This line of thinking reminds me of the conversation I had with Sophie the other night. Her sister’s illness, just like my previous harrowing experience puts your life into perspective. It makes you weigh the things in your life, and put everything under a microscope – what you’re doing, how you spend your days. After I found out the truth about Stella, I could have easily spiraled into a heavy-drinking male whore. Instead I threw myself further into my work and my charity. Doing anything else would have put me on the same level as her. And I wanted to be better than that, shit, I needed it.

My brothers’ conversation comes flashing back to the forefront. They were shocked to hear I wasn’t sleeping with Sophie, but they don’t know the half of it. They’d be stunned to learn I haven’t had a single partner in two years – that I’ve been living a celibate life, devoting myself only to my work. They’d be even more shocked to learn that Stella wasn’t the one still holding things up between us. I was. And I had my reasons. Reasons I hoped to figure out and finally deal with soon. Maybe then I can finally put the past behind me and build a future –a concept that both excites and scares the fuck out of me.

I sink down into my office chair and click on my computer.

The first order of business is to get some sexual relief.

Sophie

After I emerge from my shower, scrubbed clean and hair neatly combed, I dress and head downstairs to find Colton. Every little insignificant moment we share – like earlier in the mudroom when I refused his offer for new shoes and he looked at me with reverence in his eyes, like I was some strange creature he’d never before encountered, I can feel us growing closer. Our connection, however odd and undefined, is growing deeper with each passing day I spend here. It’s the last thing I expected. And my attraction to him is off the charts, making my body’s reactions more intense and harder to ignore.

When I near his office, I hear voices from within. Is someone in there with him? The door’s been left partially open, so I knock once and push it the rest of the way open, registering the sounds just as I enter the room. Dual feminine moaning coming from his computer. He clicks a button on his keyboard, silencing the noise in an instant. Oh my god. Was he watching porn? He’s seated at his desk in the huge leather chair, but his face gives nothing away. His eyes smoldering on mine are the only thing I can see.

My face heats with the secret knowledge that while I’d been upstairs in his shower, he’d snuck down here to watch some girl on girl action. Was he pleasuring himself here in the confines of his office? Don’t look down. I refuse to let my eyes fall to his lap. My curiosity is going to get me in trouble someday. What he does in here is his business. But if he has needs and desires, why not just come to me like he did in the beginning? Surely even a bad blowjob is better than his own hand, right? Apparently not. The rejection stings more than it has any right too. But the strange notion that he’s cheating on me worms its way into my head – however irrational.

"Did you need something?" he asks, his voice deep and slightly breathless.

"I…" Why had I come down here? When I didn’t find him in the kitchen, or the den, my feet led me to his office. There was no denying I looked forward to his company in the evenings. I pause and start again. "I was just wondering why you’re home early."

He lets out a heavy sigh pushes his hands into his hair. "I had something I wanted to take care of."

As soon as he’s says it, my mind dives into the gutter. Had he come home early to do this?

"Are you hungry?" he asks, his posture straightening.

"Sure."

He rises from the desk and leads me to the dining room. Apparently we aren’t going to discuss his failed masturbation attempt, or that I’d overheard him watching porn.

"Have a seat," he says, motioning to the dining table. "I’ll be right back."

Normally we carry the dinner dishes that Beth leaves for us together into the dining room, but him serving me feels nice. I pull out my usual chair, the one next to his spot at the head of the table, and plop myself down.

Colton soon returns with our plates and glasses of sparkling water, topped with sliced lemon. After my run, I feel like I can eat just about anything, but the food smells amazing.

We each dig in, the comfortable silence of routine settling over us.

At night is the time I have to ask him questions and get inside his head a bit. I’m pondering what to ask him about tonight when I notice him frowning at me.

"Why aren’t you eating?" he asks.

I look down at the pasta primavera on my plate. He’s right. I’ve barely touched it.

"Is everything okay with your sister?" he asks, setting his own fork down beside his plate.

I take a sip of water and lick my lips. "Yeah. Things are okay. She starts her first round of treatment this week."

He nods thoughtfully.

I can’t help but think I’ve infiltrated his life, his routines, with my own baggage. Maybe I should never have told him about Becca, because the way he looks at me now is like a sad, exploited girl.

"Do you regret bringing me here?" I blurt.

"Why would I?" he asks, his brows drawing together.

Because you haven’t laid a finger on me in days, because you bought me to take my virginity and I’m still as pure as they come? I shrug. "Nevermind, forget I said anything." An uncomfortable silence fills the room and we each continue picking at the food on our plates. "So, I’ve been wondering. Why don’t you don’t have a girlfriend?" I ask next.



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