Michael sighed deeply through his nose. “Melissa,” he muttered under his breath, rubbing the creases in his forehead with his index and thumb fingers.
I wrapped the towel around myself, wiping the beads of water off my chest. “I should’ve stayed and made sure she was okay, not just left.”
What was wrong with me? I was an absolute mess. I had family problems, boyfriend problems, friend problems, every freaking problem I could think of… and I had no way of solving any of them. I just continued to dig myself deeper and deeper into a hole.
“Victor texted me earlier. She’s with him. Don’t worry about her.”
Someone knocked on the front door, and my stomach tightened. He had company this late at night? Maybe… maybe I should just leave and get out of his hair. He didn’t need someone like me fucking up the rest of his life.
He handed me a spare change of clothes--his clothes--and excused himself. I slowly finished drying myself off, stared at my puffy red eyes in the mirror, and got dressed. I parted my lips and thought about what I should do to excuse myself without being rude about it.
I already ruined one of his dates tonight.
After coming up with some lame excuses and deciding that they wouldn’t cut it, I hung the towel on the hook and walked downstairs to find him. Ready to tell him that I was leaving, I parted my lips… but then I stopped.
Michael stood at the bar with a box of pizza, a bottle of wine, and two wine glasses. He looked over at me, eyes drifting down my body then back up it, and the smallest smile crawled onto his face. “You look good in my clothes, Mia.”
“I… uhm…” My cheeks flushed, and, in that moment, I had made the one decision that would change my life forever. I wasn’t going to leave. I wanted to stay with him, for more than just the night. He had done so much for me that Mason wouldn’t have ever done. He had stayed with me even when I told him he didn’t have to. He made a damn effort, and I had been nothing but a bitch to him. I hopped down the last stair and smiled at him. “Thank you.”
After handing me a glass of wine, he brought the bottle and the pizza to the coffee table. “Sit,” he said. I grabbed it from him, walked over to the couch, and plopped down onto it. He sat next to me and grabbed a slice. “We need to talk.”
The words I had been dreading this entire night.
“About what?” I asked, trying hard not to burn my tongue on the cheese.
He raised a brow at me and cleared his throat. I expected him to say something along the lines of… “You know exactly what we need to talk about,” but instead he asked, “Are you okay?”
I raised my brows at him, surprised at the gesture, and stuffed the slice in my mouth--not caring how hot it was. I took some time to chew and to calm myself down. “I’m fine. Tonight was jus--”
“I’m not talking about tonight.” He paused for a moment. “I never asked you if you were okay. I doubt anyone did after what happened to your mother.”
My gaze fell onto the wine glass, and I picked it up. Thinking about the whole situation made me feel like becoming a damn drunk, because I felt so helpless. I drew my finger across the rim. “It’s happened before,” I said. “I dealt with it then and I’ll deal with it now.”
“Why do you have so many damn questions?”
“Because…” He paused for a moment and stared at me with the most confident expression I had ever seen. “I care about you.”
He didn’t stumble on his words. He didn’t act like he didn’t give a single fuck. He said the words and meant them, and I could feel it.
The air sat thick with tension, and I stared back at him--not knowing how I felt about hearing him say it. Something about it felt so freeing, like I didn’t have to do anything alone, like he would always be there for me…
“How are you going to deal with it?” he asked again, placing his glass of wine on the coffee table and turning in my direction.
I took a deep breath and glanced down at my thighs. I was going to have to continue using Mason for money so I could survive. It was the only way. I didn’t want to be a damn charity case to anyone else. So, I shrugged my shoulders. “I can’t do anything now. When she gets out of intensive care and can go home…” My voice got quiet, and I swallowed hard. Where would she go?
I had researched some places when I had time, but they were way too expensive. “When she gets out, I’m going to get an apartment and take care of her.” Mason wouldn’t want that trouble all the time. He didn’t have the patience, and I didn’t trust anyone else.
“What about your studies? Your job?”
I shrugged again. “I don’t know. I’ll have to take time off.”
He sighed deeply through his nose. “When she gets out of the hospital… I know this place about an hour north of the city. My father stays there. The nurses take good care of the patients.”
“What’s the name?” I asked.
“That’s way out of my price range.” Hell, everything was. “I can’t afford that.”
