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Thanks again to Rainey for her awesome preservation skills.
Chapter 4: I Spy
I was in a daze when I left Patrick’s later that morning.
“I’ll call you,” he told me, watching while I put on my clothes and slipped into my shoes.
He only wore boxers. I stared for a minute, even if I was freaking out inside.
Patrick had a picture of me on his fridge.
Now I was pretty sure he always wanted me, even when he was with Chloe. If I was going by the look on his face in that photo, he wanted me even before they were married, too. It made me feel like everything around me had been ripped away, that I hardly knew anything about the man staring back at me or the marriage he had with Chloe. Or his relationship with me.
My mind raced as I searched for my purse, replaying the last few years in my head and wondering how I missed it. I considered myself incredibly observant; clearly I was wrong about a lot of things. I tried to think about things he’d said, done, thought, and if the significance had changed. Now I understood why he drove away all my boyfriends. It was also obvious why he couldn’t stay with Chloe.
There were dozens of questions in my head, swimming about and wrapping around each other until they were one knotted mess. It gave me a headache. After I found my bag and turned to look at Patrick, I asked myself what finally made him leave her. What was the final nudge that convinced him he couldn’t stay married to her?
Patrick walked over to me, wrapped his arms around my waist and gave me one last kiss. When he was done, he stepped away and just stared at me.
No words were necessary. A hand found the knob of the door and I was out in his hall, feeling his eyes on my back until the elevator doors shut behind me.
As I rode down, the biggest question I pondered was how long, exactly, had I wantedhim?
Patrick didn’t call me, and he didn’t answer my two pitiful calls, either. Yet again, it appeared he ditched me.
I went about my business, desperate to drive out the memories of his tongue, the exact shape and texture of his cock, the feeling of him making love to me and the horrendous guilt which continued to simmer in my stomach. Nothing I tried worked and I became dreadfully distracted and irritable. I was haunted day and night, but especially at night.
Chloe and I only talked on the phone once. It was a short chat. She complained about work, asked me how I was doing, and then had to go. She was testing out another date.
“Are you okay?” she asked me before hanging up. “You sound off.”
“I’m fine,” I said, not sounding it at all, even to my own ears.
What else could I say?I sound off because I fucked your ex-husband, the man you’re still in love with?
“Are you sure?” Chloe sounded skeptical. “You have a weird tone.”
Thankfully her date rang her bell before I had to answer and she hung up. She texted me later to tell me he was a loser. She didn’t make mention of my tone again, thank God.
The guilt helped take a little of the edge off when it came to what I was feeling about Patrick, whatever the hellthat was. I guess if I had to express it, I’d say I actually missed the bastard. It was ridiculous. I told myself that every day. We just had sex. It didn’t have to be such a big deal (if you decided not to factor inwhoI had sex with).
As I walked the stairs up to my apartment one evening, exactly a week and a half since my last night with Patrick, I looked up and my eyes were filled with him leaning nonchalantly against my door. He held a bag of take-out. Dressed in an exquisite suit, I guessed he came straight from work. His tie was undone a bit and he looked tired, but otherwise he was as attractive as ever.
I stopped, paralyzed. I hadn’t expected anything like this, nor had I prepared myself for him coming back into my life. His eyes flicked upwards and he finally spotted me. His smile was slow and intimate. It was as though someone had set a fire at my toes; the warmth crawled up and through my body.
“What are you doing here?” My voice sounded frightened and far away.
I missed him and I wanted him, but this wasn’t going to lead anywhere good. As much as I wanted him to be standing there, as desperately as I wanted to kiss him all over his face, it was much better that Patrick stay away. That I hate him.
Plus he was fucking with my mind; I’d convinced myself the revelation I thought I had was bullshit. He just had an old photo on the fridge. Hehadto have once loved Chloe; it wasn’t too weird to keep something of hers around. It also had been buried on the fridge with other paperwork, clippings and take-out menus. I told myself I imagined the look on his face. I nearly convinced myself that all the intensity in our sex and the chemistry that seemed to coat the air around us was bullshit, too. It was a good explanation as to why he vanished.
Unfortunately, rus escort that burning chemistry was still there. The hunger and want in his eyes weren’t—couldn’t—be my imagination. It wasallthere. It was all real. Oh,God.
