Then I see the woman at the table. Waiting. A redhead.
My blood pools at my feet when Greyson bends to kiss her cheek.
Riley and I only stare.
And I’m certain it’s not him. He’s working . . . somewhere. It can’t be him.
But it sure looks like him.
He’s wearing all black, his hair shining under the light, and he settles down in his chair, leans back in that self-assured way of his, and starts talking over a f**king candle to a redhead. A fake redhead. One who looks older and expressionless.
It cannot be Greyson!
I never get cheated on, I’m the one they cheat with.
My belly muscles are rigid with anger as I try to breathe and force my lungs to expand. I scan the restaurant around me for something to throw, but the best thing I can think of is throwing myself at that no-good whore.
My eyes blur and ache with the sudden urge to cry. It’s almost midnight. In fifteen minutes, I am twenty-five years old and my boyfriend is sitting at another table with another woman. I really, really want to cry now.
No. And let him see me snivel and cry like a hurt baby girl again? My mind churns with ways to make this hurt go away. How does it go when he’s in your veins? How?!! I laugh out loud, hard, and grip Riley’s hand, but Greyson’s not even looking in my direction, he’s not within hearing distance. He and his elderly whore are deep in conversation in their own little world. Their own Melanie-less world. A part of me still refuses to believe he would do this to me.
An idea occurs to me and I grab my phone and text him an angry face.
Then I tell Riley, “If it’s him, he will at least look at the text. He’s a slave to his phones.”
As if on cue, the man at the table edges back and slides his gloved hand into his pocket, looks at his phone, stares at it for a long, long moment, then he tucks it away and continues talking to the redhead.
My heart just got quartered.
I don’t know how long we sit there, Riley fuming in his seat, gripping it ferociously. They’d met briefly at Brooke’s wedding, and I could tell neither of them liked the other much. Now veins are popping up in Riley’s neck. “I’m going to go over there—”
“And what?” Stopping him, I pull him back down by the sleeves of his suit. “She could be a client. He never did really tell me where he would be this week . . .”
I trail off when she gives him her hand over the table, and he takes it and whatever was in her hand. Then he gives her a box with a bow and all. A blue box. She peers in, looks delighted, he smiles back at her, they have some wine.
“Waiter!” I yell. “Another round, please!”
♥ ♥ ♥
I’VE DOWNED A lot more cocktails by the time Greyson takes care of the check and they stand to go. Riley stands too. I foolishly turn around in my seat, my heart pounding as Greyson and the woman head for the door.
And that’s when he sees me.
A current, electric, runs through me at the way he looks at Riley, then at me, and I see a dozen expressions in his eyes until he shutters them, turns to the woman, whispers something and pulls her toward the exit as if he hadn’t just seen me.
All this time lying his gorgeous ass off.
All this time probably laughing at how stupid I am.
As he walks off with her, I see him turn his head the merest fraction. Straight toward me, and our eyes catch again. He searches my expression for a moment, the remoteness in his eyes flickering for the briefest moment with . . . jealousy? Anticipation pulses through me like a live charge at the way his eyes darken in . . . fury? He tingles my extremities, and it’s just that, a stolen look, and then it’s gone and he’s gone, taking HER—another woman—with him, at exactly the stroke of midnight.
Happy birthday, Melanie . . .
Riley remains standing, then he looks at me with a what-the-fuck look. “Your boyfriend . . .”
“Ex.” A sudden raw and primitive grief overwhelms me. “Ex-boyfriend. God, not even a text necessary. Not even a . . . Riley, please, let’s go. Please, please let’s get out of here.”
The tears are going to come whether I want them or not, and I don’t want them to be here. I grab Riley before he sits down again. “Please just get me out of here. Will you take me to your room, please—let’s just walk back to your hotel, please,” I whisper.
He pays our tab and ushers me out of the restaurant, tucking me close as we walk the couple of blocks to the hotel. I’m cold, cold down to my bones. We get on the elevator and I’m grateful that no one else is in here with us. My throat is on fire as the feelings of being a fool swim in me, and the necklace—his necklace—feels like a steel weight around me, choking me with his lies. I tear it off me and press it into Riley’s hand. “I can’t see this anymore. Let’s just do it. Sell it, get anything, take it please.”
