Robert Frost is famous for writing about the road not taken, about a traveler who comes to a fork in the road and is faced with a decision regarding which path to choose. Both hold uncertainty for the future. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Both can bring happiness or sorrow. With no knowledge as to what awaits him, the traveler goes with his gut, contemplating that he can always come back and choose the other path later.
But can he?
One road will lead to another, which will lead to another, then another. You’re soon miles from where you started, unable to remember how to get back. Worse, you can’t recall where you started in the first place. All because of what you believed to be an innocent decision to go down one road instead of another.
As I sit at the stoplight, the road ahead taking me one way, the interstate to the left another, Dave Matthews’ voice brings me back to my high school years. In all actuality, I’m at an advantage, unlike Mr. Frost’s memorable traveler. I’ve been down one of these roads before. Over. And over. And over. I’ve given that road chance after chance after chance. What has it given me in return? Heartache. Pain. Agony. But also love, as cruel and beautiful as it’s always been between us. Can I put myself through that again? Is security and safety more valuable than passion? The answer becomes abundantly clear.
The light turns green and I take a deep breath to slow my racing heart. My foot eases off the brake, stepping on the gas as I take the road I believe will lead to happiness, to peace, to love. The entire drive, I’m certain this is the correct path for me. I need those things. Why should I settle for anything less?
When I finally pull up in front of the house and step out of my car, making my way up the familiar walkway, everything seems different. This isn’t like every other time I’ve been here. Something’s changed. I’ve changed. Have I changed for the better? For his better?
Or does everything seem different because I’ve chosen wrong? Should I have taken the other path? There’s only one way to find out.
I stare at the door, torn, wishing the correct answer were scrawled in the grains of the wood. When it opens, I inhale a sharp breath, staring into a pair of compassionate, soothing eyes. Ones that have always looked at me with nothing short of devotion, of pure admiration, of absolute love.
“Brooklyn...” His voice is husky but concerned, perhaps even relieved.
My lips part as I struggle to summon a single word. There’s a reason I’ve chosen this path. So I don’t have to look back anymore, so I don’t have to face a daily reminder of my mistakes, of not being enough, of never being enough. This man staring at me with so much concern loves me. Unequivocally. Unmistakably. Unquestionably. His love is pure, untainted, with no hidden agenda. And he wants to spend the rest of his life with me. That should count for something.
No. That should count for everything.
The events of the past few days overwhelming me, my hands go to Wes’ cheeks. Pulling him toward me, I crush my lips to his, kissing him fully, completely, holding nothing back, giving him everything I’ve denied him since the beginning of our relationship. He stills at first, his body becoming rigid. I bring myself closer, erasing the last bit of distance between us. My hands tugging at his hair, fingernails digging into his scalp, my body pleads with him to want me, love me, help me forget about Drew.
With a groan, he relents, melting into me, dragging me into his house and kicking the door closed. This exchange is completely different from our usual kisses. It’s not tender, soft, sweet. That’s not how I want it. Not right now. I need it deep, powerful, soul-crushing. I need to never have another reason to think of anyone but Weston James Bradford. I’m his world. It’s time he becomes mine.
I claw at him, tongues tangling and teeth clashing as our kiss becomes ravenous, primal...hot. He pushes me against the wall and I grind my body against his, his erection springing to life. No longer the same Brooklyn I was mere hours ago, I reach down, palming it. A low rumble falls from his throat and he tears out of the kiss, his heavy breaths hot against my skin.
“Damn, baby. What’s gotten into you?”
“I want to turn over a new leaf. I want to be everything you want. In public…” Tilting my head up, I drag my tongue along his smooth chin and neck, suppressing the desire to have an unshaven jaw bruise and scratch my skin. When I pull back, I give him a coquettish grin. “And in private.”
