“I’d say no.”
I couldn’t help it. I wanted to see the expression on his face. My lips curved up into a smile before I chuckled lightly.
“You’re messing with me, aren’t you?”
I nodded. “Just a little.”
“You’re lucky I’m in a good mood tonight.”
“Really? What’s gotten you in a good mood?”
“A few things, but one of them happens to be you.”
I blushed. The guy was a sweet talker, but I still felt guarded and apprehensive. It was normal for anyone who had their heart broken like I had, but I wanted to give things a shot.
“Come for a walk with me in the gardens?”
“Sure,” I replied. “I’ll just let Anastasia know.”
My attention turned to my friend who immediately smiled. “Go.”
Ezra reached out his hand which I gladly accepted. “Thanks.”
Jax watched us from where he stood. He had a beer in his hand and Amber was talking then he shifted his attention back to her.
Ezra didn’t let go as he guided me past the pool towards the gate which led to the garden.
“Wow,” I gasped. The grounds were lit by fairy lights which hugged each branch of a gorgeous and lush green tree.
“We have a few of those trees in our garden. Norway Maple Tree.”
“It really is.” He watched me intensely.
I swallowed hard as my blood rushed towards my cheeks.
“So, what’s going on with that other guy?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Which other guy?”
“The guy who came with you. He’s got an Aussie accent.”
Jax. I didn’t want to explain everything to Ezra, so I skipped the parts about me having a little crush.
“Leyton said something that made Amber a little uncomfortable.”
“Jax’s ex or girlfriend,” I said. “Not sure at this point. Jax is the Aussie guy staying with my parents.”
“He’s got a girlfriend?” E tilted his head to the side. “That’s weird.”
“It’s just I saw the way he looked at you, I thought maybe he was interested.”
I shook my head. “Far from it.”
“So, you did say yes, right?”
“Yes, I did.”
Ezra took out his phone from his breast pocket, unlocked it and handed it over. I added my number and passed it back to him.
He sent me a text message and I felt my phone vibrate. “Just checking.” We followed the footpath and walked around his garden which led us to a gazebo with a three-seater swing chair. “Want to sit down?”
Ezra sat down next to me and I smiled before I shifted my attention to the garden. There were more trees lit up with lights wrapped around the trunk and branches.
“It’s seriously so beautiful.”
“I come here when I need to think---which I have to admit, lately has been a lot. I guess I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately.” Ezra dipped his head low before glancing back at me. “Do you get that with your parents?”
I nodded. “All the time. I love my parents, but they can put a lot of pressure without even realizing,” I said. “What are your parents wanting you to do?”
“They think my job isn’t aspiring enough. They wanted me to be more ambitious and join the family business. I love what I do and I don’t want to change it.”
I nodded. “I get it. I’m a writer, but they hoped I would do something else. They asked me to study law as well, but it wasn’t something I was interested in,” I explained. “The thing is, E. It’s your life. They’re not the ones living it. You are. You should be able to do what makes you happy.”
“You’re right. I should.. I love my family, but the pressure they put on me isn’t easy.”
His expression softened when he looked at me. My cheeks burned, and I didn’t know what he had done, but I felt different around him.
Ezra moved closer before he reached over and used his thumb to caress my cheek. I was sure he could feel the flames ignited. My eyes closed with his touch.
“So soft,” he whispered. I bit my lip and caught his gaze. “I want to kiss you so bad, but I’m going to wait.”
I felt a slight disappointment wash over me because I was curious at what his lips tasted like.
“Why don’t you?”
“Because you’ve had a bit too much to drink, and I don’t want to take advantage of that.”
I wasn’t sure how much more perfect this guy could get. Too good to be true, right?
Ezra moved closer and my heart thundered in my chest. “I’m trying so hard not to kiss you, Beth.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “So damn hard.”
My lips curved up to a smile and I watched as he leaned in closer. My pulse quickened as he cupped my face in his hands before pulling me towards him. Our lips were only an inch apart, and I let out a breath as they were about to touch.
“Fuck,” Jax swore.
JAX’S POINT OF VIEW
I stood at the party with Amber. Still surprised she came all the way from Australia to talk with me and try to work things out, which confused me even more. It was a clean break, what we both wanted. At least that’s what she told me. What I needed was space from her. Things were getting too intense. I loved Amber, but towards the end of our relationship it was as though I suffocated and needed to breathe. The past couple of months, I felt as though I could think again. That my thoughts were my own. When she turned up at the airport, I had no choice but to tell her where I was. She came to the house and we talked.
EARLIER THAT EVENING
“Baby, please,” Amber sulked. “I’ve missed you.”
