I didn’t respond, didn’t know what to say, because he was so right and so wrong. Stephan and I did depend on each other to the exclusion of the rest of the world. It had served us so well for so long that it was hard to make myself want to break the habit. Impossible, really. But he was wrong about the rest of it. I had so clearly let more than just Stephan into my heart.
He lowered his head very slowly to my chest, placing one light kiss right over my heart. He looked up at me through the dark golden strands of his hair, keeping his head lowered. “You need to make room here for me,” he said quietly, placing another soft kiss there.
I gripped his hair in my fists, searching desperately for the words to say to him.
He pulled himself gently out of my grasp. “That’s all I wanted to say.”
I couldn’t speak past the lump in my throat.
I took a long shower and slipped into some black running shorts, not bothering with a shirt. I thought about going for a nice, mind-clearing run. I could be in Central Park in minutes. I loved running there. It was dark out, and I knew that it wasn’t the safest thing to do, but hell, I’d almost welcome some trouble. I’d have enjoyed a good fight just then, even knowing that I’d hate myself after the violence. Even when the violence was self-defense, I hated myself for it.
I was standing in the doorway to the closet, my running shoes clutched in my hand, when Javier walked into the bedroom.
I had been planning to go to him, knew that we had to talk, but I’d been putting it off. A conversation that would most likely end in a break-up was not something I had any wish to rush into.
He stared at me, something raw and fierce moving behind his dark eyes. I could tell he’d been crying, but it didn’t take away from his lovely features.
“I know that you’re going to break up with me,” he said quietly, his voice shaky. “I know you well enough to see that you’re just working up the nerve. I only ask one thing before you do it.”
I looked down at my feet, my still wet hair trailing into my face. “What is it?” I asked.
“I just want you to sit down and hear me out. And look at me while I do it. If you care about me, you’ll give me at least that much before you write me off.”
I moved to the low couch across the room. I sat and finally looked at him steadily. “Go ahead,” I told him calmly.
He moved to me. His chin had a proud tilt to it, as it always did. Bianca thought he was a little cold, but I’d never seen him that way. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Bianca, so composed, so controlled, so hidden away to the casual observer. But nothing between Javier and I had ever been casual, so I hadn’t bought it for a second. He was reserved, yes, but never cold.
He knelt at my feet.
“Can I touch you?” he asked. His eyes on mine were more open, and more raw than I’d ever seen them.
It was hard to tell him no when he was looking at me like that, but I refused to be that self-destructive, so I shook my head at him. “No.”
His lip quivered, and it almost broke my resolve. It was an effort not to look away.
He was on his knees and he moved as close to me as he could possibly be without actually touching me. He was wearing a very fitted black shirt, and his taut stomach was just a breath away from my knees. I tried not to let that distract me.
“I know what you think,” Javier said. “You think I like drama. You think I got jealous of that bartender and tried to make you jealous. I can admit that I have been that guy before. I’ve been in that kind of high drama relationship before, but I am not like that anymore. That’s what I had with Vance, in fact.”
My jaw clenched hard, but I let him continue without a word, just staring at him.
“That drama-seeking bullshit is the sort of thing you do when you aren’t in love, when you don’t really care where your relationship is going, and that is not what we have, Stephan. We’re the real deal. I wouldn’t do that to you, not ever. I admit that I was jealous of Melvin, and that I was being a child about it, but I would not retaliate by cheating on you. I wouldn’t throw this away for anything.”
His chin lowered as he spoke, but he never looked away from me. He gazed up at me with those lovely dark eyes through the thickest set of lashes I’d ever seen.
I wanted to buy his words, would have loved nothing more, but again I refused to be self-destructive. I’d worked too hard to value myself to stop now.
“You can’t put a spin on what I saw, Javier. Vance was all over you, and you weren’t so much as twitching. You weren’t even trying to pull away.” I tried not to raise my voice, but it was a struggle.
He put a hand on my knee, as though it was involuntary—as though he couldn’t help the touching.
I pushed it off. “Don’t,” I said, my voice low and mean.
I tried not to be affected as a lone tear trailed down his cheek.
“To explain what you saw I have to explain a little of what Vance and I were like together.” He swallowed hard, and I watched his throat work. I made myself look back into his eyes.
“We were toxic,” he said. “We were that drama couple. It was just about the only thing we had going for us. He was obsessed with me, and I was immature enough to think that was enough to make a relationship work. He stroked my ego, and I made him crazy, and he liked being crazy. He wanted a reaction from me, always. Whether that reaction was good or bad, he didn’t really care. He would say or do something horrible to me, and I would react, and he loved it. It got to the point where we could have been the same person, as far as the relationship was concerned. We did hurtful things, we said hurtful things, and we didn’t even love each other. That’s the emptiest feeling, to know that you would hurt someone else just to feel something. I’m not proud of it, but I have been that person. I am not that person now.”