“I figured you’d be hungry,” Patrick said, holding up the bag.
I wasn’t sure if he meant it to be an innuendo; his face and tone gave nothing away. My body, however, was hungry for foodandfor him. I didn’t realize how starved I’d been for his presence until that moment. It was silly and inexplicable how much I wanted him…which is why I automatically switched into bitch mode.
“It’s a little presumptuous of you to just show up at my door with food. Someone could be coming over. I could have plans, you know.”
His smile grew wider and he pushed his body off the wall. “There’s no one else coming and you don’t have any other plans. Let’s go inside and eat. We’ll chat.”
“Fuck you,” I growled.
How dare he just show up at my apartment after not calling? I hated caring about that as much as I hated him being there, because I was acting like we had something. Which we most definitely didn’t, naturally. Wecouldn’t. Why did I keep forgetting that?
“Would you like to?” he teased.
“But I’m hungry,” Patrick said, walking up to me. I took a few steps back but he kept approaching and soon one of his hands wrapped snugly around my upper arm. “And I miss you.”
Swallowing, I tried to get my arm out of his grasp. I wasn’t trying hard enough, or he really was that strong. All I could smell was his cologne. His lips were so close that I could already imagine the sensation of them on mine.
“Please go,” I whispered, because I had to. “Nothing good can come of this.”
“Are you mad at me because I haven’t called?”
“I’ve been busy at work and my—”
“Look, you don’t have to do this and it doesn’t—”
“My father died.”
The words I wanted to fling at him suddenly flew from my mind as I noticed the sadness in his eyes. Upon closer inspection, while he did look wonderful all rumpled up, he also looked incredibly tired and a bit lost.
I exhaled slowly. “I’m so sorry. How come you didn’t tell me? How comeChloedidn’t tell me?”
Patrick looked at me with confusion. “Why wouldsheknow? And I wanted to call you but my mother has been inconsolable so I’ve been taking care of everything. I had to fly out to California for a few days. There just wasn’t any time and… I didn’t really want to explain over the phone.” He looked around my cold and shabby hallway. The paint on the walls was peeling and a light flickered obnoxiously above us. “I didn’t really want to tell you here, either.”
“I’m sorry,” was all I could say.
“I still should have called or texted,” Patrick added, smiling a little again, albeit sadly. “That was inexcusable. I can’t imagine what was going on in that little over-analytical head of yours.”
“Patrick, your father died. It’s okay. I’m sure I was the last thing on your mind.”
He stepped closer so my back was against the wall and his body hovered over me. “You were usually the only thing on my mind.”
“I’m sure I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion my father and I were estranged, right?” He messed up his tousled hair and his eyes looked away. I did remember that Chloe often said they didn’t get along, that his parents had moved to California and he never visited them. She said he had a brother who died when he was young and his parents were never the same. “I’m sorry he’s gone. Hewasmy father. And I’m sorry for my mother. She’s totally lost now. I think she might be moving out here. She needs me.” He blew out a harsh breath. “He’s been sick for a long time, though. When I got the call, I wasn’t shocked.”
Without realizing I was doing it, I’d lifted my hands and ran them up and down his arms. He moved closer. “Still,” I murmured, a hand with a mind of its own winding its way up his arm and sinking into that thick, disheveled hair. “I’m sorry. It had to be tough on you.”
Patrick didn’t say anything further; he just watched me try to comfort him. He took my other hand and brought me to the door of my apartment. I pulled my key out. I could feel his presence behind me and it was overwhelming. Taking a deep breath, I stepped to the side and let him enter first, shutting the door after us.
Rufus ran over and meowed immediately. He purred and rubbed around Patrick’s ankles. Wordlessly I headed for the kitchen and opened a can of cat food, keeping an eye on Patrick.
He studied some of the knickknacks I had. Then he looked at the pictures I had of my family on a little table. His face was unreadable. Then he stopped at one that featured me when I was a little kid, grinning with a few teeth missing as I stood proudly next to my brand new bicycle with my father.
Patrick laughed and held yenimahalle escort up the picture. “You were ridiculous even then.” His smile faded a little. “Perhaps this will paint a little picture for you of what my father was like… Let’s just say I don’t even think I haveonephoto with him, let alone an adorable one like this.”
