Chapter 4 - Moving In Together
“Is that the last of it?” Avery asked as Tristan walked into her apartment carrying a large box.
“Yeah, that’s it,” he said as he kicked the door closed.
He put the box down and pulled a little glass figurine of two little boys out of his pocket.
“I just need a place to put this little guy,” he said as he looked down at it.
“What’s that?” Avery walked up to him to get a closer look.
“This is a gift my best friend gave me when I moved out of my parent’s house.”
He handed her the figurine and her eyes lit up. She walked over to a giant bookshelf with a ton of pictures and tiny trinkets. She examined it for a moment and put the figurine down on one of the empty shelves.
“There we go,” she said with a proud smile on her face.
“Wow,” Tristan breathed as he looked over the pictures. “It’s a little weird that someone like you would have all these pictures.”
“Why would you say that?” she asked but he didn’t give her an answer and it made her feel a little self-conscious. “I get it. It’s because you think I’m some heartless monster who lives, eats, and breathes work. Well I’ll have you know that I’m just a painfully private person who doesn’t like to share my life with the outside world.”
“That’s not what I meant-” he started but she turned around and walked away before he could finish.
Her reaction did bring on a smile though because he felt privileged to have the opportunity to enter her bubble. He carefully examined each picture and the item in front of it to figure out what significance they could have. He picked up the dried-out rose that was placed in front of a picture of her mother and twirled it through his fingers.
“Please be careful with that,” Avery said as she walked up to him. “It’s one of a kind and I don’t want it to be destroyed.”
Avery was gentle as she took the rose from him and placed it back on its pedestal. Her eyes took on a look of longing as she ran her fingers along the picture frame and she let out a sigh before returning to her usual cold self.
“What are these things?” Tristan asked as his eyes roamed over the bookshelf.
Avery gave him a breathtaking smile and said, “These are the items I kept to remind me and my family of the best moments in our lives. The rose, for example, is from the first bouquet of flowers my father gave my mother when they started dating. The teddy bear was the first thing I gave Victorine when my parents adopted her.”
Avery walked over to the teddy bear. She picked it up and gave it a gentle squeeze as she smiled down at it, but her eyes were sad. She put the bear down again and walked over to a picture of two girls.
“This is my half of the best friends forever necklace I bought,” Avery said as she ran the golden chain through her fingers. “Laurel still has the other half. Our friendship has lasted for fifteen years and she hasn’t taken it off since I gave it to her.”
Avery giggled as she put the necklace back down and she walked over to a section with a frame but no picture. Instead of a picture, it had a quote that read:
“Remember those who hurt you, for they are the ones who make you stronger.”
In front of the quote, there was a ring box that had a beautiful diamond ring in it. Avery snapped the box shut, her amusement clear, as she walked away from the shelf.
She took a seat on the couch, acting as if nothing had happened, leaving Tristan perplexed.
He looked over the display one last time and realized that she cherished her family and loved ones. All of those pictures and items that were so special to her went against the impression he had of her.
It seemed like she wasn’t as shut off as he thought she was, and that led him to wonder what else he was wrong about.
“Was that an engagement ring?” Tristan asked as he took a seat opposite her.
“Yeah… That poor fool.” Avery laughed as got up and walked toward her bedroom. “It’s getting late. We should get some rest.”
Avery was still wary of Tristan and she was trying her best to keep her distance from him. The more time they spent together, the more attractive he seemed to get and the more she found herself opening up to him.
The effect he had on her scared her and she thought it would be best if she kept him at a distance.
Tristan was surprised by Avery’s reaction to his question. He could see that she was concealing her pain with laughter and it bothered him.
He was pacing in front of her bedroom door, trying to find an excuse to talk to her. He wanted more information, but then he heard her throwing up.
Without hesitation, he let himself into her room and found her sitting next to the toilet with her head in her hands.
“Hey, are you okay?” He kneeled down in front of her.
He ran his fingers through her hair, hoping to make her feel better.
A tear trickled down her cheek as she stared up at him and to his surprise she laughed. “Oh my God, look at me.”
She took a deep breath and he saw a flicker of disappointment in her eyes. “I mean, I’m supposed to be a badass.”
“Even badasses get morning sickness,” he said with a laugh.
“Yeah, well-” Avery pushed up to stand. “I don’t have time for weakness.”
A sudden dizzy spell caused her to sway, and Tristan sprung up to grab hold of her. Before she could protest he lifted her into his strong arms and carried her to her bed.
“Boundaries,” she said, but her tone was more tired than daunting.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” He carried her all the way to her bedroom, and placed her gently on her bed. “Now get some rest.”
“I don’t need anyone,” she mumbled. “And you don’t get to tell me what to do.”
But even so, it was clear all the fight had left her body.
Her vulnerability touched him to his core, and at that moment, his heart wavered. He wanted to be there for her and to protect her from everyone and everything that could possibly harm her.
It was then that his crush turned into something more and that made him want things he hadn’t considered before.
Avery watched on with a mixture of amusement and utter confusion as Tristan carefully removed her heels.
He moved up her body, removing all the clothes he deemed unnecessary. When he had finished, he walked over to her closet to get her something more comfortable.
While Avery was changing, Tristan made her a cup of tea and a cold compress. He changed into some comfortable clothes as well and made his way back to Avery’s bedroom.
She was already tucked in when he presented her with the tea and, once again; he was reluctant to leave.
He sat down next to her and, to his surprise, she turned to face him. Tristan ran the cold compress over her forehead and she closed her eyes in total bliss. Her reaction stimulated him emotionally and physically, so he ran the cloth over her entire face and neck.
“Are you feeling a little better now?” Tristan asked, and he moved to get up.
Avery grabbed onto his shirt and pulled him back down. “You really don’t need to do all this. I’m pregnant, not dying and we’re just pretending, remember?”