Growling, he dives in for another impassioned kiss, taking control as he presses against me, pulsing and thrusting. Hands are everywhere, tugging, yanking, scratching. His lips move to my neck, teeth clamping onto my skin. I whimper, craving the physical pain to help me forget about everything relating to Andrew Brinks. About the longing in his eyes when he learned the truth. About the despair covering his face when I drove away. About the way my heart still yearns for him, regardless that he’s never brought me anything but torment, that he’s done nothing but crush my dreams and break my heart.
“Harder,” I beg, willing my body to react to Wes’ touch, his kisses, his words. But I feel nothing, empty, broken. I squeeze my eyelids shut. Instantly, brown eyes flash before me, impassioned and hungry, bringing me back to that night seven years ago, the night I’d kept a secret from everyone for years. The hands on me transform from smooth and soft to rough and calloused as I succumb to the memory.
“Why aren’t you dating anyone, Brooklyn?” Drew asked in a lazy voice as we both lay in my bed. Considering our history, it was irresponsible of me. But when he’d begged me to stay after I’d dropped off a water and a few aspirin to nurse the headache I was certain would find him the instant he woke from his alcohol-induced slumber, I couldn’t resist. I never could resist Andrew Brinks.
“Come now,” he slurred. “Are you trying to tell me there’s no one who’s caught your eye, who’s stolen your heart?”
I opened my mouth, my words stuck in my throat like tires in heavy mud. What could I say? That I’d been pining for the same person all my life? The same person who possessed my heart since the day he threatened a boy in my second grade class after he picked on me because my father came to Mommy and Me tea. The same person who gave Damian Murphy a broken nose for touching me inappropriately the summer before my junior year of high school. The same person I never stopped thinking about, even after he stood me up on the morning I thought I would lose my virginity. I was naïve and gave him my heart. Despite the passing of years, this man still had it, although I wished he didn’t. Wished with everything I could pry it out of his cold, cruel hands.
He ran his thumb along my bottom lip, my breath hitching as a shiver rolled through me. I plumped it out, my insatiable hunger to feel his hands on me overtaking all sense of rationale, making me forget our past. All I cared about was now, about feeling this man’s body so close to mine, to feel his heart beat in time with mine. I should have left, should have walked away, but I couldn’t. The power this man had over me defied all reason, all sense of what was right.
“There’s someone,” I murmured in a barely audible voice.
As if able to read my thoughts, he inched even closer, his body flush with mine. My breaths came in pants as his erection pressed against my stomach. There was no hiding his need for me. But was it for me? Or did he just want to feel something after learning his wife was leaving him? Was I simply his last resort? Just someone he’d use for a night, then toss aside, like my father warned me he would?
“Do I know him?”
“You might.” I lowered my eyes, staring at his muscular frame. His t-shirt had lifted slightly, a sliver of skin visible above his jeans. Just that small bit of exposed flesh made my entire body heat even more.
“What’s he like?”
I couldn’t help but smile as I considered my answer. “Sweet. Charming. Although he’d never admit it. He likes to put on this front, make everyone think he’s some macho bad ass, especially when he’s around his co-workers.” I lifted my eyes to his. “But I knew him before. And I can’t help but think I’m one of the few people he can be himself around. That he doesn’t have to put on a show to make me believe the public perception of him.”
His hand roamed the contours of my frame, stopping on my hip. My teeth chattered, my body having trouble reconciling the myriad of sensations coursing through it. When he pushed me onto my back, I gasped at the unexpected shift, my surprise silenced when he buried his head in my neck. I held my breath, briefly squeezing my eyes shut. Was I asleep? Was this just another dream I’d awaken from…alone?
“Do you love him?” he whispered, his lips ghosting against my skin sending a ripple through me.
My pulse increased, my mind hazy as lust for this man blinded me to everything. I’d been with a few guys before, but I’d never felt anything remotely close to this, to this incredible euphoria and need driving me mad.
“Why?” He pulled back, his whiskey eyes searing mine.
“Because he’ll only break my heart. Because as much as I want to be with him, it won’t end well.”
“How do you know?” He climbed on top of me, supporting his weight on his elbows. My legs fell on either side of him and I ran my hand up and down his back, as if this were a normal, everyday occurrence for us. The feel of his ripped muscles beneath his t-shirt made my mouth dry.
