Authors: Kristina Weaver
PART 3 of 3
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This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to events, businesses, companies, institutions, and real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Saying that I know what I have to do and doing it are two totally different things, and as I accept it, I know that getting away from Gregory will not be easy.
I’d managed not to have to accept the ring, by dint of refusing to wear another woman’s ring, but I know my reprieve will be short, and I’ll have to move quickly before he shows up at my door with a ring and the moving van he’s threatening me with.
For this reason I get dressed and demand he take me home.
“I’ll be back to pick you up for dinner.”
I nod and stare ahead, not looking at him for fear he’ll see the guilt and intent in my eyes.
“Look, Han…this is not a bad thing. You’ll understand that soon enough. We’re good together. We…fit,” he says, pulling up in front of my building and turning to me while the car idles.
Yes, somehow, in some strange way, we do fit, and I know it. I just don’t know if that will ever be enough to justify spending the rest of my life chasing a dream with him.
He’s not a bad guy, not even remotely villainous or…I don’t know anymore. All I know is that I love him enough for the both of us to do what I have to, to keep from making a huge mistake.
“I know that, Greg.”
It’s all I can manage to say, but it seems enough for him, as he smiles and leans over, planting a soft, passionate kiss to my lips.
“I’ll see you later.”
A statement, not a question, and I just nod and get out of the car, keeping my head down so he doesn’t see the tears glistening in my eyes. When I get upstairs it’s to find Nana and Chris sharing breakfast and a couple of dirty stories about love won and lost.
“Oh, there you are, dearest. Come, have some breakfast.”
“No thanks, Nana. I need to steal Chrissie for a minute though.”
She shrugs and goes back to breakfast, eyeing the bread with a baleful eye that brings home just how serious the situation with her is. It makes me second guess myself for the briefest second.
Being with Greg would ensure she gets the help and care she needs, but I just can’t put myself in this position—
“You look like shit.”
“Gee, thanks,” I mutter, closing the door and turning to her with a look she has no problem discerning.
How to say this?
“I need to get out of here for a while, just till Gregory loses interest and moves on.”
Her face slackens before her eyes narrow harshly.
“What has he done?”
“Nothing!” I rush to get out when I see how quickly her temper heats up. “He…asked me to marry him.”
Asked…I snort at the lie. He’d told me, just as he tells me everything else.
“He proposed?” she says slowly, and I see the utter confusion she’s trying to hide. “I…is that a bad thing? I mean, I don’t like the guy, but…I thought you loved him?”
“Yeah, I really do.”
“Then why are you leaving? Where—”
“I can’t do this, Chris. He wants marriage and kids and…everything I have to give him. Without giving anything in return. I love him, endlessly, but he doesn’t love me back, and what’s more…I don’t think he ever will, because he doesn’t want to.”
That’s what I’m struggling with. He is capable of love, he’s shown me, told me that he loves Selena, and I’d heard him talking to his mother once or twice. He’s so warm and open with them, but when it comes to me he shows me only what he deems fit for our relationship, which isn’t much other than sex and a little companionship.
I’ve been fooling myself that the charming man who’d taken me to that Italian bistro, the one who’d romanced me, exists. Now I know all I can expect is the man who’d seduced me in the front seat of his car and put his mark on me.
I’ve been in one failed marriage, and no matter how much I want him, I won’t push myself into another one.
“Shit. Can’t you just tell him to get lost? You have a job and—”
“I quit, remember? The only option I have on that front is going back to work for him. I can’t do that and keep myself from caving. You know him; he doesn’t stop until he gets what he wants. If I stay, he’ll have me. Eventually. I need…some time.”
Just a little time to get the maelstrom of confusion sorted in my head. Just enough that if he still wants me, I can go back to him without this hole in my chest.
“Dammit.” She sighs, and I see the fight leave her in a rush when she slumps into the chair in the corner and purses her lips. “I have a place in the Vineyard. It’s nothing special, but it’s clean and dry and rent-free. Go there for a few weeks and get your head on straight. But then you’re coming back, Han,” she warns. “You can’t run from your problems and expect them to just disappear.”
No, I know that. Gregory is not a man who’ll take anything like this lightly, and I know he’ll catch up with me eventually, but like I said, a little time is all I need.
