“What the fuck did you just say?” The words popped out of my mouth without me even thinking about them.

Reed’s eyes widened.

Moments ago he’d told me that he was getting a divorce and that he wanted me back. I was pretty sure that wasn’t the response he’d imagined coming from my lips when he played out this little scenario in his head. There wasn’t anything I could do about it now. A gust of cold morning air made me shiver and I wrapped my arms around my middle.

“Can I come in?” Reed asked.

I nodded, stunned and stepped back automatically. He walked into the living room and I took my time closing the front door. I turned, and saw him pacing. He ran his hand through his hair again, a wild, almost feverish look in his eyes.

“You know that this whole marriage is a sham,” he said, his words coming out in a rush. “And I thought I could go through with it, for my family. You told me I couldn’t see you anymore and I tried to accept it, I really did.” He took a step toward me, his hand coming up like he was going to touch me, and then dropping back to his side. “When all this shit happened with Brock and I saw how his family protected him, I realized that I didn’t want to be a part of it. How could I defend him when I knew what he’d done to you, what he’d done to that girl?”

I thought about how I hadn’t seen Reed during any of the news coverage about Brock. I’d seen plenty of Britni defending her brother, and of Rebecca at her side. I’d seen both the Michaels and Stirling parents offering their support. Reed had been conspicuously absent.

“Britni and I started arguing about it since it happened, how I wouldn’t go on record saying Brock hadn’t done anything wrong and then, last night, it all just blew up. She accused me of having an affair… with you, and I snapped. I told her that you were an honorable person and that you’d turned me down. Then, she asked if I was in love with you.”

Shit. I didn’t want to hear this. I started to shake my head. I couldn’t do this, not now. Not with Julien in my bed upstairs and my head spinning.

“I told her that I wasn’t in love with her, that I never had been, that I wanted to be with you. I said that she and I were done, and I left. I’ve been driving around all night, trying to decide what I want to do, and I realized that I had to come here and tell you how sorry I was about everything…”

I held up a hand. “Stop, Reed. Please, just stop.”

He fell silent.

It was too much. I couldn’t think straight, not with him looking at me like that. “I need you to go.”

He blinked. “What?”

“This is a lot to take in, Reed. I need some time to think.”

Hurt blossomed across his face and I wondered if he’d thought he could show up at my door, confess that he’d chosen me and was leaving his wife, and I’d just welcome him with open arms. One look into his eyes and I knew that had been exactly what he’d expected. I probably should’ve been annoyed, but I couldn’t really muster much in the way of a response.

“We’ll talk, I promise,” I said, then took a much needed gulp of air. “But you have to give me time to process all that you just said. It’s been more than two months since I saw you. I’ve moved on with my life and then…” Blessed anger finally began to fill me, strengthening my resolve. “Then, life gets rough on your side and you think you can just show up at my house, blurt out this shit and I’ll fall gratefully into your arms?”

He closed the distance between us and put his hand on my shoulder. Despite how cold it was outside, his hand was warm through the thin cotton of my robe. “I’m sorry. You’re right.” His voice was soft, the gentle voice that had drawn me to him in the first place. “I wasn’t thinking.” He squeezed my shoulder and then stepped away. “I’m going to go meet my lawyer and start getting the divorce papers drawn up. Take all the time you need and call me when you’re ready to talk. I’ll wait.”

He left, letting in another blast of cold air, but I barely felt it.

I walked over to my couch on shaky legs and sank onto the soft cushions. Did that really happen? Or was it simply a dream? I pinched myself and sure enough, reality of my situation kicked in.

Why now?

Why would Reed knock on my door the morning after Julien and I first made love? Was I cursed, being punished by the gods?

I nearly growled out loud in frustration. I knew I’d have a lot to think about today, but I figured it’d be centered on Julien, and how sleeping together could change our friendship; what would happen between us next. I’d never in a million years thought that something like this would happen. I’d been looking forward, focusing on my future… not back.

I sighed, hugging my knees to my chest, trying to curl myself into a tight little ball. Maybe if I were small enough, all of this pain and confusion would diminish as well.

Not too long ago, Reed coming to my door and saying that he’d picked me over Britni would’ve been everything I ever wanted. But I’d spent my time since that last conversation trying to get over him. I didn’t know how well it’d worked.

“Hey.” Julien’s voice came from behind me.

I jumped up, my face flushing. “Julien, I–”

“You don’t have to say anything,” he interrupted. He picked up his jacket from where he’d tossed it on the couch the night before. “What happened between us was a mistake.”

I stared at him, unable to believe my ears. The words hurt more than they should have.

“Things just got out of hand. It won’t happen again.” His tone was flat and he couldn’t look me in the eye. “I should go be with my mother.”

He left before I could argue. Not that there was anything I could’ve said. ‘Hey, I know your dad just died and you want to be with your grieving mother, but I want to talk about the fact that we just fucked’ didn’t exactly seem like the best thing to do.

I sank down on the couch and put my head in my hands. How had things gotten this fucked up? I’d done the right thing and walked away from Reed. I’d told myself to stay away from romance and had been doing a pretty good job of it. Now, in one night, the nice little world I’d been building for myself here was shattered.

I didn’t know what I was supposed to think or do. There was no order to the chaos in my head. I couldn’t figure out what to process first. Reed’s declaration? What had happened between Julien and me? His abrupt departure? My feelings for Reed? My feelings for Julien? Did I believe Reed? How damaged was my friendship with Julien?

There were too many question marks, far too much for my brain to handle, particularly without coffee. I stood. I needed to call in reinforcements. Anastascia was going to be pissed that I woke her up this early on a Saturday, but when she heard what happened, I knew she’d understand.

My only other option was to go curl up in bed again and try to pretend like none of this had happened. But considering my sheets and pillows probably smelled like Julien now – that subtle musky scent that wasn’t cologne or aftershave, just him – I doubted I’d be able to put anything out of my mind. So, no matter how much I wanted to act like nothing had changed, I trudged back upstairs to get my phone and make the call.

Sinful Desires Vol. V



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