Chapter Nineteen - The Writing Is On The Wall
I need assistance - Grace
You’re still in NY right? Ping me your location and I’m there. - Belle
Done. You’re never going to believe the pickle I’m in - Grace
If it’s to do with that sexy CEO of yours. I bet I can. Be there in 10. Don’t move! - Belle
I shoved my phone back in my pocket and sat down on a park bench. A whole wardrobe of clothes? I didn’t even know what my style was. I usually wore Jeans and t-shirts outside of work. I owned a few dresses, but they were mostly for special occasions. I wanted to impress Brennan’s parents even though I’d already met them.
A few minutes later Belle arrived. She sat on the bench next to me and half shoulder barged at me.
“So, what’s going on?”
“Were you close?” I asked. Belle lived on the other side of town, It wasn’t like her to be in the middle of the city this early in the morning. She giggled before covering her face.
“Are you blushing?” I mused.
“I met a guy, I went to one of those singles happy hour drinks, and we hit it off. He was so kind and soooo hot. He lives in the city, he’s a lawyer.” She fanned her face with her hand. “I stayed there last night.”
I smiled. “Scandalous.”
“What about you Miss make believe. What is it you need my help with.”
I bit my lip, Belle was going to make the most of this. Once I told her everything I was never going to hear the end of it, but I needed her help. I opened my mouth and let it all spill out, from the offer in the office, to the hot tub, to the incredible sex. When I finished her mouth was hanging open and she said nothing.
“Have I rendered you speechless.” I laughed. “God, in all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never done that before.”
Elle nodded, before pulling me into a hug and almost shouting.
“Welcome to the land of the living Grace!”
“Land of the living?” I asked. Was she suggesting I’d been in a dead life space before all of this? My life had been fine, I had a good job, money, a home. I knew what she meant though, for the first time in a long time, my body felt electric.
“You’re finally taking what you want from life Grace.” Belle exclaimed. “And Sex on Legs Brennan is so the perfect place to start.”
Belle grabbed my wrist and pulled me to my feet. We walked down the street and into a clothing boutique.
Belle looked through the hangers while I looked around the store wide eyed. It reminded me of the place where I’d been with Brennan’s family to get the bridesmaids dresses and I was completely out of my depth.
We spent a few hours, and a ridiculous amount of money on clothes before finally conceding.
“I think that should be enough.” Belle giggled, holding on to three of my bags. “You lucky duck, I’d love a whole new wardrobe.”
“I’m not keeping the clothes. At least not the things I don’t wear.” I replied. “I’ll be returning them after the weekend.”
Belle sighed. “Well that is a pity. I don’t think Brennan would expect you to do that though. So maybe consider keeping them… or at least donate them to your Best friend Belle.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re insufferable.” I shuffled the three bags in my right hand into my left with the other three I held and pulled my phone from my pocket.
“Shit, it’s quarter to 12, I need to get to Wolf Industries office.”
“Relax, we’re a block away I’ll walk with you.”
Belle and I walked to Wolf Industries. I set the nine bags down on the ground and ignored the niggling feeling in my stomach. What if this was too much.
“You’re thinking too much.” Belle noted. “You really like him don’t you. Like more than this friends with benefits thing you mentioned.”
I found myself nodding. I did, the more time I spent with Brennan the more time I wanted to spend with him. It just felt natural. Then I reminded myself of everything I knew. Brennan was a womanizer and I had just fallen for his charms. I needed to get real.
“He’s not a settling kind of guy.” I mused. “I know too much about that side of him Belle. Believe me, this is as good as it’s going to get.”
Belle frowned. “You don’t think people can change?”
I shook my head. “I know they can, I’ve just seen too much Belle.”
We sat for a moment a longer and then Brennan walked out of the doors. Belle leaned in and then whispered in my ear.
“I’m not sure he looks at every girl like he looks at you Grace. It’s like you hung the moon or something.”
Brennan smiled as he walked toward us, I brushed aside Belle’s comment and pointed to the bags.
“I hope I didn’t go overboard?”