“Because he’s always held all the power,” I stated, more unguarded than I’d ever been. I didn’t understand what possessed me to be so honest, why I admitted something I’d refused to acknowledge for the past decade. “Because he has the power to destroy me in a way I’ll never recover from.”
My words all those years ago hit me hard, practically knocking the breath out of me. When I muttered them that night, I had no idea how true they were. I only had to wait a matter of a few hours to learn I was right, that the promises he made in his alcohol-induced euphoria, then forgot about, would destroy me. Just like the promises he made the night before he left for college irrevocably changed me.
The hurt of everything plagues me and my chin quivers, tears spilling over my eyelids.
“What’s wrong?” Wes asks, noticing the change in my demeanor. Pulling back, he searches my face. His concern makes me feel even more guilty for fantasizing about Drew. “Did I hurt you? Was I being too rough? I never want to do anything to—”
I grab the back of his neck, forcing his lips to mine so he can’t see the indecision in my expression. He’s hesitant at first and I can sense his internal struggle. It’s classic Wes. He wants me but doesn’t want to do anything to hurt me. He’s never wanted to do anything to hurt me, always doing everything in his power to put a smile on my face.
“Please, Wes,” I murmur, my tone bordering on desperation. “I need you.” My mouth still against his, I nibble on his bottom lip. Any reluctance on his part vanishes, his kiss voracious and consuming as his tongue plunges inside my mouth. He fists my hair, his free hand gripping my hip somewhat painfully, but I make no move to get him to loosen his grasp or to stop.
I run my hands through his hair, tugging, attempting to take control of the kiss. My movements become slow, deep, reverent, reminding me of the kisses I’d been the lucky recipient of from Drew. Sweet, yet intense. Restrained, yet erotic. Memorable, yet too easily forgotten in the cloud of alcohol he consumed. It doesn’t matter that years have passed. The pain I endured because of Drew’s inability to follow through on his promise is still as prominent as if it had just happened. That pain is why I need to do this, why I need to marry Wes.
Tearing away, my chest heaves as I stare into Wes’ midnight blue eyes, the pupils dilated. I reach for his chest, running my hands up and down, then ripping his t-shirt over his head. “Bedroom. Now,” I demand in a breathy voice.
“You don’t have to ask me twice.” With haste, he grabs my hand, pulling me through the living room, up the stairs, and into the master bedroom. The instant we cross the threshold, I reach for his jeans, my fingers fumbling with his belt.
“Damn, baby.” He palms my back, jerking me hard and fast against him. “What’s gotten into you?”
“Nothing,” I lie.
I can’t tell him that my tear-filled confession to Drew pushed me over the edge. That while Wes had me pinned against the wall, it was Drew’s hands I imagined on my skin. That when he kissed me, it was Drew’s lips I craved.
“I just need to feel you.” Another lie. I don’t need to feel Wes. I just need to feel something other than the crippling reality that this is a mistake. I don’t want it to be a mistake. I want it to be real, to give my heart to a man who’ll never break it.
Yanking the belt from around his waist, I crush my lips back to his, my kiss filled with anguish. Wes is only too happy to match my eagerness, confusing my desperation for desire. He lowers the zipper of his pants, his mouth never leaving mine as he steps out of his jeans. Steering me toward his bed, he helps me out of my pants, both of us frantic to lose ourselves in each other, but for two completely different reasons. He needs me. I need him to help me forget.
With a hungered growl, he runs his hands up and down my frame, peppering kisses along my neck, my collarbone, cupping my breasts. “Do you feel how hard I am?” He thrusts against me, pinching my nipple. I yelp, the pain remarkably pleasurable.
“I do.” I close my eyes, letting the moment consume me.
“Do you want more?”
“Yes,” I moan.
“You got it, baby.” He grips my hips, spinning me around. A rough hand fists my hair and he forces my stomach against the mattress. He tears my panties from me and parts my legs.
