Epic meltdown no. 274. Not that I keep track. But what a frustrating déjà vu. I sit in front of my laptop and stare at the screen, and the words stare back at me, mockingly so. They don’t say: “Good job, Kaitlyn; well written“. No, they scream at me: “What on earth do you think you’re doing?!”.
Yeah, I will fail—big time. And my parents will kill me. This writing thing was the worst idea ever. Either I will never finish this book before the deadline, or it will be the biggest flop in the history of book releases.
I keep staring at this sentence that makes no sense. Why doesn’t–
I flinch so hard when I hear my name that I scream and throw the pen I was holding in my hand at whoever dared to show up in the kitchen, where I’ve been trying to finish this stupid chapter all morning.
“Whoa, easy. Such unnecessary violence. I come in peace.” Aaron grins at me, holding up his hands in defense.
I cover my chest with my hand. “Dammit, Aaron. Why do you sneak up on me and almost give me cardiac arrest?” I take a deep breath to calm down my racing heart. “How did you get in here?”
He waves his left hand, and only now do I see what he’s holding between his thumb and index finger. “Turns out my dad does have a key,” he chuckles.
I narrow my eyes at him. “But why? Why don’t you knock on the door like normal people?”
“I did! You didn’t answer the door or your phone.”
I sigh and frown. “Yeah, I turned it off so I could concentrate on writing. Oh, what time is it?”
“11.30, as we agreed. Are you ready to have lunch?”
I shake my head with wide eyes. “No. I can’t go out now. I need to work on this.”
“No, Lady Bug, what you need is to take a break. Get out of the house, breathe in some fresh air, enjoy the sunshine on your face. And food, you need food.”
“No, Aaron, you don’t get it. I can’t. I can’t fail. I can’t stop now.” I stare at him, taking in uneven, shallow breaths. Shit, I’m close to hyperventilating.
With a sigh, Aaron walks over and crouches down next to me. He gently places his hand on my thigh, which I hardly register because I’m too busy gasping for air. “Shh,” he whispers. “It’s all good; don’t panic. Cup your hands in front of your mouth and try to take slow breaths.”
I do as he tells me, and indeed, after a few moments, my breathing calms down. With one last deep sigh, I close my eyes and concentrate on my heartbeat, which is less erratic, normal even. But all of a sudden, I become aware of Aaron’s hand, which still rests on my thigh with only the thin material of my shorts separating his skin from mine. And when he gently squeezes my leg, my heart rate picks up again. My eyes fly open, and I make the mistake of looking right at him. The softness of his touch matches his warm smile and the sympathetic expression on his face, and an unexpected pull towards him makes my heart do a 180 and skip a couple of beats. I’m sure I’ve never been this close to heart failure.
“All better?” he asks. I can only nod. I bite my lips and finally tear my gaze away from him.
“Great. Shut down your computer and let’s go. I’m starving.” He gets up and waits for me to do the same.
“No,” he interrupts me. “I won’t take no for an answer. You need to eat. And apparently, you need to take your mind off this. Believe me; I know what I’m talking about.”
I take in a long, slow breath before I give in and close my laptop. Aaron might have a point. I won’t accomplish anything in the state I’m in.
“Thank you, Aaron. You were right; I needed this,” I say with a deep sigh as we take a stroll through Central Park after our lunch.
He glances at me with a hint of a smile on his face. “See?” he says with a chuckle. “Good thing you listened to me.”
I turn my head to look at Aaron. His gaze is directed straight ahead again, and the tension that’s coming off him is almost palpable. It was only after I had some food that I took my first good look at him. He has this glaze in his eyes, and there are prominent circles under them; the exhaustion is evident on his face.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I ask him to break the sudden silence that settled between us.
He gives me a questioning look. “Excuse me?”
“Do you want to talk about it?” I repeat. “Whatever it is that’s bothering you. I know something is up. Don’t keep it in. Vent.”
He stops walking and looks at me with his hands buried in the pockets of his shorts. “It’s nothing,” he finally says. “Well–” He sighs heavily before he continues. “I can’t tell you any details. It’s this work thing. I’m sorry; it just distracts me a little.” He gives me a forced smile. “Let’s talk about something else.”
I nod. “Okay.”
We continue on our way, and I try to think of something to talk about. “Hey, um, can I ask you a question?”
I clear my throat. “Why did your dad warn me about you?”
He raises his eyebrows at me. “He did? What did he tell you?”
I shrug. “Nothing really, except that I shouldn’t let you wrap me around your finger.”
He laughs out loud. “He’s such a hypocrite.” He shakes his head and rolls his eyes. “My mom died in a car accident when I was three, and it took Dad a while to get over her death.” He pauses and takes in a long breath.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I say with a frown. I knew Philip was a widower, but I didn’t know any details about his wife’s passing.
“Thanks,” Aaron mumbles. “Once my father was over his grief, he was a player. But he changed. Jannie seems to have a good influence on him.” He sighs. “Dad thinks I’m even worse than him.”
