“Why didn’t you punch the douchebag?” Elena, my best friend, seethed “If I could just get my hands on him—” She curled her hands in the air as though she was strangling someone. It was quite amusing listening to all the ways that she wanted to kill Aaron.
If only you knew the truth.
I realized how much I’d needed this. Elena and I met up every other Friday after work for what we called ‘a girl’s night.’ We ate, we drank and we vented.
“I can’t believe he would cheat on you with that bimbo.” She shook her head. Elena’s eyes matched the cocktail she was sipping on, a tropical Hawaiian green. Usually those eyes would sparkle and smile, but I knew the news about Aaron had upset her and she only knew half the truth.
Only that Aaron cheated on me with Regina, not about that night.
Elena thought I’d lost my virginity at 18. I felt so stupid for lying to my only best friend.
Perhaps it’s time to tell her the truth.
“I don’t think he cares, El,” I sighed.
Elena’s face softened and she scooted closer to me. “Don’t let him make you feel bad, Haley. It’s his loss.” She placed her hand over mine.
I loved her in that moment.
You definitely owe her the truth!
No one ever believed that Elena was a preschool teacher—she looked like she belonged on a catwalk, not someone who chased children around all day. But she loved her job, always had. She wasn’t pathetic like I was—she didn’t have to lie to feel normal.
“Elena,” I croaked.
“Shit, don’t cry, Haley, you were too fucking good for that asshole!” She sat beside me now, stroking my hair.
“I’ve been so stupid,” I sobbed. “I lied to you.” I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to look at her.
“What are you talking about?”
“Sex!” I said a little too loudly.
“I’m a virgin! I have never had sex in my life.”
The stroking stopped and there was a silence that followed.
I slowly opened my eyes one at a time.
Elena was staring at me with a sympathetic smile on her gorgeous tanned face. “Haley, why didn’t you just tell me?”
I shrugged sadly. “I’m pathetic, okay?”
“No, you’re not, Hales. You shouldn’t have lied but I know you probably had your reasons.” She squeezed my arm reassuringly. “Can I confess something?” She smiled sheepishly as she sucked on the pineapple from her cocktail and then leaned toward my ear. “I think I’ve always known you were a virgin.”
“Uh huh, I just picked up on it but never said anything. Like I said, you must have had your reasons.” Elena took a sip of her tropical drink.
I couldn’t help but smile. Yeah, things weren’t exactly going great right now but I had Leon, I had Elena and I had my crazy mom.
I refrained from telling Elena about the mystery man from the fundraiser, refrained from telling her how he affected me. He seemed so brutal, so raw. I have never come across anyone like that in my entire life, he was… intense. And then there was the fact that Leon hated him with a blaze of a thousand fires.
Somewhere deep inside me I knew that there was someone I longed for, something. Maybe it wasn’t even a person, but just a feeling, a rush. I’d been having this recurring dream each day this week that I was chasing after something in an untamed meadow, I couldn’t tell you what it was. But I wanted it.
I sat at my desk sorting through outstanding correspondence. Since the whole Aaron situation I had made a habit of staying in my office with the door safely closed.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t have been hiding but could you really blame me?
How could I face them out there after everything Aaron said about me? I’m probably known as the dry vagina girl.
I thought back to when I’d told Elena about what had really happened between Aaron and myself that night. Elena had actually stood up with her fists at her sides, ready to give Aaron a piece of her mind. It took a lot to get her to calm down but after she saw that I just wanted to drop it, eventually she did.
But I knew that wasn’t the last I was going to hear about it. I knew at some point Elena was going to make me confront him. Even I knew that I deserved an explanation as to why he treated me the way he did. But the more I pondered, the more I kept telling myself it was my own fault.
The winter sun was setting beyond the tall skyscrapers as I parked outside Walmart for a quick grocery run. Still wearing my work clothes, a black and white pantsuit, I hurried around the aisles with a shopping cart.
I was too deep in thought trying to decide whether to buy the chicken breasts or minced beef when I felt a familiar presence at my side. I don’t know how, but I knew who it was without looking. The sharp, musky scent sent a shiver down my spine.
