The weeks flew by and I looked forward to Tuesdays more than the weekend. Ryder was called out of town to Miami or his other nightclub in California on occasion, but he never once missed a Tuesday with me. He didn’t ask me out on a date again and it concerned me. I was truthful when I told him I had to go to Paris. Besides Mael being my hairdresser and me desperately needing a haircut, I booked a flight to scope out some of the attractions for the business and couldn’t afford to do it with my personal funds. At least I could honestly write this off as a business expense. If I could trust anyone else with my hair I would have, but if I truly wanted to be realistic my turning him down had more to do with just an unruly red mane. I needed a break from Ryder as well.
Mael was the only person I could talk to. I felt horrible for not calling Chelsea lately knowing she had so much on her mind but I couldn’t trust myself not to let something slip about me and Ryder. Mael at least had an impartial opinion and understood my hesitancy considering it was his brother who broke my heart. I placed Ryder in the same category.
We were getting too close. Giving up my body to a man had been easy, but he was close to taking my heart. I could feel it in the way he looked at me, touched me. The way he couldn’t get enough of me one minute and then grew tender the next. The way we talked about everything and nothing like I did in the past with Marius. It was noticeable in the comfortable way Ryder would hold me on the couch in my office after he gave me orgasm after orgasm. The way he would hold my hand as we ate or the way he would look at me so lovingly. I was in jeopardy of losing myself in him and I couldn’t let it happen.
No other man compared. I couldn’t fathom sleeping with anyone else and even Russell was losing his ability to help when my thoughts turned to Ryder and how he would work my body. No, Ryder already spoiled me for other men and I hated how I didn’t know my place in his life as well.
Ryder had beautiful women surrounding him every night at his clubs. He never talked about his other conquests but never said we were exclusive either, not to mention how adamant he was when we first hooked up that he didn’t do relationships. I may very well be the only regular fuck he had right now but I couldn’t help thinking it would all end as soon as another woman caught his attention. I had no right to ask him to be exclusive either. The last thing he needed was a headstrong, opinionated, although possibly a touch clingy woman barging into his life. I wasn’t the best of girlfriends. Phillip and Marius proved it. Their dismissal of me hurt more than I could ever admit. I wouldn’t put myself in the same position so therefore whatever I shared with Ryder needed to be kept casual.
My work and all my hard-fought accomplishments would keep me satisfied. The opening date for my company was at the end of September, less than a month away. It fueled my ambition and would be a better boyfriend for me right now. I even found the time to hire a new assistant. Eliza had her walking papers and tomorrow Thane would take over, and everything seemed to be going in a positive direction. So why did I feel something was missing?
The roses appeared like clockwork this morning and I awaited his arrival. At a little after one I started to get nervous and fought the urge to text him. He never missed a lunch date much less ever been late before. No, he always arrived right on time and his absence now worried me. After thirty minutes without him turning up, I broke down and called his number only to have it go right to voicemail. I called his nightclub and the manager answered. When I inquired about his whereabouts, she gave me vague answers that didn’t sit well with me. I could tell she was covering for him. But why not talk to me? Why did Ryder make his stooge dismiss me? Didn’t our friendship over the last several months grant me at least a blow-off from him instead of getting one of his lackeys to do it?
There must be another woman. I should have guessed. He tired of me already. He found someone who required less work. Someone who wouldn’t challenge him and would give in to his every whim. Someone younger probably. Whatever the reason, I had to find out. If this were to end, I wanted him to look me in the eye and tell me himself.
Did he expect me to cry? Beg for him to take me back? Expect me to cower and tell him I would be there whenever he needed me? Well, not this woman. Not me. I refused to cry over a guy. The last one was Marius and I swore I would never let another man affect me as he did. But I sure as hell wouldn’t sit back and take it either. He better have the balls to tell me to my face.
Deciding to walk down to his nightclub I stormed out the door and walked the short distance to give him a piece of my mind. I would show him how much of a ‘regret’ I could be. When I pounded on the locked door a harried-looking woman came to open it explaining, “We don’t open for another several hours.”
I met her eyes wondering if she had been the one to blow me off earlier, “I don’t give a shit about when you open. I’m here to see Ryder.” Her eyes shifted to the left and I knew she was the one who I talked to on the phone. Convinced now he had her lie for him I also knew he was here.