“Are you?” I ask with a frown. “Worse than your dad, I mean.”
He snorts. “No. I don’t play anyone. I would never raise false hopes in a girl; they know what they’re getting.”
“So you’re not the long-term commitment kind of guy?”
“Well, settling down isn’t on my list, to be honest. What about you? Why haven’t you mentioned a boyfriend yet?”
“Because there is none,” I say with a deep sigh. “My last boyfriend dumped me last year because I was too boring for his liking.”
“He what?” Aaron laughs.
“He didn’t put it like that, of course. But I know it was because I’d rather stay at home than go to parties, or I’d prefer a good book over going to the movies. And I wasn’t experimental enough,” I add using air quotes for emphasis.
Aaron stares at me, blinking. “Experimental?”
“Yeah,” I mumble, feeling a little embarrassed all of a sudden. “Extraordinary locations, weird moves or kinks, and dirty talk... oh my goodness.” I bury my flushed face in my hand. Why on earth did I start this conversation?
“Aw, look at you, all shy. But you don’t need special locations or moves to make sex more exciting.” He gives me a mischievous smile, and I almost expect him to offer me a taste of what he means. But he has mercy on me and just chuckles at my flustered state. Damn, why does he affect me like this?
And why can’t I stop thinking about his comment and what that might imply?
Aaron shakes his head with a laugh. “Come on, Hot Stuff. I’ll buy you some ice cream; I think you need to cool down.”
“Kaitlyn, hey!” Amy greets me with a wide smile as I join her and her friend Lauren for lunch at a cozy little sandwich place in the city.
It’s been two days since my awkward conversation with Aaron about certain bedroom activities, and it’s become more apparent how much he likes to tease, not refraining from using sexual innuendos when I least expect it.
But today, there won’t be any of that as it will be the first day since we met where we won’t see each other, which evokes mixed feelings in me. It’s a little disturbing how used to him and his attention I’ve already gotten. With his good looks and his charming smile, he sure stirs up my hormones, so a day without him might help me regain my composure.
“Sit,” Amy tells me. “Kaitlyn, this is Lauren. Lauren, this is Kaitlyn.”
“Nice to meet you,” I say as I shake her hand.
“You too,” Lauren responds with a smile. “Amy told me you currently live next door to her father-in-law?”
I nod. “Yes, I’m house-sitting for my aunt over this summer while she’s away.”
“Did you settle in all right?” Amy asks after we’ve ordered our food.
I nod and smile. “How could I not with such a warm welcome?”
Amy rolls her eyes but smiles too. “You mean with Philip begging for food and cookies all the time?”
I laugh. “Yeah, I need to watch what I feed him, though, or I’ll get in trouble with Aaron again.”
Lauren can’t contain a grin. “In trouble with Aaron? Uh, girl, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of any kind of punishment coming from him.”
“Lauren!” Amy gasps. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’ve heard some crazy stories about him,” Lauren responds with a casual shrug.
Amy narrows her eyes at her friend. “From who?”
“Michelle. Did you know he hooked up with her at your wedding?”
“No, I didn’t know that. Damn, he’s never gonna–” Amy stops mid-sentence when she sees the look on my face. I’ve been silently watching their exchange with my lips pressed together, blinking rapidly. Amy’s eyes widen. “Oh, goodness. I’m so sorry! Is there something going on between you two? I know you’ve spent some time together these past days.”
“What? No!” I say maybe a little too forcefully. “We only met a few days ago. He showed me around the city, but nothing more. And so far, he’s been nothing but nice.”
“Oh, I bet,” Lauren laughs. “He’s a charmer. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And I should stop talking now,” she concludes, probably because Amy glares at her.
“I think it’s great that you’re spending some time with him,” Amy says. “Maybe that’ll help him take his mind off whatever is stressing him out. He seemed a little on edge the other day.”
“Really?” I ask. So it wasn’t just me who imagined things.
“Yeah. Apparently, he came over in the middle of the night to talk to Ben, and the next morning, he left hurriedly. Ben didn’t want to say why he was there in the first place or where he had to rush off to. Maybe I scared him off when I walked into the kitchen wearing only one of Ben’s shirts,” she adds with a sigh.
Lauren snickers. “Uhh, Aaron probably liked that.”
Amy rolls her eyes. “Lauren, stop!” she groans. “I’m sorry,” she continues with a smile directed at me. “We shouldn’t talk about boring stuff. Subject change. Tell us a little more about yourself. Phil mentioned you’re a writer?”
I’d love to tell her that this is anything but boring. Hearing what they have to say about Aaron piques my curiosity because the Aaron I met and spent a little more time with seems to be a completely different person. Well, not completely. I admit he is flirtatious and charming, but it feels like the picture Amy and Lauren paint of him doesn’t do him justice. But my first impression might be wrong because his charms cloud my senses.
Now the question is: who is the real Aaron?