Authors: Raine Miller
was the new receptionist?!
My heart skipped and stu
ttered from inside my chest as I tried to process this bit of information. Frances had just mentioned to me, not a half hour ago, that we’d hired a new girl. Never in my wildest dreams…
Well, it all made sense to me now. I figured out who was behind it
in an instant. And was going to kill the miserable sod just as soon as I could get my hands around his traitorous neck. Mum Morrison would get a pass on the strangling, but I was greatly annoyed with her as well.
rst, I needed to look... Five years since my eyes had rested on her. Even longer than that at a close enough distance to reach out and touch her. I dragged a hand along my scalp instead, gripping the back in a handful of hair and pulling hard until it stung.
was a mind fuck in the purest sense. I was barely able to keep myself contained, my mind and my body operating at odds and totally independent of one another. My Elaina—the woman I’d never stopped loving, the girl who’d captured my heart all those years ago, and who I’d painfully LET GO—was here before me claiming to be newly employed at BSI.
Fuck me into next week
! And then some more.
My thoughts were
totally lost in a jumble of shock and disbelief.
Eons might have passed, I don’t know, but yes, this was indeed a fuckin’ blow to
my sensibilities. I needed a drink, or a pitcher, or maybe I’d just sleep in the pub tonight. And I definitely felt a headache coming on.
“I—I didn’t know…” she began. “Nob
I didn’t register what she was saying because I couldn’t. I just stared.
So, here she was again right in front of me. As beautiful as ever. More beautiful even than I remembered. No longer a girl of eighteen trying to find her way, but a woman of twenty-five with the confidence to go with the maturity.
Her confidence might be
a tad lacking at that very moment though. Those midnight-blue eyes reminded me of a deer caught in headlights. It took great effort on my part to keep from touching her. To reach out and embrace her was instinctual, and I wanted to, but I controlled the urge and waited for some kind of response from her. After all, she’d been the one to leave me hanging without letting me have my say. The wound from that gash to my heart was still there, freshly ripped open and dripping metaphorical blood down the front of me. I’d waited this long, I could wait some more.
“Wh—what are you doing
here?” Her throat moved as she swallowed hard and made me want to put my mouth there and taste. I craved the experience of remembering the flavor of her skin, but more than anything, I wanted her to acknowledge
again. I wanted her to have to look at me, to talk to me, to accept me being near her. And, if I knew anything about Elaina, it was that she would try to flee from me again.
’m Chief of Operations here at BSI.” I let that sink in for a moment and watched her beautiful complexion grow pale before my eyes.
ou work here.” It was not a question, but a statement, as if she were trying to convince herself of this bit of news.
And I know just how you feel
She pulled her hand through her hair and drew it down to rest in the hollow of her throat, like she was trying to p
rotect herself. Interesting watching her terrified reaction to my bomb drop. Strangely, it made me happy at the same time. If she was instinctually seeking protection from my proximity then it meant that seeing me again was having some sort of effect on her.
If she was this affected by me just being there, then it had to be nothing compared to what I was experiencing in her presence. For so long, I’d wanted to be this close to Elaina again.
It almost felt surreal to finally get my wish after aching for it to happen. Years, I’d waited. I’d figured it would happen eventually because I was still close with her family, but I suppose I couldn’t really prepare myself for the actual reality. And, not like this. Working together in the same office? Jesus, God, and all the angels!
indeed numb as I spoke my answer, not really quite sure how to break the news to her, when she was right in front of me.
“Every day since its founding
over five years ago.” I nodded slowly, trying to keep it cool with her. “I served with E—Ethan, in the SF.” I gestured with my hands up. “Yeah, all this was
for me when I came home from the war.”
But you weren’t, were you, Elaina?
I could be a bastard when I felt like it, and I have to say, I felt like it right then. Fuck, but I was entitled to something more than this stilted, chilly reunion. I’d known her since forever and we were reduced to this awkward silence and distance after where we’d been together? But that was the problem wasn’t it? The part where we’d been together. And all the intervening years when we hadn’t.
The whole thing was pretty fucked up.
But, I was used to that in my life though. Lots and lots of fucked up had made its presence known to me over the years. I didn’t remember a time when it hadn’t, but Elaina was never part of all the bad in my life. She was the good. Only good…at least that’s how I remembered it...until the very end. The ending of us had nearly destroyed me.
I hoped for some kind of reaction from her
, something. Anything at all would do.
