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Authors: Ariadne Wayne

Loving Rowan

BOOK: Loving Rowan
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Loving Rowan
Ariadne Wayne
Chapter One
Rowan

N
othing bugged
me more than a change to my routine, and today was no exception. Right at the very last minute, my final lecture for the day had been cancelled, and I grumbled as I climbed on the bus to go home.

The house was still. Nothing unusual. With the different schedules Andrew, Charlie and I had, there weren’t many times when the three of us were at home together.

“Andrew? Charlie?” I called out.
No response.
I had the house to myself.

I sat on the couch, and closed my eyes, taking a deep breath, and enjoying the quiet. Part of me wished Andrew was home. Maybe if he were, I would finally tell him how I felt.

Loud laughter came from Charlie’s room, and I opened my eyes, turning my head towards the sound. A gentle click, and the door opened. There stood Andrew, his arms around Charlie’s waist, his lips on hers as she laughed that throaty laugh of hers, muffled only by his kiss.

I stood, unable to take my eyes off them, watching as my two best friends made out in the doorway. Charlie’s hair, loose and messy, told the story of what they’d been doing.

When he let go of her, she turned to come out the door. Our eyes locked, and her jaw dropped at the sight of me. Tears rolled down my cheeks at the sight of the one person I had entrusted with the secret of how I felt about Andrew emerging from the bedroom with the man I loved.

“Rowan. You’re home,” Andrew said flatly. Stabbing pain hit my stomach at his disappointment. He didn’t want me here.

“Rowan, it’s not what it looks like,” Charlie said. I could see the strain on her face as she struggled to hold back her own tears. Of all the people in my life, she was the one who knew just how much this would hurt me.

“Of course it is,” Andrew snapped. “I told you we should have just told her. All this sneaking around, and now look.”

I stared at him. Talking about me as if I wasn’t there. He had been my best friend from birth, and he hadn’t had the decency to tell me directly. I fisted my hands, digging my fingernails into my palms as the pain of the situation gripped me. I was lost for words; it was the only way I knew how to cope.

“I’m sorry, Rowan. I knew you wouldn’t like this, so I asked Andrew to keep it secret. We never meant to hurt you, I swear. We love you.” Charlie reached for my arm, and I pulled back.

I shook my head. “No.”

“No what?” The pity in her eyes made my insides heat up.

I sat on the couch, flicking on the television as if they weren’t there. They sat either side, talking to me as if I were a child. I shut them out, disappearing into my own little world, the world inside my head where no one could hurt me. There was just noise outside that space, white noise that I couldn’t completely get rid of. When it built to the point where I could no longer ignore it, I stood.

Walking past them, I went into my room and slammed the door. Screw them both.

I
buried
my head under my pillow as their voices got louder and louder outside. Maybe I should have found joy in their arguing, but instead it just made me more miserable.

“What the hell is her problem?” Andrew asked.

“What do you think? She’s been in love with you forever. Damn it, Andrew, I didn’t want her to find out this way.”

“It’s been more than three years, Charlie. She had to find out some time, and I don’t want to hide anymore.”

I pulled the pillow in tight. Charlie had been the one person I had confided in when it came to Andrew. I had trusted her with the contents of my heart, and she had helped shatter it.

“Neither do I,” she said, “but we should have handled this better. We should have told her.”

“She’ll be fine. She’ll find some geeky guy and settle down happily ever after.”

His disregard for my feelings cut me to the quick. Andrew had always been the one who made me feel special. I hated the way I looked, tall and skinny, no boobs to speak of, and covered in freckles. He had always seemed to see past that, and I had thought that he would be more concerned with how rejected I now felt. Apparently not.

“Andrew, don’t be a dick. Rowan is amazing. I feel like such a total bitch doing this to her. I never, ever wanted to hurt her.” Charlie let out a loud sob, and Andrew’s voice softened at the sound.

“Neither did I. I love you guys so much. I just never wanted her in that way. It was always you, Charlie. You know it was.”

The sound faded as they presumably went into one of the bedrooms and I sat up, looking at myself in the dressing room mirror. My eyes were red from crying, and I wished like crazy I could be anyone else but myself. Anywhere but here.

I opened my laptop, found some music to listen to and lay down on the bed with my headphones on. At least that would drown out any more noise.

Chapter Two
Rowan

B
reakfast was
uncomfortable the next morning. I stayed in bed for as long as I could get away with to avoid seeing them, but soon my stomach grumbled, and I had to get to the bus on time.

Charlie looked up at me as I sat, so much hope in her eyes. Maybe she thought a good night’s sleep would make my feelings suddenly change.

