Makenna entered her apartment, barely aware of how she even made it home. She was still unbelievably sick to her stomach and had to stop twice to relieve it. There was absolutely nothing left inside her now. Nothing at all. She collapsed face first onto the couch, and it was then when the tears came. The assault came so suddenly that it nearly took her breath. Crazily, she began to blame herself. What had she done… or not done…to make this happen? What had she said…or not said? But her senses came to her almost as abruptly as her tears. She had done nothing wrong in this deal. She had loved Sirri openly…freely, and had thoroughly given him her heart. Now it was nothing but a shattered mess.
Slowly, she got herself together and brought her body up to a sitting position. Another wave of nausea attacked her with vengeance. What was up with the stomach pyrotechnics? She wasn't a person who threw up easily. Wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt, she sat still and breathed deeply until the sick feeling went away. It was the shock. The upset. Once the initial pain released her, her stomach would go back to its normal iron entity status. It just wasn't the time to fall apart.
Makenna stood and had every intention of taking herself to bed, but a familiar discreet knock on the front door thwarted her plans. What the hell was he thinking? What did he want to do? Twist the knife planted so firmly in her back a couple dozen turns? She wasn't surprised to hear the knock, she had actually expected it. She knew she should ignore it, but Sirri Amandurre was both patient and quite persistent. Besides, there was one thing she had left to do. Tonight would offer the perfect opportunity, because she never intended to see him again.
She opened the door and faced Sirri. He was fully dressed, but still sad and pitiful. Another fleeting sympathetic thought entered her mind, but she pushed it out. If she released her hold on her composure now, Sirri would win the war. And Makenna was tired of losing this kind of battle. Not this time. "I'm glad you're here," she said evenly. Without giving him time to react, she removed the engagement ring and held it out. "Your ring, Sirri. Good bye."
He mutely reached out and took the ring. It was Makenna's cue to slam the door in his face, but he reacted quickly and caught the door before it could shut him out of her life. "Would you please talk to me?"
She turned on him and glared at him hatefully. "Why? So you can make excuses for your cheating? I told you that nothing you say will fix this."
Tentatively, he entered the room and closed the door behind him. He took it as a good sign. At least she was willing to see him and be near him...for now. He also didn't want the entire complex to witness his humiliation or her devastation. As hurt as she was, he expected her to start swinging at him. "I'm not trying to make excuses for what I did, because there are none. But I wish you would hear me out."
She shook her head and borrowed one of her redneck daddy's favorite sayings: "Wish in one hand and shit in the other. See which gets filled first." She shook her head again. "No. That is one opportunity you do not deserve. What were you going to do, Sirri? Pretend it never happened and then continue your life with me? A life based on lies?" She realized she had begun to cry again. She didn't want him to see her tears, but it was too late.
He longed to hold her, to comfort her, but he dared not move one step toward her. She was right, he didn't deserve it. "I would have told you. I can't lie to you."
She let out a bitter chuckle through her tears. "Bullshit. If I hadn't caught you with her, I never would have known. And that thought terrifies me. I'm glad I saw this now instead of years later as your wife."
Her words killed him, piercing his heart with their jagged edges. Carefully, he stepped forward to close the distance between them. She wasn't receptive and had her arms wrapped tightly about her body. "That's not true, Makenna. I'm not here because you caught me. I'm here because I love you and I want you to listen."
Makenna laughed again, shaking her head in incredulous disbelief. "Is that it? You want to reachout to me now," she said, her words mocking and laced with acid. "You only want to cover your ass. And I believed you loved me up until I saw you tonight. You played me, Sirri, and I fell for it. Like I said, I'm glad I know now before I married you."
"I never played you and I do love you," he declared through clenched teeth. "You don't want to give me a chance to talk to you? You just want to end it? Just like that?"
"Oh. Blame me, huh? I'm not the one who fucked my former spouse, Sirri. I can't trust you, not anymore. I don't enjoy the idea of tossing away two years with you, but what do you expect me to do? Overlook it? Let you slide? I can't, not without an assurance that you won't ever do it again. Since I can't trust you, your assurance would mean nothing. It's over." She made a wide arc around him and walked to the door. She opened it and waited patiently for him to exit. "Good bye, Sirri."
