One foot in front of the other. That’s all I could tell myself to keep moving. I was walking from my car looking up at the Season’s Hotel where my brother and his fiancé were holding their rehearsal dinner for their wedding in three days. By now the rest of the group we either already here or running later than I was. My nerves were terrible and my anxiety reaching a new high but I had to go. Inside would be my brother Cody, his fiancé Allison, both sets of parents and the rest of the wedding party. I was truly excited for my brother. Not to mention Allison. She’s been my best friend since fifth grade. Allison and Cody have been together since high school. Cody was a senior and Aly and I were sophomores when they started dating. We were now twenty four and Cody was twenty six. They’d been together for eight years. It was about time they finally tied the knot.
The wedding itself wasn’t the reason I was anxious. Cody’s best man was his long time best friend Axel. Axel also happened to be my ex-boyfriend and the only person to ever break my heart. I haven’t seen him since their band Devastate got their first tour three years ago while I was in college. They had a show scheduled in Boston where I went to school. My brother gave me a few tickets and backstage passes so my friends and I could go see them play. It was amazing. I’d always loved to hear my brother play. The other guys were great but I would always be Cody’s biggest fan. My brother was an amazing guitarist. Axel was the vocals for the group. Listening to their music had always been bittersweet for me. Of course I could listen to Cody play for hours but it never came without hearing Axel’s bone chilling voice. That voice has haunted me for the last six years since we broke up and I left for college.
Today I had to be face to face with him. He was the sweetest nightmare one could have but also the most damaging. The games he plays are excruciatingly painful for my heart. No matter the pain, I’ve always played his game so I could get an inch closer to him before he’d leave me again and break me a little more. This time was different. This time I’ve had three whole years to harden my heart from the only man whom I’d given it to. I had put up a wall strong enough to protect what was left and he would get nowhere near it. I’d never let him hurt me again.
As the doors to the hotel swung open I noticed the signs for our dinner party and followed the arrows. Down a hallway and a few turns later I found the room we were in. It looked like almost everyone was already here when I walked in. Cody stood up and embraced me in a bear hug before kissing my cheek. I turned to find Allison lunging at me. Quickly I recovered catching my best friend who was already tearing up.
“ Ver, I was so worried you wouldn’t show up.” She whispered in my ear.
“Aly, I’d never miss this. Not for anything.” I whispered back.
“I know it sucks and I’m sorry. Cody warned Axel to stay away from you. Tonight will be easy. I promise.” She says before kissing my cheek and wiping her eyes.
I gave Allison the most brilliant smile I could plaster on and turned to face my parents. Dean and Caroline Riley. My parents were amazing, loving people who have always pushed us to follow our dreams. My father could be tough sometimes but was normally a teddy bear. My mother on the otherhand had a temper that far outweighed anyone I had ever met. She was also the sweetest person I knew. She had a heart bigger than life would allow and compassion that flowed into everything she touched. I kissed my parents and made my way to my seat. As the maid of honor, I would be seated next to the best man.
Lucky for me, Axel hadn’t taken his seat yet. I sat down smoothing my dress down and sliding in my chair. There were only two people missing, Lily, a bridesmaid, and Axel. Everyone was talking amongst themselves as I was quietly looking over some new emails for work. I had been typing my boss back an email when the chair next to me moved and I hear him clear his throat. I looked up to see the most gorgeous man I had ever seen staring back at me.
Axel was six foot four and about two hundred pounds of nothing but muscle. He had tattoos that covered most of his arms and his chest unless he had gotten more that I didn’t know about which he probably had. His dark brown hair was shaved closer on the sides and left a little longer on the top. Not too long but just long enough to have that messy ‘just been fucked’ look that was devastatingly sexy. His dark eyes had always been a mystery to me. Sometimes they were brown but more often they looked darker almost black. They gave him that dangerous edge that made women loose it before they could get a word out. He had a strong muscular jaw covered with a day’s worth of stubble and full dusky pink lips. When he smiled he showed off his dimples and killer smile sure to dampen the panties of any woman lucky enough to receive it. Overall he was the picture of perfection and easily the sexiest man in the room.
“It’s good to see you Ver.” Axel said in his deep husky voice, pulling me from my thoughts.
“You too.” I said quickly, my words clipped. I didn’t want to sit next to him let alone speak to him. He was all too close for comfort and too close for me to feel safe.
“I’ve missed you.” He whispered leaning over to me. I rolled my eyes and turned my head, showing him I wasn’t in the mood for his shit. Cody and Axel have been friends for almost fifteen years. Axel’s parents weren’t particularly fond of taking care of him and he quickly became a permanent fixture in my parent’s house. He was the closest thing to a brother Cody ever had and they had always remained close regardless of things between Axel and I. My parents loved him as though he was their own, leaving me to be the odd one out for hating the fact that he was breathing. “Come on baby, we don’t have to ignore each other. Besides, you have to dance with me at the wedding anyway.” He said quiet enough only I could hear.
My head whipped around while my face dropped, unbelieving what I just heard. “What did you just say?” I asked.
“I said we don’t have to ignore each other. We do still have to dance together at the wedding.” He said his tone way to calm for how I was feeling.
I didn’t know whether to slap him or laugh in his face. There was no way I’d be dancing with him at my brother’s wedding. I could easily change partners with another girl and dance with a different band member. He must be out of his mind if he thought I’d let him get his hands on me. Even I knew there was no going back once he got that close. “Like hell we are” I muttered.
Axel laughed. “Just wait babe. I will dance with you and you won’t tell me no.” He said with an outright smile.
“Go to hell Axel.” I said with an easy grin making its way across my face. I wouldn’t let him rattle me this time. There was no chance we would ever work. We’ve tried plenty of times. Sure I loved him and most likely always would despite my best efforts but I would never go back to him. Not to be loved and cherished for a few weeks or months until he was tired again and left me alone just as he’d done before.
Looking over to Axel I could tell he wasn’t angry. His face was a mask of calm while his eyes were burning with challenge and desire. This look I’ve seen plenty of times while I was dating Axel. It may have actually been my favorite, only because what followed was always incredible, but not this time. Axel will have to keep those looks to himself. I was no longer in the running for who could warm his bed and he knew that.
“I wasn’t asking love.” He grinned.
Who the hell did he think he was? I wasn’t asking. And calling me love like he used to when he pretended to love me. What was he trying to do? He was trying to mind fuck me with old pet names and being cute. I could see right through his bullshit. I knew how this would play out and I refused to get hurt again. “That’s not happening and don’t call me love. You lost that right.” I snapped and his face fell. Quickly I turned my head back to the conversations around me and tuned out Axel sitting beside me. I wouldn’t let him get to me. Not today or any day in the future. This girl was officially done loving a man who didn’t love her.