SPOILER ALERT: This is book 2 in the Alexa Reed Series. Book 1 is Stay.
It’s been five days since I told Julian what happened with Brady. Five days of him doing everything he can to help me through this; five long days of me not really feeling anything. I’m holding on because Julian asked me to, but I’m not sure what I’m holding on to. I feel like letting go of it all: Brady, Luke, and even Julian. It may just be easier. It’s so hard to explain something I don’t understand myself. One minute I can be relatively fine and the next minute I feel like disappearing. My life is truly like a rollercoaster ride, and the idea that I don’t know what dip or turn or track is coming up next is absolutely terrifying.
For the first time in a year I cancelled my weekly appointment with Ellen. I left a message telling her I was sick. I feel a little guilty I lied but I really don’t want to talk about this anymore. There’s still so much to talk about but nobody is making me and that works for me. My roommates are tiptoeing around me and haven’t asked many questions. They can see Julian and I are still together but I know they suspect something is just not right. I haven’t heard from Luke either. It surprises me and it doesn’t surprise me. I guess I’m really still having a hard time believing we’re no longer in each other’s lives. He’s been a constant for almost seven years and although I’m incredibly mad at him and hurt by what he did, I can’t help but miss him. Julian told me Luke quit working at the hotel the night he told Julian to confront me about Brady. I feel guilty about that too. Guilt. It’s the one emotion that won’t disappear.
It’s Sunday night and True Blood is on. I don’t even want to watch it because I know it’ll only remind me of Luke. Julian is coming over in about an hour and I feel so indifferent about it. I never imagined I’d be indifferent about anything that had to do with Julian. Since day one, everything about him has mattered so much to me. Now I just feel, well, indifferent. We haven’t had much physical contact since before he learned about the rape. He hasn’t asked me any questions about it either, but I can only imagine he thinks his touch will traumatize me in some way. It really is ironic seeing as our entire relationship has largely been defined by our physical connection. I am scared of him touching me though. I’m scared I won’t feel anything. I think, deep down, he might be scared too because he hasn’t even tried to kiss me.
Julian shows up at seven with dinner from Ursa’s. I can always count on him to feed me. I haven’t had much of an appetite lately, but I make an effort because he has. He sets the food on the counter in the kitchen and lets my roommates, Marissa and Shannon, know there’s enough for them too.
“Thank you for bringing dinner.”
He leans in and gives me a soft peck on the cheek. “You’re welcome. Dario sent all your favorites.” Dario is the chef at Ursa’s and his food is incredible.
We make our plates in silence and Julian frowns when he sees how little I have on my plate. He doesn’t say anything about it though as we sit down at the kitchen table. I’m glad he realizes a lecture on my eating habits won’t go over well.
“So, are you excited about tomorrow?”
I’m starting my new job at The Promenade in South Beach tomorrow. I recently got a promotion and although we won’t be open for sales for another few weeks, my bosses, Andrea Lewis and Mark Sullivan, believe it’s beneficial for me to make the move now. I’m grateful for my job. It’s the one thing that’s kept me from sliding into a deep depression.
I nod softly. “Yes, excited and nervous. I’m so familiar and so comfortable with everything at The Towers. Plus it only takes ten minutes to get to work. This is going to be a big change for me.”
“You’re going to do great. I still wish you were coming to work for us though.” Julian says it jokingly but I’m pretty sure his family’s company, Bywater Properties, would hire me if I was in the market. “You’re welcome to stay at my place anytime you want if you’re worried about the commute.” Julian lives blocks from where I’ll be working and if I was willing to consider it as an option, it would be a good one. We haven’t spent the night together since I told him everything. He’s indicated he wants to but I haven’t let it happen. I wonder how long he will allow this to continue. We’re together, but we really aren’t.
“Thank you for the offer. It’s easier for me to sleep here though.” Easier in so many ways.
Julian looks disappointed and I hate seeing it. I don’t want to disappoint him. A twinge of guilt sparks through me. He doesn’t deserve this. It’s only a matter of time before he leaves and I think we both know it. He tries to change the subject but unwittingly picks a worse topic. “We need to talk about your birthday. It’s the week after next right? June 17th?”
“Uh huh.” I don’t want to talk about my birthday. “I don’t think I’ve ever asked when yours is. That’s pretty lame.”
Julian flashes me his big beautiful smile. “March 21st. You just missed it this year. It was the big Three-O. You can make up for it next year.”
I can’t help but laugh. “I missed it because I didn’t know you. I’m not sure I should be held accountable.”
“You’re getting off on a technicality, but okay. I’ll try not to expect big things from you next year but no promises.”
Next year? I’m trying to get through the next hour. I just smile at him. He’s not finished with this topic yet though. “So, what do you want to do for your birthday? Assuming you don’t already have plans.”