“No, not at all.” He looked over at Belle. “Belle right? I remember you from the luncheon.”
“That’s right.” Belle grinned. “Well, I’d better get back to my friend. Call me later Grace?”
I nodded and watched as Belle left. Brennan scooped the bags up before I had a chance to react.
“Wait here, I’ll take these to the car and then we can go for lunch. I’ve booked a table for us at Maldofs.”
I nodded, and watched as he left. Maldofs? I knew the place. I’d made plenty of business bookings for Brennan there before to sweeten up potential clients. Brennan of course had all the strings to pull, so acquiring a reservation and one of New York’s finest restaurants wasn’t difficult. Why was he wasting it on me?
I was hardly dressed for Maldofs, I was still wearing my jeans and t-shirt after all. Compared with suave Brennan, I looked like someone he’d taken pity on. I pushed myself to my feet and ran after him, he was already in the parking garage when I caught up to him.
“You okay?” He asked, concern etched into his eyes.
“I’m underdressed for Maldofs.” I whispered.
Brennan looked me up and down and shrugged. “You look fine to me.”
I shook my head and held my hand out for one of the bags.
“I look like I’m going to the movies, not a michelin star restaurant.”
Brennan bit his lip and held out the bags to me. I took one, it didn’t matter what was inside, anything would be an improvement.
“I’ll be right back.”
I ran for the bathrooms by the elevator and hastily changed. I’d grabbed the bag with the figure hugging black cocktail dress that Belle had begged me to buy. I frowned and pulled it on, and changed my chucks for the sure to be uncomfortable stiletto pumps. Luckily there was a black black lace bolero in there too. I put it on and then shoved all of my clothes into the bag.
I walked back into the car park, although I felt like I was bambi learning to stand. Brennan’s eyes widened and his jaw clenched as he took the bag from me.
“Holy shit G.” He murmured.
“I look stupid don’t I?” I said, wrapping my arms around myself. Brennan took a step toward me; he tugged at my arms, until they fell at my sides and then wrapped his arms around my waist.
“You don’t look stupid.” He stopped and swallowed. “You look amazing. Grace. You always look amazing. You could be wearing rags and you’d still look amazing. You really have no idea how breathtaking you are.”
He was sweet talking to me, and it was working. I melted into him and we kissed, losing ourselves in the moment. If I hadn’t known the truth I could have pretended all of this was real.
“We should get to lunch.” He murmured, pulling back. “We’ll drive. I don’t want you walking all that way in those death traps.”
Relieved, I smiled back at him. “That sounds amazing.”
The drive to Maldofs was quick, it was only a couple of blocks away. Brennan parked the car and we walked in together.
We were seated in the same Table I always booked for Brennan’s business meetings. It was in the back, where the view of the city was. The waitress left us with menus and a wine list.
“You didn’t have to bring me here.” I said softly.
“I wanted to.” He mused. “I’ve wanted to for a while.”
I frowned and shook my head. “What do you mean?”
“Well it’s always business when I’m here, with you I knew it wouldn’t be.”
“Why not bring any of the girls you’ve dated here?” I asked, shocking myself.
Brennan looked down at his menu and sighed, he moved them to the side and then linked his hands together.
“I don’t date.” He replied. “I don’t go out with women and lead them on. Wining and dining, it can be misconstrued.”
I frowned again and shook my head. “So they all knew this.”
Brennan nodded. “Grace, we don’t need to go over this now.”
I sucked in a breath and nodded. I was hungry and going over Brennan’s past conquests was sure to put me off my appetite.
“Are we ready to order?” The waitress said as she returned.
“I’ll have the mushroom ravioli and a large OJ thanks.” Brennan said with a smile handing his menus back.
“I’ll have the same.” I replied.
The waitress left and Brennan’s hand caught mine.
“I’ll give you a ride back after lunch. I don’t have anything else to attend to until 3.”
“You don’t need to.”
“And yet I’m going to.” Brennan responded with a smile. “You can put your things in my closet, I cleared some space this morning when I dressed for work.”
