A couple weeks come and go, as does Valentine’s Day. Ryan sends me three dozen beautiful, long-stemmed red roses and some yummy chocolates. I hear no objections from Craig about the divorce. All the paperwork is in place and all Craig has to do is sign. I hope that Craig wants to be done with the divorce so he can get on with his life with Annabelle and the baby.
My stalker seems to have disappeared. I have no troubles or sightings for a couple weeks now. Work drags on. I am moderately busy but I don’t have the motivation for it anymore. I have momentary troubles concentrating. Thank goodness it’s slow for me for a little while yet. The weekends are a welcome beacon because it means that I get to hang out with my girls.
Ryan is busy promoting his new movie that’s coming out soon. I watch him on a couple late night shows. Of course, the questions that are always asked are “who was the girl in Vegas” and “are you still seeing her”. His reply is always that I am a really good friend from Kansas City and that we are still in contact.
I still talk to Ryan almost every day. We talk about everything and I fall more in love with him. I know just how perfect he is for me. We like a lot of the same things and feel like we’ve known each other forever. And I’m still scared to death.
Ryan asks me a few more times about the awards show, but I keep evading his question – telling him that I just don’t know and need more time to think. Since the show is Sunday, I’m surprised Ryan hadn’t pushed me for an answer. I berate myself, thinking that I should be going with him. Plus, Ryan’s birthday is the day after the show and it would be fun to celebrate with him. But now I’m afraid to see him because I don’t think I can hide my feelings for him when I’m face to face with him. So the question is am I ready to let Ryan know that I love him.
Thursday morning at work, I’m tackling a monotonous spreadsheet that normally would take me a couple days to get done. I’ve been working on this one for four frustrating days now and I’m not even half-way done. Struggling to get through work every day, I’m looking forward to this evening. I have plans to go out to dinner with my girls. My thoughts are interrupted by my office phone.
“Olivia Sterling,” I mumble into the receiver.
“Well, you could have a little bit more enthusiasm than that when I call.”
A smile instantly breaks out on my face and my mood lifts. “Ryan! Oh, it’s so good to hear your voice.”
“I just talked to you yesterday,” he reminds me. “What are you doing, Beautiful?”
I melt every time he calls me Beautiful. “Well, I’m sort of working. Not much is going on right now.”
“Sort of working?” he asks amused.
“Concentrating at work has been tough since I came back from Las Vegas,” I admit.
“I hope that has to do with me and not being able to stop thinking about me.”
I feel my face turn red and I refuse to say anything.
“Have you any meetings or anything to break up your day?”
“No. But I think me and this spreadsheet are going to go a couple rounds.”
Ryan laughs. “I just wanted to say ‘hi’. And I need to get your work address. I got a surprise for you.”
That’s a little strange. Why can’t he send it to the house?
“What’s the surprise?”
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I tell you.”
“Fine.” I rattle off my work address. We talk for a brief moment. Then Ryan says he has to go, he has something to do. The whole phone call is bizarre. He always takes the time to talk to me and not cut our conversations short. But I let it go and conclude that he just has too much on his mind with the show in a couple days. Then he’s going off to London to film a few weeks after that.
Ugh. He’s going to be so far away. I hope he comes to visit before he goes. It’s already been so long since I’ve seen him.
Just as I hang up with Ryan, my phone rings again.
It’s my lawyer telling me that Craig has signed the divorce papers; she just received them and will file them first thing tomorrow morning. Woot, woot! I am a free woman again. I am so ecstatic. It’s a great feeling to be completely free of Craig now. I can put that part of my past away. We really have reason to celebrate tonight!
About an hour later, my phone rings again. The receptionist, with a very quiet, whispering voice, tells me that I have a delivery up front. With Ryan calling me earlier, I suspect that he sent me flowers. I walk up to reception and get a surprise of a lifetime.