He turned around to face her. He had never seen her like this before and he was the cause. Never had he imagined he would hurt her like this. "I can't make you listen, but you can't tell me how I feel. Whether you believe it or not, I love you, and I'm sorry."
"No sorrier than I," she whispered. "Go, Sirri. Get out. I don't ever want to see you again."
He was inclined not to honor her request. He had the greatest desire to blurt out everything he wanted to say. In the end, he didn't. She was right. He had wronged her, and he deserved her ire. But he refused to give her up. It was true that he was persistent, but he was also stubborn, bullheaded almost. Sirri walked toward the door, but paused close to her trembling body.
Looking down at her, he said, "I'll find a way, Makenna. Know that."
Makenna didn't respond, didn't even meet his gaze. She simply stood solid and firm with the door wide open. She wanted to say so much more, but she was entirely too angry, and her stomach was once again lurching sickly. If she tried to speak, she might vomit all over him. Perhaps it was what she should have done. She didn't flinch when he went out the door and onto the parking lot. As soon as she had the door closed, she made a mad dash for the bathroom.
Mornings at the office were usually the only time Makenna could get any paperwork done before she had to make her afternoon visits to see the children on her caseload. However, on that day, all she could manage was a blank stare at nothing in particular. When she came into work this morning, she immediately went to her office, and closed herself in. She didn't bother speaking to her co-workers or her next door neighbor. Her name was Barb, and she and Makenna usually exchanged banter throughout the morning. Makenna was always griping about a particular client and Barb would listen attentively in her office, laughing at her antics. Not today. Makenna was sullen and muted. Barb had noticed, of course, even going so far as commenting about it, but Makenna wasn't giving over any information. She didn't want to burden her friend with any of her love life issues. Besides, there wasn't a love life anymore.
That thought suddenly made her feel sick again. She buried her face in her hands and wondered when this would pass. Maybe she needed to see a doctor, get something for anxiety. That might do the trick. But nothing could chase out what she had seen in Sirri's bedroom, on the bed where he had made love to her countless times. No pill ever made could wash away those images. She uncovered her face and resumed her blank stare. Maybe she should see her supervisor and ask for the rest of the day off. Yet, it wasn't such a good idea. At least here she had a few distractions. At home, she would see him in every corner of every room. He had left things at her apartment, grooming tools, a toothbrush, and a few articles of clothing. But that wasn't all. His smell was still all over the place, even on the pillow he slept on when he stayed with her. Last night, she had had to throw it into the bathroom just to get his scent out of the room. The action had saddened her greatly. She had literally cried herself to sleep on that note. She had awakened early and spent a good half hour gathering his scattered belongings. She debated with herself for another half hour trying to decide what to do with his stuff. In the end, she had bagged it up and took it outside with her as she left. Without a thought, she tossed the bag into the complex's dumpster. When she got home tonight, she would strip her bed, and toss his pillow. Done and done.
"Tate, Niko Milionis is here."
Makenna jumped visibly at the unexpected intrusion from the intercom on her phone. She then wrinkled her nose in disgust, not only because of who her visitor was, but also at the receptionist's use of her first name. How many times had she told them that she went by 'Makenna' and not 'Tate?' Some people never listened. "Thanks. Tell him I'll be out to get him in a few minutes."
Makenna reached for her purse and dug out a small compact mirror. She peered down at her reflection and noticed that she looked like death warmed over. She didn't give a fuck. It was just a blood sucking attorney. It wasn't as if Johnny Depp or Oded Fehr were awaiting her presence at a dinner party. She actually hadn't expected Niko to appear. He had already blown off several appointments. Why should today be any different? Tucking her compact back into her purse, she stood up and straightened out her wrinkled clothing. Knowing Niko, he would use her sloppiness against her in court.
