Authors: Ginger Voight
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Family Saga, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Sagas
I closed my eyes at his touch.
“When you left me, you took a part of me with you. The best part of me. The only part of me worth a damn. It’s the part of me that can’t exist without you. I want that back. I want you back.”
I shook my head. “
You really don’t fight fair.”
“Not when the stakes are this high,” he agreed as he bent closer.
I couldn’t move as I watched his mouth descend toward mine. My fuzzy head made me feel like I was slipping away on a cloud. I blamed the wine I had drunk, which for a lightweight like me had rendered me intoxicated, emotional and dangerously impulsive. I couldn’t fight against those supple lips as they covered mine. I let the feelings envelop me from the tips of my toes all the way to the top of my head. I was on fire as he parted my lips and his tongue slipped inside my mouth, to tease me into utter submission. Before I could fight against him, he pulled away.
“I should apologize, but I’m not going to,” he informed me. “I want you, Rachel. I’ll never apologize for that.”
“I belong to someone else,” I said quietly.
“Do you?” he challenged, just as softly. “Last year, when Alex kissed you at my party, you told me you didn’t kiss him back.
He took a kiss that you didn’t offer. Remember?”
I nodded. I remembered well.
“You kissed me back just now. You want me, Rachel. Just admit it.” He cupped my head in his hand. “And why shouldn’t you? I was the one who raced home last Thanksgiving to be with you. He left you like he left everything and everyone else. You’re a trophy to him, Rachel.”
His words cut me to the quick, so I bit back, “And what exactly am I to you?”
His eyes glistened as he stared down at me, one lone tear etching a lonely path down his face. “Salvation,” he said with a hitch in his throat. I watched with wide eyes as his mouth descended onto mine again. I wanted to fight him but my body was numbed from the wine, and the stark loneliness I had felt ever since Alex stormed out of my place weeks before, and the rejection I had felt all the way back to that Los Angeles courtroom. The ache reached back a decade before, when Zach was the first one to push me away after gunning so hard to win me.
When Drew pushed me back down onto my back, I was unable to resist.
I was raw, like an open wound. His mouth engulfed mine until I was whimpering helplessly beneath him, praying he’d take pity on me and put the brakes on this runaway train before it ran us both over.
e responded with a possessive growl as his hands slid up my pajama top and warmed my cool skin.
,” I murmured, trying desperately to cling to my last shred of morality that drummed in my ear how wrong this all was. I loved Alex…not Drew. Not Drew… God, please… not Drew.
“Don’t turn me away again,” he begged hoarsely as he slid his hand under my bra. “I can’t live another day without you, Rachel. Give your
self to me again. For real. Forever.”
“I can’t,” I said as I tried to push against his chest. But my arms turned into spaghetti the minute my hands touched his broad chest. It was so real and so solid, recalling every dream I had ever had about the man, and refreshing every memory of being his lover. He was right. I could still feel him inside of me.
And at that moment, it was the only thing that spared me from the agony of my lingering emptiness. I couldn’t stop the moan even if I wanted to. “Why can’t you let me go, Drew?”
The same reason you can’t let me go, Rachel,” he murmured softly between slow, open-mouthed kisses. “My Rachel, from the moment I first touched you.” I started to panic as he pulled my pajama bottoms down, but he silenced me with a crooning voice. “This is right. This is where you want to be. You know it.”
“Drew, please. I’m drunk.
“Me, too,” he said as he nuzzled my neck. “On you.”
I gasped as I felt him grow against me. “Please don’t do this. I’m in love with Alex.”
“Are you?” he asked in between kisses.
“Yes,” I insisted, though try as I might, I couldn’t pull away. I was a useless pile of jelly, especially when I felt him release himself against my bare skin. My eyes rolled back in my head as his mouth clamped onto my breast.