I turned to face him, the man that I kept trying to forget. It was as if all the air from my body was suddenly trapped. When I looked into his dark eyes, I could see my own reflection.
His face was expressionless—he looked like a statue carved from smooth marble. He was wearing a thick black high neck jumper with clean black trousers. His hair was slicked back and when my eyes hovered toward his full lips, I noticed his bottom lip had healed some.
He took a few steps closer until he was right by me. My heart began to thump out of my chest. But he reached up for the chicken breasts and held onto them.
I turned away and continued walking through the rest of the aisle with the cart but every corner I turned, every aisle, every food section, there he was, chucking random food that he wasn’t even looking at into his own cart. He didn’t say a word and I knew better than to believe that this was a coincidence—he was following me around this supermarket and I’d be a fool if I didn’t ask why.
Finally, reaching the desserts section, I threw in a strawberry cheesecake and waited for him to choose something. He kept staring at me as he threw dessert after dessert into his cart.
“What are you doing?” I frowned. This was just weird now.
“Shopping,” he replied, calm as ever.
That velvety voice still affected me the same as it did at that fundraiser.
“No, you’re following me around this store,” I pointed out trying to remain calm at how close he was.
“Free country.” He shrugged.
I shook my head in dismay, turned my cart toward the checkout and strolled off.
I kept looking over my shoulder as my shopping was being scanned and bagged.
What was he playing at? Should I have called Leon? Or maybe all this was in my head and he was just shopping.
“That’ll be sixty-two dollars please,” the cashier said.
I pulled out my credit card to pay but a large hand overtook mine. He was back and he had just paid for my shopping with his own card.
“What the hell are you doing?” I bellowed. This had gone too far. Whatever stupid game he was playing had to end now.
He walked away slowly toward the exit, but this time was smirking at me.
I placed the shopping bags into the cart and shuffled toward the carpark.
Where the fuck did he go?
“Argh, stupid, stupid man,” I mumbled under my breath as I placed the shopping bags into the boot of my car.
For a moment I contemplated calling Leon but I didn’t want to worry him. It was quite embarrassing and surreal to explain. Hey bro, your arch nemesis just bought all of my groceries. Like what on earth just happened in there?
My mind was still all over the place as I began putting all the groceries away—I didn’t know whether to laugh or be mad. There was one thing I couldn’t deny though: that man was an enigma. He was so beautiful it hurt. But it irritated me that I was attracted to him.
I fished for my cell phone in my purse when my fingers grasped something else, it was the receipt of my shopping but on the back of it was writing.
“The world is not thy friend, nor the world’s law.”
I stood blinking at the fine scripture on this thin piece of paper. I knew who had written this without a doubt. The Walmart receipt started to feel heavy between my fingers as I tried to analyze what he had written.
I knew it was a quote from Romeo and Juliet but I had no idea what he meant by this.
He’s playing stupid games with you, Haley, just throw it away and get on with your life.
Sleep did not come that night. It was a little after 2 a.m. as I tossed and turned in the dark, when I felt like I was being pulled in, sucked into this other dimension. A big part of me wanted to ask Leon who this man was and what happened between them.
Those dark eyes.
Sleep never came.
I managed to sneak a cup of coffee from the office kitchen without being noticed by anyone. My hair was up in a high messy bun and I didn’t even have to look at my face to know that there were big dark bags under my eyes. I was walking back to my office when I bumped into my boss Steven.
“Ah, Haley!” He beamed as though he had been waiting for me.
“Hello.” I smiled, sounding a little unsure.
“Would you mind stepping into my office for a minute?”
“Yes, sure… is everything okay, Steven?”
“This will only take a minute.” He gestured for me to follow him to his large office at the end of the third floor.
I felt like I was sweating buckets. Did I get some figures wrong?
“Take a seat, Haley.” He closed his office door behind him as I sat down, then he sat opposite me in his big brown leather chair.
We stared at each other for a moment, him scratching his graying beard.
“Look, Haley. You have worked here nearing on three years now and we are incredibly satisfied at all you’ve accomplished in that time. You would tell us if you were thinking of leaving wouldn’t you?”
“Yes, but I’m not leaving, Steven. Why would you think that?”
