Oh god, my fucking head. Opening my eyes slowly, I tried to see through the hazy blur. My head was pounding like a bass drum and my entire body ached. I shook my head and rolled on to my back, staring at the ceiling.
Rubbing my hands over my eyes, I let out an exasperated sigh. How could she do this to me? She kissed him? All that bullshit about just being just friends…how stupid did she think I was?
I could feel my anger beginning to simmer inside me. My fist clenched and a sharp sting caused me to hiss a breath. Lifting my hand, I inspected the grazes on my knuckles. That little fucker had put up a fight after he kissed my girl! He’s lucky I didn’t kill him.
I groaned as a dull ache settled in my chest. I couldn’t stop picturing the look on her face or the tears in her eyes as I drove away. I hated seeing her that way. But what was I supposed to do? If I’d stuck around, we would have said things we regretted or I was going to commit murder. She hesitated. I asked her if she liked it and she actually, fucking, thought about it! What the fuck?
Telling me she belongs to me, only for me to find out that while I was away in New York, trying to protect my fucking sister, that little fuck nut was moving in on my girl. She told me I had nothing to worry about and even got mad when I accused him of doing exactly what he did do! She has all these morals and rules about honesty and yet she kept a big fucking secret herself. I can’t believe I’d actually felt bad about yelling at her that day.
I held my palm to my chest and took a deep breath. She’s probably a mess right now and it’s all my fault. Does she have feelings for him? I had so many questions and no answers.
The bedroom door creaked open and I looked over to find Lucy standing in the door way. She was still wearing her cocktail dress that she’d arrived in last night. I must remember to thank Daniel for that. Picking her up in a rental car must have driven him insane. But I couldn’t risk her being seen with my Mercedes. She tilted her head at me and I patted the space beside me on the bed. Running over, she leapt on to it, hugged me tightly and cried into my chest.
I stroked her hair and held her close. What a fucking mess she’d made. She sniffed and sobbed “I’m so sorry Jared. I hate myself for all of this. You’ve been so good to me and I don’t deserve you. “
“Shh. Calm down. You’re my sister Lucy. I will always take care of you. It’s going to be fine. We’ll get through it. Have you told your mom?”
She lifted her head and I wiped the mascara streaks from her cheeks with my thumbs. She shook her head and stared at me. “No. I can’t. Do you have any idea what she’ll do to me? What she’ll say?”
“Lucy you can’t keep it secret forever. Eventually you’re going to start showing. Have you even seen a doctor since you were in the hospital?”
She bit her lip anxiously and I knew she hadn’t. “Lucy. How could you been so irresponsible!? It’s not just you that you have to take care of anymore. Time to grow up. You look awful! Your eyes are all puffy, you’re pale as hell and you look so thin, I could snap you like a stick. When was the last time you ate a real meal?”
She shrugged. “I had some toast yesterday morning.”
I shook my head and swung my feet out of the bed. I’d just about managed to change into my sweat pants last night between dodging Lucy’s questioning of my mood and drinking myself into an alcohol induced sleep. Standing, I stretched out and turned to face her. “Where were you when you decided to come back? I’m assuming you don’t wear dresses like that just to go shopping in.”
She snorted “I hate these fucking dresses. I hate all the functions and socials. I was with…him. We had a big fight and I knew, once we were alone, I was going to get the beating of my life. I was so scared. His eyes were so dark and his tone was so violent. I had to get out. I called but you never answered so I tried Daniel. He told me to get on a plane and to charge it to your account at JFK. He said he’d call them and tell them I was going to be flying and to grant me the ticket.”
I nodded. “He’s a good man.”
She raised an eyebrow at me. “No, he’s a good friend Jared. He always has been. He cares about you, you might not believe it, but it turns out a lot of people do.”
I shook my head and walked over to the closet. Opening the door I gestured for her to come over. She slowly made her way to me and gave me a slight smile.
I wasn’t in the smiling sort of mood. If it hadn’t been for the shit storm Lucy had created, I wouldn’t have even been in New York and this whole thing never would have happened.
“You were pretty pissed when I got here last night. What happened?”
I shook my head. “Nothing you need to worry about. I had some bad news.”
I don’t know if it was the look on my face or something else but Lucy seemed to know instantly what was happening.
“Oh my god. You don’t get that angry over just anything. This is about a woman and I’d say she means a lot to you. Jared…do you have a girlfriend?”
I stared at her blankly. I couldn’t answer that question anymore. I didn’t know the answer. Did I still have her? Did she still want me? Could I forgive her?