Just before she entered the threshold between the door and its frame, she heard Barb chatting it up with…the enemy. Did he think he was too good to wait a few minutes? Was that it? Makenna stepped back when she caught sight of the two. Niko was dressed down in baggy jeans, a faded black tee shirt, and had an ugly plaid button down shirt tied about his waist. She also would have bet money that he was wearing combat boots on his feet. Even his normally coiffed hair was messy and unruly. In all the years that she had been exposed to him, she had never seen him dressed like this. He looked like a frat boy on a bender. She didn't doubt he had probably been one years ago in college. Then again, she had never seen him outside of court, either. But no matter what his appearance, his eyes were evermore sparkling with mirth.
"Wow," Niko said casually. "Pardon me, but you look like shit."
Barb quietly excused herself while Makenna took in his words. He really knew how to break the ice, didn't he? Instead of reacting right away as she should have, she simply turned around and walked to her desk. She sat down, watching as he made himself at home in one of her visitor's chairs. She was accustomed to prick asshole Niko, bulldog Niko, even stupid Niko, but juvenile Niko? It was very difficult meshing his multiple personalities. Truly, she was in no mood for his crap today. Please God please. Make this staffing quick and painless.
"Thanks for noticing," Makenna said dryly. "You've got a fecal quality about you, too, if I may say so."
Her words didn't seem to faze him one iota. He sat back in the chair and crossed his legs. "Touché," he said with a crooked smile. "Now that the awkward greetings are out of the way, I suppose I should tell you what I want. Sarah Ann tells me that her case has been ongoing protective service, even before the new baby was born. Do you mind sharing all the case plans you've developed for her since it opened?"
He certainly didn't waste any time. "I'm sorry, Niko, but that's privileged information. She can give you whatever she wants, but I can't."
Niko nodded. "Sounds fair enough. My question is, why pick up the new baby when there have never been any allegations of abuse with regard to him? Sure, her boyfriend has likely beaten her two oldest kids, but not the baby. The baby is his child, and he hasn't laid one finger on him."
"Niko, you're not going to trip me up and make me say or do something I shouldn't."
He shrugged and sighed as if disinterested. "You are so very suspicious of me, aren't you? Your co-workers must have told you some interesting horror stories about me. My only interest is to ensure that Sarah Ann is treated fairly, and that she retains custody of her baby. I could care less what happens to her Neanderthal boyfriend." He leaned forward, clasping his hands before him. "If you won't give me all the case plans, let me look at what you've done since I took over the case. That should give me enough material for court."
"I think I can accommodate you," she said.
"Great. I'll be expecting a package in the mail." He moved suddenly, patting his chest. "Damn. Forgot I was in street clothes today. I don't have a card."
He's fucking nuts. "I think I can find your address, Niko. We do have access to several phone books."
He nodded again, this time vigorously. "Right, right." He stood and Makenna followed suit. "Forgive me for the 'shit' comment. I have trouble controlling my mouth sometimes. It's great for the courtroom, but sucks outside it." He watched as she came around from behind her desk to walk him back out to the lobby. "Really, Makenna, I'm not such a bear."
No. You're more like a wood chuck crossed with a leech. "It's okay, Niko. I'm not offended."
At the main door separating the lobby from the offices, Niko looked back at her. "Thanks for putting up with me and my no-shows. My schedule is unbelievable. I'll be in touch."
Makenna said nothing. She simply closed the door behind him and walked back to her office. Barb was already gone, and she was glad about that. Barb was about the only person around who actually liked Niko, and she didn't think she was ready to hear any positive comments about him.
Makenna arrived back at her apartment that evening around six. She had been able to keep her thoughts centered on her work until she made an innocent stop at the grocery store. She had seen Sirri there. He wasn't aware of her presence and she was profoundly grateful for that. She had watched him a long time, noticing that he looked like shit as well. She was quite tempted to approach him and let him talk, allowing him to tell her everything, but her heart put a stop to the temptation. She realized she didn't want to listen to him. Makenna relied heavily on the lessons taught her by her parents. One thing rang true each and every time she heard it. Once a cheater, always a cheater. Could she live with that? Right now, she couldn't. She had then turned away from Sirri and walked out of the store.
Currently, Makenna stood in her bedroom staring blankly at her bed. It was time to rid it of everything that reminded her of Sirri. She had already done away with a few of his things. Now, she needed to strip the bed and totally discard the pillow he had unofficially called his own. She could put it off no longer. The more time passed, the more her heart ached. At least now she wasn't puking all over the place. Thank God for that.
