I sucked in a deep breath and glanced around the park once more, surveying the many beautiful flowers that surrounded me. I felt a warmth envelope me inexplicably.
“I can see why this place helped. I feel at peace just standing here.”
“We should head back.” Tobias said suddenly without explanation. I turned and looked at him. He was looking off in the distance. I went to turn, but he grabbed my shoulder and shook his head.
“There’s a paparazzi leech hiding out there.” He replied, disdain dripping from his words.
“I thought you didn’t care.” I whispered, it was what he had inferred in the apartment, why had that changed now?
He frowned and shook his head. “I don’t care what they say about me. But I don’t want to drag you down with me.”
I could tell he was being evasive, that there was more to his words and the reasoning behind them. I could feel his walls begin to rebuild around him, he was closing off again.
I forced a smile onto my face and shrugged. “We could really give them something to report.” I was joking, but the hardened look on Tobias’ face was enough to make me realize that he wasn’t’ at all amused. He shook his head and clenched his teeth.
“That wouldn’t be wise. I don’t want to field a million questions about the girl in the park.”
The girl in the park. Me. Dealing with me in the media was a burden Tobias didn’t want… or need and I understood, but it still hurt.
“Relax tonto, I was kidding.” I retorted.
He relaxed and looked toward the park’s exit. He was uncomfortable, and I hated it. I nodded and turned towards the gate. “Come on then, let’s head back.”
“I’m sorry.” he whispered as he began to walk toward the exit.
“What for?” I followed after him, shoving my hands into the pockets of my knit jumper.
“Making us leave.”
I shook my head. “Don’t be sorry. I can always come back here.”
“You’re not planning on leaving anymore?” Tobias exclaimed as we walked through the park exit.
I frowned and looked away. I hadn’t really decided what I was doing, and it had been a couple of weeks since either of us had mentioned it. I was surprised he had even remembered.
“I don’t know.” I murmured.
As tempting as another fresh start sounded, there was something keeping me here. Or Someone.
“I’ll keep my word. I’ll help you move if you want to.” he mumbled.
“For now I’m not going anywhere Tobias.” I replied, I was having trouble catching my breath as it was. A move wasn’t on the cards, not for now at least.
“Good.” he murmured.
We walked through the busy streets of the city until we reached Tobias’ apartment building.
“There’s a restaurant in the apartment complex. Maybe I could make reservations for tonight?”
“Is that a good idea?” I murmured walking into his apartment behind him. After the paparazzi had spooked him in the park, I wasn’t sure heading out to another public setting was a good idea.
“They have private booths.” Tobias exclaimed. “I eat there often.”
“Okay then.” I nodded. “I’d like that.”
Tobias grinned and picked up his phone just as I realised the bag of clothes I’d packed consisted of a couple of pairs of jeans and two t-shirts.
“Uh, I don’t have anything to wear. Maybe we should just stay in.”
Tobias turned around and looked at me. His eyes traced up then down. He smiled and placed his hand on my shoulder. “You look fine.” He murmured.
I looked down at my dark blue jeans and white shirt, My cream colored ribbed woollen jumper tied the casual outfit together nicely, but I was very obviously dressed for comfort, not a dinner date… if you could call it that.
“I’d be underdressed.” I whispered. It was obvious this was a ritzy apartment building which meant the onsite restaurant was probably up there in terms of standards too.
Tobias lifted his hand to my chin and tilted my face up. “Underdressed would be naked, but even then I still wouldn’t complain.” He smiled widely and his blue eyes danced. I liked seeing him smile, and I liked the playful side of him too. For a moment, It almost made me forget that tomorrow this weekend, our weekend, would end and all of this would end too. Tobias pressed his lips against mine.
“If it makes you feel any better, I wasn’t planning on changing either.”
I looked down at absorbed Tobias outfit. He was wearing the jeans he’d been wearing the first day he’d picked me up from my old apartment, His shirt was casual too, it was an old faded band tee.
He nodded and leaned forward again. “Really.” he replied before kissing me again.
“So should I make the reservations?” he murmured.
I nodded. “Yes.”
