James was lying on his bed in his shorts, swigging from a bottle of beer. He'd obviously had a shower as his hair was wet and slicked back.
He observed me in silence as I walked over and sat next to him. I ran my fingers over his face, making him wince.
"It's a miracle you're still so handsome." I joked, hoping to make him smile.
The corner of his mouth lifted slightly, but he looked so sad. It broke my heart to see him like that.
"Just say it. Whatever it is, tell me." I whispered, pressing my forehead to his.
I felt his body tense, and he exhaled sharply before getting off the bed. My heart sank as he walked away from me, stopping at the window at staring out at the night sky.
It was like being around a different person. I joined him at the window, wrapping my arms around his waist.
"It's ok, you can tell me anything."
Finally, his hand moved onto mine, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"I met Bella when I was twenty-one. We were in some London club, and I couldn't take my eyes off her. She had a boyfriend, but I didn't care. I wanted her, and I didn't stop pursuing her till she was mine."
He paused, and I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from speaking. It sounded exactly how he'd been with me.
"It was a toxic relationship from the start. She loved playing games. She'd flirt with other men in front of me, then I'd get jealous and find myself in a fight. I thought I was in love, so I put up with it. Everyone was telling me we weren't any good together, but I thought I knew better."
I couldn't help myself.
"Why did you put up with it?"
James turned to face me.
"Because you do when you love someone. Well, I did anyway. I guess that sounds pathetic, but I've always followed my heart over my head."
I nodded in understanding. I'd clung to the hope that Tommy would change, even though there was no way back from the things he'd done.
"We moved in together and things improved for a while."
Hearing that piece of information was like a knife to my heart.
"I need you to know that I wasn't the person I am now. I made some bad decisions, too much partying and drugs. Bella was the same. I guess we brought out the worse in each other."
I realised growing up that the people selling drugs were the only ones who profited. My father's involvement in illegal activities hadn't made him more lenient. I heard enough stories to make sure I'd never experiment myself.
"Why did you take drugs?" I asked.
He sighed, running his fingers through his hair.
"I always felt like I was one big fuck up. Richard was so perfect, and I couldn't live up to that. My parents struggled with me and I found it difficult to fit in with them. Getting high was the perfect way to escape."
He paused for a moment before continuing.
"It was a typical Saturday night. We were out in a nightclub with some friends. Bella wasn't feeling well. She asked me to take her home, but I said no. I was having fun partying, and it was a good night, so I refused to leave."
His voice broke, and he looked away from me, staring at the floor as he spoke.
"When I came home a few hours later, I found her collapsed on the bathroom floor. She was in agony, and there was a lot of blood. I was off my head, but I called an ambulance. It was horrendous, the worse thing I've ever been through."
He let go of my hand and rubbed his temples.
"Once she was in hospital, we found out she had been pregnant."
I felt bile rise in my throat.
"There was a rupture in her uterus, so she had to have a lot of surgery. It's unlikely she'll ever be able to carry a baby again. I was there when she came round and found out. It was awful. I'll never forget the way she cried. I wanted nothing more than to take her pain away, but I couldn't."
He shook his head.
"I ruined her life, and then I did the worse thing I could. I fucked off. I couldn't stay, I hated the person I had become. I'd been in a club sticking shit up my nose whilst Bella suffered. I hated myself, and I couldn't handle it."
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"I spiralled. Life became a chain of drugs and one-night stands, anything to escape reality. Finally, Richard stepped in. He got me into rehab and counselling, if it wasn't for him I'd be dead."
I swallowed, my throat dry.
He took a step back, his shoulders tensing.
"Once I was back on track, I met with her. She wanted to get back together, but I couldn't. It wasn't easy, but eventually she seemed to accept my decision.
He sighed loudly,
"But then she married Chris, he was one of my friends. She admitted it was an attempt to make me jealous. Every so often she'll come to me and.... well, you saw. It's a mess, and I know that's my fault. I feel so guilty, I'd do anything to fix it all."
I felt like my head was spinning. It was such a tragic story. I'd had no idea how much pain James had been through. I opened my mouth, only hesitating briefly before I spilled my biggest secret.
"I lost a baby once."
I hadn't even told Georgia about my miscarriage. It tore me up to even think about it, let alone tell someone else the story, but I wanted James to know.
"Tommy?" He cut me off, his voice dripping with anger.
"I didn't know I was pregnant. It was so stupid, but I remember he was mad at me because he thought I had been flirting with his friend. Which was ridiculous. I was too terrified to even look at another man in front of him, let alone flirt."
James didn't speak, but I could feel his silent rage.
"I told him I hadn't flirted with anyone, but he wouldn't believe me. He lost it and started hitting me. Kicking me in the stomach, over and over, till I passed out from the pain."
