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Authors: E. L. Todd

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Romance, #Contemporary

Until Forever (10 page)

BOOK: Until Forever
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“What the hell were you thinking?” I snapped. “How could you do that to him?”

She flinched at my hostility.

“You realize you broke him, right? He totally went off the deep end. Now he’s the same he used to be before he met you. He’s shallow and superficial. He doesn’t respect women and he spends his nights at bars. He doesn’t think my marriage will last because love doesn’t exist. He doesn’t believe in anything anymore. Why didn’t
you just leave him alone?”

Cassandra’s tears fell. “I didn’t know that would happen. I swear.”

“You knew he felt like shit, but you slept with him anyway,” I argued. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Sean placed his hand on my arm. “Baby, calm down.”

“No. No one messes with Mike and gets away with it. Why should I help you? I can’t even tell if you really love him or not.”

“Of course I do,” Cassandra said firmly. “I want to spend
the rest of my life with him. Please help me.”

I shook my head. “No. I’m not going to do that.”

The light left Cassandra’s eyes. “Scarlet, I made a mistake. I was depressed and out of my mind. We all do stupid things when we’re unwell. I love Mike and will do anything to get him back. Don’t turn your back on me.”

“It’s already turned,” I snapped. “You’re on your own.”

Cassandra turned to Sean. “Please. Please.”

He sighed. “Honestly, I don’t think I can help you even if I wanted to. Mike is…too
far gone. Every time I try to talk to him, he shuts me out. He’s a different person now. I don’t think he’s ever coming back, Cassandra.”

The tears fell from her eyes. “Well, you guys can give up on him but I never will.” She
turned around and walked out. “He and I are supposed to be together. I’ll get him back or die trying.”

I didn’t say anything. I was too angry to think. Mike was my brother, and I couldn’t stand the idea of someone hurting him. It was unacceptable.

Sean shut the door then leaned against it. “Wow. I was not expecting that to happen.”

Andrew had been sitting on the couch the entire time, hidden in the darkness. He stood up then approached me. “Her apology seemed sincere.”

“What she did was unforgivable,” I snapped. I never spoke to Andrew that way. But that’s how upset I was.

“And it seems like she regrets it,” he said simply. “We all do things we regret.”

“Well, she already apologized to Mike and he refused her,” Sean said. “And I think that was the right decision.”

Andrew stared at both of us for a while. “I’ve watched Mike grow into the man he’s become. Even when he was away at college, I had my eye on him. When he was hitting the streets as a playboy, never taking things seriously, I was never worried about him. He’d find his way eventually. And while Mike made the effort after being influenced by the two of you, he really didn’t change until he met the right pe
rson. You can guess who that was.”

Sean and I didn’t speak. I had nothing to say.

“She’s also the woman who has the ability to change him back with the flick of an eye.”

“What are you saying, Dad?” Sean asked.

“That I think that woman is the right person for Mike. If there’s such a thing as soul mates, she’s his. And it would be in the best interest of your brother to help them find their way back to each other.”

“Did you not hear what she said? How she hurt him?” Sean snapped.

“And how many women has Mike hurt? How many hearts has he broken? How many lies has he told to get what he wanted? Cassandra is obviously a woman with a bad past in terms of relationships. Mike is basically dating one of the women he screwed over. He knew it would take time and patience. It’s unfortunate she had to lose him to understand what she lost, but she has. Now let’s help them reconnect.”

I didn’t look at Andrew. I hated it when he was right. He could see through people’s emotions and understand the important aspects of certain situations. He could see through the bad and concentrate on the good. Years of wisdom and experience taught him so much.

“Please don’t give up on my son,” he said firmly. “Because, for a moment, it sounded like you had.”

“We’ve never given up on him,” I said quietly.

“Then help him find his way back.” He moved back to the couch and sat down.

Sean and I looked at each
other and had a silent conversation. Mike was cold as ice and a completely different person. Even if we wanted to help, we didn’t know what we could do. It would definitely be an uphill battle.

12

Cortland

“I can’t believe you got tickets to this,” Hazel said excitedly while we stood in line.

I shrugged. “They fell into my lap.”

“How?”

“Some woman at work asked if I wanted them.”

“Why did she give them away?”

“Her husband was sick and she had no one else to go with.”

“Well, that worked out for us.”

I smiled. “Yep.”

“Where’s Monnique?” she asked.

I didn’t want to talk about her. I was struggling in the relationship and I was tired of thinking about it. I just wanted to go out and have a good time. “She had to work.”

“She works a lot,” she said immediately.

“It seems that way. What’s Flynn doing?”

“Working,” she said sadly.

“On a weekend?”

“He’s writing a screenplay and he’s falling behind.”

“Gee, I wonder why…” I nudged her in the side.

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t automatically blame me.”

“I’m sure you’ve been distracting him.”