There at the front desk stands Ryan, smiling his gorgeous smile. I don’t believe it. I think I actually squeal and throw myself at him. Ryan catches me in a big hug, laughs and spins me around. The receptionist is staring at us – well, just Ryan. But I don’t care. I realize just how much I have missed him.
“What are you doing here? How long are you staying? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? Ohmigod, I’ve missed you!” I ramble and hug him again.
“I’m here to see you, of course. I’m staying just a day or two, depends. I didn’t tell you because I wanted to surprise you and I’ve missed you too,” he answers.
“I can’t believe you’re here! Come on, come back to my office.” I drag him back down the drab hallway, into my office and close the door. “So, what? You don’t have enough to keep you busy right now and you thought you’d throw in a trip to Kansas City – just before your awards show?”
Ryan gives me a mischievous smile. “There’s a specific reason I came to see you.”
“What reason?” I ask, cautiously. I can only think of one reason why he would come all the way out here.
“First.” He snags my hand and yanks me to him. “I’ve missed you so much Olivia.” His lips crash down on mine, demanding all my attention. My eyes drift shut while my hands snake up around his neck, pulling him closer. My heart goes wild. Oh yes, I am definitely in love with him.
Ryan breaks the kiss but keeps holding me.
“Mmm. That was nice. Thank you” I purr.
He grins at me. “The second reason I’m here is that I’m kidnapping you for the weekend. I want you to come to the show with me. I’m not taking ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ for an answer any more. It’s an important night for me, you’re important to me and I want you there with me.”
“Ryan,” I whine. “I’ll be too nervous. I’ll embarrass you. Plus, I don’t have time to get ready for it. I’d have to buy a dress, get my hair done, buy airfare. And this will just add to all the press about us already.”
“Olivia. Breathe.” Ryan puts his hands on both sides of my head and holds it until I look at him. He kisses my nose. “I don’t care what anyone says. I want you with me. And you don’t have to worry about anything. It’s all taken care of. You just need to take time off from work. Do you think you can take more time off?”
“Well…I have plenty of vacation yet. And I’m sure my boss wouldn’t have a problem with the short notice.” I just process what he said and I narrow my eyes at him. “What do you mean it’s all taken care of? Did you arrange everything for me even though I said I wasn’t going to come?”
Ryan smiles impishly at me and winks. “I have a dress shop holding a few dresses for you to pick from in LA. And you have an appointment to get pampered Sunday morning. And of course, I have your plane ticket right here.” He pulls it out of his jacket.
My mouth drops open while he’s telling me about all this. I glare at him and push him away. “Ryan Alan Paxton. I am furious with you right now.”
He can see though my lie, smiles and pulls me back into his arms. “But you’re not. Be honest. You’re eager to go. Please go with me.”
How can I deny him this request? I roll my eyes and shake my head. Damn it. “Yes. I’m ecstatic about going. Who in their right mind wouldn’t be? But I’ll be so nervous.”
“Don’t worry. You just need to be yourself and everyone will love you. And I’ll be right there with you,” he assures me, and gives me another smoking kiss. We are interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Yes?” I call out, taking a step back from Ryan.
“Hi! Just had to come see if it was true,” Sarah says, as she pokes her head through the door. “Oh, it is! Hi!” she exclaims to Ryan as she steps all the way into the office.
“Ryan this is Sarah. Sarah, Ryan.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Sarah. I’ve heard a lot about you. Actually, I’ve heard a lot about all of Olivia’s friends,” Ryan says.
“Probably all horrible. You can’t trust what Olivia says. She tries to make herself look better by telling horrible things about her friends” she teased. Then she looks to me. “Hey, are you still going out tonight? Better yet, are you going to bring Ryan?”
“Yes to both, I think. But promise not to say anything. I want to see everyone’s faces when we show up.”
“Aw, party pooper. I wanted to be the gossiper. But ok. It will be fun. I promise not to say anything” she tells me. Then she turns to Ryan again, “Ryan, it was very nice to meet you and I’ll see you two later.”
“See you later,” Ryan replies.
