Authors: Emily Jane Trent
Gianni was stunned, but his concern for Leah took precedence over his own trauma. He grabbed his phone and called Roston. “Leah is back from Portland, and she just left my condo. Stick with her at all times. I’m worried about her. She’s upset. Extremely upset. I’ll explain later.”
His stomach was in knots, and his life was shattered. Seeing Leah walk out was Gianni’s worst nightmare. It was what he’d tried to prevent. How could he have known she would come home early?
Now he didn’t know if he could get her back. It was bad. Very bad. He had known if she discovered the journal that she would react. And he had kept it secure. But not secure enough. Gianni paced the room, grasping for a way to get Leah to talk to him.
If only she would listen. He could explain. And what would he tell her? That she was right. That he had failed to tell her about something that important. Maybe she should leave him. Possibly it was over, and it was for the best.
Could he really give her what she needed, anyway?
But he couldn’t face life without her. The prospect was one he couldn’t accept. There had to be a way. They had too much together. He had screwed up. Big time. But there had to be some way to repair the damage he had done.
He just didn’t know what. Or how he was going to explain. Everything he thought of saying sounded lame. Trust and honesty should come above all else. Especially when the nature of the relationship was dominant/submissive. There was no way to justify his actions.
Gianni was fucked. He kicked the reading table. It tipped over and skidded across the tile floor. He was pissed. At himself. At the situation. At life. Nothing mattered without Leah. The joy in his life had been ripped away the instant she walked out the door.
Leah took the elevator down and walked past the same attendant. “Are you okay?”
She shook her head. “Can you call a cab?”
Leah slumped into a seat by the window to watch for her ride. The attendant provided a box of Kleenex, and she wiped the tears away. But they kept coming. She couldn’t stop. She didn’t think she would be able to stop crying.
Then the limo pulled along the curb, and Roston got out. He opened the door. “I’ll be glad to take you wherever you need to go.”
In her distraught state, Leah was relieved to see her bodyguard. She nodded, not having the strength to ask how he knew she was there. He opened the door for her and then put her suitcase in the trunk. Once in the driver’s seat, he turned to look at her. “Where would you like to go?”
“You pick. I need a drink. Several drinks.”
Roston started the engine and pulled into traffic. He looked back at her in the mirror. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Sobs racked her body. She shook her head.
Drinking hadn’t helped much. It hadn’t even numbed the pain. The next morning, Leah woke up with a headache. Her eyes were swollen and her heart ached. She didn’t want to get out of bed. Luckily, it was the weekend and she didn’t have to face work.
She took a hot shower, but barely felt the pounding water. After she dressed, Leah had some coffee. The night before Roston had walked her to the door, and she had told him not to come back early. There was no chance that she would go out before lunch.
Considering how late she got to bed, it wasn’t odd that she missed breakfast and lunch. It didn’t matter. Leah had no appetite. It was hard to conceive that Gianni wasn’t a part of her life anymore. The reality of that escaped her.
It couldn’t be. He couldn’t have let her down like he did. Not Gianni. She had faith in him, and loved him. Yet it hadn’t made a difference. The worst part was that he was the only man she wanted, which meant facing life alone.
What was worse was that she craved Gianni as much as she ever had. And wanted to be with him. But it would not work. Leah wouldn’t be able to enter the playroom if she didn’t trust him. And there was no way to be with him and not want that.
Kyra had texted earlier:
What time do you get back?
I’m home now
Pilates this week?
Not sure. I’ll let you know
I’ll explain later
She put the phone aside and stared at it. Gianni hadn’t called. Leah couldn’t face the ordeal of breaking up. It would be best if he dropped out of her life. Maybe she would have a prayer of recovering.
Then why did she hope he would call?
Because she was a lost cause. Leah was mad at him, and his betrayal made her feel sick. But she didn’t want it to be that way. If only there was a way to rewind in life, to go back, and do things over. It didn’t work that way.
Leah dressed and decided to go out. The apartment was claustrophobic, and she couldn’t bear to be alone. She opened the door and stopped to stare. The entire hall was filled with baskets of red roses. The floral scent engulfed her.
One arrangement in a large crystal vase sat at her feet. There was a card sticking out the top. She opened it with tears in her eyes. It said:
Talk to me, baby
Her hand trembled, and she held the card to her chest. She couldn’t do it. Leah couldn’t talk to him. She wasn’t ready, and didn’t know when she would be. What was there to talk about, anyway? It didn’t change things.
She had Roston drive her around for a while, not sure where she wanted to go. It helped to see the busy sidewalks and gaze at the buildings. Leah asked him to stop at a coffee shop, and he found one with a patio. She ordered a cappuccino and watched people walk by.
It seemed like each person belonged somewhere, but she didn’t. Leah didn’t fit in her life anymore. The one man she wanted wasn’t a choice for her. Even her career was in question. She didn’t know where else she would work.
