Never Again

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Chapter 22

I groggily remember us pulling up to Seth’s apartment and him helping me inside. I find the comfy shorts and tank top that I’ve been wearing for my PJ’s since I’ve been here. Then, I climb into the soft bed falling deeply into slumber.

I wake up not feeling completely rested due to evil women trying to take Ronin from me. Deep down I know he’s not mine, but … don’t tell my heart that. Remembering that it’s Christmas morning, I bounce out of bed. Seth is still sleeping, so I tuck his presents under the tree to the best of my ability, and make a pot of coffee. Too anxious to let him sleep, I sneak into his room and pounce on his bed.

“Seth, Seth, Santa Clause came!” I say acting like a little kid again. Seth grabs his blankets and somehow throws it over my head. Then he pushes me onto the bed and holds me down. I’m trapped by the blanket. Evilly, he takes one of his hands and starts pounding on my chest.

He says, “typewriter-typewriter.”

I try to kick him off, but he is sitting on me and I am trapped. I start laughing hysterically, “Seth, stop ...” I gasp, “Seth,” I yell and start laughing again.

“Mercy ... Mercy,” Seth backs off, laughing out loud at me.

“Seth, Santa came! We need to get up!”

“How about we make breakfast together and then we can open our presents as we eat,” he says as his stomach rumbles hungrily.

“Perfect," I maneuver myself free from the tangled up comforter, and leave Seth in his room to get put together. I pour two cups of coffee, and I see Seth as he rounds the corner and into the kitchen.

Opening the fridge, he looks over his shoulder, “bacon, sausage, eggs, French toast, hash browns, pancakes?” He rattles a number of things.

“All of those? Well, damn I guess you are hungry,” I tease.

Seth rolls his eyes at me.

How about French toast, I haven’t had French toast in forever.

We both get busy making breakfast—working in sync with each other. It’s the most fun I’ve had in years. A knock from the door makes both of us pause. I’m working on eggs while Seth is making French toast.

He shrugs his shoulders, “Seth ...” I say, but I know he understands that I’m not ready to see Ronin yet, not after leaving last night.

“I’ll go see who it is,” he says quietly creeping over to the door. He peeks through the peek hole and I have to hold back from laughing, because he looks completely ridiculous. He turns around and mouths, “it’s Santa.”

I look at him puzzled and he grins widely. He opens the door and all I can see is a big red suit, standing in the door.

“Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas.”

I smile seeing a man dressed from head to toe in a perfect Santa suit. “Santa, I think you may have come to the wrong house,” Matt looks at me confused. “We haven’t been very good this year. I’m sure we are very high on the naughty list.”

Matt walks into the kitchen and gives me a big bear hug. He must have a pillow in his suit, because there is much more cushion to him than normal. “I tend to like the naughty ones,” he whispers in my ear. “They’re more fun.”

I feel my face heat up and I turn a little so he won’t see my blush when he puts me down.

“So, does Santa want some breakfast, or is he too busy with more deliveries,” I ask.

“Hell no, I’m not too busy for breakfast, you’re my only stop. Besides, Santa got all of his deliveries done last night. If I hadn’t … there would have been a lot of pissed off kids this morning.”

I love his humor, it makes me laugh. “Well great, maybe some French toast will earn us some brownie points to work our way up on the nice list.”

Matt winks at me. “Just you being you, will get points on my list.” He says and then turns back to the living room. “I’m sweating to death in this damn thing,” he says.

“I thought you were doing something with your family today,” Seth requisitions.

“Yeah we were going to, but we all got together last night. If I had listened to one more of my Uncle George’s stupid stories about how to get rich and how to be a good businessman, I think I would have shot myself.”

“Can’t be that bad man?”

“Yes, it was bad!”

Seth came back into the kitchen to help me finish with breakfast. Afterwards, we wander into the living room with heaping plates of hot food.

“Present time.” I shout.

I crawl on my knees and get the gag gift for Seth first. He lifts the large box and shakes it. Both Matt and I watch as he rips the wrapping paper off the box. The description is pretty vivid and I can’t contain myself, I burst out laughing.

“That’s your new friend to keep you company on those cold lonely nights.” I tease.

Matt is looking at the box. Expressionless and then when Seth pries open the box, a floppy balloon pops out with what looks like real human hair. Matt starts chuckling deeply, “dude … your sister has you nailed, you always have preferred brunettes.”

I stiffen hearing the brunette comment—wondering if Ronin and the goddess got reacquainted last night.

“I got something for you,” Matt says to me, pulling me out of my self-pity moment.

“Matt, you didn’t have to do that.”

“I know, but I wanted to.” He slips a square, flat box into my hand wrapped in silver paper with a beautiful translucent bow on top.