“I’ll keep the fort down here and get Nana to her doctors’ appointments—”
“No. I’ll take her with me.”
The look she gives me is sardonic, and I feel my cheeks heat. She knows me so well, something I have only recently realized. I want to run and run and never look back.
This is so not me. I’m a self-controlled person. I face my problems and fix them. I do not bury my head in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong.
The fact that I want to do this now just goes to show how far down I’ve fallen. Another indication is that I’m even contemplating taking Nana away, knowing how important her appointments are to her recovery.
“She’s staying here with me and whatever nurse your boyfriend sends over to keep tabs on everything. Now go pack a bag, and let’s get you on your way. That faster you get yourself sorted out, the faster you can come back and fix shit. Oh, and Han? As much as I hate to say this, are you totally sure Gregory doesn’t love you? No man goes to these lengths—”
“I know. He’s just about told me so.”
She sighs loudly and leaves me to my packing, something that’s really hard because I’m sniffling the whole time. I don’t want to leave. I want to stay and march up to him and demand everything I want.
But begging for love is not something I’m willing to do, so I’ll just have to hope Greg finds the emotion, or I find a way to accept what is.
Martha’s Vineyard is exactly as peaceful and scenic as I’ve always thought. I wish Nana had come along to see the picturesque village and the ‘little place’ Chris has out here.
When I go back she and I are having a long talk. I’d thought she was a struggling pleb like me, when it turns out she must have some sort of money. Or come from it.
Her house has four bedrooms and a pool bigger than the apartment. And a caretaker named Henry who looks after the place or Miss Christina.
I’ve been here two days, and I feel fantastic. I’ve slept so much I feel weird being this rested. Another thing is that I haven’t touched a scrub brush or bleach.
Strange, considering the emotional turmoil I feel, but…for the first time in six years I feel free. No responsibilities. No worrying about my job or Amber or the downward spiral Nana is going into.
All I’ve done is sleep, eat whatever I want, and lounge around the heated pool. Bliss.
“There’s a phone call for you, Miss Hannah.”
I whip around on the pool lounger and eye the phone hesitantly. Surely…
“We need to have a talk about your habit of disobeying me.”
My body heats at just the sound of that husky timber, and I smile despite the butterflies winging their way through my blood. I should have known it wouldn’t take long, and to be honest I’m surprised he didn’t show up yesterday.
“We need to have a talk about your habit of being an asshole, but I thought I’d do that when I get back from—”
“Running away?” he asks silkily.
My skin pebbles at the tone. It’s the same one he uses in bed when he’s going all dominant on my ass, and I love it.
“My vacation,” I growl, glaring at the phone.
He snorts, and I smile because I can picture the expression that goes with it.
“You coming home sometime soon? Your ring’s awaiting your approval, and you need to get your dress. Not to mention the fact that I need you to talk to the doctors I’ve found for Nana.”
Shit. Everything’s going full steam ahead with not a stop light in sight, and just the thought of it makes that phantom hole in my chest flare back to aching life.
“I’ll come home when I’m good and goddamned ready. Oh, and when you pull your head out of your ass and stop being such a monumental dick. Maybe I don’t want to get married. Maybe I don’t want to marry you. Maybe I don’t want to spend the rest of my life bound to a man who thinks sex and money are all that I need to be happy,” I say conversationally, swiping at the moisture on my cheeks.
Yeah, and maybe tomorrow an elephant will fly. Of course I want him. I love the man. I just want him on my terms and not his. Unrealistic, but true.
“Han.” He sighs heavily, and I hear the rustle of paper. “You love me. You said so yourself. Why can’t you just let that be enough? We’re getting married in less than four days. Stop being emotional and think, for a change. Nana will be cared for. You won’t have to worry about anything else after this, and—”
“You’ll own me lock stack and freaking barrel,” I finish, feeling my heart sink at the inevitability of it all. “Yeah, okay, fine. I’ll see you Tuesday.”
That leaves me two days to get myself together enough that I won’t be bawling my way down the aisle.
“And your family had better be there too, Greg,” I say as an afterthought.
For some reason he refuses to introduce me to them, and I hate the notion that he’s ashamed of me somehow.
“Goddamnit, Han, you know I won’t—”
“They’re there or I’m not. That’s a deal breaker. If you want me, you have to at least act like you’re not ashamed of me.”
