Aaliyah looked out her window and saw a man in a suit in her garden. She pressed her forehead to the glass and told herself she would not cry. Even with his back to her, she knew it was Antonio, she could spot him out of a crowd.
“Why are you here,” she asked the figure, knowing he couldn’t hear her.
Sighing, she turned away from the window and made her way downstairs. She really did not want to see him. In fact, she avoided anywhere she might bump into him and had done so for a month. Appaloosa being a very small town, this meant a lot of time at home, behind her cold stone walls. And even that was proving not to be enough now.
Opening the garden door Aaliyah glared, “What do you want?”
Antonio turned around at the sound of her voice and just stared at her.
“What. Do. You. Want,” Aaliyah said slowly, not trusting herself to say anything else or get any closer.
“I came by to let you know we were done with the project.”
“You could have sent me an email. Why are you here and how did you get in?”
“Darling,” Antonio said with a small smile.
“That damn dog!” Aaliyah started grumbling to herself and turned around to go back to her bedroom. But Antonio caught her arm.
“Lia, please. Just one minute, I only need one minute.”
Glaring at the hand around her arm, Aaliyah said, “Let go of me.” But he didn’t. Instead he invaded more of her space, efficiently blocking the way back into the house and pressing her up against the door.
“Please Lia, listen to me. I am so sorry I lied to you. I never wanted to hurt you; that was never my intention. I don’t know how I let it go as long as I did. Lia, please cariño, forgive me. I miss you so much.”
Aaliyah felt herself caving. Those first few days without him had been hell. She prayed every night for him to come find her and say these words. But that’s all they were, just words. Pretty little things that people said to excuse their actions. She didn’t want – no, she didn’t need, words. She wanted action, she wanted her pound of flesh, so she hit him.
And kept hitting him until she was exhausted and all that was left were the tears. Slumped on his chest, Aaliyah cried.
Antonio kissed her forehead and each tear-stained cheeks, he brushed the tears from her eyelashes and then kissed those too. He murmured soft words of comfort to her. He lifted up her chin and finally kissed her lips.
It was a light kiss. More of a promise of things that could be, rather than the kiss she really wanted from him. Pulling away, he brushed his thumb along her jaw.
Aaliyah moved back from him with her hand to her lips. Sniffling she said, “I can’t do this. I can’t be the woman who cries all the time and forgives you because you kiss me.” She looked up at him. “Do you understand?”
“I do. I don’t know how else to tell you I’m sorry. It was a stupid thing to do; I see that now. But Lia, when I started to realize how much you meant to me, I wanted to tell you. But my life is hectic and there is no privacy and I didn’t want to bring that into yours. I know you value your privacy and I wanted to have you to myself as much as possible before the real world barged in.”
Aaliyah smiled at him. “I love you too.”
Antonio laughed softly and pulled her back for another kiss.
Pulling away a second time, he gently pressed his forehead to hers, “I love you more. So much more.”
Grabbing her hand, he led her upstairs to her bedroom.
Standing by the bed, he pulled her hair out of its ponytail and combed through it with his fingers. “Your hair is different again. I like it.”
Aaliyah could do nothing but stand there and smile. He loved her. She was shocked she managed to tell him and overjoyed that he felt the same way. She wasn’t fooling herself, they still had a lot to sort through, but none of that felt important right this minute. Even if they never got back together, she would have this one night with him and she meant to make it count.
Reaching for the button on his jacket with shaking hands, she started to undress him.
The next morning, Aaliyah woke to find Antonio getting ready to head home and change for work. “Hey sleepy head, I have to go home and get a change of clothes but I’ll call you later and maybe we can grab lunch and talk?”
Aaliyah looked up at the man she loved and shook her head. “Antonio, last night was a mistake. I was in a very vulnerable place and I wasn’t thinking clearly.”
Antonio froze and stared at her. “Aaliyah, you can’t be serious. Last night was not a mistake. You wanted this,” he swept his arm across the bed, “we both wanted this. This – we – are not a mistake.”
Aaliyah felt the tears threatening again. She was so tired of crying, but that’s all she’d done for the last four weeks.
“Antonio, please, do not make this any harder than it already is for me. Just go, please.” She turned around so she wouldn’t have to see the hurt look on his face or the anger she was sure would come after.
She heard shuffling and then a pause before the door closed softly. A few minutes later, she heard the front door close.
She loved him but she needed some distance from everything to think about what to do next. Last night solved nothing in their relationship; in fact, sleeping with Antonio only made matters worse.
“How am I supposed to decide if I want to be with the man or not if he’s in my bed every night?”
Aaliyah mumbled to herself until she fell back to sleep.
Aaliyah got up about an hour later and got ready for her day. As she dressed, she realized just how much she had neglected her family, friends, and her poor Darling. She promised herself she would not let this happen again. She was stronger than a broken heart and would be fine without Antonio in her life. At least until she decided if she wanted him in her life or not.
Walking outside, she petted Darling, “Would you like to go to the dog park? Momma needs some fresh air.”
Darling wagged her tail and barked her approval.
“Earth to Lia, calling Lia,” Janelle’s sister, Ariel Hackett said.
After packing Darling up in the car and making their way to the park, Aaliyah had bumped into her friend.
“Ari, what am I going to do,” Aaliyah asked. She had spent the last half hour explaining to Ariel her man issues. She would have called her mother but didn’t think she could deal with the parental lecture. Her mother was very old school and would not approve of the night before.
“What do you want to do? Obviously, you’re not over him, otherwise we would be having a very different conversation. Do you want him back?”
“Yes. I guess I do. I mean, he lied to me, Ari, for four months!”
“Sweetie, he lied about being rich. I’ll take that lie any day!” Ariel laughed and continued, “He told you he loved you and that he was sorry. I know you’re hurting, but are you sure you’re not punishing him just because you feel like you have to?”
Aaliyah started to answer when her phone began to ring. Checking the caller ID, she saw that it was her agent, Jennifer Ludlow. “Hey Jenny…No, I’m not working on anything right now…really, me? Yeah, for how long? Six weeks? Yeah that will work. Thanks Jenny, see you in a few days.”
Aaliyah frowned at her phone. “Yeah. In Aurora Skies for six weeks.”
“This could be the perfect time to figure out what you want Lia. If you haven’t figured it out by then…” Ariel shrugged.
“Yeah, I know.” Hugging her friend goodbye, Aaliyah headed home to get ready for her trip across the world.