Unsure how to react to this new, somewhat callous side of Wes, my body stiffens. The familiar sound of a packet opening echoes in the space. Before I can tell him this is a bad idea, that I shouldn’t be doing this when I’m consumed by thoughts of another man, he pushes into me. I play along, pretending this is what I need. I want to need him like this, to enjoy it.
I still feel absolutely nothing.
“God, you feel so good like this,” he hisses through his teeth, his motions increasing.
I moan once more, because that’s probably what he wants. My hands clench around the comforter, balling it, and I shut my eyes, imagining a different man behind me, filling me, his hands on my skin. A tingle spreads through me at the thought. Instead of being in Wes’ bedroom, I’m back in mine, back in that moment when I wish time could stand still.
My confession hung between us, my heart racing at what I’d just admitted.
“Because he has the power to destroy me in a way I’ll never recover from.”
How could I say that? How could I admit my feelings for Drew so freely? Sure, I didn’t come right out and admit I was talking about him, but he had to know. Would he use this information to hurt me all over again? Was this all just part of whatever sadistic game he liked to play with my heart?
Before I could say anything to dampen the impact, Drew’s strong hands cupped my cheeks, his eyes filled with sincerity. He pressed his lips to mine, causing my entire body to momentarily stiffen. I’d dreamt about his kiss since that summer ten years ago. I never thought I’d have the opportunity again, not after watching him date woman after woman, then come home and announce he’d married a hockey groupie he barely knew. Now, I finally had another taste, but for how long? Was this going to be just like last time? Would he avoid me for months, years, then pretend it never happened?
“Kiss me, Brooklyn,” he whispered against my lips when I remained unmoving. “I’m so sorry about everything. How I...” He trailed off. His fingers grazed over my face, a stomach-clenching shiver rolling through me. “Please. Help me feel again.” The raw emotion and vulnerability in those words cut me in two. It was so different from the cocky, self-assured man he’d turned into these past few years.
“Oh, Drew…,” I exhaled, pressing my lips against his, our kiss warm, tender. I thought he was a good kisser all those years ago, but he was even better now, the way his tongue tangled with mine making it so I never wanted to be apart from him again.
I no longer obsessed about the possibility that this would be a repeat of ten years ago. That I’d give him my heart, only for him to shatter it. All I cared about was this moment, of enjoying everything Drew was willing to give me, regardless of how fleeting it may be.
Deepening the kiss, I ran my fingers through his hair. It was the off-season, so he kept it relatively short, the usual facial hair he sported during the hockey season replaced with a bit of two-day stubble. It was rough against my skin, but in a way that made me burn for him even more.
I hooked my legs around his waist, moving my hips with the rhythm he set as he kissed me so reverently, like he needed my lips on his to breathe, like he’d hungered for me for years, like his heart was made just to love me. In that moment, lost in the sensation of his mouth on mine, his body on mine, his fingers interlocking with mine, keeping my arms secured above my head, I felt it was.
“Brooklyn…,” he moaned, moving from my mouth, down my jawline, nipping on my neck.
“Yes,” I breathed, lightheaded, dizzy, the room seeming to spin around me, despite only having consumed one beer the entire evening. I was drunk on the man on top of me, thirsty for more of his intoxicating kisses.
“Do you have any idea how long I’ve thought about this moment? About how you would feel, how you would taste, how your body would respond to mine?”
I quivered, my core tightening, my soul singing.
“It’s been so long,” he continued, his tongue drawing a lazy line along my collarbone. “I’ve tried to stay away, do the right thing, fulfill the promise I made.”
His fingers found the hem of my t-shirt and raised it slightly, exposing my stomach. I wanted to ask what he meant by that, but as he slithered down my body, a hunger I hadn’t experienced in years swallowed my words. I tried to keep my breathing and heart rate under control. It was damn near impossible, especially when he reached my belly button and glanced up, meeting my eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Brooklyn.”
He brought his mouth to my stomach, his kiss tender against my skin. Wanting to imprint everything about this to memory, I closed my eyes, focusing on his lips exploring my body. They were smooth, supple, unyielding.