His hand slipped in between our bodies, sliding into my pajama bottoms with ease. My whole body shuddered when he
ran a confident fingertip over the throbbing nub that had so ached for the touch of another. “Tell me to stop,” he instructed as his finger swirled against me. I gasped, any response locked in my throat. “Tell me you don’t want me,” he whispered in my ear before he blazed his fiery tongue over the inner ridges of my ear. I bucked against his hand. I was powerless. “I’ll stop touching you, stop kissing you, and I’ll leave you to pine over perfect Alex. Just say the word, Rachel,” he urged hypnotically as he stared into my face. He could see the tension build as the sensations overtook me. “Tell me to stop,” he said again in a powerful whisper. “Or tell me the truth.” His finger sped up, slipping against me, teasing me relentlessly. “Tell me you want me. You’ve always wanted me.” Faster and faster he rubbed until I was thrashing beneath him. “Tell me you want me, Rachel,” he commanded, in a stronger voice this time.
I was teetering on the edge, incoherent with need. “I want you,” I
heard myself saying as I sank deeper into a murky drunk stupor that knew of no shame, no consequences.
“That’s my girl,” he crooned as his fingers
rocketed me into outer space. I was still trembling as he pulled off my pajama bottoms and slipped right inside me with one decisive stroke. He rode me hard, possessed by his own need. He hollered out loud as he came explosively within me. As I started to come down from the stratosphere, the buzz I had from the wine flat-lined. I felt sick. My head hurt. My body throbbed with instant shame. All I could think about was how I had, for the first time in my life, become the person I most hated.
I had betrayed the only man who had ever loved me, with the only man who could hurt him the worst.
I pushed him off me as I pulled myself into a seated position, covering myself with my hands. “I think you should go.”
He wasn’t surprised by my cold shoulder. He fastened his pants as he sat up. He had never even taken them off, just released enough of himself to get the job done. It only made what we did feel sleazier.
“You can’t pretend this didn’t happen,” he advised quietly.
“I’m not going to,” I said. “The minute you leave, I’m calling Alex to confess what I’ve done.”
“He’ll never forgive you, you know.”
I gulped back the tears. “I know.”
He rose silently and headed for the door. Before he left, he said, “No matter what he does or doesn’t say, you don’t have to be alone. I chose you for a reason, Rachel. We are where you belong. I just wanted you to know that.”
I said nothing as he slipped out the door. I stared at my phone on the coffee table for a long time. I knew it was late in the UK, but if I delayed telling him the truth, I’d find a dozen excuses of why I shouldn’t tell him at all.
I was a shit. But I wasn’t that big of a shit.
He was wide awake when he answered, as if he had been waiting for my call. “Hello, Rachel.”
“Hi.” It felt as though I had to force any sound through the lump in my throat. My heart caught in a vice grip as I pictured him there on the bed, shirt off, hair spread out over the pillowcase… and those stunning blue eyes that had taught me to see myself as beautiful.
Months ago, a call like this one ignited the most passionate love affair of my life.
Now it was sure to end it once and for all.
“How was your Thanksgiving?” he asked.
“I went to the Mission,” I told him. “Like last year.”
“I remember,” he said softly.
“Jonathan came,” I added. “He brought his father.”
“Apparently Olivia was in Palm Springs for some kind of event.” He was quiet, possibly waiting for me to go on. Maybe he could tell by the tone in my voice this wasn’t going to be a happy call. “After he dropped Jonathan off at Elise’s, he brought me Chinese food. Jonathan ordered him to make sure I ate something, since I told them I wasn’t cooking this year.”
“How cozy,” Alex drawled, but I could hear the pain creeping into his voice. Silence dragged between us as I tried to figure out what to say. Finally he said, “You slept with him, didn’t you?”
A single tear raced down my cheek as my stomach recoiled. “Alex,” I started, but he shut me down before I could voice the words.
it’s better this way,” he said, feigning a matter-of-fact attitude I knew damn well he didn’t feel. “Jonathan gets the family he wants just in time for the near year. Everybody’s happy.”
Not everyone,” I whispered.
“No?” he questioned. “You have all the proof you need that he wants you best of all. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“No. I wanted you.”
He chuckled humorlessly. “Past tense.”
“That’s not what I mean! You know I love you. I love you more than I’ve ever loved any man in my whole life.”
“But you slept with him,” Alex pointed out. “Why?”
