Tricking Astrid

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Chapter 36

Remy returned the camera equipment to Jay, feeling like a douche for spying on Astrid in the first place, but he hadn’t done it completely out of jealousy so the guilt wasn’t there. His heart felt lighter than it had in months since she began seeing him on the sly. She made him promise the moment he came rushing over after a late-night text to not tell anyone he was in her good graces again.

Her so-called love for Calder pissed him off, but would take being in Astrid’s life any way he could. She would choose him in the long run. He took a calming breath stepping up to knock on Jay’s door, a pang of remorse twisting his stomach for involving the man. His friends probably thought he lost his damn mind.

Jay accepted the box he handed him asking, “What will happen now? Are you just going to let her go or what?”

The anger in his voice surprised him. The guy had lived in the same orphanage as he and Arlo, but Remy never quite understood him. Arlo kept up the friendship over the years, taking him as a lover even when he voiced he thought Jay was a little odd. Arlo was simply a better friend, ignoring the crazy shit he pulled sometimes.

“She’s happy, I suppose,” Remy replied gruffly, “I shouldn’t have used those cameras.”

Jay frowned, “Why not? She was yours first. Some women need to be taught a lesson. She has a great fucking body, doesn’t she? Do you really want that other guy pawing her? She fucks like a porn star too. Bet that pretty boy sticks it in her ass every chance he gets.”

Remy worked his jaw, looking hard at Jay. He was shorter than him with dyed black hair shaved at the sides with it longer on top so he could spike it and had the same eyebrow piercings Arlo wore only more garish and his lazy stoner eyes assessed him too until Remy’s cold countenance made Jay flush. His tone perplexed him. He sounded agitated, as if he had an issue with Calder instead of it being Remy’s girl he crudely spoke of. Once more regret ate at his conscience, remembering how Jay fucked Astrid while they were high as fucking kites. A mistake that had cost him nearly losing her for good because the idiot went behind his back and dosed them both without consent. He’d been livid once he realized what he did, but held himself in check because he didn’t need her freaking out, only he should have taken the situation more serious. Was Jay infatuated with her?

“Don’t talk about Astrid that way again. Thanks for your help though,” he backed away, “She’s too sweet to be with a guy like me and I should have stopped while I was ahead.”

“Like Joyce?”

He froze in a half-turn about to enter the stairwell. Why would he bring up the deceased? Why would he even speak her name? Remy glared at the wide-eyed man. “What the fuck?”

Jay placed the equipment down at his feet casually saying, “I just mean, Joyce and Astrid are a lot alike, right? Joyce was sweet and sexy too.”

He shook his head in disgust, “Look, you know how bad I took it when she died. I don’t want to jinx myself.” He swallowed as guilt once more threatened to consume his rational thinking, knowing he’d go crazy if anything happened to Astrid.

Jay actually chuckled, “You do have rotten luck with girls showing up dead, don’t you?”

Remy wasn’t in the mood for Jay’s inconsiderate bullshit. To allude to something so serious, while smiling, gave him the creeps. The asshole knew Joyce and Alice. When both women broke his heart and met their untimely deaths, Jay and Arlo stood by him through the intense police interrogations and depression so deep it still affected his relationships. Why was he suddenly acting like it was funny? If Jay thought it amused him, he had another thing coming.

“Don’t mention them. Ever.” He ordered with a snarl, then stomped off before punching the grinning jerk.

“See you later!” Jay laughed before slamming his door.

Remy sat in his car, trying to stop his hands from shaking. Whoever killed his ex-girlfriends wouldn’t strike a third time, would they? He might be a bastard, but what did he do to deserve to watch people he cared for die? He ran himself into the ground insuring Astrid remained safe, but sometimes he felt death fingered him as a mortal enemy, taking everything away and leaving him to wonder if he was next.


* On Monday *

Astrid was selfish. Stupid. Beyond reckless.

Poor Calder sensed something wrong, but she played dumb. She hated lying to him but broke out in a sweat imagining the conversation where she told him she was seeing Remy.

The weekend with Calder was long and painfully awkward. Remy was coming over Monday, and that was all she thought of. Why she couldn’t focus on Calder and his sensitive nature and it made her feel disgusting.

Calder took Astrid back because she swore she wouldn’t become involved with Remy again. She’d acted selfishly, wanting Calder to comfort her, knowing no one else would. She had no idea what she wanted anymore except the kindness of two extraordinary men who gave her everything without asking for anything in return. The secret longing for Remy caused her to be cold to the only man she’d ever professed to love. When she’d said the words to Remy in the past, felt conflicted due to his furtive behavior, but now knew she truly loved them both.

So, what did she do? She kept Calder busy in bed, hoping her body would silence the inquisitiveness in his eyes. As long as he was inside of her, loving her without those damn questions, everything stayed fine. Calder had no problem with their continuous sexual romps. They hardly spoke at all. He seemed content to watch TV or eat until they made love.

When Calder went home Sunday night Astrid cleaned the house so when Remy came over no sign of him remained. Would she ever settle down? She’d never behaved so callus or naughty before. Two men? Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine this would be her life.

