Damn, he was in love. Well, shit, he didn’t see that one coming. The revelation was so consuming it took him a while to realize the room was silent. As in no one was speaking. As in Andie not saying anything. She sat on his bed in his t-shirt, her hair a tumble around her face, nibbling on her bottom lip, before finally saying three little words, “Are you sure?”
“Well, it’s awfully soon. We’ve only known each other for a few weeks.”
“Okay, then uh….” Vivd blue eyes darted around, looking at anything but him and he understood. The first and only woman he’d ever loved. The only one to capture him heart, body, and soul was not going to say it back. Well hell. He hadn’t spent time thinking about this moment but if he had, this would not have been even a remote possibility.
Damn if it wasn’t humbling.
And a knife to the gut.
“You,” He began, but that heavy pain in his chest welled up and choked off his words. Dammit, how could something so heavy rise like that. He took a deep breath, forcing it back down and said the words, “You don’t love me.”
“I’m not saying that.”
Sure sounded that way to his lead filled heart. “What are you saying?”
“Right well, love is great and all.”
He’d thought so until tonight.
“But loving someone doesn’t mean they’re right for you in a permanent sense.”
Damien blinked as his heart bled and his soul crumbled. So this is what it felt like.
He’d said those very words to women. Hell, he’d said everything that was coming out of Andromeda Adrianna Chase’s mouth. More than once. How many women over the years had been on the receiving end of those very words?
Well, fuck me running.
Karma really was a bitch. A vicious, hateful, soul-crushing bitch.
“I don’t know much about relationships as this is my first serious one.” Words kept pouring from Andie’s mouth and pain kept battering him like a sledgehammer.
“Are you saying you want to see other people?” And oh hell no. That would kill him. He’d have to be committed.
“Oh no, not at all….”
Well, thank the Lord for favors granted. Miniscule as they were.
“… but I have nothing to compare this to. As of now, yes, it does feel an awful lot like love…”
He kept his mouth shut and waited for the ax to fall. If he got lucky, it would behead him, and this pain choking the life out of him would end.
“But, you’re well, you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Really, Damien? You want the list?”
“You’re gorgeous. You’re rich You have penthouses and mansions and jets. You built me an orangey for goodness sake, and you know all those kinky sex tricks.”
Wait. The choking pain eased enough for him to think. He’d heard those words before. “Are you saying I’m trying to hold onto you with kinky sex tricks.”
“Hold onto? No. Woo? Maybe.”
Well, woo-the-fuck-hoo and… wait just a damn…. “I’m the satin wearing booby floozy?”
“Uh… well, I wouldn’t put it that way. Where are you going?”
Damien had no idea where he was going, but he sure as shit was already in hell, “I need some air.”
Andie sat staring at the door for all of two seconds. In under thirty, she was out of breath and at the other end of the mansion banging on a door. It flew open to Jose bed-headed and mouth flapping, “Andie Chase, what are you doing pounding on my door at midnight when you should be tricked out in red satin doing all kinds of naughty things? You better believe I’d know what to do with that tall hunk of luscious. You wouldn’t see me for days honey… days.” Jose paused for a dramatic sigh.
Knowing that sigh was the prelude to her friend’s infamous “All the good ones are straight or married” speech, Andie jumped in while the jumping was good, “Damien told me he loved me. I didn’t say it back. He left to get air.”
Jose’s sigh ended on a squeak. This was followed by rapid blinking, mouth gaping, and the odd croaking sounds of stunted speech. No way could that last long. Sure enough, half a dozen croaks in, Jose regained his super-power, cleared his throat and with utter calm asked, “I’m sorry, could you repeat that please?”
“Damien told me he loved me. I did not say it back. He left to get air.”
Jose held up a finger, said, “One moment.” and disappeared behind the door he slammed in her face.
Oh, for the love of frosting. “Am I just supposed to stand here? Seriously?”
No answer. Andie supposed she could count the priceless paintings on the wall. She was about to resort to more door pounding when a door at the other end of the hall banged open and Layla was barreling down the hall. And man, was she making hella’ good time considering she was heel walking with cotton balls between their toes. Her hair was pulled back in a sloppy pony-bun and her face was covered in puke pea green… stuff. She must have been doing her mid-month, mini-home spa maintenance. Muttering in what Andie thought was a combo of latin, mandarin, and maybe a little French, the creature of the green gook, grabbed Andie with one hand and shoved Jose’s door open with the other. Andie was dragged across the room, and thrown into a stool already placed across from the foot of the bed where Jose waited. Layla planted herself beside him. “Okay, start talking.”
She was up to love wasn’t the only consideration in a relationship, before Layla stopped her with a stuppified, “Holy shit! Bet he didn’t see that coming. Damn, Karma’s a sadistic bitch in spike heels.”
“Andie honey,” Jose, however and for once was surprisingly calm, “I’m confused, you’re saying you didn’t tell him you loved him.”
“Uh… well… I’ve only known him a few weeks.”
“Two months,” He corrected, “Not that it matters. I’ve got friends who dated for years, married and split before the ink on the liscence was dry. Love may not equal relationship success, but neither does length of time.”
“I guess that’s true.” Andie agreed, “But I can’t help but think there’s a large part of him I don’t know.”
“You don’t trust him.” Layla guessed.
It was a darn good guess. “Uh…maybe not.”
“For good reason. No, Jose…” Layla held up a hand at Jose’s attempted protest, “I know more about this than you. All wealthy families have secrets, but if that confrontation with his uncle was anything to go by, they have more than most, and Damien Drake the third is the center of that storm.”
“You have no idea.” Andie muttered, images of red-inked newspaper clippings dancing in her head
“What, wait what?” Jose’s head flipped back and forth searching for the juiciest gossip.
Oh, she held the eights and aces on that one.
“You said Damien has a reputation.” Andie hesitated. They were headed for the deep end of the ocean and she’d never been that strong a swimmer.
“For destroying people.” Layla, star of her high school swim team, jumped right in. “Some of the things he’s done had to have taken years of planning. My father stays out of my personal life, but one thing he insisted on, never get involved with a Drake. He wasn’t happy about the Women’s Trust, but he has too much respect for Evelyn to protest my involvement. He wants to stay off Damien Drake’s radar.”
“Tell him he’s safe. Damien goes after a very specific group.”
And Andie relayed the saga of the gazillionaire-lair, pausing for holy shits, oh my gods, oh fucking fuck mes, and three Coco misquotes.
It took a while.
“Wow, okay yeah.” Layla was the first to get over the shock and shift to problem solving, “I can see how that could make a girl hesitate with the reciprocal I love yous.”
“You think that’s why I’m hesitating?”
Jose gave up misquoting Coco to make, “Yes” a ten-syllable word.
“But I wasn’t even thinking about it.”
“Well honey, who can think with all that gorgeous in the room.” Jose tapped his temple, “But the sub-conscious never forgets. Especially not creepy billionaire-lairs.”
“Jose is right.” Layla said, “You need to talk about that room.”
“I don’t know…” Somehow, that seemed invasive.
“Andie,” Layla flicked her hand back and forth between herself and Jose, “Jose and I agree. We are agreeing. Jose and I are of the same opinion. How often does that happen?”
“Oh. Okay. Point.”