My chest is so full that I’m certain I’m going to burst. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a guy like you or how you make me feel.”
“Princess, the kind of shit between us isn’t normal.” His lips press grimly together for a moment, his eyes darkening. “The way you invade my thoughts sometimes doesn’t sit too well with me, Melanie. In my line of work distractions don’t go well.”
“Is that what I am?”
“A distraction? You’re my f**king obsession. Not even a fantasy anymore. You’re going to be the death of me, princess, and I don’t give a shit anymore. I just don’t want to be the death of you.”
Fierce, glimmering eyes hold mine as I process his words.
Someone knocks on the door again. “Hey, BOSSMAN! Code 104. Repeat one-oh-four!”
He clamps his jaw as he seems to recognize what that means, then he stands with a vicious growl and slams a fist to a wall.
I swallow and roll to my back, my chest heaving as I try to recover. “Is that Derek? Is he drunk?”
Greyson grabs his clothes and this time yells out his frustration as he smashes his fist into the wall as he passes.
He comes out from the bathroom and slips into his slacks and a clean white button-down shirt but doesn’t even bother to close it as he heads to the door. He slams the door behind him, and I lay here, trembling, exhaling hard.
What we did was . . .
I leap off the bed and go to the bathroom, clean up, splash some water over my face, then I slip into something old and comforting. A T-shirt that I pull out when I’ve had my worst days.
It seems my sixth sense is right.
Grey comes back and grabs my forehead and sets a quick kiss there, then looks at me with liquid hazel eyes, warm and apologetic as he kisses my eyelids. “Go to sleep, I’ll be back as soon as possible. Derek will be here in case you need anything. He’ll drive you anywhere, keep an eye on you for me.”
I think I make a noncommittal movement of my head, but when he leaves, I scream into my pillow over our ruined evening.
I’m not hungry, but I’m an anxious eater so I have some cereal, then I watch TV as I try to calm down my raging senses. I reorganize my drawers. I even stop and turn the locks of all my windows and doors when the familiar fear starts creeping in. It’s late when I fall asleep in bed, waiting for him to come back.
But in the morning, Greyson calls to tell me he’s got things to take care of and he won’t be coming back anytime soon.
♥ ♥ ♥
PANDORA IS HAVING a field day with this; I should’ve known better than to mope at the office.
“He leaves in an unspecified emergency,” she’s telling me as we walk to work with our Starbucks, “he gives you diamonds like on the second date. Who does that? Guys who have mistresses, that’s who. Guys who can’t parade their girlfriends freely across town because their wives will find out.”
“Wow, you’re bitter, girl.”
“Imagine if he does have a mistress! You just had anal with the guy.”
“I would not change it for anything, anything.” I sip my coffee and it’s so hot, I almost scald my lips and have to blow air through the slit. “Look, he was called away but he’ll be back. I know he will.”
“When? Your birthday’s this weekend.”
“So? Who cares about my birthday when . . .” My voice drops, and I whisper, “He’s the One. He is so the One that when I’m with him, I feel like pinching my own arm to see if it’s real. And yet in all this time, Pandora, not once have you been happy for me. Why? Why are you being such a f**king party pooper?”
Pandora stops walking in the middle of the sidewalk and just gapes at me.
Which forces me to come back and plant myself at her side to explain.
“You’ve said every bad thing you could think of and then some,” I remind her. “You want me to talk to you and want to be encouraging, but guess what? All you make me want to do is not tell you shit because you judge and you judge harshly, Pandora. Nobody likes being around people like you.”
She blinks, then scowls and starts walking again, her face downcast and her voice apologetic. “I’m sorry I’m not Brooke.”
“I don’t want you to be Brooke, I want you to be happy for me,” I clarify. “Or at least, like, only half as mean!”
“Bullshit, you want me to be Brooke, and guess what?” She stops and grabs my arm so that I stop with her, looking at me with eyes that glow fiercely with determination. “I’m sorry I can’t be like your best friend forever but she’s f**king gone, Mel. So text her all you want and wait two hours for her to answer because she’s too busy with a real man and a real baby and a real life! I’m the only real friend you’ve got right now and I’m trying to watch out for you.”