I squeezed my eyes shut. I had all the excuses in the world. I was drunk. I was lonely. I was sad. In the end, though, I had to accept that I chose to sleep with him. I was an adult. I could discern right from wrong. I could have told him no, I should have told him no, but I didn’t. “He’s in my blood, Alex. Like a disease. A poison. It was why I wanted to stay away from him. I needed to stay away from him. He’s got a hold on me and I can’t seem to break free, no matter how much I want to.”
“And with me, you’ll always be linked with Drew.”
I nodded. “I’m so sorry, Alex. I truly, truly didn’t mean for this to happen. I’m a shit and I know it. But please… don’t leave me.”
I could almost hear his heart slam shut like a steel cage. “I already did,” he informed me. “The day I left your apartment, I essentially left you in a pit of vipers. I can hardly blame you for getting bit, can I?
,” I tried again, but he was beyond hearing.
“Don’t fret, sweet Rachel. You couldn’t have cheated because I had already left. I could have stayed and fought for you, but I didn’t. So what does that say about me?”
“It says you were hurt. And you had every right to be. I should have been honest with you.”
“Seems our whole relationship could be summed up in should haves,” he said mirthlessly.
My heart was crackling. “Don’t give up on me, Alex, please.”
“I didn’t give up on you,” he corrected. “I gave up on me. A long ass time ago.” His voice shook as he said, “Goodbye, Rachel.”
He hung up before I could stop him.
I called Nancy almost immediately following my call to Alex. She
quietly listened as I spilled my sordid tale. “I fucked up,” I concluded tearfully, before blowing my nose in some tissue. “I took the love of a perfectly beautiful man and I sacrificed it on some altar of lust. Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know. Why do you think you did it?”
“Because I’m weak. And a hypocrite. Maybe the reason I can’t get my happily ever after is because I don’t deserve one.”
“Oh, please,” Nancy scoffed. “You don’t do pity parties, Rachel. You
made a stupid mistake. Join the club. It doesn’t make you a bad person.”
“Doesn’t it? I slept with my lover’s brother.”
“So? Didn’t he sleep with his brother’s wife? Does that mean he doesn’t deserve a happy ending?”
“Of course not. He
never set out to hurt anyone, things just got out of control.”
I could imagine that Alex once felt as awful as I felt now, after the heat of the moment had cooled and he could no longer turn away from the stark revelation of how low he allowed himself to stoop. I would have talked to him about it, if I could have talked to him. “So what do I do now?”
“You choose,” she answered simply.
“The one I would choose isn’t talking to me.”
“Then you wait. But one way or the other you have to make your choice. And it can’t be because of what Jonathan wants or what Drew
does or what Alex went through in the past. You have to make this decision for yourself, for what you want your future to be. Choose the one who makes you the best version of yourself. The only person you guarantee any happiness at all to is yourself.”
Funnily enough, her advice really didn’t make me feel any better.
Since Derek and Elise had taken Jonathan skiing in Big Bear, I had the next three days to myself. It only proved to make me feel worse. I ended up cleaning the apartment top to bottom, starting with the wine cabinet. I threw out every single drop of alcohol so that I would never be led astray again.
When Drew stopped by on Sunday, to see how things were going, I was completely sober and utterly heartbroken.
Alex had not returned any of my calls or texts, even a long-winded email where I tried to explain why I wanted to keep fighting for us. He didn’t answer, which I already knew was the answer. I wasn’t ready to accept it, even when Drew showed up on my doorstep.
“I’m sure you’ll understand why I won’t be inviting you in,” I said as I swung the door shut, but he caught it effortlessly and forced it back open.
“We need to talk, Rachel.”
“There’s nothing more to say. I’ve made my choice. I want to be with Alex.”
He nodded. “I figured as much. But you need to see this,” he said as he offered me a printout of an email.
I have spoken to Rachel and I understand that the relationship between you both has not reached its end. As we both know all too well, this is a toxic environment which will only tear our family further apart. So I
decided to relocate to England, to make things easier for everyone involved. I do not plan to come to Los Angeles for the foreseeable future, so any business you might have with me should be conducted through my attorney, Ivy Cunningham.
