The more I think about my entire relationship with Liam, the stupider I feel. All those Friday and Saturday boys’ nights, where I wasn't allowed to call him, and not once did I even consider he had another girlfriend. Looking back, all the signs were there, yet I ignored them. I was content with our relationship. And I guess that's why I didn't really care.
I've opened my phone countless time throughout the day to call or text him. But honestly, I don't really have anything to say to him, and there's nothing I need to hear from him either. He called me an hour ago, but I ignored it. I just can't be bothered. Would it be bad if I ghosted him after a nine month relationship? He obviously never really cared about me. That thought should hurt, but I just feel nothing. But then, did I ever feel anything for him? Honestly, if I feel anything right now, it's relief. And a little apprehension.
Liam was the barrier between me and Chase. With the exception of the hot angry sex in the foyer, it was Liam that stopped me from jumping Chase every second I'm in his presence. And now there's no Liam. But I can't go there again with Chase.
Despite the incredible chemistry between us, that seems to have gotten worse since our rendezvous, and despite the mind blowing, earth shattering orgasm he gave me, I'm still just his way of getting his inheritance. I refuse to be with someone who doesn't love me.
Chase is working late tonight, some big contract they are tendering for. I'm in the kitchen cleaning up after my solo dinner. It's sad how much I miss Chase when he's not here. But I push those feelings away.
There's a knock at the door and I furrow my brows. Chase rarely gets unexpected visitors. I hesitantly walk to the door and open it. Ryder stands on the other side and smiles at me.
“Sorry to interrupt, I just really needed to see the apartment for myself.” He says with a chuckle. I can't help but laugh as I step to the side and let him enter. He looks around wide eyed before bursting out laughing. “Holy fuck it's as bad as he said.” He exclaims. I laugh harder at Ryder's reaction.
“I'm surprised he didn't sign the annulment as soon as he saw this.” Ryder muses. No, instead we had angry sex against the wall you’re leaning on. I think to myself. But I don't say that.
“You want a drink?” I ask. He nods his head in acceptance. I walk to the kitchen as Ryder follows behind me. I grab Chase’s whiskey that I restocked, and pour a glass for Ryder.
“You're allowing him to drink again?” Ryder asks.
“It wasn't exactly working.” I shrug. I pour myself a glass of wine and we wander to the lounge room.
“Nah, nothing will.” Ryder says. I cock an eyebrow at Ryder.
“You mean no matter what I do he won't sign? Is the company that important to him?” I ask, my stomach dropping. Ryder shakes his head.
“No. I mean, yeah, he doesn't want to lose half the company to James, but you're too important to him to lose.” Ryder says. I furrow my brows.
“He could get anyone to play his wife.” I state. Ryder chuckles.
“He doesn't want anyone, he wants you.” He says dryly.
“I don't understand why.” I say with a shake of my head.
“You really don't, do you?” Ryder asks with a cock of his head. No, I really have no idea what he's getting at.
“Care to enlighten me? “ I ask. I move my legs under me and take a sip of my wine.
“He's in love with you.” Ryder says without hesitation. The wine goes down the wrong way and I cough, sending wine across the coffee table. Ryder laughs at my reaction and rises from the couch. He heads to the kitchen and returns with a cloth. I take it from him and clean up the droplets of wine.
“He can barely stand me. I'm a means to an end.” I state. Ryder just chuckles.
“Maybe at the start you were, but now... no. It's you he wants, and not because of the will.” Ryder says, amused. The thought of Chase actually having feelings for me makes my heart flutter. But I push it down.
“Did he tell you that?” I ask. Ryder shakes his head.
“God no. Chase doesn't realize it himself.” He says with a frown, taking a sip from his whiskey.
“Then why do you think that?” I ask. Ryder leans back in his chair and smiles.
“Because I know my brother.” He states. I shake my head, not really believing his theory. Ryder sits forward on his chair, resting his elbows on his thighs “You know that week we went to Dallas, he never even looked at another woman.” He tells me. I look at him sceptically.
“It's true, and despite him wearing his wedding ring, women were still throwing themselves at him.” He continues.
“He was wearing his wedding ring?” I ask, furrowing my brow in confusion. Why would he wear his ring? Ryder nods his head.
“You haven't noticed it? He hasn't taken it off in weeks.” He says with a smirk. I shrug my shoulders. I honestly hadn't noticed. But then again, I hadn't taken my rings off either. I try not to read too much into it. But Ryder has me thinking. Chase can be really sweet when he wants to be. There's been a few moments, when I thought we had this amazing connection. But then he turns to an asshole again and it's ruined. As if reading my thoughts, Ryder speaks. “You know, the asshole thing is a defence mechanism. He's not as much of an asshole as he appears.” He says. I can't help but laugh.
“As much of an asshole?” I say amused. He smirks and shakes his head.
“It's a learned behaviour, he finds hard to shake, even with those he cares about.” He tells me.
“You sound like a shrink.” I say, rolling my eyes.
“Minored in psychology.” Ryder chuckles.
“I can tell. So, why does Chase feel the need to be an ass then doc?” I ask. He chuckles again and sits back into the couch, raising his ankle to lay on his knee.
“It's not easy being who we are. With the money and connections our family name holds... it comes with certain disadvantages.” He says carefully. I fight the urge to roll my eyes, Ryder raises his hands in defence. “I know, I know, poor little rich boy right?” he says with a chuckle before he sighs and scratches the scruff on his chin, mulling over his words.