After Tobias made the reservations, we spent the rest of the afternoon watching Quentin Tarantino movies. It was nice, the simplicity of just sitting on the couch, snuggled under a blanket together made me feel like we weren’t fooling ourselves after all.
Later in the evening we went down to the restaurant for dinner, As we walked through the restaurant doors a tall and beautiful blonde woman walked across the foyer and greeted us.
“Tobias, you have company tonight.” She replied, surprise evident in her voice.
“Yes. I made the reservation for two” He replied, without giving much more of an explanation.
“Well follow me, I’ll take you to your table.” She replied with a sultry smile.
Tobias placed his hand on the small of my back, I looked at him and smiled before following the the woman through the restaurant. She stopped before opening a tinted glass sliding door and gestured us into the room.
“Can I get you any drinks?” she looked at Tobias, smiling at him, bathing him in attention. It was almost as though I wasn’t even there. Tobias was oblivious, he looked at me and raised his eyebrows.
“Well?” He murmured. “Can I suggest the 50 year old Glenfiddich they have. Your father would have been a big fan.”
I smiled, impressed that Tobias had remembered my father’s love of whiskey. I nodded. “Yes he would have, but the price would have been well out of our reach.” I murmured. I was well aware that with age the price of such liquor increased, and fifty years was a long time for a drink to age. Still it seemed right to order a glass, in remembrance of him. “But yes, I think I’d like to drink a glass, in his memory.”
“Two Glenfiddich doubles please. Straight for me.”
“Me too.” I added, looking up at the maitre de. She frowned in my direction, like I’d cracked some sort of code that remained elusive to her. She left the room a moment later, sliding the door shut behind her.
“She likes you.” I noted. “Do you come here alot?”
“At least once a week.” He replied. “And I don’t care if she likes me. The feeling isn’t mutual… not to mention all she knows is my name. She knows of me, she doesn’t know me.”
“Maybe she wants to know you.” i whispered. It was clear not I wasn’t talking about the maitre de anymore. I was talking about myself. Tobias seemed to understand the meaning behind my words, he shifted uncomfortably and looked down at the table.
He frowned before looking up again. “I need to tell you something.”
My stomach turned, with his words so sullen, it didn’t seem likely to be a good something.
“Go ahead.” I whispered.
“I wasn’t at a client dinner.” he exclaimed.
“The other day, When I left work early… it wasn’t for a client dinner. At least, not exactly. When I called you, I was at Louisa Taylors house.”
The Supermodel he was trying to represent?
“Huh?” I tilted my head, unsure what he was getting at. I knew he’d wanted to bring her business to the company, she was worth millions, representing her in any shape or form would surely do wonders for Clarke industries, giving the firm a much needed boost of modern popularity. I wasn’t jealous of his work. He did what he had to do.
His eyes hardened and he shook his head.
“She made clear she knew my reputation. She wanted me to represent her brand, but at a price.”
My stomach rolled. His reputation, the one he’d built over the years to keep women from getting too close, but close enough to… It hit me, he’d been at her house to bed her. To have meaningless sex with her like he had with so many others. I moved away from him, pushing my seat out from the table, I had no right to be jealous, we weren’t an item and we never had been, but my heart didn’t care about that.
“So you slept with her.” The words dried my mouth out. I didn’t want the answer, but in the same instance I needed it all the same.
“I went there with the intention to follow through.” He admitted. My heart twitched, I wanted to get up and run as far away as I could. “But no. I got the call from Chris before long, and I left right away. Nothing happened.”
For a brief moment, relief washed over me. He hadn’t slept with her, but only because Chris the guard had called. Nausea engulfed me again.
“So if he’d never called….” I swallowed hard. The thought of Tobias with another woman made me sick to my stomach.
“Maybe.” he mused. “Maybe not.”
“Tobias.” I laughed dryly, although I was far from humored. “You’ve revelled in your reputation for years. You’re known as a firecat in the sack. You wouldn’t have turned a freaking supermodel down.”
Tobias’ head dropped forward, he nodded then looked back up at me with a wry smile.
