Authors: Melissa Toppen
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Contemporary, #Erotica, #Sagas
Today is the day that I have been dreading for weeks. The day when I have to face Addison as someone other than the man that she thinks she knows. I don’t know why I haven’t told her the truth before now. Letting her believe I was just some ordinary guy just seemed easier at first and then it never seemed like the right time or when I tried to get it out something would stop me.
Her aunt Kelly showed up the first time I finally decided it was time. I lost my courage after that and didn’t make another attempt until last night. I was ready, the words hanging from the tip of my tongue. But the way she was looking at me, the passion in her beautiful blue eyes, I couldn’t resist her. More importantly, I couldn’t hurt her. I don’t want her to see the truth, that I’m a fraud and that she entered into this relationship under false pretenses.
It’s only a job right? That’s how I justified it to myself. Does it really matter that much what I do for a living? But then, I know that’s not the point. The point is, that once she knows the truth she will be forced to believe that she doesn’t know me at all. That if I could keep something this insignificant from her, what else am I hiding?
I remember the first time I saw her. Her slender figure in a small little black number that made my heart race. God she was so sexy. A beauty that stood out among all the others and yet it wasn’t her beauty that drew me to her. It was the fact that she seemed so different than all the other women, an air of innocence and wonder surrounding her very presence.
I’ll never forget the way her eyebrows knitted together in confusion every time a man attempted to hit on her, like she was completely oblivious to just how beautiful she is. But she is clever and witty and I admire her ability to see through people’s bullshit, including my own.
I think I fell in love with her the moment I saw her, as if my heart were finally beating for the first time. I didn’t understand the feeling but I reveled in it. I knew from that very first night that this girl would change my life forever.
“Mr. Mason, it’s time to go.” Dave says, pulling my attention back to the present. I give him a nod, before slipping on my tuxedo jacket. I didn’t expect to be this nervous.
Let’s go.” I say, following Dave from my office and down the main corridor leading to the private elevators. Dave is silent on our ride to the main floor. He’s not a man of many words but he’s someone I know I can trust and he’s my number one go to when I need something. Having been the head of my uncles security team, I kept him on after my uncle's passing and have since grown to look at him more as family than as an employee.
The elevator doors slide open just to the right of the main lobby. We take the corridor to the left that leads around to the side entrance of the ballroom. I purposely missed dinner, knowing the minute that I saw Addison I would lose myself and end up skipping out just so I didn’t have to tell her the truth. So I could stay in this little bubble that I have placed us in for just a while longer.
I know it’s not fair to her. Hell, I can’t imagine how I would react if I found out that she had been able to keep something like this from me. She will probably think it was easy, that given my past it is simply in my nature to omit certain things about myself. She won’t know the guilt and the worry that I have carried with me for weeks. She won’t see how hard I tried to tell her and how miserably I failed. All she will see is that I lied.
I hear the applause as my name is said and take one more deep breath before following Dave inside. I don’t see Addison immediately, having purposely placed her at the front of the room. I make my way to the stage, thanking Kathryn for the introduction before taking my place behind the microphone.
It all happens in slow motion. Her eyes find me and yet she shows no reaction, like she hasn’t quite processed what she’s seeing. I realize quickly that she didn't even know my real first name which probably makes this look so much worse. Having never gone by Christopher, I really thought nothing of it until now. I fight through the sickening feeling forming in the pit of my stomach and plaster on a smile, turning my attention to the room full of people before my eyes settle on her once more.
This time the confusion is gone, replaced by what I feared I would see the most, the pain so clearly etched across her beautiful features. She looks absolutely breathtaking but the only thing I can see is the hurt in her eyes, the disbelief, the realization that the man she thought I was is not the man that I am. And then like watching my worst nightmare come to reality, she breaks her eyes away from me, her face determined, unreadable, as she stands.
She doesn’t look back at me again as she turns and quickly walks away. I fight with everything in me not to simply chase after her. Of all the possible ways that this could play out, I never considered that she would just walk away. I thought I would have the chance to explain.
I clear my throat and fight my way through welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming. I don’t really comprehend what I am saying and my voice sounds completely foreign to me but somehow I manage to get through it without anyone seeming to notice that I am fighting like hell to maintain control.
As soon as my part is done, I leave the stage immediately and exit through the same door I entered through. I turn left and head towards the lobby, praying that by some miracle she’s waiting for me. I don’t see her anywhere, so I grab my cell from my pocket and dial her number. One ring and then her voice-mail picks up.
Frustrated, I end the call and re-dial her number again. This time her voice-mail picks up immediately. I lower the phone from my ear shaking my head. She shut off her phone. I can hear every sharp intake of air as I breathe, feel every beat of my heart, that at the current moment feels like is in my throat.
“Did you see where she went?” I demand from Marilyn, who is working the front desk tonight. She looks at me a little confused before she finally understands who I’m talking about. She knows who Addison is, as do the majority of my other employees. I needed a way to keep an eye out for her if she showed up at Serendipity or the Casino.
Yes. I’m sorry Mr. Mason. She left just a few moments ago.” She says, holding her hand up to me when the phone rings. I waste no time grabbing the spare set of keys I leave at the desk and quickly making my way out to the parking garage.
I know that people will question my absence and as much as I hate to simply leave, I really don't have a choice. I don’t know where she went or if she will even speak to me once I find her but I have to try. I have to try to make her understand. She thinks exactly what I was afraid she would, that she has no idea who I am, only she does. She knows me better than anyone and I can’t let her just walk away without knowing how important she is to me.
She deserves so much better than me but I am in too deep now to give her up. I’m a selfish bastard. I should have spared her all of this. I should have never pursued her in the first place. No matter how badly I wanted her, I knew from the beginning that I would never be a man that deserves her. But she makes me want to be that man. She makes me want to be someone that deserves her love.
Now I just have to find her. I have to make this right with her. Life without her is not even a possibility. I will fight for her until my last breath because I love her and because I need her. Like the earth needs the sun, she is my means to survival. She is what I revolve around, my reason for existing.
I give my money to the cab driver and grab my bag from the seat next to me before exiting the car. I turn to find myself facing the one place I have always found comfort, my childhood home. It's nothing overly fancy. A ranch style home in a spacious subdivision. It sits on about a half an acre of land, a detached garage sitting just a few feet to the left of the house.
I remember when my parents had this house built. I couldn't have been more than five or six. I used to love coming here and walking through the half finished walls. I would bring all my little animals and we would play in my room, well what was there of the room anyways. I drove my parents crazy for weeks insisting that my room be painted bright orange. I don't really remember why I wanted it orange but regardless, my parents didn't go for it.
I take a deep breath and do my best to plaster on a fake smile. Right now I feel anything but happy but I don't want my parents to see that. I don't want them to know that on the inside I feel like I am dying.
I don't take more than three steps before the front door swings wide open and my mother lets out a squeal. “Steve, she's here!” She yells through the door, before sprinting at me full speed and wrapping me in her arms.
I drop my bag to the side and wrap my arms around her, breathing in her scent which always makes me feel better. Growing up, whenever I was sad or sick, all I wanted was my mother. She is home to me. She smells of lavender like always and for a moment, all the pain that I carried with me to Vermont seems a little more bearable.
She releases me to give me a good look over. “You're so skinny. Are you eating enough? Are you getting enough sleep?” She starts in immediately.
“Mom, I'm fine, really.” I say, batting at her hand when she reaches to fix my hair.
“Oh honey, it's so good to see you.” She says, her brown eyes finally settling on mine. Julia Grant is a beautiful woman, full of confidence and grace. I always wished I looked more like her. We are built the same, same height and hair color but most of the similarities stop there. I always felt like I looked more like my dad than her.
“Come inside. Dad can't wait to see you.” She says, retrieving my bag from the ground and slinging it over her shoulder. I follow her up to the front steps and then through the front door, the smell of something sweet invading my nostrils the moment I step inside.
“Dad's baking, can you believe it?” She laughs, dropping my bag next to the door before leading me to the kitchen that sits at the very back of the house. I pinpoint the smell immediately when my dad comes in to view, pulling a large pan of cookies from the oven.
“There she is.” He smiles fondly at me, placing the baking sheet on top of the oven before making his way over to me.
“Hi dad.” I get out weakly before he engulfs me with his large frame, squeezing a little too tight for comfort.
“It's good to see you kiddo.” He says, pulling back with a large grin across his face. His blue eyes that mirror mine sparkle as he, like mom, gives me a good look over. “You look good kid.” He says, giving me a little shoulder shove before turning his attention back to his cookies. I pretend not to notice that he looks like he has aged ten years in six months. His once dark brown hair fading into a gray mess on the top of his head.
“Dad, what are you doing?” I question playfully, having never seen my dad cook anything a day in his life.
“Your mother says I need to learn to take care of myself. We aren't getting any younger and I guess she feels like it's important that if she dies before me, I know how to keep myself good and fat.” He lets out a full belly laugh as my mom swats his arm.
“Steven!” She gasps, shaking her head in disapproval. This only makes my dad laugh harder as he pulls her to his chest and kisses the top of her head. My mom practically disappears in my father's arms, given her small figure and his very large, stocky frame. He stands well over six feet where she is only a couple inches over five. Despite their size difference, they seem to fit together perfectly. Like two puzzle pieces that you swear don't go together but in the end turn out to be the perfect fit.
I have always envied what my parents have. The way they look at one another like they are the only two people in the world. Sure they had their hard times but they never let it break them and they always came out the other side even stronger because of it.
Instantly my mind goes to Liam. The way his eyes would penetrate mine like he could see into my soul. It's been less than twenty-four hours since I walked away from him and yet it feels like an eternity. I played last nights events over and over in my head like a movie on the plane ride to Vermont.
At first I felt disbelief, then I felt anger. By the time I exited the plan five hours later, all I felt was sadness. Now, watching my parents, seeing how much they love each other, only intensifies the void I feel from Liam's absence. I would give anything to erase yesterday. Despite everything, my feelings have not changed, though at this point I am not really sure that the person I fell hard and fast in love with actually exists.