She couldn’t think about it then. Leah remembered she had promised to call her mother to let her know she got home okay. Since she hadn’t cried all morning, it was probably safe to call, if she kept it short. But as soon as she started talking, her mother knew something was wrong.
“You don’t sound okay, honey. Did something happen?”
Leah started to cry, despite her best effort not to. “Oh, Mom. It’s all over.”
She told her mother what happened, and it felt good to get it out. Although it didn’t make the problem go away. Still, it was good to share with the one person that would always understand. Leah explained that the journal was her personal diary, without giving details. When she had talked with her parents, Leah had discussed the possibility that Gianni’s history with women would be made public. Yet she hadn’t known how to tell them about his sexual dominance, and they hadn’t pressed for more.
“I don’t know what to do, Mom. I’m lost.”
“Honey, I hate hearing you like this. Can I say something? I don’t know if it will help.”
“When you are young, it’s normal to expect perfection. Yet I know how you feel about Gianni. If you want to have anything permanent, you need to see the real man. You need to have a big enough heart to forgive a mistake.”
“It’s more than just a mistake.”
“Yes, but ask yourself why he did it. Was it from a good place?”
“I don’t know, Mom. I’m confused right now.”
“Okay, honey. I understand. Well, think about it. Don’t be too quick to judge. At least try to find out what happened. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Maybe. I just don’t know. Gianni is used to getting what he wants. And he wanted me.” Leah wiped her tears with a napkin. “But he didn’t love me. That hurts. Worse, he wasn’t honest because he didn’t want to lose me. But it was for him. Not for me.”
After the call with her mom, Leah took a long walk. She went so far that it started getting dark out. Exhausted, she flagged Roston and took the limo back. Her day sucked, and she didn’t think the next was going to be any better.
On Sunday, Leah agreed to meet Kyra. She couldn’t avoid telling her what had happened, and she didn’t need to. Her friend would understand. And if she cried, it would be acceptable. Trouble with men was something Kyra understood.
They picked a big restaurant so they could sit in the back and have some privacy. The booth had a high back, which was helpful. If Leah fell apart, at least everyone in the place wouldn’t turn to stare.
Leah ordered a Manhattan, and Kyra an iced tea. They sipped while waiting for their salads. “What happened?” her friend said.
Leah gulped her drink. “Have you ever kept a diary?”
“Yes, in my teens.”
“Did you write about sex, or about feelings you didn’t want to share with anyone else?”
Kyra gave her an odd look.
“Well, I did. I had a journal I’d written in since I came to New York.” Leah took another sip. “Then one day I couldn’t find it.”
Kyra raised her eyebrows.
“I carried it around in my bag, not really thinking. And I lost it. I guess it fell out. Or maybe I rushed off and forgot it. It was that day I found out my mom had cancer, and I rushed home. I might have done anything and not realized it.”
“And now you found it again?”
“Gianni found it.”
“How did he manage to do that?”
“I guess working in Manhattan, we frequented the same coffee shops.”
“Yes, but what rips my heart out is that he didn’t tell me he had it. I came home early to surprise him, and saw it on the table. I don’t think he planned to tell me at all.” Leah’s eyes welled with tears. “And that’s why when he met me, he was interested.”
“It never made sense, you know. Considering all the women he could have picked from, why me?” Leah finished her drink. “Now I get it. He knew things about me that no one else did. And he used it to seduce me. It was all sex play for him.”
“So it’s over?”
“I can’t deal with dishonesty. How would I know if he was keeping something from me?” She dabbed at her eyes.
Kyra waved at the waitress and pointed at Leah. “She needs another drink.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Leah said. “And I even work for him now. It’s really messed up.”
Leah’s drink was served, and she took a sip.
“That’s terrible,” Kyra said. “How disappointing.”
Leah focused on her drink, letting the alcohol work its magic. The salads were served, but didn’t look appetizing.
“I hate this,” Kyra said. “I saw you with Gianni. I know how you feel about him.”
Leah’s emotions were confused, and she wasn’t sure if she was more angry or sad.
“I know you love him,” Kyra said. “Even as angry as you are, I don’t think that changed.”
Leah shook her head. “That’s what is ripping me apart. I love him, Kyra. But I have to stop. It won’t work.”
“I don’t want to see you lose the best guy
for you,” her friend said.
“You can say that after all I’ve told you?”
“I don’t want you to end up like me, afraid to connect with anyone.”
Leah looked across the table. Kyra was ravishing with just a dab of blush and some mascara. Tall and slender, she was glamorous in the jeans and knit top she wore. It was hard to imagine that she wouldn’t find the right guy.
“Just consider why he did it,” Kyra said.
