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Chapter Three

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Melia’s POV.

My mind races as I run on the treadmill. I have a boyfriend. I am in a relationship with Mark. I really should not have been having the thoughts I had today. I’m a bad girlfriend. I can’t let myself think of Braxton in any other way than as a colleague.

Imagine if Mark knew I’d been mentally lusting after a co-worker.

I try and reassure myself it’s a simple crush. It’s only because I’m not used to be around such an attractive man. Okay, that’s offensive to Mark. It’s just, Mark is more of your Dad type of guy. Your slight beer-belly, flannel boxer-shorts, Dad-bod kind of guy. Whereas Braxton is like a Daddy, with the raw sexual magnetism, model-features, and an insanely athletic body.

There’s nothing wrong with looking like Mark, and it’s what I’m used to. That’s why Braxton is such a shock to the system, he’s completely different. My body doesn’t know how to react.

After cleansing my thoughts and exercising until I’m dripping with sweat, I go back upstairs. I take a long shower. When I step out, my phone has a text from Mark, saying he’ll be at mine soon. I hurriedly get changed and brush my hair.

I step out of my bedroom, just as Mark walks into the flat. He looks like he’s had a long day. He sometimes does plastering as well as electrics, and today was obviously one of those days.

He’s wearing white overalls that are smattered with dried plaster. His work-boots are almost unrecognisable, covered in plaster and mastic. His hair is dishevelled, but he gives me a small smile.

“Hey,” he greets quietly. He puts down his bag and walks towards me. I wince as he steps from the wooden floorboards, onto my cream carpet. He grimaces and takes a step back.

“Sorry,” he mumbles as he takes off his boots.

He does this every time. He forgets to take off his shoes and walks on my beautiful carpet. I try not to nag him, but he literally forgets every single time.

Once he’s in his socks, he comes over and kisses my cheek. I curl my nose up at the smell of cigarettes on him. God knows how many arguments we’ve had about him smoking. I ignore it now.

“Good day?” He asks over his shoulder as he heads for my bedroom.

I follow him and lean against the doorjamb. “Yeah, it was good. Had two newbies start, but they weren’t much bother,” I reply.

Mark doesn’t appear to really be listening as he strips out of his clothes. He changes into grey joggers and an over-sized Metallica t-shirt. “Good, good,” he replies absentmindedly.

“I was going to make beef chilli tonight, is that okay?” I ask him.

He shrugs. “Fine with me.”

I go into the kitchen to start preparing dinner, while Mark sits on the sofa. He puts his feet up on the coffee table and turns on the TV. I sigh and focus on chopping the vegetables.

I always wish he’d sit in the kitchen whilst I do this, so we could talk to each other. I don’t know what we’d talk about, but it’d be nice if he’d join me. Instead, he always goes straight to the TV.

When we stay at his, he’s often gotten something out of the freezer, or he gets a takeaway. Mark rarely cooks. I don’t mind being the cook in the relationship, but even a cook needs company.

I’m humming to myself as I cook the mince. A loud sound, like someone blowing a raspberry, reverberates around the living-room. I grimace as I realise that Mark has just farted on my sofa.

Why the hell am I with this man-baby?

He comes into the kitchen a few moments later and my hopes lift. Disappointing me, he walks past and grabs a beer from the fridge. Once he’s cracked open the bottle, he returns to the TV.

Brilliant.

I serve dinner for us. I try to make conversation, but Mark insists on keeping the TV on and he spends most of the meal watching it. He doesn’t seem interested in talking to me.

Once we’ve finished, I clear everything away and join him on the sofa. He puts out his arm and I cuddle up next to him.

Ten minutes later, he’s fallen asleep. He snores loudly next to me. So loudly, that I have to turn up the volume on the TV to hear anything.

My life is so glamorous.

I nudge Mark awake when it reaches ten o’clock. He rubs his hand down his face and stands up. “I’ll be off, now. I’ll see you on Wednesday, yeah?” He says as he puts on his boots.

“Sure,” I reply.

He leans forwards and gives me a quick peck. “Bye.”

I shut the door behind him with a sigh. Sadly, that is how our nights usually go. We’ve grown to accustomed to one another. I don’t know if we ever had a proper spark, but we certainly don’t have one anymore.

I sit down on my sofa and put my head in my hands. Our relationship isn’t going anywhere. Tonight was worse than usual. I was off with him because I feel guilty about the whole Braxton-thing today.

But, oddly, Mark was off with me. He was quieter than usual. Maybe he’s had a long day, but he normally likes to tell me about it, get it off his chest. I feel sick with guilt and worry when I get into bed. Mark and I aren’t meant to last, I think I’m going to have to break it off soon.

