Chapter Twenty One
“You can’t. Ruby… please.” He begged.
I closed my eyes, but it did nothing to silence my aching heart. I wanted to stay, more than anything but I also wanted him to love me. I couldn’t make him love me, and he couldn’t make me stay so we were at an impasse. I shook my head and flicked my eyes open, locking contact with his.
“How did you get up here without Chris calling ahead.” I frowned.
Tobias face deepened to a shade of pink that would have been endearing if everything that was going on wasn’t actually happening. He ran his left hand over his hair and let it rest behind his neck.
“I told him I was here for apartment complex business.”
“You lied.” I croaked.
Tobias nodded, he swallowed hard then opened his mouth to speak. “I needed to see you and if he’d called ahead then you would have told him to send me packing.” He exclaimed.
“So you took advantage of your position, and now you’re forcing me to see you, be damned what I want or don’t want.” I shot back, angry that he had manipulated the situation.Tobias face fell, his eyes went dark and recoiled back. His tall frame sagged slightly and he seemed small and lost. I felt guilty for hurting him, I wanted to take it back and embrace him, but I forced myself to remember everything we’d been through in such a short space of time. The constantly changing degrees in temperature between us, from blistering heat to sub zero cold. This was why it couldn’t work… We were doomed for failure.
“You’re right.” He whispered. “I’ll go.”
He backed away, toward the elevator. I looked down and sighed deeply, even after all the pain I didn’t want him to leave. Not like this.
“Why are you here?” I whispered watching him move away slowly. He stopped and looked up at me.
“You said you wouldn’t run away from me.” he murmured. “But you did, and you are.”
His voice was still weak, and he was still slouched over. He was cowering away and despite everything… I still wanted him to open up. Seeing him broken pained me deeply.
I let go of the suitcase, laying the dress across the top, and then folded my arms. “That was before.” I explained.
“Before what?” he replied.
Before everything… Before my world was turned inside out and upside down. Before I’d let myself love someone who couldn’t love me back.
“Before I fell in love with you Tobias.” I replied, opening my heart once more, hoping that this would be the time he opened up right back. “Before I let myself get in too deep.”
His eyes locked with mine, they were surprisingly soft. He stepped forward, closing the distance between us a fraction. I was at risk of losing it all, his gaze unarmed me. I was still his, no matter what I said or where I went. He would always have a hold on me.
“But you ran to Jimmy.” He murmured.
I frowned, confused about how he had deduced that I had run to Jimmy. I shook my head and took a step back. “What do you mean?”
“The other night, when you ran out on dinner… I came out after you. I saw you… with him, you left with him.” He whispered his face was blank, he was looking through me now, rather than looking at me. I shook my head. Tobias had come out after me? I felt a smile cross my lips even though I fought to keep it back.
“You followed after me?” I replied.
“Of course I did.” he frowned. “Ruby, I was scared… I pushed you away. I realized what I was doing after you pointed it out. I wanted to apologise, but then you were with him.”
He stood up straight and shoved his hands into the pockets of his suit pants. “Then Chris called about 1am, He was on guard and he was worried because you hadn’t returned. He wanted to check if you were with me.”
My heart stopped and I swallowed back a ball of errant emotion.
“You think I was with Jimmy?” I replied.
“Weren’t you?” he replied, he spoke with a kind of desperation I was surprised to hear from him. Like he was begging me to tell he was wrong.
I just shook my head in response and pointed inside. “You should come in.”
We needed to talk, to clear the air before I left. I couldn’t live my life wondering what if, and it seemed like he couldn’t either. Tobias listened, and walked toward my front door. Once he stepped inside I closed the door behind him and locked it. We walked into the lounge and sat down on opposite ends of the couch from one another, the distance acted as an imaginary trench, dividing us.
“Jimmy worked on Saturday, After he finished for the night, he saw me… upset in the street and I guess he wanted to cheer me up.” I explained. “We had pizza, and then I booked into a hotel room… alone. I was too scared to go home that night.”
“So you didn’t sleep with Jimmy?” he whispered softly.
“Of course not.” I retorted, offended he thought I could just forget him and everything we’d shared just like that. “I couldn’t just brush love off and move on to the next person.”
Tobias frowned. He looked down at his hands and balled them into fists so tight his knuckles whitened. “I was kind of like that, brushing people off and moving on… before I met you anyway.”
“So Louisa is special then?” I shot back. “She isn’t just another meaningless notch.”
“Louisa?” He murmured, he sounded confused.
“I can’t have been a coincidence that two days after you told me what she’d offered you walk into work with her first thing in the morning. You asked me to make coffee because you didn’t have time… and then today… she offered you dinner…” I stopped talking, my voice breaking under the heartache. Did he really need me to spell it out?
Tobias let out an amused chuckle, and lifted his head, locking my eyes with his once more. He was laughing at me? After everything I had admitted about my feelings for him, he thought this was funny? I shook my head.
“Why the hell is you sleeping with Louisa Taylor funny.”
He smiled and reached forward, outstretching his hand enough to graze mine. I pulled it back, away from his searing touch.
“Because we’ve both got our wires crossed and assumed the worst.” He stopped and let out a shaky breath. “I didn’t sleep with her.” he murmured. “And I never had any intention of sleeping with her.”
“But you said...” my voice trailed off. I couldn’t breath, or focus… I needed air.
“I said what I did because I was scared. truth is I didn’t know about her proposition until I arrived for the dinner meeting at her apartment. I was naive, caught off guard by what she was suggesting, but I never even contemplated saying yes.”
I tried to ignore the rush of warmth that encircled my heart while confusion racked my brain. She had been in for two meetings. She had basically agreed to becoming a client,she just had to sign the contract. If he hadn’t slept with her, then why was he about to gain her business?
“Turns out declining her impressed her.” he replied, answering my unasked question. “The reason I declined her even more so.”
“The reason?” I whispered.
Tobias eyes danced and he smiled again and “You.” He breathed out.
His eyes cut through my confused exterior exposing my vulnerable heart. I furrowed my brow and bit my lip.
“Me?” I mouthed.
“I mentioned that I was seeing someone, even though you and I were off, It just felt wrong. Then, on monday morning, she saw you.The way we looked at one another apparently clued her in. She asked me and I... couldn’t deny it.”
“I know, baby... I know. I’ve been unfair on you, and I’d understand if you want nothing to do with me ever again.
The way he said baby, sent chills up my spine. He hadn’t used a term of endearment like that before and I didn’t know what it meant. All I knew is that what I wanted didn’t factor into the situation. This was about what I needed, what we needed. I needed to be loved back and he needed to learn how to let down his walls. I knew he still wanted me, and I wanted him, but without love it was just lust, and that wasn’t enough for either of us. It seemed we were always going to end back in the same place… at an impasse divided by an imaginary trench where the shadows were filled with a darkness Tobias didn’t seem to be able to share and a love for him that I couldn’t stop.