“I don’t think I’m obliged to say.” He suddenly looked a little worn out and defeated.
“What’s going on?” I pressed. It wasn’t like Steven to act so nervously around me—usually I was the nervous one.
Steven cleared his throat and shifted around in his seat. “I am offering you a pay rise, Haley.”
“Oh really?” I responded, quite puzzled. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I suppose it’s been a long time coming. I should have done this ages ago. You are very good at your job and all the overtime you do does not go unnoticed.”
“Thank you, Steven! Really, thank you so much!”
I made my way back to my office with a little spring in my step, however I did feel a little uneasy at how nervous Steven was. That wasn’t really how you would expect to get a pay rise. I laughed to myself picturing someone with a gun to his head or something.
Fuck! I started to rush so I wouldn’t have to deal with this idiot right now.
“Haley, wait. Stop.”
“What!” I snapped, turning around and facing Aaron.
He stopped in front of me. “You… look tired Haley,” he pointed out.
I rolled my eyes and almost squashed the full now-cold coffee cup into smithereens.
“What do you want?”
“Woah. Why the cold shoulder? I know things ended badly between us, but you don’t have to avoid me. You look like you’ve not been sleeping well. Is this what our break up has done to you?”
I had to take a deep breath inwards to calm myself. Was this total douchebag being serious right now? He thought I looked like this because of him.
“You know, Aaron, the whole world does not revolve around you,” I stated cockily.
“I miss you too, Haley.” He reached out to take my free hand.
“Don’t touch me, you cheating, lying scumbag!” Without thinking I threw the cold coffee all over his face and watched it drip down his smart dress shirt.
“What the fuck, Haley!” he hissed, rubbing his eyes from the assault.
“Don’t you ever come near me again.” I began heading into my office.
“Dry ass bitch,” Aaron muttered under his breath and it stung a little more than it should have.
Okay, a lot more.
With a deep sigh I turned around. “Oh yeah, you’re so shit in bed, Aaron, that you couldn’t even get me wet!” I grimaced. I could hear some gasps and sniggers coming from some of the cubicles around us and hurried into my office, shutting the door behind me.
After taking a moment to calm myself down, I smiled to myself. I’d done it. I’d told that sleazebag where to go. Elena would be so proud of me right now. I am so proud of me right now. Pay rise and payback, all in a day’s work.
Not bad, Haley.
“This place is cool,” I yelled over the RnB music the DJ was playing for the busy dance floor.
Elena was moving her body as graceful as a queen while I swayed my hips with as much grace as a penguin. We were both drunk, of course, and had spent the majority of this Friday night celebrating my pay rise and payback. I had been a different person for the rest of the week—I felt happier, freer. Now I could walk into the office kitchen without a care and it was Aaron who was avoiding me.
I was wearing blue baggy jeans and a white T-shirt because I had not expected to be out partying when we’d sat down for dinner at Hal’s Burgers and Beers earlier this evening. Elena being Elena made sure we celebrated in style though, especially when I broke the news about seeing Aaron with a side of sweet pay rise. She convinced me that my simple attire was fine to hit a club.
It was alright for her, she was wearing a gorgeous cobalt playsuit. “Just take your hair down, it’ll be fine,” she had told me as we hailed down a taxi.
Now here we were, living our best lives and busting moves on the dance floor like we were on fire.
“I need water!” I shouted above the music in Elena’s ear, and she gave me a curt nod but carried on dancing as I made my way through some enthusiastic drunk dancers.
The bartender handed me two bottles of water with a napkin.
“Thank you!” I smiled gratefully, ready to chug down my bottle. But then the writing on the napkin caught my eye.
Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.
Same handwriting as the one on the receipt, another quote from Romeo and Juliet.
What on earth was happening?
I looked around curiously, scanning every dark corner, every shady shadow. “Who the fuck are you?” I mumbled under my breath before gulping down the whole bottle of water. I stuck the napkin in my back pocket and made my way back to Elena.
Elena had made plenty of friends in the two minutes I had been gone; she was dancing with a group of two girls and a guy. I waved at them but then excused myself to get some air; it was getting muggy in here and for some reason I felt like I was suffocating.
