I didn’t know what to believe anymore. I heaved a breath inward. Tears burned my vision, but I didn’t want to break down in front of him. Our easygoing banter had left the building, and this moment was more real than any we’d had before. Maybe I’d misjudged everything. There wasn’t anything real between us but sex. And I’d allowed myself to fall for him like a f**king moron. I crossed the room to the bathroom and closed the door behind me. The tears were coming, and there would be no stopping them.
Locking the bathroom door behind me, I pressed my hands against the cool marble surface of the countertop and hung my head. It had been a mistake to come here. I’d used up my hard-earned vacation time, spent two thousand dollars—my entire savings—on the airline ticket. I’d put everything on the line, had given myself to him completely, and what had I gotten in return? A body imprinted with the memory of sex with Braydon in every possible position so it’d be impossible to forget him.
I heard the hotel room door close with a thud. He had left. Just f**king fantastic. We weren’t even going to discuss this like adults. I splashed cool water on my face, my sadness giving way to anger. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I gave myself a much-needed pep talk. I decided then and there that I wouldn’t allow myself to continue this arrangement. It wasn’t healthy for me. He wasn’t healthy for me. And if I wasn’t going to continue this, I had no business in this hotel room with him. I considered for a moment going to Ben and Emmy’s room, but knew that Braydon would come and find me and that all three of them would talk me into returning to his room. He had that power over me, to make me forget myself and give everything over to our shared chemistry. I couldn’t allow that to happen. The only choice I had was to get the hell off this island.
I stormed from the bathroom, renewing my strength, and began hastily packing my suitcase. I would be gone before he came back from his walk, or wherever he’d gone. Screw him. I wasn’t a doormat, and I wouldn’t be used like one. I needed to get the f**k off this island.
One fact was undeniably clear: I was miserable without him. Like a fool, I’d powered on my phone after the long flight home, desperate to see missed calls, voice mails, or texts from him begging me to return, or promising me things would be different. But my phone was eerily quiet. Not a peep from him.
I’d sucked it up and returned to work, desperate for the distraction. I shot death glares at my boss and coworkers when they asked about my trip and why I was back early. Because I decided to start thinking with my brain instead of my vagina for a change.
Several days later, I heard from him. One lousy text. I’m sorry I can’t be who you want me to be. Which I translated to mean that he wasn’t even going to try. He could have fixed this all so easily between us if he really wanted to. Invite me over to his place, agree to meet up with me for coffee somewhere, tell me he was ready for more . . . but nope. He hadn’t promised me a thing, and I was done grasping on to false hope and illusions for what would never be. The realization stung. I truly was just his bed buddy. The sex had been great, I wasn’t about to lie to myself. It had been truly off the charts. He was the best lover I’d ever had—by far. That was the worst part of it all, because now I’d lost everything—no chance at love, and no more mind-blowing sex to take my mind off that fact. Fuck.
Worst of all, I felt like I’d lost a friend. Braydon and I had bickered nonstop when we’d first met. But it had all been in good fun. There was always an underlying electric current flowing between us—a spark. I’d felt so alive and carefree around him. He made me laugh easily and often. Those days were done. And even worse, he was best friends with my BFF’s husband. There would be no way we could avoid each other forever. I guess I really should have thought that through before I started f**king him. Oh well. You live and you learn, I supposed.
I watched the calendar change days, throwing myself into routine. Work. Home. Gym. Laundry. It was all rather pathetic. I should have just let him go, wiped the slate clean, but I couldn’t keep myself from looking at photos of him online. It started off innocently enough, with me checking Emmy’s updates online. She posted photos of Ben regularly, like any good assistant would, from the various projects he booked. The latest were a series of shots from Hawaii. Deeply sensual poses of Ben and Braydon underneath a jungle waterfall with an exotic, fair-haired beauty between them. She appeared to be nude, just their hands covering her private areas, while they modeled a luxury line of men’s swim trunks. My eyes zeroed in on Braydon. His expression was pure pleasure, primal and carnal. His look was so erotic, my sex muscles clenched, throbbing uncomfortably. My stupid vagina missed him. She’d gotten me into this mess in the first place. Well, no more, missy. No soup for you!
My stalking progressed from looking at photos from the Hawaii shoot into an hours-long obsession searching every last corner of the Internet for any trace of him, as if I could find something that would help me understand this man. I ate everything in sight, drank copious amounts of wine to help me sleep at night, and stalked him online, searching out every last picture while stuffing my face with pizza, cookie dough, and all the other foods I never let myself have. It was a full-on pity party for one.
True to his word, Braydon was usually photographed alone—he went sans date to most functions, occasionally escorting a fellow model. But as I tracked back in time, I realized things weren’t always that way. The pictures that were a few years older showed him with a woman. She appeared on his arm during several events, and there were even candid shots of them together on the street. There was something familiar about her. And though her hair was darker in the pictures, I realized who it was. Katrina, the skittish girl I’d met at the photo shoot. I didn’t know why it surprised me to see them together—she’d hinted at their history—but seeing his arms around her, the happy expressions on their faces . . . it was beyond strange. She seemed to be the one and only girl he’d been regularly photographed with.
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