HAYES, EMPTY NEST
“Tell him to get the paperwork to me on time or the deal is off!” I bark into the phone before slamming it down. Aidan raises his eyebrow at me but says nothing. “What? If you have something to say – fucking say it,” I snipe, getting up to get myself a drink. I don’t offer him one in the hopes he’ll take the hint and leave my office – I’m not in the mood for his shit today.
“Making friends, are we?” He asks lightly, making fun of my attitude which only makes me snarlier. I practically growl at him as I stare out the windows at the city.
“Are you here for a reason, or just to piss me off?” Ever since Sophia disappeared after her tryst with Jeremy the slime at the office party, my attitude has sucked and I know it. Knowing it and wanting to do something about it are two different things.
I don’t care.
“I am here for a reason – to tell you everyone hates you,” he tells me point blank. Shocked, I turn to him. “Now that I have your attention, I need you to listen to me,” he continues much to my irritation. He waits for me to take my seat behind my desk before he continues, the entire time my face a picture of misery.
“I’m listening,” I mutter, gulping my drink faster than I should for this time of the day.
I don’t care.
“Your attitude is alienating the staff and I’m getting tired of making peace after you piss off everyone we’re dealing with,” he says, telling me everything I already know but don’t want to hear. I know I’m miserable to be around because I feel fucking awful – may as well share the wealth. I don’t reply, simply give him a look that I hope conveys the sentiment I’m currently feeling.
I don’t care.
“What is going on, Hayes? This isn’t like you,” he states, confused by my behaviour but I don’t know why. He’s the reason I’m in this situation in the first damn place – if I hadn’t listened to him, I wouldn’t have chased after her and ended up getting my heart broken.
Yeah, I heard it.
I don’t answer and instead, give him the silent treatment and a dirty look. Turning my chair, I lean back and put my feet on my desk – you know - like a professional does. Horrified, Aidan watches me stretch out with my drink as I kick some papers onto the floor that are in the way of my feet.
I don’t care.
“Is this about Ms. Carson-Robertson?” Now the look I give him is full of disgust – I don’t even want to hear her name. Exasperated, Aidan exhales loudly. “Seriously? You’re acting like a jackass over a woman?” Leaping to my feet, I grab him by the collar and drag him to his feet in front of me. Terrified I’m going to hit him, Aidan lets out a sound I’ve never heard him make before. Shocked at my own impulsive, reckless behaviour, I immediately let him go and take a couple steps back.
“Christ, Aidan. I’m so sorry!” I can’t believe I just put my hands on my bestfriend and my CFO – it is like I’m out of control! And he’s right, I’m acting like this over a woman? A woman I scarcely know too, which only makes it worst. Now I’m angry, mortified and embarrassed – winning combination.
“What is going on, Hayes? Talk to me,” Aidan says softly, his hand on my shoulder. He doesn’t punch me in the face – which is what I deserve, but his gentle and calming nature is my undoing. Once I start confessing my feelings, there is no stopping me. I walk to and stand at the window to look out, unable to face him.
“It is because of Sophia and it’s fucking ridiculous. I barely know the woman and yet she’s all I can think about – she’s even in my dreams. I can’t get away from her no matter how hard I try,” I nearly shout, slapping my hand against the window. “She got into my head, Aidan and then she betrayed me. She betrayed me with another man and now she’s gone and I don’t know where,” I blurt out nearly incoherently. I sum it up in one simple sentence.
“She broke my heart.”
SOPHIA, YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW
The lodge didn’t need me, unfortunately, so I’ve been helping out around here as much as I can – especially with the home schooling. My younger siblings aren’t inclined to listen to me but after Dad sets them straight, we get back on track. All three of them are incredibly smart with a lot on their plates considering how young they are. Being a shifter sounds great – in theory, but when I consider that in addition to puberty, they also have to undergo their first shift around the same time? No thanks, talk about a hormonal nightmare. Kaiden is currently driving everyone crazy with his nasty attitude and unwillingness to do anything – welcome to being a teenager.
It has only been a few weeks but I already feel like I’m drowning or being smothered. I love my family so much – this isn’t about them in any way, it is about ‘here’. If I could convince my family to move… anywhere there are more people, I’d be thrilled with my life. It would be the best of both worlds – for me anyways. I would have my family with me and endless opportunities all around for new friends, romance… a more exciting life in general.
Life would be perfect.
But I’m human and except for my Mom, who loves her life – everyone else is a shifter and they all need, want and love the woods. Their bears need regular exercise and outings and living in a city wouldn’t allow for that – I get it. I want to live in the city, my family needs to live in the woods – it isn’t hard to figure out who gets priority.
“I miss you,” are always the first words I hear from my twin sister Bridget whenever we facetime. I echo the sentiment back to her, meaning the words sincerely. Shifters have their animals halves of themselves – I have Bridget, that’s how much she means to me.
“Thanks for closing out my place, I’ll e-transfer you the penalty,” I promise her. Since breaking my lease, I was penalized which Bridge graciously covered on my behalf.
“No worries – I know where you live,” she laughs. We chat for awhile and get caught up – mostly about her life since I have little to say about my own. I do the same day thing every single day – nothing changes except my underwear.
“I gotta go, Soph. It’s my final date with Logan tonight,” she says sadly. Confused, I have to press for details.
“What do you mean your final date?” She gives me a sad smile and shrug.
“We promised each other at the start of our relationship that when he finished school – we would break up. He’s leaving for home in three days and neither of us are interested in doing the long-distance thing so this is just the smartest way to go,” she explains to me. “We both knew going in that this was short-term and were in it for the great time it was,” she shrugs as if it is the simplest thing in the world.
Leave it to my sister to schedule the end of her relationship.
“Didn’t you – that is, uh,” I pause, unsure how or if I should proceed. It is none of my business and I don’t want her to think I’m judging her one way or another because I’m certainly not. If things had played out differently, I certainly believe I could have given up my virginity to Hayes Matthews.
“Yes, I slept with him and yes, he took my virginity,” she smiles. “And now I’m lifelong friends with the man who did it – I consider that a win,” she says happily. “I don’t regret a thing, Soph,” she reassures me. Relieved, I smile back at her.
“Next time I see you – I want details.”