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Chapter 2

The taxi drive to wherever the man wanted to take me to was silent. It occurred to me only then that I had no idea what his name was. When I pondered it, however, I realized it was for the best if I didn’t know. Besides, I wasn’t as curious about him as he was about me.

When the driver stopped near what seemed like an abandoned beach, the man paid him and we left the taxi. It was warm outside, the night spreading wide above us as we he led me toward the water. There was a couch there that was so out of place, laughter bubbled in my throat. But I didn’t laugh. Nothing about tonight was funny.

The couch was full of sand, but it didn’t bother him as he plopped one of its cushions up, uncovered a blanket, and spread it on top of the surface. The blanket was sand-free enough for me to feel somewhat comfortable sitting on it. My heels were already in my hands because of the sand, so I left them on the ground and sat eastern-style on the couch. He plopped himself next to me and, like magic, he pulled a plastic bag from underneath the couch, in which two Corona bottles awaited with an opener, too.

I looked at him in disbelief and supreme suspicion as he uncorked one Corona and handed it to me. Confounded, I took it and before I sipped, I said, “Do I want to know how the hell you got everything so handy in this Godforsaken beach?”

He flashed me an attractive grin that made me scowl. He was unperturbed as he shrugged and said, “This beach is mine. I bought it. I own it. The rest shall remain a mystery.”

He bought a beach. Of course he bought a beach. I always forgot about this fact regarding good-looking men; they were almost always wealthy and successful. For all I knew he probably had a private butler or something who dragged this couch all the way to this place and ran the much-needed errand of arranging two Corona bottles.

Looking at him pissed me off a little, and after he’d done such a good job at penetrating my dark mood (and it irked me to admit so, believe me) it only added to my ire. So I looked at the sea, pulled my knees to my chest, and drank my Corona.

As though he truly owned the place, he let his legs sprawl ahead of him while one arm lingered on the back of the couch and the other held the Corona loosely. “So,” he said, and I refused to face him, instead focusing on the waves and their sound, “did I pass the test? Isn’t this place great?”

My lips pursed. “The test is still in session. The beach is just a beach, even if you bought it and you feel like this is your domain or bullshit like that.”

“Damn,” he chuckled and despite myself I glanced at him. He really was a hot one, dammit, so much so that even when he laughed he looked to be so at east with the world, “you’re a tough one to please.”

"You’re the one who cajoled me into this,” I reminded him dryly, and it was the truth; he was the one who insisted on helping me. He might as well suffer the consequences.

“I’m not complaining,” he gave me a half grin that made my stomach flop. I hated this feeling. I’d felt until not long ago and I was not ready to feel it again. My positive side, however, was a little hopeful though. As long as I was still attracted to other men, it meant that asshole hadn’t fucked me up completely.

There was a silence after that, and I was watching the sea again when he said, “Why won’t you tell me why you look like you do?”

Glancing sharply at him, I inquired archly, “Are you a therapist now? Is that the occupation you talked about that girls cannot resist?”

He barked out a short laugh before the amusement died out. “Are you always this aggressively defensive, or is it just because of whatever happened to you tonight?” he asked, and when his eyes met mine, they held them with dominant authority I didn’t expect from him. He’d struck me as such an easy-going guy, but looking at him now, he was anything but.

He managed to make me go with a complete stranger to some deserted place. I was not one to trust people lightly, especially not strangers, hot guys in particular, but he did it. It spoke volumes about his personality in my opinion. He was the kind of guy most women sought and feared, full of big smiles, charm, and unbidden flirtatiousness which were all just hiding his true intense, stubborn, unforgiving nature.

It seemed like an awful lot of psychoanalyzing after I’d known this guy for a total of an hour, but looking into his eyes, I knew this was him. The intensity in his gray eyes gone silver made my defensiveness rise a notch. The calm, authoritative, safe vibes he sent me also set me off, making me tense. I didn’t think he was a bad guy, not at all. But such a dominating attitude tended to make me rebel.