” Her eyes flickered over me for an instant and then down and to the side. This was all definitely a surprise for her, too.
her breathing hitch, and remembered what she’d been like when I’d had her beneath me and about to come. Those sexy breaths of air as she’d shuddered around me. The tight grip of her pussy squeezing around my cock when I was inside her…
t help what I said to her next. “Looks like we’re going to be workmates, Elaina.”
...yeah.” She did something that I wasn’t expecting then. She bit down on one side of her bottom lip and pulled it into her mouth a little, a look of discomfort flashing across her face as if experiencing pain. That’s what it looked like at least, and I felt some kind of small victory. The comment about this job “waiting” for me was a dickhead move on my part, but it came out of my mouth and I wasn’t calling it back. It was the truth even if it gave me no satisfaction. She moved to pass me in the space of the pathway. “Frances is expecting me in her office…we’re going over some contracts I’ve just translated...”
“Would those be them?” I pointed to the floor.
“Shit.” She dropped down again and started grabbing up the pages, the short black skirt she wore riding up quite nicely along her legs as she worked. She was clearly embarrassed and I could see the flush in the tops of her cheeks as they reddened.
My cock rea
cted the instant I saw the rosy blush appear in her skin.
Just like old times.
I bent down to help once more and caught a whif
f of her perfume, the scent taking me right back to six years ago as if only mere moments had passed. “Do you think you’ll be able to get that file down the hall to Frances or shall I escort you?”
nhaling sharply at my comment, she snatched the last paper from my hand and shoved it sideways into the folder. “I should be able to make it this time, thank you,” she said with a bite of sarcasm.
, then,” I said, standing up yet again and offering my hand to assist her. “Focus, Miss Morrison.” I forced a smile.
Surprisingly, she accepted my hand
and let me pull her back up. At least there was some contact. Hands. My hand was on hers and I didn’t want to let go. I wanted to tug her against me and carry her off somewhere private. I wanted to demand to hear her story and I wanted to make her listen to mine. We deserved that much. Both of us deserved at least that little bit of honest communication for closure if nothing else.
released my hand and attempted to tug her skirt down without losing the file for a third time. Quite the feat for her apparently, and I had my doubts about whether the file would make it safely to Frances’s office or not.
I very much
enjoyed watching her try though, just as I enjoyed the view of her magnificent arse from behind in that short skirt as she walked away.
My sweet Cherry Girl was back in my life whether she liked it or not. I knew where she
lived and I knew where to expect her every day for work. I would get to see her and she would even have to talk to me. I was her superior here, and she didn’t have a choice in that.
She might still hate me and never give me another chance with
her, but we’d just have to see what happened, now wouldn’t we?
a task that needed my attention, or rather a best mate that needed murdering.
I went straight out, left the forty-fourth floor and down to
number forty-two. I sailed past Ian’s secretary holding my hand up to her surprised protest and barged into his office.
He was speaking into the telephone but I ended his
call for him. I stabbed the red button several times and disconnected him.
“What the fuck, Neil?” Ian glared at me. “
I’m taking a call of business here. Do you mind?”
“Yes, I do in fact mind very much, you meddling cocksucker! What in the fuckin’ hell are you on about bringing Elaina to work at BSI?”
Ian sat back in his leather desk chair and folded his hands in his lap, looking smug and cocky. “My sister needed a job, and well, it’s a perfect fit for her…in every way. Frances, Mum, everyone agrees.” He flipped his dark blue eyes, which matched Elaina’s to perfection, up to peg me hard. “Wouldn’t you agree as well, mate?”
I pointed at him, my outstretched finger visibly shaking. “I would agree that you’re a fuckin’ arsehole, how’s that for agreement?”
Ian shrugged, picking up the telephone and redialing. “Sticks and stones, brother.”
“How about staying
of my business…
.” I was so angry at being played, I knew I had to leave before I committed a heinous assault on the bloke I considered my brother, even though by blood he wasn’t. “Fuck off, Ian,” I said, turning to go.
, Neil,” Ian called out cheerfully. “We’ll talk later at the pub.”
slammed into the house I’d grown up in and started yelling.
“Mum, how cou
ld you?” I demanded, throwing my purse down on the table and kicking off my heels. “You knew Neil worked at Blackstone Security, didn’t you? You set me up, and Ian too, the bastard.”
