On our way to his place, Ben fills me in on Aaron’s plan. He tells me that his brother will be gone for a few days to take care of the problem. We won’t have to worry about him or our safety because – as he said – he has friends too that will keep an eye on this Jackson-guy. And even though I’m still a little worried about this whole leverage-thing, I’m more concerned about Noah.
When we finally arrive at Ben’s apartment, we drop down on his couch, and I lean against him when he wraps his arms around me. I rest my head on his chest and relax when I hear his steady heartbeat.
“How are you?” Ben asks as he gently strokes my hair.
“Tense,” I answer and tighten my grip on him.
“I’m here for you, Princess,” Ben murmurs into my neck. “I’ll make sure nothing happens to you.”
I grimace. “Is it bad that I’m more worried about the meeting with my ex than about what Aaron said?” I pull back from our embrace and look at Ben. “Seeing him again will be dreadful.” I frown. “That reminds me; I have to call Lauren.”
I sit up and grab my phone from the coffee table. I dial Lauren’s number and sigh with relief when she picks up right away. “Lauren, hey!”
“Hey, Amy! How are you?” Hearing her cheerful voice calms my nerves a little.
“Well, I’ve been better, to be honest. Listen – I – uhm – I need your help,” I stammer nervously. Ben takes my hand, and I turn to him. He gives me an encouraging smile, and again, I relax a little more.
“Of course. What’s going on?” Lauren asks.
I take a deep breath. “My ex is in town and wants to meet with me. Would you mind coming over to my apartment? I could use some support.”
Lauren gasps.“Damn! Yeah, of course. When?”
“Tomorrow afternoon at around 3 maybe? I’ll tell him to come over to my place.”
“Sure thing, honey. I’ll be there.”
“Thanks, Lauren. See you tomorrow.”
I end the call, and after I’ve sent Noah a text with all the details, I lean back into the cushions of the couch with a deep sigh. “They’ll both be at my place tomorrow afternoon.”
Ben nods. “Are you sure you don’t want me to be there?”
I shake my head. “No, I don’t. Maybe he’ll feel a little threatened if my new leanly muscled boyfriend is there too when I give him a piece of my mind.”
Ben laughs out loud, and I can’t help but join in. He pulls me into a hug again, and we lie back on the couch. I close my eyes and sigh. “I’m sorry I haven’t told you anything about that part of my past yet.”
“It’s okay, Princess. Let’s not talk about it anymore. I know it stresses you out.”
“Thanks,” I whisper as I get comfortable lying on top of him. Ben’s hands on my body and his distinctive masculine scent have a calming effect on me, and I feel the tension ease more and more.
After a few moments, Ben starts stroking my back, and his hand wanders farther down until it rests on my ass. And suddenly, I feel how he slowly pulls up my dress.
“What are you doing?” I ask with a low chuckle.
“Hm, maybe trying to distract you?” He pulls the dress father up until he can slide his hand into my panties and squeeze my ass. “Is it working?”
“Hm, maybe,” I moan softly as I move my hand under his shirt and stroke his chest. I lift my head to find his lips, and as soon as his mouth takes possession of mine, my mind goes completely blank. His touch, his scent, the sounds he’s making – that’s all that matters now. And when our clothes hit the floor and he enters my body, I once again marvel at all the things he makes me feel.
Even though we’ve been together like this many times, it feels different today. This is no longer about being connected only physically. There’s been a strong and deep bond between us from the beginning, but what was more like infatuation at first, has evolved into something much deeper. The need to be with him is no longer mainly physical – it’s become an all-consuming need.
I haven’t admitted it to myself yet, but he’s become the most important person in my life. Ben is my rock, the one place where I feel safe. He’s my everything.
And I have completely and utterly fallen in love with him.
When I wake up the next morning, I feel entirely exhausted. The night before, we didn’t talk or do much anymore, but my mind was racing with thoughts about today. I hardly slept, and if at all, I had terrible dreams.
Before I even open my eyes, I know the spot next to me is empty. I stretch and yawn before I get up and follow the scent of freshly brewed coffee into the kitchen, where Ben is preparing breakfast. When he notices me, he looks at me with his eyebrows drawn together. “Hey! How are you?”
I shrug and grimace as I pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down at the table. “Not so great. I didn’t sleep too well.”
Ben snorts. “Not too well? If you slept at all, you were tossing and turning. Amy, I’m not leaving you alone with this guy today. It freaks me out to see you like this.”
I look at him with wide eyes. I knew it wasn’t a good night, but I didn’t think it was as bad as Ben describes it. “Fuck! But Ben–”
“No but. I’ll stay with you.” He crosses his arms in front of his chest and narrows his eyes at me. “You don’t have to talk about anything beforehand, but I’m not leaving you.”
I bite my lip and lower my gaze. My chest feels tight from the conflicting emotions that rage inside me. While I feel relieved he assures me of his support, I dread not only the meeting with my ex, but also Ben’s reaction to my past. Because all of a sudden, I’m not too sure anymore that he’ll want to be with me after he finds out the truth.
I was restless and tense the whole day, and while I couldn’t wait for it all to be over, time passed way too quickly. When Ben and I arrive at my apartment in the early afternoon, Lauren is already waiting for us in front of my door.
“Hey! You’re early,” I tell her as I hug her tight.
