Smoldering by Tiffany Aleman
Money ~ power ~ fame
Growing up in the arms of one of the wealthiest families in America, I lived a champagne lifestyle and never wanted for anything.
That life came with stipulations…
1. Marry the man I don’t love.
2. Make my parents proud.
I left my Manolos and fancy apartment behind and fled that life to find out who I really was.
Someone unexpected bulldozed my life.
He was the man everyone, including me, wanted, but his future was one I wasn’t sure I wanted to thrust myself back into. And when he chose a career over the family business, his family supported him instead of pushing him away.
My past collided with my future.
I didn’t see it coming. If I had, I would’ve ran far, far away.
Now I’m stuck in the same position I started in two years ago, except this time, it’s not my decision to make.
Loyalty to your family? Loyalty to your own happiness?
Which would you choose?
The past week has been pure hell. After I left his parents’ house, something shifted in our relationship, and it wasn’t for the better. I knew the moment Todd called me his ex-fiancé in front of everyone, things between Riley and I would never be the same. I could feel it deep within my soul. It was like all the air had been sucked out of the room and I couldn’t breathe. Now, I’m suffocating.
That was seven days ago.
Seven days that my calls and texts have gone unanswered.
Seven days since I’ve seen him.
I’d like to chalk it up to he’s just busy but I know differently. Sleep has evaded me. My appetite is no longer existent. I stay holed up in my room, only leaving for work. I’m living like a hermit. I’ve become a shell of the person I was a week ago. Jen has exhausted all her efforts to make me feel better, but it’s no use. In a million pieces, I left my heart in a driveway in Alabama and, for the first time in my life, I don’t know how to cope.
After deciding that I’m finished trying to get him to come to me, I make the decision to go to him. In a pair of sweat pants and a ratted T-shirt, I pull myself out of bed, not giving a damn how I look. He needs to see what his avoidance has done to me. I go into the bathroom and what I see in the mirror doesn’t surprise me at all. Bloodshot eyes, the tip of my nose and lips red and swollen, and my hair a mess, at least I look how I feel, like shit. For the first time in days, I brush my teeth and even the fresh feeling doesn’t improve my mood. I pull my hair back in a messy bun and decide that’s as good as it’s going to get.
“Where are you going?” Jen asks cautiously as I pick up my purse off the bookshelf by the couch.
“Out,” I answer in a monotone voice, the same voice she’s heard all week.
“Kelsey, I don’t think that’s a good ide—,” she states, but I don’t let her finish as I walk out the door, promptly shutting it on her response.
As I walk out into the humid summer air that the end of July brings, I make my way to my car. It’s pouring out, which causes me to laugh out sardonically. The irony of the storm brewing above matches the tidal wave of emotions happening within me. Realistically, I know, in the state I’m in, I probably shouldn’t be driving, but I’m to the point that I just don’t give a shit anymore.
I’m not sure how I make it to Riley’s house in one piece. On a normal day, the drive would have taken me thirty minutes without traffic, but in a storm, it should have taken me longer. Magically, I make it there in fifteen. And here I sit, probably looking like a stalker, in the driveway parked behind his car. A silver Mercedes occupies the spot where I normally park. Thunder and lightning collide in the night sky, rattling the windows in my car. Rain pours down in sheets, soaking me to the bone as soon as I step out of my car to make my way up the walkway and stairs until I’m standing at the front entrance.
On the other side of this door is the one person that can make all the hurt I’ve been feeling this past week disappear. Pain pierces straight through my heart at the thought of not seeing him again. I sniffle back the tears that I’ve been crying for days. My hands brace my weight against the doorframe as memories of us assault me. The night at City Market when we danced in the middle of Ellis Square, our first technical date, the Blackhawk, the first time we made love, the first time he told me he loved me. I squeeze my eyes shut tightly willing the memories, the happiest memories I’ve ever known, to stop. Tears mix in with the rain as they both flow down my face. Heaving a deep breath, I push myself upright, square my shoulders, and hold my head up high. If this is it, if what we have is really over, then he better be man enough to tell me to my face. The unknown of what is about to come out of this whole situation scares the shit out of me, but I need to know. Slowly, I raise my fist to knock on the door when it suddenly flies open and what I see makes me want to vomit all over again.
A tall, blonde pulls at the hem of her shirt as she rights herself. My eyes feel like they are about to pop out as my mouth opens and shuts as if I’m about to say something. Smeared lipstick stains her cheeks and I’m not sure who’s more shocked, her or me. When my wide eyes meet hers, it literally feels as if a knife has stabbed me in the stomach. If I thought for one second that this past week showed me what actual pain was, I was dead wrong. My knees feel as if they’re about to give way beneath my weight as I stare at the woman in front of me. She smiles at me and her eyes rake over my body, clearly deciding that I’m no competition for her. I look past her to see Riley sitting on the couch in just his jeans, his head in his hands. A tumbler filled with amber liquid rests in front of him on the coffee table.
“Are you fucking serious right now?” I ask through a sob.
The woman looks back at him over her shoulder before turning to look at me. She shrugs her shoulders and says, “Maybe you’ll do the trick. He couldn’t even get it up because he’s so drunk.”
I storm past her, shoving her out of the way, as I make my way to stand directly in front of Riley.
“Hey, bitch, watch it,” she shouts.
When I look at her, she must realize that I’m about to release the hounds of hell in this house because she slowly begins her retreat out the door.
“Get. The. Fuck. Out.” The menacing tone of my voice scares even me.
As soon as the door clicks shut behind her, I turn all my anger, hurt, and rage on the only man deserving of my wrath.
“You have something you want to tell me?” I ask. Tears flow freely down my face. There’s no use in trying to conceal them. They just continue to race down my face on their own accord.
He shakes his head from side to side, groaning.
“I asked you a fucking question.”
When he looks up at me, I literally drop to my knees. His eyes are just as bloodshot as mine. The scent of whiskey seeps out of his pores. The evidence of lipstick runs down his neck, across his jaw, and on his lips. My hand flies to my mouth as bile rises in my throat.
“I am so fucking sorry,” he whispers, shaking his head and his eyes holding a vacant stare.
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