The Boyfriend Game

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Chapter 13- Visitors

I stood there trembling unsure of what to say. Besides what would it matter. Ella would stick with her sister, it’s how they were. They stuck together. I wiped my eyes quickly with my hands. “I need to work guys. Can we please do this later?” I walked behind the counter and began cleaning.

Adrienne looked at me concerned before turning to El. “Come on babe, I want to go see that adorable boy of yours.”

With a laugh El asked, “Aiden or Zane?” Adrienne wiggled her eyebrows.

“Both.” El laughed again and took a step closer to the counter.

“What’s wrong with Liv?” I squeezed my lips tightly together. I grabbed a box and began stuffing some pastries inside.

“There’s been a lot going on while you’ve been gone the past few weeks. Let’s head out and I’ll catch you up.” I shot Adrienne an angry look. I hoped she wouldn’t fill her in too much. Sliding the box across the counter I gave them both a small forced smile.

“On the house ladies. Give the guys my love.” Adrienne grabbed the box with an ooh while El observed me for a moment.

“Are you ok Sof? You look off.” I shrugged and smiled again.

“Just tired and stressed.” I left it at that.

El nodded gently and grabbed my hand. “Well, let’s catch up soon ok. When you get off please get some rest.” I nodded holding back the tears her concern set off in me. If she knew why I was upset she wouldn’t be comforting me. She would be berating me for being such a bitch to her sister and to Jax. My lip wobbled gently and I took a deep breath.

“Don’t worry about me, I’ve got it.” I pulled back and turned to grab the broom. “See you ladies later.” My back stayed for them as they walked out of the shop. When I heard the door close my shoulders sagged in exhaustion. It felt like everything was drained out of me.

The rest of the day moved by in a blur. I cleaned, I helped customers, I think I even managed some smiles. By the end of it all I just wanted to curl up in bed. Once I locked up the shop I drove home.

Rex was barking at me madly from his kennel. I and over and released him, petting his soft head. I walked to the back door and opened it but he just cocked his head at me. “Come on dude,” I said pointing outside. He ran the opposite direction, to the front door with a bark. I heaved a sigh. “No park today pal please?” He continued to bark by the door, tail wagging.

I rolled my eyes and grabbed his leash. Maybe the fresh air would do me good. Clipping on Rex’s leash we jogged down the steps and he instantly had to stop on a patch of grass and pee. We meandered down the street a few blocks to the park we loved. It was spacious and had trees, walking trails, and a playground. The evenings were getting chillier and there seemed to be fewer people about. Perfect for how I was feeling today.

I unclipped Rex from his leash and found a decent stick lying under a tree. With a flick of my wrist I tossed it and Rex took off in a flurry of fur and legs. I watched him, breathing deeply with my hands tucked into my pockets. Fall was ending and winter was crawling closer. Unpopular opinion but I actually adored winter. I loved the snow beyond anything and there was just something about the winter season. Everyone was so happy and together.

Rex brought the stick back and I tossed it again farther. We continued like this, even once the sun had dipped below the horizon. The cool air was clearing my mind. I was blissfully blank for the first time in weeks.

“Don’t you know it’s getting cold out?” A distinctly British voice asked from behind me. I couldn’t help the smile that crawled across my face.

“Thought you liked the cold, Zane.” He walked closer to me a broad smile on his handsome face.

“I’m not as crazy about it as you. It’s good to see you Sof.”

“You too.” We stood in silence for a moment. Rex ran in between us and I grabbed the stick, launching it through the air. We trailed it with our eyes before Zane broke the silence again. “I came looking for you at your home but you were out so I figured this was the next best place to look.”

I shrugged. “You found me. How was the honeymoon?” His face lit up with pure joy. I could see the love there for his wife and I felt envy begin to roil in my belly. Not envy that Zane was taken, but for the true love they shared.

“Fantastic. We really missed the little one though. Glad to be home.” I nodded. I began to walk down one of the paths and Zane quickly fell into step next to me. When Rex ran up again I took the stick and clipped his leash on.

“Just say it Zane,” I finally said roughly.

“Are you ok?”

My eyes stayed glued to the ground as we walked. I kicked leaves out of my path as they appeared. “I’ve been better. I’m assuming Adrienne spilled the tea.”

Zane let out a chuckle. “It would seem so. You and Jax huh? I don’t know if I would have seen that one coming.” At the mention of his name I felt tears burning in my eyes desperate for release.

“It was nothing. I feel so stupid.”

“Didn’t sound like nothing to me.”

“Apparently it was nothing to him. He doesn’t even have to decency to call me back and tell me what he did. It was one thing when he was casually dating us both. But to go from a fist fight at my house to sleeping with my good friend...”

My voice trailed off as I shook my head. Zane’s shoulder bumped into mine gently and I looked up into his bright green eyes. “It seems like you both made some choices you regret?”