“I do have plans. My plans are not to have any plans. I’m not much into birthdays.” I want him to figure this out and do the math. I want him to back off without me having to tell him why I don’t want to celebrate.
“Well, I am into birthdays and I’m also into you, so this year we’re going to do something. It can be mellow but it’s our first birthday together so we should do something. Let me take you away somewhere for the weekend. That would be good for you, for us.”
He looks like a little boy. He’s smiling and excited and eager. Ugh. He’s not getting it so I just say it. “I appreciate you wanting to do something nice, but it’s not going to happen.”
He tilts his head; his brow furrowed. He hears the conviction in my voice. “Porque?”
I take a deep breath and exhale. “Because Brady killed himself three days before my birthday last year and every single memory about the days surrounding my birthday is filled with pain. I can’t imagine ever wanting to celebrate again.” When I glance at Julian I see he’s completely tensed up. “And you being mad that I don’t want to celebrate doesn’t help at all.”
Julian shakes his head. “Lexie, don’t you know me at all? I’m not mad at you. I’m mad for you. I’m so fucking pissed all of the good things you have in your life are tainted by this. You don’t deserve it. You should be able to celebrate your birthday.”
I don’t even want to talk about what it is I think I deserve. “It is what it is, Julian. I’m doing the best I can here. I’ve been dreading telling you about this. I knew it was going to come up and I was hoping, until five minutes ago, you would just figure it out. I didn’t want to tell you. It’s just another thing for you to pity me for.”
“It’s not pity. It’s called compassion. And love. I hurt for you.”
“Well, I don’t want you to hurt for me, Julian. Don’t you know me at all?” I get up and walk toward my room. Julian follows me and shuts the door behind me.
“We’re so past me not caring. I’m in this all the way with you so deal with it!”
My pulse starts to race. It’s the first emotional reaction I’ve had to anything in a week. “Deal with it? I don’t want to deal with anything. Don’t you fucking see that? Deal with it. That’s funny, Julian. I told you I didn’t tell anybody about what happened with Brady for a year. That’s how I deal with shit!”
He’s sitting at my desk, staring at me. He’s challenging me with his eyes and it’s pissing me off. “What? You started this. You better say something or you can just leave!”
His voice is calm and steady. “What would you like me to say? What are the right things to say? If I knew, I’d make sure to say them. I need your help here because I have no idea what’s okay.”
“If I had any idea how to fix this, how to fix me, don’t you think I would’ve done it already. I’ve been trying everything. I’ve been in therapy for a year for God’s sake!”
Julian doesn’t buy in. “I’m sorry, but I’m calling bullshit. You’ve been in therapy for a year and you failed to mention to your therapist you were raped. You haven’t told your family or your friends. Nobody knows about the note. Nobody except me. I’m glad you told me, but until five days ago you were carrying all of this around inside of you. How could you have thought that was the best way to deal with this?”
I’m mad now. Mad he just threw that all out there. “Did you use up all of your compassion earlier? Because that was fucking rude! Do you think this is easy for me?”
He shakes his head. “No, baby, I don’t think it’s easy. For whatever reason, you decided to tell me, only me, all of this, and because I love you I’m going to do whatever I can to support you. You want me to keep pretending you didn’t tell me anything and that everything is the same? Well, I can’t and neither can you. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room and we need to deal with it, Corazón.”
I sit on my bed and look at Julian through squinty eyes and become the victim again. He’s always pushing me. He made me tell him; he forced me. “Like I had any choice but to tell you. It’s not like you would just leave it alone. Or me alone.”
He looks down for a minute and when he looks up I see the hurt in his eyes. “Yes, I forced the issue and I stayed. Maybe one day you’ll be happy about that instead of resentful.”
Oh fuck! I’m such a bitch. He’s telling me how much he cares about me and I act like it’s a bad thing. “I don’t resent you. And I do appreciate your willingness to try to help me. I’m just not comfortable with being your project. I still don’t get why you even want to do this. I know I’m not giving you what you want.”
“Appreciate my willingness to help? Now who’s being rude?” The sarcasm is dripping from his voice. “You may not feel the same way about me that I do about you, but don’t you dare brush it off like I’m just doing you a favor.” He shakes his head and looks totally disgusted. “Project? This isn’t a fucking joke. You obviously have no clue what I want!”
“Then why don’t you tell me, Julian. What is it you want? Because like you, I can’t seem to do anything right.”
His voice softens and he shrugs his shoulders. “You, Lexie. I want you. All of you.”
“Me? You want me? I’m calling bullshit on that.” I’m pretty much yelling now. “I’m here. Right in front of you and you haven’t even touched me for five days. You act like you want things to be normal between us, whatever that is, but you can’t even touch me. The most normal thing about us is gone and you’re so turned off by what I told you happened with Brady, you can’t even touch me.”