He carefully placed the frame back on the table.
Something strong tugged at me and made me cross the floor. I hugged him fiercely. He tensed at first, clearly surprised. Then his body loosened up and those long arms hugged me back. “I’m sorry about your father,” I said into his chest. He kissed my forehead.
We stayed like that for a few minutes. Then he said it was time we ate.
I didn’t have a kitchen table, so we sat on my couch and ate the delicious take-out. Patrick told me a bit about his mother. Some stories made me laugh. Others made me feel sympathy for the ten year old little boy that got lost somewhere when his older brother died.
“She wasn’t the same,” he said softly. “Neither was Dad. But Dad was never exactly pleasant. Mom used to be. Then after Jimmy died… She stopped making dinner. I went to school without lunch. It just was bad all around. Thank god my Aunt Kathleen stepped in, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have made it.” He shook his head with a grim smile. “I need to stop spilling my guts right now. I’m losing all of my elusive air.” He stared at me for a moment, his eyes running over me in my work dress that was all probably wrinkled and sloppy by then. “You just make the words come out.”
I was learning so much about the man I was once so sure I loathed. It was a heady feeling.
“I don’t do anything,” I mumbled, standing and taking my plate and his. I was definitely embarrassed, or maybe flattered.
“You don’t know what you do to me.” A hand stopped me from running off to the kitchen, running up my arm and clutching my elbow. “I missed you. Really.”
I put the plates down and sank back into the couch. My eyes met his and I realized I was shaking. “Why?Why, Patrick?What is this?”
His hand clutched my thigh and squeezed. “Let me show you.”
“No. Why are you doing this?” I pushed his hand off me. “No sex. I want us to talk.”
It actually hurt to push his touch away. I would have been lying if I said I didn’t want to disappear into my bedroom with him, but I needed answers. More than he had given me. That photo in his kitchen had brought us onto a whole other road than the one I thought we were on, and I couldn’t continue riding on it blindly without knowing at leastsomeof its twists and turns.
And then there was the matter of Chloe.
He sighed and leaned back, shaking his head a little. “When I first met Chloe I thought she was cute. I liked her. She was a bit high maintenance for me, but I knew I was pretty high maintenance, too.” He smiled at me but I couldn’t smile back. “We’d been dating for six months. I was always on the edge of breaking things off. It didn’t feel right to me. Then she suckered me into coming over to dinner at your parents’ house. Everything told me not to go, that I was making things more serious between us by ‘meeting the parents’, that I was still leading her on. But Chloe has that face—you know it well I’m sure—that sometimes you can’t say no to. I mastered how to eventually but this was early on.” He looked over at my little table of frames. “We all sat down to dinner and she was bitching about how you were running late but she couldn’t wait for me to meet you. I half-listened as she told me a little about you. Then you rushed in the house and gave us all a smile. You were out of breath and all red in the face, and your hair was everywhere, but you were beautiful. I think for the first time in my life I was literally struck speechless, and for a smart ass like me who always had something to say that was truly terrifying. I didn’t know what the fuck it meant.”
He looked over at me. I hadn’t moved since he started talking. I felt like a stone—I couldn’t move, couldn’t feel. I just listened.
“I hung around Chloe more often and, without even realizing I was doing it, I encouraged her to invite you out with us, along with some other people, too, of course. I said I wanted to go out in big groups. It wasn’t until, like, another six months after that, about a full year after Chloe and I started dating, I realized what I felt for you was borderline obsessive attraction.” His eyes studied my face. “So I was nasty to you. I could tell you weren’t overly enthused by me, either. I went back to thinking about ways to break it off with Chloe. I just wanted to get away. I was a dick to her sometimes, hoping she’d dump me. But she was always so fucking pleasant, so eager to let me be an asshole because she thought she loved me.”
“She does love you,” I whispered, tears sliding down my cheeks.
“Shethinksshe does. She clings to me but she doesn’t love me. She hardly knows me. She never tried to know me.” His words were so certain I almost believed them.