“Now, darling, please don’t be upset, but think about your
new job and how much you’ve loved working there in just the short time you’ve been employed. It’s a marvelous opportunity for you. And I know you love Neil despite whatever happened between you two,” she admonished.
Yeah, and this is not news to me, Mum.
I glared at my mother; totally unbelieving she’d done something so manipulative and underhanded to me.
is so good to me…” she trailed off, taking a sip of her six o’clock gin and tonic while trying to look innocent. She was damn good at it too.
“Did Neil suggest to
you to get me to apply for the job? Did he ask Ian to recommend me?” Realization dawned and I felt the urge to thrash somebody. “Wait—what do you mean
Neil is always so good to you
Mum?” I was absolutely fuming with the knowledge I’d been duped by my own family to bring me back to England, and to Neil. But something didn’t ring true with my theory. Neil did not act like he was expecting me. In fact, he looked completely and utterly shocked at seeing me again. Nobody had told him I’d been hired, I would bet my bank account.
It all made sudden sense. My family was conspiring to get us back together.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
, Neil’s always been a lovely boy, Elaina darling. You know that about him. Such a help, especially after your father died.” She took another healthy slug of her G&T and sniffed. “He—he checks in on me quite regularly, my dear, I just never said anything to you about him because he specifically asked us not to bother you with it.”
“Is that so, Mum? Are you taking me for a walk later? Down a plank? Set out over the
shark infested ocean?”
I was in shock at what they had done.
“Oh, don’t be so melodramatic, Elaina.”
” My mother really needed to take her own advice about the melodrama but she ignored me and kept right on singing Neil’s praises.
He took care of the service on my car and helped me when that horrible storm knocked down the elm tree in the front. Why, I just don’t know how we’d manage around here if it wasn’t for Neil. You know I think of him as a son and I always have.” She sipped again and then peeked up at me with the raise of her elegant brow over the rim of her glass.
I crossed my arms beneath my breasts and stared at my mother as if she’d grown a second head. Completely at a loss of how to respond, I gave up in disgust and headed to the bath for a very long soak in the tub.
made sure to shout extra loud down the hall so she could hear me before I slammed the bathroom door. “Missed your calling, Mum! You should’ve been an actress on the stage!”
While the tub was filling, I rang my brother on my mobile.
“How’s my baby sister?” He sounded quite cheery on the other end and I could hear background noise that sounded like he was probably in the pub.
“Fuck you, Ian.
“Yeah, well this is not the first time today I’ve heard that exact sentiment—”
“Why am I not surprised?” I yelled, right before I hung up on him.
During my bath I h
ad some time to think without other distractions getting in my way. The shock of seeing Neil again was powerful, and the hurt was still there.
Definitely still there.
Seeing him daily was going to be very hard on me. Oh god, how on earth would I do it? Could I do it? I didn’t want to give up my job but thought I might have to.
I really didn’
t know anything about Neil’s life since our break up, other than that he’d respected my wishes and never tried to come after me. He’d read my letter and done as I’d asked. How could he have left Cora after she was having his baby? I knew he wouldn’t have been able to do it, and I was right. I’d seen her coming out of the clinic right before I was off for Italy and she was already showing, a nice little baby bump on her neat tidy figure. That was Neil’s baby growing inside her. His child, that he would never abandon.
I didn’t know he’d landed
a fabulous job in London after the army. I’d always imagined he’d made a career in the military all these years, because he’d already achieved rank of Captain last I’d known.
To be fair though,
I’d told my mother and brother, that if they tried to interfere or pass along messages from or about Neil, I’d never forgive them for it. I’d announced my plans to take be an
and said I wouldn’t be sharing the details of our breakup, so not to ask. They had honored my wishes apparently. I’d known back then, that I’d never be able to hear all about his life after me, and survive. Letting him go early in our relationship had been the better choice for
survival. Moving on to a life without him had been terrifying and agonizing for me, but it was better than killing us both slowly.
I knew things about myself and about my feelings for Neil.
Hell, I had the evidence of him, and what he’d meant to me tattooed on my back.
I knew I’d b
e unable to share him with Cora, or even his child, the instant she gave us her big reveal. No possible way I’d ever manage it. I am not perfect, but I’m honest about things I know to be fact. It would have killed me to stay, and I would have become bitter and vindictive, and destroyed Neil’s love for me anyway.