I should have done this two years ago, when things really changed between us. But I couldn’t. He’s done so much for me.

He supported me the entire way through university. He helped me find who I was. When I started losing weight and doing exercise, he did it with me. He complimented me all of the time and helped me stay focussed when all I wanted to do was give up.

Just under two years ago, I considered breaking up with him. We were in such different places, and we had nothing in common anymore, we still don’t. Except, his mum died. I couldn’t leave him when he needed me. I stayed with him and helped him grieve.

I don’t know when, but I know I need to end things. We don’t work. He helped me become who I am, but it is clear that he doesn’t like the new me. He never compliments me anymore. Whether it’s because he thinks I’m confident enough now that he doesn’t need to, I don’t know.

Of course I want to be complimented by my boyfriend. That’s why Braxton’s comment caught me so off-guard today. I’m not used to it. I groan and press my face into the pillow. I don’t want to hurt Mark. However, I can’t stay in this love-less relationship anymore.

What am I going to do?

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Surprisingly, I sleep well.

I arrive at work early, fresh, and ready for a new day. Marta is already sat on my desk when I bring my coffee over to it.

“Well? How was your date with Mr King of Sex?” She asks excitedly.

I roll my eyes and sit down on my chair. I push her knees out of the way, so I can actually access my computer to log onto it.

“It was fine, thanks,” I reply vaguely.

She pouts her bottom lip at me. “Fine? I sacrificed our lunch date for fine? Come on, Mel, you’ve got to give me more than that!”

“Okay, it was nice. We talked, end of. I’m in a relationship, stop trying to push the new guy on me,” I tell her.

I wince internally. If things continue, I won’t be in a relationship for long...

“I told you not to mention that pathetic excuse of a boyfriend to me. Oh shit, here comes the king himself, see ya!”

Marta hops down from my desk and disappears into the break room. I look over to see Braxton stroll into the office. He smiles when he catches my eye.

“Good morning, Melia,” he says with a wink.

Oh, fucking hell.

That wink just made me wet.

I manage a tight smile as he slides off his blazer. He’s wearing a navy shirt that hugs every dip and ridge of his delicious form.

Fuck. Is it hot in here?

“Morning, Braxton,” I say his name and he grins at me.

He strides over and leans down, so that our faces are close to one another. I subtly lean back in my chair, trying to put some space between us.

“Is it bad that I love hearing my name from your sweet lips?” He says.

I blink a couple of times, dumbfounded into shock.

Did he really just ask that?

“Coffee?” Marta’s voice attracts both of our attentions.

Braxton recovers first. He straightens up and accepts the mug from Marta.

“You’re a star, thank you,” he says. He turns back to me. “I’ll catch up with you in a bit, Melia,” he tells me, a knowing smirk on his face as he walks away.

“What was that?” Marta hisses once he’s out of earshot. “He was so close to you!”

I open my mouth a couple of times like a mute fish.

“H-he just said he liked hearing his name from my sweet lips,” I whisper to Marta, still in shock.

Her mouth comically drops open before she slaps both of her hands over it. “Shut the front door! No, he didn’t! Oh my God, he so fucking fancies you!” She gushes quietly.

I nudge her and gesture at Braxton with my eyes. “Keep your bloody voice down,” I hiss at her, and she rolls her eyes.

“This is brilliant! You’re gonna be engaged by the end of the year, I know it,” she says dramatically and flounces off.

I stare dumbly after her, completely frazzled.

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Marta and I go out for lunch together. Braxton leaves early for his meeting; he has to travel across town for it. I can barely get her to talk about anything but Braxton King at lunch. She’s a woman possessed.

I beg her to let it go, but once Marta is latched onto something, she never drops it. That’s what makes her such a good salesperson, I guess. It’s a trait we all share. I just wish she wouldn’t interfere with my love life.

Over our Cobb salads, I confess to her that I’m thinking of ending things with Mark. I tell her about last night and her face lights up like I’ve just told her that Christmas is coming early.

“That’s fantastic news! I’ve been saying this ever since I’ve known you, Mel. You need to get him gone, you’re no good for each other.”

She’s right, I know she is. But I don’t want to hurt him.

When we return to the office, everyone is crowded around Braxton’s desk.

“What’s going on?” Marta asks when we walk over.

“Braxton got a new account, they’ve placed a provisory order of two hundred thousand,” one of the sales guys tells us.

My mouth drops open.

I worked for weeks on the Luxembourg account and got just under quarter of a mil. This guy comes in and bags almost the same amount on his second day?

What the actual fuck?

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