My voice cracks at the end of my sentence as the emotions that have been dormant bubble up. As the words tumble from my mouth, I’m forced to acknowledge a new truth. I didn’t want Julian to know about the rape because I was scared to death of what impact it would have on our physical relationship; the one normal thing about us, about me. I was scared he wouldn’t want me anymore. It has nothing to do with me worrying I won’t feel anything when he touches me. It has everything to do with how I think he will feel, or not feel, when he’s touching me.
I’m not the only one blown away by what I just said. Julian practically jumps off the chair, pulls me up, and takes me in his arms. He threads his hand through my hair and gently forces me to look up at him. I can feel his heart beating and I’m sure he can feel mine as well. His voice is quiet but strong. “Dios Mio. How could you have this so wrong? I’m dying to touch you. It’s taken every single ounce of will power I have to give you the space I thought you needed; thought you wanted.”
He’s telling me the truth. His eyes can’t lie to me. I can see his desire and I can feel it in the way his body has responded to me being in his arms. His erection is pressing into me and I can feel him trembling. My body is responding in kind and I feel the warmth radiating off of him begin to melt the chill that has been gripping my heart. I didn’t know when I’d be ready to be with Julian like this; when being intimate would feel right. In this moment, I can’t imagine not being with him. I’m once again reminded I have so little control over my feelings where Julian is concerned. I wrap my arms around his waist and pull him as close as I can. “Then show me. Please. I need to know at least that part of us is okay.”
He tightens his grip on me and I see the uncertainty that still lingers. “Please, Julian.” My words are a desperate plea. I’ve never needed Julian as much as I do at this moment. I’ve wanted him. I’ve craved him. But I’ve never needed him like this. I need him to show me things are okay.
His mouth finds mine and with his lips and tongue he erases any real or imagined physical distance between us. We don’t take our eyes off of each other and when I feel wetness on my cheek, I’m not sure if it’s from his tears or mine. The depth of what he feels for me comes through his kiss and reverberates through my entire body.
We stand there kissing and clinging to each other for a long while. I begin to suspect Julian is scared to take the next step and is waiting for my cue. I give it to him by pulling the red Henley t-shirt he’s wearing over his head. His eyes widen and he responds by pulling the purple tank top I’m wearing over mine. He reaches around, unhooks my bra, and slowly slides the straps off my shoulders. He pulls me close again; the heat of his bare skin against mine feels amazing. I feel as though I’m coming back to life beneath his touch. We fumble to remove our shorts and in minutes our naked bodies are pressed against each other from top to bottom.
“Please tell me this is okay and that you’re sure about this. I’ve never wanted you as badly as I do right now, but you need to be sure.” Julian breathes his words through his kisses and I inhale them into my heart.
“I’ve never been surer of anything in my life. I need this. I need you. Only you.”
The joy I see in Julian’s eyes when I say these words touches me in a way I can’t describe. The way his fingers and mouth feel on my skin is indescribable as well. His touch is soft, demanding, and reverent all at once. I feel it in my soul and it’s perfect. As he lays me down on my bed, I begin to let go of all the fear and shame I’ve been feeling and just hold on to him. I hold on to his love and his strength.
The whole time Julian is touching me, he’s whispering how beautiful and special I am to him. The intensity of what’s happening between us is causing both of us to tremble and as he touches almost every inch of my body with his mouth and hands, I’m convinced he was put into my life to help heal me. The tears become impossible to stop and soon they’re flowing steadily. Julian kisses them away. He props himself up on his elbow and lies next to me.
“Are you okay, baby? Is this too much? I don’t want to stop, but I will if you need me to.”
I look deep in his eyes when I respond. “I need you to keep touching me. I need you to keep loving me.”
He wipes a tear away with his fingertip. “You’re crying.”
“I’m healing, Julian. You told me weeks ago to let you help me heal. You are, baby. You are.”
I wrap my arms around his back and pull him on top of me. A small moan comes out of him as he settles himself between my legs. Julian kisses me passionately and spreads my legs with his knee. I feel his fingertips glide through the wetness on my sex and although the sensation is exquisite, I really just want him inside me. I pull his hand away and he looks at me with confusion in his eyes. “I just want you inside of me.”
He gives me what I want and eases himself into me. His movements are slow, sensual, and deliberate. They soothe me in a way that all of the other touching couldn’t. Julian and I have been together like this many times now and each time it’s been great. He’s by far the most skilled and considerate lover I’ve ever had. I even thought we had “made love” before but I guess I was wrong, because it’s never felt like this. I understand why too. I was guarded. I was scared. I was a lie. Things have changed. He knows all of my secrets now. He knows me now and it’s simply different. Julian is a part of me and for the first time in longer than I can remember, I feel complete. I could tell him right now that I love him but I don’t say the words. He needs to hear me say it independently of this moment and this drama. I’ll tell him I love him when the words are pure and untainted by all of this pain. Right now, I’ll just show him. We spend the next few hours in each other’s arms making love, talking, and holding on to the light and warmth surrounding us.