I felt the dizziness from the alcohol as I paced around outside the club. It took exactly 30 seconds for me to take out my cell phone and call Leon. He picked up in three rings.
“Who was that guy?”
“What? What are you talking about? Hales, it’s late are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m at Club Wild with Elena. I’m fine. I just need to know about the guy from the fundraiser.” I bit my lower lip, but nothing was going to stop me from finding out this information.
“Are you kiddin’ me? Why, why do you want to know?” I could hear the curiosity in his voice.
“I don’t know; I was just curious. I have never seen you so angry before, he must have done something pretty terrible to make you so mad.”
Leon sighed and I could hear him shifting around. “That’s not for you to worry about.”
“Why won’t you just tell me?” I retorted.
“Haley, please,” Leon pleaded.
“You’re really not going to tell me what happ—” My cell phone was snatched away from my hand and Elena held it to her ear.
“Listen, Aaron, you dumb asshole. If I ever cross paths with you, be sure that I will kill you. Starting by gauging your eyes out of their sockets.”
I tried to protest but she pushed me back and walked away. Shit!
“Don’t huh me, you stupid moron. I bet your dick is so small and you had the audacity to tell my best friend that she was frigid?”
Oh God no!
“Elena, stop!” I tried to chase after her.
“You think you’re some tough guy, huh? Haley is so much better off without you, you’ll see how many men line up to sleep with her. Men that know what they’re doing, men that know how to wet a pussy!”
I curled up into a ball on the floor. I actually couldn’t breathe and the thought of Leon hearing those words about his baby sister had me retching. I could have thrown up my guts here on the floor.
“Get up Haley.” Elena pulled me up and handed me my phone. “You don’t need that asshole, don’t you ever call him again,” she slurred
“El, that wasn’t Aaron,” I whispered, cringing.
“What do you mean?” She frowned.
“You just told my big brother that I’m going to sleep with a man who knows how to ‘wet a pussy.’ Oh God!” I leaned onto the wall for support.
“That was your brother!?” Elena’s tanned skin turned white very quickly. “Fuck,” she breathed. “Maybe he didn’t hear any of that.”
I threw her a look that said ‘yeah, right!’ He’d definitely heard everything.
“I’ll go get us some more water,” Elena offered. “You wanna come with me?”
“No, I need a minute. You go on inside, I’ll meet you in there.”
Elena eyed the phone in my hand and I could tell she assumed I would try to call Leon again, but there was no way I would be facing him for a while. I was surprised he wasn’t calling me back. When I was alone I took a deep breath and pulled out the napkin from my back pocket
“Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.”
I gasped when he stepped out of the shadows again. That velvety voice making me feel things I shouldn’t. He was a god, wrapped in sin. The devil. He threw down his cigarette and stepped onto it.
“Why are you following me?” I questioned, making him raise one perfect brow.
He slid his hands into his pockets and stepped closer. He looked beautiful in a black dress shirt and trousers, his sleeves were rolled up to his elbows exposing two muscly and defined forearms.
“I’ll call the police, stalking is illegal,” I stammered.
“Is that why you haven’t told your precious brother yet?” He leered, closing the distance between us by placing both his arms at my sides, caging me in.
I swallowed as I looked up at his face, those dark eyes had me captivated. I could hear my own long, shaky breaths—this man affected me in more ways than I knew.
“W…what do you want from me?” I shivered under his intense gaze.
“I think the question is, what do you want from ~me~?” He licked his lips.
“Your name?” I asked a little too quickly. I shamelessly inhaled his musky scent and realized how much I wanted to move into him, to see what his skin tasted of.
What is wrong with you Haley? This man is stalking you and is clearly dangerous.
“Jax,” he responded.
“What happened between you and my brother, Jax?” His name slipped off my tongue smoothly.
“I’ll let brother dearest give you the lowdown.” His dark eyes flickered toward my lips.
“He refuses to tell me,” I announced. “but I’m not stupid.”
“Oh?” He smirked.
“I know that whatever this is, is to get at Leon,” I know he heard the disappointment in my voice. There’s no other reason a man like this would pay any attention to me at all. “You need to leave me alone.”