“Anyway, I was a pussy when it came to breaking it off with her. I felt how much she depended on me, and at the same time I was addicted to seeing you, no matter how infrequently or briefly.” He snorted and gently touched my arm. He was cautious, wanting to see if I’d push him away again, but I didn’t want to and I’m not sure I could’ve, either. A person only has so much strength, after all. “It was kind of pathetic how into you I was. Then I’d feel all guilty about lusting after my girlfriend’s sister that I’d think ‘I have to break up with Chloe’ and then we’d start arguing and she’d start sobbing and we would end up back at square one.
“Suddenly we’d been together for five or six years. She started bringing up getting married. It dawned on me she’d been hinting about for a while and I just hadn’t been paying attention. I was seriously going to break it off then, but I thought that even though I didn’t necessarilyloveChloe, I’d spent so much time with her that being with her was easy. Nice. Comfortable. I didn’t feel like going back into the whole dating-scene again, and I thought you were untouchable. You hated me, you were her sister, etc. I was an asshole, Nina, but I married your sister because it was convenient. Not everyone marries for love, you know? She was good to me, I thought we’d always get along, blah blah. And here’s the really sick part: I knew I would always see you.”
I bolted off the couch and paced. “What changed? When did you decide you couldn’t stay married to her and why?” The questions just slipped from my mouth and my voice didn’t even sound like my own.
Patrick blew out a deep breath. “I realized I was in love with you. It wasn’t just attraction or a stupid infatuation, like I thought it might be. Like I hoped it might be. I was in love withyou. I felt like the ultimate slime. It was towards the end when things were really bad and you stopped over for a girls’ night to cheer Chloe up. The two of you were giggling about something in the living room. Then you came into the kitchen for a beer, and I was eating at the table, and you looked at me. Your expressions were never warm when you looked at me, but this one iced my whole body. I felt miserable. You stomped out and went back out to Chloe. I listened to you telling her jokes about work, about your boss, about other boyfriends, and I felt physically ill listening to you laugh for her after just giving me a look that could make Jesus think twice.”
“What did you expect?” I asked in a whisper.
Patrick laughed, but he didn’t sound happy or all that amused. “I couldn’t figure it out. Why the fuck should it matter if you hated me, if I disappointed you? I just thought you were pretty, I kept telling myself. I was just attracted to you. It wasn’t that bad because we can’t help noticing attractive people, right? That’s what I always said to myself. Then that night I was in bed and it finally came to me that I loved you. That I always had, particularly when I got to know you. You might have been recalcitrant in my company but you still spoke. I still found out things about you.”
I sat next to him and put my head in my hands. It felt like it was going to explode any minute. “You can’t possibly love me, Patrick. We were never close enough for that.”
He ignored me. “Two or three months later I told Chloe I didn’t love her anymore and things weren’t working out. Then she filed for divorce.” He moved cautiously closer to me. “I wasn’t going to seek you out, Nina. I thought I’d get over it. I thought I was strong enough, you know? I’m a man and there are plenty of other women. I wasn’t even sure if I believed in ‘love’ or whatever. Then I saw you out that night and it just… wasn’t over. I don’t want it to be over.”
He gently touched my knee. “What are you thinking? Talk to me.”
My head shook back and forth. He wanted me totalk? But soon I found myself talking regardless. “Patrick,” I sobbed, “I can’t believe… Poor Chloe. Poor Chloe.”
“Do you hate me for it?” he asked softly.
“A little,” I said around my sobs, “for her sake. For yours. All that wasted time because it was ‘convenient’. You’ve really destroyed her, you know?”
“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do for her anymore. And she’ll recover. She isn’t destroyed. She’s just stuck on this because it was convenient for her, too.”
“I know,” I said, my sobbing calming somewhat. Somehow I knew that, too. Tears still came from my eyes in a never ending river—I could name each drop. Fear. Hate. Love. Disbelief. Shock. Sympathy. Lust. Guilt. “But this has to stop. I’ll never be able to face my family again. Not even sure how I’ll be able to do that now.”
“No,” he said firmly, tugging a hand away from my face so that it was in his. “I’ve cut myself off from what I want, from you, from all this shit I feel, for far too long. We can make it work.”
My laugh was brittle. “Really? I’ll just take you back to Mom and Dad’s? Introduce you as my boyfriend? Basically give a middle finger to Chloe and ruin our relationship? That’s how we’ll make it work, huh?”
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