“For himself,” Leah said. “Because he wanted the sexual relationship, and he had me right where he wanted me.”
Kyra shook her head. “No, that’s not it.”
“He didn’t want to lose you.
, Leah. And that means he cares about you. It
When Leah got to her apartment, she found more roses in the hallway. The others were inside now. She navigated through the vases of roses, white ones this time, and plucked the card from the one by the door. It read:
I made a mistake, but not because I don’t care
A tear rolled down her cheek. What was she going to do? Would she give it all up, everything she had with Gianni? Was it worth it to lose it all because he blew it by not telling her that he had the journal? Leah really didn’t know.
She went inside and shut the door. Normally the situation would have prompted her to write in her journal. But she didn’t want to. Leah couldn’t consider opening the pages. She was emotionally raw, unable to write how she felt. It wasn’t safe anymore.
Instead she phoned Aida to let her know she wouldn’t be in the office in the morning. She gave her some instructions, and told her that she would access their projects from home. Leah didn’t know when she would be back. She would have to take it day by day.
All week, Leah didn’t go to GR Showroom. Aida brought her some paperwork she needed, and they discussed marketing. Leah told her as much as she could. Just that she had fought with Gianni, and couldn’t bear to come into work and see him.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about that. He hasn’t been in either.”
“How can that be?”
“I don’t know. I asked Joshua because I hadn’t seen Gianni in so many days.”
“What did he say?”
“Not much. Gianni is just out. Nobody knows when he will be back.”
Over the days, Leah’s anger had dissipated. It was hard to stay mad, and she knew Gianni was suffering as much as she was. If he wasn’t even coming to work, it was pretty bad. Well, it served him right. The whole thing was his fault. She refused to give in.
Yet every day there were more flowers in the hallway. On Friday, Leah was on her way out. Her cupboards were bare, and she was forced to shop. The corridor was filled with purple orchids. She read the note:
I miss you
She missed Gianni too. So much that her heart wouldn’t stop aching. It was tempting to weaken and fall back into his arms. But that would be wrong. What kind of relationship would they have? Leah didn’t know if she could cross the chasm between them. She was still hurt.
As the weekend approached, Leah fell into a depression. She had tried to stay busy with work and make an effort to move on. Gianni texted twice, sometimes three times a day, but she ignored him. With empty days ahead, it was going to be difficult.
Then she got a call from Daniela. “He won’t tell me what happened,” she said.
“We broke up,” Leah said.
“I got that part. But what could be that bad? I thought you loved him.”
Leah got choked up.
“I’m worried about my brother. I’ve never seen him like this.”
“What do you mean?”
“He wasn’t coming into GR, so I went to the condo. He looks pale. I don’t know if he’s eating. Or even leaving the condo. He won’t talk about it, Leah.”
“He will tell you eventually, Daniela. I’m so sorry this is affecting you.”
“I’m sorry too. Mostly for both of you. You were so good together. I’ve never seen Gianni like he was with you.”
“How do you mean?”
“He cared about you, Leah. He still does. Whatever happened, it’s killing him.”
When they ended the call, Leah put on her coat and went out. She had to get away. Away from loneliness. Away from the confinement of her apartment. And away from her life. But she couldn’t. She could take the limo anywhere she wanted, but it wasn’t going to make her forget Gianni. There was no way to do that.
Saturday morning, Leah slipped into the back of the limo to go out for coffee. That would use at least an hour. She had a book of poetry in her bag, and hoped to cheer herself up. But doubted she would have success.
The days without Gianni were torture. Her principles and ideals didn’t keep her company. Leah would have given anything to be with the man she loved. Except one thing. She couldn’t go back to him knowing it wouldn’t work out.
It would shred them both. One blow-up was intolerable as it was. With no certainty that she could place her trust in Gianni, it wasn’t possible to get back together. Leah was vulnerable, and could not resist him when he was near.
What she planned to do about work, Leah wasn’t sure. She couldn’t work from home indefinitely. And even if she could, GR was Gianni’s company. Sometime they would have to meet and talk. She couldn’t think about it.
Roston changed lanes and turned the corner. He seemed to be taking a different route to the coffee shop. Leah closed her eyes and tried to relax. She hadn’t been sleeping well. Her craving for Gianni’s touch, his strength, gnawed at her.
It was painful to be without him, and worse to think she would not have him again. Not to feel his warm embrace, to be deprived of the thrill of submission, was inconceivable. He was the man that made her
to submit. It wasn’t like she could simply find another relationship.
Gianni was the only one for her.
The limo stopped, and Leah opened her eyes. It took a second to realize where she was. In a flash, Gianni opened the door and pulled her out. Caveman-like, he tossed her over his shoulder like she was light as a feather. He strode toward the elevator to his condo.
“We are going to talk,” he said.