Sarah reluctantly leaves my office, closing the door behind her. I laugh at her.
“We’re going out later?” Ryan asks.
“Yes, I already had plans to go out to dinner with the girls tonight.”
“Are you sure they won’t have a problem with me tagging along?”
I laugh again. “Ha! Are you kidding? Trust me. They won’t have a problem with you being there. Are you sure you want to go out with a bunch of girls?”
“If you’re there, I’ll be just fine,” he answers.
I smile. “Good. Everyone will get to meet you. They will be so excited. It’s going to be a fun night. Ohmigod!” I grab his hands. “I forgot to tell you. After you called this morning, my lawyer called. Craig signed the papers and she has them in her hands. She’ll file them tomorrow morning. I’m a single girl again!”
Ryan hugs me and swings me around again. “That’s awesome! I’m so glad you’re done with Craig. But you’re not single because you are mine.”
Wow. I’m his.
“Oh. Well, yeah. I’ll tell the girls tonight and we’ll celebrate. Now, let’s go talk to my boss, Nadine, about a few days off.”
I talk to Nadine and free up a few days to spend with Ryan to go out to Los Angeles. She requests to meet Ryan, which I expected. Starting this afternoon, I’m on vacation again. Ryan and I grab some food and eat at my house.
“I still can’t believe you’re here,” I say again as we eat. I grab his hand and give it a squeeze.
He flashes me his beautiful smile. He releases my hand to tuck my hair behind my ear.
“Well, this was the best way to get you to say that you’re going to come with me this weekend.” He points a fry at me before taking a bite of it. “I really want you there with me.”
“But aren’t you super busy right now?”
“I’m never too busy for you,” he answers.
My heart flutters. Seems to do that all the time now. I grin.
“Really, I’m not that busy,” he continues. “Filming has been delayed for a few more weeks, so it turns out I have a little bit of free time.”
I look down and play with my food. Of course, I’m flustered by his comment. I’m so afraid he’ll see too much if I look at him. Ryan finishes his food. But I can’t eat any more. I push my food away. Making sure I have my feelings under control, I look to him.
“Would you like a tour of the house?”
“I would love one. But aren’t you going to finish eating first?” he gives me a disapproving look.
“I’m not hungry. I kind of had a big breakfast,” I fib. I don’t think he believes me but doesn’t say anything.
I give him the grand tour, starting with the kitchen and living room since we’re in them. He wants to know what improvements I’ve done in each room. We go downstairs. I tell him that I want to remodel here, too. But I have too many ideas and not one that stands out. Ryan gives me a couple ideas that intrigue me. I just might have to do what he suggested. Then we go back up to the bedrooms and my office. I tell him how the office had been my sanctuary when Craig was around and I needed space. Ryan looks around the room and agrees that it has a relaxing atmosphere.
“A piano. You play well?” he asks.
“I had eight years of lessons. I’m ok. I love playing.”
I stare at him while he looks around. He turns and catches me staring at him.
“What?” he asks, smiling.
“Nothing,” I spit out, flustered at being caught staring. “I just still can’t believe you’re here – in my house. I know that’s absurd…,” I shrug my shoulders. “And you seem older than you are. I forget that you are younger than me.”
“I had to grow up before I should have. It was either that or fall to drugs and alcohol. I took the higher road. Does the four-year difference really bother you?”
“Honestly, I don’t think about it too much. But every now and then it sneaks into my brain and bugs me a little that I’m older than you. But I’ll get over it…maybe.”
He steps closer to me and cups my face in his hands. Then he rests his forehead against mine. “I’ll help you get over it,” he says just before his lips caress mine. The kiss is soft and warm, intending to melt me into a gooey mess. It works. He takes the kiss deeper, more urgent. His mouth devours mine. And there goes my heart again. It’s going berserk and I have trouble breathing. My arms wind around his waist. I can’t get close enough to him. His lips leave mine and he trails kisses down my chin to my ear.
“Did you get over it?” he asks.