“Ryder!” I didn’t let her finish telling me any more lies but barreled my way in.
Sighing, she shook her head and let me pass knowing she couldn’t stop me. “He is in his office in the back. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.” Her statement convinced me he was fucking some whore in the back and my anger rose.
I haven’t been to this nightclub but it looked similar to the one in Miami and made it easy to find my way around the barren layout. Making my way across the dance floor and around the stage to the other side, the angry clicking of my high heels against the smooth concrete floor sounded deafening in my ears as my anger warmed my face.
Finding the hallway in the back I snaked my way down past the bathrooms to a door with a warning sign of no admittance. The door marked private stood slightly ajar. It wasn’t what I expected and it slowed me down a bit. Instead of knocking I gently opened it to Ryder’s office. Slowly I rotated the door on its hinges to find a desk on the far end and a conference table with chairs flanking my right. When I opened the door fully, I saw a lounging area with leather seats. Ryder sat in one of them with a drink in his hand.
“Ryder?” The anger left me when I took in his condition. He had stubble on his usually smooth face and looked as if he slept in his clothes. They were wrinkled and soiled where he spilled a drink on them. The state of his presence was nothing compared to what I saw when his eyes met mine. Bloodshot and without feeling, he gazed up at me without expression. Empty dark orbs looked past me and I knew something had shaken him so hard he drank himself into a stupor. What could have caused this?
“Ryder?” I addressed him with more concern in my voice until he looked up at me fully. Making my way into his office, I closed the door and walked the short distance to him. “What happened?” He brought his glass up to his lips but I removed it from his hand and set it on the coffee table without him trying to stop me.
“Hey, it is me. You can talk to me remember?” I sat on the low coffee table in front of him parting his legs to clamor closer and reaching for his hands. He was scaring me but I tried to stay calm.
“It’s over.” Fear coursed through me as he slurred his words. Wasn’t this what I feared he would say. That we were over. No more trysts in the middle of the week. No more feeling him inside of me. Worse yet, no more seeing him and talking with him as a friend.
“What is over?” I didn’t want to ask but wasn’t this what I was after? To acknowledge the end. To have some closure and give him a piece of my mind except I feared it now more than ever.
“The son of a bitch low life from Belarus. Connor caught him. The last of her torturers have been found.” I released a sigh of relief knowing he didn’t try to end what we had together. He wouldn’t be casting me away, instead he found another type of closure with Ana. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer of thanks. When I opened them, my whole demeanor changed. He was hurting, suffering, and I wanted to help him.
“He is dead?” I gripped his hands making him focus on my words.
Ryder shook his head, “Not dead. Not yet. We couldn’t get close enough to him in Belarus. It was too risky for my men. Connor found a way to set him up though. Make his government think he spied against them. They don’t take too kindly to screwing with their country. They arrested him and sent him to the worst jail in the country. He is guaranteed to be tortured and killed within the next several months.” He gave a haunting laugh that sent a cold shiver through me, “He is good as dead right now.”
Squeezing his hands, I made him look me in the eye. He should be elated, relieved at least, but what I saw told me a different story. “Tell me what is going on inside. Tell me what has you so sad. Didn’t you want this?” He seemed so despondent it didn’t make sense.
“It is over. This anger drove me for the last fifteen years and it is over just like that.” He lifted his fingers and tried to snap them, but he lacked the coordination.
“I am not sure what to say.” It was the truth. His vendetta came to an end. It kept his anger burning for so long and kept the memory of the woman he had loved alive. It was almost as if he mourned her all over again. Maybe now he could move on with this life.
“Nothing to say. Nothing to do anymore.” He went to reach for his drink behind me and I grabbed for him before he fell to the floor. Struggling to keep him upright I was determined to get him out of here and away from anymore drinking. Away from this angst and let things settle.
“Whoa, no more alcohol for you. I think you’ve had enough. Let me take you home.” I got him to his feet and reached in his pockets locating his keys.
“I thought you wanted me safe?” He started walking towards the door leaning on me but now a little less swaying, and I was relieved knowing I wouldn’t be able to carry him.
“Of course I want you safe.”