His cologne smelled good. His arm, pressed against the back of her thighs, turned her on. Leah was doomed. “You tricked me,” she shouted at Roston as the elevator doors closed.
“It wasn’t his fault,” Gianni said.
He opened the door and let her slide off. Leah stood in the foyer staring at him. “You think manhandling me is going to soften me up.”
Gianni shut the door and took her hand. He guided her to the main room and sat her in a chair. On the wall above was the ocean scene painting she liked so well.
“I’m still mad at you, you know.”
Gianni pulled up a chair and sat across from her. “I’m listening.”
Leah frowned. “You asked for my trust, while all the time you were lying to me. You used the journal to seduce me.”
“That’s not true,” he said. “
From the very beginning, I was at your mercy.”
Her mouth fell open. “You are twisting things around, and it won’t get you off the hook.”
“I’m not twisting anything.” Gianni looked determined. “From that first moment I saw you, Leah, you did something to me. I didn’t see it at first because you are so unassuming. But the attraction was powerful.”
She just looked at him.
“It still is,” he said. Gianni looked leaner, but the muscles of his thighs flexed under his jeans when he moved. And the cotton shirt he wore was tight over his chest and biceps. Leah looked away.
“And then how you responded to me,” he said. “I was hooked. You are a special woman, Leah. Even if you don’t know it.”
Leah clasped her hands together, moved by his admiration.
“I know you think I used the journal to manipulate you,” Gianni said. “If you want to call it that, I won’t argue.” She could see the sincerity in his eyes. “I treasured that journal. Each time I read it I felt your longing, your need. And I was honored to share it.”
Leah’s cheeks heated. “You weren’t supposed to read it.”
“At first, I thought it was important to know if you were the woman that wrote the journal. I didn’t know for sure.” He paused. “But that became less and less important, if it ever really meant anything.”
Leah saw emotion well in his blue eyes.
“I would have wanted you, with or without the journal,” he said. “It’s
, Leah, who you are, that I crave. You are better than the journal. It’s fantasy. You, baby, are the real thing.”
Leah’s heart swelled with joy. Maybe there was a chance.
Gianni put his hand on her thigh, and Leah’s skin tingled. “You have real passions, emotions, and feelings. What I feel for you is deep…it’s strong. I want you back.”
She looked at his hand on her thigh and shook her head. “Gianni,” she said. “This is so hard.”
He scooted closer and took her hand in his. “I understand if you can’t be with me because of what happened. And I can’t promise I won’t screw up in the future, or that I’ll always be how you want me to be. But I do care deeply about you.”
The ache in Leah’s heart abated, just a little. “I’m not asking for promises.”
“I know you have an idyllic vision of love and romance, and I fall short. I know that includes always being honest, no matter the situation. I get that. I’m not perfect. I never will be.” He leaned closer. “Maybe some other guy could give you what I can’t.” Gianni paused. “But what he
give you is the type of intimacy we have, the risk, the thrill, the edge that we both feel every time we are together. I don’t want to let that go.”
Leah’s heart wrenched.
“I have not met a woman like you before, Leah. Everything about you, your good heart, your romantic view, the untapped passion you have inside. All of it makes you who you are.”
Gianni pressed his lips to her hand. “I don’t want another woman. I want you, baby.”
She squeezed his hand, wanting him to hold her. Could she resist this man, sexy as hell, who offered her everything she wanted? Except for one thing.
“I know you want me to say I’m in love with you,” Gianni said.
Their gazes locked, and Leah’s heart skipped a beat.
“Maybe it will happen,” he said. “I just don’t know.” He looked thoughtful. “I can’t reconcile what we do with falling in love. If a man falls in love, will he have the strength to dominate? To be firm and unyielding when it’s needed? Possibly. That’s something I may have to work out.”
Leah struggled to understand. How could Gianni feel as deeply as he said he did and yet not be in love with her? It sounded more like he didn’t think he was allowed the luxury of being in love. He always had to be strong for her.
Her heart swelled with emotion, and with Gianni holding her hand, the world seemed right again. Leah felt good once more. And it struck her that without the man she loved, she could not be whole. He was part of her now, and she could only envision life with Gianni by her side.
“I want you, baby. I crave you. And I want you in my life.” Gianni squeezed her hand.
Leah smiled, and Gianni seemed to relax. Yet his eyes didn’t leave hers.
She waited, but knew what her answer would be. What it
to be. Leah slid onto his lap and put her arms around his neck. He hugged her close.
to get back together,” Leah said.
Gianni raised his brows, but he was smiling.
“I can’t fit any more flowers into my apartment.” They both laughed.
Then Gianni pulled her to him and gave her a lip-bruising kiss. He tasted so good, and felt even better. Breaking up had been rough, and Leah was relieved they were back together. He had managed to say the right things. She loved him so much she thought her heart would burst.
# # #
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.