scared of things. It makes me feel weak, and I don’t like that. A woman in my position doesn’t get to where she is by being weak. But falling in love with you makes me feel that way. It makes me feel vulnerable.”
“You’re falling in love with me?” My heart sped up as if I were running a marathon, beating in double-time against my chest and pounding so loud in my ears. I suddenly felt as if I were the girl in this relationship.
“I’m falling for you so hard and so fast,” she declared.
“You’re not alone in that. Please don’t think that you’re the only one feeling that way. At least that should give you some comfort, right?” I wanted to calm her fears, hating the fact that anything about me scared her at all.
She agreed with a nod. “It does make me feel better, but I’m still scared, and I hate it.”
“So, we’ll get through it. Be scared. I’ll be here to make sure there’s nothing to be scared of. I’m not going to let you fail. I’m not going to let you fall. You’re going to keep being the incredible business woman that you are, and I’m going to be by your side for it all. I mean, I’ll be by your side from San Francisco, but still.” I laughed as her eyes watered.
“Barbara was right.”
“Oh, yeah?” I scooted my body close to hers. “What about?”
“She said that we were both lucky to have found each other and that some people were worth unpacking baggage for.”
“Babe, I’ll buy you more suitcases and storage units for all your baggage. I don’t even care. I want all of you and everything that comes with it.”