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Authors: Deborah Bladon

Obsessed: Part Two

BOOK: Obsessed: Part Two
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OBSESSED

 

 

 

Part Two of

The Obsessed Series

 

 

By: Deborah Bladon

Copyright

 

First Original Edition, March 2014

Copyright ©
2014 by Deborah Bladon

 

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and situations either are the product of the author's imagination or are used factiously.

All rights reserved.
No parts of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written consent from the author.

This book is dedicated to you. Yes,
you.

The read
ers. The believers. My friends.

For making all of my biggest dreams come true.

Also by Deborah Bladon

 

Obsessed: Part One

Chapter 1

 

"You're an asshole." The words sound heavy as they leave my lips. They should. They carry with them all the vile distaste I feel for him in this moment.

"Excuse me?" Jax glances up from where he's seated behind his desk. His tone is strong and unyielding. If he's surprised by my words, he's masking it brilliantly. "What are you doing here?"

My head shoots to the right where an older man is sitting. His gaze is downcast but it's clear from the way he's clenching the laptop resting on his knees that he's uncomfortable.

"Are you Gilbert?" I throw the question at him knowing that he must be the man Jax barked at on the phone earlier.  He was summoned to help Jax manipulate the shares I hold in Mark's company from my grasp.

He nods, his eyes glued to his lap.

"Leave." I spit out.

"Ivy, what the hell has gotten into you?" Jax stands, dropping the pen he was holding with a dull thud onto a stack of papers on his desk. "You can't order him to leave."

"Leave now, Gilbert." I seethe, my eyes never leaving Jax's face.

"Go." Jax flicks his wrist in the direction of the door. The older man scurries out of the room. His haste makes it clear that he recognizes that I'm about to explode.

I turn to slam the office door behind him. I reach inside my bag searching for the cold metal of the framed picture. As my fingers find it, I feel pressure on my shoulder.

"Ivy, what's wrong with you?" His breath is a whisper against my neck.

I shiver and pull free from his grasp. "This." My voice lacks emotion as I pull the frame from my purse and shove it into his hands in one swift gesture.

I study his expression as his eyes quickly skirt over the picture. "What? It's a picture of you and Mark."

"In the background. Look." I push the edge of the frame coaxing him to hold it higher. I want him to focus on the picture. I want him to see what I see.  I want his eyes to lock on his own face, in all its smug, egotistical glory waiting in the shadows studying his prey.

"Fuck." He drops the frame on the floor. It bounces before the glass crashes into splinters.

I don't flinch. "You're worse than him." I scowl. "You used me."

His eyes lock on mine. His tongue traces a path around his lips. He swallows hard before he opens his mouth. "No. Don't say that."

"It's true. You're both lying bastards."

"I'm nothing like Mark. Nothing." He leans in closer to me as he stretches the word across his lips.

"You're worse." I turn away reaching for the doorknob.

"You're not leaving until I explain." He grips my elbow, pulling my hand back towards him.

I flip around to face him pulling my arm free. "I'm leaving. Don't try and stop me."

He throws both hands in the air as he takes a firm step back from me. "Fine. You're too emotional right now to hear me anyways."
"I never want to hear what you have to say. Never." I stomp my foot as I pull the door open.

"You'll hear me. I'll stop by your place later tonight," he says, the words casually rolling from his tongue.

I shake my head at his overt arrogance. "Why? Why would you come by my place?"

He looks past me to the hallway before he speaks in a whisper, "we're not done until I say we're done, beautiful."

I let the doorknob slip from my grasp and walk with weighted steps towards him. I stop inches from him, leaning in close until my lips almost touch his. "We're done. Whatever this was…" I lazily run my right hand down the front of his shirt before waving it in the air between us. "It's over."

He catches my wrist in his hand, pulling it to his lips. "You know that's not true."

"No." I sigh as I jerk my arm free once again. "The only truth I know is that you fucked me so you could steal Mark's shares away from me. That's the truth. Anything else leaving your lips is a lie."

"That's what you think?" He throws his head back with a hearty laugh. "You actually think I slept with you as part of a business deal."

"You did." I blurt out. "Your father was Mark's partner."

"So?" He raises his brow in quiet confidence, irking me even further. "One has nothing to do with the other."

"You're delusional." I stare at him with the realization that he's being dead serious. He truly believes that our personal relationship is separate from his business relationship with Mark. "You stalked me and seduced me so I'd give you Mark's shares."