I’d never been the compliant type. I was not going to start now.

Giving him a saccharine smile, I leveled a dark gaze upon him. “You’d better get your nose out of my business, or else this late-night escapade would turn out even bloodier than my lip.”

His eyes flashed, flicking momentarily to my lip before raising back to my eyes. The air turned charged, and my body was almost as still as a stone. Goosebumps rose on my bare skin, my nape prickled, and I could hear my heart beating in my ears. It was the first time I felt like that, and I had no idea what caused. Was this just the intensity of his probable alpha-male persona? Or was it something else?

Then he broke it, whatever it was, when he turned his gaze to the sea, lips twitching. “Stubborn,” he murmured, seemingly to himself, “I like it.”

It seemed I wasn’t the only one sniffing out the other’s true nature. Grimacing, I put my head into my hands and groaned silently. What did I think, coming here with him? What did I achieve by that? I shouldn’t be here, trying to figure out some hot guy after what happened tonight. I should be home, crying myself with a spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s, which was what most women did after break-up. What I never knew I would end up do.

Just thinking about it, I blurted out, “I was so blind.”

His posture did not change, but I knew he was listening. After he sipped from his Corona, he asked, “Why?”

And, because I realized just how much I actually did want to talk about it, I answered. “Because I thought that him loving me was enough.”

I could tell he didn’t expect this when he glanced at me. He didn’t say anything, though. He seemed intent to let me talk. I didn’t even bother thinking about what he could possibly gain from listening to me. Didn’t hot guys like him have nothing better to do at this time on a Saturday night?

Still. He was here. He was listening. Maybe talking to a stranger would be easier than talking to my deadbeat family and fake friends. “We’ve been together for four years,” I told him, watching the new moon up above, “I met him when I was nearing my high-school graduation and he was in college. After a couple of months, I knew there was no chance I would ever fall for him. He was too kind, too nice, too warm, too smiley,” I scowled at that last word. “He was too much positive about everything. I hated it.”

He said nothing. When I glanced at him, I saw his eyes, like mine, were on the sky, and from the tightening of his lips, I knew that, somehow, he understood what I was saying. “But he claimed to love me. He claimed that he fell for my dark, broody ass. My family also encouraged this relationship, claiming him to be the perfect fit for me, and so, that with him loving me, convinced me that maybe it was just my lack of experience telling me I wouldn’t love him, ever.”

I felt numb talking about it. No sadness. No regret. It was what it was. “We were together four years. He was my first in everything; first boyfriend, first kiss, first sex. Our relationship wasn’t passionate or lustful, like the books make romance sound like. It was sterile, practical, almost meticulous in nature. It was like both of us were sociopaths who didn’t grasp the concept of love and attempted to feel it to no avail. When we first started dating, we went to see a horror movie. It was supposed to make me turn all clingy on him and he should’ve offered comfort, or something absurd like that. Instead we watched the movie, and by the end of it, neither of us had anything to say about it. It wasn’t scary. It was nothing in particular. We felt nothing.”

Taking a deep breath, I continued. I couldn’t seem to stop myself now that I started. “For four years, this phrase described us. We felt nothing. He claimed to love me, but I’m pretty sure he just wanted to love someone and I was in the right place at the right time for him. He never truly knew me, too. He couldn’t have loved the real me if I have showed to a stranger more of me than I showed to him in the four years we’d been together.” I sent my faithful companion a pointed glare.

He glanced back, but returned his eyes inscrutably to the sky.

“But I believed him. I tried to make it work. I even thought that maybe I even loved him and I just didn’t understand that the numbness inside me was what love truly was about,” a snort escaped me at that. “I was delusional and stupid. The horrible truth is, I was comfortable. My life was comfortable as it was, and I didn’t want to change it. I had an allegedly caring boyfriend, I was studying my favorite subject, and everything was fine. Comfortable.