It took approximately fifteen minutes for Makenna to rid the bed of the offending sheets. She could have just washed them, but it wasn't good enough. Crazily, she stuffed them and the pillow into a garbage bag. After her mad task was complete, she stood in the room and inhaled deeply. The scent of him was finally gone. It was yet another thought that sent her down to her bare mattress where she not only cried, but wailed painfully, loudly. No matter what she removed from the room, his ghost still haunted her. How would she ever exorcise it?
After spending time at Arla Claspinski's wake, Sirri went back to his apartment, immediately noticing and thankful that Reese had to work the graveyard shift. It would give him some much needed alone time. Indifferently, he threw his keys onto the coffee table. If they marred the surface or broke something, he would deal with Reese later. Right now, all he cared about was getting a glass of wine.
He entered the kitchen and dug a bottle of wine out of the refrigerator. He retrieved a glass from the cabinet and then poured himself a full glass of the dark red liquid. He carried it toward his room, but hesitated. He hadn't been able to sleep there since Sunday. The couch had become his best friend, and he had passing thoughts about burning his bed. Perhaps he should burn himself as well. He had certainly burned Makenna.
Sirri sat down and took a sip of wine. The wake had been very stressful. He couldn't look at Melissa, but she tried to be near him at every juncture. Although it sounded harsh and cold, just because he fucked her didn't mean he wanted to be with her. Fucked. It was a crass word used to describe the act of intercourse by horny teenaged boys and pornographers. It was an apt term for what he did. He didn't love Melissa, didn't even like her anymore, and he had fucked her. No man who had ever truly loved a woman would just fuck her. Never would he use the term to describe the love he had made to Makenna. But he had thoroughly ruined that, hadn't he?
He took another sip of wine and groaned aloud as he swallowed the liquid. For a moment, he was sick at his stomach. Was it possible to experience sympathy nausea? He set the wine aside and leaned forward, burying his face into his hands. Why had he intentionally fucked up so badly? Why had he ruined the best thing that had ever happened to him? Why had he allowed Melissa to darken his door? There was so much he wanted to tell Makenna, so much that she needed to know, but she would never hear it. Rightfully so, she would never consent to see him again, not willingly. He honestly didn't want to make excuses, but to Makenna, it would certainly appear that way.
Sirri had always tried to walk the straight and narrow. He always tried to do the right thing. Those characteristics were what led him to marry Melissa, even though he was never certain he truly loved her. It also kept him in the marriage a good year after it was clearly over. Melissa was always a consummate manipulator. It had taken Sirri a long time to figure it out. Despite earning that knowledge, he had fallen for it all over again. He wasn't trying to dismiss his guilt in the matter. He accepted his fair share of responsibility for what happened, but he at least wanted to convince Makenna it had nothing to do with her or anything she might be feeling she had done. His actions had not been motivated by a lack of love for her. It had resulted from extreme stupidity. How could he make her understand that? Even if he never won her back, he wanted the chance to tell her what was inside his heart. Makenna would never give him the chance, and he couldn't blame her. Not at all.
Leaving his glass of wine behind, Sirri walked to the other side of the room to retrieve the phone. Although their confrontation the night before had given him a true idea it was over, he still wanted to call her. Barely twenty-four hours had passed, and he was certain Makenna would not accept his call. But it was driving him crazy. Makenna had never failed to listen to him before. However, their other arguments were never about his fucking his ex-wife. He picked up the phone and dialed her number. It rang twenty times before an annoying mechanical voice told him his party was not responding. No shit.
He hung up and walked back to the couch. Had he expected her to answer all bright and cheery? Stupid. Stupid. Ignoring his wine now, he stretched out on the lumpy cushions and folded his arms behind his head. Tomorrow was Arla's funeral, and he would face Melissa once again. After tomorrow, his contact with Melissa would end forever. He should have long since cut her out of his life years ago, but he hadn't. And now, he was paying dearly for that choice. He had lost Makenna, but he was never one who gave up easily. He had loved her for two years and he couldn't see himself letting it go without a fight.