I put the phone down before he can start yelling at me — something that happens when I bring up the mighty Lucas clan — and lean back with a sigh.
This has been…oddly eye-opening.
I fully accept that I always intended to go back and give him what he wants, but I now know that while Gregory might rule me and what happens in my life after this, I have just as much say in what goes on.
If he wants me he’ll take me on my terms, or he can get stitched. It’s time for me to take what I want, or die trying, and I think I’ll start with taking some power back.
And then I’m going for his heart.
The car Chris arranged for me arrives back to a gray and cold New York. It’s raining, hard, and I smile despite the shiver that makes its way up my spine, because the weather perfectly suits my mood.
I feel like a ton of bricks is settling on my shoulders as the driver opens my door and hustles me into the building, before returning with my bags.
“Thanks, Butch. Have a good one.”
“You too, Miss Newman.”
When he’s gone I lug my bags and myself into the elevator, intending nothing more than to snuggle up on the sofa and devour a glass of wine. After Sunday’s phone call and my newfound resolve, I’ve thought of nothing else but bending Gregory to my will, and the planning is quite frankly exhausting.
Seriously, how does Gregory plot and scheme and run multibillion dollar companies while getting me in line at the same time? The man must be a cyborg to get this much done without crashing and burning.
My door opens with a squeak that reminds me I need to oil it, and I drop my bags at the door, going for the kitchen.
“You took your goddamned time, I see.”
I screech and wheel around as the lamp blares to life, revealing my soon-to-be-husband, sitting on the sofa, a dark glare lining his handsome face.
“Jesus Christ, you almost gave me a heart attack!” I yell, grasping my chest as my heart does its best to jump out of it. “What the heck are you doing sitting here in the dark?”
Gregory rises with a predatory grace that leaves my mouth dry and prowls my way, his eyes heating as he takes in my shorts and the tank I’m wearing.
Totally inappropriate for the weather and now melded to my skin by the rain.
“Waiting for my errant bride. You said you’d be home—”
“Tuesday. And here I am.”
“It’s ten at night! Who the hell drives all this way, in the rain, at this hour! It’s dangerous to travel so late,” he roars, his lips thinning.
“I went on a boat ride, and it took longer than I expected. Chill out, Greg. I’m here, as summoned, in one whole piece.”
I don’t tell him about the idiot who’d almost run us off the road a mile out of the Vineyard. I’m dumb, but not that dumb.
“Han,” he groans, and I hear the frustration there when I fold my arms across my chest and raise a regal brow.
See, I can also be stubborn and uncommunicative. I’ve decided to keep him off balance with oversharing and then silence. Maybe it’ll give him a taste of his own medicine and he’ll realize how out of sorts his mood swings make me feel.
At the very least it’ll be fun to watch him wonder what I’ll do from one minute to the next. If I’m gonna be out of control and drifting, the least I can do is return the favor.
“Can we talk about the wedding now?” he finally asks, and I restrain my grin.
He’s asking now instead of ordering me like he did the night he’d given me a resized ring. Asshole.
“Sure, just as soon as I get a drink. Want one?” I throw over my shoulder, enjoying his expression.
I like Gregory confused. It’s…entertaining.
“Han…sure,” he finally relents.
When I walk back into the living room and hand him a glass of wine, I have to bite my lip to stifle a smile. He’s eyeing me askance, almost as if he’s seeing me for the first time, and it’s just so liberating I can hardly stand it.
“So, the wedding. Did you invite your family?” I ask casually, taking the seat beside his and seeing his eyes flare in surprise.
I want to be as close to him as possible when I put the screws to him. I have every intention of doing the exact opposite of what he expects, for as long as his control will allow, just to see that look of doubt on his face.
I really like not being the only confused human being in this relationship.
Gregory Lucas is mine for the taking. He just doesn’t know it yet.
“Han, I can’t…They’re not…My family is not—”
I sigh dramatically and take a healthy sip of my wine, leaving him to flounder a little. He’ll get his bearings eventually and just flat out refuse, but for now I want to see how far he’ll take this soft approach he seems to be employing with me.
“They’re not exactly what one would expect.”
I’m expecting stuck up assholes who’ll blame me for the breakup of his engagement and call me a…not so nice name. And I am totally prepared for it. I have Nana at my back, after all, and I have total faith in her powers of defense.