Remy treated her differently than before. They reconnected in a way Calder wouldn’t understand. They’d meet for coffee and spent hours laughing and enjoying each other’s company without hooking up once. He never brought up the fact she loved Calder, but it was the elephant in the room neither broached.

Astrid slowly woke on Monday morning, rolling out of bed to shower and dress. While eating cereal over the sink scrolling through Instagram on her phone heard a knock at the door. Remy smiled softly when she let him in.

“I couldn’t wait to see you,” he gushed, “Are you all right?”

She nervously twisted her fingers, “I’m a little scared and guilt eats at my insides. Calder deserves the truth.”

He nodded taking her seriously, “I’ve been thinking about this a lot too and feel terrible for putting you in this position.”

She was taken aback, “You do?”

“Yes,” he grabbed her hands to stop her fidgeting, “but I have to know if you’ll ever love me? Can you love me the way I love you?”

She shut her eyes, feeling pressured and confused. His soft words were honest and heartfelt. Astrid knew they had the same backgrounds with unwanted hardships growing up. Calder never worried where his next meal would come from or paying rent. Yet, Calder didn’t throw his money in her face or act as if it mattered.

“I’ll leave if you want,” Remy hoarsely said, and she snapped her watery eye open to catch his pained grimace, “I will walk away and never interfere again. It’ll hurt, but I thought about Alice and Joyce and wondered if I tried harder as I did with you, then maybe they’d still be alive. But… I can’t force your love. You make me happier than you’ll ever realize, but I’ll bow out so you don’t need to choose.”

“You’d really fade into the background?” His stilted rationalization made her head spin, “Are you saying you stalked me because of what happened to Joyce and Alice?”

Remy exhaled, and she heard the misery behind it. She never stopped to consider if he hadn’t murdered his girlfriends what he went through. The bewildering pain and accusations must have made him angry and scared. Scared enough to keep it a secret from lovers and angry enough to push them away. Astrid studied the agonized expression on Remy’s handsome face, knowing she could never let him go. His life had been as cold and unfeeling as hers, only she warned others how messed up she was. He kept everything bottled, so no one suspected a guy like him hid a trunk full of horrifying secrets capable of running off anyone he got close to.

“They broke up with me because I wouldn’t commit,” his voice shook, “Alice wasn’t a talker and either was Joyce so I had no problem not opening myself to them. But eventually, they demanded shit I wasn’t comfortable offering, and it turned sour, especially when Joyce used drugs and I found out she cheated. You and I started off as friends and I fell head over fucking heels in love with you. Saw myself spending the rest of my life with you. I can’t help it if I get overly excited when we fuck. It’s a runoff of my job. Your sexiness drives me insane and I lose myself.”

“It doesn’t have to be rough,” she stepped closer, pressing her body against his taunt frame, “If you respect someone, you give them the attentiveness you’d want in return.”

Remy kissed her lips tenderly, “I’m so sorry I lied. I curse myself every single morning because you’re not there. I won’t treat you so carelessly again. Just… trust me, Astrid.”

She blinked back tears. The sincere yearning in his tone stunned her. To hear him speak so longingly of how much he cared hit home. Did she really love Calder if she didn’t wake up thinking about him? Her thoughts were always on Remy or trying NOT to think about the infuriating man. She adored Calder, but perhaps denying her feelings for Remy dulled what they could have because neither accepted the other.

If only…

“I know you’re sorry,” she murmured, “It’s all right. It’s okay.”

Astrid kissed Remy so she wouldn’t cry. Their powerful connection made her dizzy. They kissed for a few long minutes until she composed herself enough to pull away.

“Come to bed, Remy,” she tugged him towards the bedroom.

He hesitated, “I came here to talk. You mean everything to me and won’t fuck you if you think that’s all we share.”

“No,” she rasped, looking up into his anxious face, “I… want to make love to you, Remy.”

He shook his head, hazel eyes hardening. “No, you’re upset. I confused you. Once he comes, you’ll stop feeling like this.”

“No,” Astrid repeated firmly, pulling once more, “I know who and what I want.”

Remy stopped fighting. Quit arguing. They needed no more words when he undressed her. Astrid laid on the clean sheets and nearly purred when his hands explored her with soft, tender caresses before slowly entering her flushed body. It hurt a little, but she accepted it all in a gasp while clutching his wide shoulders.

He rocked above her, arms circling her waist, head dipped low to whisper, “I love you, Astrid.”

Tears fell freely down her cheeks, “I love you too. I mean it.”

Remy made love to her with slow kisses and appreciative touches until she cried out in euphoria. He had never been so gentle and the ache of fulfillment surged over them both as she wrapped her legs around his hips while he thrust and met every one of her cries with a rough groan of his own.

“Remy, it’s you!” she moaned, coming so forcefully her vision wavered, “I need you. Don’t stop. I love you, baby.”

Remy shivered, holding Astrid tightly when they came together in a heated moment that seemed to last forever. He kissed her sweaty forehead, trailing down to capture her mouth, pumping steadily until she thought of nothing but wanting this every day for the rest of her life.

