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The lovers promise, p.12
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       The Lover's Promise, p.12

           J. C. Reed
 
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  He pulled me closer and the room began to spin.

  Slowly, my bitterness began to fade away, which angered me. Anger was all I had to keep me away from him—both physically and emotionally. Anger was a necessary ingredient for helping me focus on the future, let go of bygones, and move on.

  Or at least make sense of everything.

  Without it, I would succumb and plead with him to take me right there and then.

  “It would make me happy to see you in this position,” Jett said hoarsely.

  “I can’t accept it, Jett,” I whispered weakly just when his hands traveled down my back, lingering, threatening to brush over my ass. “It’s a huge responsibility, not to mention a risk. I don’t want to be the one who…”

  “I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer,” he cut me off and his eyes met mine. “You’re the only one I trust in my company. If anyone should be partner, I want it to be you.”

  “What about the risks? Are you willing to take those?”

  “There won’t be any,” he said. “And besides, with great risk comes great success. You’re worth it. I know you have what it takes to succeed.”

  Help Jett lead his new company? That was crazy. And yet the thought of working close to him, of being near, made my heart beat faster. Working in real estate had always been my dream. The prospect of being around the man of my dreams all the time felt like heaven. It was almost perfect—except for the secrets he had yet to reveal to me.

  I tensed.

  Secrets.

  Ugly secrets that managed to ruin any mood. Dark secrets that kept us from building trust. I hated them with ferocity. Hated that they so easily covered everything positive in our lives, until nothing was left.

  Looking into his face, I wanted to forgive him, not least because I needed some great make-up sex. But that wasn’t an option until he cleared my doubts.

  If he’d just tell me what was going on, confirm that he hadn’t killed Gina, I knew I could start to forgive him. For a moment panic rose within me as I remembered how much we had to clear—so much it felt like it could take all day.

  Good gracious.

  “It’s already done,” Jett said, his hand still stroking my back. “I’ve announced the news to the board and you’re expected to start next week. As of Tuesday, you’ll commence your new position. I’m putting every faith in you, Brooke.”

  Time was running out. There was no doubt. Jett had to tell me everything. He had to clarify, but Jett wasn’t exactly an open book. I took a deep breath, wondering how the heck I could help him open up to me when I had tried before and miserably failed.

  “Why are you so sure I want to work with you after all the secrets you’ve been keeping?” I asked.

  The pause only lasted two seconds.

  “Because I will ask you to.” His voice dropped to a whisper, his hand pulling my hair back. “Colt will get you all the training and everything else you need, though to be honest, I think you’ll do just fine.”

  “You make it sound like I’m doing it all on my own.” It was meant to be a joke…until I noticed the tiny twitch beneath his eye and my smile died on my lips.

  “What?”

  He drew a sharp breath, pausing a little, then exhaling slowly.

  “Brooke, there’s a reason why I promoted you. Why I insisted you worked as a project manager and as my assistant. It was so that I could teach you the ins and outs of this company.” My pulse spiked—and not in a good way. There was something in his tone that wasn’t in tune with what he was saying. His expression was so soft, and yet there was a hard edge in his eyes. And I didn’t like it. Jett had never regarded me with this kind of hard stare. Suddenly I could feel him tense.

  “I’m moving to Chicago,” he said at last, the words cutting through the air like a knife.

  I froze.

  He’s moving.

  The words kept echoing inside my brain. If Jett made me partner in his real estate business in New York City and he moved to Chicago that would mean we’d be no longer seeing each other.

  There would be no us anymore because long-distance relationships hardly ever worked out.

  “You’re moving to Chicago?” I asked in disbelief.

  “That’s right,” he whispered. “We won’t be seeing each other for some time.”

  For some time.

  Oh, my God.

  Oh. My. God.

  My throat tightened and my knees threatened to collapse beneath me—like a house of cards.

  He made you partner. Sounds like a pity move, Stewart. A goodbye gift.