"You're giving me nothing," he hisses through tight lips. "I'm buying those shares from you for much more than they're worth."

"Bullshit." There's anger coursing through me and I know that it's always quickly followed with tears. I won't cry in front of him. I won't.

"Ivy. You know nothing about my business dealings with Mark." He sits on the corner of his desk. He fumbles with one of the exquisite cuff links on his shirt before looking back at me. "For that matter, you know nothing about Mark's business at all."

His words cut into me. He's right, of course but the veiled suggestion that I'm naïve doesn't sit well with me. It pushes me closer to the verge of tears. I bite my lip to halt them. "Why do you do that? Why?"

"Do what?" He shrugs his shoulders. "What am I doing?"

"You're making me feel like an idiot. You did it when I told you about Mark and the women he slept with. You're doing it again now." Despite my best efforts to ward off the tears, they spill out. I sob wishing I could redo the past few weeks of my life.

He stands and reaches for me. I stumble back until I can feel the doorknob in my hand once again. I turn it and pull the door wide open.

"Stop," he pleads. "You're upset. I need to explain."

"You need to go to hell," I mumble as I step out into the hallway.

 

***

 

"What was your husband like?" I take a small sip of the Earl Grey tea.

Mrs. Adams stares out at the window of her apartment, the pelting rain creating a mosaic of water spots on the glass. "He was strong, very kind. Did you know he asked me to marry him on our second date?"

"I didn't know that," I fib. She has told me this story more than a dozen times but her gentle company this dismal afternoon is helping me forget what happened with Jax two days ago.

"He said he knew he loved me right then and there." She looks down at the gold band still nestled snugly on her ring finger.  "I was sixteen."

"You loved him very much too." I feel the sting of tears bite at the corners of my eyes.

"I did." Her soft smile comforts me. "He was the love of my life."

"Do you think we all have that?" I reach for a tissue to wipe the tears. "A love that is once in a lifetime?"

"It's different now." She stands and slowly walks towards the window, her gaze lifted into the clouds. "Back then men respected women."

Her remark bites although I know that wasn't her intention. "You're right," I mutter.

"Mark wasn't good for you." She points her finger at me. "That young man you were with the other day seems very nice."

"I won't be seeing him again." I feel the ache in my heart as the words leave my lips. "He was using me."

"What do you mean?" She moves back to the chair next to me. "Using you in what way?"

"I'm not sure." I'm embarrassed that I can't offer her any more details. "I just know that he wasn't honest about who he is."

"Perhaps he has his reasons." She pats my hand with hers. "The right man is waiting for you, Ivy. He may be closer than you think."

"I'm happy on my own." I look down at my finger aimlessly tracing a pattern on the leg of my jeans. "I'm going to take a few days at my sister's place to recharge."

"Boston is beautiful this time of year." She hesitates before continuing, "Will your father be there too?"

I flash to an image of the last time I saw my father. It was more than a year ago when I had told him I was marrying Mark. The disappointment that had washed over his face had been unmistakable. He never approved our relationship. He had expressed, with pointed clarity that I was making a mistake I'd soon regret. That day, in all my infinite and lovesick wisdom I had told him that if he didn't accept Mark, he didn't accept me. Now, all I wanted was his help to sort through the maze of betrayals that compromised my so-called-grown-up life. I just couldn't find the internal strength to swallow my pride to tell him that he'd been right all along.

"I don't think so." I glance at the clock shaped like a cherub sitting atop her television. "I should probably get going. I have a meeting in a few minutes. It's a business thing."

"Of course, dear." She grabs zealously to the armrest of her chair to pull herself from the soft cushion yet again.

"No, please, don't get up." I motion for her to settle back down. "I'll tidy these dishes before I leave."

"You might want to give him another chance." Her soft voice carries through the silence of the apartment into the kitchen. I stop washing the tea cups for a brief moment waiting for her to explain the comment. Silence follows.

"Give who another chance?" I peek my head around the doorway to see her grinning back at me.

"That handsome fellow. You know, Max was it? Or was it Rex? There was an x I'm certain." She peers off into the distance as if she's going to pull his name from the ether.

"It's Jax." I take a deep breath. "And no," I whisper as I place the dishes back in the cupboard. "No second chances."

