Chapter 22: Awkward, Meet Fucked
My heels click against the stone staircase; Red’s heavy steps follow closely behind my rush down after the offender. Pausing a couple floors down, I look dejectedly through the stairwell and close my eyes. He had a tattoo, a bold cross on the back of his palm. Breathing heavily, I finally allow the sound of my boss’s voice to shatter through my eardrums. Frowning I glare at the empty spiral… You’re losing it, Jules.
A strong grip takes hold of my bicep and tugs hard, I’m tugged around. I look up and face an enraged Mr. Alfonsi. “Fucking hell baby, I told you not to pull this shit. Damn near give a man a heart attack!” Grabbing my jaw in his free hand he demands my attention, “be careful, Julia.” He sounds tired.
Slowly I nod, “I thought I saw someone…” I mutter and glance back down the helix of stairs.
“And you’re sure it wasn’t the janitor…” Red purses his lips.
Glaring up at him, I snatch my arm from his hold. He’s mocking me. Taking the last few steps down to the levelling floor, I push through to the finance department. Stalking towards the elevator, I ignore Red. Bastard. I already feel like I’m losing my mind…
At least the man has the audacity to silently trail behind me. I seethe to myself while waiting for the elevator doors to open, reaching out I press the button several more times. Tapping my foot, I release a deep breath. It feels like a decade pass by the time the doors to the lift open, I make quick work of slipping inside and pressing the lobby floor.
I make sure to keep a metre or so ahead of Red, viciously conscious of his touching habits, this doesn’t sit too well with him…. Regardless I continue crossing the marble flooring and blink up at the darkening sky. The wind hisses against my ears, turning I make my way down the street, it isn’t long before Red’s arm finds its way around my waist. “What would you like, sir?” I question, scanning the restaurants around us.
His lengthy fingers squeeze my waist, “don’t start with me, babe.” Red shifts us away from the barrel of busy people rushing about, “don’t play that sir game,” he continues.
“You don’t like it when I call you, sir…” The last word is purred out sensually.
Red groans appreciatively, “you’re a wicked woman.” Moving through the streets, we locate a small café in one of the quieter corners of the city. “I’ve never done this before…” Red looks around.
“Done what?” I question.
Red simply shakes his head and pulls out a chair for me, taking a seat I wait for him to round the table. For a moment we scan the menu before I raise my hand and a waiter arrives. Placing our order, I cup my chin and gaze up at Red. This feels suspiciously like a date… “You’re staying the night, si?” Red speaks up as our food is placed down on the table.
“Not tonight, Red. I think it’d be best if I head home,” and investigate Herald Barnes, but he doesn’t need to know that information. “It feels like I haven’t seen Robin and Marisa in years,” I continue out.
Red’s not having it, “you see Marisa every day, Julia… And Robin, every second.”
“I’m serious.” I finalise. The atmosphere takes a chilling tone and we silently work through our meal. Internally, I know it isn’t just Mr. Barnes that needs investigating, I need space away from Red. The man is beyond consuming. Red is intense, there is no other way to put it, I wonder sometimes if I’m strong enough to handle him. I just want some time to see what it’s like without him.
After paying the bill, we return to the office. This time Red doesn’t bother with wrapping his arm around my form, I bite my lip nervously, knowing a storm is brewing beneath his surface. I follow Red through to my office, “do you need a ride home?” His words are grunts over his shoulder.
“No, I’ll be fine…” My reply is just as meek as my form.
That’s the end of that, Red disappears in his office and I cautiously tip-toe around him the remainder of the day, not knowing where we stand. I personally don’t see anything wrong with a little distance, clearly Red feels differently about the matter. But I wasn’t about to back down, not this time. Texting Marisa my plans, I finish up with filing.
Moving to my feet, I close my laptop and scan the room. My eyes shift to Red’s office, he’d been brooding in there for hours, he’d seen two clients today. The poor fuckers came out of the room looking like they’d met the devil himself, they aren’t that far off. Shaking him from my thoughts, I shoulder my bag and make my way through the room and out into the hallway.
Marisa meets me in the lobby, together we walk out to her car, she’d conveniently found a parking spot a couple streets down. “My legs hurt,” she whines.
“Shut up and keep walking. Who told your ass to be late, again?” I reply unimpressed by her antics.
She gasps, “how rude!”
Rolling my eyes, I bite my lower lip to keep from laughing. “Give me the keys,” I hold my hand out as her vehicle comes into view, she willingly hands the shrapnel over. The girl isn’t the sanest of drivers, and that’s saying the least.
Slipping inside we buckle up and I drop my bag at her feet. “Let’s stop for some Noodle Box,” Marisa gives me her pleading, puppy dog eyes.
Half an hour later we’re walking up to the apartment with bags of delicious Noodle Box and several bags of treats in our hands. “Long weekend tomorrow!” I cheer.
“We need to go out, Khaos just opened up in the circle,” Marisa pushes through our front door, “I’ve been dying to check the club out.” I shake my head warningly, last time we went clubbing, Rob and I sprained our backs carrying Marisa back home. “Please, it’s been so long,” She drops the bags on the coffee table in the lounge room.