“For too many years, I’ve imagined how your skin would feel, would taste. How your cheeks would blush with a desire you couldn’t hide. Because I know you, Brooklyn...”
My eyes opened, meeting his that were dark with a wanton desire. He carefully lifted my shirt even more, exposing the bottom of my breasts. Every inch of me tightened in anticipation as his tongue unhurriedly made its way north.
“As much as you’ve tried to hide it, as much as you’ve tried to deny it, you can’t. Not anymore. You want me. You never got over me. Just like I never got over you.”
He raised my t-shirt the final few inches, exposing my alert nipples. Pausing, he leaned back, staring at me, not saying a word. My breaths filled the room, the only other sound that of an occasional barking dog in the neighborhood where we grew up. The pounding of my heart seemed to echo against my eardrums, the intensity of Drew’s gaze unhinging me.
I sucked my bottom lip between my teeth, never feeling so vulnerable and exposed as I did at that moment. I wasn’t fooling myself. I’d seen the women Drew had dated. While I had an ample chest, it was nothing compared to what he was used to.
“You are so fucking beautiful,” he crooned lazily, the effects of the alcohol obvious. He brought his forefinger and thumb to one of my nipples and tugged.
Sparks shot through me, a carnal need for his teeth to do the same thing filling me. I arched my back off the bed, having trouble making sense of these unique sensations overwhelming me. I’d been intimate in the past, but they were all boys. Drew was a man. The only man I wanted.
“I’m a fool for hurting you, for not saying fuck it and giving you my heart.” He lowered his mouth to my breast, his motions warm, reverent, loving, at complete odds with the fiery desire in his eyes. “I’m a fool for not making you mine a long time ago.”
I moaned, needing more. More of his words, more of his touch, desperate to experience every inch of him. It was the only way I’d know I wasn’t dreaming, because this was all so surreal.
“God, you taste better than I imagined. And I’ve certainly imagined.” He lightly pulled on my nipple with his teeth. I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. The fire that had been burning for him the past few years…hell, decades…was growing out of control, washing over me, desire turning into uncontrollable desperation.
“Drew, please,” I begged, my hips thrusting against him. My brain no longer catalogued all the reasons this was a bad idea. The only thing I cared about was feeling Drew on top of me, his lips scorching my skin, our bodies joining so I couldn’t tell where he ended and I began.
“Say you need me.” He lifted his eyes to mine, a vulnerability in his gaze.
“I need you, Drew,” I breathed. “I’ve always needed you.”
“I’ve always needed you, Brooklyn.” He returned to me, his mouth poised on mine. His warmth tickled my lips, my nerves standing on end as I braced for his kiss.
He ran a light finger down my face, a chill trickling through me. The anticipation was killing me. If I didn’t feel his lips on mine, didn’t lose myself in him soon, I feared I’d perish.
Finally, he pressed his mouth back to mine, his tongue exploring me once more, as if discovering something new with each kiss. One hand digging into my hair, his other journeyed a torturous trail down my body before landing on my hip. I wrapped my legs around his waist, my core clenching at the heat of him between my thighs. Then he slid his hand along my hip bone and between our two bodies. With incredible expertise, it disappeared into the leg of my sleep shorts. I loosened my grip around him. He leisurely lifted the line of my panties, a moan escaping my throat when his fingers neared that spot I wanted them, that spot I’d only dreamed he’d touch ever since I’d developed hormones.
“Drew,” I begged again, my heart racing, my chest heaving, my brain fuzzy. “Please. I need you.”
“I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited to hear those words come out of your mouth,” he murmured against my lips, kissing me at the same time his finger landed on my center, both of us moaning. “Damn.” He pulled back slightly, his fingers spreading my slickness all over me. I’d never been this turned on, this ready to fall apart in a matter of seconds. “You’re so wet.”
I bit my bottom lip, gripping the sheets in my fists as my body climbed higher and higher. My breathing grew labored as I did everything to think of something other than how perfect, how right, how fucking wonderful it was to have Drew’s hand between my legs.