I can't help but study him. He's incredibly handsome, and has some similarities to his brother, though his eyes are brown and his face more boyish.
“Chase learnt early on that a lot of people would only see us for our money and connections.” Ryder says. I nod, I can understand that. “When Chase was in elementary school, he was a complete nerd.” He states. I laugh, though I can't imagine it.
“He seriously was, always had his nose in a book, wicked smart at math and science. He was lanky and awkward, not to mention shy.” He chuckles. I shift in the seat to get into a more comfortable position.
“That's hard to imagine.” I say, sipping on my wine. Ryder shrugs and smiles.
“Yeah, total opposite to who he appears to be now. He didn't have any friends and got picked on a lot.” Ryders replies. I frown at that. I didn't have a good upbringing, but I always had friends. “Anyway, when he was about 11, one of the popular boys in his class befriended him. He was Chase’s first friend.” Ryder continues.
“Chase found out that the boy’s parents forced him to be friends with Chase so they had an in with our parents.” Ryder says, clenching his fist resting on the arm of the chair in anger at the memory.
“Oh... that's horrible...” I say. Ryder nods in agreement. “So Chase became an asshole then?” I ask. Ryder laughs and shakes his head.
“No. he didn't stay friends with the boy, but when middle school hit, he changed. He started playing sports and working out. He still read at home, but at school he became Mr popular.” He tells me. Ryder pauses to sip his drink and continues. “By high school he was on the football team living the high life. Then he met Monique.”
“Monique?” I ask, not liking hearing another girls’ name in relation to Chase. Ryder nods his head.
“She wasn't one of the popular girls that hung off them, but wasn't unpopular either, kind of a nobody at the school. She was shy and a little awkward and Chase fell for her hard.” He says.
“What happened?” I ask, pushing down the jealousy I feel towards this girl.
“They dated for about a year when she slept with his best friend.” Ryder says. My eyes widen in shock. “Turns out that she always had a massive crush on his best friend, but he'd never noticed her. She used Chase to get closer to him.” He continues.
“Wow... what a little bitch.” I breathe out. Ryder chuckles and nods his head.
“That was when Chase started pushing everyone away. Started treating everyone like shit so no one could use him again.” I frown. That's not a way to live. “It's a good way to weed out the gold diggers too.” Ryder states.
“How do you figure?” I ask.
“He treats everyone like crap, but there are still woman who act like he's the love of their life. It's pretty obvious why they are there.” Ryder says with a shrug. I nod. I kind of get that.
“But then he pushes away people who don't care about any of that.” I say with a frown.
“True. But if they stayed around, would he ever really know?” Ryder asks. I guess not, I think.
“Why are you telling me all this?” I ask him.
“Because I don't want you to leave.” Ryder says with a smile. I furrow my brows. I'd always planned on leaving once the annulment was signed. But if Chase never signs it... well what then? “You've brought something out in Chase I haven't seen in years... he actually seems happy.” Ryder continues.
“Even with me recreating the Barbie dream house?” I ask with a smirk, making Ryder laugh.
“He's impressed and intrigued by you Kate. Not to mention he trusts you.” He states.
“He trusts me?” I ask, my eyes widening.
“He knows Verity gave you a credit card linked to his account. He also knows you haven't touched it. And that you are working at a café.” Ryder says, leaning forward in his seat as he rests his elbows on his knees.
“He knows about the cafe?” I ask, shocked.
“Yeah. He wasn't happy you were there at first, said that you're better than a waitress.” Ryder says with a laugh
“He said that?” I whisper. Ryder nods his head. The thought that Chase believes I can be more than just a waitress warms my heart.
“I can tell you have feelings for him too Kate. Please give him a chance. He may not be ready to admit it, but he needs you.” Ryder says, his eyes showing sincerity.
“I just don't want to be used.” I tell him.
“He's not using you Kate. I think if it come down to it, he'd give up everything for you.” Ryder says with a warm smile. My heart wants so much to believe him, but my mind doubts his words. Only time will tell I guess. Which I'm running out of. Chases 30th is only a week away. And what happens then? He won't sign the annulment as he'd lose half the business to his cousin. Would I file for divorce? Making him lose the company anyway. Or would I just go home and let him have the marriage for the next 8 years? Both those thoughts don't sit easy with me.
“What would be so bad about your cousin being involved in the business?” I ask making Ryder grimace.
“He's not a good guy.” He says, clenching his fists.
“How so?” I ask. Ryder's entire body tenses, his fists clench on the arms of the couch.
“He's an entitled brat. He doesn't take no for an answer... especially when it comes to women.” He says. My gut churns as I realize what he's saying.
“You mean...” I ask, Ryder nods without me needing to continue.
“He pays off the right people to get away with it, but he's ruined a lot of lives.” He states, his eyes showing anger. I swallow the lump in my throat. If I divorce Chase that would give a rapist half of the business. That only leaves me going back to Australia without getting what I came here for. So was all this really worth it?
Ryder leaves not long afterward, leaving me to my jumbled thoughts. Could Chase really have feelings for me? I know I'm falling for him, even though I'm trying so hard not to. Do I keep trying to get an annulment? Do I give Chase a chance? Or do I go back to Australia and leave him behind?