Begin Again

Page 12

"Okay," I breathed. I closed my eyes and held my breath, waiting to feel Jeff's lips against my own.
Just then, the shrill sound of Jeff's phone ringing pierced the air and we froze. I opened my eyes.
"Dammit," Jeff muttered, making me smile.
"You'd better get that," I replied quietly. "Your brother probably thinks I kidnapped you."
"I'd be a willing captive, Red."
My heart stuttered back into a steady rhythm and Jeff kissed my forehead before pulling out his phone to answer it. I hopped off the lounger and took the empty wine glass and beer bottle inside. I stood at the basin, rinsing my wine glass when I saw a shadow standing on the sidewalk. I squinted into the darkness, feeling a familiar chill settle over my skin. A car drove past, illuminating the lone figure. Brody. I stilled, locking eyes with the man who put my life back together only to rip it all up. My heart raced, making my body thrum. I hadn't felt that when Jeff touched me, or even when he kissed me. No. This feeling my body reserved for only one person. I dropped the wine glass, shattering it as I walked to the front door. I ran down the steps, but when I searched for Brody he was gone. Had he been watching me all this time? Did he see Jeff here? I rubbed my arms even though it was hot and walked back inside.
"Everything okay?"
I jumped and turned to find Jeff standing behind me.
"Yeah," I replied. "Thought I saw something outside. You take care of your phone call?"
"It was Grayson. He wanted to know when I was going to arrive. Sounded a little pissed when I told him I came here first but he wasn't surprised. I think I'd better go before he comes here to get me himself. My taxi will be here soon."
"That sounds like Grayson," I giggled.
The sound of Jeff's shoes echoed on the floors as he stepped closer.
"There's one last thing I have to do before I go," he murmured.
"What's that?" I asked, my voice equally soft.
"This." Jeff's hand came around my neck and he brushed his lips across mine before capturing my mouth. He traced my bottom lip with his tongue and before I could worry about the consequences of this moment I allowed him in. My body relaxed into his embrace and savored the feel of his hands on my body, the way he caressed me gently and coaxed my mouth into following the slow pace he set. Our tongues danced and he licked every part of my mouth, learning it, enjoying it. He pulled away before I was ready and I whimpered at the loss of heat. His forehead came to rest on mine and when my eyes opened again I found him looking at me.
"Hmmm," he sighed, "that was good as I'd imagined it."
"You've imagined kissing me?" I squeaked.
"I sure have."
I stretched onto the balls of my feet and placed a sweet kiss on Jeff's cheek. He was an amazing guy, but now that he'd kissed me I recognized the absence of…fire. He didn't make me feel like I was ready to explode from a kiss alone. He didn't make my nipples bead beneath my bra or heat pool between my legs. I didn't feel the need to rip his clothes off and touch every inch of flesh that covered what I knew to be an amazing body. The excitement I'd felt earlier was misplaced, probably mistaken for the longing to feel a man's touch. It was my heart that dropped, leaving me wondering if I would ever have that again or if I was meant to live without it.
"Goodnight, Jeff."
Jeff brushed my cheek and gave me a peck on the mouth. "Night, Red."
The door clicked behind him and as always, I was left alone with nothing but my own guilt for company.
SLEEP DIDN'T COME easy that night. I tossed and turned, fighting with the villains in my head. It wasn't kissing Jeff that had kept me awake though. It was the guilt that I'd felt as soon as he'd left, the feeling that I'd betrayed Brody in some way. It was idiotic. Brody had moved on so why couldn't I?
You know why, the voice in my head said, reminding me that I knew exactly why moving on, even a year later, had been almost impossible. Sure, I liked how Jeff made me feel, but it just wasn't the same . I'd only compare him to Brody. In fact, I'd compare every man to Brody and then be disappointed when they come up short. I sighed. I was exhausted and my mind had been running a mile a minute all night. Having had enough, I threw my comforter off my body and climbed out of bed. It was already eight in the morning so I decided to throw on my running gear and hit the road. Coco wasn't too pleased, but I gave her a treat and snuck out the front door. I needed something to get my feet moving and when Miley Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' started playing, I almost tripped over my feet. How appropriate, I thought. I turned up the volume and picked up my pace, hitting the back roads that wound around town. It was hot and I was sweating like a hooker in Church but it felt so good. The burn in my muscles surged me forward until I thought my lungs were going explode and by the time I made it into town I was ready to collapse. I walked past the stores, greeting the townies as I passed, and stepped into Emma Morgan's bakery. The cool air blasted my skin and I sighed in relief and appreciation for the reprieve. I'd only been out for an hour but it was long enough. Huntley's aunt saw me and smiled while motioning me over to the counter.
"Morning, sweetheart. What can I get you?"
"Hi Mrs. Coach. Coffee and a water please."
She started getting my coffee ready and I watched the other patrons come and go in a steady stream of bodies. The bell chimed above the door, only this time it made me freeze. I had my back to the door but I didn't need to look to know who had just walked in. The air became thinner and I found it difficult to breathe. The hairs on the nape of my neck were standing at attention and I had to force my body not to run into those familiar arms. Emma looked at me with sympathy in her eyes and that was all it took to confirm that I was right. I turned around slowly and even then, there was no way to prepare myself for what was in front of me. Brody was smiling down at a gorgeous blonde woman, giving her his rapt attention. Hell, I couldn't even help staring at her. She had a red dress on, synched at the waist, which showed off her long, bottle-tanned legs and delicate waist. Her platinum blonde hair was tied up in a high ponytail on top of her head, showing off her high cheekbones, pouty pink lips and perfect nose. She was gazing at Brody with bright eyes the same way I had done before. With love and adoration. It wasn't her expression that caught me though. It was his. His smile, the way he looked at her, seemed real, like he meant it. Oh God, this can't be happening. I took a moment to take him in before this all went to hell. His hair was a little shorter and he still wore it in that just fucked way. I swallowed, wondering if it looked that way because of her, because she'd run her slender fingers through it while he made her scream out in pleasure. The voice in my head shouted 'GET OUT!" and at that moment Brody decided to look up. Our eyes locked and small amount of air I'd managed to get into my tired lungs was knocked out.
Brody said my name like it was a treasure, like he needed to protect it. He was the only person who ever used my full name, even when we'd made love he'd called it out. It unraveled me. I stood frozen for a brief moment until my brain started shouting commands and my legs moved. In my hurry to get away, I smacked into the waitress walking past me and we ended up in a heap on the floor. Brody's girlfriend snickered behind her perfectly manicured fingers, while I prayed for a hole to appear in the floor that would swallow me. The front of my tank top was covered in cold coffee and under normal circumstances I would have gagged but my need to flea overpowered every other useless thought bouncing around in my head. I muttered "sorry" to the waitress, ignoring her scowl, and scrambled my way out of the bakery. I walked as quickly as I could and yet fate felt the need to prolong my torture just a little bit longer.

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