“Is that what you want, Haley?” I savored the sound of my name coming out of his mouth.
“Yes, you need to leave,” I answered.
The wind blew harshly, causing strands of my hair to fall across my face. Jax’s long finger touched my skin slowly. He moved the strand and tucked it behind my ear, his thumb resting on my cheek.
“So innocent,” he muttered with a frown. “So… good.” It was as though the word ‘good’ was alien to him.
I shivered inwardly, secretly wanting more. Hating myself for wanting more and leaning in to his touch.
“Do you always let people walk all over you?”
“Huh?” I snapped out of his spell.
“You’re an accountant for a top firm. How could you not realize they were underpaying you by thousands?”
“What are you talking about?” I knit my brows together but then it hit me. The sudden pay rise. Steven’s weird behavior. “What did do you?” I accused.
“What you should have done a long time ago. That thieving old cunt should owe you money!”
What the hell was happening here?
“Wait.” I shook my head as if to grasp onto reality. “What has any of this got to do with you?”
“I don’t know, Haley, let’s say that I was head-hunting an accountant for my own business.” He licked his lips. “I found her, she’s perfect. So I approach the company she works for to find out how much she’s being paid so I can top that.”
I gasped, not believing the words that were coming out of his mouth.
“Well, seems it wouldn’t take much to offer you more money seeing as they were paying you a fucking shit-for-balls salary.” he laughed. “But it really pissed me off that you let the company fuck you over like that, so I had a little word with your boss’s boss’s boss and, well, I think they got the message.”
I stood there blinking up at him, listening to his words but confused as hell. Why on earth was he helping me? Why did he care? If he wanted to hire me, why would he get the company I work for to raise my salary?
“Uh, I don’t even know what to say.” I blinked. “You’re… I don’t know what you’re doing,” I whispered.
“I want to hire you. I need your expertise, your nerd skills to help sort out the shit my dad left the family company in.”
“I can’t help you. Need I remind you that my brother hates your guts?”
“Yeah, I’m not exactly his biggest fan either, but what’s a job offer got to do with your brother? Is he the boss of you?”
“No,” I quipped. “But he doesn’t like you and my loyalty lies with him.” I crossed my arms over my chest causing my breasts to rise, and Jax’s eyes fell to my cleavage.
“And,” I hesitated, “I don’t trust you.”
“Well, that’s a shame,” he whispered, leaning into me. His long finger touched a beauty spot on my neck and moved up toward my lips and then ended up on my head. “Use this brain of yours to realize that you can make a fucking decision for yourself.” He smirked, a beautiful sinister curve of his plush lips. “You wanna work for me, don’t you?”
Yes. “No!” I lied. Truth be told, no one had ever intrigued me as much as this man before me. I wanted to peel back his layers and find out who he was. I wanted into his mysterious world; I wanted to shine light on his darkness.
“Get the fuck off her!” Leon roared from the street where he had parked his car. Shit!
“Hey, Leon, fancy seeing you here,” Jax mocked as he stepped back and lit a cigarette.
“Get in the car Haley.”
“I said get in the fucking car, I’ll deal with you later!”
“Bye, Haley,” Jax purred as I began to step toward Leon’s car.
I felt like a school kid being told off.
“Don’t you fucking talk to her, I thought I told you to stay away.” Leon grabbed Jax by his collars and backed him against the wall.
Jax was grinning from ear to ear while Leon literally had veins popping out of his head.
I sat in the car and held my head in my hands. This night was too much, too confusing.
After a couple of minutes Leon was sat in the driver’s seat. “Where the fuck’s your friend?” he seethed.
“She’s still inside,” I replied quietly. “Leon, I’m—”
“Save it, Haley. We’ll talk later,” he opened the car door. “Wait here while I go find your potty-mouthed friend,” he continued mumbling under his breath as he made his way into the club.
Shit he was mad, like, really mad.
After what felt like forever I looked toward the club entrance and had to squint to get a better look or I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Leon had Elena over his shoulder caveman style and she was laughing like a maniac. He threw Elena in the back seat and jumped into the car.
“You girls have some explaining to do.”
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