I laugh, “it’s been a couple of months, my back still cries some nights!”
“I smell sex…” Robin rushes into the room in nothing but her towel, bee-lining the boxes of goodness. She grins insanely, “come to mama!”
Chuckling I move to my room and strip out of the constricting clothes. Slipping into some sweats and a cropped tight, long-sleeve I return to the girls. Marisa had changed into her nighties while Rob had donned a jumpsuit in her endearing state pigging away at the food. I flop down on the sofa and pull my purse from the table to my lap. Freeing my laptop, I boot the device up before picking up a box of teriyaki beef. “Heard of a Herald Barnes?” I mumble through a mouthful, Robin’s bound to know who he is, she seems to always know everyone.
Robin glares up at me from the ground, her expression resembling the face of a person who’d just found out that someone had replaced the noodles in her box with worms. “That slimy bastard! What’d he do?” She shovels another mouthful in.
My lips part, but before any words exit our front door swings open. All three sets of eyes snap to the entrance. Marco practically falls into the room with his arms packed and his mouth clamping several bags of popcorn. Behind him Daryl stumbles in, carrying equally as much. Closing my laptop, I push it to the side and approach the duo. “Movie night, huh! I can’t believe I forgot…”
“You seem to be forgetting a lot these days,” Marco snaps. Someone’s salty.
I flick his comment off, “suck a dick, M.” I nudge his leg with my hip and kick him to the lounge room. Giving Daryl a quick hug I also shove him towards the group. Grabbing chilled beers from the fridge, I restock with the drinks the boys had brought.
As I move to the lounge, there’s a knock on the door, “pick a movie, I’ll see who it is.” I groan out, placing the drinks on the carpet.
Marisa jumps at the chance to pick a film. She leaps towards our newest pile of horror movies and grins from ear to ear, Marco kicks her out of the way and takes the first pick. I turn and step up to the front door. Pulling it open with a smile, I instantly step back.
“Julia…” Red reaches out for my hips.
Wide eyed I can only utter his name back, “Red?”
He draws me within his arms and buries his head at the crook of my neck. “Smell so sweet, baby.” He hums.
It’s only when there’s a loud clearing of a throat that I realise the position we’re in. Grabbing Red’s wrist, I drag him through the apartment and straight to my room after kicking the front door closed behind us. Red’s back faces me as I rest against my room door, “what are you doing here?” I question, still shocked to see the man, but secretly pleased. It is quickly becoming an unhealthy obsession, one that I know will ruin me.
Red turns while running a hand through his messy hair, “and here I was missing you,” he scoffs. I know exactly what he’s getting at.
“You’re too much, Red… My friends are important to me,” I grind my molars together.
Releasing a breath, he moves against me in one quick movement, effectively caging me against the door. “You did this to me, baby. Take responsibility. I’m a selfish man.”
“What does that even mean?” I whisper back.
He drops his mouth to mine, “the second I saw you, Julia, I claimed you. You, innocently fell into my trap and baby there’s no way out. I promise.” His lips rub against mine, drawing a moan from deep within. His words should have sent fear straight down my system, hell I should have been running for the hills while screaming like a canary… but instead, I hung against him. My mind drugged and my heart clasped within his fist. “What are we, Julia?” The words ricochet within my skull.
“You tell me?” I backfire.
He shifts slightly, “you’re my woman.” He states. I smile, softly. “I don’t like fighting with you, baby… Come home.” He commands.
“Stay,” I bargain.
This bemuses him, “stay?” He questions.
I nod, “stay.”
Red rolls his bottom lip between his teeth, sizing me up. I remain still. Gradually he relaxes, taking his jacket off, he drops it on my bed before glaring down at my exposed stomach. Rolling my eyes, I grab one of the jumpers from my dresser and tug it on. I grab my blanket off the bed and take his hand in mine. You’re my woman. The words ring in my ears, giving me this giddy sensation in my stomach. I lead my boss out of my room and towards the group in the lounge who are silently whispering among themselves.
All eyes fall on us the second we approach. Daryl and Robin snuggle together on the love seat, Marisa had pushed the coffee table to the side and she had set up a makeshift bed alongside Marco. Leaving the sofa empty, I shrug off the elephant in the room and take a seat, pulling Red down with me. He seems far too rigid, almost as if he’s never had a movie night before. Looking up into his tense eyes, I realise he really hasn’t.
Moving into his arms, I stretch my legs out and drape the blanket over them. Red calms down significantly at the contact. I ignore Marcos angered glare and clenched jaw, he’s obviously in a shitty mood, one that I’m not about to adopt anytime soon. Robin winks at me and I poke my tongue back at her.
Marisa quickly pushes the movie into its slot before she turns the lights off, this settles the room. I reach down and grab two bottles of beers for Red and I.
As the intro rolls through, I take a swig of the bitter liquid… only to end up choking on it as Marco grumbles out into the dark room, “remember the time I stole your first kiss, Jules…”
Well… Awkward, meet well and truly fucked.