You’re the actor, Xander. I started to actually believe you cared for me…

I do care for her. Obviously, or I wouldn’t have gone to all these lengths to provide for her. To make her as comfortable as she could possibly be here. To give her everything money could buy. To spoil her as much as I’m able. I wanted her to be happy, I wanted her to enjoy herself, I wanted her to have fun with this whole charade. But she didn’t look like she was having fun tonight. Tonight, she looked conflicted, hurt, upset…

Earlier in the night, when I brought up the end of our arrangement, it was meant to soothe her. To reassure her that I wouldn’t try to trap her here or keep her locked into anything she didn’t agree to. After all, I thought she wanted the money out of this. I didn’t think she wanted to uproot and change her whole life for me.

I didn’t think she wanted me for anything more than the fun we’ve been having. Which is why I tried to suppress my own reactions. It’s why I tried not to read anything more into this. It’s why I tried so damn hard not to fall for this woman, even when every muscle and bone in my body cried out for me to be with her.

I thought the last few weeks would be enough to sate my desire for her, but every minute I spent with her just made me crave a hundred thousand more.

I want her too. As more than my fake fiancée, as more than a pretend story to feed to my family. I want Melanie. I want to wake up beside her the same way we’ve been doing every day for the past several weeks. I want to kiss her senseless, I want to spend every night making her cry out with pleasure until she forgets her own name.

I’m not an actor. My feelings for her are real.

Shit.

I shove to my feet and survey the road. I sent Andrew after Melanie, with orders to take her wherever she needed to go. It was the only way I could think to make sure she’d be safe, looked after, even if she didn’t want me to be the one there doing it. But now, I’m starting to regret that decision. It means I can’t chase after her and beg her to stay.

Instead, I turn around and rush up the steps into the main house.

“Forget something?” my father calls from somewhere upstairs.

“I need the car,” I yell back. There’s a grumbling sound, followed by the clink of keys crashing down to marble.

“Just bring it back in the morning,” my father replies before I even move a muscle. “And not a scratch on it, or it’s coming out of your salary.”

I don’t wait for him to add more stipulations. I bolt out of the house and beeline for the garage, even as I reach into my pocket and snatch up my cell phone. I hit Andrew’s number on the recent dial list. But it just rings and rings and rings. The second time I try, it goes straight to voicemail. Bastard must have turned off his cell phone.

I open up Melanie’s number next and stare down at the digits, debating it. But what I have to say to her isn’t something I can explain over the phone.

I hesitate, and then finally, I pocket the phone once more, and push the button to open the garage door. Home. They must have gone home.

* * *

I reach the penthouse, only to find it dark, the hallways empty. In the past, I loved living alone. I enjoyed having this sanctuary to retreat to at the end of long business days. A place I could call my own, where no one would disturb me.

Now, though, it just feels empty and cavernous. I tread through the halls, my heart racing as I hunt for any signs that Melanie has been here. Her bag is still in the bedroom, though I realize that aside from the clothes I bought for her, nothing much in the bag itself is of value. Her toothbrush remains in its place in the bathroom. Her slippers are on the floor right where she kicked them off this afternoon, getting dressed before we left for my father’s place.

How could I have been so stupid?

All this time she was right here in front of me. The signs must have been there. Signs that she had more feelings for me than she was willing to let on. But I didn’t notice, because I was too busy trying to control my own emotions.

I knew I was falling for her. Even back before I’d admitted it to myself. After the first night I spent with her, the whole week afterward that I couldn’t get her out of my head… I knew even back then. I understood that what I felt for Melanie was more than just attraction, more than just lust. There’s a reason she’s the girl I chose to ask, out of anyone I’ve ever met, to pull off this charade.

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