I had thought about her while we had broken up and seeing her brought up old feelings. But things had changed. My feelings changed.
“Amber, we broke up for a reason,” I said. “You were getting too intense.”
Amber glared at me with pleading eyes. She was always good at getting what she wanted. I knew I had to stay strong.
“I promise it won’t be like before. I won’t do that to you again.”
Her coming to the U.S. didn’t help the situation. Amber looked at me up and down with a confused expression as she noticed my formal attire.
“Are you going out somewhere?”
“Yes, I’m going out to a party with Beth, the daughter of the parents who are letting me stay here.”
Gorgeous and sweet foul-mouthed Beth.
“You’re not going to leave me here by myself, are you?”
“I don’t know what you expect from me, Amber. You’ve turned up here out of the blue.”
“Please don’t leave me,” she begged.
“I already left you.”
Tears flooded her eyes and guilt settled into my chest. “Amber, please don’t cry.”
“I’m sorry, Jax,” she wept. “This has been hard for me. The past couple of months have been so hard without you.” She stepped closer to me. “Haven’t you missed me too?”
I missed who she was at the beginning of our relationship. Funny. Sweet. Caring. Independent and full of life.
Amber knelt in front of me. I grabbed her shoulders as she placed her hands on my waist. “Amber, what are you doing?”
“Please let me show you what you’ve missed out on. I know you miss me, Jax. This will show you how much.”
“No. I can’t. I’m sorry.”
I thought for a moment. Could Amber really change? Could she become the girl I used to love? I was confused, as I knew my feelings for her had changed---and for someone else.
Grasping her shoulders tighter to push her away, I suddenly glanced up and noticed Beth in front of me. She covered her eyes and turned away from me.
“I’ll meet you in the car!”
“Fuck! Beth, wait!”
AT THE PARTY
“Are you serious, right now?”
I nodded at Amber. “It was a mistake bringing you here.”
Who was I kidding? Amber won’t fucking change. I noticed how she was with Beth, and it made me furious.
“Please, Jax. I know you don’t mean that.”
“The thing is, Amber. I do. You shouldn’t have come here.”
“To the party?”
I shook my head. “I mean you shouldn’t have left Australia. You and I will never happen.”
Amber’s shoulders slumped and her eyes swelled up. “It’s about her, isn’t it?”
I tilted my head. “What are you talking about?”
“Beth,” she replied. “You like her.”
“Ahhh, the girl who lied about going on a date with you.”
I turned around and noticed Layton, Beth’s ex with a wide grin across his smug face. My blood immediately boiled. The fuck is he doing back here?
“Didn’t you get your ass thrown out from the party?”
Layton smiled. “Ezra kicked me out, but I don’t give a shit what he wants.”
I didn’t even know this guy, and I already fucking hated him.
“So, you brought your girlfriend to the party, huh? I was glad to see that shit unfold,” Layton grinned. “The look on Beth’s face was priceless when she had to swallow her words.”
“Amber is not my girlfriend,” I corrected him. “I wouldn’t go around saying anything bad about Beth.”
“And why is that?”
“You might piss off the wrong person.”
I wanted to kick this guy’s ass. Something I should have done the moment he said anything bad about her.
“Oh, you mean you?” Layton asked.
I nodded, and my fists rolled into a ball. This guy was a dickhead.
Layton stepped closer to me. “I’m sure your girlfriend won’t be too happy you’re coming to Beth’s defence like that.”
“I told you before, she’s not my girlfriend.”
“Fuck you, Jax!”
I turned to Amber and saw the disappointed look on her face. My attention shifted back to Layton who took the opportunity to swing his arm back and punch me in the jaw.
“Fuck.” I wiped my nose with the back of my hand and glanced at the blood. Before I knew what happened, my body automatically reacted by punching Layton back.
He was strong, but I was stronger.
I knocked him on the ground and gave him a few extra blows for good measure. When I was done, he looked up at me with fear in his eyes.
“Say one more fucking bad thing about Beth, and we’re going to have a problem.”
Layton nodded before he stumbled onto his feet and ran away.
People had surrounded us and watched, but kept quiet.
Amber shook her head. “I can’t believe you.”
I didn’t want to stay here anymore, and I needed to send Amber back on a plane.
“I have to find Beth.”
I walked around the gardens with Amber in silence trying to find Beth. That was after I had checked myself in the bathroom to make sure the blood was cleaned up.
“You don’t even know her, and you’re choosing her over me?”
I stopped and faced my ex. “I was an idiot. I shouldn’t have brought you here. I was confused, but I’ve never been more sure of what I want until now.”
I turned to keep walking when I suddenly stopped in my tracks. Beth was about to be kissed.