“Okay.  You caught me.” She had a big smile on her face.

I could tell she really care
d about Flynn. There wasn’t a time when she mentioned him and didn’t grin like an idiot.

“So, you still acting like you’re in a mafia toward him?”

I laughed. “No. He’s fine.”

“You finally accept him?”

“Should I not accept him?” I raised an eyebrow.

“Of course you should. Well,
you just acting a little crazy for a second there.”

“Only because I love you.”

She smirked and her cheeks reddened. “I love you too.”

We moved further up the line then handed over our tickets. After we got our wine, we took a seat in the auditorium. Hazel was practically squirming in her seat because she was so excited.

“How’s work?” I asked.

She cringed. “Awful.”

“What happened?” I asked.

She told me the entire story, how one of the dancers ruined her stuff and she was suspended.

“I can’t believe that happened…”

“It’s been a nightmare.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I said defensively. I knew Hazel wasn’t exactly rolling in the dough. If she wasn’t working, I didn’t know how she’d make rent and buy groceries. I opened my wallet then handed her a bunch of cash. I usually carried a thousand dollars in my wallet for emergencies, which probably wasn’t the best idea.

She eyed it then looked at me like I was crazy. “Cortland, I’m okay. But thank you.”

“It’s fine, really.” I still held it out to her. “I don’t want you to stress about money.”

She pushed it away. “Flynn is paying my bills.”

“Oh.” Now I felt stupid for not assuming that to begin with. “Sorry.” I stuffed the money back in my wallet.

She gave me a soft look. “But I do appreciate it, Cortland.”

I patted her hand. “You know you can always come to me if you need help, right?”

“I know,” she whispered.

“Now did this bitch get suspended too?”

“Yeah. In fact, it if were
n’t for Flynn I’d be fired.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you’re sleeping with the boss.”

She shrugged. “It has its perks.” The melancholy drifted into her.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I just…sometimes I wonder if this career was just a mistake. I love it and everything, but I’m tired of not having a steady paycheck. I want good health insurance. I want to have money in my savings account, you know?”

I didn’t realize things were so bad for her. “Yeah, I know.”

“And my feet hurt all day, and I work my ass off just to be in the back. Thousands of other people can replace me. And when the show’s over, I’m back on the street looking for another job. And I barely make minimum wage…I don’t know.”

I leaned close to her. “Those are all valid points.”

“Do you think I’m wasting my time with this?” she asked seriously.

“I think you’re a wonderful dancer.”

“That wasn’t my question.”

I shrugged. “There is no right answer, Hazel. Only you can decide that. What’s more important to you? Dancing or having nice things?”

“It’s not about materialistic things, Cortland. It’s about knowing I’ll have food on the table.”

“I didn’t realize it was this bad…”

She sighed. “I don’t want you to feel bad for me.”

“How could I not? I care about you.”

“I’m just confused…”

“I’m more than happy to give you money every month, like a sponsorship. Not to make you feel bad, but I
have more money than I’ll ever need. It won’t be missed.”

“No,” she said immediately. “I don’t want anyone to give me money.”

“Then you’ll have to choose,” I said simply.”

“I suppose…”

An idea struck me. “What if you had a part-time job?”

“Doing what?” she asked. “I’m not flipping burgers.”

“I was thinking more on the lines of software design.”

She looked at me like I was crazy. “I don’t even own a laptop.”

I laughed. “I can find you something at the company. You can be my assistant or something and work a few times a week. I know Sean wouldn’t mind. There are a lot of things you can do, and part-time time employees are easier because you don’t have to worry about healthcare or retirement.”

She considered my words for a moment. “But what would I do?”

“You can help me with the IT stuff. There’s a lot of paperwork that comes with it. If you took care of that, my time could be used more effectively.”

“You think Sean would be okay with that…?”

“Sean and Scarlet love you. Of course they wouldn’t care. Mike just gave Laura a job working in marketing and she doesn’t even have a degree.”

“Well, that would be great.” She smiled wide. “Like, that would be perfect.”

“Let’s head up there and tell them after the shower.”

She couldn’t stop smiling. “Thank you so much. I hate taking money from Flynn.”

“You can take money from me,” I blurted.

“No, I feel guilty
enough as it is. They always say you should never borrow money from friends.”

“We aren’t friend
s. We’re family,” I said simply.

“You’re so sweet, Cortland.”

I shrugged. “I try.”

 

When the play was over, we drove to Scarlet’s and Sean’s.

“You know who should kick that Veronica girl’s ass?” I said.

“Who?”

“Janice.”

She laughed. “God, no. Janice would kill her.”

“Even better.” I winked. “Why does this girl hate you so much?”

She rolled her eyes. “She used to sleep with Flynn and now she’s mad I got him.”

“Were they serious?” I asked.

“No. I think they were just fooling around.”

“Does he do that often?” I asked.