Andrew didn’t even look at me, and I wasn’t about to be the one to break silence.

I threw some cereal into a bowl and wolfed it down, anxious to get out and away from the tension. Charlie watched me, barely moving. I don’t think she knew what to say, and I had no idea either, so I just ate.

Standing, I grabbed my bag. “I’m moving out,” I said, meeting Andrew’s eye.

“You don’t have to,” Charlie said. I turned towards her. She had bags under her eyes, and I wondered if she’d had as much luck sleeping as I had.

“Yeah, I do.”

I walked out the door and down the road to the bus. The rain was falling in big, heavy drops, and I was grateful to be able to sit on the bus for half an hour, out of the awful weather.

The bus had no one else on it. This was such a quiet route I loved that I was by myself as I tucked myself down the back as usual. A bit of music would help keep my mind off everything.

Then, he was there, standing at the front of the bus and fumbling in his pocket for change, mumbling about not having enough.

The bus driver told him to hurry up, and the guy looked around helplessly. For just a moment, our eyes locked, and I felt nothing but sympathy for him. If I’d been in that situation, I would have been mortified.

“Hey, you don’t have fifty cents, do you?” he called out. He grinned, as if he didn’t have a care in the world, even though the driver was about to kick him back out into the pouring rain.

“Uh, sure.” I dug in to my pocket, finding the right coin, and made my way to him.

“You’re a lifesaver,” he said, taking it from me and winking.

I went back to my seat only to find that he’d followed, sitting in the seat in front of me.

“I really appreciate your help.”

Holy shit. He wants to have a conversation.

I smiled, sucking my lower lip between my teeth, trying to work out how to form words. He cocked his head, waiting for a response, and smiling a simply gorgeous smile.

“It’s no problem. I think we all have those kinds of days,” I mumbled.

“My car broke down. I didn’t expect to have to catch a bus.”

He kept smiling at me as I nodded, taking a book out of my bag to read.

“So, uh, do you catch this bus often?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Nearly every day.”

“That must have sounded like a horrendous pick-up line. I didn’t mean it to.” He laughed, and I couldn’t help smiling back, the heat in my cheeks growing as I blushed.

“I’m going to the UK tomorrow. Spending a few months travelling around Europe. Have you ever been anywhere like that?”

I shook my head. “Nope. Never been out of the country.”

“Do you want to travel?”

“I haven’t really thought about it.”

“Neither had I. I just broke up with my girlfriend, and I’m over this place.”

I exhaled loudly. “I completely get that.”

Looking back at my book, I read the same chapter three times before giving up and placing it back in my bag.

When we got to my stop, he looked up as I stood, smiling at me.

“It was nice meeting you, and thanks again,” he said, waving.

I nodded, swiping my bus card and stepping out onto the footpath. Turning, I caught a glimpse of him as I set off towards the university. He smiled and waved again, and for just a moment I wished I’d stayed on the bus.

Don’t be silly; he’s just being nice.

Being a grown-up was so hard.

Chapter Three
Rowan

A
s I packed
up my room, memories of moments with Charlie came to the surface. All these years she’d been the one girl I could trust. She knew what it was liked to be teased for having a boys’ name, even if she was really Charlotte.

She knew what it was like to feel like an outcast. Where my sore point was my freckles, hers had been her ill health. She’d never been able to come home with me to the orchard, for fear that something in the air would set off her asthma, but everywhere else we went, we were inseparable.

I jumped as she knocked on the door. “Can we talk?”

“I’m busy.”

She moved across the room, sitting on the bed. “Can’t we work this out, Rowan? I know we’ve been stupid, but it’s not worth losing our friendship over.”

I squeezed the shirt I held in my hands as I looked at her. “I wish you’d been honest with me. All this time I trusted you, loved you, and you couldn’t even tell me.”

She looked up at me, her big, blue eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry. I just didn’t know how to tell you. Please don’t leave.”

I placed the shirt in the suitcase, picking up the next one. “I have to. I can’t stay here and watch you two together. I could have dealt with anyone but you, Charlie. You knew how much I loved him. Now I’m the odd one out.”

“We’ve all had turns at that, Rowan. Remember when we used to play Dad’s old records? What was that Kiss song? ‘I Was Made For Loving You’?” Andrew always sat to the side while we had all the fun.

I remembered. Charlie and I would play it over and over again, miming and dancing while Andrew rolled his eyes at us.

“I remember. But we were kids then; things have changed. Back then, we never would have kept any secrets from each other. Not anymore.”

Charlie looked at the floor as I threw the last of my things in the bag, and carried it out to the living room.