She was saying one thing but the look in her eyes told another story and it shattered him in both heart and soul. He couldn’t resist her silent pleas if he wanted to.
He nodded and got comfortable next to her. “We might be pretending but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you. If you’re not feeling well or if you need someone to talk to or even if you just want to lay here in silence, I’ll be there.”
To his surprise, Avery snuggled closer to him and he couldn’t resist the urge to touch her.
Avery had never felt as vulnerable as she did at that moment. His words not only took her by surprise but they touched a part of her that she thought had died a long time ago. He made her feel appreciated and wanted, which was something she hasn’t felt since she was a teenager.
And for some odd reason, he offered her a kind of comfort she had never felt before. It was something she needed at the time and she was going to take advantage of the situation.
“Who hurt you this badly, Avery?” Tristan whispered, and he tightened his grip on her.
“No one hurt me,” Avery said, her words were laced with agitation, and she turned her back to him.
Tristan leaned back and let out a sigh. He didn’t understand why Avery wasn’t willing to open up to him, but then he reminded himself that he had his own secrets.
He decided not to push his luck with her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” He ran his fingers along her back, and she instantly relaxed.
Avery turned to face him once more, and she gave him a sweet smile. “I’m not upset and I’m not broken either, Tristan. I don’t need a man to walk into my life just so he can try to fix something that doesn’t need fixing.”
“I’m not trying to fix you.” Tristan motioned for her to come closer and said, “You’re already perfect and anyone who tries to change you is a fool of epic proportions.”
Avery laughed and moved back into the position she was in. Tristan played with her hair, and it didn’t take her long to drift off. He wasn’t sure if he should stay or leave and opted to stay.
Tristan was mesmerized by the way Avery looked while fast asleep. He watched her chest rising and falling with each breath she took. The sweet way her lips curled into a smile as if she was having the best dream ever.
He sighed like a lovesick puppy and whispered, “Tristan Hayes, you are by far the biggest idiot on the planet. How could you be stupid enough to develop feelings for a woman like her?”
Avery draped her arm over his chest and he froze. It felt amazing to be so close to her after all the months of yearning for exactly this. But he couldn’t allow himself to enjoy it.
“You had a goal and you have to stick to it. Love and crushes are terrible distractions that will throw you off course if you let them get to you. You need to stop this infatuation and focus on the task at hand!” he said in a loud whisper.
Avery tightened her grip on him, effectively shutting him up.
The next morning, Avery and Tristan arrived at Blanc Holdings together.
“You don’t have to walk me all the way to my office,” Avery whispered as they passed Tristan’s desk.
“Why not?” he asked, feigning innocence.
“Because people will talk.”
“They already saw us arriving in the same car and walking in together. If they wanted to gossip they would be gossiping about that.”
They reached her door and he placed a hand next to her head, effectively blocking her in.
“People are staring,” she whispered as she slipped out beneath his arm and ducked into her office.
Tristan leaned against her door for a moment and he couldn’t stop himself from smiling. It took him a moment to regain his bearings and he sighed as he pushed away from the door and returned to his desk.
“So, are you and the boss lady actually getting it on?” Cam asked as she took a seat on Tristan’s desk.
Her boldness surprised him, and he didn’t know what to say. He looked to Avery’s office and saw her standing at her enormous glass door with her arms folded over her chest.
She was watching him, and he found it a little intimidating.
“I’m busy.” He motioned to the paperwork scattered over his desk. “Go find someone else to keep you occupied. Or better yet, do your job.”
Cam raised her eyebrows at his sudden displeasure with her presence but said nothing about it. She just got up and let him do his job.
Tristan looked over at Avery once more, but she was gone.
Avery was walking back to her office after yet another meeting and she heard a couple of the girls sniggering in the break room.
“Do you think there’s actually something going on between Tristan and Avery?” one of the girls asked.
“I doubt it. Avery “doesn’t do” relationships. In the four years I’ve been here there hasn’t been a guy. Not one! So if Tristan thinks he stands a chance he’s making a huge mistake,” the other girl said.
“He might not stand a chance with her but he definitely stands a chance with me. I’ve had a crush on him since he started working here and I think it’s time for me to make a move,” the first girl said.
Her words grated Avery and she stomped off, not actually understanding why she was so upset. It’s not like her and Tristan were actually a couple. And it’s not like she wanted that either.
“I’m just irritated because they’re interfering with his work. Nothing more and nothing less,” she told herself.
Avery decided to deal with the situation once and for all, and she called a staff meeting.
“I’ve heard rumors going around the office regarding my personal life, and I would like to remind you all that this is a place of work. My personal life is none of your business, just as your personal life is not my business. This isn’t a hair salon and I won’t tolerate this kind of behavior.”
Avery’s point was crystal clear, and it looked like everyone got the message.
“If you have any questions, you can approach me yourself. At least you’ll get the truth that way.
“Now, if I see any of you slacking in your work or bothering your colleagues with this issue, it will result in a disciplinary hearing. Trust me, you won’t like the outcome.”
Avery left the boardroom with her head held high.
She was convinced that her threat would bring the gossip to an end, and she was sure it would stop the girls from approaching Tristan. She was on her way to her office when a wave of nausea swept through her, forcing her to go to the nearest bathroom.
She burst into the public bathroom and threw up. She had just wiped her mouth when she heard a couple of women coming in, so she stayed in the cubicle.
“She’s definitely fucking him. It’s obvious from the meeting and the fact that he’s getting special treatment,” one said, infuriating Avery.
“It’s obviously the reason he still has a job. Nobody lasted as long as he did and that could only mean that he’s keeping her happy, in more ways than one,” another said.
Avery’s palm was twitching with the urge to slap one of them, but she got a better idea.