“I don’t know.”
She gave me a puzzled look. “What do you mean you don’t know? You either do or don’t.”
I groaned in frustration. “I don’t know! We had a fight and I took off. She cried and begged me to talk and I just left her on the sidewalk, crying in the rain. Would you wanna be with me if you were her right now?”
“What happened? It can’t have been that bad surely. I mean, look at my fucking situation.”
I closed my eyes tightly and my chest constricted as the words left my mouth. “She kissed another guy while I was in New York.”
Her mouth fell open. “I’m so sorry Jared. She really did that? While you were in New York…Oh, you were there for me weren’t you. I’m so sorry. But you being away doesn’t excuse her cheating!”
“She tried to tell me she didn’t kiss him and that he was the instigator but I know there’s more to it. I’ve seen how he looks at her. He claims to be her friend but he’s in love with her Luce. How can he not be? It’s impossible not to fall for her. I fell like a fucking cannonball.”
She shook her head and raised her hand to silence me. “Wait a second. He kissed her?”
“And she just let him? She kissed him back?”
I ran my fingers through my hair. “She says she didn’t. But how can I believe her? She keeps things from me all the time!”
Lucy snorted and gave me a shocked look. “Oh, because there are absolutely no skeletons in your closet are there Mr Garrett? Never made a mistake or poor judgement? And you’re ready to just throw in the towel and hang your relationship over a kiss? Jeez. I saw how mad you were last night. You don’t get the mad over some fling or fuck buddy. You love her and if you want to keep her, I think you need to get your ass into gear and go tell her that.”
Damn. Why did she have to be right when I wanted to be mad at her? She’d put me through hell the past few weeks and as much as I was pissed at her for that, I was so relieved she was safe, I couldn’t contain my emotions. I held her in a tight hug.
“You’re a very intelligent young woman Lucy. I wish you could have had this same gusto and rational sense with your own life but I’m very glad you’re here and safe with me. You realize that you need to remain off the radar for a while don’t you? Stay here, don’t go out unless escorted by Daniel and under no circumstances are you make any calls or get in touch with anyone. I’ll call your mother today and tell her you’re here. We need to be careful. If we are seen in public, you are my assistant. Understood?”
She nodded. “He won’t come looking for me. Now that I’m knocked up, I’m too much trouble.”
I clenched my fist beside me. “If he comes anywhere near you or even breaths your name, I will hunt him down. I won’t let anyone hurt you ever again and anyone who tries will come up against me. We just have to be vigilant. This is a cut throat business I work in. You own a share in it and there are a lot of people who would give anything to get a shot at my empire. Our empire. Their empire.”
I held my hand to her stomach. Her eyes lowered to it and then back to mine. I knew my message had gotten through.
“I’ll be careful. I promise.”
I nodded. “Now, you’ll find sweat pants, t-shirts and everything you need in the closet. Please feel free to change. I need to make a few calls and then we’ll have breakfast. You need to keep your strength up. I’ll also make an appointment for you with my doctor.”
Giving me a weak smile she headed into the closet and I left the room for my office.
After tying up some business and ensuring Daniel had all the necessary details for Lucy’s protection, I sat, staring at my desk. I glanced at the phone. Maybe I should call her. But would she even pick up? I held my head in my hands. God, the image of her standing in the pouring rain, calling my name, was going to haunt me forever. I was so cold toward her. How could I do that? I should have stayed, talked it out. Once again the stubborn streak I inherited from my father had won and I was left picking up the pieces.
I needed a distraction. My head was so messed up and guilt was plaguing me. She’d hurt me, but I was wrong to treat her that way. Lucy was right. I had enough skeletons in my closet to open a cemetery. Her being one of the secrets I was keeping from Layla and if she ever found out about the person I was before she met me, she’d leave me in a heartbeat.
The thought of being without her turned my stomach. I couldn’t do that. I won’t do it. Deciding that I would go to her dorm and make it up with her after breakfast, I turned on the stereo and headed for the kitchen. The soft tones of Elvis filled the house and as I walked through the dining room, I inhaled the sweet smells of cinnamon and lemon. Lucy was making her New York style pancakes.
I walked through the door that led to the dining room and saw Lucy in a white shirt and no pants. I assumed she felt more comfortable like that and to be honest, I didn’t mind. I stood beside her and smiled, inhaling the smells of pancake batter and lemon as she cooked.
“Smells great. I’m starving.” She smiled back at me and stroked my arm.
