Bryan stands there with his jaw hanging open and those narrow, green eyes blazing. Fury and shock doesn’t look good on him. The emotions contort his beautiful face, marring the smooth lines of his skin and making him look years older. His fingers ball into fists at his sides, but he blinks once and the reaction subsides. There are many things that I don’t know about Bryan Ferro, but I do know this—he sucks at keeping things hidden. His thoughts dance across his face now and again, which is why he’s leery of me.
Turning abruptly, Bryan presses his fingers to his right temple. His voice comes out like a growl. “I told you to leave.” His shoulders are strained, every muscle is tight to the point that I can see the curves of his body under that dress shirt. He flexes the hand that’s by his side before slipping it into his pocket. Bryan may be able to hide everything from everyone else, but not from me.
“Yeah, I heard that part.” I act like I don’t care, lay back on the carpet, and tuck my hands behind my head. The floor is soft and fuzzy. Lifting my knees, I let my gown fall around my ankles and scrunch up my feet to feel the soft pile between my toes. The carpet in my old room felt like a potato sack compared to this stuff. Even though Bryan’s irate, I’m smiling. The little voice in the back of my head tells me that I’ve lost my mind. I answer back that I never really had a firm grip on it anyway.
Bryan can see my reflection in the mirror, but I can’t see more than his back and the way he grips his head like it’s going to explode. Is he that furious with me? I can’t fathom his anger, but it pours out of his mouth again, barbed with thorns this time. “If you can’t understand the terms of this agreement, then I’m afraid we don’t have one.”
“What?” I sit up and pivot around so I’m facing his back.
Bryan turns and the tension that’s plastered across his face is horrible. I meet his gaze, but I can’t hold it without wanting to fix whatever’s doing this to him. All the pictures in the press show the version of Bryan that I knew—light and carefree—but this man is neither of those things. Something is crushing him from within and tearing him apart. His body is shaking, he’s so angry. He tries to take a deep breath, but it just makes his face pinch tighter. “You heard me. If you don’t do things my way, I’ll ruin you. This is not my way, and you damn well know it. Get out.”
He doesn’t yell, but his words make me shiver. There’s no warmth, no compassion. Maybe I don’t know him anymore and he’s right. Pressing my lips together, I swallow my retort, but it swells inside of me and fills my chest. I manage to get my heels back on my tired feet before standing. I walk over and grab my purse.
I should leave. The little voice inside of me chants like a pixie with a pleasant voice, Yes, go. Do that. Now.
My eyes are locked on the door like it’s the pathway to Hell. Something about leaving right now feels wrong, but I can’t put my finger on what’s holding my feet in place. Damn, it’s the thoughts that I’m holding back. They’re trapping me here and I can’t move. It feels like swallowing vomit and I can’t do it. I’m brain damaged, but I can’t be something I’m not.
Spinning on my foot, I cross the posh carpeted floor, and walk over to him. Bryan doesn’t turn to look down at me. Instead, his hands are gripping the top of the bar like he wants to rip it out of the wall. His back is curved and his head is hung between his shoulders like he’s trying not to tear me apart. Another woman would have run by now, but I’m the dopy one that walks closer.
“I’m a fool,” I say while looking at my shoes, and laugh lightly. It’s the kind of sound that has no joy and reveals a tortured soul. My eyes lift to his shoulders. I stand there for a moment waiting for him to turn, but he doesn’t. Bryan doesn’t speak or lift his gaze. He remains hunched over the bar like a troll.
I continue, “Seeing you tonight was terrifying and wonderful. It conjured memories and feelings that I’d long forgotten. Writing about it is one thing, but seeing you again is beyond words. I’m sorry I hurt you, even though I don’t understand what I did. I’d fix it if I could. I’d…”
Why am I doing this? I’m begging to his back and the man doesn’t even have the decency to turn and face me. I suck in and straighten my spine. “People make mistakes, Bryan, and it appears that my biggest mistake was meeting you.”
Fury floods through me as I rush across the room. I grab the doorknob and don’t look back even though I feel his eyes on me. Screw him. I’ve lived through worse. I chant those words over and over again, because I have. After scurrying down the hallway, I press the down button at the elevator bank over and over again, wondering why I’m so upset. After a moment, I feel the thought prick my eyes and take hold of my throat and I know exactly why I’m so upset.
It’s possible that things are flipped around, and that I did not know the real Bryan Ferro—that the one from all those years ago, the one I slept with, was the fake.