Beautiful Distraction, p.23J. C. Reed
Quitting his job and turning his back on a world he’s lived in for years is unsettling. The future’s unpredictable.
People won’t know the exact circumstances. Rumors will soon spread. The tabloids will say that he failed, entered rehab, died. Soon, people will move on and forget him. He’ll become a nobody to them.
As a journalist, I know. This business is cruel. It doesn’t care about one’s feelings. It only cares about money and selling more copies than the competition.
“Disappointed? Hell, no. I’m actually glad.” My fingers move to intertwine with his. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t like things to be complicated.”
He stays silent for a long time.
“Those six days with you were amazing, Ava,” he says at last. “Before, I didn’t know if I could trust you, but you turned out to be exactly the woman I thought you were.”
I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment. I still haven’t quite figured out the Kellan Boyd, but I’d like to dedicate my time to solve the mystery he is.
“And who do you think I am?” I ask.
“Someone who’s amazing. Someone I want to get to know in depth.”
My breath hitches in my throat.
This is my chance to tell him that’s exactly what I want, too, and yet I keep quiet, letting him continue.
“The moment I met you, I knew you were different. You weren’t dressed up to see some band greeting the crowd in a nightclub. You weren’t even there to see the band.” His gaze flicks around the meadows before it settles on my eyes and lips again. “I liked that, so I remembered your license registration and found out your name, where you lived, basically everything I could find out about you. It helps that my brother’s the deputy sheriff around here.”
“Wow. That’s creepy.” I slap his thigh in mock annoyance, marveling how hard and sculpted his muscles are. “See, that’s why I told Mandy about you. I knew you were a creep, albeit a hot one,” I say, my voice low as I think back three months ago, give or take a week or two. “If Ryder found out my number, you could have called me.”
“You would never have talked to me, Ava. You made it clear that you didn’t like me.” His gaze meets mine. The glint of candor in his eyes makes me flinch. “And I don’t blame you. I was an ass. But I still needed to see you again. It wasn’t until my sister died that I had the courage to change my life, so I came up with a plan. I persuaded my band mates to play a last, small gig in Montana and made sure that you were picked as the winner in a radio giveaway swoop.”
In spite of the fact that he deceived me into seeing him again and omitted most of the details about his life, I can’t help but feel touched. No one’s ever done something remotely twisted for me.
Then again, it is quite the romantic story.
Definitely one I could tell my children—leaving out Kellan’s obnoxious sexual innuendoes and the part where he went down on me in his brother’s back yard.
And the week-long, non-stop sex.
And the part where he made himself cum, and I watched him, which probably makes me the bigger creep out of the two of us.
“I have to say, that’s the nicest thing someone’s ever done for me,” I whisper.
Kellan nods. “I have to admit it’s also the weirdest thing I’ve done for anyone.”
“But why me?” I ask.
He jumps off the fence and shifts in front of me, settling between my legs. His arms wrap around my waist. I lean into him and clasp my hands at the nape of his neck.
“Remember the first moment I met you?”
I nod, my pulse racing. “Yes.”
Each and every detail.
“I was hypnotized—and angry as hell,” Kellan says, grinning. “When I got back to my brother’s place, where I always stay when I’m in NYC, the first thing I did was call my sister and tell her everything. She said that I was an ass to you. Those words stuck.”
“Two women offending your ego in the same night?” I let out a laugh. “How did you take it?”
He smirks. “Don’t ask. I told her that you’re a New Yorker, and that you bunch of folks aren’t exactly friendly. That I had no choice but to be an ass because you weren’t exactly the epitome of cordiality either.”
I open my mouth to protest, when he presses a finger to my lips.
“Remember the first moment I saw you again? Completely soaked, with that tiny umbrella in your hand, ready to battle a storm? That’s the first time I felt happy since Clara’s death.”
His words stop my world.
I can’t believe it, and yet I know it’s true. We both make each other happy. I can feel it in the way he seems to own my heart. In the way his eyes lock with mine when he’s inside me, holding me, possessing me.
When did that happen?
“At first, I thought someone was pulling a prank.” He grins. “When you knocked on my door, I assumed Josh was behind it. Or maybe Ryder. Maybe even Cash, even though he’s in Boston right now, and I only mentioned you once or twice.”
“Is that why you—”
He nods, interrupting me. “Why I was so mad?”
No…why you almost kicked me out, I want to say but don’t.
“I thought Josh had arranged for you to arrive on my doorstep,” Kellan continues. “I wasn’t mad at you. I was mad at myself and at him. Then we got talking, and I realized it was all a coincidence. To be honest, I had you pinned down as this city girl, and I didn’t know what you’d make of seeing me here. This is my life, Ava. The plan was to meet you at the hotel, then introduce you to the idea gradually and see what happened.” He shakes his head, laughing. “But life has this tendency to kick you where it hurts at the most unfortunate of times. Mandy took a wrong turn, and you ended up here. That isn’t just crappy luck. It’s fate.”