“Get over what?” I ask. What the hell is he talking about? What were we talking about before he made me forget everything? Oh, yeah. The age thing. Huh, it sure isn’t bothering me now.
Every time he kisses me, my brain stops working. I’ve never experienced that before.
He hugs me to him.
“I missed you so much Olivia. God, I didn’t know I could miss someone so,” he says. “I’ve felt like something in me was missing ever since I dropped you off at the airport in Las Vegas.”
“I know. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced missing someone so much before.”
He pulls back and grabs my shoulders and looks deeply into my eyes.
“Then you know that what we have, this connection, is something special, right? You can’t deny it.”
“No, I can’t deny the connection. It scares the hell out of me, particularly coming out of my marriage.” I hold up my hand before he can say anything. “I know you’re not Craig, but part of my mind is thinking ‘what if?’ I’m finding it very hard to get passed that.”
“Sweetheart, I would never do that to you. I was raised differently than that. I was taught to respect relationships. Respect the person that I’ve chosen to be with.”
“Yes, and I can tell you’re respectful of me, of our relationship. But I can’t help that I have this instinct to protect myself.” I break away from his hold and start pacing back and forth.
“I guess only time will prove it. But that’s ok, because I’ve got time. We’ll figure it out together, if you let me.” Ryan stops me from pacing, pulls me back to him and wraps his arms around me.
“Ok. Yeah, we’ll figure it out together.”
We go back out to the living room, talk and just enjoy being with each other before we have to leave to meet the girls.
Ryan and I arrive at the restaurant a little late on purpose. I tell the host that there will be seven in our party instead of six. She informs me that it was already taken care of by Sarah. Before she leads us to the table, the host asks if she can get an autograph and picture not just of Ryan, but of both of us. I find the attention uncomfortable since I am not the famous person. As she leads us to our table in the private dining room, she keeps turning around to glance at Ryan. I chuckle to myself. I start hearing others recognizing him as well. As we walk into the private dining room, I hear Ally first.
“OHMIGOD! Pinch me! I’m hallucinating!” she flings her arm out and hit Claire on her shoulder.
“What?” Claire asks confused then looks in the direction Ally was looking. “Oh!”
I make quick introductions as we take our seats. “Girls, this is Ryan Paxton. Ryan this is Taylor, Dhara, Ally, Claire, and of course you met Sarah earlier.” I tell him this as I point each one out.
“You knew he was here and didn’t tell us?!” Ally accuses Sarah.
“Hey, she made me swear not to tell,” Sarah says, defensively.
“Yes, I did,” I confirm.
“I should have known something was up the way you kept fidgeting and seemed overly anxious. Then requesting the private dining room…” Ally says.
“Good call on the private room,” I tell Sarah.
“It’s nice to meet you Ryan,” Taylor says. “What are you doing in town?” Then adds quietly so Ryan can’t hear. “As if I don’t know.”
I shoot her a dirty look and nudge her with my elbow.
“I came here to convince Olivia to come out to Los Angeles and attend the awards show with me. I’ve already talked her into it, so my trip was successful.”
“Oh good! I’m glad you’re going,” Taylor tells me. “You’ll have so much fun.”
“I hope so. I hope I don’t embarrass Ryan or myself,” I tell her.
“You’re not going to embarrass anyone” Ryan insists, squeezing my hand. “Just remember to be yourself and everyone will love you.”
“Easy for you to say. I was anxious when the host asked for our picture when we came in. You’re used to everyone looking at you, being in the spot light, taking pictures. I shy away from attention. That’s what I’m most nervous about.”
“There’s nothing to worry about. You just keep a smile pasted on your face and I’ll tell you what direction to look. You don’t have to say anything. I’ll answer all questions,” he reassures me.
I still have tons of doubts, but I let them go for now. We order and have some wine while we wait for our food. I tell everyone about Craig signing the papers and that I am single again. They hoot and cheer and are so excited for me. Ryan glances at me knowingly and winks when I say I’m single. I smile at him.