I’m very careful as I pull on the bow, trying not to tear the ribbon, and I gently unfold the wrapping paper from where it is held down by tape. After removing the paper, a white box with a snug lid lays in my hand. I open the lid and see a silver charm bracelet resting on white fluffy tissue paper. I pick up the bracelet and look at the small dangling pieces: one is a seashell, “a reminder of our walk,” he says softly.

Another pendant is a Mustang and I smile realizing he’s reminiscing about our time together. “The car ride,” I say holding the small reminder in my fingers. Another is a wineglass, “from the night we went drinking.” I whisper quietly.

“And this one?”

“It’s a shoe, dancing at our Christmas party,” he answers.

I nod in acknowledgement.

The last one is a pair of lips, and I lift my eyebrows to question the meaning.

“You might not remember it so well, but I do,” he says and then lifts his hand to my cheek and softly strokes my bottom lip with his thumb.

The sensual motion does amazing things to my gut. I feel myself leaning forward responding to the intimate touch, wanting him to remind me just how that kiss went.

His eyes flicker to above my head and I remember Seth sitting behind me on the couch. “I didn’t get you anything though,” feeling embarrassed now that he has given me such a lovely gift, and I have nothing for him in return.

“That’s okay. If you’ll notice, this bracelet has a lot more room on it. I’m just hoping we get to add more memories to it. The thought itself makes me happy.”

I know exactly what he’s hoping for. I’m just not sure I’m ready for any commitment. He leans forward and presses his lips to my forehead, and takes his hand from my face to rest in my hand. I welcome his hand in mine and wrap my fingers around his.

Seth is blowing up his present and pretending to ignore us. Man I love him.

“That other box is yours too,” I say pointing at the larger box still under the tree. “It’s a little heavier, so you’ll have to pick it up.”

I don’t really want to get up and leave the comfort of Matt’s warm hand. Seth stops blowing up his doll and plugs his progress.

“Don’t even think about it man, she’s mine! I don’t share.” He says sternly while placing the doll on the floor. Seth is giving Matt a stare down, and he’s keeping a completely straight face, until Matt and I bust a gut.

“Don’t worry dude. Someone else is in my sight … she’s all yours.” Matt squeezes my hand while teasing Seth.

Seth lifts the box, and before he tries to shake it. I blurt out “no way don’t shake that one.”

A twisted grin lights Seth’s face …“Fine” he rips off the paper and when he realizes what it is, his eyes widen. “No. Way. Sis. This is awesome.”

He leaves the wine cooler on the floor and comes over and gives me a huge hug. “It’s perfect.” Seth lets me go so I can breathe again. “Let me go get yours.” Seth leaves Matt and me in the living room, while he heads towards his bedroom down the hall.

“Treva, I want to kiss you so badly right now,” Matt confesses to me. My stomach starts flipping around like a chaotic circus act is in full motion … deep down in my torso.

He is so sexy, and now that he’s lost his Santa suit, he’s wearing a black ribbed shirt that stretches over his built chest, and his ripping biceps protrude with definition. The pair of dark denim jeans are tight against his thighs … well, they are when he sits down at least, I hadn’t noticed, when he was standing. His dazzling glacial blue eyes and those sexy blonde wavy tendrils are almost impossible to neglect. I can’t deny the attraction I have toward him. The heat in the room must’ve risen at least five degrees just from the heated stare between us. Seth thankfully comes back in, interrupting the intense, yet very perplexing moment. He has two boxes in his hands. One is about the size of a book, and the other is just slightly smaller.

Seth hands me the boxes and I and unwrap the larger one first … about to have a heart attack, “you got me an IPad? This is way too expensive!” I retort.

“You’re worth every penny sis’, and it should come in very helpful when you’re back at school.” Tears start to well up in my eyes at the extraordinary gift. I am almost scared to open the next one. Slowly, I rip off the paper and start laughing when I hold the deck of cards, “great minds think alike.”

“Yup,” he says.

The cards have half naked men modeling on the front of them. I got him a woman and he got me some men.

“Merry Christmas, Seth.”

“Merry Christmas, Treva.”

“Is it too early for a glass of wine?” I ask.

“How about a mimosa?”

“Perfect.” I agree.

Seth jumps up and I follow him into the kitchen for a celebratory drink. Seth’s phone vibrates in his pocket while we are filling our glasses with champagne and orange juice. He lifts it out to see whose calling. He looks at me, “it’s the twentieth call.” He says. Sadly, I shake my head and Seth ends the call and then turns his phone off.

If his phone has gone off that many times, I’m sure mine has been lit up just as much.

And we all toast, “to friends and family”

Seth, Matt and I hang out most of the day. I’m still in my PJ’s and Seth is wearing pajama bottoms, we munch mindlessly on candy that I had stuffed in our stockings and watch how the Grinch stole Christmas and then a Christmas story … My most favorite Christmas movie.

