Chapter Twenty Two
Tears rolled down my cheeks, I looked away from tobias, out the window to my right and tried to stem the flow but it was useless. I was an emotional wreck in his presence and it had to end.
“I can’t keep pretending anymore. I don’t want to.”
“I don’t want you to pretend either Ruby.” he replied. “I don’t want to pretend anymore either.”
He moved across the couch, crossing the abyss between us and he picked my hand up with his.
“Ruby. I’m in love with you.”
My heart burned as his admittance engulfed my entire being. The man whose walls I had consistently failed to bring down loved me?
“But all those times, when I told you how I felt...” I stopped. “You said nothing. I thought...”
“I was scared. I’m still scared.” he replied. “I’ve never felt these feelings before. But from the moment you walked into my life I’ve been at odds with myself and everything I’ve ever known.”
I listened as he spoke, aware that despite his fear, he was opening up, letting me in and in that moment I was all in.
“You see, sex was always on my terms. No touching, no romance, nothing intimate at all. It was a means to an end. A way to rid myself of a feeling I felt guilty for having in the first place.” his voice was low and he looked up at me with oversized almost innocent eyes. “Then I met you.” he whispered. “The moment I saw you, I knew I was in trouble. I wanted to make love to you against my desk for cripes sake. I’m not used to thinking or feeling that way, like I said before you, sex was a means to an end… literally. I didn’t fantasize, and I sure as heck didn’t want to make love. But you distracted me, you woke me up.”
“You were mean to me the moment you saw me.” I whispered, remembering that first day vividly. He’d told me I’d be gone in a week.
“I wanted you to run.” he replied. “But you refused, which only made me want you more. Ruby, like I said, I don’t touch women more than I have to in bed, and they sure as hell don’t touch me… but with you, I couldn’t stop myself or you and I didn’t want to.”
“So we were different than the others, what we had…” I stopped and let out a soft sigh. “Have?” I whispered correcting myself.
My feelings weren’t unrequited?
“We were on another level Ruby. In fact...” he gulped. “That day, when I kissed you... It was the first day I’d ever kissed anyone. Ever.”
A smile crept across my face. Despite the fact Tobias had been with many women, I was his first kiss. I lifted my free hand to his face. “I was really your first kiss?”
He nodded, curving his cheek into my hand.
“Why?” I whispered.
Tobias closed his eyes and sucked in a breath. He tensed immediately. The darkness within him wasn’t without reason and the thought terrified me.
“I don’t want you think of me differently.” He whispered, his voice meek and unlike him
“You have to trust me Tobias. I love you.”
He sat up straight and caught my hand with his as it fell from his face. He nodded and opened his mouth.
“When my mom died Dad was really busy with the business, and he couldn’t be around so much.” Tobias sounded lost, like talking about this was taking him back there. “So when I was 6 he hired a nanny and at first she was really nice, I felt safe, cared for…”
He stopped and took a long slow deep breath. He let go of my hands and pulled me into a hug, resting my head on his chest “But then her husband died when I was seven... and she had a mental breakdown. One that no one saw, not until it was too late anyway. I remember it vividly, the day everything changed even though I’ve tried to bury it time and time again. I was in my room playing with my spiderman action figures when she comes and tells me that she needs to give me something all Mom’s give to their sons, and of course I listened, because for the better part of a two years she had treated me like I was her son.”
I didn’t like where this was going. I looked up at Tobias, surprised to find his normally cool exterior fractured. Tears filled his eyes. He looked down at me and kissed my forehead.
“Except she did things, things I didn’t understand. Things I can’t even explain.” He stopped speaking as his voice shook. “I thought I was meant to do it, even though it felt wrong, even though I wanted to run away until she left me alone.”
The revelation pierced my core, splicing my heart like a ninja’s sword. Suddenly things about Tobias I hadn’t been able to understand made a little more sense. My heart broke for him and the childhood he had lost and the ramifications it had caused his life so far.
“Tobias.” I whispered through a veil of tears. I held on to him tightly, I wanted protect him from his past, even though I knew I couldn’t stop what had already happened.