I stare at him in disbelief. “You could have sent flowers. An I’m-sorry-for-bumping-your-car card.” I grasp for words. “You could have turned up at Starbucks.”
He inclines his head, thinking. “And risk exposing myself to someone I couldn’t yet trust? I don’t think so. It’s hard to get to know people in the city. I was convinced you’d suspect who I was, like so many others. That you’d recognize my voice. That you might be a fan and would want to be with me because of my image and everything it stands for. When I realized you really had no idea who I was and that you’d never want to date a rock star, I thought that you were an extraordinary woman. No one ever rejected me the way you did. It reminded me of the times before it all started, when I was still me.”
“So it never bothered you in the slightest that I wasn’t a fan of Mile High?” I ask.
“I have to admit, I was offended…at first.” He catches my exasperated sigh and laughs. “What? I was an ass, okay? I really was. But…” He shakes his head, his laugh dying. “But my sister’s death has made me rethink life, the choices I’ve made. I think I lost myself along the way. It’s time that I change that.” He shrugs and leans into me, his breath scorching my lips. “I wish you could have met her. She would have liked you.”
It’s the second time he’s saying that.
“How do you know?” I ask softly.
“I just know,” he whispers and lifts my hand to his mouth. Slowly, he kisses my fingers, each touch sending shivers through me.
“You’re one in a million, Ava, and it was important that you know the real me, not the one you see in the media. I hope you understand that I needed you somewhere else. Somewhere outside of your comfort zone.” His eyes meet mine—green as the meadows. Emeralds catching the light cast by the moon over our heads. “I needed you to see my home. To fall in love with it.”
The moment is thick with meaning. I know letting someone into his private space is a huge deal for him. A rock star as famous as he is has no privacy. I understand his problem, his dilemma. He has to fight for what normal people take for granted.
“Every day I thought I would forget you, but the next morning broke, and then the next, and I couldn’t g
“Here I am,” I reply.
“Are you mad?” He lifts his hand to stroke my cheek. The movement is gentle, the calluses on his fingers grating my skin.
“No. Not at all.” My lips tug upward, but the smile is somewhat nostalgic. “I think you went a bit overboard, but all in all, it’s nothing to be mad about.”
“I’m still amazed you found this place. It’s what people would call destiny.”
“You believe in destiny?” I ask, amused.
“Yes.” He cocks his head, catching my amused expression. “What? I believe that we earn what we reap. I believe in good sex. I believe in instant attraction. I also believe in love at first sight. And I believe that likes attract likes. I believe that we know when the right person comes along. That love doesn’t need to be sought and found. It’ll find you when it finds you.”
“You had to squeeze the sex part in,” I say, laughing. “You do realize that has nothing to do with destiny, right?”
“Fair enough.” He helps me off the fence and kisses me gently. “I want you to move here.”
That would require me to quit my job. Throw away all my future opportunities.
I feel faint as it hits me. The blood drains out of my body, and my knees turn weak until they feel like jelly.
“Please come back home with me,” Kellan whispers, his voice slightly choked.
Not house, but home.
Coming from him, the words sound so damn inviting, I flinch. He says it like he means it.
That’s what he is. To any woman’s heart, not just mine.
I know I’m in love with him. That’s why his words are so damn enticing.
I look at him and realize that, ever since seeing Kellan again, I haven’t missed my old life. I haven’t missed my job or my tiny apartment. But after saying our goodbyes, I sure missed him.
Home isn’t a place; it’s a feeling; it’s the people who make you feel that you belong.
I know that I belong here, with him, by his side.
But does he want me the way I want him? Is there even room for someone like me in his life? Can I throw away my job, my life, everything I’ve worked so hard for?
My mouth opens and closes. “You want me to quit my job?”
“I want you to move here. Live with me for a while. Enjoy the countryside, and see what happens.”
“But you don’t know me.”
“That’s not true, Ava. I know you perfectly. I know enough to be able to tell you that—” He stops abruptly, his expression darkening.
He moistens his lips, taking his time. “I know enough to tell you that I want you to stay. In my life.” He brushes a strand of hair out of my face, curling it around his finger. “It was hard enough to get you here. I’m not ready to let you go.”
I stare at him in silence.
My throat closes up. Everything inside me is shaking.
“I’m not sure I can,” I whisper, the voice soft, defeated. “I have a job in the city.”
“So quit.” He sighs.
“You know I can’t.”
“If it’s about the money, I can pay you to work for me. I—”
“No.” I shake my head. “I could never accept your money. You know that.”
Besides, I’m pretty sure Montana has newspapers and magazines. I could even freelance if I wanted to.
“I know,” he whispers, and we fall silent. “If you decide to leave, I want you to know that my offer still stands. You can come back anytime, no matter how long it takes for you to make that decision.”
“You would wait for me?” I ask.
He nods. “I would be doing a lot more than that.” He lifts my chin. “Can you promise that you’ll think about it, Ava?”
I love the way he says my name in that rumble of his. As if I’m the only star in the sky.
I swallow the lump in my throat. “I can do that.”