“He used to.”

“Does that bother you…?”

She shrugged. “It’s none of my business anyway. He’s not like that with me. That’s all that matters.”

If it didn’t bother her, I guess it wasn’t a big deal. I just wish the girl wouldn’t give Hazel a hard time.

When we arrived at the house, I knew I would get some heat from Scarlet. I’d been avoiding her for awhile, and she wasn’t stupid. She’d see right through that. Everyone knew something was on my mind, but the harder I pushed them away, the closer they clung to me.

Hazel eyed the house. “My apartment is the size of their bathroom.”

“Which one,” I teased.

We walked to the door and knocked.

Sean opened it, surprise on his face. “What are you doing here?”

“We just wanted to stop by,” I said.

“Okay.” He opened the door wider.

“Who’s here?” It was Scarlet’s voice.

“More wanderers passing through our tavern,” Sean said bitterly.

“Had company earlier?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes. “Like you wouldn’t believe.”

Scarlet came out of the hallway then stopped when she looked at me. She analyzed my features for a while, taking me all in. I couldn’t hide from her when she did this. This woman could see through me like an x-ray machine.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” she said.

“I’ve been busy,” I said with a shrug.

“Right…”

Hazel hugged Scarlet. “Sorry for dropping by.”

“No problem,” Scarlet said. “Everyone is welcome here.”

“We’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Sean said with an attitude.

“Don’t mind him,” Scarlet said. “He’s upset he can’t knock me up.”

I laughed. “It’s a challenge. Maybe you should have Andrew help.”

Sean gave me a look of death.

“Sorry, I mean Mike.”

Now he really was going to kill me.

Hazel snickered while she watched his face.

“Any particular reason for your visit?” Scarlet asked.

“Well, it’s a long story,” I said.

“We need to catch up anyway.” She gave me a firm look.

“Well, Hazel needs a part time job to pay the bills, and I thought giving her a job at the company would work.”

“First, Mike gets Laura a job and now this?” Sean asked. “It’s like we’re running a charity.”

Scarlet gave him a firm look. “What would your father do?”

He rolled his eyes. “Let’s leave him out of this—for once.”

“So…that’s a no?” I asked.

“No, of course she can have a job,” Scarlet said.

Sean eyed her. “Um…honey. I’m the one running it.”

“And I owe half of it,” she jabbed. “So the answer is yes.”

“If it’s a problem, it’s really not a big deal,” Hazel said quickly.

Sean shook his head. “I just like to give my wife a hard time. Of course it’s fine. If Cortland things you can bring something to the company, I’m sure he’s right.”

“He does know a thing or two,” Hazel said as she looked at me fondly.

Scarlet watched me closely. “Let’s sit on the couch and have a chat.”

Scarlet was going to grill me. And grill me good.

“Actually, we really need to—”

“Sit,” she commanded.

Sean leaned close to me. “Just do what she says and no one will get hurt.”

Hazel and I sat on one couch while they sat on the other.

“So…where’s Andrew?” I asked. He was always a sore subject.

“Why have you been avoiding everyone?” Scarlet asked.

Damn, she went right in for the kill.

“I’ve been trying to talk to you and see you but you keep blowing me off.”

“ I wasn’t blowing you off,” I said. “I was just busy.”

“Ryan says you’ve been acting odd too.”

“Well, Ryan has been fighting with Janice for weeks. He’s been off lately.”

“And why haven’t I seen Monnique once?” she snapped.

“She’s been working. The magazine takes up a lot of her time.”

She eyed me closely. “Cortland, why won’t you just
tell me what’s going on?”

There was no winning
with this girl.

Hazel eyed me but
kept her silence. She and Flynn were the only people who knew I was going through a hard time. I really didn’t want to talk about it. “There’s nothing going on,” I lied.

“Why are you lying to me?” she said in a hurt voice. “Did I do something? Can you not trust me?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then what’s the problem?” she asked.

Sean studied my face the entire time. He seemed to read me pretty well “Baby, give him some space. If he doesn’t want to talk to us, he doesn’t have to.”

I always knew I liked Sean.

Scarlet didn’t look appeased. “We tell each other everything. Why the sudden change?”

I knew she wasn’t going to quit. “Scarlet, I just…need space right now. I’
ll open up when I’m ready.”

Scarlet shut her mouth at my words. That was all she wanted to hear.

Hazel patted my hand. “He knows he has all of us when he’s ready.”

I didn’t want to look at Scarlet and see the hurt on her face. It was too hard. “Should w
e get going? It’s late.”

“Sure.” Sean stood up and walked us to the door. Scarlet trailed behind him, misery on her face.

“We’ll talk tomorrow,” I said.

“Cool,” Sean said.

“Goodnight,” Hazel said.

Scarlet didn’t speak. She just watched us go.

BOOK: Until Forever
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