I wish you both the best as you try to figure things out. And if she should choose you, all I ask is that you give her the happiness she deserves. For once in your life, give more than you get, Drew. Some gifts are irreplaceable. –
By the time I reached the bottom of the letter, I couldn’t even make out the words
through my tears. He had left me, and gone halfway across the world to do it. I felt my legs give out under me as I started to wilt to the floor. Drew caught me effortlessly. He led me toward my kitchen table, where he eased me into the chair.
“Sit. Let me get you some tea.”
I allowed him to prepare the tea as I read and reread Alex’s letter. I couldn’t believe that after all this time, and after all he had done to protect Jonathan and Elise, that he was ready to walk away from everything he knew. I had done this. I had fractured a family and had devastated a man who had done nothing more than love me. I dropped my head into my hands and sobbed quietly.
He placed the cup next to me on the table before he sat in the chair opposite of me. “I told you that he couldn’t commit, Rachel. It’s just not in his makeup.”
“Don’t you dare!” I spat as I glared at him. “Don’t you dare criticize him. We did this, Drew. You and me.”
“I’m not going to apologize for wanting you, Rachel. I already told you that.”
“But do you want me? Or do you just want to win?”
His brow arched. “Isn’t it one in the same?”
“No!” I exploded as I shot up out of the chair. “I’m not a prize, Drew. I’m a person. And he’s not your enemy, he’s your brother. Do you honestly not feel any remorse for betraying him?”
“No,” he answered, as though I had asked him the stupidest question
in the world. “What happened between us had nothing to do with him. It never did.” I snorted derisively. Before I could point out Alex’s indiscretion had nothing to do with him, he went on as if he read my thoughts. “This is nothing like what happened between Alex and Elise. You and I are drawn to each other because we are meant to be together. That’s never going to change. As long as I draw breath, I’ll want to be with you.”
“So much so that you have a backup fiancé
e ready to step in,” I pointed out.
“I’m with Olivia because Jonathan needs a mother.
He has from the moment he was born. If not you, who?” I looked away. “And I know you hate me for how I found you and why I hired you, but every single thing I’ve done has been for Jonathan’s benefit. You were always the one, and I knew that the minute Jonathan started to thrive under your care. But you left, and I still have to give him a stable home. Olivia may not be my first choice, but I would marry the daughter of the devil himself if it means I can keep my son.”
“Jonathan hates her, you know.”
“No, Jonathan loves you. Anyone else is going to be second rate to him, even his own mother.”
I groaned as I rolled my eyes. “God, this is a mess. I can’t believe this is what has become of my life.”
He stood and walked over to where I stood. “I can give you the life of your dreams, Rachel. It’s all there for the asking.”
I stared up at him for a long moment. Finally I said, “
What I really wanted you made sure I could never have. Twice.” His eyes narrowed as I said, “Goodbye, Drew.”
After a brief stare-down, he finally walked past me and out the door.
I laid awake all night, trying to figure out how to fix what I had so royally broken. My first impulse was quite similar to Alex’s. I could leave. Drew and Olivia would marry. And they’d figure out their twisted family drama out without dragging me down with them.
But then I would remember the look on Jonathan’s face when I returned to Los Angeles, and how hurt he had been.
His whole life had been turned upside down when I left. If I went back to Texas now, I’d break another promise, essentially robbing him of his inability to trust anyone who might genuinely care for him. Worst of all, Alex was no longer around to minimize the damage.
Plus, if I left, I’d be giving up on the only chance I had left to win Alex back. I needed to earn his trust, too. The only way to do it was to stay, and never allow myself to get close to Drew again
…to prove that his hold over me was effectively broken.
I plastered a fake smile on my face the minute Jonathan walked in the door. I even kept up the charade when we headed to the offices downtown. For his part, Drew had backed off slightly to give me a little breathing room, and I used it to fortify my resolve. I’d never get involved with him again. I would wait as long as it took for Alex to return, and I’d win him back however I could.
I was going to take Nancy’s advice and choose the man who made me the better woman, and that had always been Alex.
Drew turned me into a pathetic shell of who I wanted to be. I was a phony. I was weak. I was a slave to my most primal desires. Never again, I resolved.