Ryan is being asked lots of questions, which he patiently and thoroughly answers. Seriously, how can I not love him when he treats my friends like this? He keeps his hand on me the whole time, sometimes bringing my hand up to his lips to kiss it. Other times, he puts his arm around me and squeezes me. I am so happy he is here that I’m sure he can see my feelings for him on my face or in my eyes.
I excuse myself to go to the bathroom to collect myself and tell the girls to behave themselves while I ’m gone.
“Don’t be long,” Ryan whispers to me as I get up.
I run a finger across his cheek as I get up and smile. Taylor excuses herself and goes with me.
As soon as we get into the restroom, I watch Taylor check to make sure it’s empty then turns to me.
“You’re in love with him, aren’t you?”
I stare at her flabbergasted. “What?”
“You don’t even have to say anything. I can see it. Oh! I’m so happy for you!” She hugs me.
“Well… I didn’t really have a choice. It just struck me a couple weeks ago that I was in love with him. It about knocked me flat on my ass,” I reply.
“A couple weeks ago!” Taylor exclaims. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Well crap, Taylor. I was so shocked, you know. I barely knew him. I was trying to get out of my bad marriage with Craig. And then I tried to tell myself that I didn’t love him. But as soon as I saw him today, I knew for sure. I don’t know what to do. I’m terrified that I’ll get hurt again. What should I do?”
She thinks about it for a while, even holds her finger up – gesturing for me to wait – when I become impatient.
“Well, I see that you have two options. You could tell him and get everything out in the open. See what he has to say about you being in love with him,” she says.
“Or you don’t have to do anything. You could just go with the flow for now. Hang out, have fun. Go to Los Angeles and enjoy the time you have together. Get to know each other even better. You have to remember that he is not Craig. And things will work out if they are supposed to,” she says.
“Yeah, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. So I guess I’ll just keep doing that,” I inform her.
I turn to head out of the bathroom, Taylor blurts out, “Oh, and by the way, I’m pretty sure he’s in love with you, too.”
“What?!” I stop in my tracks.
“Oof. Olivia!” Taylor exclaims as she runs into me. After she collects herself, she continues. “Well, yeah. It’s kind of obvious.”
I stare at her dumbfounded.
“Well, I guess not to you. Have you noticed that he’s touching you constantly and he turns to look at you all the time? If only I could find a guy that would look at me that way. Don’t believe me? Take a step back and pay attention to what he does and how often he looks at you and touches you.”
When we get back to our table, our food has just arrived. I sit down and Ryan leans over to give me a kiss on my check. I glance at Taylor. She has a smug look on her face that says ‘See?’. Oh, God. This is all happening so fast, yet it feels right. I decide to do nothing for now and just enjoy the weekend.
Once we’re done eating, I make plans with the girls to do this again next week, after I return from Los Angeles, of course. They will want to know all the details of my trip.
As Ryan and I drive home, I can’t stop yawning.
“Are you tired?” Ryan asks.
“Yes. I haven’t been sleeping too well lately,” I tell him.
“Why not?” he asks with concern. “Has the stalker been bothering you?”
“No. No one has seen her for a few weeks now. I’ve just got a lot on my mind. Sometimes I can’t turn it off.”
“Have you tried taking anything to help you sleep?”
“I’m really skeptical about taking sleeping pills. I don’t want to become dependent on them.”
He nods. “Maybe I can help relax you. I’ll give you a back rub before you go to sleep.”
“I won’t turn you down.”
When we get home, he tells me to get ready for bed. I do, after I make sure everything is locked and the alarm is set. While I’m getting ready, Ryan lights a couple candles and turns on some quiet, relaxing music. When I come out of the bathroom, he instructs me to lie down on my stomach on the bed. He rubs my shoulders, neck, back and head. It feels so good and does relax me.
“It makes me happy to see how vigilant you are about checking to make sure your windows and doors are locked. I worry about you so much after you told me about that woman.”
