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Escorting the Billionaire #3

By´╝ÜLeigh James

At the reception, I tried Jenny’s trick of thinking of it like a movie. If it was bad, she’d said, pretend you were watching it and that it was happening to someone else. If the movie took a turn for the worst and got really scary, just close your eyes, she said. Then it would be as if it never happened.
After James made love to me, and another powerful orgasm had wracked my body, I knew what I had to do. This is the part where the heroine tells the hero that she loves him, and they live happily ever after, I thought. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a movie. This was my life, and there wasn’t a happy ending in sight.
I closed my eyes tightly.
“I love you,” I whispered against James. “I just want you to know that.” He held me close as I shivered, pleasure mixed with misery pulsing through me.
“And James.” I wouldn’t look up. I kept my eyes closed, my face against his chest.
“What, baby?” he asked.
“I quit.”
I ran away after that, as quickly as I could, back to my apartment. But even though I was miles away from him now, I could still feel his hands on me. I could still imagine the feel of my face against his chest.
I wrapped my arms around myself, trying to keep the pain that encircled me at bay. I sat at my window and stared out. The morning broke, hazy and humid. The sun rose up over the sky, and still, I didn’t move. I thought I saw a limousine crawling down my street, but I might have imagined it. Limousines did not frequent my neighborhood.
In any event, I knew it wasn’t James. He was probably on the plane by now, on his way to the Bahamas. And I was here, in my run-down Southie apartment, where I would always be.
Because I knew now what I’d known last night. This was where I belonged. I didn’t belong to better. Between my mother and his, the opposition was too intense. The chasm between us too wide.
Because I loved him, I had to protect him.
From me.
I had someone from the hotel come up to pack my things for the trip. And Audrey’s things. I didn’t even let myself think about it.
I stared out the window at the hazy-looking morning, seeing nothing. I was too obsessed with the pain I was feeling. With the why of it.
Why she’d told me she loved me. And why she’d left.
I’d tried to run after her out of the Plaza, but I had to put my damn pants on first. By the time I’d dressed, she was gone. And I was left wondering just what the hell I was supposed to do now.
Todd stopped me on my way out of the lobby. He looked alarmed. “Are you leaving my reception?” he asked. “And what the hell happened back there at the ceremony? Why’d you run out?”
I watched the cars going by outside, itching to call Kai and go search for Audrey. The thing was, I didn’t even know what she wanted. “I’m not leaving,” I told him, fighting the very real urge I had to do just that. I had to find her and talk to her, but this was also Todd’s wedding, and I was the best man.
And I’d already sort of run out of the ceremony.
“And the ceremony… I just had to go to the bathroom.”
“The bathroom,” Todd said, looking at me with flat incredulity.
“That’s right,” I said. “But I’m here now. And I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”
“Where’s Audrey?”
“Taking a break,” I said, my voice ice.
My brother watched my face. “Is she coming back?”
I shrugged.
“Do you want a drink?”
“Not just one,” I said, clapping him on the back and following him inside.
And now, not just one drink and only three hours of restless sleep later, I was still wondering if she was coming back.
But I was pretty sure I knew the answer to that.
I sighed and finished my coffee. Then I called Kai and told him to meet me out front. Now.
“Who is it,” she mumbled when I buzzed ten minutes later.
“You’re kidding, right?”
She didn’t answer me. A fuzzy silence filled the air while my temples pounded from the combination of my hangover and a dull, aching anger.
Then the monitor went blank, and I just buzzed again. And again.
She finally relented and let me up. “This is getting old,” I said, pacing her apartment. “Didn’t I just chase you here the other day?”
“That one was your fault,” she said. The skin around her eyes was red and puffy, as if she’d been crying. I wanted to reach out and touch her face, but I didn’t dare. I had no idea what was going on with her right now. Just like I had no idea what made her run from me last night.