If Jonathan noticed the change, he didn’t say much about it. He knew that Alex and Max had moved to the UK. All he said on the matter was, “Did Millicent go with them?”
“I would imagine so,” I managed to say. “Max needs her, and she would turn the world upside down to be there for him.”
He nodded and then let the subject drop.
Every quiet night in the apartment drove me to the brink of lunacy. The phone wouldn’t ring. Spam cluttered my email inbox.
I had never felt lonelier in my entire life.
I would go out to the neighborhood restaurants and shops, just so the noise would drown out my thoughts. I explored more in two weeks than I had ever done in all my years in Texas. I sampled different cuisine in varying degrees of success.
The worst of it was an Indian joint. Their curry dish made me sick as a dog for two days straight. The only good news was that it happened over the weekend, so Jonathan’s studies weren’t interrupted. I still wasn’t one-hundred-percent by that following Tuesday, when Drew informed us about the party preparation for both Christmas and New Year’s. I immediately wanted to decline, but Jonathan had enjoyed the party planning so much the year before, there was no talking him down from either project.
I cornered Drew in his office a bit later. “Why don’t you have Olivia do all this? She is the official girlfriend.”
“She’s in the middle of the awards season push. She’s nominated for best supporting actress in a pretty important drama. The first Oscar of her career. She has other priorities.” He scanned my face with concern. “Are you OK? You look white as a sheet.”
“Food poisoning,” I dismissed. “I was down with it over the weekend.”
He nodded as he picked up the phone. “Simone, call Dr. Pettinger.”
“I don’t need a doctor, Drew.”
“You’re going,” he decided. “No arguments.”
decided giving in on the matter was easier than fighting him about it all day, so I relented. He drove me to the doctor’s office that afternoon so they could fit me in. He and Jonathan waited outside while I sat, freezing in a cloth gown on top of sticky paper in one of the brightly colored examination rooms. I studied anatomy posters on the wall until the doctor finally appeared. Dr. Pettinger was a middle-aged man with a ready smile and calming bedside manner. “So I hear you’re not feeling too well,” he offered. “What’s going on?”
“I had some spicy Indian food on Friday. It didn’t really agree with me. I was throwing up most of the weekend, even water.”
I shook my head. “Not really. Just really, really tired and weak. Kind of dizzy.”
He performed some basic diagnostic tests on me before instructing me to lie on my back. When he pressed on my stomach, I rolled over and retched so hard I nearly puked all over his bright white tile floor. “Still queasy?”
I nodded. “I figured it was food poisoning.”
“Could be,” he agreed. “We’ll draw some blood, run some tests. We’ll get you back in fighting shape before you know it.” He patted my leg before he exited the room.
A nurse came in to draw some blood, and I submitted to a urine test as well. It seemed like hours had gone by when the doctor finally came back, with a stack of paperwork. “Well, I think I’ve pinpointed your problem,” he said. Without any fanfare, he concluded, “You’re pregnant.”
My eyes flew open. “What?”
“Blood test confirms it. Your last period was mid-November, you said?”
I nodded. “The sixteenth. My doctor had changed my prescription, and that was when the old ones ran out.”
“That would make you,” he consulted his calendar, “About four weeks pregnant, due August 23
.” I was stunned speechless, especially when he said, “Talk about a Thanksgiving miracle.”
My heart stopped.
“Are you sure?” I croaked.
“Both your blood and urine tests came out positive, Miss Dennehy. I take it the pregnancy wasn’t planned.”
I shook my head. “I was on the pill.”
“A new prescription, right? Were you using any other form of birth control?”
I shook my head as I gulped hard. There hasn’t been time to think about that, and I would have been too drunk to insist anyway. As usual I was swept up in Hurricane Drew, powerless to do anything more than hang on as the storm raged around me.
“Well, you can certainly discuss your options with your OB/GYN. I’d recommend an appointment right away, to get you squared on prenatal vitamins. In the meantime, stop taking the pills. Get lots of rest, and follow up with your obstetrician as soon as you can. Congratulations,” he offered with a smile as he concluded our visit.
I could barely face Drew as I walked back out into the waiting room. He was on his feet immediately. “Are you all right?”