  Maybe even an attempt to pay me off.

  Get rid of me.

  “For how long?” I sounded so choked I could only hope that he could hear me.

  “As long as it takes.”

  “What sort of crappy answer is that, Jett? For how long?”

  He shrugged, not even caring to look at me. “It might be months. Maybe a couple of years. Who knows?”

  “What about the baby? You’re going to miss its birth.”

  “You’re going to raise it.” His jaw set. “That’s just how things are.”

  My eyes moistened again. All my fears, my nightmares—they were real. I was going to kill him, because he had just killed me with his words.

  Bastard!

  After everything we had been through, he was going to leave me—pregnant, clueless, and heartbroken.

  The statement hit me like a train. He was trying to break up with me, for real. Trying to move on. Start a new life. Miss the birth of his child. He had never had the intention to reconcile or start a family, to be there for his child. That was the reason why he didn’t tell me about Nate’s release, why he had kept all his secrets. He didn’t care about me. Hurt and anger poured through me in thick, heavy waves. Tears started to spill from my eyes. My breath came hard and heavy. Suddenly his arms felt like needles. Painful. Raw. Sharp. I pushed him away, the pain threatening to kill me.

  “When were you going to tell me?” My voice increased in volume.

  His lips pressed into a tight line, he turned his back to me. It was the Jett I knew—turning his back on me, refusing to give answers. I stared at his back, shocked by his reluctance to explain or try to ease my pain, as he ambled over to a huge bucket filled with ice cubes and stopped in front of it.

  “Answer the question, Jett.” I walked after him. “How long have you known?”

  My voice shook as I tried to regain control of the raging storm inside me.

  In the silence of the room I watched him remove the bandages from his knuckles. They looked sore, but I couldn’t have cared less. I couldn’t have cared less if he cut himself or if he was bleeding. Avoiding my gaze, Jett remained silent as he grabbed a few ice cubes from the huge bucket, then wrapped the bandages around them and pressed them against his skin. The seconds stretched into minutes. When he finally raised his head, his eyes were cold and his face emotionless.

  “I’m sorry, Brooke. I can’t tell you more than I have,” he said, turning his attention back to his hand, repeating the words he had said before, “That’s just the way things are right now. Nothing can change my decision.”

  I stared at him in shock, feeling like I was about to explode from the inside. My hands trembled. Anytime now, the agony inside my chest would break me. I didn’t just know; I was sure of it. Looking at Jett, at the way his eyes couldn’t even look at me, at the way his mouth was set, I felt the pain deep inside my heart and knew I had only two choices:

  Break or get broken.

  The pain I felt in my heart was more intense, rawer, and deeper than any emotion I had ever experienced before. If I didn’t do anything right now—anything at all to stop the pain—it would kill me. It sure felt like I was dying from the inside, the seconds slowly ticking like a bomb.

  Without thinking, I stepped in front of the bucket and with a brutal force I had stored for too long, I plunged my hand into the ice. Instant pain soared up my arm as the sharp clusters of ice cubes
broke through the delicate skin of my fingers. Pulling my hand out, the aching shot straight up my arms.

  But I didn’t care.

  By going away, he would leave me and my child behind with no chance to mend what was broken, what I hoped could be reconciled. He would leave my future bleak. Sure, he had secrets, sure his words had hurt me, but I loved him nonetheless.

  I pushed my hand back into the bucket again, diving a little deeper until I was sure I was bleeding, and the ice started to both burn and numb my skin at the same time. In spite of the stinging tears and the strange tightening sensation in my chest, the numbness in my hands felt different. It was oddly comforting and anesthetizing. Much more tolerable than the pain Jett had caused me.

  “Stop it, Brooke. You’re going to hurt yourself,” Jett said.

  “I don’t care. It’s my body.”

  “Don’t be stupid,” he roared. “You’re pregnant.”

  “Why do you care? Don’t you have a suitcase to pack or something?” I pulled my hands out only to shove them back in again.