I just nodded and looked out the window. I could see why Brennan didn’t bring girls here if he’d only been with them for one thing. It was easy to get caught up in the romance of it all. A secluded table, a beautiful city view, soft music. I was a friend, although we’d added a very solid with benefits on to the end of that statement, ultimately our connection was still based off the same thing. He’d brought me here as a friend.
“You alright?” Brennan asked. "It’s very beautiful here. I don’t think I’ve… No I know I haven’t, I’ve never been anywhere like this. I feel like I’m going to mess up and break something at any second.”
Brennan chuckled. “Want to know a secret.” He leaned across the table. “I feel that way, every single time I’m here.”
Our food came out a few minutes later and it was amazing as expected. I tried not to overthink things and just enjoy it, but it was difficult when my head was such a mess over the person sitting across from me.
Once we were finished Brennan settled the check and then took me back to his apartment. Once I was back inside I walked to his bedroom and placed the shopping bags on his bed. His wardrobe was open, and it was a walk in. I didn’t have enough to fill the space he’d left me, but I’d make it work. I took the dress off and placed it on a hanger, before dressing back into my jeans and t-shirt. I managed to make the space work for the amount of clothes I had. I spun around inside the closet and smiled.
This was probably the closest I was ever going to get to actually having a walk in, I was going to lavish it. I ran my fingers over Brennan’s work shirts, before spying a shoe box with college written on it.
I frowned, my curiosity was piqued, despite knowing that looking was invading Brennan’s privacy. I bent down and lifted it, to see how heavy it was, only to find it was surprisingly light. Like a child sneaking candy I looked out of the closet to make sure I was alone, then sat down and carefully lifted the lid.
There were movie stubs, a beer coaster and a napkin with a number on it. And then buried at the bottom was a polaroid picture of Brennan and a beautiful young woman. They were staring into one another’s eyes. He held her, and he was smiling.
I hadn’t seen Brennan with any of his hookups, but he also didn’t have 1000 shoeboxes of nostalgia lining his closet so I knew this girl was someone different. Guilt raged through me, I’d crossed a line.
I placed the lid back on the box and set it back where I’d found it before leaning on the closet wall and chewing on my lip.
Who was she? Brennan had claimed he hadn’t settled down because it wasn’t in him, yet he still had things from a relationship from a decade before.
I hadn’t stopped thinking about the box when Brennan walked through the door. I hadn’t cooked, in fact my appetite was non-existent. But that didn’t matter anyway, because as soon as Brennan closed his apartment door he tossed his keys on the bench and walked straight toward me, picking me up off the ground and carrying me to his bedroom. He placed me on the bed, before kissing me and then set to work undoing my jeans.
“If I’m being too full on, tell me.”
I shook my head and looked down at his pants, they were already down. Brennan moved away, he pulled my jeans and panties off before kissing the inside of my thigh, I almost buckled but his hands held me gently, in place. His lips moved along the sensitive inner thigh, until finally he kissed me at my center. I cried out, and reached out for something to cover my mouth, but Brennan stopped for a second.
“Don’t. I like to hear you.”
I listened, giving in to the moment felt more right than trying to quieten the fires raging within. He knew what he was doing, he knew how to put the pressure on and when, he knew when to slow down and when to speed up. I couldn’t help but think where he’d honed his skills, but right now with his mouth on my most sensitive spot I didn’t care. I could feel my release build, slowly from the inside to the point it was almost painful. I called his name, I ran my fingers through his hair. Then like a bolt of pure pleasure hit me I shook, his hands still in place, still holding me, stopping me from curling up into a ball. I cried out, desperate for us to be close, for him to be inside me, consuming me. Like he knew what I was thinking he moved back up the bed and pushed himself deep. I cried out again, in shock and happiness. We kissed, I could taste myself on his lips, sweet and salty.
“Grace.” He whispered. “I can’t hold it.”
“Don’t.” I replied.