I scoffed. “I doubt he regrets falling into bed with Olivia. What man wouldn’t want that. She’s a sexy, smart, sophisticated lawyer. I’m just a baker without enough money or guts to go after what I really want.”

Zane stayed quite for a moment. “And what do you want Sof? This isn’t like you.” I stared at the sky, dark enough to see the stars twinkling.

“I want to own my own bakery. I want to create the menu and cater events. I want to spread joy through my baking. And I want to find love.” I shrugged again. “Nothing but a pipe dream huh?”

Zane looked taken aback for a moment. “A pipe dream? Sofia you are an amazing and talented women. If anyone can do it, it’s you. Why don’t you go talk with some banks? Write up a business plan? Set the wheels in motion!” His voice grew louder as his excitement began to rise.

I hung my head, burying my face into my scarf. “It’s not that simple for everyone Zane. No one will want to take a chance on me.”

His eyebrows knitted with confusion and he rested one hand on my shoulders. “And why not?”

Tears began to streak my face. I wiped them away quickly, growing angry at myself for crying again. This was getting ridiculous. “Because I’m not worth it ok! Im not worth any of it. People’s money, people’s time, or their love.” My voice cracked and I picked up the pace. All I wanted was the safety of my home. Zane’s long legs are up the pavement keeping up with my frantic steps. His arms reached out and snatched my shoulders. My eyes widened as I looked at the calm fury now marring his face.

“Don’t let these men make you feel this way Sof. There is success and love out there waiting for you.” Zane pulled me close into a tight hug. My arms wrapped around his waist as we stood there for a while.

“What does it feel like Zane?” I asked him, my voice soft and muffled against his coat.

“What?”

“What does love feel like?”

He squeezed me tight then heaved a sigh. “You’ll know it Sof.” He tapped my nose lightly with a smile. “You’ll feel it inside of you. Love changes you but it’ll light you up from the inside out.” I smiled up at him.

“Thanks for finding me. I assume Ella is pissed?” We’d neared the edge of the park and I felt the exhaustion hit me again.

“She’s not angry at you. She’s upset you and Olivia made the silly arraignment you did. She’s also very kissed off at Jax for how he treated you and Olivia. She thinks his casual dating philosophy is all wrong. But she’s not angry with you Sof.” I nodded gently, staring off down the street.

“Well, I’m glad. It would suck to loose all my friends in one go.” I leg out a humorless laugh. The wind rustled the dry leaves and we stood unmoving.

“Do you want to come over?” Zane asked quietly. I shook my head.

“No, go enjoy your family Zane. I’ll see you guys soon.” With that I stepped off the curb and walked home, lost in my thoughts. My phone pinged when I reached my door and I pulled it out of my pocket. I had a text from Jax. Feeling my stomach sink I opened it.

Jax: Hey I got your message. Can we talk?

My hand was shaking and I placed my phone back in my pocket. Rex and I slipped into the house and I refilled his food and water bowl. I put on the kettle and began to make some hot tea. My phone felt like it was burning a hole in my pocket. It pinged a few minutes later. Against my better judgement I pulled it out.

Jax: Please Sof, I don’t want it to end this way between us.

So he was choosing her. That was all I needed to know. Whatever I had been feeling for him he obviously didn’t reciprocate. My chest felt tight and I set my phone down on the counter and walked to my room with my tea in hand. I sunk down into the mattress setting my tea on the night stand. I laid there in the quiet for a while before I began drifting off to sleep.

I was woken up by an incessant ringing and banging. Groggily I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes. The clock read 3:44am. With a groan I pulled myself out of bed and down the stairs. The ringing and pounding continued. I reached the door and pulled it open, utterly confused.

My eyes widened when I registered who was standing there. Jax was leaning against the door frame. His face was scruffy with an unshaven 5 o’clock shadow. His eyes were blurry and unfocused and he reeled of alcohol.

“You’nt answer my text,” he slurred, swaying on the spot. I felt anger and sadness envelops me all at once.

“It’s almost 4 in the morning Jax and you are obviously drunk. We shouldn’t do this now.” I moved to shit the door and his body fell forward blocking it. “Jax, I’m serious get out.”

“Please baby, talk to me,” he slid into my front entryway and with a sigh I shut the door. I would need to call a cab or an Uber. There was no way he was getting home alone. I crossed my arms and cocked my hip as I stared at him angrily. He stumbled around before leaning up against the wall. He tried his hardest to focus his gaze on me.

“Jax we can talk when you’re sober. I can’t do this now, I’m calling someone to come get you.” I walked past him and he reached out surprisingly quickly and captured my arm. He used it to pull me to him. The alcohol smell of his breath washed over me as we stood toe to toe.

“I’m not leaving,” he said roughly, “until you talk to me.”

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