“More,” I murmured in a throaty voice, then flung my eyes open. I reached for his neck, urging his lips back to mine. “I need more of you. I need you inside me.”
He groaned, slipping a finger inside me, massaging me. “And I’d love nothing more than to be inside you, Brooklyn. You have no idea how much I’ve fantasized about this, imagined the look on your face as I make you come over and over again until you beg me to stop because you can’t take anymore.”
I moaned louder, every muscle in my body clenching as I loomed closer to the peak.
“But I want to be sober the first time I’m inside you...” He licked his lips. “You deserve to have all of me the first time I make love to you. Because this isn’t just sex. It would never just be sex with you. So tonight, I’ll make sure you’re taken care of. Tomorrow, when I wake up with you in my arms, I plan on making love to you, Brooklyn. Because I love you. I always have.”
“God, baby. You are incredible.” Wes’ voice snaps me back to the present, reminding me Drew isn’t here, that I made a conscious decision not to be with him.
“Harder,” I beg, praying the deeper Wes thrusts into me, the more I’ll want him. But it only reminds me of Drew. Of the way his arms enveloped me as we slept together that night. Of the way his eyes looked upon me as if I were the only person he saw. Of the way his breath mixed with mine in the most tantalizing of ways. Of the way he made me drop my guard and love him all over again.
True, deep, passionate love.
Consuming, hypnotic, unparalleled love.
Painful, tragic, unrequited love.
Ignorant of my fantasies about another man, Wes’ breathing grows more uneven, his hold on me tightening, and I know he’s close to unraveling. So I moan louder, making him think I’m about to lose all control.
“That’s right.” He drives harder and harder, frantic and unbalanced. “I’m the only one who can make you feel this.”
“I’m close,” I lie, wanting this to be over. Wanting to crawl into a corner and never come out again. Wanting to run away and start over where nobody knows who I am, nobody knows what I’ve done, nobody knows how ugly and black my soul is.
He reaches around, finding my center, his motions harsh and relentless, a complete one-eighty from the soulful and fulfilling experience when Drew gave me several of the most earth-shattering orgasms of my life. But I make Wes think I like it, my moans and pants coming quicker, faster, more intense, crying out as I pretend to come undone around him so he’ll stop touching me. That’s all it takes. He grunts, pumping a few more times as he finds his release.
I remain still, turning my head to stare out the windows, ashamed, like I just cheated on Wes by thinking of someone else during sex. Am I a horrible person because of that? Don’t people fantasize about other things during sex all the time? Isn’t that all sex is? Just one big fantasy?
“You drive me fucking crazy.” Wes leans down, placing a soft kiss on my shoulder blade as he slides out of me.
I go to push myself up and he helps me, my muscles sore and shaky. I avoid his eyes, not wanting him to see the truth within.
“Hey.” His voice is sweet. He lifts my chin, forcing my gaze to his. A small smile pulls on his lips. “Thank you.”
I furrow my brow. “For what? Letting you fuck me?”
His expression lightens briefly. “Well, as incredible as it was, that’s not what I mean. I wanted to thank you for agreeing to marry me.”
“Why wouldn’t I want to marry you?” I reply, but my words seem more like an argument I’m making to myself. “You’re caring, compassionate, loving. And you love me.” I place my hand on his cheek. “Out of all the women you could be with, you chose me. I’m the one who should thank you.”
“I don’t want a single day to go by that I don’t tell you how much I appreciate you. I know things have been crazy lately and we’ve both been busy. I promise I’ll never take you for granted. I love you, Brooklyn.” He presses his lips to mine, his kiss gentle, a stark contrast to the way he just screwed me.
If I felt ashamed for fantasizing about another man while having sex with Wes before, that’s nothing compared to the guilt I feel as his heartfelt words wrap around me. He’ll never treat me with anything but the utmost respect and adoration, never take me for granted.
Why am I so willing to throw it all away for a man who will?