I opened my eyes, I watched him as he moved, his pace quickening, his breathing became ragged, he held me his hand behind my neck. His eyes were closed, he whispered fuck. I watched as his climax took him, and the intensity of it, caused me to writhe beneath him, quickly following his climax with my second.
“I’ve been thinking about doing that all day.” He whispered, moving off me and on to his bed.
“You have?” I replied, somewhat surprised.
“Yes.” He said, without explaining further. I sat up and scooped my clothes up off the ground before walking into Brennan’s bathroom. I cleaned myself up and pulled my pants back on.
When I walked back out Brennan was changing into shorts and a t-shirt. He looked over at me and smiled. His smile broke me, I’d snooped and guilt came rushing back in. As he walked over to me I stepped back.
“I did something.”
“What do you mean?” Brennan asked, without an ounce of worry in his voice. He went to close the distance between us again, and I stepped back again.
“When I was putting the clothes in the closet, I uh, I saw a box. I know it was none of my business and it was private. I just… I knew I shouldn’t have looked but I did. I’m sorry Brennan.” I stopped. “I’m sorry.”
Brennan straightened up. He didn’t look angry, but he also didn’t look okay. He sucked in a breath and his jaw clenched.
“I-I forgot that was there.” He whispered. “Uh, excuse me.”
Brennan turned on his heel and left the room, I followed after him, even though I was sure there was nothing I could do to fix what I’d done, it was already done. Brennan grabbed his keys and jammed his feet into his runners before leaving the apartment altogether.
Brennan still wasn’t back as it neared 10pm. I changed into Pajamas and climbed into bed in the spare room. I hated that I’d hurt him, I’d called his phone a couple of times only to reach voicemail.
I lay in bed, restless and unable to sleep.
Around 11.30 I heard footsteps. I sighed, with relief that he’d returned but stayed in bed, too embarrassed to face him yet. A few minutes later there was a knock at my door. I contemplated not answering, avoidance seemed like a good tactic, albeit a cowardly one.
“Come in.” I said, my voice barely a whisper.
The door opened and Brennan walked in. He sat down on the end of the bed with the box I’d opened in his hands.
“I had a girlfriend in freshman year of college.” Brennan said softly. “Dulcie.”
I watched him in the dim light of the room, thanks to the bedside lamp being on. He looked sad, something I hadn’t really seen from him.
“You don’t have to tell me Brennan. I snooped, it wasn’t my place.”
Brennan shook his head. “I want to. Dulcie and I were inseparable. I was conflicted about introducing her to my parents because I was resentful of meeting their expectations, looking back it was stupid. Then, about six months into our relationship she got sick.”
He picked up the polaroid. “She died three months later.”
My heart ached. Brennan had been in love, he’d given his all to someone and he’d lost her. I pushed the blankets off and stood up. I walked around to Brennan and wrapped my arms around him.
“My family never even knew. I guess I withdrew from them more after that. Embarrassed they’d never met her.”
“I’m so sorry Brennan, I didn’t know.” I whispered, holding him tighter. He put the box down on the bed and wrapped his arms around me.
“How could you have. I’ve never told anyone… until now.”
I pulled back, and sat on the bed, my hands still in Brennan’s.
“Is she the reason why you’re not the settling type?”
“What I said last weekend is the truth, Dulcie was an exception to the rule. I fell head over heels for her. I was like a sick puppy inventing ways just to be near her. After her, after she was gone A piece of me left with her, I don’t want to hurt like that again.”
I nodded, the pain of losing a loved one was unbearable, like a weight destined to sink you. If you weren’t careful it had the strength to tear you apart. Brennan had coped by self preservation and removing the cause from ever disarming him again.
“I get it.” I replied.
Brennan pulled his hands from mine, then picked up the box and moved it to the set of drawers at the end of the bed. He returned to me, his hands lifted me up the bed. I was barely dressed, so my clothes were gone in a second and through frantic kisses, Brennan’s too were tugged off and then we were one. Moving together, consumed by everything and each other. This time was different, a dance and we were so in sync we met each touch perfectly. Together we fell apart, and then we fell asleep.
When I woke the next morning I knew I was falling in love.