At around eleven, I let reality back in. “If we keep this up, I’m going to be a mess in the morning. I have a big day tomorrow and I need to sleep.”
Julian groans a little. “Okay, I’ll go and let you get a good night’s sleep.” He starts to get out of bed but I grab him and pull him back down.
“I didn’t ask you to leave. I just asked that you stop making love to me so I can go to sleep.”
A chuckle escapes from his mouth. “Okay, fair enough. I’ll agree to stop making love to you if you do the same. I need sleep too.”
I take my hands off of him and put them at my sides. “I promise to keep my hands to myself for the next eight hours.”
He rolls over and props himself on his side. “Good, because you’re all over me and it’s really getting to be too much.” Julian is smiling and seems so relaxed and happy. My heart swells when I look at him. I really think we’re going to be okay.
I get up to go brush my teeth. “Aren’t you the guy who claims to be able to go all night? Puh-leez. You’re a pretender, Julian.”
Julian reaches up, grabs me around the waist with one arm, and pulls me back onto the bed. He’s on top of me with his mouth on my breast before I can react. I feel him harden and quickly remember what happened the last time I challenged him like this. He’s definitely not one to back down. I should push him off to prove my point but I can’t focus. He’s doing delicious things to my nipples with his hands and tongue, and it feels so good. He nibbles, caresses, and licks me until I’m squirming beneath him. I reach down and take him in my hand. His shaft is hard and hot and when I tighten my grip, a deep moan escapes from his mouth. I’m minutes away from coming when he stops, gets off the bed, and walks to the bathroom. I’m left staring at his perfect, naked ass and can’t believe he just did that.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Julian looks over his shoulder and smiles sexily at me before he goes into the bathroom. “I’m a lot of things, Alexa, but I’m no pretender. I thought you would know better by now than to challenge me about my ability to satisfy you. Maybe you need to be taught a lesson.”
He’s in the bathroom now with the door cracked and I hear the water turn on. I say it loud enough so he hears me, “I’m questioning your ability to satisfy me at all. That was mean!”
A mischievous laugh escapes from the bathroom and I can’t help but laugh too. I’m not really mad but I’m still incredibly turned on. I decide to teach him a lesson and demonstrate I can satisfy myself. I pull the pale, yellow sheet up so it’s covering the right side of my body. My whole left side, breasts, and leg are exposed. I bend my right knee, let my leg fall to the side and touch myself. I close my eyes and use Julian as my muse. I imagine it’s his fingers sliding slowly up and down through my wetness. I imagine it’s his fingertips putting just the right amount of pressure on my clit to make it throb. I imagine it’s his strong hand caressing my breasts and rolling my nipples between his fingers. With Julian’s face in my mind’s eye, I bring myself closer and closer to the pleasure he just denied me. I’m brought out of my fantasy by the most erotic moan I’ve ever heard come out of a man. I slowly open my eyes and see Julian standing by the bathroom door, shaft in hand, stroking himself steadily and firmly as he watches me pleasure myself. His eyes are blazing with desire and his breathing is shallow and fast. He has never looked so sexy.
“Sí, Lexie. Sigue tocandote. Me encanta verte.” His voice is dripping with raw sensuality and the fact he’s speaking to me in Spanish only turns me on more. As I listen to Julian tell me to keep touching myself and how much he’s enjoying watching me, I find the release I’m looking for. I come hard and when I do, I lock eyes with Julian and call out his name. I don’t take my eyes off of him as he finds his own release and comes with a matched intensity.
Damn that was hot.
Julian walks into the bathroom and I hear the water turn on again. I get up and join him. We get ready for bed like nothing just happened. I wait for him to say something but he just smiles at me and goes about his business. He finishes before me and when I walk back into the bedroom, he’s already under the covers with the lights off. I crawl in next to him and he pulls me close so we’re spooning. He whispers in my ear, “You’re an amazing woman, Alexa. I’m not sure how you thought I was ever going to be able to walk away from you.”
I flip over and face him. “You’re the amazing one and I’m not sure what I did to deserve you. Thank you for not walking away. Thank you for staying.” I kiss him lightly on the lips and flip over and snuggle in close. I lie awake for a while listening to Julian’s breathing become slower and slower as he falls into a deep sleep. I think about everything that’s happened in the last few weeks and how close I came to losing this incredible man next to me. I make a solemn vow to myself that I’m going to do whatever I need to do to make this happen. Then I drift off into a deep, peaceful sleep.