“I love you,” she gasped again, rolling him onto his back to work him up again, “Don’t look so doubtful. I wouldn’t play with your heart.”

He sat up, kissing her so hard her lips went numb, “I don’t deserve you. I’ll never take you for granted again.”

She spent the afternoon in bed with him, planning what she would tell Calder. No matter the outcome, he’d never condone her actions. She broke his one rule. Remy said he understood why she felt so awful, but his cocky attitude shone through.

“You’ll break up with him tonight?”

“Yes.”

He nodded once, and they ate a late lunch, pretending she didn’t throw up afterward.

Astrid bawled her eyes out after Remy left. Her happiness came at the cost of breaking Calder’s heart. She chose Remy and knew without a trace of doubt she loved him as much as he did her and there was no way Calder would forgive her but something had to give in order for her life to move forward.


* That Night *

Calder knocked on Astrid’s front door for several minutes without an answer. The lights were on, and he heard the TV blaring. Was she in the bathroom?

Taking out his cell, he wondered why Astrid returned none of his calls. The time neared seven, and she still didn’t pick up. What in the hell was going on? He couldn’t see into the house because of the drapes over the windows so when prompted left a message he stood outside but heading out if she kept playing games.

He paced the lawn. After a few frustrating minutes, he banged on the door some more.

Damn her anyway!

As he drove home, a terrible thought sprang to mind. What if she wasn’t able to open the door because she needed help? What if Remy attacked her? She’d been acting off and Remy might be harassing her again, choosing not to worry him by keeping it to herself. Her stubborn belief Remy didn’t pose a threat — an argument he never won.

He called again, praying she would answer to no avail.

The feeling Astrid was in trouble worried his conscience. She wouldn’t avoid him. Plus, why leave her appliances on if she left? Calder fretted the entire evening and tried several more times to reach her. He decided to wait until morning to go back. If she was not hurt or simply tired and in bed, he didn’t want to come across like an overprotective ass.

Calder went to bed after midnight. He knew where Remy lived and if Astrid remained MIA, he’d storm that assholes apartment to find answers. Who else did she hang out with? Who else would make her act oddly?

He slept restlessly, constantly checking the phone in case Astrid text, but nothing showed. The sense of foreboding did not dissipate the longer he waited.


* Tuesday *

Remy couldn’t reach Astrid.

It was odd, the peace he experienced after leaving her place. The adoration she declared without shame or doubt, filled him with joy, and a dopey grin stretched across his lovesick face the entire day. On Tuesday morning, when his calls went to voice mail, it caused alarm. What was she doing? Did she change her mind? No. Astrid promised she would break up with Calder, saying she loved him wholeheartedly.

At fucking last!

Remy received a surprise visitor later that afternoon. Calder banged on the wood like the damn police about to ram the door down. The shock showed, especially when accusations flew from the assholes’ mouth.

“Where’s Astrid?” he ranted, pushing past him into the apartment, “What did you do?”

He smirked, “So, she broke up with you?”

Calder glared menacingly, “What the fuck are you on? No! Last night she didn’t answer the door or pick up her phone.”

A cold sensation fell into the pit of Remy’s stomach, “What?” he gasped.

Calder frowned at his obvious confusion, “I returned this morning and her house’s still lit, but she hasn’t turned up. Don’t stand there acting innocence.”

Remy swallowed, “She… we’re together. She’s breaking up with you.”

Calder flushed a deep red, “The fuck you say?”

He found his inner strength, knowing this wasn’t the time to panic. “We’ve been seeing each other for over a week. Astrid loves me. I have no clue where she’s at. I left her around four yesterday.”

Calder blew a fuse, “You saw her? Behind my back? Fuck you, Remy! You’re a liar! Where is she? What did you do? Kill her like your other girlfriends because she hates you?”

He seized Calder’s throat long enough to throw him against the wall, about to take a shot when Arlo rushed in and pulled the two men apart. Remy snarled, raising a fist to pummel the prick into dust, but Arlo shoved him in the opposite direction.

“Stop!” he shouted, “Why are you here, Calder?”

Calder looked surprised Arlo knew who he was but shook his head, “Astrid’s missing.”

He glanced at Remy, “Dude, what happened?”

“The hell if I know!” he roared, “I have a key to her houses. I’m going over there!”

“Not without me!” Calder snapped, “I’m calling the cops!”

“Whoa,” Arlo stopped them from attacking each other again, “What if she’s hiding from you selfish pricks? Come on, think! Just relax and slow the fuck down boys. Why don’t you check the fact first, huh Calder?”

He shrugged, eyeballing them, “I’ll get to bottom of this. Astrid fears Remy, but he’s saying she’s leaving me for him? Yeah, fucking right.”

Remy had a hidden ace up his sleeve. He’d been dreading this exact moment and bought insurance for this third go-round in case another girlfriend disappeared. Police would be up his ass, and this time they wouldn’t pull out.

“Let’s go,” he grabbed his keys, “Too much time has passed.”

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