“You once told me that my reputation was wrong… do you not think that way anymore.”
It was then, at that moment, I realised what he was doing. Even though we’d agreed this was a weekend thing, that come Monday I’d return to pining for him from afar and he’d return to being emotionally inhibited, he was scared. He was protecting himself. He was never going to let me in. I was a threat to him, just like every other woman he’d ever been with. Only I had gotten too close.
“I know you’re not a cold person Tobias, but you are closed off. You don’t know how to let people in. You’re the lion, protecting your territory.” I whispered. And in his mind, I’m the wildfire, threatening to burn it all to the ground.
“Sleeping with Louisa Taylor is me protecting my territory?” He questioned, as if he was trying to figure out the answer himself.
“No, telling me you went there to sleep with her is protecting your territory.” I replied. “You’re pushing me away, maybe subconsciously, maybe on purpose. I wish I knew why, but It’s clear to me that you’ll never trust me enough to tell me.”
Tobias looked at me as though I had punched him in the gut. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned back in his chair. He went to speak, but I beat him to it.
“I don’t think I should stay tonight anymore.” I replied. “This isn’t going to work.”
“Ruby…” He whispered, his voice desperate. He reached out for me, but I pulled my hands off the table.
“It’s for the best.” I stood up and grabbed my purse. My apartment keys were in my pocket, in fact the only thing that was in Tobias’ apartment was my bag of clothes half of which were actually his clothes.
“You’re going now?” He asked. “What about dinner, Please, Ruby stay for dinner at least.”
I shook my head.
“No. Thank you for coming to my rescue yesterday and for last night. I’ll see you at work on Monday.” I spoke calmly, removing the very real emotion I was feeling from my words.
He relaxed slightly. “You’re going to be at work?”
I nodded, I needed the money while I looked for somewhere else to live and work. Moving sounded more tempting than it had a few hours prior, but I still had to make enough money to do it on my own. “For now.”
Tobias frowned and sat forward, on the edge of his seat.
“Let me pay the bill, I’ll take you home.”
“I’ll walk, it’s a few blocks away and my crazy stalker is behind bars.” I murmured as I walked toward the door. “I’ll be fine.”
“I’m sorry.” Tobias murmured as I walked out.
I hurried through the restaurant, eager to get out of Tobias’ orbit once and for all, which was difficult when it seemed that gravity had it in for me, naturally drawing me back. I wanted to run back to him, but I couldn’t not again. I bolted through a side door out onto the street and took a deep breath. I leaned against the concrete wall of the apartment building and forced myself to calm down.
“Ruby?” A familiar voice broke through the sound of the city streets. I looked up and noticed Jimmy walking toward me. I frowned.
“Jimmy?” I questioned. “Why are you here?” I looked down the street at Clarke Industries. “Were you at work on a Saturday?”
Jimmy nodded as he lifted an arm to scratch the back of his neck. “We take turns to do the Saturday shift, and I drew the short straw this week.”
“Oh, well, it’s nice to see you.” I smiled, surprised to find that despite the deep sadness I felt about Tobias, I meant it.
“It’s nice to see you too. Uh, you okay though? You look kind strung out.” He gave me a concerned look and I frowned. It was obvious I was a mess. Great.
“Gee thanks Jimmy.” I teased. “I’m okay, I guess I had a pretty rough 24 hours, but I’ll survive.”
“I didn’t mean it like that Ruby, you look fantastic… I just uh, you look troubled.” He paused. “Man, I think I need a shovel.”
“Relax, I was joking. You’re right. I’m a little stressed.” I admitted, although little was probably an understatement.
Jimmy smiled as he pointed down the road. “Well, how about I keep you company for a bit. There’s an amazing pizza place up the road, we could go eat.”
I looked back at the side entrance to the restaurant. Tobias hadn’t followed after me, not that I had expected him too and I was hungry. This weekend was dead in the water, just like the relationship Tobias and I had never had. I couldn’t cling to what was never mine to lose, or I risked turning into an obsessive pyscho like Ben.
“Yeah. I’d like that.” I murmured pushing myself off the concrete wall.