“In retrospect, I can now see how unhappy I was. But the unhappiness was buried under the false comfort, and so I was contented to leave it at that.”

I paused there before saying in a quiet voice, “I thought this would be my life forever. I thought he and I were forever, and not in the good, mushy way women talk about forever. No,” I shook my head, “I thought that my life was going to be comfortable forever. He would be my husband, I would be his faithful wife, we would have three children tops, I would work, he would work, and that would be it. Not excitement. No real me. Just suffocating comfort.

“Until tonight.”

Finally, he spoke. His voice was low, soft. “What happened tonight?”

I stared at nothing as I said, “He took me to a gala event his rich family hosted. Dressed me in designer clothes, had his mother’s hair-stylist and make-up artist do me up as well, like his own personal China doll. The event was boring. I wanted to go home. But I stayed because, well, he was my boyfriend and that was part of my duties as a girlfriend, I guess.

“As we were talking to some mighty, powerful businessmen, who were praising him about the good job he was doing, following his father’s formidable footsteps, into the room stormed a woman, dressed casually in jeans and tee.” I remembered the expression on her face; possessive, bordering with murderous. She was like me with no class, no sense, and much more psychotic. “She zeroed in on him and me, and half walked, half ran toward us. People actually scooted away from her, she looked insane.”

A ripple in the water draw my eyes as I continued, my voice losing its edge. “She slapped me across the face so hard, I saw pretty stars like the ones above us right now. Her nails also scratched into me after that slap, efficiently cutting my lip. She screamed that she was sick of me, that she abhorred me, and then grabbed my boyfriend and kissed him. For my shock, he kissed her back.” This time, I couldn’t hold back the laughter that burst out of me. It was dry, but not as humorless as I thought it would be. This had been a truly funny scenario, after all. “I just stood there as they were smooching each other, as though the world was about to end, and when his parents came, yelling about the entire drama, only then did they part and my boyfriend remembered I was there. He looked at me, at my tragically bleeding lip, and paled. He didn’t seem to know what to say. Fortunately, the bitch found the right words for that.”

Now I looked back at him, and saw his silvery eyes, their color matching the stars above, piercing into mine stormily. I gave him my blankest look as I proceeded to the climax of my little tale. “‘We’ve been going behind your back since day one,’ she said, ’you were just an excuse to get his parents off his back because he knew that since I’m from an average family, I would never be the girlfriend, the wife, his parents would choose for him. So better have a someone else filling that spot, some dry ice who’s bad at bed but her father’s rich. Basically, you. But four years are enough. I’m taking him back. He’s mine. Mine!′

I looked away from him again. “At that moment, I was still in shock. Not because I was heartbroken or dismayed, but because my fake comfort was disrupted, shattered, normalcy – gone. The true me I’d buried for so long came roaring back up and I felt the sting of humiliation that came with it. Instead of letting the bitch get the satisfaction of seeing me rage, all I did was look at my ex and tell him to go fuck himself in the most conversational tone I could manage. Then I went the fuck out of there, and here I am. End of story.”

He didn’t say anything for a few long minutes, at which we were both drinking the last drops of our Corona. Then he straightened and turned fully to me. “The one thing you truly want after tonight is to have yourself back. That’s why you stand up to me so easily. That’s why you’re being defensive, aggressive, hardheaded and strong. You need to be yourself again, even if it means to exaggerate your true traits.”

I glowered at him. “I didn’t ask for you to analyze my psychical state of mind, did I?”

He arched an eyebrow, as though I’d just proved him his point. That made me narrowed my eyes. “What I meant,” he said slowly, “is that I think I can help you with that. I can help you gain control over your true nature again. I can help you hold the reins, not feel so lost, not feel like you just found yourself again and you have no idea what do with yourself now.”

I folded my arms, another defensive gesture that just emphasized his point but I didn’t care. It made me feel better. “And what is this brilliant idea, dare I ask?”

His gaze was completely serious and businesslike when he said, “Have sex with me.”

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