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Chapter 21

"You know, I'm cursed with morals. I was raised a certain way. I wish I wasn't. I wish I was raised by wolves. "
~Carson Daly


Everly

My eyes did not want to open.

I had no idea how much I had to drink last night, but I had one hell of a hangover. Most of the night was a blur, but I remembered Mark being there.

Handsome, sweet Mark.

At the thought of him, I forced myself to sit up. Where was he?

Did he go home?

Did he stay here?

Did he just use me?

No. Mark was a better guy than that. He wasn't Eric.

I rolled out of bed only to be greeted with an icy blast of air. I yelped in surprise. I glanced down to realize I was very much unclothed, and suddenly, all the activities of last night came rushing back to me.

Oh god...

Grabbing the closest shirt I could find, I threw it on before walking into my living room. I found Mark in the kitchen, tiptoeing around as he made breakfast (or lunch after I looked at the clock).

"Morning," I greeted.

His head snapped up. "Morning. Did I wake you?"

"No, I woke up by myself. How long have you been up?"

"Only about thirty minutes." Mark slid over a glass of water and some ibuprofen. I greedily took them both. "I took Eliza out because she was busting a gut."

"You took her out shirtless?"

"No, I took the shirt off when I got back in because I was hot."

"Yes, you are."

Mark blushed. "What do you like in your omelets?"

"Ham and cheese. Or bacon. Whatever's on hand," I replied. He went back to the fridge, grabbing the ingredients. I leaned against the counter next to him, watching him cook. How he managed to cook an omelet, beans, and bacon all at the same time while battling a hangover was beyond me. I could barely manage to cook one thing at a time sober.

Within twenty minutes, it was ready to eat. We sat at the bar, munching away but not saying anything. The atmosphere was slightly awkward, and I knew that was my fault. I never should have put Mark in the position I did last night, especially when I knew him to be vulnerable and under the influence. Of course, I'd been too, but I knew well enough that just because my fiancé was cheating on me didn't mean I could cheat on him. I was better than that, and Mark deserved to be more than the 'other man.'

As Mark finished cleaning up the dishes, I approached him, trying to find the right words to bring the whole situation up, but he beat me to the chase.

"About last night, don't get me wrong, that was the best night ever between the talking and the eating and the… activities we engaged in." A mischievous sparkle flickered in Mark's eyes. "But we can't do this again. Not when you're still engaged to him. It's my fault. You were under the influence, and I knew, I knew, that what we were getting ourselves into was wrong, but I was so tired of watching Eric get the girl, and I know I didn't know you until after he introduced you to me as his girlfriend, but I couldn't help but fall in love with you. Now I'm cheating on my best friend even though I honestly don't want to be friends with him anymore, I'm madly in love with you, and I'm in a position where my head is really conflicting with my heart."

While Mark recovered from his rambling, I took the opportunity to put my two cents in. "I knew exactly what I was doing last night. I might've been drunk, but the same thoughts ran in my head as they did yours. I'm the one that kissed you. I'm the one that put you in that position, and yes, you went along with it because of your own desires, but had I not initiated anything, I know you would've kept your distance out of respect for both me and Eric. And I love you for that. You deserve the world, Mark. You deserve to be more than the 'other guy' in someone's life. I have a question for you, though: do you happen to know any of the names of the girls he cheated on me with?"

"A few of them."

"Did they know he was dating me?"

"I don't think they did."

"Good. I'm going to need their names and numbers because I'm going to have lunch with all of them. Eric included."

Mark grinned. "I'm so glad I'm on your good side. But until then, we can't do this again. I can't come over here to talk and have it end up in… what it did."

I walked up to him, wrapping my arms around his neck. Putting my lips right next to his ear, I whispered, "Since you haven't left, I'd say we're just continuing last night's activities."

Mark swore under his breath, his willpower caving. I squealed in delight as he lifted me up and carried me back to the bedroom.


I woke up once more in my bed, again without clothes. Once more, Mark was gone, but he'd left a note. I picked up and read it:

Everly-

I'm so sorry I'm leaving before you wake up, but there's something I need to do before the end of the day. I know we already had this talk, but about what I said last night, when I said I love you, I know you said it back to me. I don't know if you meant it or if you said it in the heat of the moment… or moments, I guess, but know that I did.

With love,

Mark

I smiled, clutching the letter to my chest. Grabbing my cellphone from my nightstand, I texted Mark, simply saying, "I meant it too."