“I’ve seen you eat remember? I thought there was no way you were going to finish those pancakes. New York breakfasts are something else though aren’t they?” I nodded. New York breakfast was something I particularly enjoyed during my visits there. Mostly due to the fact that I had dined on many of them while getting to know my sister.
“I hope you don’t mind but I found this shirt in your closet and figured it’s already stained so probably alright to cook in it.”
That shirt. I eyed the coffee stain and my heart sank. Layla. Lucy turned around to show me the shirt and screamed, staring right ahead. My head snapped up and I spun around to find Layla standing in the doorway with the most awful, gut wrenching look on her face I’d ever seen. I looked at Lucy in my shirt then back at Layla. No, no, no, no, no, no, no!
I stuttered and stammered. I couldn’t get the words out. How the fuck could I explain this? It looked bad. Very bad.
Layla stepped back and I knew she was going to run. I yelled after her, “No! Wait, shit, it’s not what you think. Layla!”
She stormed through the foyer and I sprinted after her. I had to tell her it wasn’t what she thought. I would never do that to her. Oh god, she thinks I cheated on her. Fix this Garrett! I pleaded with her to stop but she kept walking, never looking back. My heart raced. I can’t let her walk out on me. I can’t lose her. Shit. I have to make her stop!
“Layla please, wait, I swear it’s not what you think! I didn’t do it. Fuck! Coffee!”
Reaching the drive way, she halted. She turned to face me and I was shocked at how furious she looked.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me. A safe word is for bondage play Jared. It won’t stop me walking out on you!”
“I didn’t know what else to say to make you stop. Please Layla, you have to believe me, I didn’t do it.” She glared back at me and her eyes began to fill with tears. My stomach knotted at the sight and hearing the hurt and pain in her voice was killing me.
“Didn’t do what Jared? Didn’t get so pissed at me last night that you decided to get back at me? Is that what she is? Revenge?”
No! I would never do that to you. I tried to reach for her but she rejected me. She gave me a hard look, as though my touch repulsed her. That cut me deep.
“Don’t you dare fucking touch me. I never want your disgusting, lying, cheating hands on me again! New York? Is she what you went there for?”
She stared at me with a look of pure hurt and I knew what she was thinking. She thought Lucy was my lover. How can I tell her? I can’t tell her the truth; I have to protect Lucy and the baby. If this guy comes after her, he’s gonna find me between him and Lucy and that would put Layla in danger. I couldn’t take that risk. I had to make this right somehow but the look on her face told me that no matter what I said, she wasn’t going to believe me.
“I can’t believe you had the nerve to say everything you did last night when all this time you’ve had some skank in another state! How many are there Jared? One in each place you visit. God all this time I believed you when you said it was business. I knew there was something you were hiding but this!? How completely stupid am I?”
I stood there, stiff and in shock. What could I do? I tried desperately to reassure her but she didn’t believe a word. She’d seen Lucy in that shirt, my shirt and in my kitchen less than twenty four hours after we had a fight. Of course she would jump to conclusions and with me totally unable to reveal the truth, I could feel the dread creeping up in my stomach.
I walked toward her. I needed to hold her, feel her close and tell her it was all not true. I needed her to know I love her and she’s the only girl for me but as I got nearer, she recoiled and moved away. She wouldn’t even let me touch her. This woman I loved with every fiber of my being, every beat of my heart, wouldn’t even tolerate me near her. It was devastating.
I tried in vain to talk some sense in to her. “I do not have women in every state Layla, there’s just you. I swear. Yes she’s the reason I was in New York but I promise it is not what you think. You have to believe me.”
She stormed over to me and shoved me hard on the chest. I stood rigid as she yelled and practically spat in my face with fury.
“Believe you? You’ve been lying to me since the moment we met! If she’s not what I think then who the fuck is she Jared? Your maid? Do they all wear your shirts!?”
Oh god this is getting worse.
I shook my head. If I told her the truth then all of this would stop and it would all be okay again. But the danger it would put her and Lucy in wasn’t something I could allow. I wouldn’t sacrifice their safety for the sake of my breaking heart. I loved her too much to do that. No matter how badly I wanted to.
“I can’t tell you.”
She slapped me across the face. The sting from her palm was nothing compared to the gut wrenching twisting of my stomach and the sharp pain through my heart. She wasn’t going to believe me. How could she? The evidence against me was damning. I was losing her and I could feel it. She glared at me as tears began to fill my eyes. I wasn’t a man who cried. I had only ever done it once in my adult life and that had been when my parents died. But how I felt now…was tearing me apart.