His breath is tickling my face as he kisses me. His scent is intoxicating. The thought of being away from him is unbearable.
I wasn’t supposed to feel anything for him, and yet I’m doing exactly that.
I don’t know how long we’re standing frozen in time, our arms wrapped around each other. Breathing each other in, while building up the courage to let each other go.
But I know I cannot give up my life. It would be too crazy. Too insane. All the money and time spent for my education, my future, I would have to give up. For what? For a guy who rocked my world for all of six days?
My heart is asking me to be with him. Not seeing him again would shatter me.
Moving on…it’s what I’m supposed to do.
That’s what everyone would advise me to do.
In my mind, I can hear my parents’ voices and Mandy’s and all their warnings about not giving up my life for a guy.
Saying goodbye will be hard. Harder than before, when I was clueless and Kellan a mystery.
But what if, for once, I break the rules, let my heart lead the way?
What if Kellan is that one single chance at finding happiness and love?
What if staying is the right decision?
What if building memories throughout life is more important than a career or being famous?
“Kellan?” I lift my head from his chest and look up at him. My voice is shaking. My head is spinning from all the questions and the choices I have to make. My soul is split.
But the heart wants what it wants.
There is a short silence as he tries to read my expression. “Yeah?”
Just like before, I can feel he’s nervous, or maybe I’m seeing my own reflection in his eyes.
I trail a shaky finger over his cheek, enjoying the chafing sensation of his evening stubble on my skin.
“I cannot believe what I’m about to say—” I swallow hard “—but I’m staying. I’m giving us a chance.”
His lips curl into a perfect smile. “I want you to.”
“It’s crazy. You know it is.”
“Yeah, it is.” He laughs, the deep sound reverberating through his chest and penetrating every layer of me. “I know this is a hard decision for you. Will it help if I give you a good reason for it?”
“Okay.” He turns me around until my back is pressed against his chest. At first, I’m not sure what he’s doing, until his arms go around my waist, embracing me from behind. I can feel his breath on me, hear him inhaling the scent of my hair, his nose nestling between my shoulder blade and neck.
“I love you, Ava,” he whispers. “I don’t know where things will lead us. I don’t know what our friends will say, or what the future has in store for us, or if this is one big mistake. But there’s one thing I’m absolutely certain of. I love you. I don’t want you to go. I don’t want to lose you before we’ve even begun.”
I turn around, shocked. The magnitude of the moment dawns on me…and yet I’m not quite able to grasp it. “I thought you didn’t like me.”
He shakes his head. “No, I didn’t like the fact that I fell in love with you. I couldn’t think of anything else but you. You occupied my day and night, every moment, every breath. After months of thinking about you and six days together, I think it’s about time that you know I love you. And that I’m absolutely certain…” He trails off.
He loves me?
I blink, then blink some more.
I love you too, I want to yell, but I can’t with the rock lodged in my throat.
“You’re absolutely certain that…” I prompt, barely able to breathe.
“That I want to marry you.” His expression is deadpan.
I frown, unsure what he’s talking about.
He can’t possibly—
I stare at him, trying to catch a sign that he’s joking. And then it hits me.
My hands begin to shake.
“Wait. Are you proposing to me?” I ask, feeling really stupid for even saying something like that out loud.
I must have misunderstood.
“Yes, Ava. I am,” Kellan says slowly. “Or why else do you think I’d be talking about destiny and all that stuff?” He cocks his head, a naughty grin on his lips. “So, the answer is…”
“No.” There is no doubt about it. I can’t lie. “I love you, too, Kellan,” I whisper. “I love you, but you can be a jerk. There’s no way, absolutely no way, I’m getting married to you after six days. That’s crazy. That’s insane.”
“I love crazy and insane.” He laughs at my horrified expression. “In fact, this is such a great idea. That ‘no’ of yours—” he winks “—we’ll see about that. I tricked you once, you know, when you didn’t want to fuck me. I did it again when I persuaded you to stay. What are the chances the third time’s a charm?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how the saying goes, and it sure doesn’t fit the context,” I say, annoyed that, yes, he’s been pretty good at persuading me, and I didn’t even notice. “Kellan, we’re not getting married just because you feel the need to get your way with me.”
“Okay,” he says, nodding.
I narrow my eyes because I don’t trust him. He’s never been one to give up easily. “Okay? Just like that?”
“Sure. Whatever you say, baby.” His lips find mine in a sweet kiss that soon turns not so sweet after all, as his hands begin to roam over my ass and travel places.
Two years later
If I had known that my first meeting with Kellan would be followed with the loss of his sister, I would have accepted his first offer sooner and ignored my mind harder, if only to join him faster. If only to ease his mourning. It’s clear that her death made him face his own demons and question his own beliefs, that she is the reason for the immense change in his life.
It’s a slow process. Healing can take time, but I’m patient and confident.
While he doesn’t blame himself for her death anymore, I still sense his regret for not being home when she was here.
Beautiful Distraction by J. C. Reed / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes