Authors: J. Alex Blane
Where We Left Off
This book is the work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by J. Alex Blane
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
J. Alex Blane
P.O. Box 843
Bear, DE 19701
Printed in the United States of America
Cover Design: J. Alex Blane
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
This book is dedicated to the Alexander and Barley family.
Thank you for all of your love and support.
hen I completed this book I had to sit back and first ask myself how I could have accomplished such a huge goal after nearly eight years of telling myself I could but never actually doing it. First, I have to thank God for giving me the ability to express all of my thoughts and ideas in such a wonderful way. More importantly I thank him for life experiences. When I initially had the idea to write this story I had lived just enough to know why, but until I placed the last period in the last chapter of this book I realized I hadn’t lived nearly enough to fully understand until that very moment.
To my wife, LaShawn, this has indeed been a journey and each step of the way your support in my wandering off into deep thought and sometimes being completely disconnected has meant everything to me. With a smile I say thank you for allowing me to annoy you with the secrecy of this novel.
To my two beautiful children Brianna and Aiden, you are too young to understand or know much of what’s going on around you outside of Barney, Elmo and Mickey Mouse. But thank you for sharing me with my computer for as long as you have. Brianna, I laugh even as I write this after hearing you tell Aiden to lay down because daddy has to use the computer.
I also have to thank my family and friends for being such a great addition and influence to my life. You have no idea how much you all mean to me now, and how much more you’ve meant to me in this past year.
Katie Diltz, my editor, deserves more thanks than I can give. Thank you for working so hard in helping me to accomplish this huge goal. You are the best and I look forward to working with you again.
In addition to all of those who I have thanked, I must give a huge thank you and appreciation to my focus group and the KMF Book Club. This is an accomplishment I share with each of you.
Even in his own reflection, he didn’t see himself the same way. Mason stood in front of the mirror that hovered over the bathroom sink, still distraught at the man staring back at him, as he had been for the days, weeks, and many months prior.
So much has changed.
He shook his head at the thought. So much of him had changed. Fatigue settled in the dark circles that rested beneath his eyes and as he raised his hands to wash the shaving cream from his face, the brisk sting of the cold water that ran down his thinned cheeks was a bittersweet reminder.
I was handsome once
. He laughed thinking back at the first time he’d met her. The first time he’d smiled and she didn’t look away. The first time she told him she loved him.
How could she still love me?
He wondered. It would have been so much easier for her to let him go. But she wouldn’t. She didn’t. Despite his once broad shoulders and athletic build, now yielding to one much smaller, the way she saw him, even the way she smiled at him never changed, not to this day. She had every reason to forget he even existed, but she didn’t. In the background of his thoughts and dreams, she remained. She waited.
Footsteps neared closer as they climbed the staircase, walked into his bedroom, and stopped at the bathroom door.
“Are you okay?” James, still young and eagerly optimistic, asked.
“You know we should have been there an hour ago. Mom just called.” James leaned into the doorway.
Mason cleared the nervousness from his throat and turned off the faucet. “I’ll be down in a few minutes,” he mumbled, as he adjusted his tie and ran his hand down his goatee.
James nodded and walked back down the stairs.
He was just about ready. A few more sprays of cologne and checks to make sure he’d shaved properly and he would be out the door.
Who would’ve have ever thought,
he said to himself as he flicked the light switch and watched his silhouette through the mirror leaving the bathroom.
Getting down the stairs took him a little bit longer than he was used to, but when he did, he opened the door to one of the most beautiful days he’d ever seen. The sun met him with a smile as it graced the sky with its morning dew. And there was James, waiting beside the limo in a black tuxedo with a crisp white shirt and lilac tie frame by the same color vest. There was no one else, just them and the driver. He slowly walked to the car with a slight limp in his left leg.
James had the passenger side door open for him. “Are you ready for this?” He asked.
Mason placed his hand on James’ shoulder while getting into the car and just smiled.
“Last chance,” James laughed, as he leaned into the door before getting into the car.
Mason couldn’t help but laugh. “Trust me, I’m ready
” he anxiously smiled.
As they drove through the city, he was still amazed at how so many things had changed. It seemed every street they passed had something he’d never seen before - a new store he hadn’t heard of, even new streets. But, more than just the roads he never traveled was the single aisle he’d never walked, and as his hands clenched his knees it was obvious he was afraid. James glanced over, noticing his restless leg and his hands trying to calm them down.