My throat aches with defeat as I replay Grey looking at me, walking away . . .
Looking at me . . . walking away . . . like I am nothing.
Like we meant nothing.
“Do you think he’s got a wife? A family?” My voice breaks and I can’t ask any more questions as we head to his room.
“Dude, I don’t even know what to think. He didn’t look happy to see you, I’ll tell you that.”
I continue fighting my tears, fisting my hands at my sides as my whole body starts shaking. “He can go f**k himself and that whore. That f**king liar, that . . . I hope she gives him crabs. In fact, I hope they both have alien babies together.”
Riley ushers me into his room and shuts the door, and a sensation of intense desolation and betrayal sits deep in my gut. I’ve never in my life hurt like this. Never. I want the hurt to go away. I want the image of Greyson walking away with another woman to go away.
Blinking back the tears, I grab Riley’s shirt and pull him to me. “Riley,” I beg. His eyes widen when I press my lips to his.
“Mel,” he protests, but I can’t bear to hear it, so I press my lips harder.
“Please don’t say no,” I beg. “Please don’t say no. I swear every man-whore in the world should be castrated. You said you’d punch him if he hurt me. This hurts, Riley. This really hurts and I’m so done. I am so done with him.”
I kiss him. He kisses me back with only lips, soothing his hands down my arms. They feel warm, familiar. He holds me to his body and he feels good. Safe. I kiss him and wonder if maybe this is why one-night stands have been all I’m worth. Because I can’t deal. It hurts too much. And always someone else comes along, and for whatever reason, my guys stop seeing anything of interest in me. For some reason Greyson has lost interest in me. I lost him.
No. I never even had him.
The realization wrecks me, so I try kissing Riley on the mouth a little more and he lets me. His arms aren’t as thick, his lips aren’t as fierce, but I need them so much. Anything to try and stop thinking of . . . Grey pulling on my ni**les with his teeth . . . tugging . . . sucking . . .
There’s a knock on the door and I groan in protest when Riley sets me aside.
“Pete could need me,” he explains, and I watch quietly as he heads to the door, his image blurry through my tears.
I unstrap one of my shoes and wipe my eyes. One night with Riley and in the morning it won’t all look so miserable. I will realize Greyson King isn’t the only man in the world. My heart will still be broken but I’ll glue it back together any way I have to, and I will be happy again.
I will be happy again.
Sniffing, I am quickly starting to unbutton my top when I hear a low, familiar voice speak.
“Where is she?”
I have never, ever heard anyone speak so quietly and at the same time sound so pissed.
My skin pricks and my gaze snaps up to the door.
Greyson’s tall, lean, black-clad form covers the threshold, and I hate how my systems go haywire at the sight of him.
I’m partly undressed in the middle of the room. Drunk. My hair a mess. My face a mess. Anger and hurt coil in my stomach as he comes forward with a blazing, territorial gaze.
I grab the shoe I’d been removing and throw it at him. “Get away from me!” I yell.
He ducks, and the shoe hits the wall and falls with a stupid thud to the carpet. Then, slowly, he straightens and comes the rest of the way over, grabs me by the arms, and hauls me up against him. Every inch of my body feels his. He looks at me with a fury I’ve never seen before as he starts to button me up, all the time those eyes looking at me until my stomach feels heavy as a rock. He jerks off his suit jacket and drapes it over my shoulders, forcing my arms inside and buttoning that too. Then he reaches for my strappy ankle boot lying across the carpet. Before I can stop him from putting on my shoe, he slips it on, efficiently straps it, and then he speaks to me in a low, cold voice. “Put your arms around me.”
“Where’s your f**king redhead?” I demand.
“I said put your arms around me.”
I don’t obey.
He doesn’t care.
He lifts me in his arms, his coat huge on my frame, and I have no choice but to hold on to his nape. Suddenly, I smell him. I smell him on the coat he put on me, and in the scent of his hair, and on his skin. Forest and leather and mint. The pain in my heart becomes a fierce and fiery gnawing as the stinging in my eyes returns.
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