“Yeah, well, if I don’t check them before I go to bed, I won’t be able to sleep. Sometimes I still can’t sleep until I check them a second or third time.”
He’s quiet for a couple minutes while he rubs my back.
“I’m very happy you’re coming with me to the show. It means a lot to me that you will be there for me,” Ryan says quietly.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because you are extremely special to me and have come to mean a lot to me and these awards are important and I want to share the experience with you.”
I’m special to him. Does that mean he loves me? Why do I always freak out when he tells me something I want to hear? Is it just that I can’t believe Ryan Paxton feels the same way I do? In the back of my mind, I think I’m waiting for something to happen to make him go away.
“Did you fall asleep?” he asks quietly.
“No. Will you come lay next me to and hold me?” I request.
“Of course, Olivia. I’d love nothing more.”
He blows out the candles and turns the music off. I hear him unzip his jeans and drop them to the floor. Then he gets in the bed and shimmies up behind me and puts his arm around me to pull me to him. He nuzzles his face next to mine and kisses my cheek.
“I want to hold you all night, Olivia. Is that ok?”
“Yes,” I whisper.
“I’ve missed you so much. You just relax and go to sleep. You’ve nothing to worry about. You are safe tonight with me to protect you.”
It feels so good to have him hold me in his arms. I love this man. Should I say something to him? Will I ruin things if I do? Argh!
Even though Ryan’s message relaxed me, I still have a hard time getting to sleep. I’m too conscience of him next to me. I gently rub my hand up and down his arm. I listen to his steady breathing. I can tell when he is asleep. The last time I checked the clock, it is 2:00am before I fall asleep. But once I do fall asleep, I’m out.
We are both abruptly wakened by the garbage truck early in the morning. I curse and bury my head under the pillows. Ryan laughs at me.
“So you’re not a morning person, huh?” he teases, lifting the pillow to peak at me.
“Not when it was two in the morning before I finally fell asleep.”
He looks at me with concern. “I thought the backrub relaxed you. Why didn’t you get to sleep until 2?”
“Because I was too conscience of you next to me.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.” Then he starts laughing. “Did I get you all worked up so you couldn’t sleep?”
I roll over, grab a pillow and hit him with it.
“So that’s how you want to handle this?” he asks. “Ok, you asked for it.” And before I know it a pillow bops me in the face.
That brings on a pillow fight. We are laughing like kids, pummeling each other with the pillows. All of a sudden, he wrestles the pillow away from me, throws it to the floor, grabs my wrists and shoves me back down on the bed with him on top of me. I stare into his eyes. My heart beats outrageously. I am shocked when the sheets don’t ignite on fire from the sparks we create. His control snaps and he’s devouring me. His lips possessing mine. I can feel his erection against my thigh. My wrists are freed as his hands sweep up my arms to rest on either side of my body. His thumbs stroke the outside of my breasts. I answer with the same sudden loss of control. My hands wrap around him down his back to his hips and butt and pull him closer.
Ryan gains control first and just puts his forehead against mine, trying to gain his regular breathing back. He groans as he pushes away and rolls over. “I hope you figure things out very soon, Olivia. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out.”
“I’m sorry, Ryan. I…I don’t mean….”
He rolls back and silences me with a kiss. “Shh. I know. Don’t worry. Besides, we need to get ready to leave. Up and at ’em little gal.”
Holy cow. How can he recover so fast? I am all hot and bothered and breathing heavy.
“Little gal?” I question, laughing.
“I don’t know. Just popped into my head,” he shrugs.
As I take a shower, I think about Ryan. It seems like he is serious enough about me to respect my wishes to wait until I’m ready. I’m starting to believe that he does want to be with me. I don’t know why he wants to be with me, but I think I will enjoy it while it lasts. I’m humbled to have this famous person, someone who’s in demand with every director/producer in Hollywood, a person who everyone knows, who can have anyone he wanted, wants me.
We get ready. I pack and we’re out the door for the airport in about an hour and a half. Soon we are on our way to Los Angeles.