“So what do you do now?” He asked, “I mean, you know …after everything that’s happened?”
Mason stared off through the window, unsure of how to answer. He’d asked himself that same question more than once. And now, just like every time before, searching for the right answer he asked himself again.
here wasn’t a glass unfilled as empty bottles lay scattered throughout the room. The walls above and below vibrated of music as the entertainment for the evening captured the eye of every man, willfully tamed to seduction and fantasy. It was a little past midnight and by now the women dancing had close to nothing on at all. It was certainly a night to remember for some, though for others it was one they couldn’t wait to forget.
He should have waited,
Mason Everett thought to himself watching his brother Jackson get the lap dance of his life.
Jackson was the man of the hour. Tomorrow he was set to marry Dr. Keri Stevens, the woman of his dreams. Or rather the woman of opportunity, as Mason often called her. He was never truly sure if Keri was more in love with Jackson, or just the idea of getting married. There was something about her that he outright couldn’t tolerate. But, he was supporting his brother on the most important day of his life, which was the only reason he was here.
He and Jackson were born four years apart; Mason was the younger of the two. They were like best friends with two entirely different personalities and views on life. Jackson was the ‘by the book’ kind of guy, predictable in a sense. Everything he did was based on what the next logical move was so it was no surprise that after dating for exactly three and a half years he was getting married. Mason laughed, remembering Jackson saying how he heard on somewhere like Good Morning America that most women expect to be engaged or married within three years of dating a guy. Clearly he took note, and now, well, the rest is history.
Mason, on the other hand, was nothing like Jackson; not when it came to relationships. They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but Mason was exactly as he appeared. Jackson knew it, and so did every woman he’d ever come in to contact with. Often dressed in custom tailored suits and heavily starched dress shirts with French cuffs, his professionalism was never a question. The real him, however, lied in his practices outside of business. He lived by an entirely different set of rules, his rules and only his. He was never one to commit to anything that even in part resembled a relationship. And the way he was with most of the women he had interactions with was almost as if he had something to prove. Jackson always saw Mason as having destructive behavior, short tempered at times and careless with women. Despite what he saw, he knew it wasn’t wholly Mason’s fault. Mason had his share of trials. Not so much fair, but his share nonetheless. Some more than others, as Jackson recalled. Mason took it hard when their father died. When their mother remarried years later, it was like a part of Mason just disappeared with each passing day. It wasn’t until he’d graduated college, moved back home, and joined Jackson in the business their father left them that he started to come around in actually finding himself again. But even that had its moments.
“Mason …you know how to throw …one… hell-of-a party!” one of the groomsmen yelled out, falling into a seat next to him, barely able to speak past the alcohol that was slurring his speech. “I don’t understand why would anyone give all of
up!” he adds.
Mason took another sip of his drink. Apart from noticing the ring on the groomsman’s left hand, he laughed to himself. “It’ll never be me” his voice rolled over the ice cubes as he places his glass on the table beside him.
The clock had passed early into morning and, no strangers to spending money for quality entertainment, bills of all faces consumed the air and the inner lining of Victoria’s Secrets as every man seized their moment of a guilty pleasure. Jackson, with no thoughts of his wedding tomorrow, seemed to sinfully enjoy himself as one of the dancers whose name was insignificant to the curves of her body performed just for him. Her waist moved like rolling waves on an exotic island and he sat glued to the chair, almost unaware of everything going on around him. Almost, until he saw Mason far off from the rest of the guys and even the women in the room.
“Some Host you are!” he yelled out, loud enough to get his attention. “I’m getting married tomorrow, the least my best man can do is have a good time.”
By then Mason had already had a few too many drinks, so he brushed him off in laughter. His interest wasn’t on any of the girls in the room, regardless of how little clothing they had on. He had been on his phone most of the night attempting to arrange something a little more private, just for him. Something he couldn’t even tell Jackson about, knowing he wouldn’t approve. Finally, twenty minutes and seventeen texts later he jumped up, almost knocking over his drink.
Catching his balance he shouts “…I’ll be right back.”
Jackson looked up at him moving through the crowd. He laughed to himself, “sure you will.”
He’d seen that look before and knew exactly what it meant. He hadn’t seen Mason on his phone so he figured he’d caught the eye of one of the dancers and gone off into one of the rooms.
Mason made his way through the suite, finally reaching the door. Without Jackson seeing him leave, he quietly slipped out. The entire floor had been reserved along with a few others for the wedding party and guests, but at this time of night he was the only one wandering the halls, heading for the elevators. He had only taken a few steps when heard a voice behind him, one that he had been anticipating hearing all night.