Chapter 2

 

Madeline told me to meet her at the restaurant for a late lunch at three. It's three-thirty. With any hope she's been biding her time with vodka sodas while flirting shamelessly with any waiter within twenty feet of her. I brusquely shake my drenched umbrella a few times before I pull it together and walk through the door. Despite my best efforts and a killer light blue dress, I'm not feeling very powerful or authoritative today. I'm the one who called this meeting so I better find my backbone before I reach her table. The maître-d watches me intently as I try to smooth my hair back into place. The rush of humidity outside has awoken the dreaded natural curl.

"Ms. Veray's table is right this way." He extends his hand in an eloquent loop and I wonder if that's something they teach you in maître d school or if it's a personal trait. Perhaps he embellishes every movement so it appears as though he's ready to launch into a spectacular circus act without warning.

I follow him through the crowded restaurant, my eyes cast downward. I run through my mind exactly what I had rehearsed saying to Madeline today. This meeting is a first step in a new direction for me and it absolutely has to go as planned. I need Madeline to agree to my proposal so I can start building a new life away from Mark, Jax and their bitter feud.

"Ivy, don't you look lovely?" Madeline's voice startles me and I almost run right into the back of the maître d. I stop dead mere inches from his shoulder and that's when my breath catches. Madeline's not alone.

"She looks beautiful. I love your hair like that." Jax smiles as he holds up a glass of wine in my direction. "Come. Sit. Have a drink. Let's talk business."

It wasn't supposed to be like this. I thought I'd never seen him again and here he is oozing smugness, confidence and holding court with Madeline awaiting my arrival. Damn her for telling him about this. Damn him for intruding when he knows I want nothing to do with him.

"I'm sorry I'm late." I ignore Jax and focus solely on Madeline.

"Not a problem," he chuckles. "We've been catching up. Did you know Madeline took you up on your suggestion to call Mark?"

The flippant way he throws Mark's name into the air enflames me. I look above me, draw in a deep breath and roll my eyes. What I imagined to be a power lunch in which I'd chart a new course for my business has now turned into a recounting of Madeline's interactions with my bastard of an ex fiancée.

"I did." She pauses to take a leisurely drink from the glass in front of her. "But he's not interested. Are any men in New York interested in sex at this point?"

The silence that answers her question is enough to make me cringe. My gaze moves beyond both of them to a table where two women are having lunch. The slim contour of their chins and the similar shape of their noses speak of their biological connection. The maturity of one suggests that's she's the mother. I watch them laugh, speak and smile at one another and it instantly reminds me of why I'm here.

"Madeline, I wanted to talk to you about my collections," I say it calmly.

"Yes, of course." She straightens herself in her chair. "That's why we're here, isn't it?"

"It is." I turn my body towards her. "As you know I started my business to honor my mother's dream."

She nods her head as she sips from the glass in her hand.

"I didn't know that," Jax says with surprise. "Your mother wanted you to be a jewelry designer?"

I sit silently in place, my eyes honed in on Madeline. I don't want to look at Jax. I don't want to talk to him or explain something this personal to him.

"Her mother wanted to be the jewelry designer." Madeline corrects him. "But she died right after Ivy was born so Ivy carries the torch for her. It's a beautiful story."

I search her expression trying to determine if she's being sarcastic or not. She's impossible to read so I wait for Jax's inevitable response. There's nothing.

"I know that I signed an exclusive contract with you but I'd like to rework the terms of that if possible." As I speak I notice Madeline's head subtly nodding up and down. My heart takes that as a positive sign. I may just get out of this meeting with the promise of a brighter future for my business without being tied exclusively to Veray.

"Absolutely not." His words are unconditional.

"Jax." Madeline gestures across the table in his direction. "Quiet down. I want to hear what she's thinking."

"It's not open for discussion." I can feel his eyes on me as he pushes his opinion on Madeline.

"It's still my company. It's wide open for discussion," she snaps back.

I can't resist the urge to turn and look at him. His eyes lock with mine and he raises an eyebrow. I don't flinch. I may have won this small victory but I don't assume I'll defeat him. His influence over Madeline is unmistakable but I came here with a mission and I won't stop until she at least hears me out.

"Tell me more about what you're thinking." She lightly taps my hand as it rests on the table.

I turn my attention back to her and clear my throat before I begin my plea. "I'm very grateful for all the exposure you've given me over the years, Madeline. You took a chance on me when no one else would."

She smiles. "You have real talent, Ivy. It was an easy chance to take."