“Thank you for watching out for me, but what you say hurts me and you don’t realize it. It hurts my optimism. It f**ks up all the hope I have for us—for me and him. Did you know that I feel awful every Monday when he leaves? Did you? I have this strange paranoia that I’m never seeing him again and every Monday at the office you only make me feel worse. Like I’m not worth him returning to.”
I wait for her to answer, but she doesn’t answer, so I go on, “I get what you’re trying to protect me from, but it’s too late, Pan. I’m already falling in lo—”
“Shit, don’t say that! Don’t. Fall.”
I plunge my fingers through my hair, close to pulling it off at the roots. “God, please, for your own health, tell me the name of the guy who made you like this!” I beg her.
She hesitates, scowling down at the sidewalk for a moment. “Look him up in the Guinness Book of World Records under World’s Greatest ASSHOLE,” she mutters.
“Just tell me his name so we can go make a voodoo doll for him or something!” I cry.
She groans and clutches her stomach. “I can’t. I can’t say his name.”
“Because it’s f**king everywhere and it drives me insane. Insane! I won’t speak it. Ever.”
“Pan,” I say softly, but she shakes her head.
“Look, I’m sorry for spoiling your fantasies, but I’m being realistic here and you’re going a thousand miles an hour, Melanie. You meet the guy, you get jewels. He tells you his driver is here for whatever you need and the dude is following you—” She signals to where Derek is clearly driving around the block. “You have kinky, wonderful sex, then he disappears. And you don’t question this? You meekly wait for a call? Where’s the Melanie I know? The Melanie I know has ants up her butt and she wouldn’t take orders from some dude she just met. Your birthday is two days from now. For the first year in your life, you have nothing planned. You have to celebrate. Period.”
“I’m saving this year, all right? Next year I’ll blow the roof off the house, but not this one, so bug off.”
We both become morosely silent as we ride up in the elevator and head to our desks, and that’s when Pandora informs me in her typical monotone voice, “Check your text. Your BFF is not happy about no celebration happening. We’ve just been sent tickets.”
“What?” Confused, I pull out my phone and see Brooke’s message.
Mel!!! Come to Denver! It’s your twenty-five years, I want to see you, and Pete’s already taken care of tickets for both you and P.
I gasp, then blink three times and swing my chair around until I’m staring at Pandora. She’s smirking, the closest she gets to grinning. “Brooke got us tickets! PLANE TICKETS! We’re going to see Brooke!” I cry.
“Yep,” Pandora says, nodding and nodding.
Grinning, I text Brooke: Holeeeeee sheet! Thank you! I miss you so much!
Brooke: I miss my BFF and Pandora told me you’re having man troubles.
Me: Sort of. I’m just terribly confused and terribly hooked on him and worried that he’s not. I need my BFF! I can’t wait to see you.
I tuck my phone away and grin at Pandora.
“Yeah, I know, you love the hell out of me,” she mumbles.
“Well, I do,” I say. “I love you and Brooke so much. Are we watching a fight?”
“Of course, ninny! Who do you think paid for our tickets?”
Smiling at that, I turn back to my computer and absently stroke my diamond necklace, and suddenly the feel of Greyson’s diamonds under my fingers makes my heart wrench with new pain. A fresh, wild hope claws at my insides as his words come back to tease and torture me.
Melanie, when you’re waiting for me to call, look at these stones and know for certain that that phone will ring.
Seething inside, I look past my shoulder at my half brother Wyatt.
I shouldn’t even be here. I’ve got better things to do than babysit him, and the thought that I ended up driving around town for twenty-four hours with C.C., looking for my “lost” brother instead of spending the weekend in Seattle makes me want to hit something.
Slamming on the brakes, I park the SUV, turn around, and slam my fist into Wyatt’s face.
“Ouch!” he cries.
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