She squared up to me and stared me straight in my teary and blurry eyes. Her fists were clenched at her sides and the expression of pure anger on her face was frightening. I hated that I was doing this to her. But I was also doing it for her.
Her voice was shaking as she tried to hold it together. There was no need to be strong in front of me but Layla wasn’t one to back down when she’d been wronged. I knew that much about her for sure. “I wish you could feel an ounce of how much it hurts to have something you value so much just fall apart right in front of your eyes because the way I feel right now is a fate worse than death.” I do feel it. I’m feeling it right through to my core. I’m hurting with you baby. So much.
She turned on her heel and stormed over to her car and yanked the trunk open. I couldn’t believe it when she pulled out a tire wrench! She gripped it in her hand and stood next to my Jag. She wasn’t really going to…
“Who is she Jared?”
I can’t tell you. I’m so sorry baby.
I shook my head and stared at the ground. I couldn’t even look at her. I couldn’t bear to see her in so much pain and so angry over me.
I looked up and watched as her arms swung back and in a heavy swoop, she slammed the wrench hard into my car’s side mirror. It flew off across the driveway but I was fixated on her. I didn’t care about the fucking car. It was steel and glass. What I was losing right now was far more valuable.
“Last chance Jared. Who is she?!”
I shook his head again and stared at her. Wishing so hard that she could believe me, forgive me but most of all I wished I could tell her the truth. “I can’t tell you.”
She yelled and growled as she flew into a fit of rage. Smashing and crashing the wrench into the body of my car, she knocked the other side mirror off sending it hurtling through the air and it landed at my feet. She struck a hard blow into the windshield and it immediately shattered beneath the wrench. I suddenly became scared for her safety. I watched carefully as she moved around, terrified that she would cut herself or injure herself on the broken glass.
Suddenly she stopped and dropping the weapon, she fell to her knees and cried. Holding her head in her hands, her body shook with every sob that left her. It was like a knife through my heart. I looked at her on the ground and my whole body felt weak.
Oh baby. I love you. I’m sorry. Please don’t cry like that.
Falling to the ground in front of her, I took her hands from her face and held them in mine. I held them tightly; terrified that it would be the last time I would ever touch her again. “Please Layla, you have to believe me, I can’t explain but you have to trust me. Please don’t do this to us.”
She pulled her hands from my grasp sharply. Crying and sniffing, she ripped the ring I had given her on her birthday from her finger and hurled it at me.
“I didn’t do this to us. You did! You can take back all your promises because they don’t mean a thing to me anymore and they obviously never meant anything to you. You tell me she’s not what I think but won’t tell me who she is or give me an explanation. I’m done!”
No! No please. I can’t be without you. Please.
I wanted to hold her tightly and not let her leave me but pulling the pendant from around her neck, she held it in her palm before throwing it down onto the concrete. I could feel my own pendant hanging around my neck and it suddenly felt even heavier. As though hers were pulling it down with it. I stared at her, looking deep into her eyes, pleading for her to stay and not do this. Tears threatened again.
“Please Layla, I love you. I’d give up everything to hold on to your heart. Please don’t do this.”
She rested her forehead against mine and for a moment, I thought maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t leave. That she would consider just talking it out with me but instead she just let out an awful, heart wrenching sob.
“You had my heart Jared. I gave it to you willingly. And you just ripped it out and threw it against the wall.”
She got to her feet and ran down the driveway to her car. My own heart plummeted in to my stomach. She was leaving me. I winced and closed my eyes tightly as tears slid silently down my cheeks.
I couldn’t move. I sat on the ground, crippled by the pain in my body. I could hear her car pulling off the driveway. Fear, hurt and panic plagued me. She was driving home in that terrible state. Please God. Just let her get there safe.
I can’t lose her and I can’t let this be the end. But as I clutched her pendant in my hand, so tightly I thought I might draw blood, I knew…I’d already lost her.
Swiping the tears from my eyes, I stood quickly and stormed in to the house. Lucy stood in the foyer and stared at me. I couldn’t talk to her. I was too mad. If it hadn’t been for all of her fuck ups, I wouldn’t have just watched the love of my life walk out of my life. I ran upstairs and slammed my door shut. Throwing the pendant across the room I collapsed onto the edge of my parent’s bed. With my head in my hands I tried to calm my erratic breaths.
I had to go after her. I had to try. If I didn’t then not only was she running away from my arms…she’d be running right into his and that was something I couldn’t bear to let happen. She was mine and I wasn’t letting her go without a fight.