She may be crazy, but she’s scrappy. She’ll take out anyone who so much as sneezes on me the wrong way. Plus, Chris will be at the weeding, and that redhead’s temper perfectly matches her hair.
“Okay. Invite them anyway.”
“Goddammit! I want the weeding to be a good one, not a total fiasco!” he rages, springing to his feet to start the inevitable pacing, and glares. “They’ll turn it into some social event of the year with media and people we don’t even know!”
I don’t see the problem here, considering the circus he’d been arranging for his marriage to Selena. I narrow my eyes the slightest bit before shrugging nonchalantly.
“They come, or I don’t. It’s that simple. Now for the dress,” I say, ignoring his open mouth and the wine dripping onto my immaculate floor when his hand slackens. “I was thinking I could get Nana’s dress altered.”
I hold in a laugh when he just nods, because he hasn’t seen Nana’s dress, and for it to fit, it’ll need a lot of alteration and maybe some design changes.
I’d love to see how he gets that done in two days before we have to fly to his hometown. Have I said yet how much I’m enjoying throwing him off balance?
I should have done this weeks ago and saved myself needless heartache.
I see him swallow, and I stiffen my lips, jumping to my feet to dash to her closet before a laugh really does bubble out.
“Yeah! It only needs some minor alteration and maybe for some of the train to be trimmed! It’s great.”
When I come back and lay the lacy monstrosity on the sofa, it takes all my resolve not to dissolve in a fit of laughter. I love my Nana, I really do, but she’s seventy-three years old and her dress reflects that.
Besides being about a size or four too big — Nana used to be a pretty robust woman — it’s filled with lace and enough beading to make three dresses. I hope I can even walk in the thing, it’s so heavy.
“Isn’t it great? Oh, and I have the veil too,” I say, rubbing salt into the wound.
I watch him swallow a few times before his eyes darken.
“Han, you can’t—”
“She was so excited when I called and asked her for it. You should have heard her squeal, Greg. I swear she kept it just in the hope that one day one of her granddaughters would wear it.”
I’ve spent my whole life hoping never to have to look at it, and thinking about getting married in it makes my stomach turn, but this look is so priceless I can’t back down now.
His eyes twitch, and start doing this weird little tic thing before closing and opening with a determination that sets my girlie parts fluttering.
“I’ll have the seamstress here tomorrow morning. Eight. Sharp. We’ll fly out late tomorrow afternoon.”
Good luck with that, I think, smirking inwardly. Nana has a doctor’s appointment that I’ve conveniently forgotten to cancel.
“I’ve arranged for Nana’s appointment to be moved up to tomorrow, and Christina is taking her, so you don’t have to worry about that either. Oh, and we’re leaving for the honeymoon directly after the reception.”
Mr Bossy Boots is back all of a sudden, and I feel my delight dissolve somewhat. It’s way too easy for him to get back on track while I’m left scrambling to throw him off.
“I called Lena and Taylor this afternoon, and they said they wouldn’t miss this for the world, so you’ll have to call her and make sure their travel arrangements are sorted.”
His face drops, his beautiful mouth flapping for a second before firming mutinously.
“No?” I ask sweetly, fiddling with a yellowed piece of moth-eaten lace on Nana’s wedding tent.
“No. I refuse to have my ex-fiancée attend my wedding-”
“But we’re friends, Greg. We got so close after spending that much time together,” I point out, keeping my look as innocent as possible.
He doesn’t have to know that I’ve spent hours on the phone letting Selena in on my plans and finding the perfect ways to rock his well-ordered autocracy.
We really are friends now, after the initial awkwardness, and I’ve come up with a fool-proof, knock-Greg-off-his-pedestal plan with her help. She knows him as well — if not better — than I do, and I know that to get my plans on track I need her expert advice.
Greg’s face reddens, and I sniffle back a laugh and pout prettily, giving him my best hang dog expression.
“Goddammit!” he finally mutters, pulling me in for a hard kiss. “You’re driving me crazy.”
I allow the delight simmering beneath the surface to break through and give him a big, glorious smile.
“So where are we on your family again?”
I’m still laughing an hour later, after some really hard sex, when he grabs his stuff and walks out the door.
Round one goes to me.