I snuggle into Matt comfortably—enveloped in his warm strong arms as he mindlessly traces my outer ear. The effect is mind boggling. I close my eyes trying to keep my breathing under control while my brain races to make order of the frenzied sensations his finger leaves behind. We must stay like this until about three o’clock in the afternoon when a loud bang hits the door.

Seth must’ve been dozing off a little because the knock makes him jump about two feet off the couch. He looks at Matt and me accusingly, to see if we were the ones responsible for the noise, but we both shake our heads no and point at the door.

“Who the fuck …” Seth trails off, but he and I both have a good idea as to who it is on the other side. “Want me to tell him you’re not here?”

“I’ll tell him to take a hike if you want me to,” Matt says conspiratorially.

Matt has no idea why I am avoiding Ronin, but he seems eager to help in any case. “How about Seth just opens the door and Ronin can see you wrapped up in my arms—maybe then he’ll just leave.”

“Yeah right, that would go over like a hurricane at a beach party. No, I need to talk to him.” I stretch out my stiff legs from having them bent weird underneath me. I take a hesitant step and look at Matt. His face has turned hard and I hate knowing that I’m the one causing his turmoil.

He grabs my arm, “Treva, you don’t have to do this.”

“I need to,” is all I’m able to say.

The pounding continues to assail the front door and I cringe when I grab the silver knob to twist it open. I pull on the door, but I am stopped by the dead lock in place. Duh Treva, he probably would have barged in here if it hadn’t been locked. I flip the lock slowly to unlock the door and I pull the door open.

Registering the man in front of me bites at my soul. I don’t think I could even imagine Ronin looking so upset; his white dress shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, is wrinkled and hanging out of his jeans, his hair is tousled in the messy sexy way I like, but it’s even more strewn around than normal. The worry lines creasing his face makes him look like he aged fifteen years in one night. I doubt that he has slept at all. Of course he hasn’t slept, he was probably up all night with the goddess tiring him out since they’ve been separated for so long. I bite my tongue trying to hold my lashing remarks to myself.

I initially intended to take this conversation to the hall, but before I walk out, he walks in. Ronin quickly scans the room, and then his eyes stop searching, landing on Matt and I see the scowl deepen.

“Matt, Seth.” He says coldly. “Treva ...” He says it like he’s searching for hope in my name, his hands nervously run through his hair and he looks pained.

I turn around and walk back to the spare bedroom wanting privacy for this conversation. All day, I had been trying to figure what I was going to tell him, more—the way—I can tell him … that we can’t be together. I know it’s just a fantasy thinking it would ever go any further between us. I’d be a fool to think there’s anything more.

Ronin picks up on what I’m doing, and I can feel him walking behind me when we go into the bedroom. He closes the door and rushes me grabbing me and hugging onto me so tightly.

“Treva, baby ... I’m so sorry. I had no idea Mel had planned on sabotaging Christmas dinner. I freaked out on both of them.” He inhales deeply and I know he’s taking in my scent, like I often do to him.

“I almost fired Malcolm for taking you home.”

I gasp, “Ronin you didn’t.”

“No, he told me to be reasonable and give you some space. He made me look at it from a different spectrum.” He lets out another deep breath and I feel it penetrating my neck through my hair. “Why did you leave?” He asks exasperated.

“Are you serious? How the hell am I supposed to even come close to comparing to that beauty that walked in last night. I’m like a grotesque mole next her. I know that I can’t measure up. Everything about her screams luxury.” I try to push back from him, but his arms don’t budge, if anything, they become tighter.

“Treva, what are you talking about?”

“Naomi. That’s what Ronin. She fits right into your world; money, luxury beauty. How do I match up to that? I can’t! All of you are like BMWs, Lexus’, Audi’s, Mercedes and me—me, I’m like a Gremlin or a Pinto, I’ll never be anything more.” I feel mentally exhausted. I have been trying to fit into the role of the Princess, but I’m not a princess. I’d be lucky to scrub the floors of the palace.

“Treva you’re wrong. You couldn’t be more wrong. You fit perfectly in my world. You’re like a piece to a puzzle—a piece that I had lost and didn’t know it. Now I’ve found you and you’re right where you belong, ” he pauses, “I found where I belong. I don’t think anything will ever be right again if the missing piece of me disappears again.”

His words melt me. I so want to believe we could be together, but that unrelenting nag at the back of my brain tells me it won’t ever happen. “Ronin I don’t even live here.”

“You could stay. You can stay here with me. I’ll take care of you.”

“I need … I need to take care of myself, Ronin. I can’t expect to be taken care of or being carried by someone else.”