It was clear from his reactions that
they’d been together and made a baby. He never denied it to me so I knew it was true. I forgave Neil that part of it. We weren’t together when he slept with Cora, and he’d just come home from a long lonely tour. I understood. But, I also understood that Neil would never abandon a child that was his. I knew his character, and with the way he’d been abandoned by his father as a boy, he’d never do the same to his own.
I stood to get out of the tub and reached for a towel. As I did I saw my cherry blossoms reflected in the mirror. On my back, right shoulder
, where they would always stay. Why had I gotten it done?
It was my little part of us
to keep forever. Cherry blossoms in sky blue.
memory. Mine alone, that nobody could ever take away from me.
I hoped Neil was happy now. I
truly wanted that for him, but it didn’t change what I had to do for myself in order to survive the loss of him.
ew what I knew. I’d have been completely unable to share him with Cora, no matter how limited their relationship. She would forever hold a piece of him, and I would covet that precious part of him that had been stolen from me. The familiarity Neil would have had to maintain with Cora surely would have poisoned our love and torn it down until there was nothing beautiful left. Just heartache. And cruel jealousy. And hurt. I couldn’t do that to Neil. He didn’t deserve it after the childhood he’d lived through.
It made me a horrible person, true, but
I could live with that understanding about myself. I was selfish when it came to love. I was selfish with Neil. And I just couldn’t bear to endure the pain I would have brought to us both.
His child would be five years old now. I wondered about that baby. Boy or girl? Dark chocolate eyes with blonde hair, or more like Cora with her strawberry
-blonde curls and light eyes? Had Mum and Ian met the child?
I finished drying off and hung up the towel. As I shrugged into my robe, I left the right shoul
der off and studied my tat once more in the mirror. It was a beautiful piece of art. I had no regrets about having it now, or ever. My tiny little piece of Neil’s love safely preserved in my skin.
The only bit I had left.
Despite the fact I wanted to kill him, I was still sittin’ at the bar getting pissed with him regardless.
set down his mobile and hung his head. “Everyone keeps telling me to sod off today. That was Elaina by the way.”
So Elaina was angry too. Well great, we had some common ground at least. We’
d both had the earth ripped out from beneath us. I poked Ian in the shoulder.
“Why? Why the f-fuck did you bring her to BSI…
? Why’d you do th-that?” Four pints in and I was really pissed drunk. Good thing I’d walked here because I sure as fuck wasn’t able to drive. “Yer tryin’ to kill me, brother?” I slurred another question at him.
Ian waved me off with his hand like I was a distracting gnat buzzing around his head. “The two of you are fuckin’ ridiculous with your pining and your tats and your lost love. Get over it already
, and do somethin’ about it, why don’t you.” Ian narrowed his eyes to focus. He was at least as drunk as me. “Mum and I couldn’t stand either one of you anymore so we helped you along a bit. Just a li’l bit o’ help, is all.”
Well, that was fuckin’ stupid of you then. She doesn’t want anthin’ to do with me, an’ now we have t-to work t-together.”
“No, yer fuckin’ s
-stupid. She’s in love with you st-still. An’ you are with her. I’ve seen yer cherry blossom tats an’ how you are when the other person’s name comes up.” He tapped his head and nearly stabbed himself in the eyeball. “I see things. I know things.”
I grabbed him by the collar
of his shirt. “Don’t you tell her about the tat or I’ll b-b-bash you, Ian.”
Ian’s face cracked an enormous grin. “Yer such a fuckin’ idiot
right now. Ya don’t know much do ya?”
What tha bloody h-h-hell does that mean?”
“I’ll let ya figure it out on yer own, b-brother, but I’ll s-s-say this much…” He poked a
finger into my forehead. “Yer not tha only one with ch-cherry blossom t-tattoos.”
The words of the song hit me like a brick to the head as I listened to Hendrix on Spotify. Music was part of my life and I couldn’t imagine being without it, but today the lyrics fit too perfectly with the reality of what had happened with Elaina and me. It did nothing for me. But make the ache more persistent.
A broom is drearily sweeping
Up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life
Somewhere a queen is weeping
Somewhere a king has no wife
And the wind, it cries Mary
Not Mary. T
he wind was crying…Cherry.
’d kept my distance at work from Elaina over the past few days. She’d done the same with me. It was strange, because for some reason, it wasn’t as painful for me as I thought it would feel. Having her nearby was very soothing after so long of wondering where she was, how she was, what she was doing, who she was with. I finally knew the answers to all of those questions.