“It continued for a while... Until I knew it was wrong for sure. I felt stupid, but I told my Dad… who had her arrested and charged. She didn’t deny anything…” He scoffed.
I hated the woman who had damaged Tobias so massively. I had never hated anyone before, not even Ben… But I hated her… someone I had never met so deeply It hurt my insides to even think of her. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the pain it brought Tobias.
“Time passed and Dad told me to move on, forget it ever happened and live my life. But I was a mess. I had panic attacks and nightmares for years. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I found a way to compress everything, to shut it all out. I closed off, became cold. Stopped caring.”
He had been so young when he closed off, still a child. A lost child filled with a pain he couldn’t compute.
“But, I still had a libido, one I hated, but I still needed relief. I just couldn’t let anyone touch me or get close at all. So I hired hookers.” He stopped and looked at me, as if he was gauging my response. My heart hurt that he had been through so much. But I wasn’t jealous, nor could I judge. He had tried to deal with pain he couldn’t comprehend in ways that seemed to make sense. “Over time I let myself bring women home, I found that just being who I was, was enough to make girls look at me. Of course, on some level they were all hoping to get pregnant or make me fall for them, but all I wanted was to get off, rid myself of these feelings I hated and that’s what I did and have done ever since. Over and over and over again. I guess I was running on a really shitty autopilot.”
he stopped and lifted my chin, placing a kiss on my lips. “Am I overwhelming you?”
He had smashed his walls down and let me in. I couldn’t lie he had been through so much more than I ever could have anticipated, but I wasn’t overwhelmed… I was thankful he trusted me enough to let me in. My eyes filled with tears of pain for him, but I shook my head.
“No.” I whispered. “Not at all.”
He nodded then continued.
“A few years before Dad died, he made me go to the shrink, to assure him I was of sound mind and able to take over the business should he pass away. The guy you’ve heard me talk to on the phone… Doctor Gertison. For a long time I pretended I was okay, and although he told my father I was capable of taking over the business. We both knew I was still fucked up.” he stopped, smiled slightly then continued. “he spent years trying to help me, but it wasn’t until you came along that we could work through any of it.”
“So the nightmares. they were because of me?” I struggled to reign in the guilt. I’d helped Tobais to feel again… the good and the bad.
Tobias clenched his jaw he looked down. “Everything is because of her.” He replied. “I’d be a different person if she hadn’t….” He stopped and let out a shallow breath. “But they started after we… after I let my guard down… even just a little bit around you. I guess there wasn’t enough room for the pain I was hiding and the love I was feeling.”
My heart dropped. I’d hurt him, he hadn’t been ready for my touch or love and now he was suffering.
“Tobias, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“Baby, you helped heal me.” he soothed. “at least enough to get me to see that the way I was living wasn’t really living at all.”
“But I dredged up all those memories.” My eyes watered, and my heart hurt.
“Memories I needed to face in order to move on. Don’t you get it Ruby... I wasn’t ever the lion protecting the territory... I was the territory.”
“And your pain was the lion.” I whispered, finally understanding his analogy
He nodded, smiling. “And your love was the lioness and only one could win.”
“You. Ruby always you.” He pulled me in so tight I could barely breath, but I didn’t care. “I’m scared of being in love, but I’m more scared of a life without you in it.”
My heart raced. The moment I had been hoping for was here and while it was laced with the sadness of the trauma of Tobias’ past, it was full of hope for the future… our future.
“This is really happening right? I haven’t slipped into some kind of broken heart delusion have I?” I whispered while looking up at Tobias. he smiled and cupped my face.
“Tell me if this feels real.”
His lips connected with mine, and for the first time he let himself go completely. I could feel the love exuding from him and flowing through me. My heart raced thumping hard against the walls of my breastbone. This was real, our love was real.
“You told me that first day you started working for me that I was going to need to take my chances on you.” He whispered.
“Yes, I remember.” I smiled.
“Can you take a chance on me?”