“That’s what you deserve.”

“Ronin, this has been great! You’re an amazing man, and actually, wait … I have something for you.” I go to the bedside table and get the little box I had wrapped for him.

He looks at it deeply, “what is it?”

“Open it!”

He unwraps the small box and pulls out the keychain that I had bought at the little market. I giggle seeing his confusion as he squeezes it and it lights up and then goes thump, thump … thump, thump, mimicking the sound of a heart beat.

I wrap my hands around his and close down on him. “This represents my heart, and I’m giving it to you. I want you to know that a piece of me will always be with you. I’m not whole unless we are together.”

“Treva …” he lets out a deep sigh, “I’ll keep it close to me at all times, but I don’t want just a piece I want the whole thing.” Ronin pulls his hand free and then caresses my cheek softly. The longing in his eyes is burning fiercely inside me. He slowly leans forward to kiss me, but I lean backwards … the first time.

“Wait ... I need to know,” the question sticks in my throat like a clump of thick peanut butter. “Did you?”

“Did I what love?”

“Did you reconnect with Naomi?”

He understands exactly what I mean by the question. “Treva. Oh God! It’s not what you think.”

“Well,” I look down at my hands and fiddle with them idly, “she’s so perfect ... and ... the two of you were going to get married at one point in your lives. It makes sense that you would want her over me.”

Ronin presses his forehead to mine and I feel his warm breath on my skin. I close my eyes, trying to absorb the moment … being so close to him.

“I’ve always been monogamous in my relationships before, but now I know with out a doubt in my mind, that there’s no one else for me. I never realized what loving someone meant until I met you, Treva.”

Holy hell is Ronin Hollister telling me he loves me?

“Ronin,” I whisper, but before I even finish his name, his mouth is covering mine. His kiss is desperate and yet so passionate. I hum glorified as he holds me in his arms. The air shifts, and the fire builds as our tongues dance together. I reach my hands up circling around his neck and I grab a tuft of his hair. I tug on the strand while pulling his head forward urging him to get deeper. Ronin moans so sexy into my mouth and the vehement sensation pulsing through my insides grow. I can’t help it … I want him.

A light knock on the door interrupts us. It takes all of my willpower to pull myself from him.

“Treva, are you all right” a voice comes through the door and I’m surprised that the voice is from Matt and not Seth.

Ronin stiffens, “she’s fine.”

“I want to hear it from Treva, Treva kitten are you okay?” His voice is resonating with concern.

“Yes Matt, I’m okay.” I answer softly, feeling torn, hearing the strain in his voice.

“Alright, but if you need anything or just need me, I’m right out here. Okay,”

“Thanks, Matt.”

I hear a low grumble coming from Ronin “did you just growl.” I ask.

“He needs to learn his place. He obviously doesn’t know that you’re mine. You’re not … what did he call you, oh yes, his kitten,” the undertone in his voice tells me just how serious he is.

“HOLD UP,” I say, “for starters, I’m not anyone’s! I’m not just someone that people can carry around. FUCK … I’m here on vacation. We live twelve hundred miles apart.” I shake my head … I’m exasperated. The wild heated up moment when I was so full of anticipation and all worked up has turned bitter cold … UGH he’s so overbearing, sexy as hell, but overbearing.

Ronin pushes his hands through his rich coffee colored hair in frustration. “I’m throwing myself at you and you’re still blind to see how much I care about you.”

“Ronin this is ... so ... overwhelming, I just ... I don’t ... I’m scared.”

“Oh baby, please ... What did that asshole do to you?”

My eyes shoot up immediately, I want to scream. I hate how everything is so complicated. “You don’t want to know Ronin.”

Ronin reaches for my fumbling fingers, but I pull back taking a step backward so he can’t connect with me physically. His eyes are lost, probably mirroring exactly how I feel.

“Fuck … Fuck … Fuck Ronin. He tortured me ... He ... He hurt me ... He held me prisoner for two years” First, tears start to well up, and then I start bawling with my hands over my face.

“Please baby let me in ... Let me wipe those memories away.”

“I … please I just need some time,” I hiccup between sobs. “Please just leave me. Just leave me alone.”

“I’m not leaving you like this.” He steps forward and wraps his arms around me.

“No! I protest. “Please just give me some time alone.”

Ronin softly kisses my forehead. “I’ll give you as much time as you need, but I’m not leaving you … you need to know that I’m not going anywhere.”

I sob harder. “Please just go.”

Ronin reluctantly unfolds his arms and I can feel his intense stare boring through me. “I won’t be far. Call me and I’ll be right over, and Treva, tomorrow, after the hospital with my brother, you and I have plans.”

Before I can object he steps through the door closing it behind him … leaving me alone to cry.

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