Andrew sat on the couch, glancing up at me before looking back at the television. In all the years I’d known them, I’d never felt so much the outsider.

I dumped my house keys on the table, walking out to the car and placing my bag in the only spot left. The car was so full of all my things.

It would have been easy to go home to the orchard; Mum and Dad would welcome me with open arms. They always did. I loved that place so much. My entire childhood had been one of running through the trees, playing hide and seek with my elder sisters, Michelle and Lindsay. And Andrew. It always came back to him.

When he’d started dating, I’d tried to get over him, find someone else who would love me. The closest I came was finding someone who worked on the orchard, David. I thought he’d cared about me, but all he’d wanted was to bang the boss’s daughter. Thankfully, I’d found out before that happened.

Now I was alone, and moving out by my choice, but I couldn’t see any other way. It wasn’t really even that they were together, it was that they’d kept it from me. We’d always been so honest with one another; the only secret I’d ever kept was my love for Andrew, and Charlie knew about that.

I drove to the student hostel near Auckland university. This would do for the last few months of the year. At least I would have a bed and a roof over my head, and not have to deal with either Andrew or Charlie.

The less I had to do with them, the better.

Six Months Later

Chapter Four
Kyle

C
oming back
to work after six months away felt great. I had a great affection for the place, and the staff. Some of them had known me since I was a kid, and this was like a second home.

I’d missed Dad at breakfast, and he was already in the office when I walked in.

“Ready for your first day back?” he asked.

“I really am. I actually missed this place.”

He grinned. “Come on then, there’s a few new staff, let’s go for a walk.”

Nothing had changed that much, until we got to the small office at the end of the building. Crouched behind the desk, plugging something in to the computer was the most beautiful shaped rear end I’d ever seen, squeezed into a pair of jeans. Perfection in denim.

“Rowan?” Dad said.

Shit. It was a guy?

She stood up, turning towards me, and I caught my breath at what I saw. I never forgot a face: it was the girl from the bus.

She had long, light brown hair, the hazel eyes I remembered from our previous encounter. And those freckles. Not just a few on her nose, but everywhere. She was like one of those models you see, the ones that stand out because they look just that little bit different. Absolutely gorgeous.

Back then I’d fallen into insta-lust, but the timing was all wrong. I’d been in recovery mode after my ex had literally thrown everything I owned out onto the lawn in the pouring rain. After all this time, I wondered if she remembered me. I saw a flash of recognition in her eyes. Had I made an impact on her too?

“Mr Warner?” She blushed, looking down at the computer.

Dad smiled. “Rowan, this is my son, Kyle. He’s been travelling overseas the last six months, and has come back to head up the marketing team.” He turned to me. “This is Rowan Taylor, she’s our database administrator.”

I held my hand out to shake hers, and she smiled as she took it. Her hand was warm, and her lips were slightly raised at the corners as she looked down shyly.

There was a row of freckles across her top lip, and my mind went blank at the sight of them.

Dad turned back towards the door, and I followed, smiling and waving at her. She was obviously very shy, but maybe I could convince her to come out of her shell, find out more about her.

She was in the staff room at lunch time, sitting apart from the other women. They were all laughing and joking, but not her. She sat in the corner, eating her lunch in silence. I watched her for a moment. She was clearly the outsider, and I felt sorry for her.

Ignoring the chatter from the other table, I sat at the same table as Rowan, smiling as I unwrapped my sandwich. “First day back, and I think I have the most boring lunch ever,” I said, laughing.

She shrugged. “No more boring than mine. I think I have something similar.”

I took a peek over the edge of her lunchbox. “I don’t know. That salad looks nice and healthy.”

I grinned, and she shook her head, smiling at the table as she looked away shyly again. That was so insanely hot. She hated the attention, that much was clear, and I loved the reaction I was getting. I didn’t know whether to mention our previous encounter or not.

She excused herself when she was finished, and I watched her leave, thinking about what my next move was. There was no ring, so a good chance she wasn’t married. Surely she had a boyfriend.

“Don’t even think about it.” My father’s personal assistant, Miriam, sat at the table.

“Who, me?” I grinned at her.

“She’s as shy as they come. I think you would scare the crap out of her if you paid her any more attention.” Miriam said, sternly.

“But is she single?”

She laughed. “I think so, but you steer clear of her. She’s doing a lot of important work getting us moved onto this new computer system, and your father will be pissed at you if you scare her off.”

“You know me, Miriam.” I leaned across the table so the other staff couldn’t hear. “I promise I’ll be gentle.” I winked at her and she laughed even harder.

“You wouldn’t know how. Go back to work and leave the poor girl alone.”

BOOK: Loving Rowan
8.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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