"That's kind of you." I can sense Jax staring at me but I continue, undeterred from my need to get out of my contract with Madeline so I can get away from Jax in every way possible. "I feel that my business will benefit if I make my pieces available to more people. You know, a broader audience. I want to establish an online presence. Maybe set up my own website to sell some things I haven't consigned to you."

"No." His voice is stern and the tone is unrelenting.

"Shush." She waves her index finger at Jax before motioning for the waiter. "I was once a young woman struggling to make a name for myself too. I wouldn't be where I am now if someone hadn't given me a chance back then."

I instantly feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders. I sit silently waiting for her to continue after she orders another drink. I'm startled when I feel a hand on my knee. My body impulsively darts from my chair and as my legs hit the table the glass of wine in front of me tumbles into my lap. "Shit," I whisper. "No. No. No."

"Ma'am. Let me help you." The waiter bolts to my side of the table, napkin in hand. He starts blotting my dress trying to absorb the quickly spreading red stain.

"Please don't." I wave his hands from me. I look down at my ruined dress. It was so expensive. This meeting was critical to me and now it's all for naught. "Excuse me." I push past the growing crowd of wait staff gathered at our table to help. "The washroom?" I question a young woman racing in my direction with a bottle of soda water in hand. She points to the left as she shoves the bottle into my open hand.

"I can't believe him," I mumble under my breath as I walk into the elaborately decorated powder room. I reach for a scented towel from the pile next to the sink. I drench it in soda water and begin the laborious task of trying to clean the bright red stain from my dress.

"You can't believe who? Jax?" I jump at the sound of Madeline's voice behind me. "What's going on with you two?"

"Nothing," I lie as I stare at my dress wondering how I'm going to find the courage to walk past him and out of the door of the restaurant.  I'm tempted to climb out the small square window that is beckoning to me above the radiator. If I had even an ounce less pride I'd already have at least one foot firmly planted on it trying to hoist myself up.

"You slept with him, didn't you?" Madeline takes a healthy swallow from the glass she carried in with her.

"I don't want to talk about this." I glance up at her desperately wanting her to see within my expression that I'm on the precipice of falling apart.

She leans against the counter so she's facing me directly. I hear the faint echo of her empty glass against the marble countertop as she places it down. "I can tell. He's territorial with you."

"That's not all he is."

She laughs. "True. Obviously it didn't end well."

"It didn't really even begin." I become more animated with my unsuccessful attempt to clean the stain out of my dress. Maybe if she thinks I'm focused on that she'll go in search of another drink or a man to buy her one.

She reaches for my hands to stop me. "Ivy, look at me," she says tenderly.

I pull in a deep breath and raise my eyes so I meet her gaze. "What is it?"

"Don't let him intimate you."

"He doesn't," I snap back at her.

"He does," she says. "I saw him doing it just now back at the table."

"I wouldn't call it intimidation." I rub the now pink cloth roughly across the fabric of my dress. I want her to take her observations and walk out the door before she hits the nail on the head and I break apart.

She douses another cloth in soda water before handing it to me. "Men like him have secrets."

"What kind of secrets?" I nod as I take the fresh cloth and throw the other into the sink next to her.

"Secrets that drive them." She turns to look at herself in the mirror. "Secrets that make them crave control."

I move so I'm standing next to her. "Do you know his secrets?" I stare at her reflection in the mirror.

She slowly moves her head from side-to-side as she traces a bright red, perfectly manicured fingernail around her top lip. "I'm not close enough to see it. You are."

"He's done nothing but lie to me." I fumble with the cloth in my hands again. Admitting that is hard. I'm ashamed that I let him seduce him. I'm embarrassed that I slept with him and I'm sick to my stomach over the fact that I was falling for him.

"Did you ask him why?" She turns so she's facing me directly. "Why did he lie?"

"To get back something that belonged to his father."

"Some people would do anything for their family."

I don't respond. I rub the cloth against the now faded stain on my dress.

"Look at you," she says. "You're a prime example of that."

"How so?" The understated suggestion that I'm like Jax stings but I don't show it. I know that she already sees me as an emotionally bruised little dove who has stepped into the vulture's trap.

"You came here to fight for your mother's dream today." She softens. "I admire that. He does too. Don't let that dream die, Ivy."

"I won't." I smile weakly. "I can't."

"I'll have Teresa call you to set up a time for you to come to my office so we can talk more." She picks up the empty glass and takes a step towards the door. "It'll be just the two of us but I can't do anything without his approval. Keep that in mind."

I smile softly and nod.

BOOK: Obsessed: Part Two
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