James flinched, and I paused.
"I can stop.."
"No, don't. I need to know, Sophie. You don't have to hide anything from me."
I took a deep breath before continuing,
"When I came round, I was alone and bleeding. The cramps in my stomach were agonising. Tommy had gone, so I phoned my parents. They came around right away and drove me to hospital."
My knees felt weak as I collapsed to the floor. My heart ached for my parents. I missed them so much, and the pain was still fresh. I knew it would never leave me. I would never forgive myself for what had happened to them.
James was by my side in a second, his arms wrapping around me.
"I lied about what had happened. I said I fell, but they knew the truth. When the doctors confirmed I had suffered a miscarriage, my heart broke."
I took several deep breaths, needing to finish my story.
"Do you know what Tommy said when he found out? It was my fault. If I hadn't been flirting, then none of it would have happened."
It was painful reliving those memories. They were so clear in my mind, even after seven years. The pain of each kick, the look on my dad's face when he realised how it had happened, and the darkness in Tommy's eyes. The final confirmation I needed that the person I had once loved was gone.
James cradled me in his arms, and I turned to look him in the eyes.
"It wasn't your fault that Bella lost the baby. You can't live with that guilt. You shouldn't live with it. You're a good person, James. I know that. I've met bad people. You aren't one of them."
James sighed, wiping my tears from my face. He pulled me back into his chest, wrapping his arms around me.
"I swear I will kill him, Sophie. The thought of anyone doing that to you makes me crazy. Please, tell me who and where he is."
"I don't want you to be a murderer." I whispered, closing my eyes and breathing in his smell. It was so comforting. Everything about him made me feel safe.
"He won't ever hurt you again. I promise you that. I'd fucking die before I ever let him near you." He said, stroking my face.
I stared into his eyes, my heart beating furiously in my chest. Falling in love wasn't a matter of choice. I'd thought I could stop it, but I couldn't.
"I am falling in love with you too. I mean, I already have. I love you."
My voice broke as he cupped my face in his hand.
"I know how hard this is for you, Sophie. After everything you've been through, I understand."
I put my fingers over his lips.
"Falling in love with you was the easy part. It's the other stuff that's hard."
A massive smile spread across his face, and he pulled my lips to his, engaging them in a slow and delicious kiss.
"Tell me again. "
I laughed at his eagerness. His lips were still hovering over mine as he spoke.
"I am in love with you."
I kissed him between saying each word. He let out a low moan and his hands moved to the hem of my dress, pulling it upwards. We kissed gently at first, but then as always, it got more frenzied and intense.
"Slow down, Sophie. I want to take my time with you." James murmured, kissing my neck and brushing my hair from my face.
I closed my eyes as he pushed the cups of my bra down, exposing my breasts. His lips slowly grazed down my earlobe and over my throat, making me shiver with anticipation. He stopped once he reached the swell of my breasts, his hot breath caressing my skin.
"You have the most perfect tits I've ever seen." He sighed, kissing each one.
I squirmed, and he let out a low laugh. When he finally took one of my nipples in his mouth, I gasped, my back arching up.
"Fuck, your mouth feels amazing." I gasped as he sucked and licked me.
"It's about to feel even better..." He whispered, moving lower.
He left a chain of kisses over my stomach, the friction of his stubble adding to my arousal. I bit my lip when he parted my thighs and kissed me through the thin material of my panties.
I closed my eyes when he pulled them to the side, exposing my cunt to the warmth of his breath.
"This is pretty damn perfect too." He growled, flicking his tongue over my clit.
I moaned his name, my fingers gripping his hair. It felt so intimate having his mouth between my legs, his tongue stroking and teasing me exactly the way I liked.
I whimpered when he stopped, desperate to feel any part of him inside me. He moved up my body, taking my mouth in a long and lingering kiss.
"Make love to me." I pleaded, wrapping my legs around him.
He smiled, nudging his nose into mine. I shifted my body so I could feel him against me, savouring every moment of his hard cock easing inside me.
"Ah, God." I gasped, flinging my head back.
He propped himself up on his elbows, stroking his fingers down my face. He slowly moved in and out of me, not taking his eyes from mine.
"I can't believe how lucky I am that I found you."
I kissed him hard, our bodies rolling together as waves of pulsing heat took over.
"I love you, so much." I breathed, the measured tempo of his movements driving me wild.
My orgasm struck me like a blow, overloading me with different sensations. I chanted his name, over and over, my arms and legs bounding him to me.
James wasn't far behind me, and when he climaxed, I arched into his sweat slicked body.
"You're mine, forever." He growled, nipping the side of my neck.
I said nothing, too afraid that if I did, I'd cry.