“I wanted to see how you’re doing,” she says with a frown after she eyed me up and down. “Seriously, you look like shit.” She looks at Ben. “Hey! I didn’t know you were gonna be here too.”
I sigh. “He insisted on watching the drama.”
Ben rolls his eyes. “You should have seen her. She’s a nervous wreck,” he tells Lauren.
We walk into my apartment, and while I get some drinks from the kitchen, I hear Ben and Lauren talk. “Do you know what happened between them?” Lauren asks.
“No,” Ben answers. “All I know is that he’s Amy’s ex and obviously an ass.”
I join them in the living room and put the drinks on the coffee table. “Could we stop talking about this? I’m tense enough as it is.”
And that’s what we do. Both Lauren and Ben try to distract me until there’s a knock on my door at 3pm sharp. We all exchange one last glance before I get up with my heart pounding in my chest. I take one last deep breath and slowly open my front door, which takes me every bit of courage I can muster.
My breath hitches in my throat when I finally lift my gaze and my eyes meet Noah’s. He looks just like I remember him. His dark blonde hair is still neatly cut, his facial features that I once found so attractive are still the same, and those brown eyes still seem to be looking right through me. But what used to cause a pleasant tingling, sends an icy shiver down my spine.
Not even the smile he gives me can hide the fact that nothing is left of the love we once shared.
He clears his throat. “Hey. It’s nice to see you.”
I narrow my eyes at him, and with a simple “Hey”, I open the door all the way. He walks past me and waits for me to lead the way.
When we enter the living room, he stops in his tracks and shoots a confused look at Ben. He had expected Lauren, but not another man. I point to them. “Noah, this is Lauren – and that’s Ben.”
He gives them a short nod, and while Lauren tries to smile, Ben gives him a look that is a mixture of disgust, hatred, and annoyance.
So here we are, in my tiny living room, staring at each other silently. My nerves are stretched to the max, and the tension is palpable.
Then Noah turns to me with a frown. “Amy, I know you don’t want to talk to me alone – but couldn’t we–”
I shake my head vehemently. “No. Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of them. I don’t know how well I’ll deal with you here.”
Noah takes a step towards me. “Oh, Amy; I never wanted it to come to this.”
I glare at him and back away. It won’t be long before the tension inside me causes me to explode. “Why are you here?” I ask through gritted teeth.
He takes a deep breath. “You know this meeting is long overdue, and I know you’re still waiting for my signature.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Ben’s questioning look. Does he understand what Noah is talking about? Shit, I should have told him that first thing.
Noah continues talking. “I wanted to see you. Amy, I miss you. I want to give it another try. Please, don’t throw away what we had.”
I stare at him open-mouthed. “Excuse me? What exactly do you think we had that is worth fighting for? I can’t even remember what we had before it all went down the drain.”
He lifts his hand and wants to touch me, but he thinks better of it when he sees my glare. “But I do,” he says softly as if to calm me. “I remember what it was like between us before you slept with my brother.”
I gasp. “How dare you? How dare you throw that in my face? You are the one who destroyed everything! You had been fucking my best friend for months when that happened. I thought we were over!” I furiously clench my fists as I yell at him with tears in my eyes. Just like I feared, seeing Noah is killing me. All the pain resurfaces; all the memories that were buried deep come crashing down on me.
My gaze falls on Lauren, who covers her mouth with her hands. I know she had her theories about my past, but she probably didn’t expect this. I avoid looking at Ben because I’m afraid of what I will read in his eyes, so I look back at Noah, who looks at me with a pained expression. I have to remind myself that I can’t trust him and that his intentions aren’t good. He takes another step towards me, but I hold up my hand. “Don’t come too close.”
He grimaces. “Please, just listen to me. What happened with Rachel was a mistake; I regret that so much.”
“That comes a little too late. You cheated on me for months. Over and over again, you lied to me when you promised everything would be fine. And then, in my darkest hour, you took refuge in her arms instead of staying by my side. When I needed you most, you preferred to fuck Rachel while I was in the hospital after losing OUR baby!”
Lauren gasps while no sound comes from Ben. I don’t even want to think about how he must feel right now. I’ve kept so many secrets from him that I’m afraid he’ll never forgive me.
My gaze is fixed on Noah, and I take a deep breath before I tell him through clenched teeth, “Get out of here. I never want to see you again.”
Noah sighs deeply. “Amy, please. I don’t want to talk through our lawyer.” His voice gets louder. “I don’t want to sign the damn divorce papers!”
As Noah’s words ring in my ear, my heart stops beating momentarily. My whole body trembles when I think about what Ben must be going through after learning the truth that I kept from him all this time. I draw in a shaky breath and close my eyes. When I open them again and I finally look at Ben, I feel like I’m falling apart all over again, but this time, I only have myself to blame. “I’m so sorry.” My voice cracks as I break into sobs, but Ben just stares back at me with a vacant expression
I flinch when I feel a hand on my arm – Noah’s hand. I gasp as I turn back to him and at the same time, slap him hard. I have to admit it feels good when he recoils holding his cheek, but it doesn’t ease my pain.
My eyes meet Ben’s again. His face still doesn’t show any emotion, which makes this all the worse. Breathing feels difficult, and my whole body starts to shake. The room suddenly seems to be closing in on me, and I need to get out of here. So without another word, I turn around and get out of my apartment, away from the pain that is threatening to crush me.