“I can,” he said, staring me straight in the eye. I parted my lips about to refuse any type of monetary help from him when he shook his head. “Don’t start. I would’ve done this years ago, if you would’ve just told me then. It’s not because I’m trying to win you over and I’m not going to make you pay me back or even feel like you have to.”
“I didn’t bring this up to argue about it. It isn’t a question that I need your answer to.” He looked me dead in the eyes. “I’m going to help you whether you accept my money or not.”
I was going to open my mouth again to say something, but then I pressed my lips back together. It hurt me so damn much to not say anything. It hurt me to be silent about this because I didn’t want his money. But that look in his eyes told me that he wasn’t going to give up. He would continue to push and push until I caved.
And by that time… I’d be swimming in hospital bills.
“Promise me two things,” I said, grabbing his hands. “Don’t treat me any differently than you have been. I don’t want to be a charity case. I just want to be… be with you like this. And… don’t do anything finances-wise behind my back with my mom.”
His lips curled into a smile. “I would never treat you differently, Mia.”
My heart felt warm and fuzzy, and I smiled. It felt so weird to have someone show me that they care and actually mean it. I never thought it’d happen, ever, in this lifetime. I sunk into the couch next to him and stared at the TV show he’d turned on. But instead of watching it, I grinned to myself. As weird and messed up as this whole situation was… I was falling for my best friend’s dad.
We must’ve sat there for hours, and I found myself curled up into him, his arm around me, my head resting on his shoulder, his scent drifting through my nose. It was the most peace I had gotten--probably, ever.
Mason and I never did this… maybe when we first started dating, but even then he always tried to get into my pants mid-movie.
My eyes fluttered closed. This was what I wanted. This was what I dreamed of for so damn long. Being happy with someone even when the world was dragging me down. Feeling free. Loving--loving? My heart skipped a beat, and I swallowed hard.
Did… did I just say loving?
I sat back up, the word drifting through my mind and staying there. I glanced over at Michael who looked down at me, his hand drifting from my shoulder to my knee. “This is how it could be every night with me,” Michael said, resting his hand on my thigh and squeezing gently. Something about the way he touched me--so tenderly made me feel things.
Tingles ran up and down my legs, and my heart beat a bit faster. I parted my lips and took a deep breath, trying to erase the thought of loving him. It made my stomach tighten because it was a damn scary word that both Dad and Mason used on me to get me to break for them.
“I’m not like Mason or your father,” he said, fingers gently rubbing against my inner thigh. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m not going to leave when it gets hard. I’m not going to flirt with other women or ignore you when you need me.”
God, I wanted this more than anything… He was so damn sincere, so damn caring. I knew I wouldn’t find someone like him ever, ever again. But even if I dumped Mason, I didn’t know if this would work.
“Michael, we can’t. What would we say to Melissa? She’d… she’d hate me for being with her dad. I know that she wouldn’t talk to me ever again as soon as she found out.”
Michael clenched his jaw. “So, what do you suggest we do? Sneak around together late at night? Hoping we don’t get caught by someone else?”
I placed my hands against his chest, curling my fingers into it. “I don’t know.” I really didn’t. We were stuck because this was so much more than physical now. I… I had feelings for him. And I know that he had feelings for me.
A look of hurt crossed his face, but then it was replaced with anger. “Do you really only want me for sex?” he asked, blue eyes so icy that I had to take a sharp breath. I knew that he knew that’s not all I wanted. I wouldn’t have called him earlier tonight, I wouldn’t have stayed for this long at his house, I would’ve gotten up and left.
“No,” I said quietly, looking down at my lap. I couldn’t even believe I had said that to him yesterday. It was so wrong of me to even put the words out there. I… I didn’t think it would hurt him. But, at that time, I wasn’t thinking about anyone hurting except myself.
“Look at me when you talk, Mia,” he said, his voice stern.
I swallowed hard and gazed up at him. “No, I don’t want you for only sex.”
The pure intensity of his eyes was enough to make me want to look back down. I could feel him about to say something… say something that I wished he didn’t.
“Prove it to me.”
“How do you want me to prove it to you? What do you want me to do?”
He paused for a long moment then handed me my phone that I had put on the coffee table. “Break up with Mason.”
A/N Read the rest of this trilogy on Patreon now! Click "Support Me" in my bio!