He put that hand back on my knee, and I didn’t push it away, even thinking that I should. He moved closer, bumping his hips between my knees until they parted enough to let him move closer. I could see his other hand trembling as he put it on my chest.
I kept my hands to myself, but I let him touch me.
“Vance is still that person. He’s still obsessed with me, obsessed with what we had, even though it ended more than three years ago. He pulls stunts, wanting nothing more than a reaction from me. I learned a long time ago that the best thing to do was not to give him one. Not to give him anything at all. Not even so much as a twitch…”
He moved closer slowly, giving me every opportunity to tell him no. He moved until he could nuzzle his face into my chest. My breathing grew ragged.
“He kissed me to get a reaction. He wanted me to fight him, slap him, chew him out, anything at all. So I gave him nothing at all. I waited passively for him to finish, for him to realize that I don’t care enough anymore to give him that reaction.”
I gripped a hand into that thick black hair. I pulled his face back until he was looking directly into my eyes again. “Are you saying that he assaulted you? That he’s done it before? He put his hands on you, knowing that you didn’t want him to touch you?”
Those dark mysterious eyes opened wide, their depths turning a little panicked. He moved close against me, running soothing hands over my shoulders.
“Yes,” he finally answered.
I grew stiff as a board, my mind going a bit hazy and red with temper.
“Don’t do anything rash, Stephan,” he pleaded. “He’s not worth it.”
A picture of Vance came into my head, a very clear picture of me pounding his face in. I would destroy him in a physical altercation. It wasn’t even a question. He was a little short, a little thin, with a handsome face that I’d have no problems messing up.
“Why do you still hang out with him? Why did we meet up with him tonight, if he’s like that?”
“I’m good friends with all of his friends. I’m close with everyone on that crew, and he swore he wouldn’t push me around anymore. And with you there, I didn’t think he’d even be able to. I didn’t imagine he’d try something the second you left my sight. And I figured if he did, you’d defend me. I’m not a fighter.”
My eyes widened in horror. “Are you saying that he assaulted you, I saw it, and then I walked away? Is that what happened back there?”
I tried to stand but he clung to me tightly. “It’s not a big deal,” he said very softly. “Just don’t break up with me because of a misunderstanding. Please. I’m begging you, Stephan.”
“You don’t think it’s a big deal that someone pushes you around in front of me, and I just walk away?”
He rubbed his cheek across my chest, and I swallowed hard. “Vance doesn’t bother me. This was his last chance to be civil, and he blew it. I’ll stay far, far away from him. The only thing that he could do to hurt me now is cost me you. I love you. I know I said I needed time, but that was a big fat lie. I fell in love with you more than a year ago, and those feelings never went away, not for me. I was just trying to protect my heart when I told you that I needed more time to fall for you. I’ve been here all along.”
I wasn’t one to analyze a good thing to death. I studied his earnest face and let myself fall all over again. I believed him, and loved him, and that was enough for me.
I ran my hands through his pitch-black hair, gripping it into my fists to pull his face close. I kissed him hard and he melted against me. He pushed his chest against mine, rubbing.
I pulled back. “No more drama. I can’t stand this stuff. And if I see Vance again, I’m kicking his ass. You can warn him, if you want, but that’s what’s going to happen.”
He just nodded, giving me a little smile. That smile was trouble. The good kind. I kept my hands gripped in his velvety hair as he began to kiss my chest. My head fell back as he moved that wicked mouth lower with a purpose. The things Javier could do with his mouth boggled my mind. He had a rare and exquisite talent. He tugged my shorts off, and I let him work his magic.
A good blowjob often involved as much hands as mouth, but not with Javier. He sucked me so hard and so deep that I forgot where I even was: coming so fast that I would have been embarrassing myself if it had been anything but fellatio. He kept me deep in his throat as I came, stroking his hands over any part of me they could reach.
I pulled him up to my mouth for a long kiss. I stood, leading him to the bed with a firm grip in his hair. I pinned him onto his stomach, lying on his back. I kissed his neck and felt him tremble.
I wasn’t done with him, far from it, but I just held him for a long time, letting his anticipation build and giving him comfort. Javier loved to be held, and I loved to hold him. I nuzzled my face into his neck, grinding my lower half into from behind.
“Did you tell Bianca what happened with Vance?” he finally asked.
I was a little surprised that that was what he’d been thinking about just then, but I answered. “Yes. I tell her everything.”
He made a little sound of distress. “She’ll hate me now. Even if you tell her the full story, she’ll never trust me now, and if she hates me, we don’t have a chance. I know how it is. She’s the most important person in your life, and if she’s working against us, we’re as good as done.”