He started laughing, “Then why are you driving me.” A smile spreads across my face as I realized the old Ryder lurked in there somewhere. He still had some coherent thinking even if it happened to be at my expense.
“Don’t be an asshole. Come on.”
Since we never went on a date I never realized he had a very nice, very fast sports car and I fought back the urge to unleash its power. Knowing I had never been to his house before and the other fact of not having a valid license yet, I decided the best action would be to obey all the road rules. With Ryder now comfortable in the passenger seat asleep as noted by the light snoring noise coming from him, I accessed the car’s GPS and let it lead me to Ryder’s house. Pulling into his driveway, I couldn’t believe my eyes. His house was nothing short of a mansion. The big beautiful stucco building blended into the natural desert surroundings but was modern enough to be formidable.
As the car entered the driveway I didn’t even need to hit a button and the garage door went up on its own. I maneuvered the car into the garage and shut off the engine. “Here. I got you home safe.” He didn’t acknowledge my feat as he maintained his slumped-over position. Had he been in a more comfortable posture I would have left him, but he was bound to incur several aches and pains in the cramped passenger seat and it wouldn’t work well with me wanting to take care of him for once.
Making my way around the car I opened the door and caught his upper body before he fell onto the concrete. He made some incoherent sounds and I used it to wake him further. “Just let me get you into the house and you can go back to sleep.” He nodded but I didn’t think he understood anything coming from my mouth at this point.
When I got him standing on his feet, I helped him into the house. I didn’t have the leisure time to look at all the furnishings but I could tell they were all top end. Nothing less than magnificent for Ryder and my envy surfaced. The house was decorated astoundingly and I could see a little bit of him in each of the design elements.
“Which way to your bedroom?” He pointed down a long hallway, and we headed in that direction to a massive double door. Keeping one hand out to steady Ryder, I opened the door into a magnificent master suite furnished in modern luxury. He stumbled forward and it dragged my eyes away from the beauty of the room to help him to the bed.
Ryder let me undress him without any argument. Slowly I took off each bit of clothes until he sat in his boxers. I found his phone in the pocket of his suit coat and turned it off completely. His staff saw the condition he was in, so they knew he wouldn’t be in any shape to talk to anyone for a while and I didn’t want his rest disturbed. Taking the time to tuck him into his fine bed linens he turned his head and looked at me. “Why? Why did you come and help me?” It came out so soft I thought I imagined it. Ryder lying in bed looked like a little boy again. He might have had the five o’clock shadow, but he held other childish characteristics that melted my heart.
“Because you have been taking care of so many other people for so long it was about time someone took care of you.” I threaded my fingers through his hair over and over until his eyes closed.
I was just about to leave when he placed his hand in mine. With earnest eyes, he looked up at me, “Stay with me.”
My heart sank in my chest. I wanted so badly to stay with him but I knew what it would do to me if I did. But right at this moment it just seemed the right thing to do. I nodded and the look on his face said it all. He was grateful, to say the least, but his look conveyed an expression of love and it was the one thing I needed to put out of my head. We were just friends. Friends who were truthful and honest with each other. Friends who fucked, but in the end, just friends. At least that was what I told myself.
Slowly I got up and grabbed for my phone in my purse. Ryder’s eyes were closed and his breathing shallow but I could sense he was still awake. “Eliza? Cancel all my remaining meetings. I won’t be coming back to work today.” She tried to ask why but I hung up on her since I didn’t care to elaborate.
Deliberately taking my time I took each article of clothing off and laid them across the chair taking care not to wrinkle them. I was not going to fool myself into thinking I would lay next to him for an hour and leave this time. I would be staying the night with him. And I wanted to. I wanted to be here for him if he were to wake up and need me. I wanted to be an ear to listen to or a shoulder to cry on if he needed and I wanted to make him feel better. I cared about him and I wanted to be his everything.
Gently I eased into his bed behind him and brought my body to enclose his frame. When I wrapped my arm over his shoulder, he grabbed on tight and hugged it against his chest. His whole body relaxed, and he melted into me and it proved more magical than I could have ever imagined. My heart opened and I gave it to him freely. Tonight would be for him. Just tonight. Tomorrow I could go back to hiding it again.