Her voice was soft and almost alluring in its tone. “Did anyone see you leave?” she asked.
“Erika,” he gasped with a sigh of relief.
Erika was a childhood friend of both Mason and Jackson who had driven in for the wedding with her boyfriend earlier that morning. Oddly enough, with Delaware being so small, she and Keri had been close friends since college. If there were anything Mason disliked about Erika that would be the only thing: she and Keri were friends. But, to his advantage, even close friends kept secrets. It was shortly after the engagement party that she and Mason starting seeing each other. No one knew –not Jackson, obviously not Keri, and obviously not her boyfriend. They had their own thing going on; it was an arrangement that fit them exactly the way they wanted. They weren’t dating or in anything exclusive, it was purely sex. No strings, no expectations, no feelings. For Mason, it was right up his alley.
Mason adjusted the sleeves of his shirt while waiting for the elevator, but never turned to face her. “I didn’t think you would come,” he said.
Slowly undoing the belt to her jacket, wearing little to nothing underneath, she moved towards him enough for him to feel the warmth of her almost naked body pressed against his back. Her voice was soft, grazing his shoulder as it carried a tone of hypnotic temptation.
“I was hoping at some point… you would help me out with that,” she suggested.
He could almost feel her enunciate every single word that rolled off of her tongue. That was one thing about Erika that he did like, apart from the obvious: her choice of words ––when and how she used them always turned him on. She had always been this way even through high school, although he paid nowhere near as much attention to her then.
The elevator door opened, accompanied by a gentleman in a full black suit and white gloves, very well-mannered and extremely well-spoken. He kind of resembled Geoffrey from the TV show ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,’ minus the British accent.
He held the door open as the two of them got on.
“Good evening, Mr. Everett. Will you be retiring to your suite?” he asked.
Mason stepped on the elevator, taking Erika’s hand behind him. Without regard for the attendant noticing her, she slowly closed her coat, still leaving it open enough for him to see everything she didn’t have on underneath. It was yet another quality that Mason ironically admired. She was extremely confident; sometimes, too confident. If she felt sexy, she showed it, whether those around it took offense or not.
“Yes,” he answered greeting the attendant “I think I’m calling it a night.”
Erika stood only inches behind him.
“He knows your name?” she asked in slight surprise.
The Pierre at Monchanin Village was one of the most exclusive and luxurious hotels just outside of the city, in the heart of scenic Brandywine Valley. Apart from Mason and Jackson having a personal tie to the hotel, they happened to be on a first name basis with more than half of the staff.
Mason and Erika quietly engaged in conversation on the way up to the room.
“You came out here alone?” he asked.
“Of course not, Chris is with me. I’m surprised you didn’t see him at the bachelor party.”
He may have seen him, but he didn’t remember. Not that it would have mattered to him in the least if he did. Erika had been seeing Chris for some time. They shared an apartment in Middletown equipped with everything, including a labradoodle named Buddy. Chris had proposed to Erika twice already, and twice she had said no. Not because she didn’t want to be with him, she just wasn’t one for titles and, like Mason, she didn’t actually care for the idea of marriage. Mason didn’t seem bothered at all about her being in a relationship, and he hadn’t been for the past four months.
They exchanged little smirks the entire ride up, glancing occasionally at each other, knowing where the rest of their night was going. It was no different from any other night they would meet. She would call or he would text, and they would meet at some random location or occasionally at his house, and then go their separate ways.
“Enjoy the rest of your evening, sir” the attendee said as the two of them stepped off the elevator.
It took only moments for them make their way down the hall, and even fewer moments for them to make their way into the room, out of their clothes, and into the bed. Her skin pressed against his embodied every fragment of illumination that shined through the window. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to see her as she removed the rest of the clothing she had on. They moved like newlyweds on their first night together. The sheets that started out neat and tapered to the bed hung on and off as they moved from one side to the other. She performed for him in a way that only she could. Her eyes were absent of focus as she stared, following the contour of her body on his. Mason’s hands caressed her moistened skin as she raised and lowered herself onto him. Aggressively he laid her beneath him and moved upon her like the rhythm of a classical ballad. Fading beneath her slowly closing eyes, her body tensed and quivered. She relaxed the grip of her legs which were wrapped around him in the silence of their exhaustion; finally, they were