“Money and presents don’t equal love. I live in a huge house that doesn’t hold a bit of love. I know what empty feels like. It’s one of the reasons why I hate living alone.”
“My parents loved me.” I know the words must be true. Parents love their child. They just choose to show it in different ways. Mine chose to love by expectation.
“I love you.” He stepped closer, his hands settling on my waist. “You, Layana Fairmont, are impossible not to love.”
I scoffed. “You don’t know me enough to love me.” I’ve never been loved. Thirty years old and no man had ever uttered those words. A sad truth. Made possible by the dark lines of my ability to push away every man other than the one who stood before me, pulling me closer, his eyes owning me. This man I pulled closer, had turned over my heart somewhere along the place where I made the valiant effort to try and escape the artificial life plan that was ingrained in my blue blood.
“I love you. Every dark and light piece of you.” He lowered his mouth, but I stopped his kiss, pressing a hand on his chest.
“There’s no kissing on campus,” I whispered. “HYA policy.”
He frowned. “Don’t I hold an office of some sort in this organization?”
He grinned. “I hereby, and for the next five minutes, strike that rule from the books.” He pulled me closer and pressed his lips to mine, a soft sweet brush of commitment, one that changed, grew more passionate and possessive, his hand moving to cup the back of my head, his mouth sealing the deal, catching my heart as it jumped over the edge of forever.
I loved this man back. Done. My heart was officially toast. When the kiss ended, I told him as much, his mouth taking mine with a final touch that celebrated the occasion.
I heard a gasp from our right and broke our connection. Turned to see Hannah, her brown eyes big as saucers, alarm on her face at our flagrant breach of the rules. She pressed a firm finger to her lips, then made a zipper motion, doing a solemn and careful pantomime of locking her lips and throwing away the key.
Then, her face broke into a grin and she tore off into the house with a squeal.
2 YEARS, 4 MONTHS AGO
I pulled up to his house, the entrance lights glowing, illuminating the path as my car pulled forward, sensing the presence of a vehicle, more lights coming on, palm trees and stone coming to life in an orchestration that must have set Brant back a few hundred thousand. I pressed the garage door opener, my bay opening, and I parked. Waited for the door to shut, to stop the cold wind from whooshing in.
I left my shoes just inside, Brant’s level of clean OCD ridiculous. I walked through the silent house, waiting at the base of the stairs; my head tilted, and I listened. No sounds. He was probably downstairs.
I took the elevator, the doors quietly opening to an underground computer lab that rivaled Ironman’s in size and capabilities. His back hunched, bare under the fluorescents, pajama pants the only thing on his tall frame. Straddling a stool, he worked over a pile of wires, a loop on his head, his hands moving quickly, tools lined up beside him in neat order. I settled into the leather chair in the corner of the room. Tugged the blanket off the back of it and wrapped it around my body. Watched him work.
“Hey baby.” He didn’t turn, the clink of tools the only sign of his activity.
“I’ll be done soon.”
“Take your time. Mind if I put some music on?”
“Please. I adjusted the play tracks. Let me know what you think.”
I picked up the Laya, Brant’s latest prototype, a tablet that wouldn’t hit markets for another year. Opening the music center, I was instantly impressed. He had done more than adjust play tracks. The layout of the music center was completely different. I chose my mood: lazy. Drawing an abstract sketch with my finger, a lazy swirl with an occasional dot or skip of interest, I clicked play. It knew my touch, recognized fingerprints with the speed of a blink. And, within seconds, it was playing the exact song desired—a song I didn’t even know, but it was exactly what I wanted. Coldplay. The music flowed through speakers hidden along the walls, and I curled into the chair and watched the love of my life.
Love. It was no longer a strong word for our relationship. It was now the perfect word for our relationship. I loved this man. I could not imagine a life without him. He was the complement to my fears, a man firmly set into the trappings I desired, but with the independence and confidence to turn a blind eye to all of it. Together, we avoided the public life, had started a simple life of elegance, exploring the nuances of each other while enjoying the pleasures of which he had been gifted with. With this man, I could see the possibility of a family. A genuine life. Married and happy, without myself in the dominance of a man who wanted a trophy wife.
“Do you approve?” He didn’t turn, continued working.
“I approve,” I said softly. “You are brilliant, baby.”
I watched him, the flex of his back, the way his muscles yawned when he ran his hands through his hair. Listened to the soft mutter of his words as he spoke to himself. Smiled as the room went dark, crescendos played against my skin, and I fell asleep against the soft leather.
I was woken by kisses. The drag of his hands across my skin as he pulled me down in the chair, my legs nudged open, the burn of his skin as my bare knees bounced against the hard muscle of his thighs. He shouldn’t be muscular. Shouldn’t have tan skin, cut arms, a defined chest. He should be pale. Scrawny. He spent twelve hours a day under fluorescents, before computers. But I didn’t question how God blessed him. Didn’t question how or why, especially not in moments like this.
He pulled me farther, ‘til my back was flat against the seat of the chair, my butt hanging off of it, his hands soft, probing, lifting my legs to the sky and pulling the soft silk of my shorts, the scratchy tease of my thong’s lace coming along, moving up and then off my legs. And then I was bare before him, his hands pushing up the cotton of my tank, over my br**sts, his body stilling when I was fully exposed before him.
“Perfect,” he breathed. Ran his hands lightly, from breast to thigh, back and forth, side to side, just the skim of fingertips across skin, just light enough to make me arch into his touch, beg for more with my eyes. I waited. Breathed. Parted my legs before his eyes and lifted my knees, ‘til my feet rested on the edge of the chair and I was open before him, nothing he couldn’t see. His eyes dropped, focused on the place between my legs, a soft groan coming from his mouth, his fingertips dragging lower and running softly over the lips of my sex.