Annalise

Will gave me the day off after the rough day yesterday. That, of course, didn't mean I was able to fully be away from him. He texted me throughout the day. I assumed it mostly stemmed from boredom until he texted me, "I miss you."

I texted him the same thing back because as much as I hated to admit it, I did miss him. Sometimes I even wondered if I cared for him as more than a friend. I'd never really been in love with a guy, so I didn't know what you felt when you were.

A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. Since Mia left not too long ago to go shopping with Ellen and Jane, I figured it wasn't her. Besides, she had a key with her and could open the door herself.

Curious, I got up and answered it to find Mark standing there impatiently.

"Hey, are you busy? Can you talk? Where's Mia?" He fired the questions so rapidly it took me a moment to register them all.

"No, I'm not busy, I can talk. Mia's with your mom and Ellen," I said. "What's wrong, and does it call for ice cream?"

Mark lifted up a bag containing six cartons of ice cream in it. "Already got it. I got two for Mia."

"I'll grab the spoons." Mark scampered inside, taking two ice cream cartons out for us and placing the remaining ones in the freezer. We sat down on the couch, and before I could even ask him what the matter was, he blurted, "I think I broke up a marriage."

My eyes widened. "What marriage?"

"Well, they're not married yet, so I guess it's an engagement…"

"Mark, who are you talking about?"

"Everly and Eric."

"What happened?"

"I… I saw Eric flirting with another girl at the bar last night and getting handsy with her. I got fed up with him and thinking Everly deserved better, I went over to her flat and told her Eric was cheating on her."

"How'd she take it?"

"She invited me in and started drinking a bottle of wine. She asked me to join her, and I did. We talked for a few hours, part of which I found she knew that I was in love with her… that was embarrassing." Mark piled a massive scoop of ice cream into his mouth. Miraculously, he didn't get brain freeze. "We ate cake, watched movies, drank some more, and when the drunkenness began wearing off, she said it should've been me. Everly said she should've dated me, and then she kissed me, and I knew what I was doing, but I was tired of being the good guy, and I was so happy that the girl I loved was in love with me back... well, I woke up this morning and we talked about it, and we agreed not to do anything again unless she was single."

Mark sighed, rubbing his head as he continued. "I feel like shit, Anna. I had sex with the girl that's engaged to the guy I call my best friend when I was fully aware of the consequences. I don't know what to do, but I couldn't keep this between Everly and me, and I know you have enough problems of your own between taking care of Mia and working at the palace. I'm a terrible person for dropping this on you and-"

"Mark, stop," I interrupted. "Take a deep breath. I'm not mad at you, you're not a bad person. Look, I don't condone any type of cheating, even if Eric deserves a taste of his own medicine. It's wrong, but I'm not mad at you. Everly isn't going to let Eric off easily for cheating on her, and you did the right thing, telling her. What did you tell her when you left?"

"She wasn't up when I left, so I left her a note."

"When did you leave?"

"Besides going to the store to get ice cream, I came straight here."

"It's seven in the evening. That means you woke up at six. How drunk did you two get that you slept in until six in the evening?" I asked in slight amusement.

"We woke up around noon, had lunch, and more… activities ensued," Mark said, face flushing a deep red.

"What did your note say?"

Mark buried his face in his hands. "I told her I meant it when I said I loved her last night."

"Did she respond?"

"I don't know. I haven't checked my phone. I'm too nervous to see whether or not she's texted me because I don't know what's worse: her ignoring it or getting a bad response back."

"Give me your phone," I ordered, holding my hand out. "I'll read it for you if there's anything."

Mark handed his phone over. I clicked the home button to see if he had any messages.

There was one.

From Everly.

"Read it," I said, handing it back to him.

"What? You said-"

"Read it, you idiot."

Mark glanced down at his phone. Barely two seconds later, a smile stretched across his face. "She meant it too."

"Do you feel better?" I queried.

"Yeah... I don't feel so guilty. I mean, I still feel guilty, don't get me wrong, but-"

"Wait until Everly breaks up with him, then you talk about what you two are going to do. For now, what do you say we pop in a movie and don't think about it?"

"That sounds fantastic," he agreed. I stood up to get the movie, ruffling my best friend's hair affectionately as I walked past him. He'd certainly gotten himself into a situation, but I knew it'd work out for him. I just had a feeling.


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