  “Stop it.” He had stepped next to me, watching me in both anger and shock. “You’re fucking hormonal and emotional.”

  Seriously?

  Now he was blaming my pregnancy for his failings.

  Yes, I was emotional, but I was not hormonal. At least not a lot. Not that it affected me, or did it? Who cared?

  “Nice try.” I let out a laugh. “Now you blame my pregnancy when it’s in fact your fault that I’m reacting this way.”

  His eyes narrowed on me. “Hold on. How is it my fault?”

  “After what you just said, how can you still pretend it’s not your fault, Jett?” I stared at him, full of contempt. “There’s no reason for you to lie anymore, so stop pretending and just be honest.” I ground my hand against the ice, enjoying the painful sensation.

  “Stop it, Brooke.”

  “Says the one who kicked his shins bloody.”

  I readied myself to thrust my hands back in again, when he grabbed my hand, holding it up in midair.

  “I said, stop it.” His deep voice didn’t leave room for discussion.

  “Why do the fuck do you care?” I repeated.

  “Because I just do.” He tightened his grip on my hand.

  “The fuck you are. Let go of me.” As hard as I could I pulled my hand away, but his hold on me remained relentless.

  “I will when you’ve calmed yourself.”

  “Calm myself?” I laughed. “I’m fucking calm.”

  “No, you’re not.”

  He was right. I wasn’t.

  All those hormones rushing inside of me felt crushing. They might be pregnancy hormones. They might be stress hormones caused by insomnia. Whatever. I didn’t care what they were called.

  “You’ve no right,” I hissed, yanking my hand again. “No right to tell me what to do. My life, my body, my choices, my mistakes, they are not your problems. Not your business.”

  I had every intention of continuing to slam my hand into the sharp ice—until my heart stopped breaking. It was either my heart or my hand. And my hand had to do.

  For once I was grateful that Sylvie had dragged me to a training course years ago where I had learned how to deal with situations like this. Twisting my hand out of Jett’s tight grip, I pushed him away and was about to start to punch the ice again when something gripped me from behind.

  It was Jett.

  The movement of him wrapping his strong arms around me came so unexpected it knocked my breath out of my lungs as he lifted me up in the air.

  For a moment I was stunned, and then I started struggling against his iron grip.

  It wasn’t possible.

  My feet dangled up in the air, and judging from the lock on my body, he had no intention of letting go of me.

  “Let me down!” I screamed.

  An amused snort escaped his lips, infuriating me even more as he carried me away from the bucket of ice cubes like I weighed nothing. I struggled, but my attempts to escape were fruitless. Jett had me on lockdown.

  More anger washed over me, threatening to burn me like fire. How the fuck dare he keep making decisions for me? Couldn’t he see that I was bleeding inside and that I needed the pain to help me bring some sort of sanity into my life before the pain inside me would rip me apart? And how dare he use his size advantage against me, and press his body against mine when his proximity wasn’t welcome?

  “Let me down, Jett,” I repeated, this time squeezing more icy determination into my voice.

  “I won’t. Not until you calm yourself,” he said in my ear, nuzzling my neck. The skin where his lips touched me prickled when he inhaled deeply. “You look cute when you’re angry, you know that? If you keep being like this, I’ll be forced to keep you close to me the whole day.”

  “It’s not funny.”

  “No, to you, it isn’t.” He laughed in my ear, and my heart melted a few more inches. God, how much I wanted to strangle him in that instant.

  “I hate you,” I said, furious at him. But I hated myself even more for not seeing it coming. Hated the way my heart raced just because I was nestled in his arms. Hated that I had the unwilling wish for him to kiss me, touch me and hold me when I had to focus on being angry.

  “No, you don’t, Brooke,” Jett said matter-of-factly. “That’s just an excuse for how much you love me.”

  God. He was so right. I was that weak. A wave of hopelessness and despair rattled me. Even when he made fun of me, I still melted when he laughed. Tears welled in my eyes.

  “No, I really hate you. Like hate hate you,” I lied. “I hate your guts. I hate that I loved you once. I hate that you are…like this.” My voice and body were shaking, which was bad enough. But it was worse that my heart made somersaults, ready to give in to the annoying weakness I felt for him.

  “Like what? Saving you from yourself?” He chuckled. “I would say I’m quite noble.”

  I scoffed, marveling at the size of his ego. “You’re no gentleman, Jett.”

  “And you’re not exactly sweet honey.”

  “Fuck you.” I kicked under me, but my feet only hit the air.

  “I would love to,” he whispered. “I want you to want me. To fuck you until you can’t walk straight.’

  His words aroused me, his touch fueled the fire within me, but more than that he infuriated me to the core.

  “I really hope that someday karma slaps you in the face before I do,” I said through gritted teeth.

  He laughed and my heart fluttered. ”Hate is a good thing Brooke, you know? At least you’re talking. It’s so much better than you shutting me out.”

  “I’m shutting you out?” I tried to turn around with no success. Instead, I was forced to endure his lips grazing my earlobes. “Have you lost your mind? You’re the one who’s keeping secrets.”

  “For which I had a reason.”

  “The fuck you did.” I tried to move, but it was impossible. “Let me go, Jett.”

  “I promise once you calm yourself, I’ll let go of you.”

  “If you don’t let me go now, I swear I’ll—” I took a sharp breath, considering my words.

  “What? You’ll hate the way I kiss you?”

  I should have seen it coming, and yet it still took me by surprise. His teeth grazed my neck softly a moment before his lips brushed my skin.

  “You…”

  My words were cut short by the door being thrown open and Brian walking in. Both Jett and I turned to regard him.

  “What the fuck, dudes! I can hear your screaming all the way upstairs,” he shouted. “What the fuck’s going on?

  “Stay out of it, Brian.” Jett’s voice came calm and composed, but he didn’t let go of me.

  “Hey, bro. This is my place, so show some fucking respect. Some people have to sleep,” Brian shouted before his voice dropped a notch.

  “Brooke?” Brian looked at me. Even from the distance, I could see the sudden hint of an amused grin as his gaze brushed ov
er our strange embrace. “Is Jett bothering you?”

  “Yeah, as a matter of fact he is.” I stared at him in the hope he’d jump in and get Jett put some much-needed distance between us.

  But Brian made no such move.

  I pointed behind him in case he missed that Jett was standing a bit too close for comfort.

  “Big time. He’s quite annoying,” I added, expecting him to get the hint.

  “That he is,” he confirmed. “But I’m glad you have it all under control.”

  What?

  What?

  “We’re just having a little discussion, “Jett chimed in. “Right, Brooke?”

  I tried to turn to regard him, ready to do whatever it took to get him to loosen his tight grip on me, but before I knew it, he let go. I straightened my skirt, my breath coming hard and heavy. My hair and face felt like a hot mess, and I was sure I looked like we just had fun in a haystack rather than a heated discussion.

  Inside I was raging. My legs were trembling. My heart was pounding. And my pulse was racing. The moment Brian would leave the room, I promised myself to kick Jett really hard if he ever pulled that stunt again.

  “All right.” Brian nodded, unconvinced. “If you can’t keep from shouting and stomping like a herd of elephants to a minimum level, I will throw you both into building two. Is that understood?”

  “Loud and clear,” Jett said behind me, amused. “There won’t be any problems, boss. No need to lock us up in building two. We’ll do as you please. Of course, your well-being is our priority number one.”

  I snorted loudly, both at Jett’s sarcasm and Brian’s warning. Maybe building two was the most poorly furnished place—that part was true—but it was still amazing with a huge indoor cinema and a beautiful spiral staircase and plenty of room for everything. I was hardly any sort of punishment. In fact, I would have moved in anytime.

  “Brooke?” Brian asked.

  “Sure. There won’t be any problems.” I nodded in agreement.

 
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